Sunday 2nd September, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you once again for weekly letter, we have a little news for you this time, but first to reply to yours. As you say we could not have improved on the weather we had the week  following ours. However, the weather on one or two days since has been quite good, especially Friday and Saturday of this week. It was very hot in the garden in the afternoon, and yesterday we were able to sit in ours for a while. Odd about the thick fog, we have not had anything like that, but it has been cold first thing mornings with quite an autumnal air if not nip about it.

I am glad the pond extension works in practice as we were doubtful whether it would without prompting from us. It must have been quite some storm to fill all the levels though.

Yes we were sorry that Mum’s picture did not come out very well. I think I know the reason. If you recall we were in the cars sheltering from the rain when its eased off and we took the opportunity to get out while the going was good. It normally takes a little while to get a camera set for the picture, with lens hood and filter in place, but as I wanted to get a quick picture I did not fit these accessories. This would not have mattered normally, but it looks as if I took the picture directly against the light. We have the others back that we sent off at the same time. These were the ones we took when you were up. Most of them are alright. One of Carol did not come out and one of yours shows the top of your head missing. Mum’s dress came out very well indeed.

You will be glad to hear that all the buddleias are alive although one of them is only just so. The good one has been moved again since and still shows no sign of flagging.

I have no idea where we went wrong at Keynsham. On the forward journey we proceeded along the A4 until we saw the sign for Wells to the left. When we got to that junction on return journey we naturally turned right, and should have turned left again for Warmley, but did not see sign or turning. As you say, we approached Bath on a high level and found no trouble going through. I would say it is a much better way of disposing of Bath, and without increasing time or mileage.

The new tyres – now properly inflated – are a great help in steering. I found there were three sizes of tyre on the car. One was 5.0-5.25/16, one was 5.50/16 and the others were 5.25/16. You cannot tell any difference by the eye.

Bad business for Bushell, but of course it is now his job, and he will become more used to it than we should. Not a very pleasant job you might say.

Our lawns have dried up again through lack of rain and I had to get the hose out. I had put it away in the garage. It looks as though I shall have to give it another run again today as cracks appearing all over the place. The toms are ripening but I have not seen any red ones yet. Do these get red or do they remain orange? Carol kept on about picking the one ripe one so we let her do it. She had it for her tea in the week and apparently it went down well. I see there are several out there at the same stage now. Last week I cut off all the leaves except the top ones and this allows light to get to the plants. This week I cut back the trees at the bottom of the garden and let a lot more light in.

Our new neighbours returned last Sunday from honeymoon in Majorca. They both look very brown and seem to have had better weather than ourselves. Have seen little of them since they got back. He has mown the lawn but done little else outside. A workman who seems to be a relation of one of them is doing some exterior work on the house.

So things on the pond are moving. Your template must be quite large for that job. Is the pond holding or has the level receded? I note the depth is 2ft 1 in the centre. What will be the approximate height when you have built it up to the new level?

Carol likes her Perky Pup and still trots round with it. She was thrilled when a real dog took a sniff at it the other day. Good job I did not see it.

No more scares from the girls. Considering all things they have been moderately well behaved. Of course they were both poorly for one day each last weekend. No after effects. Carol had us awake most of Thursday night with a cough. Most of it was try-on though. She set up a mournful bleating and variously complained about head, throat and tummy. Tried hard to be sick but couldn’t and so on. I think it was a summer cold.

June has had no more practice with the driving, but there was some talk about having more lessons. Probably just now may not be opportune as you will hear later. With regard to the leg, June went to Uxbridge Cottage Hospital last Friday for examination as per the appointment. (This is not the place where Mrs Baker stayed, but first turning to the right beyond the Swakeley’s Road / Western Avenue roundabout.) I had the morning off from work as we all had to go because there was nowhere to dump the girls. June was inside for upwards of an hour, and they gave her the choice of an operation or an injection neither of which would they guarantee successful. In the event June chose the injection and they gave it to her there and then. This is having some effect although it is a bit early to say to what extent. There is some pain in the leg, and it produces the same results when knocked as it did before, but it looks a lot less angry and June is walking about with the aid of a special stocking. Another injection is due next Friday, but we think that June may be able to leave the girls with Ethel then.

The saga of West Drayton gets worse and worse. It appears that shortly after putting the property up for sale there was a queue of prospective buyers and the long and short of it is that the place has been sold. We do not know how much has been paid for it, but the agents told Mr Baker previously that “I could get £1,750 [roughly £41,600 in 2022 terms] for it tomorrow”. The lease has less than 10 years to run, and it may be that a price around that figure was agreed. In any case it is hard to see anyone paying more for such a short lease. Well it seems that the business was so bad that part of the pension has been used to prop it up and quite a lot of the proceeds of the sale will have to go to straighten things out. As for buying a house at current prices this is out of the question, but as number 17 Ecclestone Road has not been sold they will be moving in there for a purchase price of we think about £500 [roughy £11,900]. A retrograde step I call it, as it means going from one barn to another, but there seems to be little choice in the matter, and at least the old age pension will not be pillaged to keep the shop going anymore. Number 17 has 17 years of its 99-year lease to go so there is a respite for a while. It has no electric light or hot water system and is generally dirty and dark so it’s all hands to the pump now to get it shipshape. Its present furniture – which has been sold – moves out on September 6th – and various of us can then move in and see what needs doing and what can be done. *

Needless to say feelings are stretched at the moment. Peter who at first said he would not go near the place is now giving thought to possibilities of taking a floor for himself and Brenda but there are several ifs to be cleared up first.

I had a quick look through the Merc. but did not see the bit about young Richings. Will look again tho.

Have not done football this year yet but had a look at coupon for the previous weeks matches. It seems that Saturday comes around too quickly for me these days.

Cannot say I like Don’s cider much, but as I do not have the stuff regularly now it is probably not the fault of the cider. A spoonful of sugar would do it good from my way of thinking.

You would think Mr Heel would have seen the red light and cut out the heavy stuff in his garden. He will be back in hospital if he’s not careful.

About the waterfall arrangements, can you find room in your boot for our old water tank? It leaks, but Sylglas could put that right? We want to get rid of it, and it would be useful to you if you think it could be transported.

I did not tell you of my application for a job as Work Study assistant on the Eastern Region. I had an interview for it last Friday – it was a good one – and I had reasonable hopes. This week they told me I had got the job, so after 20 years at Paddington – almost to the day – I now go to Liverpool Street. I have heard good reports about that region and also understand they are a bit behind us in Work Study. The post is in the Regional Staff and Establishment Office and involves the whole of the Eastern Region’s three “Lines” viz the former GN and the GC and the former G and the former London Tilbury and Southend line. The scope is the whole of the Eastern England from Doncaster in the north to Sheffield in the west. I gather there will be a lot of travelling involved. What I am expected to do I do not know yet, but that will soon be known as I am starting on Monday 10th September. Of course there has been a lot of fluttering in the dovecote as you may expect. With the 3% award the top level of the salary range will be about £1,600 [equivalent of £38,000 today] so life has its compensations. It is a pity in a way to go further East when I would have preferred to go in the opposite direction, but it will be an opportunity to get away from Paddington which is not the place it was. There will be no question of moving house, and payments for the house will continue to be made through the paybill. Well we have upped tent and moved on before so it can be done again. Hope the news pleases you.

We have just had a small and welcome interruption over meeting Doug and Ethel and Christine for the first time since they returned from their holiday. It appears that they have a collection of colour films, but have no projector on which to show them. We have invited them in to see ours tonight and bring their own pictures with them.

The girls said thanks for the cards by the way. I do not know how many they want for the set.**

Bad news about Mr Skinner passing away last Friday. In view of the information given a few weeks ago it is not very surprising really. However he must have been much worse than most people realised. I gather Peter Stronquist is 53 and has a history of ulcer attack. A similar incident occurred about 20 years ago and he was in a bad way then. He is now in St. Mary’s Hospital and I had a word with Ted Rouse who visited him. He says he looked pretty bad when he left, in fact they thought he was a goner at one time. Ken Clifford, who was Waite’s Assistant and eventually succeeded him as head of P.T.O., retired on Friday. I did not go to the festivities. I had no idea he was going. It seems that they made the collection for him on a day I was out. Must arrange to be out more often.

Well I had better pack up now as one or two chores looming up. At least it leaves plenty of space for use by the distaff side if required. Love from us all once again. 

*This sheds an interesting light on Alec’s own past as the way he met June in the first place was through lodging with her aunt at the said 17 Ecclestone Road, either during or not long after WWII. (Most likely afterwards, as June referred to there being a lot of Indian merchant seamen living at 17 throughout the war, who were unable to get home for the duration. She learned to prepare curries for them, which were apparently very well received, but which put her off curry for the rest of her life.) There was clearly no electricity nor hot water when he was there either, but the post-war housing crisis would have made a lot of people grateful for any roof over their heads, no matter how basic it was.

**These would be P.G. Tips tea cards which were a staple of childhood life at the time. It was always a thrill to be allowed to open the packet of (loose) tea and find the card tucked between two layers of paper; they always smelled so wonderful, too. I believe the cards continued into the teabag era but they were eventually discontinued.


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