Wednesday 25 October, 1961

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for your long and newsy letter duly received yesterday morning – also thank you Susan and Carol for your lovely drawings and Susan’s little letter about the comic. Grandma and Grandfy thought you would both find something to interest you in it. Hope you are feeling better now Susan and able to go to school again this week. 

Yes we had a nice run home on the 16th but with the mileage up a little it takes a drop more petrol. No doubt about it we had the best weekend for weather in spite of fog on the Sunday. It has been rather poor since our return – gale force winds and frequent heavy rain storms but there it is – we were fortunate for our stay with you. 

Sorry Susan a bit off colour but presumably alright again on the Sunday. We thought they were both looking and feeling very fit – they improve every time we see them and my word we can see a difference – they are both growing up fast.  

Glad to hear Mr and Mrs Baker with Peter and Pauline reached home safely on the Saturday and that you were able to make the journey to West Drayton for June’s mother’s birthday. It was Geoff’s on the 23rd and we dropped him the usual – he was 53 this time. Says he –”another 7 years to do”. Sounds like a sentence for some crime. 

It was excellent news that you had had an interview for the lecturing job but I quite agree with your comments. On a job like that you are not getting any practical experience, which experience must count for very many higher positions. One thing about this incident however indicates that you were recommended by your own department otherwise I do not think you would have got as far as an interview. Keep it up, you will get something one of these days which will be worth having. Do you know if Jeff has heard any more about his recent interview for another job? 

Noted also you have had some interesting meetings at Reading – query with what results – also when do you find time to write up the minutes or is this a job for others to do? 

Grandad Atkins was born at Beckington Somerset, a little village that is at the crossroads made by the Warminster-Bath and Frome-Trowbridge roads*. When visiting Salisbury regularly during the war with Mr Pole for meetings with the Southern Region we used to always pass through Beckington. 

Did you see in London papers last week a Clevedon boy named Prescott aged 14 was missing from home? Disappeared on the Wednesday because of some alleged trouble at school but was found at Tickenham on Sunday in a pretty pretty distressed condition because of the rough and wet weather. His father is in Parish Church choir, he was actually a member in my time but left the town and recently returned. He has a younger son aged 12 who is in Wells Cathedral Choir. Quite a rumpus here for a few days. Now we hear on wireless there is a 13-year old girl missing at Glastonbury. 

The chimney sweep arrived at 6 a.m. on Monday – raining in torrents – but mum must tell you more about this. I stopped in bed out of the way. 

No work on garden this week so far – the ground is soaked and more rain coming down. Last weekend managed to lift all the gladioli corms and put them in the frames to dry. Also made the first picking of runner bean seeds (the ripest) but there are plenty more to come. Now is the time for broad bean seed to go in but ground conditions just hopeless at the moment. 

Have put the 35 chrysanths in greenhouse after taking out all the tomato plants – the fruit is ripening off in drawers in garage – as mentioned in last letter your chrysanths are in full flower quite a nice reddish bronze colour. 

We are still picking runner beans to eat and I think they will continue wearing until frosts finish off the plants. Will let you know no final total weight for tomatoes and runner beans in due course. 

No more mice about in garage and for time being think we are free of them! It is quite possible some of them made a nest in the old wireless set – strange to say it was one place I did not investigate when trying to trace them. 

The wine I have tried was the one other than the parsnip – a cloudy wine which I thought was the Jungle Juice but which you suggest is Rhubarb. It was not labelled but tastes very nice. The grape wine continues fermentation but not quite so vigorously as when we came up to Ruislip. Have racked off all the others into sweet jars for storage purposes – the best tasting at the moment being the Blackberry. The liquid yeast you gave me seems to be working very well but I have have no further winemaking prospect at present. 

Have not used any of the leaf mould yet but have tipped it into a box to keep. It is most valuable stuff being mould from beech leaves which – with oak leaf mould – is the best you can possibly get. When in the vicinity at any time you should get some to dig into your soil – bound to improve it. 

Last Friday after a dry night – about the only one for a week – I managed to cut all the grass with the motor mower. It had got very long since previous cutting but it came off very easily. May have to have one or two more cuttings before closing down – as it were – for the season. 

The clock goes back next Sunday so it will be pretty well dark by the time Susan comes home from school. Any more driving lessons yet June? Or is weather getting too bad for this year? Since our return from you we have only been out twice – shopping and library. May pop into Weston one day next week – weather permitting. 

You will hear about Stonehenge from Mum in a minute or two. By the way it was not by side of road we took but well over to the right on a branch road in the direction from Ruislip to Clevedon. It was certainly adjacent to the branch road one I think leading to Devizes**. Do you remember this? 

No more now dash all our love to you both and more kisses for two little girls from Mum and Dad.

*As formerly mentioned, Tom was born in the Workhouse at Westbury, Wiltshire, and raised by a couple at Rode/Rode in Somerset, although Road and Beckington are pretty much side-by-side and there must be some doubt as to where one starts and the other ends.  Either Tom and/or Leonard were deliberately not told the whole story, or the story had become garbled over the years.  On reflection it is quite possible that Tom grew up having no idea who his mother actually was, only that he had a sister named Mary.  His marriage to the fiercely moral Emily may have ensured that this particular aspect of family history was ruthlessly suppressed thereafter and never mentioned again.

**A quick look at the map suggests that Leonard and Eva were travelling west along the A303; the ‘branch road’ described no longer exists – it would have run past Stonehenge to join up with the A360, but now seems to be solely an access/service road for the ancient monument itself and its visitor centre.  The A360 does indeed – eventually – find its way to Devizes.

Eva to the family on remaining three quarters of a sheet of Leonard’s writing paper:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for letting us and drawings which were very good. We looked into Charlie Drake’s Bingo tonight, and Michael Aspel mentioned there was goings-on at Ruislip and they were supposed to be going down there, he was a scream. 

The sweep came 5 minutes early had gone at 7. He said he had to go to Mrs Cummings next but didn’t think she would be up because he believed his wife had mixed the dates. Anyway I saw her today and he had only come a fortnight too soon, still she had it done – she has the old people from Cornwall there too. 

I should think we have had enough rain since coming back everywhere is soaking so gardening is out for the time being. 

Lots of love from (Grandma and Grandfy) Mum and Dad

[NB: there was of course no reference to Stonehenge but Eva did contribute a drawing which I was going to attempt to describe but to be perfectly honest my powers of description failed me.  It is attached below, together with a photograph of what probably inspired it.]


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