Alec to his parents:
Dear Mum and Dad
Well now the festivities are over once again, and everything back to normal or near enough. Thank you for your most recent letter which arrived punctually once again. Not to worry about the cold, there are enough around here for us all to have had them times over without your contribution. Just one of those things, you can’t stay locked up in a box to avoid meeting people with colds and in any case doubt if it would do much good anyway. I think with the children that each cold, however distressing to watch, is a step more towards immunity. It will never be total, but the more they get, the greater will be their resistance.
Sorry to hear you have not shaken off the effect yourself, and hope that it will not be long before you do. Apart from the usual catarrh, the children were free from colds over Christmas, and June managed to get over the worst of her cold by Christmas Eve.
Glad you were able to see the Astons on the two days, but it must have been awfully quiet for you. You should have moved a bit nearer to us, and joined in with our doings.* As you know we saw Geoff last Saturday on the day you went to Lyng. He said you were making the trip that day, and gave an account of his trip of the previous day. He complains that every time he travels something delays the trains. Question of physician heal thyself I think.
Sorry to learn that Don was well off-colour again due to cold. Heard something on the wireless that it is desirable to have warm bedrooms, and in any case this is most essential for those who are subject to chestiness or bronchitis. We have kept the electric heater on all night in the children’s room for about one week now and the difference is amazing. Glad to hear Don is a little better now.
So you saw Richings and Saunders respectively at Weston and Bridgwater. Hope they had time enough to fetch the bottle while you waited.
Yes we thought we had done very well to get 63 people to the party at Castlebar. A number of them said they came against their better judgement as they did not want to let us down in view of all the arrangements made. As a result of the band failing to turn up, and a small working surplus, we had £10 over so we were able to pay back money to all those who paid in advance and were unable to attend. The hit of the evening was C.F.E. Harvey. He joined in all the games with gusto, and in one form of musical chairs he missed his seat altogether and went rolling over the floor.
Half the battle of driving in London is knowing where you are, and what roads to take. Once you have a route in mind driving is the same as in any other town.
I gather that the weather round your way has been very bad. We have had it cold but only today did the snow arrive – much to the delight of you know who. It was raining on Friday morning so I took the car but before I got out of bottom gear had gone into a four wheel skid. Good job it happened straight away or I should not have suspected the possibilities. Trouble was rain on top of ice.
I was sorry to hear about Mrs Drewett. Odd that it should have happened on Christmas Day the same as Mrs Beale.
As I write you must be getting ready for the ringers’ supper. Hope it goes well for you. How do you pack in 15? Should think that you have to take most of the furniture out of the dining room to do so.
Odd you should have mentioned the parsnip wine in your letter, as by now you will have received mine which said that we had some on Christmas Day. I found it very good, but Peter passed no comment – it just disappeared. I got the grape wine out also among the Christmas fare, but after trying it myself decided that it would be wasteful to push it around yet as a few months more should remove any trace of rawness.
So Arthur is ill, is he? Nice of them to send a card – no dollars enclosed though I gather.
This morning I took the girls out into the garden to make a snowman, the snow being about five inches thick. It was still snowing hard, and although I used shovel and garden spade the stuff was too sticky to work with. Made a heap of snow about three feet high and let it go at that. Took the girls down to the corner and back. Coming back against the wind was like a blizzard, and they had enough by the time we got back to 84.
Eric has to return to Bristol for work tomorrow, and a few minutes ago we saw them all troop out to remove snow from off the car and get it started. He had a job to get moving – had to go forward and reverse a few times but eventually left at about 5 mph. The snow eased off when he went and only a few thin flakes were falling but now it is as bad as ever. Hope he can get through.
Well we all hope you have a good and enjoyable New Year, and thank you for your wishes on the same. Try and keep in the warm as much as possible and give the Christmas Cheer a bit of a bashing also to keep cold out. Love from us all for now.
P.S. We shall be thinking of you around midnight (if still awake).
*This was a constant theme at the time, and eventually did come to pass – although in an environment very different from Ruislip.
Alec to his maternal uncle and aunt (Eva’s brother Joe and his wife Lydia):
Sunday 31st December, 1961
Dear Aunt Lydia and Uncle Joe
Thank you very much for Christmas wishes and the presents you sent to the children. I think there is an effort by Susan which will be enclosed. Hope you had an enjoyable Christmas as I am sure you must have done with all those children around (of all ages). Pity we were not a bit closer, so we could look in for an hour or so or vice versa.
Snow lies thick here today and is falling fast. We had no snow before today so you may expect someone was excited. We went out in the garden this morning and tried to build a snowman, but the snow was too sticky and too cold so we only finished up the pile about three feet high. Had a walk down to the corner of the road but coming back was like going through a blizzard. That was enough for the girls.
We had eight for tea on Christmas Day and the same number for dinner and tea on Boxing Day. Susan has been to a party and they both have another one to look forward to next week. Susan is able to read books to Carol now and you may expect she is in great demand.
Hope you liked the photo. Most of the pictures taken came out well, but are best seen on a projector. We were very surprised and delighted with them. Beginner’s luck I suppose. Have another film in the camera now and have taken a chance on some indoor colour snaps without flash. Hope it works.
We had a nice tree this year and got it suitably decorated. About as big as the one I remember at Somerholme many years back. We took the girls to Church on Christmas Day (grown-ups service) and they behaved themselves very well. They go there for Sunday school and children’s services, so it was not altogether strange. No requests for ‘more [illegible].’
Well I expect you are keeping the fire warm these days like us and looking forward to the New Year so will wish you all good luck and prosperity in it and love from us all.
Alec to his paternal uncle and aunt (Leonard’s brother Don and his wife Joan):
Dear Don and Joan
Thank you once again for the kind Christmas wishes and enclosure to us all. There is a letter from Susan already prepared which I will enclose herewith. We hear you were not too well over Christmas but that you are feeling a little better now. Hope the improvement continues, but cannot but feel that the weather is the cause of the trouble.
Snow lies thick here today and is falling fast, but we are fortunate that we have not had it before today. It has been bitterly cold here and that is no incentive to leave the fireside. The girls and I did go in the garden this morning to build a snowman, but were only able to stay out for about half an hour. My next door neighbour has just left for Bristol in his car. The best of luck to him.
We all dropped in on Geoff and the girls last Saturday morning and exchanged Christmas presents but apart from that we had not seen them for some long time. On Christmas Day June’s parents and brother and sister came over in the afternoon until about 9 p.m. and on Boxing Day they all came to dinner and stayed till about 8.0p.m.. While we all sat around Susan read through the whole of a book to us and Carol who would not be outdone sang ‘Away in a Manger’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. Susan now reads books to Carol, not bad considering she is only in her second term. She can also knit a little and has something lying around with about seven lines of knitting on**. They both had some lovely presents and there was some fun on Christmas morning and wrapping them.
Peter produced a tree about ten feet tall which made our five shilling [£6 in 2021 money – good luck getting one at that price today!] one look a bit silly so we dumped it in favour of his. With lights, tinsel etc. it looks quite nice.
Managed to break the nutcrackers on an almond (we have some tough nuts around here) but other than that the Christmas passed without incident.
Well we all wish you both good health and prosperity in the New Year
**’A little’ was precisely the way it stayed for the next seventeen years, too, until the arrival of Robin resulted in a sudden desire to learn to knit.
And this, dear readers, concludes our letters from 1961.
Please join us again from Monday 3 January, 2022
for what is going to be a very full and fascinating year.