Sunday 27th January, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad ,

Thanks for another newsy letter. Thank goodness I can type this one back in the dining room in some semblance of warmth. When we can call 30 degrees warm, 40 degrees is like a heatwave*.

Troubles with frozen pipes, you have not heard the last of it. One day early in the week I was washing my hands at the hot tap downstairs (only cold water coming out as heating off) when I heard a rumbling sort of bang somewhere above. Popped upstairs and looked round but could find nothing wrong – loft included. Went back to complete wash thinking noise must have come from neighbours freeing their tank. As soon as I turned on the (same) tap, another bang, so back upstairs for another look round. Found the hot water tank which is supposed to be cylindrical had caved in quite considerably although the welding round top and bottom was a strong as ever. (Copper tank.) I realised that ice above the tank, and the withdrawal of some water, had created a partial vacuum in the tank, and air pressure from outside had pushed in the walls. Put an embargo on further use of the hot tap, and did best with hair dryer and heaters, but not much electric pressure, and no luck**. At this time inlet and outlet from cold water tank frozen solid, and inlet to all taps and outlet from bath and basin all frozen up. Also no water into toilet cistern so parade of buckets each time etc. etc. Situation stayed like this for a couple of days, but during the course of Tuesday and Wednesday the outlet from the toilet pan became partially obstructed, and only cleared slowly. Late on Wednesday this blocked up altogether. When I got home, June had put the oil stove in toilet and although this had sorted out the inlet to cistern, the outlet remained to be dealt with. (Sorry one day out this happened on Thursday). Got up the ladder on the outside of the house and poured a kettle of boiling water on to junction of pipes outside wall to no effect. Got through to Public Health Officer who recommended same course of action also blowlamp if available. Tried to borrow one from Webb across the road but neither of us knew how to use it so we settled for relays of hot water. He brought two over and we managed to get one boiled, and that luckily did the trick. Before ringing the health officer, I had tried the sewer hatch to see if there was a blockage there, and the cover slipped out of my hand and split across into two pieces. After I had gone to work the next day day, June nipped up the ladder (permanently in position) into loft with a kettle of boiling water, and succeeded in thawing out the cold tank to such effect that water flowed again from the hot tap in the kitchen, and was replaced in the hot and cold tanks by water from the cold tank and the mains respectively. In addition to this the hot tank was pushed out straight again. I was telephoned with this news and on the agreement that we kept a 150 watt bulb a light over tank, and frequent inspections, June went off to light the boiler. When I got home the children were shouting on the inside of the door that we had got a burst pipe, but neither of them could turn the latch to let me in, June being upstairs dealing with the matter at the time. Sure enough when I got in there was water dripping through the ceiling of the front room and assumed the worst. However it seems that with the thawing-out of supply pipes we had a minor Mrs Bush, because the washer of the cold tap came out and [d]ripped water, which could not run away due to the outlet still frozen up. As a result the basin had filled up and gone over the top. You will have realised that the water had gone somewhere under the floorboards as the bathroom is over the hall. a little later the fall from the ceiling started again, and we thought that we really had got a burst from under the bath somewhere. However I got outside on the ladder again with more buckets of hot water and slung them over the outlet pipes from bath and basin, and after about 15 minutes these were free again. By this time the drips of water stopped again, and can only think this must have been due to a small pocket of water from the previous dose, just finding its lowest level. The paraffin heater left in the bathroom – now – with doors closed eventually thawed out the taps in the bath as well so that all systems were again go. We left the 150 watt bulb on all Friday night to ensure that the cold water tank would continue to feed the hot as the fire was still well alight. Bulb would also ensure that the vent pipe would remain open and risk of explosion avoided. However at about four in the morning June said she could hear the sound of dripping water in our room. Could find nothing, so I went over the house including the loft but no luck. Got back to bed, but again later could hear this drip drip so up again and eventually put it down to our alarm clock which has a spring which jumps every now and then giving a slight thump like a drip of water. At this time I went down and made a cup of tea feeling thoroughly cold. Light at this time was flickering considerably. When we woke up eventually at about 8:45 a.m., found that all lights and power were off, and according to the electric clock had been off from 6:45 a.m.. So much for the precautions of the electric 150 watt bulb in the loft. Fortunately the thaw had arrived and all systems still at go.

At this time by the way our television has been out of action – at first due to picture being reversed on screen, but sound o.k., then no picture but sound o.k., then no picture, and sound almost gone. We (June) fixed up for man to come on Saturday morning, but he arrived during the power-cut so could do nothing. Everybody else’s TV o.k. so we assume ours to be faulty. However power came back at 12:30 p.m. and with it the BBC programme on TV as normal, but ITV a bit of a mess. After about 15 minutes of this, that picture began to break up and eventually disintegrated into a white jumble. Tried again in the evening and found both programs normal, and remained so for as long as I looked so it seems the set is o.k. again now we are back to full power. Have plumber coming today to fix washers on all taps in bathroom so perhaps we can forget the plumbing for a bit.

Well to turn to other news, we went over to number 17 yesterday and more completed. The builder hopes to be out of there by next weekend. Three items of news there. One is that the gas cooker had been out of action while they mended something to wall behind. When again used, Mrs Baker set match to oven only for the thing to blow up in her face including singeing of eyebrows and hair. Someone must have left a tap on. Fortunately Mrs Baker was only shaken up, but a nasty thing to have happened. Item two – the dog which has been roaming around ever since the move – getting acclimatised – always gets as close to the fire as possible. He overdid it in the week by getting his haunches right in the grate, and leaning his back up against the gas fire. As a result his hair caught fire, and he now has a long brown mark from head to tail. He went off one day and fortunately was seen by one of the builder’s men who recognised the brown burn on his back. At that time he was going into the canal at Southall about two miles away. The third item of news is that Mr Baker is unwell with bronchitis. When we were there yesterday he was feeling poorly and had had the doctor. The latter has told him it is nothing to worry about.

Peter has a job now as storeman at a firm on the Perivale Estate. Put up a couple more curtain railways yesterday and June did the curtains. Plumbing is ok at number 17, and they seem to have had no trouble since moving in. I agree that now is the time when the colds start to resume. Always the same at a big thaw. We are all well, very warm in front of our gas fire, but latterly could not keep myself warm in bed. Friday night especially I do not remember when I have been so cold for so long.

Note your episode with the car. I had same trouble some time ago with loss of connection to battery.

Mrs Bush seems to be a bit of a nitwit. If outlet frozen or blocked it is only sense to turn off tap.

Note also your antics getting away from church. It could be very bad up there I should say.

Susan is good with her glasses. She is lazy when it comes to going into another room to get them to put on, but if to hand she remembers pretty well.

That re-rating of £35 to £90 a bit of a jolt. He can always pay by instalments if he insists. The council will not like it, but he can do it provided each instalment is paid in advance.

Christopher seems to like his school o.k. but he is still a bit difficult, and they have a deal of trouble with him.

The thaw continues, and yesterday we had a small pool of water at the intersection of the roads in front of the house. All the road edges are swimming in water and quite wide in places. Fortunately for that sort of thing we are on a hill so someone else has the pleasure further down.

The incident of the transplanting at Westbury occurred after you had done some dividing-up. I was seen doing the same, and stopped, but it transpired that it was the right time of year so everything in order.

I think the Parkestone Quay traffic is quite large, and should say it exceeds the Weymouth to Southampton trade. In the future it should be even greater if the Common Market business get anywhere.

I have little faith in lagging for pipes or tanks unless coupled with a separate source of generated heat. The water in the pipes does not generate heat so that there is nothing to oppose the cold from without. Lagging only provides a barrier which slows up the cold from getting through, it will not stop it. The best form of lagging is that which stops cold draughts from entering the loft; under such conditions a source of gentle heat should be sufficient. What do you say, physician heal thyself, well maybe we have now.

Just a reminder by the way, Woodward is reported to be finishing on March 1st, and so also is Crane of Southall. Woodward’s job has been advertised on this week’s list and is rated (now) at 1450 to 1750***. No doubt he was getting more than that. From my point of view, even for the money, it is not worth applying for, quite apart from what is involved in the job.

Well again we can report we are all well so far as colds etc. concerned but June has hurt her back somehow – maybe lumbago or sciatica as it pains her to bend. Nevertheless she has just completed a week’s washing which is now out on the line. Well I will close now and leave the rest for the kids to say. Love from us all once again. 

*This is of course Fahrenheit: the Celsius equivalents would be -1º and +4º.

**Ummm, he means the power was down, i.e. not quite a brownout but reduced capacity in the system probably as a result of demand elsewhere.

***£33,000 to £40,000 in 2023 currency.


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