Sunday 2nd June, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Once again your weekly letter to hand for which many thanks. Glad the postman managed to call on the 27th ult. Hope all received satisfactorily.

Yes I allowed Susan and Carol to have a go on typewriter last week, but found the thing all upside down this week (both literally and figuratively). The machine (packed back in case by Auntie Eileen) was upside down, and some of the settings at the back had been moved so that could only type about one inch then stop. They can have another go sometime, but not this week as we have a bit of a hustle on. That was Susan’s idea for the longhand. I am not sure if they have started to do that at school yet.

The heat certainly takes it out of one when it comes as such a quick change. I must say the last couple of days here have been marvellous. I had Friday off this week and by gum it was hot. I gather that Roy took Delph and Pauline out to Chorleywood on Sunday of last week, and had his second accident with the new car. It appears that someone bumped into him from behind after he had stopped quickly in a narrow road. This is about the fourth time that has happened to him. Should think he would learn to drive within a more gradual braking distance now. Mrs Baker still doing pretty well. We went over to see them yesterday and found things much the same. Peter and Pauline have been mending the wall which had broken down. They have about got it half done with bricks that came out of the wall originally. They will have to get some bricks from somewhere as what are left are only brickbats.

Sorry about your garden. Had thought you would be in better shape. Ours of course is nothing to write home about at the best of times, so the winter weather has not affected us much. Buddleia now at the top of the fence – about one month earlier than last year. Hope it will go on my higher yet as we have no roses there this year.

I hope your day today goes well and visitors arrive on time. We are having June’s friends Les and Barbara with their daughter Jill arriving sometime later this morning. We have not seen them for quite some time now although I forget how long it has actually been.

Yes the mower at the bottom went on for a long time after I commented on it. I think that it only had the blades powered, and man had to push it manually. If so that probably explains why he was at it so long. What with that and his yapping dog, it was a case of “One man went to mow” with a vengeance.

We were not very surprised about the gas bill at number 17 as it was no more than to be expected that it would be a very high both because of the cold weather, and the builders’ men who had to have heat on for drying out cement etc. in a hurry before occupation.

Spoke to Susan about the spearmint, and asked her where mine was. She said it had all been eaten. I told her that you cannot eat spearmint, so she said ‘well anyway we have taken the taste out of it’.

Last time car had a clean was so long ago that I cannot remember. It wanted doing very badly. I have got chrome back on wheel hubs, but it took about two hours on that alone.

Nothing much new in the radio line for stop I have been at Retford all week so little was done. I shall be there again next week so not much likely that week either. Have had a small modulator lent me and coupled it to the transmitter yesterday, but cannot make it work properly yet. When okay I shall be able to transmit speech. So far have got as far as Greenford with it but output so low as to be useless from a practical point of view.

Sweet peas doing very well and the two lots of beans are up. Have put the runners next to the garage and the broad ones down in the plot. The latter will probably not come to anything as put in too late, but it will give the girls something to watch.

We did not see any special service for the Scouts etc. this end. There may have been one, but we were not aware of it.

I will keep the old W.R. News for your next visit, but please remind me or I may forget to take them home.

I suppose the cruise is nearly over by now. Hope they had good weather.

Did you manage to keep any cuttings of the bronze chrysanth brought back from us? All ours are gone now.

Interested to hear about the closure of the Goods. Also noted the remarks in the paper for which many thanks.

Your piping job quite extensive then. Had no idea you were on that game. Cannot understand mum’s remarks on the subject last week.

Some bean row to all accounts. I wonder what the average crop from one bean sown happens to be. Have you kept any such stats and if so can you forecast your probable crop in advance? (Not quite the same as counting chickens.)

We had a picture show last Sunday but it was quite hot so we did not set up the usual trappings, by just held the projector fairly near the wall in the dining room and had the pictures about 18″ inches to 2 ft across.

Only local sides played at Chorleywood. I think I have played there but not altogether sure. I have played on most grounds in and around London.

I do not know if there is anything in Sylglas that would harm fish. If so it would be necessary to let Sylglas weather for quite a while before letting any fish in. Not a bad idea, but a bit difficult to apply I should have thought.

On Friday feeling a little energetic, I went over to the field with barrow and cleared about eight full loads of earth. This I dumped at bottom of garden and have since sieved a lot onto right-hand lawn. This is to provide something more than rocks for the grass to grow in and also to level up to the path. Could only work at it for a couple of hours after which the heat put paid to it. Had another go yesterday and got one more load but the quality of soil not so good so did not get any more. I’ve got some grass seed ready to plant, but have a bit more earth to save before the levels are right. Our one solitary sunflower – now hardened off – is growing quite well. Slugs not causing much trouble now or else I have put paid to them. It could be of course that they have vacated all the food I have provided for them and moved on somewhere else.

Good news about your garden produce, sounds as if things are just reading reaching the eating stage. We shall have to call.

Well I must close this letter now as I think you have all the news. The girls like their postcards by the way, and Susan took hers to show her teacher. She has been on to me for some time to take her to Walton Castle* when next we visit Clevedon.

So for now, love from us all. 

*Nothing like as posh sixty years ago as it is now; it was probably just a private house at that time.


Tuesday 28th May, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

The postman certainly called on Monday the 27th inst. and what a budget he brought. Thank you all very much for same and I see both Susan and Carol were allowed to use the typewriter this week. Also Susan trying out her longhand – very good indeed for a start.

What a change in the weather over the weekend. Pity to complain about it but it was so sudden that it took all the energy out of one. The sun was so scalding when I was working in garden on Saturday and I had to turn my cap round to protect my neck. Expect you thoroughly enjoyed your trip out in car on Saturday. A good day for the cup final for once too. How did June find her mother? Going on all right we hope. Nice to have Eileen with you again for a weekend and no doubt two young ladies kept her very busy. What a load up for the car for Chorleywood!

Am sorry you imagine flower garden pretty shipshape. I honestly think it is the worst effort we have made for years. It is due however to bad autumn when we could not square up for the winter following the severe winter and wet spring. However we must make the best of it this time and see if things can be improved as we go along. We shall have some flowers of course and the beds will be tidy (I hope).

Yes all arrangements well in hand for Geoff and family who arrive at 12:53 p.m. Sunday. Evidently Stella and Rebecca going to work on the Saturday.

That chap at the bottom of your garden with the lawn mower (motored) does not intend to push around an ordinary mower. Perhaps he picked it up cheap.*

Yes sugar well in the news but prices seem to be steadying again. Quite a shock to find that commodity going up – what about our winemaking? Noted Pauline and Norman visiting Roy and Delphine last Sunday and your comment re: former. What surprised you about the gas bill? Presumably it covered the worst period of the winter. Have the charges been increased?

Spearmint eh? Years since I had to go at this stuff. Hope the girls do not take it to school with them or the teacher will be after them.

You clean your car far more often than I clean ours** but I suppose in point of fact you use it far more often and in all kinds of weather whereas if possible (Ruislip trips excepted) we try and get out in the nice weather.

Noted you have picked up other contacts with the transmitter – Cheltenham and Hall Green. Geoff said he had recently spoken to you but not on the radio. I do not think there is any part of our old wireless sets laying around in the shed nowadays. We have to have a clear out every so often otherwise we would never get into the shed.

Sorry no seeds have come up. Great pity but I think it proves that the soil is infested with insects who destroy the seeds. just as well you have the sweet peas in pots. Any sign of them?

Hope Susan has not to wait too long before she can really join the Brownies. Last Sunday afternoon there was the usual Commonwealth Youth Service at the church and all the Guides, Brownies, Scouts including Sea Scouts, the St. John Ambulance cadets etc. etc. paraded with their banners and it was a very good turnout. No doubt the same kind of service was held at Ruislip and other places. The new headmaster of the school at the bottom of Holly Lane gave the address and he opened up by saying “I hope those of my pupils who are present will not think it is a bit thick to have to put up with me today as well as on weekdays”. He gave a wonderful address however and it was noticed that he is a Cambridge M.A..

Yes Roy and Mrs Hewitt are now well on their holiday. Apparently they went to Paddington last Friday evening and stopped the night at a hotel and proceeded to Liverpool Street to catch the 10.05 a.m thence to Harwich to be on board for sailing at midday to Amsterdam. Change there into a Dutch boat and cruise up the river. Cannot say if they are gone for 10 days or a fortnight but we shall get a card in due course. If they had been travelling from Liverpool Street on a day other than a Saturday you could have wished them ‘bon voyage’.

No further trip to Retford then so far. Does it really take you an hour to get from Liverpool Street to King’s Cross?

So you remember Donald Fortune then. Is he not in the photo taken at the infant school?

If they are not in the way please keep old London Division News until we next come up to Ruislip – they are always interesting even if stale news to a lot of people.

Have since heard that Rodney Meadows was one of the band of ringers who rang at Westminster Abbey for Princess Alexandra’s wedding last month. He must be quite an expert ringer to be included in such a team.

No more news of proposed land sale – no news is good news – so they say.

It was only the old chrysanthemums we lost by slugs. I have a lot of new rooted cuttings in pots in one of the frames and they should give us some good flowers later on.

Evidently you did not go on the annual outing to the Isle of Wight.

Clevedon Goods closes on the 10th prox. after which date all traffic will be dealt with at Yatton including coal. Deliveries of latter to be effected from Yatton. This will increase the cost of coal per ton to everybody in Clevedon.

Last week I noticed starlings going in and out of the next doors vent shaft near guttering of house and suggested to Bushell he should borrow our ladder and investigate as he had no wire basket on top. He did so and found young dead starlings in the bend of the pipe. Apparently when they were ready to fly they could not get up the shaft to get out and eventually the old birds abandoned them. He has now put some wire gauze over the top to keep out future nest builders.

Mum just told you last week we had Stan James here doing something to our pipe. About two years ago we noticed a small damp patch on wall at bottom of stairs and this had gradually increased in size so we had to investigate. My first thought was that the asphalt on path had ridden above damp course but this proved not to be the case. The downpipe from roof guttering at this point we knew only drained into a soakaway and over the years this pipe had become choked with soil and muck washed down off the roof. Consequently the water was finding its way back into the wall of house above the damp course and causing the patch inside on the wallpaper. The remedy was to put underground pipes to take water direct to the inspection chamber near the small triangular piece of garden at back of house. So while Stan James went to Yatton to get about fifteen 3 ft pipes I dug out the trench. Fortunately it was dry for the two days the job took and all in order again now except that we have a rough surface to walk over for the length of the trench. I lost two days on the garden because of this and I’m now trying to catch up before the weekend.

Mr Aston brought me around two bundles of bean sticks and together with those I had left over after putting in one row enabled me to make a second row. This was completed on Saturday and I put beans (seed) in on Monday. Altogether I have 218 bean sticks and the equivalent number of beans sown. Mum has been busy cutting grass around the trees etc. on the lawn and planting out flower seedlings. I’m still at a loss to know what to try next to seal pond and I think I may try Sylglas before embarking on anything more costly. I would like to get the thing put right.

Had a walk down the field the other day and can only confirm what has already been stated that the apple trees are one mass of bloom. The cherry blossom is over now but this too has been a picture.

Had not realised until you mentioned it that you have been at Liverpool Street for eight months now. How time flies.

Assume you have not done any more decorating June lately – nothing mentioned of it in letter this time.

Yes Alec your photos have been most favourably commented upon by all who have seen them. Did you have your picture show on Sunday evening? How far out is it to Chorleywood?*** and what teams were playing cricket there? Presumably only local sides but I expect it was interesting. As you can see in mercury there is cricket most Sundays on Dial Hill.

Saw Elford the other night and he said the police still have no clue as to who broke into their shop.

Was very pleased to see the Ford management were sticking to their decision not to reinstate the seventeen men who were the chief agitators in their works. Something like this should have happened years ago when perhaps a lot of the trouble in recent years might have been avoided.

Have had to use hose to fill up the baths twice this week and at the same time have also taken opportunity of watering the garden. The winds had hardened the top crust of soil which had to be broken. We are cutting lettuces now and mum says they are priced at about 1/3d[£1.60 in 2023 money – a little cheaper, in fact, than they are at present] in shops. This is a bit surprising as there should be plenty of them about now. Other green stuff is still very scarce and Mum continues to buy frozen peas and broad beans. Incidentally my broad beans I see are just beginning to form but will not be ready for this coming weekend unfortunately. The first row of peas not yet in flower but second is already showing through ground. Have earthed-up a few rows of potatoes. According to my gardening diary the tomatoes were forming this time last year but it will be a few days yet before this year’s fruit will begin to show. Just shows the state of the gardening world for 1963.

A little rain is falling at the moment (6:45 p.m.) but it does not look like continuing very long. I wish it would rain most of nigh.

Think I must close now. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. I’ve got a postcard of Walton Castle to enclose for Susan this time and not to leave Carol out of it have one of the Old Church for her. Mum and Dad. 

*Or perhaps he had a bad back/leg/heart and just needed a bit of extra power. Let’s just try to think of a charitable explanation for once, shall we, rather than assuming the guy is lazy or has more money than sense?

**Only when there’s something he wants to get out of doing…

***I make it roughly fourteen miles, mostly along the valley of the River Colne.

Sunday 26th May, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks once again for weekly letter. Glad the girls managed to get one in as well for you last week. The doll was very much appreciated, and although Carol wanted to have it at first they have now settled down to one each and no grumbles. The rock of course went down well. Ribbons duly appropriated. Glad you had a long letter from Susan – I saw it being composed, but she has named a couple of animals in the list that were not there (hippo and rhino) but she left out two others that were there (guess what*?).

It has been dreadfully cold here this last week. The first week of the year that the office heating has been turned off and did I noticed it. Of course this is the trouble of turning heating on and off according to the calendar. Have had no thunderstorms come up but yesterday the weather made a vast improvement and was very hot at times with a general level higher than for some time. I believe there was a forecast of thunder and it was almost impossible to hear anything on the radio last night due to atmospherics. Gather you were able to do some gardening despite the storms your end. I had a clear up in garden last weekend, but have not done anything since. No seeds through of course and I have now written them off.

Nothing much to report on the radio this week. Had contacts with Cheltenham and Hall Green, Birmingham in the week and this morning at about 8 am worked a portable radio station located near Birmingham.

So far as our old set is concerned, it was dismantled to make other sets at Devonia some many years ago, but the speaker was in use a long time after the main set went. It is just possible that the speaker is still lurking about in the shed. It was not a good one, having the cone manufactured of brown paper.

The sweet peas are in pots, and should be fairly well protected from the slugs, but main thing is to see that they do not dry out. Most of our garden shrubs etc. survived the winter o.k. We have had to retrain the honeysuckle as we took down the supporting wire and unfortunately had to cut much of the growth to get at it. There have been a number of cuttings planted out and in tubs and we have been successful with many of them.

No news from Brownies yet. We think you are right in that there are not enough adults to run more than one pack at this end. Too many counter-attractions.

No further trips to Retford although always a possibility. I would rather somewhere closer. That jaunt takes about three hours to get there from King’s Cross and it is an hour to that point from here.

Not too worried about the gas water heater. I had an idea it would be gone by now. June had an idea for it at number 17.

You really are having trouble with your TV. Good idea next time to have one from the rental people then you can get set attended to free, and also if not satisfied with set you can get it changed. Also when new features come out you can always have such changed for one that includes them. I know Donald Fortune. We went to school together (St. John’s) and I recall being at Clevedon once when you were at work and he turned up then to fix the set for you. I recognised him then.

Good luck to the sailors this weekend. Not bad about the 31st of June. Some one wants to go back to school.

Glad you got the mag okay. I have a number of old London Divisions News in the office, but they do not fold into so small a size as the mag and I shall have to look out for a larger envelope for them.

So Rodney Meadows turned up in the Belfry did he? I knew he did a bit of ringing. He is not married and as he has moved about the country bracket (on promotion etc) he has joined various bands on a part-time basis. As you say cannot think what he is doing down your way. He is now Traffic Costing Officer to the line manager (G.N.). I have not seen him since I have been with E.R. (which is now 8 months).

It does not matter much what they intend to put on the property (except factories) so long as they give you good price.

Your apple blossom must be a fine sight and it is a pity you cannot take a picture of it.

You are likely to get a cackle or two from next door then up to Christmas. Not very good idea putting house down the end of garden unless to minimise the noise. Pity you lost your chrysanths. We have not got any this end. The buddleia doing well and already the top leaves are near the top of fence at bottom.

Our office outing (Isle of Wight) took place last week. I gather they all had a good time with plenty of sunshine. I think that is a place I would like to go to one year. Not a bad trip by car and latter essential on the other side to get most of the views etc.** I understand that there were three outings on the train from Victoria, and there are murmurings against having any more. I think the things are out of date myself.

So the goods at Clevedon will close altogether. What happens to the coal wharves?

I understand that Canada is a good place to go to, especially if you are in any form of Engineering. Douglas Dugdale is out there (in Ottawa I believe) and his mother told me he is a production engineer of a large firm. Iris’s sister and family are also out there, but they make periodic visits home. They of course travel by air each time and have plenty of money.

Glad the pictures were approved by your neighbour in St. Andrew’s Drive. Have not done any more since, but may show the pictures on the wall tonight.

So Ruth was saved a fall then. If she is anything like our two she will have a fall or two to come on the stairs yet. They do not fall about on stairs much now, but we had a few scares in the past. They have both tumbled from top to bottom.

Well we must look forward to the heatwave in August as you say, but to be fair it is not too bad today. Doug is cleaning the windows next door so that shows. Well that’s all for this week so refer to mother’s letter for further news . Love from us all once again.

*Us. He meant us. Animals.

**Because of course the local people are so primitive that they’d never think of running buses/coaches for visitors, or anything like that.

Dear Mum

A special letter to wish you Many Happy Returns of the day. Will get the letters all off today so that you can have this one on the date. Hope you also receive by the same post small parcel from us all. Latter posted yesterday should reach you okay. Hope you are able to sit out in the garden on the day and watch Dad do all the work. I should imagine that by now you have got the flower garden pretty shipshape.

Copious arrangements then for Geoff, Stella and family to get time off to come and see you. We have Eileen*** staying with us this weekend. It is the first time we have seen her for eighteen months. The girls had forgotten what she looked like. Eileen came on Friday night after work. Yesterday she and June and the girls went over to see Grandma Baker in the morning. (On train as I was cleaning the car****.) In the afternoon I took them all to Chorleywood in car and we watched the cricket and sat in the sun having a bit of a picnic. Roy was at a conference all day so we picked up Delph and Christopher as well. I suppose we set off at about 2:30 p.m. and got back at 6:30 p.m.. There were hundreds of police and people lining the Western Avenue, and we could not understand what it was all for, but it eventually clicked that this was in aid of the expected crowds for the Cup Final.

I do not know what pipes you are referring to which you are having put underground. I cannot recall any external pipes.

Plenty of Spring decoration going on in Avenue then. There is a man at the bottom who has a garden just about as small as ours and he has a motor mower working on his lawn. He has been at it for about half an hour so must be giving it a close shave.

Some game about the sugar. They were limiting people to 6 lbs each in Fine Foods during the week, and on Saturday they had none at all. June has got some lump sugar from somewhere, but that goes quicker than the other as the kids eat it like sweets. Auntie Eileen brought them some spearmint, and they are both at it now, their jaws jumping away.

I understand that Norman and Pauline are having lunch today with Roy and Delphine. This business blows hot and cold. No more news from number 17 except that like us the gas bill has arrived. Enough to frighten anyone. Ours this year was pretty stiff, but after all we had the water heater and gas fire extra, and did not use any coal. Also we must have used less electricity as did not heat the front room by that means this year.

Susan has written a special letter for you and it seems a good attempt at writing. I expect we will sit in the garden this afternoon*****. I must say I can do with it as cleaning the car yesterday was no joke. It really looks nice again now. Have to start on the inside now.

Well we shall be thinking of you tomorrow, so for the time being, love from us all. Alec 

***Eileen Basham, June’s cousin, is the only member of that generation of the family still with us, and at the time of writing has recently turned 97. It’s a constant and enduring joy to have her in our lives.

****Naturally a priority – let two adults and two small children (a) walk to the station (b) take the Tube to Greenford (c) change to the push-me-pull-you to West Ealing and (d) walk from the station to Eccleston Road, which Rome2Rio reckons at something like two hours including the walking, and then do the whole thing in reverse at the end. That’s four hours of travelling time as opposed to potentially half an hour each way in the car. But you do you, Alec; clearly polishing the car is far more important than your family’s comfort. Have I ever mentioned that he was a selfish bugger and didn’t like children?

*****Alec’s ambition in a nutshell, just to ‘sit out in the garden’. Personally I can’t think of anything less interesting to do.

Tuesday 21st May, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Thanks once again for the weekly budget of news and long letter from Susan and query drawing from Carol. We were glad to hear the parcel etc. arrived safely and that Susan is pleased with the doll. We know the doll is supposed to be unbreakable but there is always the danger of some heavy weight being dumped on fragile articles in the post. Have seen too much of this at Temple Meads. It was only very small pieces of Weston Rock but thought they would like a taste. Assume the ribbons were taken care of by the girls. Susan has written us a lovely long letter and seems to have well remembered the different animals at the zoo.

Weather since our last letter has been awful apart from Friday the 17th inst which was really nice. Saturday spoiled it again and I am not surprised to hear you felt cold. It was a bitter northwest wind here and Sunday very little improvement. Today (Tuesday) takes some beating – cold and overcast and now and again thunderstorms, quite heavy ones too, making work outdoors impossible. I did manage to earth-up three more rows of potatoes before the worst of the weather started, thereafter was confined to greenhouse and garage.

Position with your transmitter noted regarding power. Also noted you have got hold of people at Cam and Cardiff. The Coaley Junction branch was only closed during the last year or two.

Again you have remembered more detail of the set Saunders made for as many years ago. I wonder what happened to the parts of that set when it was dismantled.

Am glad you have put in sweet peas etc they should come to something later in the summer. Have not planted mine out yet – am waiting for some better weather as to me it is just ridiculous to put them out now. Surprising the number of people who are complaining of lost plants etc. following the severe winter. Geraniums in particular seem to have suffered very badly. Noted no further move regarding your porch–cum-conservatory. You really cannot do much outdoors at present. Yes our grass has and continues to give us a lot of trouble this year. Am waiting to cut it again but in any case it will not be as bad as on the previous occasions.

So Susan has been to the Brownies. Should think this would be real good for her and I hope she has not long to wait before being accepted. Fancy having a waiting list – never heard of such a thing down here. No doubt due to the shortage of adults to take an interest in young girls.

A business trip to Retford then last week and another in the offing. All foreign country to me but some of it must be quite interesting by the accounts of stations in the E.R. Magazine. By the way many thanks for the May mag which duly arrived this morning same post as letter.

What a trip you had last Saturday. Most interesting from the children’s point of view but a bit irksome for adults looking after the youngsters. Some boy that who gets his intelligence from milk. Just fancy taking home a carton of it to his mother – if he ever got it home. There is no doubt from Susan’s letter they enjoyed themselves and I expect you have had ‘the zoo’ since for breakfast dinner and tea. How is Carol getting on at school now?

Gas water heater, June? Alas it was disposed of at least two years ago. It went to Tiverton where we gave it to John and Eileen for their home at (illegible) and when they moved to Chevithorne they took it with them and had it fixed up there. Sorry June but there it is. We should have been very pleased for you to have had it.

T.V. set gave out again last Tuesday exactly a week after Bell had brought it back in working order. I went down to him on the Wednesday and without at first telling him it had failed again asked him what he had previously done to it. He turned up the work card and said four valves had been replaced and the rectifier attended to. The tube had been tested and found in perfect order. I then told him all I could get now was a horizontal white line across the middle of screen. He immediately said that was not the tube and thought it might be one of the valves changed the previous week. Anyhow he himself came down within an hour but could not find fault although he tested all sixteen valves in set. So set had to go back to shop. Two days later it arrived back again. This time brought in by a stranger to me so I said what was it this time. He said it had taken him two hours to find fault and that it was a faulty connection where the solder (used when the set was made) had broken away causing the break. At the moment set is working perfectly again.

This stranger who brought the set back then asked after you and said he had not seen or heard of you for many years. He turned out to be one with the name of Donald Fortune and he is one of Bell’s senior electricians. Do you remember him?

Roy and Mrs Hewitt start their Mediterranean cruise this weekend. He called round one day last week and said he has got his Paddington pass from Bristol and it was dated 31st June. Must be a new calendar Beeching has introduced.

Last Sunday evening whilst we were ringing in the belfry two men came in to have a ring and one of them came over to me and shook hands but I did not know him until later when he said his name was Meadows. Then it did not register until he said he was at one time junior assistant to Edwards at Bristol. He his now at King’s Cross and said he has seen you once or twice. I had completely forgotten him. He knew I was a ringer here at Clevedon and wondered if I would be there that night. What he was doing in this part of the country I do not know.

Noted your remarks re: possible holiday next year. In the meantime if you have any ideas please let us know.

There have been no further developments regarding the land but my guess is that the people concerned are dealing with the matter. I had already made up my mind that if the sale took place I should have a lot of topsoil off the ground to make up this side of the new boundary. Heel has the same idea too. Heel did tell me in the middle of the week that he had seen one of the partners and they now have in mind the erection of bungalows and not houses* but they are coming down to see us again as soon as any authority is received. Meanwhile Cornish is convinced nothing will come of the matter.

Our apple blossom is wonderful. Every tree is just one mass of flower and neighbours are commenting on it. This week I have managed to dig another large piece of ground in the plot next to Heel’s and now only have a small piece in the other plot to dig. Unfortunately a lot of the ground is empty because the seedling plants are not ready for going out.

Gave Bushell a hand yesterday to move his fowlhouse to the bottom of his garden. Told him he will regret it when he has to go down to feed them in the pouring rain next winter. Perhaps he will not be able to get down at all because of snow. Had some chrysanthemums come from Woking the other day – 25 American Spray and 12 Cascade. These are now in three inch pots in one of the frames. The slugs had most of the old ‘Stools’ I put out in garden behind greenhouses. So far they have not touched the runner beans that I put slug pellets down for them.

Have had no invitation to the office annual outing this year and understand it is cancelled owing to so few wanting to go. Also understand last year’s was cancelled for same reason. Have not seen or heard of Norman Allen for some time now but I believe he is still with the divisional people.

The Goods side of Clevedon station closes early next month and all traffic will be dealt with at Yatton. This week’s ‘Mercury’ gives further expressions of opinion on the proposed closing of the station altogether. Front page news in fact.

Iris Drewett and husband and three children are about to emigrate to Canada. House already sold. He has a good job here with Engineering Productions Ltd and was about to be made a foreman but decided to get out altogether. No particular job to go to in Canada. Supposed he knows what he is doing. Margaret Drewett is at Swindon running a ladies’ hairdressing business.

Saw Mr Palmer this morning whilst we were on our way to library – could only have had about ten days at Dunoon. We were in car so did not stop to speak to him. We had a neighbour call yesterday afternoon from St Andrews Drive and showed her the coloured photos you gave us. She was very thrilled with them and especially the one you had enlarged for us because her house is shown up very well. There is a feeling that another neighbour in St Andrew’s Drive (Mrs Clark) may be selling her bungalow and taking a flat in Weston. This is the person who lost her husband nearly two years ago. The new people for Cartref opposite moved in last weekend from Bristol so once more the Avenue is complete.

Mrs Bushell had a bit of a scare the other day. Found her little girl halfway up the stairs. Managed to rescue her before any trouble. She is at the crawling stage now and apparently is all over the place. Just beginning to say a word or two as well.

Susan, as mentioned earlier, has written us a very nice letter and it must have taken her a little time to complete it. Have not heard from Geoff lately but we are expecting them all down for a few days at Whitsun as you know. Hope it warms up a bit by then – it is so disappointing at the moment and quite miserable working in the garden. We find it cold in the evenings too and must have the electric fire on for an hour or so most nights. Perhaps we shall have a heatwave in August.

Well I think this is just about the lot for another week so will close with all our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. Mum and Dad. 

*Having double-checked Google Maps, I see that there are no bungalows on the land at all and in fact most are semi-detached houses – with one or two detached. It’s possible the developers were trying to ‘sugar the pill’ by pretending that their intentions were on a smaller (and thereby perhaps more acceptable) scale than they actually were. See,-2.87207,18z?hl=en-GB

Sunday 19th May, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks once again for weekly letter duly received Friday as usual. Thanks also for doll etc for Susan’s birthday, she will be writing herself in a few minutes.

Yes weather last week not so good. This week it has been a mixed bag with warmth at times quite like summer, but every day has been a coat day really.

I agree about the slugs, and wonder how they managed to survive the winter. You said at one time that you were not troubled by slugs your end, but here they are out in force again. Have put down some slug pellets and these have seen off a few slugs, but have had a lot of rain since and although the things are supposed to be shower-proof some of the effectiveness must have been lost by now. I shall have to lay some more.

Cannot have a more powerful set as limited to maximum of 10 watts on this band. I already have six watts, and the additional four will not make all that much difference. The only thing that can be done is to increase the effectiveness of the apparatus by attention to detail of the various parts including aerial system. All takes time, and in the end the effectiveness of the operator counts for quite a lot. You will be interested to learn that on Tuesday I hooked up* with the chap at Cam near Dursley in Gloucestershire, and on Saturday with a man in Cardiff. Gradually pushing further out. Although both these contacts were made, conditions change so quickly during the calls that signals had practically disappeared at the end. Not knowing Cam, I looked it up in Handbook of Stations and found it to be on branch from Dursley to Coaley Junction. It has probably been closed long ago.

I remember the set Saunders made. It was a simple three valve receiver built in a stained wooden box with separate speaker. The corners of both being decorated with beading that had the form of dots and dashes (e.g. .. – – ..).

I planted out the sweet peas in pots as you gave them to us – two at a time. Also put in the beans so we shall see something come up. No more earth since last time. Each bathload goes only a little way, and in fact when scattered on the lawn can hardly see where it has gone. It will all help to cover up the Stones that are now showing too well.

No more from the Eastcote Timber Supplies. No further move in that direction yet. Good idea about the Aunt Sally. I think it will be cheaper in the long run to collect it oneself – less broken glass. If  the transfer of the property at the bottom of your field goes as hope, you would do well to collect a substantial amount of topsoil over a period of time, as it all comes in handy. I am not surprised about the dog being sick. Rather him than Mrs Gardner.

When we first went to Clevedon the quarry was used as such, and they used to take an old traction engine down there to work the stone crusher. I think it was just before the war that they removed the crusher and ceased to blast the rocks there. The large galvanised-roof shed that was there was also removed a little later. For a while after stopping the work of quarrying the Council used the site for holding contractors’ railway lines and tipper trucks. The shed before it was taken down housed stacks of these lines, and also large heaps of rotting potatoes – which made very presentable ammunition.

Nothing further about the holidays but a bit early to be definite yet.

Rather a good idea one year to have a go at dandelion wine especially if plentiful. I know the main difficulty is that when they are about you are at your busiest in the garden. You have had rather a lot of trouble with your grass this year. Ours has not been much trouble but wants cutting again. I have only cut the new lawn once but it is getting very straggly now and could do with a haircut.

Susan went to the Brownies on Wednesday and I gather she enjoyed herself. She came home on the bus with some other girls. She will not be going again this week as she has now to wait at home for a letter saying she can be accepted as there is a long waiting list apparently.** There is only one group in the district.

Trouble with the driving business is that now you must take the test when you have had three provisional licenses or before you get the third. It would be a waste of time and money for June to take the test at this stage, and licence is probably nearly out by now.

Your friends having a good time at Dunoon and Malta. you will have to have a trip to Weston to compete.

I had to go to Retford again on Wednesday and stopped the night this time. I may have to go again as there is a lot of information there that I need and it has to be kept up there. It is not a bad place really. I thought it was in Lincolnshire but it is in Nottinghamshire on the edge of Sherwood Forest. Some parts of the country are very nice but the town is a mixture of wealth and poverty. The shops themselves compare more than favorably with some of the London suburbs (West Ealing for example) and the population is about 20,000.

As you will see by Susan’s letter we went to London Zoo yesterday. Our party went by train although the rest of the school went by coach. We were 10 children and five adults for stop. Of course there were the usual muddles and waits for the group to collect for this and for that and most of the time was spent in waiting for someone or something or other. However we went via Marylebone, walked about half a mile and waited for bus to Zoo. (Number 74) As it happened we could only get a few on the first bus, and a couple on the second, and we finished up on the third. (8 minutes service). When we got to the Zoo entrance we had to link up with the main party, that meant waiting for one of our number (on first bus) who had gone to find them. After this we went to a further point and waited for main party to arrive. Once assembled we moved off to Children’s Zoo and had to wait to get in. Once inside there was a general dispersal to see various of the exhibits – chickens, geese, rabbits, ponies and the like. I suppose we were inside here for just about one hour then we made our way to penguins and seals. After this we waited again for the whole party to assemble and moved into the Lion House. Of course we had one bright boy with us who was a plague of everyone’s life. He dropped his sandwiches over the safety barrier and promptly went over after them. I grabbed him by arm and seat of pants and yanked him out. Tiger, which had shown great interest, had a disappointed look after that. Same child then disappeared and we all had to wait till he could be found before moving off. (Said he had been to Scotland.) All then went to the monkey house (usual cracks permissible) and found a few long lost relatives. After that we trooped to the giraffe house and on the way passed the antelopes (and Susan’s crack about unclelopes); last and largest were the elephants (two in number) who stood on a rocky island and passed their trunks over a wall to take food from passers-by. The girls were very keen to have the food but not to hold it out to the animals. The person in charge of the train party had some business to do before going to the station so asked if we would take train party back to Marylebone. We were successful in getting all ten back to station with help of one teacher, and concentrated them around chocolate machines etc. One herb kept putting sixpences in machine for dispensing milk. I told him not to waste his money that way but he said ‘I drink plenty of milk that’s what makes me so intelligent’? I gave up. In the end he took one carton home in bag for his mother – can’t think what she thought of it. By the way we only took light jackets and it turned perishing cold there with a strong wind. As a comparison with Bristol Zoo I would say they have more exhibits and probably a greater variety, but the horticultural side is not so good. There is a whole lot of new building though which promises much in the way of scenic effects.

I see from the window that it is blowing well outside again, but the sun tries to warm things up a bit.

June reminds me that you had a gas water heater to dispose of some time ago and she wonders if it is still available or if you have since got rid of it.

So far as any future holiday (possibly abroad) is concerned, we can discuss that one when we see you.

Well there it is again for another week. Hope you are both well as we are here. Love from us all once again. 

*Of course, the modern sense of ‘hook up’ is slightly different!

**This was the 5th Ruislip pack, and I did end up joining – and remember going to Brown Owl’s wedding in my first week – but it was deemed too far to take me after a while. When the 1st South Ruislip opened up I was also briefly part of that – but then I discovered a scheduling conflict (to wit, ‘Batman’ was on that night) and the Brownies ended up suffering.

Tuesday 14th May, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for such a budget of news received this morning including one each – by the look of it – from the girls. Thank you Susan and Carol for them both. As you may guess we have been very busy to day packing up a parcel for someone at number 84. thought it had better be on way today otherwise it might miss the actual birthday. In it there should have been the doll, hair ribbon, two small sticks of Weston Rock (for Susan and Carol), the ‘Mercury’ and a ‘Wonderland’. It was packed up as securely as possible and we do hope it reached you in good condition and that Susan is pleased with the doll. We went into Weston yesterday (Monday) hence the Weston Rock – just something for them to taste. The birthday card will be posted on Wednesday and of course should reach you before Susan goes to school on Thursday.

Now for your letter. We guessed the girls had been busy hence no letters from them but they have made up for it this week. Not surprised you were unable to get out on Sunday for a run round – it was not very nice here again and goodness knows when we shall get some really good weather. This week the cold winds have continued and it is been miserable working outdoors but the time cannot be wasted as such intervals are not long between the showers when we are driven indoors altogether. Slugs seem to teem down here – the hard winter did them no harm. It is really amazing they should come through that particularly bad spell. The birds too are still at the lettuces and peas and I now keep some pea-guards over both crops until they are perhaps a bit too strong for attack. Yes the fruit blossoms still holding up and the cherries are just one mass of flower at the moment – the apples will be in full flower in a week. Sorry about yours – must wait until the trees have grown up out of the girls’ reach or until they get tired of it.

Note your comments re: eye specialist and ear doctor. No doubt you are right and it is a paying proposition for patients to be kept on the books for attention. A good idea really apart from the inconvenience you have of taking Susan (and Carol too I suppose later on) to see these people. Yes I should think she has got used to the glasses now and takes them as a matter of course which is a good thing.

A bit congested on the air then in the evenings but what can you expect when you see the number of people who are authorised to transmit and receive? What is the real answer to this? Query a more powerful set to block out the others or have a good many already thought of this one and acted accordingly? Sorry about the missing tip from Newmarket – might have been a bad one.

Your recollection of the Whittlesea home-made wireless set is more thorough than mine but now you mention various items they come back to me. as far as I can remember you are absolutely right in all your facts. I suppose the set has long since been broken up. John Saunders made the very first set we had and I expect you remember that one too. Your remarks about TV sets being affected by the power cuts back in the winter almost interesting. We are still waiting to hear from Bell as to the charge for putting our set right.

Did you get in the sweet peas Sunday? Ours are up in a box and waiting to be planted out but I shall not do this until the cold winds have ceased. This applies also to our runner beans – the cold will do a lot of damage to all growing crops.

Note you have been moving another lot of earth from West Ealing – every little helps. Yes Miss Sperrings enjoyed herself and I assume she is now on holiday – was due to be away about now. Tomorrow (Wednesday) Mr and Mrs Newman are coming from Bristol – as you know they were due a week or so ago but Mr Newman was taken ill hence the postponement. Hope it is a fine day as I do not think he is very well yet.

Glad to hear you are now forming your ideas for the extra room/conservatory. Did you hear any more from the Eastcote Timber Company? How far out will you have to start with the shuttering? Presumably there is plenty of rubble in the field but takes time to get it in. What about putting up a big Aunt Sally in the garden and inviting the local lads to try and hit it with stones?

You are right about the ground being lower between the new path and the hedge and I’ve not made up my mind yet how I shall deal with this. There is a fair amount of sun on the patch and if I lose some of the garden for building purposes it may come in useful as an additional plot but the level would have to be raised. Query get the earth from the garden which I shall lose before handing it over. Incidentally there has been no further development in regard to the land since I last wrote and it may be a long time now before we hear anything.

We thought you would have a laugh over Jeffries Jones’s car and the dog’s dinner – sorry sponge cake and eggs. Further information is that the dog was later sick but do not know if in house or outside.

I agree that I  did not see quarry being used as a dump after our arrival here but assured it was so used until about 1935. We notice the windows upstairs are now in position so good progress continues to be made.

Noted you have mentioned the proposal re: holidays to Mrs Baker and must leave matter with you now to follow-up as you both think necessary but you know we shall be very pleased for her to come down with you if you can persuade her.

Dandelions did you say. I could have picked enough to make wine but at the moment could not be bothered. The heads had to be picked off though to prevent them going to seed. On the long wide rough path between our garden and Mr Heel’s I put down some sodium chlorate and this has shrivelled everything up. I had another go at the grass late last week and it was really hard work. The grass is now down to a reasonable height and it will not be so tough again this season. It was the first time I had to replenish the tank with fuel to complete all the lawns so that will tell you how the mower was working.

So Susan will be joining the Brownies tomorrow. It will give her another outlook on things and probably get her interested and occupied. Now Daddy must take her photo in the uniform. Wonder how you got on at the Sunday School anniversary and what did Susan have to do? Perhaps she will tell us in her letter next week.

A trip to London Zoo eh? Is it in Regent’s Park? Again we hope the weather keeps fine for you. Assume you will go by coach with the party.

Glad to hear Peter has his car back and that it is in good condition.

Now for June’s letter. Having got so far with the driving lessons June I should make an effort to go on with them. The longer you leave it the less likely you will want to restart. It is better to feel as you do that you are nowhere near ready for the test than to be overconfident. It is the overconfident ones who come unstuck so often. We have one living next door to us here. He for the moment has given up trying and is still riding the motorbike. Anyhow you know best how you feel about it and although you may not do a lot of driving even when you have passed the test it is nice to know you can manage a car if necessary. It is however quite certain that the older you get the less interest you will have in trying to learn.

Regarding holiday abroad next year if (and it must be a big if) we sell part of our land we wonder what you have in mind. Perhaps you have nothing in mind at the moment but just wondering if we would be that interested. Well now Mum and I would not want much running about and would much rather take things quietly. On the other hand yourself and Alec are years younger and would probably wish to get out and about and make the most of the time. Alternately it may be that you would not feel like moving about too much after reaching the destination point but would rather stay put. The girls would not want anything except the sea and sand and plenty to eat. I have often wished to have a cruise in the Mediterranean but I do not think Mum is all that keen for a long sea trip. Anyhow June it is an interesting idea and although it must be a long time to look forward to if you have any particular places in mind please tell us all about them. Having regard to the girls being at school now presumably anything arranged would have to be at the end of August or early September. Our passports would have to be renewed but that is a minor matter.

Very sorry Susan is worrying you June – she is full of energy and must use this up somehow. As mentioned above perhaps the Brownies will give her another outlook on things and keep her busy.

Nearly forgot – thanks for the printed pamphlet enclosed with your letter Alec. Makes nice reading but it looks as though they are only too glad to clutch at a straw like a drowning man. Any aftermath from Butcher’s visit?

Had a card this week from Ted Caple who was on holiday in Malta. He flew out from London Airport and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Also had a card from Mr Palmer this morning – he and Mrs Palmer are gone on holiday with an old age pensioners’ party to Dunoon. I hope it is warmer up there than here. And I hope they get better weather to than we had several years ago.

Also enclosed in parcel this morning a small piece of vinyl–something floor covering which we got at Weston yesterday and laid in position in the afternoon. Similar stuff to that Mrs Baker has in her bathroom. It is only made in four feet widths and our bathroom is four feet four inches so had to join in one place. Look very nice.

No more now. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. Mum and Dad

P.S. Sorry Susan’s birthday card was accidentally posted on Tuesday. Mum and Dad. 

Sunday 12th May, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks once again for weekly letter, duly to hand on Friday. Note you had nothing from the young ladies last time, but it was probably due to the picnic, as usual letter-writing habits were altered to suit. I did not type the letter until I got back from the run instead of doing it at about 10 a.m.. At that time they were being prepared for bed. There are signs of drawings and letters being prepared at the moment, so you may get something this week. I also enclose for your interest, and to pass it on, a copy of the “Beeching Retort” prepared by the N.U.R.. A bit of a squib, but their idea was a bit clever. Girls still in trouble with behaviour so no typing allowed again this week.

Weather this end has been a mixed bag. Have had two or three days in which the day started wet and dull, and picked up to quite early summer conditions in the afternoon, only to revert to rain for the journey home. Yesterday was fine but a bit chilly after a windy night, but this morning there is a lot of fine rain. Good growing weather – for slugs. I put some slug pellets down yesterday and they are supposed to be proof against showers so may catch a few today. Have not noticed any frosts, and certainly no plants have suffered that way. Note your apple and cherry trees doing well for blossom. We have had a spate of blossom-picking by the children so can expect few apples on our tree this year again.

Nothing out of the ordinary by the eye specialist. This is booked working these days – once you start, Doctor, Dentist or others they have their pound of flesh from you as National Health payments to them depend on number of patients on the books, and therefore if they do not sign you off, you stay on the books. As for the benefit of the treatment, the only result from its so far is a certain degree of resignation on Susan’s part to the wearing of the glasses. She does not treat them very well, but they are no longer the object of any deliberate naughtiness. By now too her school chums will have got used to the idea which also helps*. As for the sight improving only the expert can tell and he hasn’t.

Very little likelihood of any ‘long shot’ as you call them now, as I find my best to chances are during the day when few people are about to clutter the air up. In other words the long-range people are less likely to be drowned by more powerful locals. The only chance to get on during the day when there are likely to be others also able to do so is at holiday times such as Easter etc. At nighttime the band is absolutely cluttered up, and although the range is greater then bracket (by about ten times) all the local stations are that much louder too. Had a chap at Newmarket on Thursday, but got no tips.

I well remember the radio set at Whittlesea (formerly at Cross Keys). It had a horn loudspeaker, and ebonite front with many dials, a central switch which worked in the vertical position for switching in an additional power valve, and a pair of coils on the extreme left-hand exterior which could be moved towards or away from each other by means of a rod – to provide reaction. The batteries if I remember rightly were resting on a shelf of the bamboo-legged table.

I thought I saw a few Larkspur seeds coming through on Thursday, but all trace has since disappeared. We still have our remaining sunflower and it is permanently under the glass jam jar. I will let it out only when I think the stem is strong enough to resist the slugs. Also I suppose I shall have to be careful of acclimatising it to the open air. No we have not put in the sweet peas, but as it has now stopped raining I may do so later this morning.

So strike is off, and honour seems to be satisfied for the time being. Good luck for Ernie Isles for stop I saw him a time or two when he was at Paddington deputising for Ivor Coggins. One of those chaps who are never satisfied. Poor Griffiths, he is also a bit of a grumbler, but it is a sorry state to be in to lose job to someone out of section.

Went to Ealing again yesterday and brought back another bathful of earth. It all helps, and if we keep this up it will not be long before some of the low-lying patches on the lawn are filled in.

Note your visitor had a good evening before her return to Bristol.

We have a pretty good idea of the building we want now as an extra room/conservatory. I have to fix up some shuttering and then start collecting rubble from the field.

Price of chicken this end just about same as for joint, and it makes a change.

So the greenhouse/garage path is finished, and quite a job worth doing too. What are you going to do about the section between the new path and the lawn hedge? This will be low-lying compared with the path, and somewhat in the shade. What about a higher level pool (level with the path) with an overflow into the other? Bit risky of course after a late night return from Salthouse.

June is abandoning the idea of driving for the time being.

Old J. Jones a bit of a fathead to leave his ignition key in car – asking for trouble. Lucky he got it back with out damage? A dog’s life, your end then. Fancy feeding Bushes’ dog. I expect he is waiting for the next lot. Have you asked him how he liked the sponge?

So the partners have been to see you about the land. All takes an awful lot of time, but the Council’s agreement or otherwise should not take too long.

Did not remember you saying the T.V. had to go in for inspection. There is so much in a T.V. that can go wrong that is a wonder they go on so long working o.k. The power cuts have affected a lot of people’s sets, and they will be getting troubles about now that were caused when the mains voltages dropped during the big frost. A form of emission from part of the valve is stepped up to compensate for the lower H.T. voltage with the result that the part works beyond its accepted rating. Although it is in no sense burned out the effectiveness falls off after prolonged work in these conditions, and the life is shortened as a result. The T.V. repair fellows are well up to this one.

Okay if you can get some slag for the path. The quarry was not used as a dump after 1928 to my recollection, but it may have been before that time. Not a good place for a house, but every last inch is used these days. Imagine anyone having a house built there in the 20s?

We have raised the question of the holiday with Mrs Baker, but to no effect. She wants to see how things work out before she makes any promises. What this means we do not know but that is as far as we can take it at the moment. She thanks you for the invitation, and we shall have to see what happens.

I see from Mother’s letter that she has tulips etc. coming out. Very nice, we have a few choice dandelions. The only thing growing with any reliability this end is the grass, but I am pleased about that.

We expect Susan will be joining the Brownies on Wednesday. She would have joined last week but was just a bit too naughty and had to have it postponed. We are all going to the Sunday School this afternoon as it is the school anniversary. Susan is down to do something – say or sing a verse or the like.

Nothing further on the fence, but must get down to that soon now.

Butcher was at Liverpool Street on Friday but we did not see him. He was supposed to have arrived in time for lunch with Hammond.

We have a jaunt to the London Zoo next Saturday with the Sunday School crowd. Hope it is not a hot day. Everyone this end reasonably fit except Carol who says she has a bit of a cold and has been sneezing a bit.

Peter has had his car back from the panel beater and they have made a fine job of it. The damaged wing looks even better than the other. Well that is about all for the present. No trip out this week, and just as well as weather raining again. So love from us all here once again. 

*This is naive at best and wilful ignorance at worst, and wholly ignores the massive fact that the main person teasing me about glasses was June, my own mother. It was her lifelong contention that “men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses” and that if I ever wanted to get married and have a family – which was the only suitable life for a female human being after all – I should avoid ever wearing glasses at all. This was the start of her saying one thing to her children in private and then denying it to everybody else in the world, to whom she liked to pretend she was a devoted and caring mother. It took another fifty-plus years to escape her double-dealing, which only became worse as time passed. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s perfectly clear that she had a classic narcissistic personality and viewed herself as the only person of importance in the world – with others merely serving as acolytes and admirers who had to be kept firmly in their subservient places. She hated to be challenged, and was never in her life wrong or flawed about anything – hence her giving up on the driving: because she couldn’t be brilliant at it right away, she didn’t want to do it at all. The fact that neither Alec nor his father ever took a test, but that she would have to (the regulations having changed in the meantime), no doubt played into this: someone outside the family would test her and find her wanting, and she couldn’t have that at any price.

Wednesday 8th May, 1963

[Continued from Tuesday 7th May, 1963]

Could not finish off last night as felt too tired after cutting all the grass again – had a job to get mower moving over it because it was so long again. Today I started to dig another big piece of ground alongside Heels’ but rain came on at midday and has continued since hence early start on this letter.

The thief of the sandwich sponge and eggs has now been found – it was Bushes’ dog. He evidently does not like jelly, this being the only commodity left.

It was election day here yesterday and somewhat of a surprise the Labour candidate got in for this Ward. Have put an E against those elected on the photographs in the Mercury and will try and cut out full results from this evening’s paper and enclose herewith. The Communist (Searle) got in again. After voting yesterday Mum and I went on to Bristol for a look around in Lewis’s etc. We parked the car at a garage at Ashton Gate and went into the city by bus. Quite a good arrangement. Arrived home about 12:30 and half an hour later the T.V. was returned from Bells. They had had it since Friday with suspected spent tube but when man brought it back he was not sure if tube had been replaced but he did say that three valves had to be replaced and that they had found the rectifier faulty. I did notice they had brought back the same case but that must have been nearly all of what they took away. The set goes all right now – it ought to. When we get the bill we shall be back on bread and ice cubes again.

This afternoon because of the rain I have been busy in greenhouse stringing up the remainder of the tomatoes and apart from the usual daily attention there is nothing else to be done with them.

Have just realised it is three weeks ago today we came back from Ruislip – how time flies. A week tomorrow it is Susan’s birthday too.

Bushell next door has half a dozen white leghorn pullets on the point of lay. Got them from a friend recently but at the moment his housing arrangements are not too good. He has a good house but has not sited it nicely and will reposition it as soon as possible. He told me he is getting a load of slag for making pathways and I can have some as it will be more than he will want – all free. Could do with some on this wide rough path running parallel with Heels’ garden and if it turns up this is what I shall probably do with it.

The erection of the two houses in the quarry at the top end of the Avenue is proceeding apace and the framework for the doors is now in position. Strange to say when they dug for the foundations they found very soft ground and the remains of an old rubbish tip which caused them to lay in a good concrete base. I should have imagined they would have had to quarry out stone to make a base in that particular spot. Now some of the older inhabitants are recalling the time when the quarry was used as a dump.

One last thought for the week – have you restarted driving lessons June?

No more now all our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. Mum and Dad

Tuesday 7th May, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Again many thanks for another interesting letter received this morning usual post. Nothing from the young ladies this week expect there are resting after their school efforts. We thought last week’s effort by Susan was a special favour but evidently she is in trouble this time. Hard lines Susan.

Weather – yes it has been very cold here the wind being Up North as the locals say. Some nice days however and today for instance has been quite an improvement. Slight frosts some mornings but not enough I think to spoil the plum blossom. If anything the winds would have affected it. The cherry and apple trees are now showing large promise of blossom so we are hoping for the best.

Noted Carol still a bit unsettled but this should wear off shortly – is she still eager to go to school? What is the matter with the eye specialist? Is Susan showing some improvement in her sight or is it something to say. Back in six months eh? They intend to follow her up all right and perhaps this is a good thing although a bit tedious for you having to make the journey every time.

Your temperature in attic seems to vary quite a lot – a fan as well as a heater seems necessary. Any more long shots since the South Shields man? Yes as I mentioned last week Don was most interested and if they lived nearer he would certainly like to inspect it if not to test it out. It was not so easy in his younger days to get the parts cheaply for assembly but he had a go at several radios sets. Expect you remember the one at ‘Whittlesea’* just inside the living room door. He knew the subject fairly well.

Glad to hear June has finished off the back bedroom and that it looks very nice. What next June? Oh yes the children will appreciate the decorations especially if you give them a pencil or to when they go to bed.

Noted Peter still being kept waiting by the police – seems part of their policy to get people’s nerves on edge.

Bad luck about the seeds but I’m afraid some of my vegetable seeds have gone the same way. Slugs are really numerous this year – pity the hard winter had not finished them off. Cannot remember giving you the sunflower seeds though. Have you put the sweet peas in yet or are they included with those lost?

Yes you had a grand week at Watford. I told Roy Hewett and Bill Aston about it, reading extracts from your letter. They were duly impressed.

If the strike does take place and you can manage to stay home for three days it will be a blessing. The journey to London under such conditions must be appalling. Let’s hope it does not occur.

Miss Sperrings arrived about 5 p.m. last Thursday and caught the 8.15 p.m. train back – she has to get out to Staple Hill after reaching Temple Meads**. Had quite a nice chatter about old times and she was able to tell me that Ernie Isles has now got a freight job which gets him in a position over Griffiths the chief controller. Iles used to be journal clerk when Griffiths was a controller. Should like to hear latter’s comments on the matter.

No further news of Mr Newman but we have asked them to let us know when they can come down.

Noted the Eastcote Timber Company duly called up on phone but no further contact. Also noted you have literature from other firms who specialise in these things. Between them all you should get fixed up and for your sakes I hope you manage to get the job completed in time for the wintry weather.

Some job carting earth from number 17 to number 84. Last year when visiting Lyng I brought back a sack of poultry manure in boot of car. We had to keep going to get away from the smell but we reached home safely.

Have finished the concreting along the front of the garage and greenhouse. At a guess I should say the path is about 2 ft 6 in wide and at least 33 ft long. What a difference it has made already and it will be of great benefit in wet weather. No further trouble with the drains and I have opened the inspection chambers once or twice to make sure everything working properly.

Yes jumble sale went off all right and mum duly returned unsold. Would you believe it one of the articles handed in for disposal was a parachutists dress. (anymore for the space ship?)

Chicken for dinner? My word – the best we can do is an egg. Fridge is proving very very useful and a nice beer off the ice goes down well.

You had a nice run out on Sunday then and lunch in car. We had a heavy storm that morning at about 8 a.m. drenched everything. Afterwards it turned out nice but cold wind prevailed all day. Expect Susan and Carol enjoyed their first ice cream of the season. Glad you were able to see some of the animals – somewhat an educational trip for the girls. Did June do any driving on this trip? Have you been over to number 17 recently and had a chat with Mrs Baker on the holiday subject?

Jeffries Jones (one of our churchwardens) had his car stolen from outside the church a week ago yesterday. He had driven down to the church to take the cash out of the safe after Sunday’s collections and was only in the church a few minutes. Of course he had left ignition key in position. He phoned the police and within three hours they had got it back again. The police had telephoned the police in the district and one patrol saw the car going over Ashton Gate Bridge and gave chase. It was a couple of National School boys in car and they were out for a joyride. Fortunately no damage to car and nothing taken from it.

Yesterday Mum made a sponge and put this and some eggs and a jelly in a basket and left it outside Mrs Cummings’ back door for Mrs Gardner who is ill. Later mum went to pick up the basket and found jelly intact and it appears someone lifted the sponge and eggs but did not fancy the jelly and so Mrs Gardner had none. Doing well around here.

Last Friday afternoon Cornish came over to find out if I had heard anything from the prospective land purchasers but I had to tell him no news yet. While he was here the two gentleman called so I got rid of Cornish and duly dealt with them. The project is still very much on the go and they measured up the land I was prepared to let them have and said the next move was with the architect who already had matter in hand with the Town and Country Planning section and he would draw up a plan showing position of proposed houses. Understand it will be semi-detached houses erected and not bungalows as Heel at first thought. I gave them a tentative line from the back of garage and greenhouse across to Heel’s joining up with his proposed partition. It may now be some time before we hear anything more from them. Afterwards out of courtesy I told both Cornish and Heel what transpired. The former has stakes driven into the ground indicating his new boundary lines. I’m afraid they will have rotted off by the time the purchasers are ready to move in. 

[Continues Wednesday 8th May, 1963]

*Their mother’s bungalow in Exeter, long since demolished to make way for an extension to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital at Wonford.

**I’d love to know where, having lives at Staple Hill for eighteen years in an earlier phase of my existence.

Sunday 5th May, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Your letter to hand punctually again this week. Many thanks for all the news etc. Yes I did take up a lot of space with the Watford saga, but there was quite a lot of it to tell. Yes the typewritten note from Susan was a special favour but not repeated this week owing to misbehaviour.

The week for weather has not been too bad but one or two days and nights were rather cold. Glad to hear the cuckoo has arrived your end – no trace here yet.

I suppose there will inevitably be a short period of cooling off by the people who are enquiring about your land. All done to whet your appetite. I have no doubt they will bite as you say, but greed may make them bite too early if they do not watch out.

Carol still as full of tantrums as ever although she is sleeping quite well. She did have a dream or two at first but seems to have settled a little more now. The present reaction is as I say plain naughtiness.

Heat in the attic variable. Could have done with the heater there on Thursday night (the maid’s day off). It is not an ideal place for the job in many ways, but the only one in which I am fairly sure that things will remain where I leave them.

Eastcote Timber Supply did manage to telephone but so far nothing further from them. We now have catalogues from several firms who specialise in these things and in due course will be more able to decide on the article.

Glad the visitors from Lyng had a good day albeit rather cold. Note the reaction re: radio. All these things can and could be made at next to no price provided you have time, patience and know-how, but I suppose that parts were rare and hard to come by many years back.

June’s work in the back bedroom now finished and a very fine job it is. Hope the children appreciate it. They are now back inside once more.

Susan’s visit to eye specialist was typical. You could almost write the words for him in advance. “She’s a genius – come back in six months.” So there we are about that one. So far as ears go, a clean bill of health.

No more ‘hat’ trouble since the beret was cut. Susan came with a story that she knew the person who had done it, but she has a strong imagination and changes her tale too often in regard to details that think it best to forget it.

Have heard nothing further from Peter regards the Police, but they are somewhat long-winded as you know and it may be this time next year before all is settled.

Yes Watford was a good week, and all in all I am quite sure that all who attended have benefited. Butcher is supposed to be going to see the General Manager soon, but presume only to make his number.

Odd about the plum blossom coming out after you had thought it all lost. Not a lot of fruit in this area, but the flowering shrubs have been a picture and still are. As regards the seed you put in there is a sorry tale to tell. About a week ago five of the sunflowers came up, but after two days of rain I looked and found that slugs had eaten all but two. Promptly put jars over these, but one was chewed so badly that it just shrivelled up and now there is one. Have not much hope that I can keep this one from the wild beasts. No other seeds of any kind have appeared, but they may have shown above the ground and been eaten by slugs. I’ve not got round to putting the others in.

I agree about the strike – all futile and senseless. I suppose it will mean three days away from office as I cannot possibly get there by road. It may well be that they will make a great show of having the public good at heart and call off the strike in the interest of alleviating inconvenience. This would be a typical Kruschev move.

Sorry to hear that Mr Newman not too well. Hope you were more fortunate in Miss Sperrings’ visit.

Sounds as though you are really going to town in the garden and have got a lot done. The concrete will be a great improvement. I have cut the front lawn at last and have also given a second cutting to the left hand back lawn. I am allowing the other to grow a bit as the stones are showing through badly, and I am gradually levelling it up with earth and ashes. We brought back a large tin tub full of earth from number 17 where they have a surplus. I hope we can do that trick several times more. They have already got rid of a lorry load of surplus earth. Had I known, it could have come here.

Note the drains still giving trouble. Can it be there is something radically wrong with them – after all they are 35 years old and a lot of water has passed under the bridge etc. etc. Glad your chairs and the fridge now installed. Every mod. con.

What width are you making the concrete outside garage? I suppose that by now you will have finished it.

Hope the jungle sale [sic] went off all right. We passed one in Hanwell the other day. I wonder if there is much call for that sort of thing nowadays. They used to be all the rage if you wanted to make some money for club funds etc. The Boy Scouts round here run one in preference to the bob-a-job week. Their chief is against the principle of boys going around begging for money, and I think he has a point.

Note the cutting about strain of schooling on five-year-olds. Of course this is generality – it all depends on the school and the child, and as all schools and all children are different, you have to settle for the average if you are to get anywhere.

I did not see the Panorama or therefore the Wincanton staff. Should think they are pretty typical.

Most of the Liverpool Street staff have already been to Watford so not much subsequent comment. I believe it comes around about once every two years.

Tell Mom not to put the eggs in the deep freezer as the chickens don’t like it. Talking about chicken we had one yesterday and very nice it was. Today we had a picnic lunch – we went out in the car and passed over the following route: northbound Rickmansworth- Chorleywood-The Chenies-Chesham-Berkhampstead to Whipsnade. We saw some of the animals who were near to the wire fence: kangaroos, goats, bisons etc. From there we went to Dunstable Downs – very high chalk downs where they do a lot of gliding – and then through Dunstable, Tring and Chesham again to Ley Hill Common. Here we stopped until about 3:30 pm and then went on to Chorleywood Common. The girls had a good run around at both places. We flew the kite at Ley Hill but not very successfully. Just after 4 pm we left via Rickmansworth and took the Denham Bypass which passes the film studios and brings one out onto the Western Avenue at the Denham roundabout. We got here about five pm. The early part of the day was poor with some rain but the afternoon was very fine and sunny. Although it was a little cold in the wind outside the car there were thousands out in the afternoon, but we had the place to ourselves in the morning. Of course we had to produce the first outdoor ice cream of the summer.

Well that about brings us up to date again, so we’ll say love from us all once more.