Alec to his parents:
Dear Mum and Dad
Thank you for your letters duly received Friday. Sorry you had a late letter last week. Must ask the postwoman this end what happened.
You talk about rain, but we have had our share of it this weekend. Yesterday it was very overcast all day, and when not actually raining there seems to be rain in the wind. We went to Harrow on a shopping spree. It was very wet over there all the time and we were glad to get back home. Glad you have been able to do a little work in the garage. I assume that you are both pretty well recovered from your cold/flu.
I do not know what Eric Benn has to come to London for. I think that generally they work in their own regions, but when there is a lot of work about they probably ensure that the biggest and most important jobs are covered by the senior men, and step up the junior men in the regions to take charge (temporarily) of the lesser work.
As you say I imagine that all your tanks have had a filling or two during the last week or so. Pity you have no vast storage area, as all this water which goes to waste in the winter could well be required in the summer. In a garden the size of ours we are well rid of it. In fact now, the water does not lie about at all. With the elevation sometime previously of the left-hand lawn, and the recent elevation of the right hand lawn (bracket in the back garden), anything that falls goes straight through. There is only one patch where water tends to collect, and that is under the swing where the girls have scraped the turf away and compressed the earth beneath. As I look out of the window into the garden it is a miserable outlook this morning. The wind is blowing the leaves about all over the lawns, the grass of which is now very long. If unchecked it will hide an elephant by the spring. All the plants seem to be growing fairly well though.
Talking about whether I suppose we have nothing really to complain about as the days are ticking away and we have had no bad weather to speak of. Even fog has left us alone for awhile. I suppose if you look at it this way there are only six weeks to the shortest day. This to me is always a depressing time of the year, but this year by virtue of the better weather is less depressing than most.
When June has an evening out (which is seldom) I always get ructions from the girls. They are so used to being taken out with Mummy every time Mummy goes out that they cannot understand it when she wants to go out on her own. I can usually sort them out however.
It is certainly amazing how Susan took to her glasses. I am afraid she has now got to the stage of putting them down anywhere, and is too lazy to go and find them before she starts to read again.
We had the usual firework display this end. Auntie Pauline was here on the Monday and when I came up the road they were all watching the fire on the field which had been lit sometime earlier. While I was having my tea they let a few of their fireworks off in the field, but it got a bit congested and the fire died down early so we finished off in our own garden. One thing about letting them off in the field is that the usual after Firework Night debris is missing from the garden.* The girls thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and Carol was quite excited.
Bad about the Teddy Boys on the prom. Do you get much trouble with them? Yes I thought the wine good. Will have to try some again later on. I may go to local doctor for flu injection but the E.R. do not give injections. I have dropped a hint or two but nothing so far done.
Sorry you are having trouble with the fire brick. If you cannot get one let us know and we will see what can be done this end. In any case June has collected up the three pieces of the old fire brick which you can have (at a convenient time) either as a pattern, or for use. I am enclosing the makers’ pamphlet which you should keep. We did not have the little lever for lifting the ash pit front as shown in the instructions. It was not left to us by the previous owner. You may have one or may like to get one to save fingers getting burnt. We should have got one, as using the fingers one has to be a bit slippy, and in so doing, we often knocked the front off. As you might expect it is then out of the frying pan into the fire as the whole of the front gets very hot, and replacing is a longer job than adjusting. Incidentally I do not think that the exact size of the fire brick is critical. If you have one which is the approximate size it would probably do. Bit of luck it was an exact fit to the grate (fireplace). Mum used a bit of elbow grease then. I am glad it is going to be of some use. Have you fixed it in, or only placed in position?
Thank you for the cutting by the way. I wonder if this is all manufacturers’ propaganda? I would certainly like to try a screen to see if there is in fact any difference. We were advised by some friends to hang up a white sheet, but it was difficult to keep folds from appearing in it which distorted the picture. On the whole a slightly off-white/pink wall does very well.
What a game gardening in the bad weather. I can imagine you putting in the beans standing on a piece of board. What a difference from the conditions when normally lifting potatoes.
Shall have to fix up with you a date for me to come down just before Christmas. I am afraid it will not be a Friday this time, but probably a Saturday. At first thoughts, Saturday December 15th might be the best from my point of view, but will confirm. How does that date suit you?
Bill Raine can hardly be called a novice now that he has won the prize for two years running. He has obviously found the right stuff to feed his plants on. Why not try some for your tomatoes and beans?
Note the news regarding your neighbours and their activities. Your set seems to be giving you an awful lot of minor troubles. Does Bell still do any servicing, or does he send one of the men round? I believe a chap by the name of Fortune came once.
Good news of the 6% rise. We may even get it ourselves although my immediate chief, Cook, said he would believe it when he saw it. It appears they were most reluctant to give us the last one.
Hi-jinks on the 9:05 a.m. Paddington in the week then. You never know these days where you are going to be coshed and in what walk of life. I do not expect the guard thought that was how his day would end. It seems the thieves are getting bolder than ever. A raid of that nature would have been unthinkable twenty or thirty years ago. The thieves were obviously well informed and equipped with working timetables (hinted at in the Press) but as so often happens the unexpected put paid to their chances.**
So Dad has had his ice cream then. I have seen Walls factory in Acton. In fact there are two some distance apart. One deals with the meat side, bacon, sausages etc., and the other the ice cream. They are both at North Acton, and only a stone’s throw from Old Oak Common Yard.
But referring again to Mom’s letter, I am glad the fireplace looks good in your front room. Bronze does not always go with any colour scheme. You will find if you set it for all night burning that it will keep going all night, but of course little heat is given out under those conditions and do not expect to find the room warm when you get down.
By the way, another Susanism. The week she wrote a letter to her school teacher Miss Smith. She asked her sister Carol could come to school. We did not see the letter, but we did see the reply she got (all very correct and formal) to the effect that if she brought her around at 1:30 p.m. on Friday she could stop until 1:45 p.m. provided Mummy collected her then. When June went and at 1:45 p.m. she did not want to come away, and kept going back. It seems she covered a lot of ground in that 15 minutes. She saw Miss Dix the headmistress, and the Wendy House, and the Sweet Shop, and all the things that Susan had told her about. She was also allowed to sit with the class for a short while before coming home. She has an invitation to come again and stop a bit longer. The teacher told June that she had been very good, and they seemed pleased with her. Of course it will not be long now before she will be going anyway.
Well there it is for the time being. I have no further news of any note so will close. Hope you are both well as we are this end. Love from us all.
*And he has the brass neck to call me lazy! What an imposition, to have to clear up after something which only happens once a year and makes your children happy! Good job he didn’t have to do the washing-up after Christmas lunch or we’d never have heard the last of it!
**Unfortunately I’ve been unable to pin this reference down as it happened so close to the date of the ‘Great Train Robbery’ in 1963 that all search results are completely swamped by that. I would have to make an individual search of newspaper archives by date, and unfortunately I haven’t got either the time or the energy to do that at the moment.