Sunday 20th May, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad,

Thanks once again for the weekly letter and also for Susan’s special one to which she has replied herself. I am afraid Susan rather spoiled her birthday as she was naughty in the days preceding and some of her presents had to be withheld for a time as punishment. To give you one example, she wrote out a lot of invitations to a party and invited a number of children to various venues including the park, and dished these out somewhat indiscriminately. We had a mother turn up here with a rather tearful child asking if the party in the park was on or not, as she had been there and could not find anyone else. In addition this woman knew of someone else who was waiting to know what was happening. I suppose she will accumulate some sense in due course. In any case I cannot think what the women were thinking of in taking an invitation from a child without confirming it. As it turned out she had quite a good birthday with lots of odds and ends. Thought you would like the one about the hearing aid.

All the workmen have finished here now but the foreman has many jobs lined up. Never satisfied are they?*

Sorry to say that the health problem is again with us this week. Carol has had a shocking dry cough for several days now. We have had it continuously day and night with little to relieve it. We tried Grandad’s cherry wine with a variation to his elderberry wine but not 100% successful. A wineglassfull [sic] does not seem to do the trick. Tried a substantial amount of the cherry the other night and that did it for the rest of the night. The cough is much looser now so on the way out presumably.

Susan went to a party yesterday and I collected her in the pouring rain at 6:30 p.m. She gave us a bit of a night of it too. We started off by putting her in the back room to let Carol have an undisturbed night (she having gone to bed early), but the arrangements soon got changed around as she woke us in the night saying she was sick. In the event I do not think she was, but she certainly had a nightmare, and could well have been bad by the size of the  piece of birthday cake I saw her mum up just before bedtime. I therefore found myself in the back room and Susan in with June. This lasted two hours during which they say they got no sleep, after which Susan was turned out and supposed to go back to her room. I heard her wandering about on the landing for sometime. Her explanation was that she could not sleep. A good sleeping draught was applied to her rear (enough for a small army) and she howled the place down**, waking Carol in the process. She more or less cried herself to sleep after that, and that was that except that I could hear Carol coughing for some time after. This being the third disturbed night on the trot we are not very bright this morning.

This morning is quite good, but it is the first such day for many weeks, I do not understand your reference to a few good days and being glad to get out of doors. We have had fire (electric) every evening, and needed a water bottle as well.

I have had experience of this Polycell and agree that it is good for not marking the paper if you get any on the front. Shall not bother with paper again in view of the expert finish, reasonable charge, and speed of the professional man.

Your curate it really seems to be in the wars. Not up for long was he? I suppose he will be able to get about in the chair or is it too far gone even for that? It means a lot if you can get out even if it is in a chair.

Glad you have got the electric cooker working again. Can’t see Mum cooking over a bunch of twigs out in the backyard.

The sweet peas have diminished in number, but most are still growing.

Hope you do get a visit from Mr Palmer just a nice short walk for him. Will he have benefited from his first op or or has not the operation been a success?

I am afraid I have the worst news to give you a regarding Aunt Eda. she passed away in her sleep about 3 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. It seems that she was expecting it as she called in Uncle Rob to discuss financial matters in the morning (or previous day) and has said she did not want to carry on any longer. The expected has happened and as usual it has come as a surprise. The funeral will be on Monday at 2:30 p.m.. I am going but June will not be able to get away. Peter is getting some time off and taking Mr and Mrs Baker in the big car. I shall make it my business to be at West Drayton in the morning, and will go with them.

So far as the car is concerned, I took it into the garage and asked for a full servicing and pointed out that the engine was very rough. When I picked up the car they had done a good job on the oiling and greasing and the handbrake. All moving parts moved easily, the steering have been tightened, and there were no squeaks audible. However the engine was still very rough and they said compression was low in 2 and 3 cylinders probably due to cylinder head gasket having blown. I took the car away to think that one over, and in view of the fact that it had had no decarbonizing performed since new, I thought that the cause may be worse than they said. I decided to get a new cylinder head gasket and try to fit it myself and in doing so hope to find out if anything else wanted doing. Jacksons had offered to decarbonise the head etc fitting new rings etc.for £13 Peter rang up to say he had done his for about £2 with guidance from one of the partners of the adjacent garage. He offered to help me do it so I took the car over on Saturday. The conversation with the chap from the garage did not start on to healthy note as he said that there was not much point in overhauling the top of the engine without looking at the bottom especially in view of its length of run without attention. (The point being that we could put the top right but the bottom could go wrong at any time and the whole dismantling process would have to be under gone again.) He quoted £20 for the top overhaul assuming that the cylinder head had cracked – and £30 for a top and bottom overhaul. I asked him how much for a reconditioned engine and he said a new clutch should be bought at the same time as this was probably worn and greatest cost was the dismantling and assembly etc. He quoted £40 for the engine and clutch and £10 for fixing making £50 in all. I told him that the current value of the car was only about £100, which would still be the same if the overall was completed or not. He said that if Peter liked to get the head off, he would have a look at it and advise what should be done. This we agreed to do, and I ran the car into the back of number 155, and we spent the morning getting the cylinder head off. We found that the head was in perfect order, not having cracked even faintly. The head gasket had burst between number 2 and 3 cylinders and I had a replacement for 6/9d. There was considerable burned oil under the rocker cover and all over the rockers. Several of the valves seems to be seating badly and although we had to call a halt before we could remove the valves for inspection, I think that we may have to replace one or two. We can do the decarbonising and cleaning of the parts ourselves now, and reassembly. If we have to replace valves they work out at about 10/- each. The plugs are in working order, but replacements may be necessary after restoring the original compression in the pots. All in all an expense of approximately £5 will amply cover the job unless anything serious reveals itself. This is now unlikely as the worst part of the job is done.

So far June has had two lessons from the B.S.M. The drill is to have half an hour around side roads, and half an hour in traffic. It seems as if it is going well. June says she is a little more confident now. As it turns out she is not put out by moving in traffic. Just as well as there is a lot down this way. There has been no date fixed for test yet. The suggestion put forward – which is a good one – is that June has the first six lessons up to Whitsun, another six as soon as possible after, and then take her turn in driving when we are on holiday. The test can be arranged in August after she comes back.

I would not mind betting your neighbour did not pass over the whole of the M4. It bypasses Maidenhead and Slough when complete, but only cuts out Maidenhead at the moment. In any case it is worthwhile to avoid that town. So far as Slough is concerned, you can avoid that to if you wish by turning left off the A4 before you get to the main part of the town and making your way in the Burnham Direction. By moving towards the right (diagonally as it were) you can get on the Iver Heath Road and on to the A40 via the roundabout junction of the Uxbridge Road.

I am glad Moule got in for the West End. Liberals shaking them a bit now. The Conservative was returned here with 1434 with the Liberal second with 1299. Labour collected 870.

I expect I can bring on ten tomato plants if you have that many spare. June has asked me to say that if you have anything vaguely looking like a rockery plant we are interested. Do not bother with the dahlias. I shall not plant any this year now.

Our next door neighbours will be going in July and will be moving into a new garden. They will have to do a lot of work on it to make it into something worth sitting in. If you have any cuttings of practically anything that just wants sticking in the ground they will be pleased to have them. I know you have a lot of work to do, but I expect you can find an odd corner for privet cuttings and things like that. They want us to go over to see them when they are down there.

The trouble at Acton has quietened down for awhile. I have a meeting with them on Tuesday at which they will put their complaints and proposals. I already have an unofficial copy. Not much wants putting right. Other fish in the sea now. I have to start off Southall and Newbury. Want a day off to visit Newbury I should think. Apple blossom has blown away now, but the lilac is still flowering. Nothing else of colour if you except the Siberian wall flowers in the hedge.

Have not tried any more of the grape wine, but will have to start on something soon.

By the time Messrs Hewitt and Aston are joined by Mr Palmer, you will have a panel of three judges. I should give them slips of paper and ask them to judge the produce.

Your motor insurance is lower than mine. As you know I get nothing for no claim this time. The full sum is about the same as yours but Mr Grey knocked off his discount. I think the last lot cost me about £18.

Good crack about the runner beans. He cannot lose.

Spoke to Geoff on the phone on Tuesday and he seems largely to have lost interest in railway matters. I cannot say I blame him. All that is wanted now is reduction in cost. Less wages, less expenses, less people, more work person etc. etc. Mr McDonald now has to authorise any work on Sundays.

What is the position about the pond? Is there any life in it? Is there any water in it? I cannot think that all the creatures have died without trace.

Bad luck on the bath. this is a case of biter bit though. Cornish is one up there. I wonder you do not get in touch with a plumber and get him to tip you off when he renews cold water tanks. They usually leave the old ones to the owners to dispose of. It should not be difficult to patch up a tank sufficiently to hold water outdoors. You can have ours if you can move it.

Our kitchen has been completed so far as the woodwork is concerned, but the painting has yet to be done.

So you have been doing the twist. I should have liked to have seen that.

Cannot remember that Dad had a vine to plant. When can we expect the grapes, or will they be too sour?

Had not heard of Miss Hieatt for some long time how long has she been in Australia? How old is Suzanne Moore? Is she older than the boy? I remember him when he was in his pram.

Well I must close now as dinner in the offing. Clouds have come over to spoil the day which was very sunny to start with. We took some photos in the garden just after breakfast, when the sky was blue. Not much sign of blue now.

Well there it is again for another week. It will not be long before you are up – just two weeks. We are all looking forward to it as I expect you are.

Love from us all for now.

*Why are you?

**Outstanding parenting!


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