Sunday 30th December, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad 

Thanks once again for weekly letter and all your news. I am surprised to learn that ours reached you so early. We posted it on the Sunday afternoon in the hopes that it would reach you at least by Christmas Day, and in fact that seems to be what it did do with a day to spare. 

Weather did you say? Well we note from the TV and News that the West Country has had it bad over the last few days. When we got up this morning we found heavy snow on the ground and even inside the house. Although the windows in the dining room are closed, and even covered with draught excluder, wood and rubber, the snow has penetrated and left a long pile two inches deep on the inside of the windowsill. Had to scrape it up before it melted with the heat generated by the electric fires. The snow is drifting badly and is piled up against the garage and the fence. I looked in to the garage this morning and started up the car just to turn it over and found a lot of snow inside. This has come in under the eaves. The milkman seems to be having a bit of trouble getting up the hill, and so far we have not seen the paper boy. Do not know if that means he has declined to travel, or if the papers have not reached the shop. I declined to get the car out on Friday night – my club night – and walked to station and journeyed by train. By Saturday the main roads had been made pretty passable by the heavy traffic on them, and although the side roads were bad I got the car out for the usual Saturday morning shopping expedition. The going was not too bad, but I was glad to get back. In the afternoon it got a lot colder and I went out to post a letter on foot. With a good walking pair of shoes on and walking very carefully I still fell flat on my back in Melthorne Drive. It could have shaken me up badly had I not put the flats of my palms down at the same time. These took the weight and I did not get much of a jar.

A very bad accident near Crewe as you say. How it always seems to happen at Christmas time. 

Believe you me the girls enjoyed themselves on Christmas Day. They were very good. A bit excited when they went to bed, but in the morning they stayed fairly quiet until I went downstairs to see if Santa had called. When I told them he had, that was the end of the quiet. They thoroughly enjoyed undoing the parcels as usual and much appreciated the presents you sent. You will hear from Susan on behalf of the two of them. So far as June and I are concerned, thank you very much for our gifts. My shirt in particular very good and very acceptable. 

Note your visit to Lyng and that Joan not so good. Hope that by now she will have improved. So far as the poultry is concerned, they will be well without that burden. I do not suppose they want the money all that bad, and it must take an awful lot of their time. We had a bird from Don the first year we were here. A Christmas present we think. We did not pay for it, and were not asked to do so, but there was no mention about chicken in subsequent years. Perhaps we made a mistake. I do not know what he charges, but we have not done badly for poultry this end.

So the typist did not arrive then. Was the machine worth the price? 

Poor old horse. This must be terrible weather for him. Surely he should not be left in the fields in these conditions? The lack of water is one thing, but protection from the wind and cold is quite another. 

Your wine should improve with keeping as I believe it is still fairly new. Your orange and cherry is only a few months old but it is a very fine wine. 

Note your activities over Christmas. Hope your match and return match with the Astons went well. Do they have the TV? Did not think much of the programmes on either channel this year. 

Hope your party for the bell-ringers goes well. Please give my regards to them, as you know I know most of them. 

Bad news about Ted Caple and Ern Cole then. But may be only the time of year. Hope you are both alright. Glad all liked the E.R. mag. 

Gardening eh? Coo rather you than me. 

Well now at the bottom of the page again so will close wishing you both a happy and healthy New Year. Love from us all.

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Thursday 27th December, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for your letter received first post on Monday the 24th inst. – Post Office people apparently recovered from their Christmas rush. Glad to hear Alec arrived home safely and hope by this time you have all enjoyed a very happy Christmas. The weather here was dry with severe frost and a biting N.E. wind – the best place obviously being indoors.

Yes the weekend you were here went very quickly but as previously stated we were pleased to see you and only wish all of you could have been with us. It’s the journey that one dreads at this time of year – can never be certain of good travelling weather by road or rail. 

What an accident too near Crewe yesterday – have no details yet other than that given over the TV last night. Our paper has not turned up today so far and it is now well after 10 a.m..

We thought of you all on Christmas morning and could picture the girls having a fine time. I went down to Durston on Monday for the chicken and was home again by midday. Don not too bad but Joan seemed a bit under the weather – been working hard I expect with the poultry etc. Geoff had been down on the Saturday but only had about 30 minutes with Don at Taunton before leaving on return train. I saw the new portable typewriter but typist not being provided with machine as I had suggested to him one might have been for the money he gave for it. He did say it may be the last year they would be able to supply Christmas poultry as they may give it up altogether. I gathered Don wants to give it up but Joan wishes to keep it going. We shall see. 

Our pony is having a rough time. The field is frozen and the water in bucket for drinking purposes freezes almost as fast as we put it in.  We take down boiling water and pour on top of the ice to thaw out sufficient for him to drink. Have not been down to river but understand the water there is also frozen over. Mum still takes him down his bread and sugar. 

I have never seen any of Ted Caple’s slides but his coloured mounted photographs are excellent. He turns out some really good stuff – has been at it for years. 

Noted you liked the elderberry brandy and must put some aside to bring up later. At the moment I am enjoying some of the cherry with orange and find it rather attractive and ‘Moreish’. Glad you liked it too. Fancy the girls liking it as well. 

We had a quiet day on the 25th. Mum and I went to church for 8 am service (I was ringing at 7.30am) and I went to 11 a.m. service. Had dinner about 12:30 p.m. then a sleep and the Astons came over about 4:30 p.m. for tea and left at 9 p.m. Yesterday we went over to their place at 4:30 p.m. and home again about 9 p.m. 

During the morning I went down to Mr Palmer’s house as he had not been seen at all over the Christmas period. Found he also had been under the weather but was better again. I think the biting N.E. wind has bowled over a lot of people. Ern Cole was also missing over Christmas and has a chill. 

Have now seen the W.R. mag for December and the recording of your move to the E.R. I took down three E.R. mags to Don and he said he liked the articles on the various stations.

10:45 am and paper just come.

Last Saturday I must have been feeling a bit workish as I got spade out and finished digging the plot on which the runner beans had been grown last season. There was a very thin coating of frost on top but that did not matter. The sun was shining lovely and although the N.E. wind was blowing across garden I was somewhat sheltered. Anyhow I finished the plot by 12:30 p.m. and now of course these latter frosts have done the ground a lot of good. Total number of mice caught in garage now three. 

This will have to be the lot for this week as I have exhausted all local news – there is just one point. June will see a picture of Mrs Rabbage the hairdresser in Clevedon Mercury enclosed.

We do hope you all had a very happy time over the Christmas (with no after effects) and wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year. Now looking forward to Easter. Lots of kisses for Susan and Carol.

Sunday 23rd December, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you for your letter this weeks arrived this morni [missing word]. Yes I agree that last week came and went very quickly and I am afraid it now seems a long time ago. Thank you for a nice week-end [missing word] you. I thoroughly enjoyed it and sorry we were not all able to be t [missing word]* Yes we look forward to Easter and your next visit, but first things first and we hope that you both have an enjoyable Christmas. This year Xmas seems to have crept up on us. Nice to know Ted Caple gave his approval to the photo’s [sic]. I suppose I must have known that he was an amateur photographer but certainly had forgotten. Does he do colour slides? and have you seen any of them? I forgot to tell you that when Rebecca phoned us to thank us for her birthday present she said that Stella was ill in bed with flu. I expect she has got over that by now. Reminds me of the attack I had just before Xmas one year when you were visiting us.

I think this business of closing stations on Sundays and at holiday times is a good thing. About time the public were trained to travel at respectable times. Not much profit in keeping the establishments open for just one or two late persons. So far as the staff are concerned it is about time they learned to live without overtime.**

Glad you reminded me about the Elderberry Brandy. It was very good indeed and I enjoyed it. I have in the last couple of days had a glass or two of your mixed orange and cherry. It required about three glasses before I was satisfied. The girls had a couple of glasses each and Susan got a very red nose into the bargain. Needless to say the level has gone down some.

Well I cannot give you very much this time, as dinner is almost ready and my room is required in preference to my company. Also I have passed over most of the news when I saw you. I shall continue until evicted. More orange etc. in a minute I hope.

We have not looked at our Xmas presents as we like to do that on Xmas Day. Thank you both for the ones you gave me to bring back. I was well loaded.

Some game with Mum’s cooker then What a price for just a switch. Cannot think that the total cost can be much more than that or you will have been robbed with a vengeance.

Give the horse his Xmas sugar mind. Have told the girls that he had arrived and they seemed very interested.

Well will close now until after the holiday and wish you once again a good time. We are all well and hope you both are and remain so until the better weather.

Love from us all.

*There seems to have been some carbon paper slippage in the early paragraphs of this letter.

**Alec’s politics are very much of the “I’m all right Jack” variety; he clearly can’t imagine, for example, hospital workers or other essential personnel having to go on duty in the middle of the night or on Sunday mornings – a time when, I should mention, he was most certainly not to be discovered in church. Nor does he seem to have any notion that the staff required to open the stations at 6 o’clock on Monday morning could have to set off from home at 4.30 or 5 o’clock and if there are no trains they will have to travel either by bus or some other form of road transport, which is pretty self-defeating. All this when he is also saying that if people don’t use the railways they will lose them. The essential point he seems to be missing is that a service needs to adapt itself to the requirements of its users, rather than trying to make the users fit the requirements of the ‘service’ – which then becomes not an essential but a luxury item which people will rapidly learn to do without. Not for the first time in the course of writing this blog, I would dearly love to jump back through the fabric of history and slap him upside the head for his very short-sighted and egocentric views.

Wednesday 19th December, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Well the weekend has come and gone and we hope Alec arrived home safely on Monday afternoon. We were delighted to see him even if only for a little while and wish you could all have been with him. Nevermind [sic] we shall be looking forward to Easter but meanwhile must get past the wintry spell which appears to be on us already.

Thank you all very very much for the nice things you gave us for Christmas we do appreciate them especially the coloured photographs – they are excellent. Ted Caple looked in yesterday afternoon and as Alec knows he is a keen photographer and has his own dark room attached to bungalow so I showed him those you brought down this time and those you gave us last Christmas. He said they were exceedingly good but confirmed your statement that they generally come out much darker as a photograph than when shown on a projector. Their bungalow stands out on the one you took of the house and area from the Hill*. The dark room is the attachment to side of bungalow and you will quickly spot it on the film. We hope you had a good weekend with the children June but I expect they were very glad to have Auntie Pauline with them.

Glad to hear you have got over your attack of the Flu – do not want much of that over Christmas. A letter from Stella in reply to our birthday letter to her says she has been in bed for a couple of days also with Flu. Seems to be a lot about already. After Christmas is the usual time for plenty of that. Perhaps we can get it all over before for once. Noted Alec has had an injection at the office – he seems to have started something over on the E.R.

According to local Bristol paper Temple Meads station closes for twenty four hours commencing at 6 -0 a.m. Christmas morning – what a change. No doubt the staff will complain because they lose the extra time for working that day in addition to getting equivalent time off. Cannot please everybody all the time.

Not much to tell you this week as you had all the news so recently and inspected the garden yourself and tasted the Elderberry Brandy. Am afraid I have not done much outdoors so far and it is much too cold today even thought the sun is shining.

Roy Hewitt came up later on Monday morning for about 30 minutes and returned the November E.R. magazine. Said Mrs Hewitt not too good and laid up a couple of days. This weather is better than the fog though and as long as the wind keeps up there will be no danger of that or the smog returning. From what you told us it must have been very bad up there – we really do not know anything about it.

Well this must be the lot this time except to thank you all once again for all your kindness to us and to wish you all a Very Happy Christmas and good health and continued prosperity in the New Year. We shall be thinking of you during the holiday. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls.

Eva to the family on the remaining one-third of a sheet of Leonard’s paper:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for all the nice gifts you sent down. We shall be well away for a bit. Thank your dad and mum for the sweets too won’t you. It was very good of them and perhaps when they move in we can reciprocate with a bit of cream. The weather is much healthier now & don’t mind if it lasts over the holiday although we have to keep nippy. The horse has settled down & has his bread & sugar every day. They came and did my stove yesterday had to have a new switch to the oven that alone is £4 [£95 in 2022 currency] so man says and he was here all the afternoon. Now I have to make another cake, he said I had been getting 300 degrees [F] too much every time I used the oven. Lots of love Mum and Dad.

*This would almost certainly be Church Hill.

Sunday 9th December, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks for letters, again arrived on Saturday, this time well after 9-00 a.m.. I began to wonder if we would get one or not this week.* I imagine it will all be due to the pre-Xmas rush or build-up.

Re: cold, yes it got down on the chest alright, and the fog when it came really made things difficult for stop anything like that is best avoided when the smog is about. Talking about that, I do not recall anything as bad in the whole time I have been this end, and I do not want any more of it. It was much worse than in the 1952 dose.** In normal fogs you can breathe although it is more moisture than air, but in this stuff it is like trying to breathe with an eiderdown jammed over the nose. The soot that goes down inside is nobody’s business. Everyone goes about with a nasty hacking cough which disappears only when the fog lifts. I had no difficulty in getting to work or getting home because of the route I take***. My only difficulty was fighting to get down the escalator. this latter is a bit tricky as they only let a certain number down when crowds build up. A bell rings then perhaps fifty to a hundred search forward to get into a space about two persons wide. This of course gets one a bit compressed by the time you get near the escalator onto which you get literally squirted.**** However, this apart, the rest of the journey is uneventful and only the walk from the station in the fog remains. This is probably the worst part, as by that time the temperature has dropped to freezing, and the density is at its worst. Needless to say we were all very glad to see the rain on Friday.

I am afraid that following Susan’s bilious attack last week, we had a further instalment of the same this week, only June was the victim. She had the morning in bed on Thursday, but was much better in the afternoon. I had the day off to do the bits and pieces, and it was a relief not to have to battle with the fog, although naturally we regret the cause.

Yes our 8th wedding anniversary has come and gone – still as hard up as ever – but that looks like being a permanent state.

Did not know that Hillman’s were going to deliver the firebrick to Clevedon as I imagined them to be a Weston firm. Not bad I suppose, 6/6d. Now you can at least use the fire. We used to have some firebricks at the back and sides which cuts down the space requiring to be filled by coal. We are glad you like it.

Now that Mr Richings has had his driving instruction I have been informed that I should do the same so that madam can have the benefit of the tuition passed on*****. I have not seen any advert by the local police to that effect. No more driving for June. We really shall have to get down to it, but of late the main object of life has been to get there as quickly as possible and get back in the warm.

Talking about the car, I had a bit of trouble in the week. I thought I would start up the car on Thursday just to get the engine moving and loosened up. Touched the starter and got one faint whirr out of it and finish. As it was dark and had the garage doors closed I did not bother to get it out to give myself room to fit the handle, but just gave it up as a bad job. The following night, wishing to go out in it, I opened the garage doors and pushed out the car. I applied the handle and could not get the engine round, it seemed to have jammed solid. I imagined this to be due to the frost. No antifreeze in yet. I routed round until I could find a watering can, and got it sorted out. (The can) then poured in some very hot water and attempted to get it into the radiator. All this in the dark mark you. A lot of the water dropped over the top and went down the outside of the radiator. I think this latter must have done the trick because as I turned the engine it progressively got easier and eventually it started up. Have  had no further such trouble as it has been a lot warmer. Yesterday I got a pane of clear glass from the ironmongers in Eastcote and fitted it in the window frame in the garage. It is surprising how much putty it takes. I bought a 4lb tin and have used half of it. The fitting of the window will mean that the garage will be that much warmer – I hope.

I see your police have caught the vicars wife who crossed the double white lines. A bit near home?§

Regarding the vacancies, I gather certain people have already been identified with the new posts. These include McDonald Productivity Assistant – R.J. Hill (in whatever capacity he will act) – F.D. Pattison Divisional Manager Plymouth – Hilton Divisional Manager Cardiff. These are the only ones so far that I know. The others will be named soon no doubt, then the rest of the jobs will be up for applications. I gather that one of the innovations will be the dispensation with the title of Assistant. Every officer will have a title in his own right, and will not be an assistant to anybody. This is as it should be, and a proper delegation of authority can take place. My frequently made statement that no one on the railway is responsible for anything will just become out of date??

I note you say ‘is something the matter with the ignition of the car’. I believe you may be right as when trying to start up in the dark with the bonnet open I noticed a number of blue sparks coming from the plug leads. This means that there are points where the electricity is being shorted. I must have a look at these soon.

Notley was under McDonald when in the Work Study Section but when he went into Traffic Costing on promotion to Special B, he came under Walton. Now McD takes over Traffic Costing in his new capacity and back comes Notley into  his staff. We do not know what will happen to Walton. Some say he will land one of the Divisional Productivity jobs.

I had Boots’ own antifreeze last year, and it is quite good. It is also cheaper than Bluecol.

Things not too bad in the loft although I have not been up there this weekend. Have ordered more wood to finish it off, but this will not be for a week or two. I have also a couple of hinges for the trapdoor. I think I can fix it so that it swings open. This will save scratching the paint every time it is lifted off. Both the girls have been up in the loft. They insisted in going up, Carol in particular. When it was time to go down she kicked up a fuss and did not want to go down the ladder and would not be persuaded. In the end I had to grab her and plank her on the ladder above me while I went down first. Never heard such a squawk. She has asked to go up again, but once bitten.??

Once a month my colleague Unwin has to act as chairman of a discussion group at the Work Study School. For the last two occasions he has cried off for various reasons, so I have had to do it. It is only for an hour in the morning, then in the afternoon we put onto films for the purpose of checking their rating ability. We have anything from 15 to 25 at a time and they come from all departments.

We are paying guests at this party. Last year we charged everyone and that was probably the reason that Bob Hill did not come although he said he would.

No more news (good or bad) about number 17.

Imagine Soole with a moustache – what a combination.

I hope you remembered me to the Bristol people you met. It is a long time since I saw any of them.

I shall not be in a position to apply for anything for at least a couple of years, as this is frowned on and not supported. I also gather that when the two years are up one does not go on to [illegible] Max as on W.R. but you get another 10% increase on the minimum and the rest some time later (after another two years I believe). I am not very worried about this as I have not been on a maximum for many years. I think I only reached Max twice on Class 4 and Class 2. (The only two promotions I got in the Freight Train Office in a total of 11 years with them.)

Bad luck on the sloes then. I must tell Peter he will have to find the sloes for you. A messy time of the year to go digging in the garden. Probably like digging glue.

Note your news re: Richings and Saunders. Will also read the mercury in due course, but have only just glanced at it at the moment.

I will be down on the 9:05 a.m. Paddington on Saturday (if I get up in time) and return on Monday morning. Hope this is all right by you.

Well I have been having trouble with the typewriter this week. The full stop sticks and so do the ‘1’ and the ‘o’. Makes life difficult so will close and try to clean. Love from us all for now.

*At a time when the Saturday service looks likely to disappear altogether (and rightly so IMHO) Alec’s complaint about a ‘late’ delivery on Saturday morning just looks petty and entitled, although clearly Sunday was his only available day for replying.

** I have distinct recollections of being out in a thick London fog with a yellow tinge, when we had been taken up to the city centre to ‘see the lights’ just before Christmas, and I’m assuming this would have been in 1962. Really, for a family known to have bronchitic tendencies, and who had been advised to take their children to a drier climate – preferably South Africa – for their health, this seems pretty irresponsible in hindsight. I don’t know about their other child – we are no longer in contact, thank goodness – but I still have bronchitic problems to this very day.

***Logic seems to suggest that he would have left the Central Line at Notting Hill Gate and transferred to the Circle Line as far as Liverpool Street. I have no idea why this was considered preferable as the Central Line would have taken him right through the heart of the city, but maybe it was because the Central Line trains were more frequent or likely to be less crowded. Or, indeed, both. I must admit that it’s a tactic I’ve always tended to use myself.

****Am I the only one shuddering in horror at the thought? This sounds incredibly dangerous, but of course it was just this sort of outmoded procedure which led to a number of tragic accidents in later years.

*****And once again we have Alec’s incredibly disrespectful attitude to women – all women, even his own wife and mother. If only they’d just sit down and shut up and make sure his tea’s on the table and his shirts ironed, how much nicer life would be!

§ Cutting enclosed with this letter:

Vicar’s wife fined

The wife of the Vicar of Failand, Bristol, Mrs Eirene Foster Young, of The Chantry, Failand, was fined £5 and had her driving licence endorsed at Calne Magistrates’ Court yesterday for crossing the double white lines in her car while overtaking another car.

This cutting seems to have been taken from one of the Bristol evening newspapers, date unknown, as an advertisement for a local Bristol business appears on the reverse. It is not known why Alec would have seen this before Leonard, unless someone had just happened to bring a Bristol even paper into the office. (Or left it on a train, of course.)

Tuesday 4th December, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Once again many thanks for letter received this morning – second post – and the enclosure from Susan. Note our last letter did not reach you until Saturday. Must be the Christmas build-up or the weather. This is really the reason we try and post on Thursdays so that if one day is missed you are sure to get it on the Saturday and not be in suspense as it were over the weekend.

Very sorry to hear the cold or flu has got to down on the chest – it will want some shifting from there but we hope you can do just this before long. How are you keeping June, and the girls? Hope you have shaken off your illnesses.

Looking at the date we see it is the anniversary of your wedding – 8 years ago today. Congratulations to you both and very best wishes for the years to come.

Yes we had a very sharp frost here on Sunday and although sun came out later it remained cold all day. This morning we have a dense fog – in common with most of the country – and I cannot see the trees at the bottom of the field from the house. Mum went into the village this morning and said not many about and all cars had headlights on. I’ve not been out – this kind of weather gets on my chest so I stop indoors as much as possible. Went down to greenhouse about 10 a.m. just to have a look around and get some Savoys for dinner.

Hillmans have delivered the firebrick (cost 6/6d) [equivalent of £7.75 in 2022 currency] and I soon put it in position. This morning Mum lit up there for first time and everything going fine. It was worth going to the trouble to get the proper fitting and I can assure you the fire grate looks really nice in the sitting room. We told the other firm from whom we purchased the wallpaper to keep the odd roll until we came for it which might mean a fortnight or so. Expect it is there by now but they must hang on to it for the time being.

Understand Richings saw an advert in local paper from the police inviting motor car drivers to visit the police station and receive instruction from police drivers on how to improve driving. After so many lectures they were taken out on the road by police drivers and shown how to put theories into practice. That was all there was to it but no examination or test. Just a demonstration but expect it was very interesting.

Position noted re: Baynton-Hughes. Have also heard of the abnormal vacancy lists out on the W.R. Understand most of the jobs are being advertised at salaries lower than those now obtaining for the posts but the present occupiers will not receive any reduction of salary. Future occupants of the posts will however be subject to the new rates. Perhaps you were also aware of this.

I thought Notley was already under McDonald. If this was not the position who did he come under hitherto?

Noted June has not had any more driving experience lately – sorry about trouble with car – is it something to do with the ignition? Ours is still going well. Have not had Bluecol put in yet but Bushell said if I got the stuff from Boots he would put it in for me. Have had no further news from tyre people re: faulty tyre and to date have not paid for the new one. The local firm said leave it until we hear from tyre people.

What a shocking state of affairs at number 17 Eccleston Road. It is just as well though these things are coming to light now and not later when Mr and Mrs Baker have settled in there. That would be about the last straw.

Could not agree with you more regarding Christmas being an expensive time. It is absolutely devastating – good job it only comes once a year.

Thought you would remember Bray. I first met him at Westbury D.S.O. when he had just joined the service as a messenger and before being supplied with uniform he wore short trousers and I reckon at that time (1919) he was about 14 years of age. Expect you know Hallard left the service altogether to take up other work during the war. Sid Guy is the Passenger Train Inspector in place of Bill Hodge who retired last year. No you have not told me about John Belcher, he must have been mad to get up to tricks like that.

Position in loft noted. How do you find things up there query all nice and dry. There is certainly a nice bit of room there if you can fix things up to your liking. You evidently think the girls will not get that far. You never know. What was your session at the Work Study School for? Query a refresher or just an afternoon out.

I remember your party last year when it was such dreadful weather that the number attending was affected and even June did not get there very early. Hope you do better this year. In any case you will presumably be guests.

Talking about house repairs again I understand quite a lot has to be done to the bungalow into which the Curate moves on the 13th. This is Miss Emly’s former bungalow as I expect I have mentioned before.

Since typing the foregoing the fog has become thicker and it is quite dark although only 3 p.m.

I went up to Bristol on Friday last for Gray’s funeral. Not a lot of his old colleagues there really. Soole and his wife (the former Miss Richards) were there and I see he is sporting a moustache these days – looked horrible. Also saw Griffiths, Bill Williams, Yeandle, Vic Cox etc. I went on a bus from the Old Church through to Bristol travelling via Tickenham, Failand then down over Providence to Long Ashton and thence main road into Bristol. Very interesting but not a nice morning by any means. Got home just after 1 p.m. and enjoyed a good hot dinner.

Yes I guessed you would be content to stay with the E.R. and I agree it will probably prove to be the better investment in the long run. The W.R. seems to be in a state of chaos and nobody knows when or where it will end. Budworth now at York then. The W.R. staff are certainly moving all over the place.

I’m sorry cannot oblige Peter with some more sloe wine. Cornish has destroyed all his sloe bushes and it will be difficult to locate others. I did see one or two when out blackberrying in October but not in such numbers as would have enabled me to gather enough for making a drop of wine. Actually I planted some of Cornish’s in our field but they did not take. I certainly like it enough to go after some berries if can be certain of getting enough. Meanwhile the elderberry I made with the shredded wheat is proving a very nice drink and we both like it. The blackberry is still waiting to be racked off from fermentation.

Since writing last week have had a couple goes at digging the plot from which the runner bean sticks were pulled up earlier. Somewhat hard work but to date have done nearly half-way across garden. Another couple of good efforts will see that piece complete it. Have then to tackle the plot beyond the hedge and that is a good mess and will take some clearing. Broad beans put in in October not yet through and now it will soon be time for the shallots to go in (supposed to go in on the shortest day of the year year). Just been looking at Susan’s letter – another very good effort on her part. She uses her words very well in phrasing little paragraphs. How does she get on with her glasses? Rebecca’s birthday today too – 16 this time. How time flies.

It has been so cold down here these last few days that Mum has kept our all-night fire in since Saturday making it up late at night and closing the ventilator and opening up in the morning. Keeps room (living room) nice and warm to come down to. This could now be done in front room if required.

The Richings are expected to dinner on Thursday this week but must tell you about this next letter. Richings is wondering if John Saunders at Newton Abbot will apply for Swindon which is now coming vacant in which case he (Richings) will be an applicant for Newton Abbot. Obviously en route for Penzance where Michael Richings’ wife’s people live.

Heard from Geoff late last week. Says he is going to Taunton to see Don on Saturday the 22nd inst. so he will take a few bottles of wine I ordered down there and I will pick them up on the Monday when I see Don. Will you be coming down here on the 15th as you tentatively suggested earlier on? Get rid of that chesty cold meanwhile as travelling long journeys this time of year is not helpful. You know we shall be pleased to see you if you can come.

There is a lot more in this week’s Mercury about the development of Nailsea and of the proposed lido for Clevedon if you can find time to read it all. Frankly I do not read it to that extent but one can see there is going to be a lot of objection to both schemes.

Sorry you found Roy had been pretty rough when you visited them on Saturday evening and we hope he too is on the mend now. Pity we have to put up with such weather but it is one of the penalties of living in England. What about going out to Tristan da Cunha? Those people will be glad to get back there in spite of the danger from the volcano.

Our neighbour (Heel) is still busy on his garden and on hedge cutting trying to make up for the weeks they were on holiday.

Yes the mag reached us alright – I had not noticed it was just too large to go inside envelope. Roy Hewitt has it at present then it goes to Bill Aston before going to Don. I like reading about the various stations’ work and staff. Something entirely new for a W.R..

Thought I detected signs of a mouse in garage recently so have trap set but so far without results. I may be wrong about it of course but we’ll wait and see. It is the time of year when the field mice seek warmer places and I have not yet blocked up all the places where they could get in.

Down to the bottom of page again so time to close for another week. All my love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. I expect they are looking forward to Father Christmas – a lovely time for children. 

Sunday 2nd December, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks once again for another weekly letter each. This week for some reason it did not arrive until Saturday morning, perhaps the pre-Christmas post is on the increase. Glad you got the magazine O.K. The Binding at the end held all right then. The mag was a little larger than the envelope.

Yes I am afraid I succumbed to flu or what-have-you, and I am afraid it is now down on the chest. It is many years since I recall having a cough, although colds have been frequent. Again it seems to be the fashion round here. Roy – Delph’s husband – has been pretty rough, and I gather it has been through the same cause.

You refer to the weather. Last night there was a severe white frost and this morning it is extremely cold. The sun is trying to come up and the frost is going. I would say it is a very fine morning if you can keep moving. Otherwise it is a good morning to spend indoors.

I think we were rather lucky to be watching the TV on the day the elephants went to the zoo as it was a most unusual thing to do and the children were very interested. Good thing to spot that torn roll of wallpaper. No point in having and paying for dud stuff. I imagine there are not many people floating around the Weston shops now. It was was a bit hectic in the summer when we were there. Will the people let you know when the balance of the wallpaper has arrived, or will you have to go there on spec?

Very interesting to hear about the Advanced Motoring course that Richings is undergoing. Shall be glad to have more details of the instruction given. What made him go for that?

I understand that you still cannot have a coal fire in your front room. You will bless us if you do not get that firebrick, as the really cold weather is about now. Your electric heater is a good one though and perhaps you are warm enough with it.

No Baynton-Hughes has a job with the B.T.C., he has had no connection with Birmingham since he was the Timebill Clerk Special B. This post he did not occupy effectively as he was away with us at Reading at the time. In fact he never took up his duties. This phenomenon has followed him around in most of his posts. While holding one post (for salary purposes) he has in fact been doing something else. Rumour has it that although he has the job at the B.T.C. he is in fact without specific work, and thus becomes ideal for one of the productivity posts. Why we think he may elect for Bristol is the fact that his home District (Worcester) is now incorporated in the Bristol Division. We gather that from 1st of January the Development Assistants (to be renamed Productivity Assistants) will take over Work Study Research and Traffic Costing. McDonald has informed Notley that he will therefore be working for him again as from January. The latter is not very pleased. There were about fifty officers’ jobs on the W.R. Officers’ list this week. Again this is largely a question of men having to apply for the jobs they are already holding. I can imagine some of them are going to be disappointed as Soole was last time. This is a move to get placed some of the men from the disbanded B.T.C. I am sure.

June declined to do any driving last Sunday, and we have not had much opportunity since to do any. I am still having trouble starting the car, and it needs to be taken in for attention. I am afraid it will have to wait till after Christmas. The result of course is that the car needs a little coaxing until it warms up.

Sorry to hear mum had to leave church. Should have told the Curate she did not like his sermon. Very interesting digs the Curate has got. Hope he has a sense of humour.

I understand that the builders have been working hard in number 17. They say the ceiling in the kitchen is unsafe and will have to be attended to – this after the electricians has said it was in order, and fixed strip lighting to it. It seems that, when wainscoting was taken down, fungus was found growing behind, and when floorboards were looked at they were found to be soggy with moisture. What the eventual bill will be for this one I dare not think. They still hope to go in on the agreed date.

It is very nice to have wines and spirits for Christmas, especially at reduced prices. However up to date we have not been in a position to spare much for that side of Christmas fare. There have always seemed to be more important things requiring the £.s.d. and as you know Christmas is a shockingly expensive time.

There is not a lot wrong with the type from your machine. Last week I switched over to the bottom half of the ribbon you gave me although I think there is a lot more in the top part.

Sorry to hear that Bray has died. He was a comical chap. I knew him first as head messenger at Bristol D.S.O. he preceded Hallard. During the war Sid Guy, who had previously been a messenger in the D.S.O., returned (I think from Steventon) to take over for a short time from Hallard.

Just want to give myself a bit of elbow room in the loft. Every time I go up there it is a messy business getting ladder up and groping about in the dark. In addition there is a lot of useful room there for storing various things, and even getting a workbench fixed out of the way of small meddlers. Perhaps there will even be more room for the car in the garage when some of the stuff has been moved out. The main joists in the loft are level, but where the support beams from the roof are brought down at an angle to thrust on the joints, additional pieces of four-by-two have been tacked onto the joists so that these downward-sloping beams can thrust against one another to give added support. If I were to take away these added pieces, all the joints would be level but it would weaken the main supports of the roof. What I have to do therefore is to make all joists up to the level of the highest. This is an easier job than it sounds, as the usable area in the loft is not as vast as all that, and I do not propose to floor in any part where I cannot stand almost upright.

No comment on the geraniums etc from Mum, but nothing to reply to in my case.

I am quite happy to stay where I am for the time being thank you. While the W.R. is in a state of turmoil it is more than ever a rat race. I had another session over at the Work Study School on Friday and among the staff who came for a rating check were a number from Sheffield. One of these had had contact with Budworth who used to work with me at Paddington and who has gone to the North Eastern region at York. I think I told you that John Belcher who worked with me at Reading had been caught on some large-scale fiddle with passing fake cheques in banks. He had been doing this for some time apparently and he was well and truly caught. We gather that he has had the sack from the railway and has returned to the Cardiff area, but what he is doing now we do not know.*

I get a call from Notley and others occasionally at Paddington. June and I hope to go to the Christmas party on 14th December. It is the counterpart to the one I helped to organise last year.

Note with interest the detail of the proposed lake. I expect they will build it eventually as there is no doubt the Portishead Pool has put the council’s nose out of joint.

I did not see the wine-making on T.V. but would have been very interested. Have not made any as you know for some time. Peter was round last night to act as babysitter with Brenda while June and I went to Delph’s for a meal. She threw a party and we had an enjoyable time. When I got back I gave Peter a drink of fig and tangerine (generally accepted as being a good wine) and he quite enjoyed it. He asked when I was going to make some more sloe gin. Had to remind him that it was your brew. He was very impressed with it and keeps talking about it. You will have to make some more.

Have been instructed by Susan to clear the table for lunch, so will have to pack this in it now, and comply. Anything I have missed will have to keep for next week now, so will say cheerio for now and love from us all once again. 

*This John Belcher is almost certainly the same man as the ex-M.P., formerly ‘a railway clerk’, who resigned from Parliament in 1949 after some undesirable connections were exposed. Wikipedia says that he ‘returned to his clerical job with the railways’ after this.

Wednesday 28th November, 1962

[Continued from Tuesday 27th November, 1962]

Still dry dull and cold here today. Did you see on TV last night just for a couple of minutes between 8:23 p.m. and 8:25 p.m. a demonstration on how to make wine? The individual concerned had a good earthenware jug (holding about 3 gallons) and put into same 3lbs chopped raisins. 1lb wheat, 4 grated potatoes, 3lbs demerara sugar and 1 gallon hot water. Then 1 oz dried yeast and mixed the whole lot together and said it would remain covered up for a month after which it would be strained and the juice put under fermentation lock for 3 or 4 months. Called it Christmas wine – whiskey type.

I thought I would try my elderberry brandy this morning and was not at all bad. Mum liked it so that speaks for itself. This was the concoction in which I put 12 Shredded Wheats.

In last night’s Bristol paper was a photograph of the two elephants so have cut it out for Susan and Carol – may be interested.

Brought in another hamper of Bramleys today and there are at least two more hamperfulls on the tree to come in. We have had a thrush singing away on the top of one of our fir trees on the lawn for several days now – surely he is not mistaking the time of year? It is most unusual because the birds are very quiet along now although there are plentiful enough when any food is thrown out to them.

Well I think this is about the lot for another week – have pretty well exhausted all available news although now Mum will find something to write about in a minute or two I expect.

All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. Mum and Dad. 

Tuesday 27th November, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for letter received this morning together with magazine and letter from Susan and drawing from Carol. What a budget!

Very sorry to hear you have had a couple of days off but we were not surprised following June’s note that you had gone to work on the Monday with a cold coming on. Hope you are all much better now. There is a lot of sickness around here at the moment – flu, gastric and otherwise and no wonder with the weather prevailing. The conditions must be worse in the London area especially the fog. Unfortunately it is the time of year when we must expect a continuation of bad weather.

We were pleased to hear the girls saw the Johnny Morris programme with the elephants at Bristol Zoo – believe it or not we also looked into it and thought it quite good. We said at the time that we hope Susan and Carol were looking at it. Some of the children’s programmes between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. are very good.

Well we had our second visit to Weston last Thursday and before calling on the Richings had another look round the shops and I managed to get a haircut while mum toured Woolworths. Picked up the wallpaper ordered the previous but would you believe it one roll was damaged for about 12 feet of its length so I refused it and told firm to get another. At 14 shillings per roll* I did not want to waste paper. This means another trip to Weston later but this can be at our convenience as it is not proposed to start work until the New Year.

Had lunch with the Richings and afterwards he had an appointment at police station where he is taking an Advanced Driving course. The police at Weston apparently instituted this course which is free. There is no test afterwards but it is to give members of the public the benefit of the training given to the mobile police. We left them about 3:45 p.m. and were home again by 4:30 p.m. It was then just getting misty.

Yes it was a Work Study chap visiting Weston who told Richings of your move. He told me about Burt going to Euston.

We did not call at Hillmans’ this time as they told us it will take at least 10 to 14 days to get the fitting for the fire grate and in any case they would advise us when it arrived. No news to date.

I take it Baynton-Hughes is fancied for Burt’s job because he is being displaced at Birmingham?

Hope June managed to get in a bit of driving on Sunday even if only as far as the Sunday school. It was inclined to be foggy here but turned to a misty rain in the late afternoon and evening. We went to church and what do you think mum had to come out just after the sermon started because she could not stop a cough. Incidentally the Curate (who took service) called Monday afternoon when we told him mum had gone out to avoid the collection. He (the Curate) is moving into Miss Emly’s old bungalow in St Andrews Drive on the 13th of December – moving his mother and sister together with furniture etc. from Paisley Scotland by road. At the moment he is lodging at the Girls‘ Friendly Society hostel in Madeira Road off Sunnyside. What next.

Noted you had a bit of a scare at Ruislip Manor on Saturday but only from the spectators point of view. These occurrences can be very disturbing though and it makes one think. I’m sure speed is the root of most of the trouble – going too fast to pull up quickly enough. Bushell is still going out in his car without an experienced driver with him. Have not seen him lately to talk to.

Sounds as if the demolition squad is in number 17 Eccleston Road. Who is going to pay for that mishap? Cannot say I remember very clearly the layout of the premises. Hope the matter in connection with the disposal of number 155 proceeds satisfactorily to Mr and Mrs Baker. They surely must be looking forward to getting out as soon as possible.

So there is a possibility of getting some wines and spirits from E.R. Vaults at this time of year. Just as well to know. Have ordered a few bottles from Geoff.

Your visitors duly turned up then on Sunday at it worked out fairly well. Wonder Susan and Carol did not rebel at going to bed with the others still in the house. Perhaps they were tired. June would have been disappointed if they had not arrived with all the eats available. Your picture gallery will never get stale Alec and I expect you all enjoyed seeing it again. I noticed Geoff was very interested in the projector when they came over.

Yes June you must check on the Blenheim Orange apples now and see if any are gone or going bad. I think they should be alright but have a look in case.

Can see I shall soon have to go over to the red section of the typewriter ribbon or you will be complaining of poor type. Have not used the red at all so far so it should give good service for a while.

Had a letter from Griffiths (chief controller) this morning and he said that Albert Bray (Basher) died suddenly last Sunday and funeral is at Stapleton church next Friday. You remember him of course as being the Rolling Stock Inspector at Bristol for many years before going to London as Travelling Cleaning Inspector with home remaining at Bristol. I knew him when he first joined the service at Westbury Wilts as messenger boy in the D.B.O. that must have been in 1919 or 1920. I should say he was about 56/57 years of age.

What are you trying to do in the loft? Put another floor down for storage purposes? Surprised to know the joists are uneven though. Ours are level right across and will take flooring without any trouble. Not necessary here as we have such a lot of storage space in shed and garage. You will have to have a light ladder with just the right number of rungs to get you to the opening of loft. Unless of course you can afford one of those disappearing jobs advertised in magazines etc i.e. where the ladder itself can be pulled down from roof and returned to there too after use. Godfrey had one in his house at Maidenhead. Bit expensive and I expect you can do with lots of other things first.

The various queries you have raised about the geranium and succulents I will leave Mum to comment upon in her letter.

Have not read mag yet but will have a go this evening. All who have seen previous copy say it is more presentable than the W.R. mag. There are certainly some nice articles in it. The ones about the various stations I find most interesting.

I take it you would rather have your present job than be an applicant for one of the three you say Mann is after. Personally I think a change of venue will work out much better in the long run.

Not much doing in the garden etc. since I last wrote. Have picked up two or three hampers of ‘fall-downs’ in the field – mostly Bramleys – and stored them in the garage. Broccoli and cabbages seem to be very very small this season and it takes two to make a meal. Cannot quite account for this unless it was due to the ‘soppy’ weather in the autumn.

You are still in touch with Notley then although you do not come in contact at work. Expect he had a chat with old colleagues at Bristol.

The horse has not arrived yet. Norman Baker must put fence right first. I do not want the animal in the garden again although at this time of year I only have broad beans and onions planted apart from the fruit trees – currants etc. It will do the field good for the grass to be eaten off.

You will be interested in the Mercury this week with the scheme for making another lake at Clevedon. Somebody will have to pay for it unfortunately. Cannot see it being made for many years.

Now I see the Press are crying out about the railways being closed down on Christmas day. About time too they were closed. There was never much doing at Temple Meads that day and it was always a job to get people to work. Even those who were booked on duty did not all turn up – some of them suffering from a hangover from the previous night.

[Continued on Wednesday 28th November, 1962]

*This equates to about £16.65 in 2022 currency and the damaged portion would be maybe 40% of a roll or the equivalent of about £6.65 so I really don”t blame him for not accepting the roll.

Sunday 25th November, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you for weekly letter and paper. Sorry about non-enclosure of E.R. mag, but more about that later. Well you started by mentioning colds, catarrh etc. and I  regret to have to report yours truly had to have a couple of days in bed early in the week. Cannot say exactly what it was (medically) but usual alternating temperature and shivering and complete lack of energy. Got up for lunch on the second day, then for an outing took Susan back to school and had a short walk. The air was cold and dry with no wind, and helped to bring back some semblance of appetite and with it some energy. Returned to work on Thursday pretty well 100% again.

Regarding the geraniums, we brought in the large one and stood it on the spare T.V. set in the dining room. Since its arrival practically all of its leaves have turned up at the corners and gone black. It is probably too warm in here for it. It looks rather sorry for itself at the moment but there are still a couple of green shoots so it may not be completely lost. One of our indoor chrysanths, a white one, is beginning to come out in the garage. It unfolds a petal at a time and looks very straggly.

It looks as though you will be getting your firebricks soon. Perhaps these people (Hillmans) can also get you the proper handle for altering the draught setting. This gadget has a short U piece at the other end for lifting the front up for night burning. It fits into the central horizontal hole in the front.

I gather the Richings had heard of my recent transfer from the Bristol Work Study crowd. Notley was at Bristol last week and gathered a bit of information. It seems that Burt has gone to Euston. His post is being advertised (or redesignated) Productivity Assistant, and as the Bristol Division now takes in Worcester, Baynton-Hughes is fancied for the job. Mann – Work Study Section Leader Bristol – does not like the look of the way things are going and has applied for one of the O&M jobs at Paddington General Manager’s office. Three were advertised at at the same level as my present job. He may be lucky as the sitting tenants are far too junior. Highest rating among the ranks there at the moment I think is “B”.

Amusing about the perks being stopped officially. I did not think much of the practise, and had a do with Woodward on one occasion about it. However, I feel the gifts, despite the obvious intention behind them sometimes, are personal ones, and nothing to do with the Bristol management. If I were in Richings’ place I would take no notice.

June has not been out in the car yet but as we are all going to Sunday School this afternoon, she may elect to drive there.

By the way re: the mag, I must take it back to the office for dispatch from there as we have no large envelopes this end. Shall have to lay in a stock. I was going to do so last week, but was off for a couple of days – at letter dispatch time – and it did not get done.

We heard the screech of brakes when in Ruislip Manor yesterday and saw a Triumph Herald just managed to avoid running into the back of a learner who had stopped suddenly at zebra crossing by the Car Park. We were just walking down from the car park and it was quite a sickening noise. I blame the man in the back car A) for not expecting that sort of thing from a learner, and B) for going too fast anyway. I am surprised that Bushell goes out so often alone in his car. He must be fed up with it by now. The sooner he passes his test the better.

We understand the builders have started on number 17 already. It seems that as soon as they started hammering, part of the wall between the kitchen and the scullery fell down. I expect you know which rooms I mean. Nothing further about number 155, but presumably everything still all right as the date for removal has been fixed for some time.

Made some enquiries as to wines on the Eastern Region and at first was told that no special arrangements operated. Later I found that one of the lecturers in the Work Study School gets some. Shall probably make use of this facility another year.

There have been no further losses in the succulent field. No sign of budding from the Christmas cactus but I think it is too small.

We did not do too badly with our visitors last Sunday afternoon. We had given them up when they arrived at 4:30 p.m. I was thinking that it was only an evil postponed for another time when a knock came at the door. By this time of course June had the dining room all laid out with the food etc. The children were a little better behaved than last time but ours needed a prod or two to to keep them in order. June put the girls to bed about 7-00p.m. but our guests and their children stayed for much longer. I forget what time they eventually did go, but it was in the region of 9-00p.m.. We had showing the pictures on the wall of course. This is now a staple diet of entertainment. Have not taken any more pictures of course.

We are feeling the benefit of the new fire all right. So far we have not had it on full despite the very cold weather last week. When things are a bit chilly we put the gas up to three quarters, and it is surprising what a difference it quickly makes.

Note you have been able to get out and about on the garden. It must have rained here in the night as there are pools of water on the concrete outside the window. June has the apples stored somewhere and I must enquire as to their state. Note the horse will be back shortly. He will clip the grass and hedges down a bit for you. It is certainly early for such cold weather as we had last week, there is every the indication of more to come. The sun to belie my words is trying to shine now. This can only mean fog.

Did not notice there was a football match on last Wednesday, but when we put the T.V. on to get the children’s programme we noticed the change of programme. I did not switch off!!!

Hope mum managed to bring home some soup from the T.G. this week – more appropriate than ice cream.

Well our little armchairs arrived first thing yesterday – before breakfast things cleared away. Did not have an awful long time trying them out as other things on the go but they feel very comfortable, and I’m sure they will get good use. It being wet and miserable after we got back from early shopping yesterday I got June to give me a hand, and we got most of my spare timber up into the loft where we started to lay a floor. The trouble in the loft is is that the joists are all at different levels, and the support beams keep getting in the way of your head. Did not make an awful lot of progress at first as had to get a piece of 4 x 2 to make up joist level for the main flooring. This was obtained in the afternoon plus a supply of two inch nails so as we get more boards we can drop them in position. Our greatest need at the moment is an easy means of access to the loft without bringing in the big ladder. Our steps are too low for regular use although I have done a trapeze act on them before now to get into the loft. I have some wood from a former fence that is quite strong enough to stand walking upon and this is being cut into length of approximately 2 ft to cross to neighbouring joists. The main floor will be 1 inch flooring.

The succulent was not over-watered. The reverse is more likely to be the fact. As I am only giving them water at the rate of a few spoons for each week over-watering definitely is out.

The children have been in here with me writing and doing their letters so it looks as if you will get a good mail this week.

Well I will close now and pop up into loft to do a bit more. Hope you did not pick up any flu etc. from that cold spell. Hope also Mum’s cough has gone. I have one too – very irritating. I think I will give it a dose of wine.

Love from us all for now.