Alec to his parents:
Dear Mum and Dad
Thanks for letters, again arrived on Saturday, this time well after 9-00 a.m.. I began to wonder if we would get one or not this week.* I imagine it will all be due to the pre-Xmas rush or build-up.
Re: cold, yes it got down on the chest alright, and the fog when it came really made things difficult for stop anything like that is best avoided when the smog is about. Talking about that, I do not recall anything as bad in the whole time I have been this end, and I do not want any more of it. It was much worse than in the 1952 dose.** In normal fogs you can breathe although it is more moisture than air, but in this stuff it is like trying to breathe with an eiderdown jammed over the nose. The soot that goes down inside is nobody’s business. Everyone goes about with a nasty hacking cough which disappears only when the fog lifts. I had no difficulty in getting to work or getting home because of the route I take***. My only difficulty was fighting to get down the escalator. this latter is a bit tricky as they only let a certain number down when crowds build up. A bell rings then perhaps fifty to a hundred search forward to get into a space about two persons wide. This of course gets one a bit compressed by the time you get near the escalator onto which you get literally squirted.**** However, this apart, the rest of the journey is uneventful and only the walk from the station in the fog remains. This is probably the worst part, as by that time the temperature has dropped to freezing, and the density is at its worst. Needless to say we were all very glad to see the rain on Friday.
I am afraid that following Susan’s bilious attack last week, we had a further instalment of the same this week, only June was the victim. She had the morning in bed on Thursday, but was much better in the afternoon. I had the day off to do the bits and pieces, and it was a relief not to have to battle with the fog, although naturally we regret the cause.
Yes our 8th wedding anniversary has come and gone – still as hard up as ever – but that looks like being a permanent state.
Did not know that Hillman’s were going to deliver the firebrick to Clevedon as I imagined them to be a Weston firm. Not bad I suppose, 6/6d. Now you can at least use the fire. We used to have some firebricks at the back and sides which cuts down the space requiring to be filled by coal. We are glad you like it.
Now that Mr Richings has had his driving instruction I have been informed that I should do the same so that madam can have the benefit of the tuition passed on*****. I have not seen any advert by the local police to that effect. No more driving for June. We really shall have to get down to it, but of late the main object of life has been to get there as quickly as possible and get back in the warm.
Talking about the car, I had a bit of trouble in the week. I thought I would start up the car on Thursday just to get the engine moving and loosened up. Touched the starter and got one faint whirr out of it and finish. As it was dark and had the garage doors closed I did not bother to get it out to give myself room to fit the handle, but just gave it up as a bad job. The following night, wishing to go out in it, I opened the garage doors and pushed out the car. I applied the handle and could not get the engine round, it seemed to have jammed solid. I imagined this to be due to the frost. No antifreeze in yet. I routed round until I could find a watering can, and got it sorted out. (The can) then poured in some very hot water and attempted to get it into the radiator. All this in the dark mark you. A lot of the water dropped over the top and went down the outside of the radiator. I think this latter must have done the trick because as I turned the engine it progressively got easier and eventually it started up. Have had no further such trouble as it has been a lot warmer. Yesterday I got a pane of clear glass from the ironmongers in Eastcote and fitted it in the window frame in the garage. It is surprising how much putty it takes. I bought a 4lb tin and have used half of it. The fitting of the window will mean that the garage will be that much warmer – I hope.
I see your police have caught the vicars wife who crossed the double white lines. A bit near home?§
Regarding the vacancies, I gather certain people have already been identified with the new posts. These include McDonald Productivity Assistant – R.J. Hill (in whatever capacity he will act) – F.D. Pattison Divisional Manager Plymouth – Hilton Divisional Manager Cardiff. These are the only ones so far that I know. The others will be named soon no doubt, then the rest of the jobs will be up for applications. I gather that one of the innovations will be the dispensation with the title of Assistant. Every officer will have a title in his own right, and will not be an assistant to anybody. This is as it should be, and a proper delegation of authority can take place. My frequently made statement that no one on the railway is responsible for anything will just become out of date??
I note you say ‘is something the matter with the ignition of the car’. I believe you may be right as when trying to start up in the dark with the bonnet open I noticed a number of blue sparks coming from the plug leads. This means that there are points where the electricity is being shorted. I must have a look at these soon.
Notley was under McDonald when in the Work Study Section but when he went into Traffic Costing on promotion to Special B, he came under Walton. Now McD takes over Traffic Costing in his new capacity and back comes Notley into his staff. We do not know what will happen to Walton. Some say he will land one of the Divisional Productivity jobs.
I had Boots’ own antifreeze last year, and it is quite good. It is also cheaper than Bluecol.
Things not too bad in the loft although I have not been up there this weekend. Have ordered more wood to finish it off, but this will not be for a week or two. I have also a couple of hinges for the trapdoor. I think I can fix it so that it swings open. This will save scratching the paint every time it is lifted off. Both the girls have been up in the loft. They insisted in going up, Carol in particular. When it was time to go down she kicked up a fuss and did not want to go down the ladder and would not be persuaded. In the end I had to grab her and plank her on the ladder above me while I went down first. Never heard such a squawk. She has asked to go up again, but once bitten.??
Once a month my colleague Unwin has to act as chairman of a discussion group at the Work Study School. For the last two occasions he has cried off for various reasons, so I have had to do it. It is only for an hour in the morning, then in the afternoon we put onto films for the purpose of checking their rating ability. We have anything from 15 to 25 at a time and they come from all departments.
We are paying guests at this party. Last year we charged everyone and that was probably the reason that Bob Hill did not come although he said he would.
No more news (good or bad) about number 17.
Imagine Soole with a moustache – what a combination.
I hope you remembered me to the Bristol people you met. It is a long time since I saw any of them.
I shall not be in a position to apply for anything for at least a couple of years, as this is frowned on and not supported. I also gather that when the two years are up one does not go on to [illegible] Max as on W.R. but you get another 10% increase on the minimum and the rest some time later (after another two years I believe). I am not very worried about this as I have not been on a maximum for many years. I think I only reached Max twice on Class 4 and Class 2. (The only two promotions I got in the Freight Train Office in a total of 11 years with them.)
Bad luck on the sloes then. I must tell Peter he will have to find the sloes for you. A messy time of the year to go digging in the garden. Probably like digging glue.
Note your news re: Richings and Saunders. Will also read the mercury in due course, but have only just glanced at it at the moment.
I will be down on the 9:05 a.m. Paddington on Saturday (if I get up in time) and return on Monday morning. Hope this is all right by you.
Well I have been having trouble with the typewriter this week. The full stop sticks and so do the ‘1’ and the ‘o’. Makes life difficult so will close and try to clean. Love from us all for now.
*At a time when the Saturday service looks likely to disappear altogether (and rightly so IMHO) Alec’s complaint about a ‘late’ delivery on Saturday morning just looks petty and entitled, although clearly Sunday was his only available day for replying.
** I have distinct recollections of being out in a thick London fog with a yellow tinge, when we had been taken up to the city centre to ‘see the lights’ just before Christmas, and I’m assuming this would have been in 1962. Really, for a family known to have bronchitic tendencies, and who had been advised to take their children to a drier climate – preferably South Africa – for their health, this seems pretty irresponsible in hindsight. I don’t know about their other child – we are no longer in contact, thank goodness – but I still have bronchitic problems to this very day.
***Logic seems to suggest that he would have left the Central Line at Notting Hill Gate and transferred to the Circle Line as far as Liverpool Street. I have no idea why this was considered preferable as the Central Line would have taken him right through the heart of the city, but maybe it was because the Central Line trains were more frequent or likely to be less crowded. Or, indeed, both. I must admit that it’s a tactic I’ve always tended to use myself.
****Am I the only one shuddering in horror at the thought? This sounds incredibly dangerous, but of course it was just this sort of outmoded procedure which led to a number of tragic accidents in later years.
*****And once again we have Alec’s incredibly disrespectful attitude to women – all women, even his own wife and mother. If only they’d just sit down and shut up and make sure his tea’s on the table and his shirts ironed, how much nicer life would be!
§ Cutting enclosed with this letter:
Vicar’s wife fined
The wife of the Vicar of Failand, Bristol, Mrs Eirene Foster Young, of The Chantry, Failand, was fined £5 and had her driving licence endorsed at Calne Magistrates’ Court yesterday for crossing the double white lines in her car while overtaking another car.
This cutting seems to have been taken from one of the Bristol evening newspapers, date unknown, as an advertisement for a local Bristol business appears on the reverse. It is not known why Alec would have seen this before Leonard, unless someone had just happened to bring a Bristol even paper into the office. (Or left it on a train, of course.)