This blog, amazingly, has quite a few followers now, although hardly anybody ever interacts with me except to click ‘like’ – which, goodness knows, I appreciate – and I honestly have no idea who most of you are, or where you are, or what interests you about some sixty year old letters from a quite unremarkable family. (The few exceptions are a couple of distant relatives who have happened upon information having a bearing on their own family history, and have contacted me directly as a result.)

Most of you haven’t been here from the very beginning, and I didn’t really explain myself fully in the first place, so maybe it would be sensible to take advantage of this brief hiatus in the narrative – while Leonard and Eva are staying at Ruislip with five year old me, my three year old sister, and our parents – to give you a bit of context for this endeavour.

The problem

I started out with six – six – boxes of Fam. Hist. paperwork, plus a box of slides, two old Bibles, and a great deal more. That’s in excess of 300 litres of the stuff, which my online calculation thingy suggests is 0.3 of a cubic metre. My desk runs at about 0.9 of a cubic metre, so you can get the general idea; the volume of stuff I have (or, rather, had) would probably fill a four-drawer filing cabinet.

Even a quick perusal of the material indicated that not all of it was worth keeping. For example, there were paper copies of things that we also had in electronic form, and printouts from online genealogy sources that aren’t going to go away. They were easily dealt with.

One of the Bibles was in very poor condition. It was valuable only for the information it contained. We scanned and saved that and – yes, I admit it! – put the Bible itself in the paper recycling. The other one had been rebound at great expense and is therefore going to have to stay.

Then there was Leonard’s diary of the 1914-18 war – albeit his participation covered only a fraction of that time. It was written in pencil, and the covers were beginning to deteriorate, and it was time for the diaries to have some proper conservation as they were already 100 years old. After due consultation with the younger generations, who didn’t want to take on responsibility for it, we offered the original diary to the Royal Engineers Museum at Chatham and they accepted. There is a story to this, of course, which will be shared later when we start looking at the contents of the diary.

Alec’s QSL cards, however, were another matter. The younglings snapped those up with cries of glee, drooling over some of the Soviet-era artwork, and went off and plotted them all on a map.

But still, there were the letters – almost ten years’ worth of them. They imposed a storage requirement, and the younger generation weren’t remotely interested in them. I was, but I couldn’t see myself hanging onto bundles of paper for the rest of my life. The answer was to think of each letter as having two components – the paper itself, and the information on it. The information was worth keeping, but the paper wasn’t. Therefore the solution was to scan – or, more recently, to dictate – the text, and to shred the letters themselves.

This raises the question of observer bias. If it is not possible to compare the electronic version to the original, there are always going to be opportunities to challenge the electronic version. It may seem unlikely that this would happen in the case of some relatively benign and unimportant family correspondence, but unfortunately there are some living relatives who subscribe to a revisionist version of history – and, specifically, to The Narcissist’s Prayer:

That didn’t happen.
And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.
And if it was, that’s not a big deal.
And if it is, that’s not my fault.
And if it was, I didn’t mean it.
And if I did, you deserved it.

The obvious response to this would of course be to keep the originals and make them available if ever the remaining family demand to see them, but life is too short – and they will only believe what they already want to believe anyway, whatever the evidence presented.

Thus, this blog – and its many backups – and the determined effort to reduce the volume of storage required by gradually disposing of all unnecessary items. There will still be plenty left over at the end, but hopefully if everything is stored in electronic form it will be less important if the originals end up in a skip somewhere at some future date.

Parts of this family’s story are interesting and parts are not. In future decades probably nobody will care if Leonard grew 285 lbs (130 kg) of runner beans in a single summer, or what he paid for his car repairs; however Alec’s experience of British Rail during the Beeching Purge may be of interest, and Leonard’s war diary has already added to the sum of human knowledge. It all goes together, the good and the bad, the relevant and the irrelevant; that’s just the way life works, and that’s why I’m not editing anything or making any selections. You, as the reader, will decide what is important to you; my job is simply to transmit the information.

And that, in a nutshell, is the answer to the question ‘Why?’

We now return you to your advertised programming, and thank you for watching this infomercial!


Thursday 29th December, 1960

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for your letter of Sunday the 18th inst* which reached us about 11.30 a.m. on Friday and which of course crossed ours posted on Thursday the 22nd.** Perhaps now the heavy post is over we shall get back to normal deliveries.

We do hope you all had a very happy Christmas and that the girls were able to fully enjoy themselves. We thought of them on Christmas morning examining – among other things – their Dolls’ Prams and imagining that a walk in the Park might be necessary to give them an airing. Expect you were both glad when Susan & Carol had gone to bed that night.

We had a quiet day as anticipated but did not go to bed until about midnight. Quite a nice morning but we had some rain in the afternoon and evening. Since then however we have had almost everything except snow and even that fell as near as Tickenham. We have had several very heavy hailstorms – winds at gale force and torrential rain and sleet with thunder – not at all a nice holiday for getting about. Naturally we kept the fire warm as much as possible. I went to Durston on the Saturday [24 December, presumably] to take down a few things for Don & Joan and to bring back the Christmas dinner.*** Apparently the day before Geoff had made a disastrous trip from Paddington and for the second year running arrived at Taunton about an hour late and again at the wrong platform much to Don’s disgust who went into Taunton to exchange parcels with him.

I went down with Saunders as far as Bridgwater – he had been home to Yatton for the night – and of course had a nice chat with him. The train was about 30 minutes late arriving Durston whereas return train was right on time so I had about 30 minutes only with Don. Took car to Yatton and picked it up again there on return. Strange to say it was very foggy between Devonia and Clevedon station but much clearer thence to Yatton than when you returned the previous week.**** Noted from your letter you were also late into Paddington. It was a short visit as you say but we were glad to see you and it gave us the chance to exchange presents. You have had our letter b y this time thanking you for all the lovely things you brought down.

Still having some trouble then with Baynton-Hughes, but what is going to happen under latest reorganisation plan? Seems there will be good reason for keeping a Work Study Section at Headquarters – i.e. higher than at four Divsional levels – What do you think may happen?

Our ringing peal failures may very well be due to insufficient practice but the trouble is that it is a job to get eight experienced ringers altogether as there are so many learners and those less experienced to be found places in the band at practices and on Sundays. We shall probably have another try early in New Year. meanwhile Mum is getting ready for the ringers’ supper on New Year’s Eve when we expect 14 or 15 to be seated at tables in our dining room. (Odd numbers breathe out whilst even numbers breathe in.) The vicar is coming but the curate is in bed with bronchitis and lumbago so am afraid he will be a non starter.

Note your efforts to keep car clean – mine has recently been out in the bad weather and requires a good clean but after every trip I wipe the Chromium parts dry – this is the most important.

Your account of Susan & carol at the carol service and of their antics at home gave us both a good laugh and we can just picture them doing all you said. The congregation of one for instance is delicious and we can see Susan reading out the verses to Carol then presumably “all stand up”. Thanks very much for the photograph too – it is lovely – the little boy we assumed is Michael Benn? Both Susan & Carol look very nice in it.

No local news this time – have had a lazy week myself – no gardening and no work in garage other than to chop up sticks for fire lighting. Yesterday morning after a full night’s downpour of rain little pools of water were standing about on garden but they disappeared during the day.

Glad you got back with the lamp in one piece and that you can find use for it. The standard lamp has had a rest over Christmas but shall press on with it now.

Hope you enjoyed your convivial party with McDonald on the Monday before Christmas. I hear Transom House had a party on the Thursday and finished work at midday on the Friday for the best part of a week. I cannot believe it.

Well no more for now – hope you are all keeping in good health. All our love to you both and a very happy and prosperous New Year to you all.

Lots of kisses for carollers Susan & Carol.

Mum & Dad

P.S. Nearly forgot – thank you Susan & Carol for those lovely drawings – you are improving every time.

[*Absent from the collection.]

[**Also absent from the collection.]

[***Don and Joan kept chickens, so this was presumably what Leonard went to collect.]

[****This would suggest that Alec travelled down on Friday 16 December and back on Saturday 17th and that Leonard drove him to Yatton to catch the train. This arrangement had clearly not been finalised when Leonard wrote and posted his letter of 15 December, however.]

Alec to his paternal uncle Don Atkins and Don’s wife Joan:

Dear Don and Joan

Thank you both very much for the card and contents sent here for Christmas. The children would also thank you but they cannot write yet. Susan occasionally tries her hand at it but until she gets to school it will still be a bit laboured. She draws and colours very well – much better than I could I am sure. She has a fair idea of picture composition and puts in the sky and grass and trees in the background as well as figures. Scrap paper from the office is in great demand you can imagine. Carol’s efforts are formless as yet but after all she is only two.

They both enjoy going to Sunday School and it is one of the highlights of their week. They both learned a couple of verses of ‘Away in a Manger’ and have driven us nearly dotty with repeating it. Can not seem to get the other side of the record. They had a grand time at Christmas. Lots of people came to see us including their small cousin Christopher from Greenford, and they paid a return visit there on Boxing Day. The centrepiece of the “stocking” ? was a large Dolls Pram each. Sundry other games and dolls, and sweets and clothes arrived and they were so confused rushing from one to the other and borrowing each others presents that we spirited some of them away to make a bit of room.

Generally speaking they were very good over the holiday but you can not expect children of their age to be 100%. Their cousin is a little imp and drives his Mother round the bend. He is a likeable kid though but certainly a handful. We had him here for the Saturday afternoon while his Mother did some belated Christmas shopping. He played quite well with our two but wanted a bit of watching.

I passed through Athelney a few weeks ago when the floods were at their height. It certainly looked grim. The men seemed to be shoring up the embankment on the Westbury side of Curry Rivel Box. The train came to a stand in the middle of what appeared to be the sea. I saw the pictures of Lyng in the Bridgwater paper sent up from home. We had very little to trouble us this end except the incessant rain.

Have not been able or willing to do anything on the garden lately. All activity has been confined to the house and garage. I have to put up some shelves quickly before the floor gets covered with all the odds and ends dumped out there from the house.

Well must close now so will wish you both a very happy New Year and hope that you are both keeping well.

Love from us all, June, Susan, Carol and Alec

Wednesday 28th December, 1960

Alec to his maternal uncle, Joe Fewings, and Joe’s wife Lydia:

Dear Aunt Lydia and Uncle Joe

Just a line to thank you both very much for the books/handkerchiefs you sent the children for Xmas. They arrived on Xmas morning – just right. I imagine you must have spent your Xmas somewhere near to Pat and her infants also possibly John and his. That being so you can well imagine the activity that went on in this camp. Two lucky girls had outsize Dolls Prams (how they came down the chimney we don’t know) and a number of Dolls and their clothes. Of course it was not long before they were proudly pushing the prams up the hill with their noses stuck up. As usual Xmas was very hectic and we are not sorry it is all over and we can slow down a bit. It is all very nice but takes a bit more energy to stay the course these days (poor old man*).

I hope you managed to steer clear of the floods. I saw something of the Somerset and Devon floods when I visited Plymouth at that time. Also a copy of your local paper found its way up from Clevedon. It must really have been fearsome at the time. We had nothing so severe at this end but on two occasions when out in car I had to divert owing to the road ahead being flooded.

The girls seem to have got over their car sickness now at least so far as local trips go. They have been none too well lately though, in fact we have been having interrupted nights due to Carol having a bad cold. She has bad catarrah and coughs a lot. During the day she seems well enough but the fun starts after she has been asleep for a short while. Susan being a bit older and more able to use her hanky looks a lot better and in fact is less affected by Winter ills. They are both growing rapidly and you would hardly recognise them. Pity you are not nearer so that you could see them, and they see you.

Susan will start school at Easter but has been going to Sunday School for about 18 months. Carol has been going to Sunday School for about 3 months. They have a Sunday School Party to attend on 21st, and that should be a short rest for Mother. Fathers are excluded so I have a rare chance to go and see a football match.

Well I hope Pat and John and families are keeping fit and yourselves, and hope it will not be too long before we meet. I read the Bowling results for the various tournaments this end and wonder if any of you get this far. Why not look us up if you do?

Love from us all, June, Susan, Carol and Alec

[*Alec would have been 38 at this point.]

Thursday 15th December, 1960

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for letter received at 9.0 a.m. on Wednes. Am very sorry our last did not reach you until Monday & will try and improve this week by posting today. The Christmas post couple with the foggy weather is already affecting the transit of mails and I suppose one must make the best of it for a few weeks.

In spite of fact you had no letter to reply to you have managed to tell us quite a lot of news. So glad to hear you are all keeping well at the moment and hope you will manage to do so all through the Christmas period. It is surprising the amount of sickness about and no wonder with the weather that has prevailed for the past month or two.

You soon had news of Richings’ visit to us last Thursday then – presumably from Belcher who I understand has been on Work Study at Weston. Richings said he (Belcher) was shortly taking up a new appointment at Cardiff. Mr & Mrs Richings arrived about 3.30 p.m. and I drove them back to Clevedon station* to catch 9.19 p.m. home. The cork had already come out of the bottle before we reached station but was replaced and in position at actual departure from there. It was a bit new and had only been bottled on 1st Nov – still it will keep and improve as I told him.

Michael Richings now apparently is going to take up teaching after finishing at Reading University next year. Much the best vocation for him I should think, especially as his young lady (two years older than him) is already a teacher at a school about two miles out of Reading. Richings already knew of course (?Belcher) that you had had another lift and they both congratulate you. Incidentally they brought up a couple of items for Susan & Carol for Christmas.

Note you have been enjoying some of your two years old apricot wine. Have started one of my new bottles of elderberry but it tastes new so must let it mature for months.

So you had a ‘birthday’ with young Christopher and after that you consider Susan & Carol quite good. From what we have seen of them they certainly are good little girls but like all children they must wear you down at times. Why should Christopher be such an exception? Is it because he might be so lonely having no playmates? Query no one living near with children of his age.

How do Susan & Carol like the shops now they are dressed up for Christmas? Thank you very much Susan for the lovely drawing of the Christmas tree. We noticed it was planted in a box with earth and the tree was a good shape and had fairy lights and little parcels attached to the branches. Where did you see one like that?

So you have had a meeting in Taunton – expect you went via B and H line** via Athelney and not via Durston. You have seen snow before us by all accounts if vehicles were coming into Taunton from Exmoor covered with it. The nearest we have got to it is sleet. Rather seems as if we may have a spell of wintry weather before long.

Note your bit of concreting to keep rubbish out of garage – hope frost did not affect it.

The extension to January 31st is not going to help Baynton-Hughes much – only prolonging the agony as it were. How are you placed now? Still carrying on with special job with B. J. C. representatives or taking up appointment with Philips? What is Pattison doing about it now-a-days?

I had written your letter last week before going over to the funeral of the Rev. Soole.*** The church was more than three parts full and as the congregation were leaving we rang some half muffled touches on the bells. Of course we saw Soole and his wife among the mourners but did not speak to them.

On Monday this week (bell ringing practice night) we tried to ring a quarter peal for the 21st birthday of Victor James – elder son of the Capt. – but although we got through it (took 47 minutes) it could not be recognised because for some reason or another the work of the no. 2 and no. 5 bells got changed over accidentally during the peal and it was not discovered until we were finishing off. We shall probably have another go next Monday. The last time we rang a quarter peal was in 1947 when Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth got married. Anyhow it is good fun and exercise.

The horse has not yet arrived in the field – the weather was too bad last week for the fence to be put up but I expect Norman Baker will be along any day now.

Cornish has lost another fowl and the general opinion is that it was the work of one of the pole cats on the hill, especially as it occurred about mid-day when foxes would not normally be about.

The River Board people I understand are going to dredge the river – starting at the sea end – to a further depth of a couple of feet in order to facilitate drainage from the moors. This work will probably commence soon after Christmas.

Still very little work outdoors at present but I did manage to pull up remainder of runner bean sticks yesterday morning, but it was raw and cold and I got inside for remainder of day. Am progressing with the standard lamp but now temporarily held up pending some advice from Mr Palmer or Tinkling. Incidentally I’ve found a good job for keeping warm in the garage – keep sandpapering the shaft of the lamp. It’s surprising how the action of rubbing the sandpaper along the woodwork generates bodily warmth.

Had a line from Geoff earlier this week in which he also said you had all called round there on Saturday 3rd inst.

Since writing the above Mr Palmer has called and given me the advice I wanted for continuing with standard lamp and can now get on with it. The query was whether a stain and polish or polish only. He says the wood is so good that polishing only is necessary.

Had a letter from Stanley Godfrey yesterday – the usual one received about Christmas every year. Quite a newsy epistle and he asked after you and what you were doing now-a-days. Have already replied and given him up-to-date information. He said Woodward was now getting twice as much as he (Godfrey) received during the War years. How times have changed.

We shall be very pleased to see you when you can make journey to Clevedon – wondered whether you might try and get down before Christmas. If you can let me know in time I will meet you at station but bear in mind post very erratic at the moment.

Assume Mr & Mrs Baker have no further news of their housing problem – perhaps it is as well just along now. Note Pauline with you last weekend – hope she is keeping well.

Let’s hope the children enjoy their Sunday School party – should like to peep in on them when it is in full swing.

Well I think this is pretty much the lot once more – must leave some room for Mum to fill up when she gets back from Towns Women’s Guild.

All our love to you both and lots of kisses for Susan & Carol.

Mum & Dad

[*Closed, together with the whole branch line, in 1968.]

[**Berkshire and Hampshire line.]

[***The Rev. W. Bathurst Soole turns out to have been something of a local celebrity. Educated at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, where he gained his BA in 1902, he was ordained into the Church of England and later entered the First World War as ‘one of the only priest-gunners’. A book of his letters, found in the attic of his old school, is available on Amazon. In May 1960 he performed the wedding ceremony of his son G. H. Soole and Marjorie Richards at St. Andrew’s, Clevedon, (see this entry for Leonard’s attendance and conversations had there) and – sadly – seems to have died little more than six months later. This is a character – and a story – I will definitely be trying to follow up on at some stage.]

Letter from Eva to the children, occupying the remaining half-sheet of Leonard’s writing paper:

Dear Susan and Carol

Thank you for your nice drawing of a Christmas tree. I went to a party today but they did not have a tree so there were not any presents. We had a nice cup of tea and fancy cakes. I had a mince pie.

Christopher came to see you didn’t he. I expect like you he has grown a lot. I had a Xmas card from Auntie Eda today, I hope she is well. I saw some little girls on the TV today singing carols & one of them was like Susan and one like Carol.

You can run in the garden now the rain has stopped can’t you and Mummie can hang the clothes out to dry?

Cheerio with love from Grandma & Grandfy xxxxxx

Sunday 11th December, 1960

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you in anticipation of yours of this week, yet not to hand. We looked forward to the Postman’s knock but am afraid we were disappointed this time.* Hope you have not had colds or anything which may have kept you from going out.

I gather the Richins visited Clevedon on Thursday and that they were taken out in the car. I also gather that a bottle of Elderberry was taken back but that the cork came off before they got to Yatton. I am not told if it was an accident or deliberate. Today dug into the store and pulled out a sweet jar full of apricot wine that I made about two years ago. It tasted very nice so we all had some with dinner.

Had a small meeting at Paddington on Monday then went to Taunton on the Tuesday for a session with Mann. Have to catch up a lot of lost ground but apart from hints and details of new developments, shall not get very far until I actually start doing the job again.

Had the day off on Wednesday, June wanted to do a bit of Xmas shopping and we had arranged to pick up Delph and Christopher to take back to 84 after lunch, The previous Saturday we tried to do some shopping with the children but it was tactically impossible as you may well imagine. Christopher is very well and growing rapidly but he is very naughty. Ours are bad but he is ten times as bad. It appears there is very little to interest him; to overcome boredom he throws things about**, and piles everything on the floor then looks for something else to upset. By the time he had gone I had had enough. We thought we might get a little reaction from our two the next day but they were as good as gold fortunately.

We have not done an awful lot this week-end. Shopping in the car yesterday morning, and kept the children occupied during the afternoon when June finished off the purchases. Pauline came over in the evening and is spending the week-end with us. This morning I did a little concreting but it only amounted to a couple buckets of sand and an equal amount of cement. I have built up the level of the floor beneath the double doors at the front so that leaves and dust can no longer blow down the sideway and straight under the doors. It is surprising the amount of rubbish that comes in that way during the course of one week. In view of the possibility of frost it is just as well that it is not a big job. It seems to be hardening well.

Have cut down all the chrysants except one, and they all have shoots for next year. I hope they will stand the winter in the Garage, So far no more moves to make any shelves but by removing the rest of the shuttering I have obtained some more useful timber. It all dries off well in the garage. Had a wander down the garden but it still looks a morass. One good thing though the border that I turned into lawn and a border that I propose to turn into lawn will need very little help from me. It looks as though the easiest thing is to remove any plants and just run the mower over it.

Have you had any snow yet? When I was in Taunton some cars arrived from Exmoor covered in snow. There did not seem to be the amount of water lying about this time.

It seems that Baynton-Hughes retains his hold over the Work Study Section until January 31st. What that involves we do not know as yet because the meeting with the Development Assistants did not finish until late on Friday afternoon. I think that will mean a lot of disappointment to the staff.

I want to come down before Christmas but do not know yet when it will be convenient. I am thinking in Terms of the end of next week (Thursday or Friday) but I must let you know. You will be pleased to learn that the children are well; and we have no illness to report this time. There is the annual children’s party given by the Sunday School on Saturday 21st January and of course our two are invited. I can imagine them feeding their faces already.

Well there it is for this week. Without your queries and statements to answer it is somewhat shorter – still look for a bumper report next time.

Love from us all

[*This may, of course, account for the gap in the correspondence; this letter isn’t in the file, although Leonard’s letter of 15 December suggests that it did in fact turn up on Monday 12 December. No idea how he learned that, however.]

[**’to overcome boredom’ … You have to ask yourself why a child of that age (3) is bored, and the answer is simple; it is no use just giving kids ‘things’ and expecting them to amuse themselves so that you can get on with housework or socialising. They do not and cannot understand your priorities, and when they *do* understand they quickly learn that you consider them something of a burden and are not really interested in interacting with them. Bear in mind also that we’re talking about three children of above-average intelligence here, for whom the boredom threshold is considerably lower than it might be for others. And June, in particular, made herself a slave to housework; towards the end of her life, when she had dementia, she talked obsessively about cleaning, and couldn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to wash the walls of her room in the care home.]

Sunday 4th December, 1960

Dear Mum and Dad.

Thank you for the letter duly received, also thanks for reference to to-day’s date, anniversary etc. You will be pleased to learn that the girls are much better again now. Apart from residual coughs they have got over the latest bout now. If mischief is anything to go by, they might not have been ill.

Every time we write these days comment about the weather is most topical, and again this week following the gales and heavy rain the subject is still news. We hear from the wireless that Winford and Tiverton are again flooded, and in addition this time they had 6′ of water in the main street of Bridgend. Having spent some time there recently and seen the River Ogmore racing down the valley, also the Taff, I am not really surprised to hear they have eventually spread over their banks and flooded the surrounding land.

We had a terrific gale here on Saturday night with incessant rain. Front garden has pools lying on the surface and the cultivated part of the back garden seems to have quite a lot. Due to the force of the wind which blew the rain in a horizontal plane, water worked its way under the garage roof and drops fell on the car. Considering everything however the leakage was negligible and would certainly be exceptional.

Your conclusion about Mann’s interview as precisely the same as mine, and apart from any other consideration this was one of the reasons why I did not apply for either of the other three jobs. Incidentally, the Birmingham Assistant’s job (under Wilkinson ) was not filled. The job was readvertised at higher salary due to there being no suitable applicant. Talk about fishing. If they raise the ante much higher perhaps Barnes or Baynton-Hughes will bite. Meanwhile neither Mann nor I are applying. It is probable that the other two will but as they were passed over the last time, cannot see Wilkinson falling on their necks his time either.

I seem to remember having a meeting lunch in the dining rooms at Swindon but it was a very long time ago now. Sounds as though they held a “Summit” lunch at Bristol on the day Bill Aston went there. Perhaps it would be better to call it meeting of “Past Masters”?

I had left Bridgend before the train crash.* Although we have used the diesel services a lot we have not been the Swansea side of Bridgend so I have not seen the site.

The meeting at Bristol was in the room over the Dining Rooms on No. 9. We had our meal in the same place.

Thank you for the measurements of the shelves (brackets ). I shall be making some as soon as I can get round to the job. Although I would like to make the larger ones, I think a long narrow shelf is going to be the answer so far as my garage is concerned. I am glad we have given you a job with the Standard Lamp that is of interest to you. As you have so much equipment for making things your end, it only needs the right inspiration to start a chain reaction. No doubt after you have finished one, you will want to make others of different designs.

Glad you were able to find the Scotch come in useful, I am a little surprised you had not demolished it by now. What with the weather surely you had excuse enough. Glad to learn that you are both recovered from your colds although still not fully fit. The latest craze is Haliborange and our two seem to like them so June is giving them some regularly. June has not been too good, having had the same as the kids (about one week in arrears) complete with hacking cough, but she is a lot better now thank goodness. Fortunately yours truly seems to have escaped this lot although I can’t think how.

Your visit to Wells was certainly a flying one, should not think you left car at all in that time. We went shopping in Eastcote yesterday after calling on Stella and Rebecca. Both those girls have shot up since I last saw them. It may be an illusion though at seeing a couple of tiddlers every day. Saw the typewriter. It is larger than mine and much more bulky – for a portable.

Bought all the fittings, and put in another point in the front room yesterday. As I have fixed up the ring main it only required a yard of wire to tap in to it. We now have the television on the left of the fireplace. The piano has been removed to the Dining Room and its place taken by the easy chairs. We can get more chairs in position this way.

Must go up to the church to see Marshall’s plaque. (Window.)

To-day we took the children over to West Drayton after Sunday School. They behaved like a couple of show-offs as usual**. They have gone to bed exhausted – just as if someone has turned off the switch.

Did not go out to Cardiff this week and have no immediate plans for so doing, in fact I intend having Wednesday off to get some Xmas shopping sorted out.

There is a meeting this week between Baynton-Hughes and the Development Assistants. I believe he intends to show good reason why he should continue to direct operations and keep the staff under him but I have heard indirectly from Bristol and directly from Paddington that he will be told where to step off. He has written us saying that the status quo will be maintained after 12th December. I can not see that lasting for long myself. My former assistant on the Paddington Terminal Committee is being absorbed into the new Freight and Parcels Service Section.

Well that is all the news for this week. Love from us all – and keep dry.

*24 November 1960: Between Pontrhydyfen and Cwmavon, Glamorgan: Head-on collision between 3-car passenger DMU travelling from Swansea High Street to Barry Island and a runaway steam-hauled goods train.

**Oh, no, confident, happy children – quick, put a stop to it!

Thursday 1st December, 1960

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks again for another nice long and newsy letter but very sorry to hear about the girls. It must be most worrying to you but obviously the weather is against everybody at the moment and not being able to get out on the lawns must be very irritating to Susan & Carol. Anyhow it is obvious you are not going to pull a fast one over Carol and if Susan can get to the Fayre so can she even if she has to be carried there. Lets hope that December will give us some better weather and that the girls will improve in health quickly. This is one of the wettest autumns of all time and I expect you saw on TV a farmer sowing wheat from an airplane because he could not get on the land. I’ve not been on the garden for many weeks now except to pick greens and as I’ve mentioned before just one occasion when I managed to get broad beans in. At times little pools of surface water have been in evidence on both ground and grass.

Good idea to put Susan’s book away for a while – one to keep for the future. I think I have somewhere the first or nearly the first I had. Susan must shew it to us when we next come up.

No more news then of the housing problem of June’s father & mother? Presumably the search for a house or bungalow is off until another move is made by the garage people? How are they keeping now?

Just a bit of bad luck then in not getting further promotion. Never mind. You have done exceedingly well to date and there may be other early opportunities and Philips may regret he did not make sure of you. He himself did some quick moving after leaving Bristol but I liked him very much. He has risen from the ranks and in his time has worked very hard and I suppose still must. So far as Ackford is concerned I must be getting him mixed up with someone else. Ackford at one time I believe was Guards Working clerk at Plymouth at same time as Doswell was doing comparative work at Bristol.

Talking about Mann and suggestion that he had a rough time at interview presumably because he applied for all four jobs – would the London panel be aware of this? and if so would they also know you only applied for the one?

I can only just recall Sergeant of Swindon accounts section. Note lunches in Great Western Hotel – used to be quite good but it was only rarely we got in there because Dining Room on station was available in those days. I take it when you were at Bristol lunch was served in upstairs room at Refreshment Rooms. Aston was invited to a lunch there last Friday – apparently it was a farewell do for Cotterell the Chief Inspector who retires this week. Whilst there he said he saw dining downstairs – H. J. Peacock, Gilbert Matthews, John Matthews (son of Gilbert), S.G. Hearne and a few others – some anniversary celebration by all accounts – a good time being had by all. I have a feeling Peacock may have been footing the bill as I think he recently celebrated his golden wedding – this is only my idea though and I may be wrong.

You had a rough journey to Cardiff then last week and some unsatisfactory visits to stations. Did you see anything of the train crash? You must be getting to know your way round some of the Welsh Valleys by now. I take it meeting at Bristol was in room over Booking Office – pity they did away with the old Board Room at end of corridor in DSA which was a much better room for meetings. Griffiths did not say he had seen you so presumably he only spoke to Hallett.

Note you have now fixed up central support to work bench and thinking of putting up shelves. I made some large and small brackets the larger ones carrying shelves 15″ wide the smaller ones shelves of 9″ wide. Will give measurements later when I’ve checked them with ruler.

Sorry to hear about the water running down chimney stack. You must get this put right as early as possible otherwise other weaknesses will arise. If Mr Grey has similar trouble it looks like faulty workmanship and must have been like it from time houses were built.

Re: standard lamp, both Wilf Tinkling and Mr Palmer say the length of 2 x 2 must be split and a groove made then pieces stuck together again. Tinkling has a saw which can do this in a matter of seconds and has taken the piece of oak away to do it. In meantime I’ve got some suitable wood for the base and am busy cutting – planing and sand-papering it to the best of my ability so things are proceeding satisfactorily at the moment. Am quite interested in it and it keeps me occupied when I can get outdoors.

Yes Smith followed Follows, he actually came from Swansea although earlier had been S/M at Bridgend. Was at Bristol less than two years and collapsed and died in chair in office on Christmas Day about 17 years ago.

Glad your parsnip wine alright – tried this year’s Elderberry this week, quite good but obviously new. Was very glad to have a tot or two of the whiskey you gave me earlier this year when I had cold last week. Had kept bottle intact till then. Am glad to say both mum and I are better than we were but still not 100%. Must put it down to the weather. It puts a damper – in more ways than one – on everything.

We had a run over to Wells on Tuesday and too Mr & Mrs Aston with us. Left here 9.0 a.m. and home again by 12.30 p.m. Managed to keep dry overhead during these 31/2 hours but started to rain immediately we got indoors and has kept on fairly frequently since.

The stained glass window in memory of Mr Marshall was dedicated last Sunday morning. It has been fixed in the chancel on the left hand side just beyond vestry door and depicts a farm scene, cows, sheep etc. Am told church was full – we did not go until the evening which is our usual time.

Thanks for garden bulletin – yes it looks as if they have their troubles like everyone else. If they are not careful the Association will fizzle out which would be a great pity as it looks a most useful concern.

Well I think this is the lot once more – we do hope June & yourself are keeping well and that you will soon have the children alright again.

All our love to you both and kisses for Susan & Carol.

Mum & Dad

Letter from Eva to the children on the remaining half-sheet of Leonard’s paper:

Dear Susan & Carol

I missed your drawing this week, but you could not do one as you had a bad cold & I hope it is getting better. Mine is almost gone, I have been drinking pure lemon juice with warm water and sugar, it is good for the throat.

Christmas will soon be here then you will hang up your stockings won’t you or a pillow case.

It has stopped raining at last but is very windy and blows my hair about.

I expect you have watched the T.V. a lot this week. I have a big bruise on my leg where I walked into the handles of the wheel barrow.

Has Mummy finished painting yet? We want to start the bathroom after Christmas when the weather is better.

I hope you and Carol can sleep better at night. Cheerio love from

Grandma & Granfy xxxxxx

Sunday 27th November, 1960

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad,

Your letter on the dot again for which many thanks. Sorry to say both Susan and Carol under the weather again. It seems that they are bad every other week this year. No doubt the continued wet weather has had a lot to do with it as they are both suffering from heavy catarrah. This is affecting their throats, and as Carol was the first to show symptoms, she is the one to show first signs of losing voice. This is comparitively speaking only, as she is still a chatterbox.

Yesterday was the Christmas Fayre – a kind of church bazaar – which was arranged by the Methodist Church. We had intended to go but Susan gave it no rest, and our problem was how to get her away without Carol. It failed of course and we ended up by taking both although I left early with Carol while June took Susan in to see Father Christmas. Carol was none too good and kept saying how tired she was, June slept with her last night and had to get out of bed about twelve times to her. I think she is better now although she slept on my knee for about an hour lunchtime.

We did not give Susan the little book she had at the prize-giving. It will only get the usual treatment if we do, so it is in store until she can appreciate it more. It is only a small book, but gives two of the parables in full, and is interleaved in coloured pictures.

No more news re housing at Yiewsley, difficult not to wonder whether they will be blown away, or washed away with this weather though.

Did not get the job of course. It went to the Commercial man who got the equivalent job to mine. Can’t grumble of course but it is more than odd that of all four jobs advertised in each of the Divisions, three have gone to Commercial men and one has been re-advertised due to there being no suitable applicant. Saw McDonald on Monday night, and he said he hoped I would not feel too badly about the way the promotion went. I gather that Soole has got the Head of Research Section Job at Bristol at same salary as mine. I think Mann probably had a rough trip due to his comparative ignorance of the London District, and the fact that he applied for all four jobs.

Your remark about Ackford not understood. He left the control for a time to become Timebill Clerk (possibly acting only) but is now back as Chief Controller. He is nowhere near retiring age yet. Job is only an “A” though.

Lunch at Swindon took place at the Great Western as have all the lunches I have had there. Sargeant, whom I saw, said he knew you, but knows Geoff better apparently. Sargeant is Assistant to Latter who in turn is the Assistant to J,W.J. Webb the Regional Accountant. Sargeant deals with the production of stats, by comptometers and computers.

I have heard no recent discussion about the possibility of improving Swindon Station. I would not normally know about these things, but as it so happens I hear that a start is about to be made to the Reading Station scheme. I was talking to one of the Engineers chaps and he says the “track” part is scheduled to be in operation by mid-1962. Some of the old hardy annuals are getting a second look in the light of modern methods, as the policy now seems to be to get greater use from the facilities we have rather than launch into new works. Of course some of the existing stations, signals etc. are time-expired and have to be replaced with equivalent if not improved equipment.

Last week I went to Cardiff on the Tuesday morning but we had a most unsatisfactory run, A dynamo on the rear coach of the 8-55 a.m. worked loose and the train came to a stand at Cholsey (or thereabouts) while several conferences both telephonic and in situ took place. We were diverted to the relief line at Didcot where the examiner unbolted the dynamo and took it away. While we were there the 9-5 a.m. passed through on the main. Needless to say we were very late at Cardiff.

After lunch, went to see S,M. at Bridgend but it was a relief S.M. and he was out anyway so that was that. By this time it was too late to arrange to see anyone else on the list. Went to see the Goods Agent Pontypridd the next day, but as a result of his advice it became necessary for us to suspend further visits and work out some solutions to the type of problems raised before they could be resumed. Spent the afternoon in the Divl. Research Office at Cardiff and sorted out the answers. Went t.o see Caerphilly S.M. next morning but the Chief Goods Clerk was out. Not very rewarding you may think, but as a result of this visit we feel that the main problems are now solved, and it only remains for visits to be made to some of the lesser S.M.s etc to iron out any local differences. Have prepared a list of all such S.M.s and a questionnaire so that two men can get lost in the Cardiff District until they bring back the answers. This will mean that regular visits by myself are at an end, but there will still be an occasional meeting.

You certainly had a couple of surprise visits last week-end, Hope you found them all well.

I have not had a chance to see Griffiths for some time, but he did come into the room when meeting with Hallett was in progress. (So also did Radford but I failed to recognise him at first.)

Nice to have Stacey’s additional statement that the car is a good one. We only had a short trip in ours this week – just for shopping. Carol was sleepy and laid herself along the back seat while June was in the shops.

Have put in the central support to work bench now so that it is rigid. Shall next consider the shelf problem. You might let me know the dimensions of the shelf brackets you make as I think I shall try making some this time. The only good wood I have now is an 8′ length of 2″ x 2″. If as I imagine the struts are of 1″ or less, I should be able to get quite a lot from this.

Have a bit of trouble again with water coming down the chimney stack and into the airing cupboard. As you know the stack is at the back of the house and runs up outside the wall until it gets about 12 feet up where it slants inwards and then runs up inside the house. The point where it straightens out is level with the top of the airing cupboard and the moisture is creeping down the exterior wall of the stack on the house ward side. We paid a chap over £10 to put this right about two years ago but seems not to have been very satisfactory. Managed to get to the stack from the inside of the loft and found it covered in wet slime, I could scrape it off with my fingers. Doug had a look at his and found it to be in the same condition. We shall get a mixture of sand and cement and do both stacks when the weather gets a bit better.

Actually I went into loft to try to stop the frequent loud vibrations from the valve of the cold water tank. This thing has been getting on our nerves for some time but it is not so easy to stop. Of course when you try to stop it it does not happen and although I spent some time there could not see what caused it. However I seem to have done the trick by bending the stem of the ball valve as now when it goes it is like a muffled train whistle and only lasts for about two seconds whereas it previously lasted a minute or two until tank had refilled.

I do not think there is a simple way of boring a small hole through so long a piece of timber. The answer is most likely to get two pieces of half the eventual thickness and put a groove in one to take the wire, then join them together with glue or brads.*

I remember Lovemore’s father. He was at Bristol when Follows was there. I had completely forgotten Smith though, the man who followed him. I thought Jeans came after Follows but it appears that this chap Smith came from Bridgend and they remember him in Cardiff.

The Parsnip wine was quite good to taste, but as with all these wines a second opinion is desirable. There is still plenty here for you to give a second opinion on. Or even third etc. Note the point about saucer of water, any left over at the end would come in for refreshments.

Sorry you have both got or had recent colds, It is high time we had some cold weather to get rid of some of the more hostile germs.

If the Americans leave this district it will hit a number of shopkeepers, taxi-drivers etc and may even have the effect of lowering the selling price of houses. I doubt whether the latter would be a lasting effect however as there is quite a steady demand by big firms.

I enclose the latest gardening bulletin from which you will see that all is not well in the camp. Twas ever thus.

The children say thank you for their special letter. Will close now till next week. Love from us all.

*Hallelujah – sound of pennies dropping! And this is all the evidence you need that I don’t actually read these letters in any details until I’m preparing them to post.

Thursday 24th November, 1960

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Thank you very much for another long letter with plenty of news received on Tuesday together with the latest effort from Susan. Quite good Susan – keep it up. Who was the little girl? Carol? Have you read the book you received as a prize from Sunday School? and what it its title?

Sorry you have no more information regarding the housing position. Their troubles seem to be increasing and must indeed be very worrying. it is the kind of worry one does not expect at their age and we can only hope – as we have said before – that a final settlement will soon be reached.

The details of the interview were very interesting. I thought Philips would be there for that one. It may have been ‘politic’ on his part to say he had not met you before although I cannot quite see the point*. Anyhow he knows you now. Nice of him to ask after me.

Shall be interested in result of the interview in due course. How come Mann had a rough passage? Had he not anticipated some of the questions?

I take it the lunch was quite good when the man from Derby was at Paddington.

Quite a tour of the West of England but without result apparently. I know Squires and Ackford of course very well but thought the second had retired. Hartnell is a former military officer and presumably like Hart this distinction (?) got him the job.

Incidentally where do you have lunch at Swindon now Refreshment or rather dining room is closed? Query Great Western Hotel just outside station? Whilst talking about Swindon are there any developments regarding rebuilding of station? A few years ago there was a big scheme prepared for rebuilding it on the London side of the present station taking in the Cocklebury Sidings and the Down Side Carriage Sidings. Wonder if you are away from London this week. Query Cardiff.

We had surprise visitors on Saturday and on Sunday. At 1.30 p.m. Saturday Insp. Stacey phoned from Bristol to say he and Mrs Stacey were visiting an aunt at Ham Green Hospital and as we had not seen Mrs Stacey since her own illness and operation could they come and visit us. They arrived at 4.30 p.m. and left at 9.30 p.m. On Sunday at about 3.30 p.m. there was a knock on the front door – Mr & Mrs Griffiths from Bristol called with the rose trees we had ordered a couple of months ago. (Had arranged for them to be delivered to Griffiths’ house where we would pick them up.) They were out for a while testing car after a little trouble and thought they would call in with trees. They did not stop only for a cup of tea as they had to be back in Bristol for tea with their son and his wife.

Incidentally on the Saturday Stacey had a good look at car (he is an expert on this subject) and pronounced ir ‘real good’. We have not been out for a run ourselves lately – apart from local trips to library & shops – because of the weather. It has been shocking again here and nothing whatever can be done outdoors. I’ve even ‘heeled in’ the new rose trees until the ground has dried out a bit.

Have been pottering about in garage cutting up wood and sorting things out to make more room. Found a nice piece of 2″ x 2″ oak about 41/2 ft long which should make a good uprights for a standard lamp – may have a go at this when I’ve asked one or two people a few questions, the chief one of course ‘How to get the hole down through the wood’.**

Note you have been busy making a few shelves and a bench – expect you had some help from two little girls. How they must be growing now – we shall see such a difference in them.

Yes I have a six inch drill but as you say this will only allow for a twelve inch hole working from one end. This I’ve already done with one table lamp and although the boring was not quite true the flex passed through all right which was all that mattered.

So you saw John Saunders at Newton Abbot – the same as ever by the sound of it. Colin Lovemore is quite a good railwayman and does considerable relief work in the Bristol East Box. He should have made a good recruit to Work Study – his one failing – talks too much. His father was Stacey’s predecessor as Yard Insp. – I expect you can remember him.

Yes I think £1900 for Mrs Drewett’s house was a good price considering its condition – smallness of garden – and the fact that it carries a perpetual ground rent.

Hope Pauline enjoyed weekend with you. I’m sure Susan & Carol were delighted and gave her little rest.

Parsnip wine? How was it? You said it was strong but what about the taste. I don’t think I have any two years old but I’m soon going to try this year’s Elderberry – the colour is lovely and I must report taste another time.

I told Geoff when I replied to his letter to keep a saucerful of water by the side of the typewriter when using latter – no comment so far.

Yes Mum has had a cold but nearly through with it now but I’ve got a bit of one at the moment so we are keeping in the fashion with you.

I see according to papers there have been suggestions that American families of servicemen might be sent home to America for economy purposes – this would cause a lot of heart burning around Ruislip surely.

I think your shoots on Chrysanths are a bit too early to take. Check it up if you can but I should be inclined to break them off and destroy and wait for the next lot of shoots to take as cuttings. Query any useful hints in your local gardening publication.

You asked in previous letter if we still look out for the necklace when we go round the hill. Yes we do – the matter is always in mind when we go round the hill but also without any result. Now and again we see similar adverts in the local paper for various things lost around the hill or along the front – somebody must find them.

I see in last week’s Mercury that Saunders who recently moved from Yatton to Bridgwater has been given an electric razor by the staff as a leaving present. The new man at Yatton is Cook from Brixham who Don knows well.

Now I must close once more – hope you are all feeling better.

All our love to you both and kisses for dear little Susan & Carol.

Mum & Dad

*I can. The *other* interviewers presumably did not know Alec, and Philips wanted to avoid the appearance of favouritism.

**FFS, this again. It seems straightforward enough even to a non-woodworker like me; split the wood, carve out a channel with a chisel, then rejoin the two halves. Requires care and decent sharp tools, that’s all.

Eva to the children, on the last half-sheet of Leonard’s paper:

Dear Susan & Carol

Thank you for the nice letter and drawing from Susan. What a nice garden and path, is it like your real one? I expect there were a lot of little girls at Sunday School last week when so many books were given out; you will have read it by now. I used to have one every year when I went to Sunday School.

Have you worn your ballet skirt yet? I have planted a lot of bulbs so that they will flower in the spring indoors. I have scillas, hyacinths & daffodils.

I expect you & Carol are looking forward to hanging your stocking up on Christmas Eve.

Lots of love Grandma & Grf.

[Pen illustration of Christmas stocking squeezed into the margin.]

Sunday 20th November, 1960

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you both for letters to us and children. Glad you liked Susan’s drawing, they show a little promise we think.* Both girls seem well enough now except that runny noses are well in evidence.

Still no news on the housing front. The facilities in the building are beginning to fail one by one to add to the troubles. This week the fridge went wrong also fire in shop. The latter the only thing that prevented them from becoming icicles. We have not been over this week but it is known that they are not too well and no wonder.

I used to sing the girls an old song about the “Oujah tree “, could only remember one verse but they seemed to like it. I suppose Carol connected the suspended dahlias ( something she had not seen before ) with the song. Now you remind me, I call to mind the occasion of the ‘Camp coffee’ but very dimly.

The interview last Monday was taken by Philips with McDonald and a staff rep. When I was ushered in he (Philips) said ‘good morning Mr Atkins, we have not met before’. I thought he might as well have it that way as any other so did not pass any comment. At the end of the interview when shaking hands he asked how you were keeping. I went in at 11-30 a.m. and had a very good interview. They fired a few questions but having thought out the possible answers the previous night, most of them dropped into my lap. As far as such events go, I would say it was one of the best I have ever had. This may or may not be significant, but Mann who followed had a rough passage. So far there has been no announcement, and I rate my chances no more or no less than at the beginning that is fifty-fifty.

I did not have a terrible lot to say to the man from Derby. The inventor of the system – Norman Shelley – was present and he gave him most of the griff. Went to Exeter on Tuesday as arranged and met Squires, Hartnell and a chap named Courtney. Also Stan Reed and a young rolling stock man named Court. Hartnell was as nervy as anything about his District being used as a guinea pig. He has trouble already in introducing his Taunton Concentration Scheme. We agreed to suspend operations for the time being until he could have further evidence now being prepared by the B.T.C. He won’t understand it when he gets it and so his reply will almost certainly be ‘no’.

Norman and I went on to Plymouth and presented ourselves at Millbay just before 11—00 a.m. and asked to see Dean. He had had the good sense to go to Cornwall a few minutes earlier so had a preliminary chat with Beer then went down to see Jack Ackford. ( Incidentally both he and Squires asked after you.) After examining the evidence offered by the Plymouth people we think it unlikely that we shall conduct the experiment there as the results will not be of such an extent to make a song about. They will have to come in line eventually, but it will cost too much for no local result. All the benefits will be national. We may yet have to “fire off ” Hollinsworth after all.

The meeting at Swindon is a waste of time. This could all have been cleared up by phone, but the accountant wants to know more than is good for him. All that is involved is a request for the services of one of the Regional Accountants Tabulators to process some punched cards. This would involve about forty hours in total. We have seen the man who will do the job, and there is no trouble there. All we want is a yes or no from his boss. I expect he wants to talk about C.P.C., and the merits or demerits of the system, but if so its not coming off because that is not the point at issue.

So Geoff has got himself a typewriter at last has he? They are very useful, but it is not necessary to get a new one as there are usually some good second-hand ones knocking about. Yes I am afraid that writing is getting a little out of date, Quality is not the thing now, but after all the end product was neatness, and this can be achieved with almost the same amount of difficulty with a typewriter. The thing to do is not to be the slave to the machine. If I make any mistakes, I either leave the nor type over them. No point in wasting paper, and in any case there is rarely any doubt as to the sense intended.

I bought some wood on Saturday to make my bench at end of garage. I got four pieces of 8x6xl flooring, lopped two inches off the long side and laid them on the angle iron support of the garage that runs lengthways down the sides at a height of 35″ from the floor. As it stands it it strong enough for shelving, but not sufficiently firm enough for a bench. I am making a frame 35″x25″ to support the middle out of some four by two that I bought for the old wooden shed. By sheer chance the mower fits Just under this bench and I have stowed away all the boxes and large bits and pieces that have been cluttering up the place. At the moment what is left of the Chrysants has found its way on to the bench but they will soon be over now and out of the way. I am afraid they did not get the best of chances as they had to be moved about from place to place rather a lot and they grew very straggly and unwieldy due to the rain and being in a shady corner. However I must look in the gardening book and see what I have to do to the shoots that are present at the base of each of the plants in order to get some more next year.

Don’t go to too much trouble with the standard lamp if the idea is a bit much. Can only think of one way to get wire down the middle, and that is to construct it of a number of short sections to be fitted together. My longest drill is about six inches so I suppose the longest section that it would be possible to bore would be about 12 inches by conven­tional methods. Of course a thin red hot poker would bore through equal to about twice its own length if you bore from both ends in turn.

I was able to see for myself the residue of the floods in the West. There is still a lot of it lying alongside the line air Athelney. Saw John Saunders at Newton Abbot. He asked after you, and said he had not seen you since you retired. He is complaining that the Work Study people have been to Newton Abbot and told his men that they are the best cleaners on the Western. He thinks we are likely to recommend that the standard of cleaning there should be reduced. Colin Lovemore has been on a Work Study course and showed a lot of promise but he has decided not to proceed in this line. Afraid of comment I suppose.

I read Mum’s letter to the girls and was instructed to tell you that we have some birds here too. Susan says that she helps Grandfy open the gate. To-day the prizes were dished out at the Sunday School and we were invited to attend. All the children who turned up fairly regularly had books, and Susan had one of course. Carol who had not been attending for very long did not qualify and wanted to know where her book was. Managed to stave that one off. Pauline came to stay with us for the week­end so we all went by car. It poured of course so had to wipe off the wet in semi-darkness after return. I must say the presence of the silicone polish I put on helped a lot as the water gathered in large drops and did not cling to the car. Everything clean, dry and polished again now.

Susan was a bit naughty at Sunday School, and I saw the teacher talk to her once or twice but Carol was as good as gold. (Perhaps she was still waiting for her book). Susan kept waving and calling from the other side of the room.

Had a letter from Budworth** who is now the Work Study Assistant to the Divisional Traffic Manager at Leeds. He covers the whole of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Have not been in London long enough to find out how Manning is getting on yet.

I am afraid the garden is not getting a look in these days. There is very little spoiling however as only the Westfield Flame Chrysants to attend to. Last year I left them in but this year I think I will try to find time to sort them out.

Had a drop of one of my Parsnip Wines to-day, I suppose it must be well over two years old by now. Quite strong. Maybe when I have had time to get some substantial shelves in the garage I may find time to tackle some more and let it mature out there. So far no mice in ours, but then they would have very little to eat if they came this way.

Would you say that Mrs Drewett got a reasonable price in the circumstances or not? There are two houses higher up this road with boards outside, I do not know if they are ‘To sell’ or ‘Sold’. I heard that one of the families living round there had moved to Pinner.

Well there it is for this week, Hope you are both keeping well although according to Mum’s note to the children I gather she has a cold, Hope that by now it has departed. Love from us all.

*Again, four and a half years old; what a patronising thing to say about a child’s drawing. As if it mattered whether a kid’s art showed promise or not; what’s important is that it’s done with love and enjoyed by all, not whether or not your child is a budding Michelangelo!

**Presumably this will be the letter Alec is responding to in the stray ‘Dear Bud‘ letter that turned up randomly in the file.