Alec to his parents:
Dear Mum and Dad,
Many thanks for weekly letter, and reply to our wishes etc. for 21st (date not birthday). We have not been to see Mrs Baker so far this week, but she is being brought over this afternoon by Peter and we are all going to the Mothering Day service at the Methodist Church. This is the usual children’s service that we attend from time to time. Sorry you are not a bit closer to join us on this day.
We have not heard how Peter has got on over his accident. The car was overdue for a test by one week hence the second booking by the Police.
Carol soon threw off the effects of her injection. By the Sunday afternoon, after she had been out with friends, she soon forgot her aches, and it was only if someone bumped into her or accidentally caught hold of her that she complained. We went to fetch Tony and Lillian at about 4 p.m. and found them not ready. We waited in their house for a while and found it very nicely decorated. It seems he is is a decoration addict and is always pottering about doing something or other. The room we were shown into was certainly very nicely done out, and the small garden also seemed very neat. One wondered how it would have looked after a month of Susan and Carol. I suppose we shall be able to achieve neatness and tidiness in this place with reasonable hopes of being able to maintain it thus before very long. When Carol goes to school the amount of time available for destruction will have been further reduced.*
I have unfortunately to report that to add to Carol’s misery she had a bilious attack during Friday night. I went out in the evening as usual and at that time she was perfectly o.k. apart from the fact that she had been dancing about rather more energetically than usual in the front room immediately prior to going to bed. I got home someone after 11 p.m. and found that she had done for the bedding and June had already been in to her about four times. We all suffered badly from lack of sleep on Saturday and Carol had a nap on the settee in the afternoon. After that she was pretty well and had something to eat and drink. Today she is as right as ninepence. It was Susan’s turn last night and as if not to be outdone she woke in the night and promptly did the same to her bed clothes. Her attack was only of short duration and she woke perfectly o.k. this morning and ate three Farley rusks in about half a pint of milk. Mother’s Day, did you say??
Last Saturday while at home on my own – June and the girls having gone to West Ealing – I made myself a cup of tea and had a piece of cake from tin. While eating this cake I got a piece of the fruit (?tree) between the two front teeth and broke one clean in half down the middle. Of course this meant a quick date with dentist before the thing started to ache. I saw him on Wednesday morning, and he has completely rebuilt it. It looks like all the rest of the teeth and in fact is probably better looking than before. I do not like to trust it to a good hefty bit though and I suppose I shall have to go a bit carefully with fruitcake in the future.
Sorry your trip to Lyng was so wet. At least you were in the dry. It does not make driving all that difficult and apart from the wipers flying to and fro it is otherwise as normal. It makes the car a bit of a mess though. Sorry to hear that Uncle Don is still having trouble with his breathing. Will this improve with the better weather? Note they asked after us, and you have some chocolate cackleberries for the children.**
I really do not remember Jim Mead though I must have spoken to him while at the wedding. Sorry to hear he has gone though and this will mean more work for Jessie’s husband.
This seed planting is quite something with the girls, and you will find out the most important job to do when you come up. I must look to it to fork over the soil a bit before then, but they know Grandad is going to show them how to do the planting and will expect it to be done. What they will do after that I cannot say – probably pull them up to see if there are any roots forming.
I do not know why you want to return on the Tuesday after only arriving here on the previous Thursday. Perhaps the week of all of us is too much for you but the date of your return is up to you. We have from Thursday midday to Tuesday morning booked holiday, but depending on the date of your return I can have the odd days to extend it.
Very pleased to learn that your sight is not getting any worse. Did you think that it was deteriorating? You are certainly going it what with a new watch and a couple of armchairs. Be able to sleep by the hour now so to speak. Looks as if your geranium cuttings were saved although the post did its best to damage them. We had one large geranium which we kept in a pot indoors. It almost died off. It had five long branches which have all sprung to life throughout their length and June took half a dozen cuttings and put them into another large pot. All the cuttings are o.k. and growing and the parent plant with the main root is also growing apace. It seems as if we shall have all the geraniums we shall need from this one plant.
Note that things are on the move in your garden. It is a lovely day here today after a slight frost in the night. You seem to have supplied yourself with plenty of drinkable matter from Lyng. Hope you can keep sober.
I should not think that keeping the horse in your place was very profitable for Norman Baker as he had to feed him practically all the time with hay.
Would not say no to a flagon of cider, but do not bring more as it would only be wasted.
Note your neighbour had a spot more trouble with his guttering. This winter had [sic] cost people a packet one way or another. We consider ourselves fortunate. It was a case of very near, several times, but not quite, if you follow me.
Driving tests are well behind due to the bad weather. I know a man who has just started to learn from a driving school and he applied for his test before he had his first lesson. The earliest date they could give him was June 12th.
Thanks for the enclosures from the ‘Evening Post’. typical about Mallard.*** Still people have other things to think about, and it is up to the enthusiasts to go and see these things. I cannot think of many railwaymen who have been on for many years being much of enthusiasts. Obviously the reporter went to see this engine thinking he was going to get some opinions or interviews, and in the absence of anyone of note to talk to he was unlucky. After all he then had to write something so took it out on the Bristol people who he in his wisdom thought should have been present.
I see Clinker’s name mentioned in the ‘Telegraph’ this week about some book he has written****. They referred to him as ‘the famous railway historian’ – as such is fame acquired.
The business of the missing mail van is also typical. I recall at Kensington when I was there we opened a so-called empty van to find it loaded with parcels for some distant place. It goes on all the time. It is all due to the fact that the people who move the vans (shunters) are not the same people who load and unload them (porters). A shunter finding a wagon with a label off assumes it is empty and rarely bothers to look inside, and once it has been moved it is out of sight and the concern of the station staff.
Well getting towards the end of the useful news now. The girls are creating a diversion by bringing in a tray of tea things followed by the teapot. Susan is now putting the milk and sugar in the cups and Carol waving the strainer around. Now Susan is starting to pour the tea – mine first. It seems the right colour. I cannot see any spoons except the one in the sugar so I suppose we must use fingers.***** She has now poured them all in turn and finishing up with her own has only a thimbleful left for herself. Matter now adjusted.
Well now the weather does seem to be changing for your visit and if it can only keep up for another fortnight you should be o.k. The girls are now making a mess in in the kitchen with leftovers of pastry making. I think they are making a pie of some sort. I will have to watch that tooth.
Well that is all for now. More next week. Love from us all here once again.
*I am constantly amazed that he seems to have expected children who were left to their own devices just to sit and read books all day or ‘play nicely’. Prioritising housework over the welfare of one’s children, and expecting them to behave like little cardboard cut-outs, is naturally doomed to disaster: energetic young people with enquiring minds need to be kept occupied – and not always to be treated as second-fiddle to the dusting, hoovering or laundry.
**Apparently ‘cackleberries’ are eggs, and chocolate ones by extension must therefore be Easter Eggs. As this is apparently American diner slang originally, I can only assume Alec and his parents encountered it either during or shortly after the War – perhaps through the medium of movies, or Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels.
***While I have not been able to pin down this specific reference, I think it may have involved an ‘organised rail tour’ to the St Phillips Depot. The reporter seems to have been surprised that the people of Bristol were apparently indifferent to the visit of such a famous engine.
****The most likely candidate I can find for this is Charles Clinker’s ‘Railways of Cornwall 1809-1963’.
*****OMG a child who is not yet seven has failed abjectly as a domestic servant! It really makes one question the validity of one’s own – and everyone else’s – existence, doesn’t it?