Sunday 29 October, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Letter in red this week, the black type now definitely wearing thin. Thanks for the usual weekly letter from you both also drawing duly seen and approved of by the girls. Both are better now thank you very much, but have the aftermath of cough etc particularly in the case of Carol. June had to take her to the doctor on Thursday morning after she had had difficulty in breathing on Wednesday evening. Usual jollop prescribed which fortunately she does not mind taking. They are both so full of life that not long after a bout of illness they are soon bouncing about again. 

Note your run home a little up so far as mileage is concerned. I was aware of the extra distance, approximately 6 miles I think. Having regard to the time spent in Andover, could you say the route is any quicker?

I do not understand Geoff’s fixation about retirement, some time ago I remember he was saying only ten years to do, and that means only ten more possible continental holidays. I could well say that if I last till sixty I have only another twenty years to do myself. This of course means well over the halfway mark for the recognised 45 years (wristlet or pocket – or can I have the money?)

I gathered that the lecturing job went to a chap from the Engineers Department.  They have now got three out of three lecturers from that department. Sounds a bit fishy to me. I knew I had an (illegible) recommendation for the last one. They would have had a difficult job not to give one as they had declined my services as Work Study Assistant when I applied last January. 

Have not heard the result of Geoff’s interview. I saw him twice last week when arriving at Paddington in the morning. Take it he has started getting up earlier as he used not to roll before about 9:15 a.m. We have got the evidence as he was checked in when we did a Passenger census. 

I do not know what the outcome of the Reading Yard meetings will be yet as today the L.D.C. (staff side) have called a mass meeting of the shunters and guards to inform them of what they have learnt from us at the appreciation course and the meetings, and to ask for their support in taking the matter a stage further. If they want a closer look, we can knock up a provisional scheme based on the old figures (1957) – let them see what they have to do to earn their bonus, and calculate the average weekly take-home before and after. If they like the look of that they can have it on trial for six weeks with the option of rejecting it after that time if they are not satisfied. I can’t think what more we could offer to demonstrate there is no catch in it. 

I did not see the article about young Prescott – pretty bad business. Was his father the North Country man (or Midlander) who used to frequent the Salthouse (? dart player ) towards the end of the war? 

Very good arrangement of yours when chimney sweep called.  Do not blame you unless it is necessary to stop him taking the soot away. Should think it some use for the garden although at the rate of one chimney per year would not be enough to do much good. 

Note your gardening efforts – have in mind taking out the dahlias in a minute or two. Not much more to be expected from them. Very cold last night with the hint of both fog and frost. This morning, looking out of the bedroom window, could only see clearly to the middle of Melthorne Avenue although the houses at the end were not completely obscured. Was out in the car last night, hurried home to beat any fog, and found the worst patch across the road at the junction of Queens Walk and Torcross Road. Had to slow the car almost to a stand for about 10 yards. 

Glad you like the chrysanths, perhaps you will know what to do to get large blooms with them. I just let them grow as they will, but I expected that by pinching out to the buds at the appropriate time you might get some beauties.

I have little doubt that your mice did inhabit the old wireless at some time. All the evidence was there, and I must say that with the small slits in the bottom of the casing, and the complete cover of the chassis above, it was a very good choice of nesting place. 

I am afraid the wine you say you like is definitely Rhubarb. I had only one bottle of Jungle Juice apart from that which is maturing in the large jar, and we drank that when you were here. Glad you like the rhubarb although I have not tasted other than about half a glass. Please comment about the Parsnip. What is the verdict? 

Had to move the still maturing fermenting grape juice into a half-gallon stone jar as I wanted the large jars for apple wine. The apples you brought up were going bad as they were not being used fast enough. I found a receipt [sic]* involving 8 pounds of apples and made up the brew in two buckets. Finished up with one-and-a-half gallons of strained must but so far have only put 2 lb of sugar in. I feel that at least 4 more pounds of sugar are needed to the total, so that would be equivalent to another two pints of liquid. In the mixture is 1 Shredded Wheat, one grapefruit, one eighth of a pound of sultanas, one cup of pineapple juice, 1 and a half lemons, and 4 sticks of celery. Your guess is as good as mine. 

Do not let the liquid yeast get cold will you? Keep it in a warm but not hot place. If you do not use any by the end of the week, pour half away and fill up with cold boiled water and half spoon of sugar. An occasional dessert spoonful of any must you have available helps to ginger it up a bit. 

No more driving lessons yet, but may have a go this afternoon. Did not hear the comment about Stonehenge that was promised – perhaps not very important. 

We both saw Charlie Drake knock himself out. I thought the tall thin chap** was too weak to throw Drake through the window and had to be helped by the other chap, but did not think it was due to Drake being unconscious. 

Not much other news this end just now. Will try and get out while not actually raining. Love from us all for now and hope you are both keeping well. 

By the way I had a flu injection on Monday. a number of us had them with varying reactions. All set now for the winter? 

*Online sources seem to suggest that this was already an archaic expression by the time Alec chose to employ it, but the chances are it’s a usage inherited from one or other of his grandmothers.

**Henry McGee


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