Sunday 25th March, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you for your letters, again received on Friday. No chance of being left in the post till Monday. Glad Dad liked the card from Susan, and will anticipate small parcel, probably enclosed with this letter. I like the idea of timing the separate items of the letter, gives a 3D effect. Time now as I type is 10:20 BST.

To take your letter in sequence of comments made, I have very little definite to report on the operation. The surgeon had little to say when I saw him last Tuesday. They are not giving me anything to take but say that it should go down on its own accord now. All that is want is peace and quiet and rest – joke. I have to go back next Tuesday for further comment. The surgeon says that if it starts to get larger again then I shall probably have to go back in and have the same thing done over again. Not very serious, but not very satisfactory. There is a very good hospital in the Ruislip area viz. Mount Vernon at Northwood. This is by way of being a general hospital whereas the one at Piccadilly is specialist for E.N.T.

I am surprised that the local life of a water tank in your area should be so low as 7 years but I realise that the water there is exceptionally hard. Here it is not soft by any means, but softer than yours I think. If I remember rightly you had no cold water tank, but had water in the bathroom straight off the main. This is not the present practice.

I would have thought that Sand Bay was too remote for residence. I am sure they are worse off there for access to schools then they would have been off Holly Lane. I have not heard any more from them but I see that Eric arrived here late last night from your end.

Yes I expect you will notice how the girls have advanced since you saw them last. They are both very active, and thank goodness they have slept well at night just lately.

I cannot say I recall Bridle by sight, but I remember the name. Did not know the other fellow was called Gillam, and did not know he was dead. Hope you have good news of Mr Palmer. I must say we could do with him up here at the moment in his professional capacity.

Having heard nothing from our joiner fellow, I went round to his place last Tuesday but no one would answer the door although I knew someone was in by the sound of children’s voices. I tapped on the door for quite a long time but no one came. Stopped in car on the opposite side of road and watched the house for about 15 minutes with the lights out to see if anyone put a light on or came out. Sure enough after a while the door opened and a young lady was shewn out and walked up the road. I promptly went back and tapped on the door again for a long time but no response*. We dropped him a note in the week telling him we would be here all this weekend for him to do his work, but so far have not seen anything of him. Now that we have taken down shelves etc to clear the decks for him it is a bit of a nuisance till the job is done.

I have not tasted the grape wine lately, but when last tried it was a little sharp. Did not put any sugar with it, but as it is still a comparatively young wine I shall not touch it for a while yet.

I suppose I shall clear a bit from the Wilts club, but not enough to abscond on. I have now six shares with the club, but I am only qualified for three as I have a few months to go on the balance, having only sent in the money and application for the additional three in January of this year. Presumably I have to wait a while before these latter shares qualify for benefit. My Rule Book is dated 1930 so expect the rules may have altered a little since then?

Note about Mr Gardner. What age was he? Had not seen him for a very long time.

Glad to hear that Don and Joan are in good fettle. This afternoon sleep of Don’s has become quite an institution. Has Geoff any idea what is causing his rash. Have you seen him recently?

Sorry I miscued with the date for receiving your pension. Anyway by the time you get this letter no doubt you will already have paid a visit to payment office.

Both the girls are in good health again now. Susan’s cold is just about over. I had a word with her this morning and she said she feels fine. By the amount of noise and mischief about, there is not much wrong with either of them.

I went back to work last Wednesday by the way. the op did not leave me with any after effects, and I had no pain of any sort either before or after. Apart from telling me not to do anything vigorous, and under the understanding that my work was clerical, the surgeon said I could go back to work. It appears that the conditions under which this thing is most likely to go down are rest and quiet. As I said before – joke.

Glad you have managed to do a bit of gardening despite the cold. Unless you can get cracking with a little work now and then it must mean that there is a rush and tear later to get up straight with it. From my window here I have been able to see June putting her rock garden to rights after the winter, and I see she has also planted out one of the honeysuckles that were in the pots. She and Carol together are watering it in, and now Carol is coming back down the path for some more water.

During the week June had a go at the lawn reconstruction. She has straightened the front row of stones to make it at right angles to the path, and has more evenly spread the ash over the top, and also brought a barrow or two of earth from the plot at the bottom and put on top ready for the seeds. When this is under grass, it will mean that about a third of the right-hand lawn has been leveled up. This is really about equivalent to half the work as the remaining two-thirds require less leveling up than the first part.

No trouble with the mower than. There can often be difficulty in starting a motor after a long layoff, but perhaps you have given it a turn or two in the winter.

Amazing to get a letter from Carver. I remember him as successor to Pritchard at Swindon.

June now know hard at work with my rope, putting up something on which to train the honeysuckle and clematis.

We ran the Acton station scheme in this week. So far as we are concerned it is going well. The staff are working really well. They have to. Unfortunately the traffic is up by 20% over our pre-scheme level and they have really been up against it. Their bonus is really good and they will have quite a bit to come, but they are all complaining that they have to work too hard to get it. They have written a letter to the L.D.C., but we do not know its contents yet. All in the game. Have seen a five page letter from the Acton Yardmaster explaining why the scheme will not work, and how we are all incompetent idiots etc etc.

Glad they have moved the caravan. For all the good it did they might as well not have put it up. If you recall Richard Porter was working for Hill the Builder at the time they put it there, and after painting it etc, all Hills men had their photo taken outside. I remember being on hand at the time and remember getting my ears boxed for passing some uncomplimentary remark about it and then not moving fast enough.

Sorry Mum cannot make out with the typewriter. All that is wanted as a bit of practice. Her first effort was very good I thought.

We have fixed up for a man to come on Saturday next to hang some paper in our bedroom. We have to do all the preparatory work including sizing** the walls, and he will do the rest in double quick time. We stripped the walls yesterday, and started painting the ceiling. Did not get it finished as darkness overtook us and despite the lamp we could not see what we were doing. At the same time one of the chaps from the office called to pick up some redundant music which we would otherwise have thrown away, so that was that. This morning before starting with letter June and I went over all ceiling again, and his now more or less finished, depending on what spots are noticeable after it has all dried. The woodwork will be started this afternoon. Pauline is supposed to be coming over today but as yet not arrived.

Well I am told the table is wanted for laying the dinner, so shall have to call it a day so far as this activity is concerned. Hope you are both well as we now seem to be. Love from us all.

*Even making allowances for the fact that ‘things were different then’, this is a bit extreme and smacks of the attitude that a workman’s time was less valuable than Alec’s: entitlement, in short. It would never have occurred to him that the man’s time was his own unless Alec was actually paying him, or that maybe he had decided not to do the job after all – or even that he might have been ill, or dealing with a family crisis, or whatever. Alec definitely thought he was a cut above other people, and did not approve of his daughters mixing with people he deemed socially lower than himself – those who lived in council houses, for example. His and June’s ‘social superiority’ or simply rank snobbism was the cause of considerable embarrassment over the years; they thought they were really something, but basically they were only a booking clerk and a barmaid and not really entitled to give themselves airs.

**’sizing’ isn’t a thing that seems to be done in home decorating quite so often these days as paints and finishes are generally of better quality, but it does still come up in some contexts. Basically it is preparing the surface with ‘size’ (wallpaper paste or similar) so that when you try to paint or wallpaper the medium isn’t all absorbed into the surface. It’s sealing/undercoating the surface to avoid wasting expensive paint or the risk of wallpaper drying out too quickly and falling off. See for more information.


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