Sunday 9th September, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks for a nice long newsy letter again this week, also for the short reply to my memo. Thanks also for the kind comment on pending move. The date of my move is purely fortuitous. McDonald is on leave and could not care less what happens in his absence to his subordinates. The head of the Admin. section and the senior typist are on leave at the same time, and of course his assistant – Lay – has to make bricks without straw during his absence. However it is all to the good, as one cannot settle to anything with a move imminent. I do believe that they are well behind the W.R. in these matters, having resisted the introduction of Work Study for a while. I do not know  quite what I shall find, or even what my precise position will be in the set-up. The post is described as Work Study Assistant, but was referred to by Jagger at the interview as Senior Work Study Assistant. He also said I would be assisting Mr Russell but I find out he has an assistant named Cook. In any case the salary is £1,350 – £1,560 plus 3% [totalling roughly £33,000-£38,000 in 2022 parlance] so I should worry.

Doug Matthews is still at the Eastern Region, but I have not got his exact office address although he is still at the same address in Ruislip I believe. Meaddows who left us when at Reading to join the E.R. is now Costing Officer there. One of our former traffic analysis boys is Assistant Station Master there.

You are a bit out in your terminals. Marylebone was E.R. quite a long time ago. it became W.R. for about 4 years, and for the last 2 years or so it has been L.M.R. It is now the centre of a division of its own and has a Traffic Manager. The rest you got pretty straight.

There are one or two moves going at the moment at Paddington and my disappearance has helped McD to get the people he wants into more than one job. He was in something of a cleft stick over seniority before and may have had to get someone from outside. Now he can promote both contestants involved. I can give you more detail when you come up. When I get some more information on the subject I will let you know what goes on at the E.R. Will try for the magazine, but will have first to find a vendor.

I did not meet Johnson, but I think he is still kicking around somewhere. He was mentioned in the New Year Honours list of couple of years back. Scragg I met, and found easy to get on with but only saw Haynes a time or two after he came back and took over Guards Working for a time before Joe Gilbert. Smart I never met although his successor Alec Eagle I met very often and liked. He is dead now, having died some 10 years or so ago.

Regarding number 17 Eccleston Road, we went over there yesterday to have a look and see what wanted doing. The flooring is fair apart from one room. Damp is on several walls, and practically all wainscoting is coming away from walls which are crumbled to powder behind. Most windowsills and windows which are of the sash type require attention. Some cupboards require removal all together, and all rooms want decorating badly. There is no damp course, and plumbing is prehistoric. The whole is dirty and wants an army of chars to put right*. In short the house would provide several months’/years’ work for a fit young couple. The lease has 13 years to go. Something could be made of the place – I should not want it for my own – the main ingredients being time, energy and money, all of which commodities are absent I am afraid. We do not know as yet where Peter fits into all this, but if he were to live there no doubt he could do a lot to the place. We understand however that Mr and Mrs Baker are talking about going in there in about three weeks. How this is to be achieved goodness only knows. We have offered to help of course and must now see what can be done. No news yet of anything being done in the grant line.

So you have all the water you want in the pond now have you? What will you do in the winter when you do not want any water for the plants? Will you let the tanks overflow the downpipes?

Please come up as arranged. I should be able to have most of the time with you as the weekend is the main objective.

The first injection seems to have made a remarkable change in June’s leg. It is still sore of course and sensitive, but the elastic stocking has not been needed since. The second injection was given on Friday of last week, and the doctor was very pleased with the progress. It seems that he was impressed with the results of only one injection. There are no more to come, but the condition is expected to return in about two years, when the dose can be repeated. The pain is not cured, or even removed, but it seems that it has been substantially reduced. Let us hope it continues.

I have started to pick the tomatoes as they turn colour now, and put them aside for ripening. I have had one myself this week, and although the skin was a bit tough the contents were sweet enough. I expect that are a lot more out there waiting for my attention today.

I tried to get hold of Geoff in the office on Friday thinking that he was already back from his holidays. However I spoke to Brunsdon and he is not due until Monday. Have therefore not told him of the move. You could have done so, it is not secret. Bob Hill congratulated me on the move last week, but I have seen no one else of note. Pushed the boat out at the Mitre for the staff on Thursday, and they presented me with a leather dispatch case and a box of chocolates for June.

Sorry to hear that you both have had colds. We have been a bit lucky I suppose not to have had any.

Mowed the lawns again yesterday and got a little hot in the process. There is some sun about today although there is also plenty of cloud up. It is quite warm though.

Doug did not think much of the bungalow. I do not know whether that represents a little bit of envy or not. He said it was not worth £5,400 a sum that Eric had mentioned to him.

Must go out and measure the tank – I find that it is 26½ in by 20in by 19½ in deep. It holds 40 gallons. As I said before it leaks, but you should be able to remedy this fault with Sylglas.

Thanks for the comments from Bill Aston and Roy Hewett. Glad to hear of Norman Allen’s addition – did they want another girl?

It is a bit early to say about visits to Tottenham Court Road. It looks about the same distance from Liverpool Street to that point as it is from Paddington. It just depends how I am situated for nipping up there.

Sorry to learn that Norman has had an appeal turned down. Bad thing to have to go to T.S.S.A in any case but worse if it does not come off.

There it is for the time being, will no doubt have more to say on the office front next week. Will leave a bit of spare paper in case there are any further remarks to come. Love from us all.

*There is no male equivalent of ‘charwoman’ or ‘charlady’, and Alec is clearly thinking that everyone involved in the cleaning will be female. Quel surprise. 


Wednesday 5th September, 1962

[Letter of Tuesday 4th September, 1962 continues]

After a stormy night and morning the weather cleared and Mum and I have been to Weston – parked in the yard by the Melrose Cafe and looked around the shops etc. It was a glorious afternoon and many people about. Quite a contrast to the day we visited the Aquarium.

Saw Roy Hewitt this morning and told him of your move. He said ‘Tell Alec I congratulate him and wish him the best of good fortune on the new work’. Also told Bill Aston who also was very pleased to hear of the promotion.

Expect Susan back at school now and Carol on her own again. Glad they liked the cards. I understand they were the only ones mum had in duplicate. Perhaps there will be more later.

The rain during the past 24-hours has filled all receptacles again to overflowing – could not do any work outside today but as I’ve mentioned it was lovely at Weston this afternoon.

I was going to ask you if when next in the Tottenham Court Road area you could get me a couple of fermentation locks (plastic for preference) and a couple of dozen stoppers for me to have in October but your movements will now be some distance from place named so as usual I’m too late. Racked off the Cherry-with-Orange wine into to sweet jars and already it tastes quite nice.

Norman Allen called round yesterday to say another little girl had arrived in the family. He was having some leave to help cope at home and said that the T.S.S.A. had turned down his application for reclassification. Also he understood there were about 128 to be made redundant in Divisional Office but nobody knew yet who would be affected. Said he was glad to hear on your move and wished you all the best.

By the way who is the top man in the office to which you are going? and what is his actual designation? Are there divisional offices on the Eastern as on the Western or is the organisation covered from Liverpool Street entirely. Seems like it by the gist of your letter. All very interesting Alec and we shall be pleased with any information you can as time goes on give us.

No more now. Love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. Shall be thinking of you next week – once again our very best wishes and congratulations on getting such a good move. 

Tuesday 4th September, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

We were on the look-out for your letter this morning with all the good news and some unfortunately not so good. Now I’m starting to reply in order to cover as much as possible before posting on Thursday.

As we mentioned in short memo earlier we are delighted with the news of your promotion and it sounds like something worthwhile. The fact you are going over on the 10th inst. indicates they are in a hurry to get on with the work and my guess is that they have been lagging in Work Study organisation and are anxious to catch up. Moreover I should say they have not the staff with the necessary experience to get on with it. Although I have never worked at Paddington I agree things are not the same as they were years ago and a change may be all to the good. I too have heard the Eastern Region is very friendly one to another, but to start with you may find one or two disgruntled because the job did not fall to them. Is Douglas Matthews still with them? When opportunity occurs you must please send us an Eastern Region magazine and now we have a direct interest in them should like to have it monthly or is this asking too much?

I know the old G.N. and G.C. and G.E. with the L.T. and S. forms the E.R. and that King’s Cross, Marylebone and Liverpool Street are the terminals of the first three. Query Fenchurch Street the terminal of the last named. It’s a section I know nothing about but I think you have a grand opportunity to utilise the knowledge you have gained in the past 20 years to help the E.R. Is the post a new one or has the previous occupant got promotion or retired? Anyhow our very best wishes Alec and we are sure you will succeed.

June will not care much about your travelling but this is one of the hazards of railway life. I noticed your train service from South Ruislip runs direct to Liverpool Street so no more changing at Notting Hill for Paddington. What is the fluttering in the dovecote you refer to? The fact that you have the job or who is going to get yours?

Your final comment on this matter that you have gone further East whereas you would have preferred to have come more this way – this again is all part of the hazards of railway life but just think – if you had remained in Bristol you would have been lucky to have reached Class 1 by now.

We shall be pleased to have your remarks on the new job after you have had some experience there. There used to be a H. Johnston there and I think he finished very high up. He was one of a Control Commission with Haynes (W.R.) Smart (S.R.) and Scagg (L.M.R.) who came to Bristol Swindon and Westbury in 1941 when Assistant Chief Controllers were introduced and I was with them for about 10 days.

I guessed there would be no changing of house and it is good to know the housing loan is all right – still at 4% I hope.

Now for the news which was not so good. We are very sorry June to hear of the problem in front of your mum and dad. It is really a tragedy but although I am not in a position to comment it does seem the lesser of the two evils is for them to go in to number 17 Eccleston Road. At least they will be able to relax and not be at everybody’s beck and call every time the bell rings. That in itself must be a great relief to them. It is surprising how the interior of a house can be improved by the right selection of paint and wallpaper. We sincerely hope things will work out satisfactorily for them. They both need all the rest they can get and it may be a blessing in disguise once the worry of the business and its financial position is off their minds. If a grant can be obtained for renovations this will be great but obviously the place must be brightened up before they move into it. I think I can understand your mum not wishing to go there.

Now to more general topics. Yes Friday and Saturday last were very nice days but Sunday not too good. Today we have a couple of violent thunderstorms and baths soon filled up again – this after I was thinking of carrying water again. Have disconnected from pond now because I shall gradually empty for winter rains to fill up. Glad to hear the buddleias are recovering.

Never mind about the odd pictures that fails. Expect you have a lot of good ones to show us later on. Which reminds me – will your move affect our visit? We do not want you to start asking for time off on our account so early after appointment.

I had no idea there were three sizes of tyres on car. Noted the new ones help the steering. I think that tyres are one of the most important features of car – so much depends on them.

Bushell did not mind the work from his point of view. He is qualified to deal with such accidents.

Let’s get off general topics for a minute. Have just got to the point in your letter in which you tell us of June’s experience in hospital with her leg. I’m sorry and surprised an operation could not be guaranteed a success. Let’s hope the injections will give her a lot of relief. Is the next one the final or will more be necessary later on? I remember the hospital. You pointed it out to us sometime ago – stands well back from the road.

Note no more driving lessons June – a bit difficult unless you can find a home for Carol for an hour but we hope you will be able to resume soon. You will need car more than ever if Alec happens to be away on your shopping days.

Re: tomatoes Alec, pick them when they start to colour and put them in a box to ripen. They will ripen quicker and give the others a chance to develop. So Carol enjoyed the ripe one. What about Susan or does she not like them?

I put some lawn sand on lawn last week and it certainly scorched up the clover and plantains but I shall want a lot more to make the job effective. No more real progress on pond yet but I’ve done some more measuring up around it. Am now in the midst of cleaning through the raspberry canes and find the gardening gloves most useful.

Your new neighbours back from Majorca then. Geoff and family start back on Wednesday the 15th. Have written for them to have letter on arrival back but have said nothing about your move. He will throw a fit when he hears of it at the office.

Fancy a real doggy having a sniff at Perky Pup.

Note both girls have had a day off colour. Both Mum and I have had something of colds on us these last few days. Must be the changing of the weather from Summer to Autumn. Working in the garden makes one perspire freely in muggy weather and a cold can soon be taken.

How about your flu inoculation? Wonder if the E.R. deal out the doses.

Re: tank please let me know length, breadth and width so that I can measure up boot of car. I will bring it back if I can get it in.

Nice to have an evening showing yours and your neighbours’ holiday snaps through the projector. It is a wonderful record of events and you must have many hours of pleasure looking at them. Did they have a good time? What did they think of your description of the Worlebury bungalow?

Am sorry to hear about Ray Skinner. Jeff told me a letter or two ago he was having a bungalow built at Paignton in anticipation of his retirement at 60 years of age. Stronquist I only knew by name and I never met him or Ken Clifford as far as I can remember.

[Letter continues on Wednesday 5th September, 1962.]

Sunday 2nd September, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you once again for weekly letter, we have a little news for you this time, but first to reply to yours. As you say we could not have improved on the weather we had the week  following ours. However, the weather on one or two days since has been quite good, especially Friday and Saturday of this week. It was very hot in the garden in the afternoon, and yesterday we were able to sit in ours for a while. Odd about the thick fog, we have not had anything like that, but it has been cold first thing mornings with quite an autumnal air if not nip about it.

I am glad the pond extension works in practice as we were doubtful whether it would without prompting from us. It must have been quite some storm to fill all the levels though.

Yes we were sorry that Mum’s picture did not come out very well. I think I know the reason. If you recall we were in the cars sheltering from the rain when its eased off and we took the opportunity to get out while the going was good. It normally takes a little while to get a camera set for the picture, with lens hood and filter in place, but as I wanted to get a quick picture I did not fit these accessories. This would not have mattered normally, but it looks as if I took the picture directly against the light. We have the others back that we sent off at the same time. These were the ones we took when you were up. Most of them are alright. One of Carol did not come out and one of yours shows the top of your head missing. Mum’s dress came out very well indeed.

You will be glad to hear that all the buddleias are alive although one of them is only just so. The good one has been moved again since and still shows no sign of flagging.

I have no idea where we went wrong at Keynsham. On the forward journey we proceeded along the A4 until we saw the sign for Wells to the left. When we got to that junction on return journey we naturally turned right, and should have turned left again for Warmley, but did not see sign or turning. As you say, we approached Bath on a high level and found no trouble going through. I would say it is a much better way of disposing of Bath, and without increasing time or mileage.

The new tyres – now properly inflated – are a great help in steering. I found there were three sizes of tyre on the car. One was 5.0-5.25/16, one was 5.50/16 and the others were 5.25/16. You cannot tell any difference by the eye.

Bad business for Bushell, but of course it is now his job, and he will become more used to it than we should. Not a very pleasant job you might say.

Our lawns have dried up again through lack of rain and I had to get the hose out. I had put it away in the garage. It looks as though I shall have to give it another run again today as cracks appearing all over the place. The toms are ripening but I have not seen any red ones yet. Do these get red or do they remain orange? Carol kept on about picking the one ripe one so we let her do it. She had it for her tea in the week and apparently it went down well. I see there are several out there at the same stage now. Last week I cut off all the leaves except the top ones and this allows light to get to the plants. This week I cut back the trees at the bottom of the garden and let a lot more light in.

Our new neighbours returned last Sunday from honeymoon in Majorca. They both look very brown and seem to have had better weather than ourselves. Have seen little of them since they got back. He has mown the lawn but done little else outside. A workman who seems to be a relation of one of them is doing some exterior work on the house.

So things on the pond are moving. Your template must be quite large for that job. Is the pond holding or has the level receded? I note the depth is 2ft 1 in the centre. What will be the approximate height when you have built it up to the new level?

Carol likes her Perky Pup and still trots round with it. She was thrilled when a real dog took a sniff at it the other day. Good job I did not see it.

No more scares from the girls. Considering all things they have been moderately well behaved. Of course they were both poorly for one day each last weekend. No after effects. Carol had us awake most of Thursday night with a cough. Most of it was try-on though. She set up a mournful bleating and variously complained about head, throat and tummy. Tried hard to be sick but couldn’t and so on. I think it was a summer cold.

June has had no more practice with the driving, but there was some talk about having more lessons. Probably just now may not be opportune as you will hear later. With regard to the leg, June went to Uxbridge Cottage Hospital last Friday for examination as per the appointment. (This is not the place where Mrs Baker stayed, but first turning to the right beyond the Swakeley’s Road / Western Avenue roundabout.) I had the morning off from work as we all had to go because there was nowhere to dump the girls. June was inside for upwards of an hour, and they gave her the choice of an operation or an injection neither of which would they guarantee successful. In the event June chose the injection and they gave it to her there and then. This is having some effect although it is a bit early to say to what extent. There is some pain in the leg, and it produces the same results when knocked as it did before, but it looks a lot less angry and June is walking about with the aid of a special stocking. Another injection is due next Friday, but we think that June may be able to leave the girls with Ethel then.

The saga of West Drayton gets worse and worse. It appears that shortly after putting the property up for sale there was a queue of prospective buyers and the long and short of it is that the place has been sold. We do not know how much has been paid for it, but the agents told Mr Baker previously that “I could get £1,750 [roughly £41,600 in 2022 terms] for it tomorrow”. The lease has less than 10 years to run, and it may be that a price around that figure was agreed. In any case it is hard to see anyone paying more for such a short lease. Well it seems that the business was so bad that part of the pension has been used to prop it up and quite a lot of the proceeds of the sale will have to go to straighten things out. As for buying a house at current prices this is out of the question, but as number 17 Ecclestone Road has not been sold they will be moving in there for a purchase price of we think about £500 [roughy £11,900]. A retrograde step I call it, as it means going from one barn to another, but there seems to be little choice in the matter, and at least the old age pension will not be pillaged to keep the shop going anymore. Number 17 has 17 years of its 99-year lease to go so there is a respite for a while. It has no electric light or hot water system and is generally dirty and dark so it’s all hands to the pump now to get it shipshape. Its present furniture – which has been sold – moves out on September 6th – and various of us can then move in and see what needs doing and what can be done. *

Needless to say feelings are stretched at the moment. Peter who at first said he would not go near the place is now giving thought to possibilities of taking a floor for himself and Brenda but there are several ifs to be cleared up first.

I had a quick look through the Merc. but did not see the bit about young Richings. Will look again tho.

Have not done football this year yet but had a look at coupon for the previous weeks matches. It seems that Saturday comes around too quickly for me these days.

Cannot say I like Don’s cider much, but as I do not have the stuff regularly now it is probably not the fault of the cider. A spoonful of sugar would do it good from my way of thinking.

You would think Mr Heel would have seen the red light and cut out the heavy stuff in his garden. He will be back in hospital if he’s not careful.

About the waterfall arrangements, can you find room in your boot for our old water tank? It leaks, but Sylglas could put that right? We want to get rid of it, and it would be useful to you if you think it could be transported.

I did not tell you of my application for a job as Work Study assistant on the Eastern Region. I had an interview for it last Friday – it was a good one – and I had reasonable hopes. This week they told me I had got the job, so after 20 years at Paddington – almost to the day – I now go to Liverpool Street. I have heard good reports about that region and also understand they are a bit behind us in Work Study. The post is in the Regional Staff and Establishment Office and involves the whole of the Eastern Region’s three “Lines” viz the former GN and the GC and the former G and the former London Tilbury and Southend line. The scope is the whole of the Eastern England from Doncaster in the north to Sheffield in the west. I gather there will be a lot of travelling involved. What I am expected to do I do not know yet, but that will soon be known as I am starting on Monday 10th September. Of course there has been a lot of fluttering in the dovecote as you may expect. With the 3% award the top level of the salary range will be about £1,600 [equivalent of £38,000 today] so life has its compensations. It is a pity in a way to go further East when I would have preferred to go in the opposite direction, but it will be an opportunity to get away from Paddington which is not the place it was. There will be no question of moving house, and payments for the house will continue to be made through the paybill. Well we have upped tent and moved on before so it can be done again. Hope the news pleases you.

We have just had a small and welcome interruption over meeting Doug and Ethel and Christine for the first time since they returned from their holiday. It appears that they have a collection of colour films, but have no projector on which to show them. We have invited them in to see ours tonight and bring their own pictures with them.

The girls said thanks for the cards by the way. I do not know how many they want for the set.**

Bad news about Mr Skinner passing away last Friday. In view of the information given a few weeks ago it is not very surprising really. However he must have been much worse than most people realised. I gather Peter Stronquist is 53 and has a history of ulcer attack. A similar incident occurred about 20 years ago and he was in a bad way then. He is now in St. Mary’s Hospital and I had a word with Ted Rouse who visited him. He says he looked pretty bad when he left, in fact they thought he was a goner at one time. Ken Clifford, who was Waite’s Assistant and eventually succeeded him as head of P.T.O., retired on Friday. I did not go to the festivities. I had no idea he was going. It seems that they made the collection for him on a day I was out. Must arrange to be out more often.

Well I had better pack up now as one or two chores looming up. At least it leaves plenty of space for use by the distaff side if required. Love from us all once again. 

*This sheds an interesting light on Alec’s own past as the way he met June in the first place was through lodging with her aunt at the said 17 Ecclestone Road, either during or not long after WWII. (Most likely afterwards, as June referred to there being a lot of Indian merchant seamen living at 17 throughout the war, who were unable to get home for the duration. She learned to prepare curries for them, which were apparently very well received, but which put her off curry for the rest of her life.) There was clearly no electricity nor hot water when he was there either, but the post-war housing crisis would have made a lot of people grateful for any roof over their heads, no matter how basic it was.

**These would be P.G. Tips tea cards which were a staple of childhood life at the time. It was always a thrill to be allowed to open the packet of (loose) tea and find the card tucked between two layers of paper; they always smelled so wonderful, too. I believe the cards continued into the teabag era but they were eventually discontinued.

Sunday 26th August, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Well here we go again. First of all thank you both very much for a very nice holiday. We had a most enjoyable time although it goes without saying that the weather could have been kinder. As you know we were not restricted very much because of it, and we were able to do most of the things we wanted to do except sit in the sun. At least we had a taste of the latter on the Saturday we went to Weston. Pictures were returned from the film people yesterday and I am glad to say that with one notable exception they all came out well. I got 38 good slides out of a roll that had nominally 36 on it plus 1 misfire. The misfire unfortunately was the one of mother holding the kite on the Sands at Weston. It looks as though the light got into the camera as there was considerable fogging of the picture. However the shots that followed all came out well so it cannot be said that Mother’s face broke the camera.

Delph and Roy came round yesterday afternoon for some spare cactus cuttings. I gave them the duplicates from the box we brought back. We put the pictures through the projector and had our first view of them while they were here. Later after it was dark we ran through them again. It is much better to see the pictures screened when no light can get into the room from outside. Some of the views were excellent as were also donkey scenes, roundabouts, Mobos and spaceship.

As June has told you we had a fairly good run back. We made very good time to Marlborough where we stopped for half an hour. If I recall we arrived there at 3:45 p.m. I missed the turning at Keynsham to go to Walmley and therefore went through Bath. I found it not nearly so difficult as I expected. From Marlborough to Slough we were well up on a four and a half hour schedule, but for some while I had been conscious of real or imagined difficulty in turning the car at any speed over about 20 mph. Indeed I had to reduce speed at roundabouts much more than the cars following me in order to get round. This presented its own problems as most of the followers did not expect me to slow down so much and were practically standing on my tail light. Once off the M4 I decided to get off the A4 as soon as possible and have a look at the tyres in case they had lost pressure, and at the load in case it has shifted. In the event I found nothing wrong, but I had turned off on a road that I did not recognise. It took me into Burnham Beeches where all roads look alike, and are equally familiar to me, so that we went round in circles for a bit. I eventually decided to break the deadlock by going to Gerrards Cross and picking up the Western Avenue there. There was a short queue to get onto the Western Avenue and a steady two lane traffic jam going in our direction. Of course we had to go along with it until we got to Swakeley’s Road. The result was that we took five hours in actual running time.

I am afraid the roof rack has marked my roof. It has scraped the paint off the top in a couple of places where the crossbars touched. June’s case also suffered in transit by having a small chunk dug out by one of the boxes which we loaded on top. All else travelled well and all the eatables – except the shallots – have been assimilated. I planted out the three buddleia the evening we got back, and well watered them in. The one we put in the Lewis’s bag took immediately and is growing practically unchecked. The other two have both received severe setbacks. The largest has not revived but still has one pair of short very limp but still green leaves. I think there is a chance that these two mean that life is still present. The same applies to the other plant.

Had a couple of new tyres fitted to the front wheels of the car yesterday. I must say it looks better for the deed, and handles better. I have not checked the pressure they put in yet.

We found the lawn had grown about four inches or so while we were away, and I had to set to on the Monday and cut the back ones. I have not so far touched the front although that badly wants it. The lawns want cutting again now. Our tomatoes have made good progress and all have fruit on them. The fruit is full-size and wants ripening off. One of the plants near the wire, the next by the gate, has an almost ripe tomato on it. Carol has already got her eye on it.

As you know the girls both travelled well. We had no recurrence of the trouble we were having a few short months ago.

How is the bath/reservoir system going?

Our new neighbours have as yet not returned. We do not know when they will be back.

Glad you were able to fit the new catch – sorry you had such a job with it. I imagined your biggest trouble would have been to align the keyhole.

Your gardening going apace again after our interruption. Not an awful lot of watering wanted at this time of the year though I suppose as the beans are getting towards finish now. Hedges of course want plenty of attention. I think that fences are a better bet although from time to time they want a bit of attention. Fences are more expensive, but make a neater job, and usually stay in one place.

I understand the trowel etc. have been in operation, but I have not seen it myself. I filled their flower pots with earth and planted a couple of small cactus therein. This was all good stuff and highly appreciated. Susan had her instructions about watering etc, and the pots were put in the dining room window. However the next day I found that she had taken them out and repotted them losing one of the cacti in the process and replacing with Mind-your-own-business which has since died. All good fun of course.

I agree with you that work goes badly after a fortnight off. It takes me a long time to get back into my stride as I have too many assignments to visit even if I went to a different one each day. I have still to visit Acton, Reading and Newbury. Of course I expected wholesale changes to be made when I was away and I’m not disappointed.

Have been having a little trouble with Susan this morning. She says she is not well and is playing up. We cannot get out of her where she is ill, first it is the tummy, then the ear, then the head. I do not think it is anything that a good dose* and a short walk could not put right.

We put a new piece of lino down in the kitchen yesterday and June is just filling in the odd bits. Of course Delph and Roy had to arrive while we were in the middle of it.

By the way please thank Mr Bushell for his attention to the car. It is working well and th irregularity we noticed is almost eliminated.

I suppose you have both had a good long sleep after we went to get back some of the energy expended. There is a fine old wind blowing now and the bushes at the bottom are swaying about. Yesterday it was windy also and a cold nip although I would not say it was unhealthy weather. Apples seem very large and I am wondering when it will be time to pick them.

Well there it is again I do not think there is much more to tell you this week. If I have forgotten anything it will keep till next week. There is one thing though. On Friday Susan and Carol took themselves off to the shops against instructions and took with them their money. They came back with two packets of stick-on paper as per the evidence attached. They were sent early to bed.

Love from us all once more. 


“Speak roughly to your little boy
and beat him when he sneezes!
he only does it to annoy,
because he knows it teases!”

(Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.)

Tuesday 28th June, 2022

So – if Thursday 28th June, 1962 was Alec’s fortieth birthday – it follows that today would have been his hundredth had he not died in 2001.

We have decided to make this the excuse for a day out in his memory, and are planning to do something he himself would have enjoyed doing – and, in fact, did, many times. We’re heading off for a trip on a preservation steam line Alec loved, but which we ourselves have never had the chance to visit – the Festiniog.

We grab every available opportunity to travel on steam railways; we are, and have always been unashamedly, the people Alec decried so much – the ‘railway preservers’. Moreover, we are the obsessive sort who think Beeching was the worst blight to hit this country between the end of World War II and the rise of Margaret Thatcher. We acknowledge that this is pure romanticism and has not a thing to do with economic reality. However we agree with Alec in general terms – that freight (or, rather, ‘goods’) should be carried on the railway wherever possible. Of course, the short-sighted demolition of the network by Beeching (aided and abetted by Alec, it must be conceded) has made ‘wherever possible’ a far remoter prospect than it was before.

It’s very sad to have to acknowledge that one’s own father contributed to the destruction of something one has always held dear. I must admit that I was hoping, through these letters, to learn that he had been anti-Beeching all along, but the unpalatable fact is that he was not.

So, really, there’s something absurdly post-ironic about celebrating with a railway trip the life of a man who spent most of his working days trying to saw away the branch he was sitting on.

Alec probably wouldn’t have got the joke, but we certainly do!

QSL cards part 2: the collection

As we discussed previously, some time in the 1960s Alec developed an interest in the hobby of amateur (‘ham’) radio. It is not known how or where this started, but I have a distinct recollection of him borrowing a reel-to-reel rape recorder – possibly from Eric Benn, the next-door neighbour – and using it to study Morse code for the first stage of the competency test in order to gain a license.

QSL cards were part of the process from the very beginning, used to record communications between hams wherever they might be in the world – and at first, of course, the distances were limited by the available equipment; for example, Alec’s earliest conversations were via the medium of Morse and it was only much later that he was able to graduate to using voice – which, as far as I recall, probably also needed an additional test and license.

Using their contemporaneous call logs (which have also survived, in Alec’s case,) operators would write up cards to send to their counterparts; these were collected in by the local radio club and sent off to RSGB headquarters where something like a Sorting Office must have been in operation. Returning QSL cards would be received by the local clubs and distributed to members at their meetings, and this presumably was a large part of the service provided by the RSGB.

At any rate, having found a large box of radio logs and QSL cards – collected by Alec and one of his friends – in the loft of the house Alec and June shared before his death, we turned these over to his grandson Robin. Robin, we should add, is very much a ‘chip off the old block’; in later life Alec’s ham radio hobby morphed into a love for computers, which Robin also inherited. He has therefore plotted all the cards in the collection onto this map, and would like to make the following point:

[A]ll the locations are approximate – sometimes the QSL cards gave the exact address, in which case I have tried to find the right street, but other times they just give the town or city name, so I have used a bit of artistic license!

He also points out that the collection tails off in the mid-1980s and should therefore be considered to represent roughly a twenty year sample. The 1980s were the time that Alec became infatuated with computers, so that could mark the swansong of his interest in ham radio – but there could also be other factors at play, and lacking better information we do not care to speculate any further.

Meanwhile, we will also add – with some sadness – that Alec never did succeed in achieving the Holy Grail of radio contact, a sought-after encounter with King Hussein of Jordan who was at the top of every ham’s wish-list. Nevertheless he made a pretty good collection of contacts around the world, some of whom subsequently turned into lifelong friends.

Robin has ambitions of analysing the log books as well, at some future date, but as he is currently working all hours trying to maintain his teaching commitments under less than ideal conditions we suggest that nobody should hold their breath. ‘Too much data, too little time’ is one of the heart-cries of the amateur family historian; there will never be an end to the subject matter, only a limit to the amount that any human being can process in a given lifetime. We’re doing our best, of course, but it can never possibly be enough.

Sunday 5th June, 1960

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you for both your letters and the cream which arrived last Monday. Glad you had a good week-end last week at Exmouth. Fancy running in to Bessie. I do not know what went wrong with your cream despatch arrangements but I thought you said ours would be despatched on Friday. June says she forgot about the buckets and spades at Clevedon. We shall be bringing the new plastic ones and the girls can play with them all. It would never do to leave them behind. Do not worry about Pyjamas etc., we can bring all we want; position not nearly so difficult as when we had to lugg it all by train.

I think I should still remember Tiverton as the parts I was used to seeing probably have not altered much. You would notice a greater difference. I can only remember going over the Bridge at West Exe South very few times.

We bought a plastic paddling pool for the children and they have been having fine fun with it. It pumps up with a car pump and looks like two large inner tubes one on top of the other. We shall be bringing it with us and they can have it on one of the lawns. We only give them about four inches of water and that involves only about six or seven gallons. They have been in it morning and afternoon on Saturday and Sunday (for short spells).

June has been spring cleaning the bathroom and kitchen this week-end. This involves washing down ceilings and walls etc. I have turned out the shed, and taken the front off to let car roll back further. Instead of bending the shed door it now bends the lawn mower.

The bungalow sounds very good, indeed. It sounds as though it would be ideal for us. Glad you were able to see Pat and John and families. Johns place sounds very good.

We had some excitement at S. Ruislip as you say, but did not go round to see it. I heard it on the South East England news. It could have been very disastrous but fortunately was not so. I gather that petrol cascaded through the roof on to the work and people below. Again fortunately it did not Ignite.

How nice to gather and eat your own cockles. I do not recall tasting any but I have had Mussels.

We learn to-day that Mr and Mrs Baker received their cream but could not think who could have sent it. They found it delicious and thank you very much for it. By the way ours was in good condition and by putting it back in the fridge after each session it kept till Thursday and was ” fresh to the last slice “. Have shoved in the runner-beans and also another lot of dwarfs.,- bought half dozen tomato plants and generally cleaned up the veg plot. My onions are growing very well and looking healthy. Parsnips are quite a success although I understand a lot of gardeners have lost theirs round here this year. The place is eaten out with black fly but I find ” Lindex ” chases them away. Trouble is that a spray is needed for greater effect. The syringa is now out in bloom and looks fine although black fly have even had a go at that. I hope your trip to-day was successful, cars on roads in the South East have beaten all records apparently. Our time of starting from here on holiday trip depends on many factors as you well know. We shall aim to get away between five and six o’clock, probably nearer six. After due consideration I think I shall go via Cirencester and Yate. It also depends on the weather and the Children as to the number of stops we need on the way. If they show any reaction, and/or if the weather is hot we shall stop more frequently and even possibly make some distinct breaks for recovery. If coldish and no troubles we may press on to get journey over. This all adds up to an unpredictable arrival. I should say you should begin to look out for us about twelve o’clock.

I remember Dittisham very well. It is a pretty place not far up the river from Dartmouth. Can also remember the “Commentator ” who filled in local colour.

No progress in the wine field. When cleaning out the shed took the opportunity to through [sic] away two or three early unsuccessful bottles. Made the place stink like a brewery.

Well that’s all for now. By the time you next write we shall be down to two weeks prior to trip. Must say we are all looking forward eagerly. Love from us all, June, Susan, Carol and Alec.

Sunday 20th March, 1960

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Here we are again, another week nearer your much anticipated visit. Many happy returns to Dad on the Birthday although by the post I expect we are a day late. Never-the-less I hope you had a good day with the visit from Don and Joan. They tell me it has been quite a nice day out although have been indoors on an electrical job all day. Just had phone interruption. It was Geoff who wants us all to go over to Headstone Lane on Easter Sunday as soon as possible after dinner. Told him that would be in order. We have been waiting for him to fix up for our visit for quite some time and it now looks as though he has made up his mind when it will be.

Well to take things in order, your letters first. Thank you both for them. I note the posh paper (Mothers) sadly let down by (Fathers). How much a foot do you pay for that. Sorry about the screws in the neck, I take it that was Fibrositis which you will recall I had when at Weston School, Very painful indeed and most lowering. Hope that is all better now. Doctor gave me Adrenalin Cream to rub in. This was on the occasion of my second attack when at West Ealing, It was during the war and he had to send to Scotland for the Adrenalin Cream It was quite good stuff but does not keep.

Sorry your day at Exeter was so spoiled by rain. You can not rely on the weather even on your rare outings. I expect you wished you had taken the car particularly when waiting on Taunton Station. I seen to remember we had a few waits at Taunton in the past. I note you have planted Parsley and Virginia Stock, we have the same but have not yet put in. I also have three packets of Dwarf French and one of Scarlet Runner, two of Lettuce and some Parsnip to go in. I put the fork over the new bottom plot yesterday and it worked a treat. Should do too as when path was constructed round the outside had to shift practically all the earth in the square to a depth of about two feet. I had not touched it since the path was made and you could plant small seeds straight away. The Virginia Stock we got with a packet of soap or something. Did you get yours from Paxmans ? ( Sorry )

Yes I would have liked to come down for the week-end but will keep it in mind for later in the year when there are no impending visits expected. From the sound of the feast provided at Paxmans I take it you were bulging at the seams when you got home. I suppose you now, know how to get clothes whiter than white. Glad to hear Soole’s father is out of hospital – looks as though it may be possible for him to attend the wedding. Have you got an invitation? No I do not recall Kelly or his three children. The only child I remember in the house next the corner was called Martin.

I am glad you approved of our action re the flowers. In view of the short time I thought that the best to do. They were white tulips, with yellow daffs and some white flowers just like stocks. With the greenery they looked quite presentable. I picked up Norman Thorne at Greenford station at about 9-0 am and drove him round to Roy’s place. We had a chat there for a short while then went to the church. There were not all that number of people there, but Flaxman was in attendance. Of course the immediate family mourners were present but we did not make any contact with them nor see them at Greenford later. Have not yet seen them and think it as well for the time being. Iris of course looked in pretty bad shape but I understand she is being very brave. They are staying with her parents at the time being. Roy drove us back to London after the Funeral which was very convenient.

Yes Susans memory is quite good when it suits her. Carol now asks to see the Mobo Toys and “see church where Carol Christened”. There is quite a demand to see the book – almost a daily occurrence. Glad Don looking better. You will have had an opportunity to confirm your opinion of his health as a result of the visit to Clevedon. If he could rest up a bit particularly in some good Summer weather it could put him right again.

Ronnie Grey is still in hospital. It seers the operation was a little bigger than they made out. He still complains of pain in his stomach and there is still some discharge from the wound. They were expecting him out this week but I think it will be a little while yet. Grey has bought himself a new car. He went out with the intention of selling his old one and getting a Mark 1 Consul but was dissatisfied with the one he saw and found a 1957 Vauxhall Velox in a nearby showroom. I have only seen it from a distance but he says it is quite something. He is taking delivery next Saturday.

Your lettuce production is certainly large scale. Did you sell many last season? No movement in the Dahlias yet. The weather has been a little too cold for much progress. I am surprised that you are still getting trouble with rabbits, I thought they had all gone. Took the children and June to Eastcote for fourpenny all off yesterday morning. The hairdresser certainly took her time – over an hour. Other than that we have not had car out this week. Carol was quite good, no trouble this time.

Had to put a permanent electrical point in for the fridge so decided to convert whole downstairs electrical apparatus (except lighting ) to 13 amp Ring Main. As you know we already had some parts so fitted. The two electric convector heaters, the T.V, and the Washing Machine. All these were on odd lengths of wire from the fuse box. I have now put in a complete ring of wire from stairs along hall to lounge, across lounge and under wall into dining room, across dining room by French Windows and into kitchen thence back to fuse box by stairs. All the odd lengths of wire have been withdrawn and the sockets connected to the ring. I have put in the additional socket for the fridge and salvaged quite an amount of wire from under the house. Any number of points can now be fitted just by the purchase of the connecting box and the socket outlet. I shall not need any more wire even for the connections as there is enough to last me some time when I salvage the wire going to the Panel electric fires from a separate fuse box. I can connect all these fires to the ring and salvage the present connections. Had to take up floor boards in all rooms and had a job to keep Carols head out of the holes.

Well there it is for this week, hope you are both fit now and stay that way until we see you. Love from June Susan, Carol and Alec

Wednesday 30th December, 1959

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Herewith a line to thank you very much for week-end at Clevedon which was most enjoyable. Hope my stay did not disorganise local arrangements any.

Found children pretty rough when I got back. They both have catarrh and of course that means wakeful nights due to not being able to get breath. Carol took it particularly badly although Susan was not much better. They both had bad coughs and one night I sat up with Carol until 4-0am as she screamed the place down if she was laid down. All this of course with teeth coming through as well. Carol was coughing and spluttering all over me so it was not surprising that I caught it back. My cold was one of the specials and lasted nicely over Christmas. Luckily no cough developed, and it is in final stages now thank goodness.

Well with the Children ill June could not do her Xmas shopping (other than presents) until Christmas eve and I had to take her to Ruislip Manor that afternoon. There were lots of cars about as you may expect and the car park at the back of Ruislip Manor Stn. was all but full. While waiting for June to finish off the shopping I moved out so as not to get blocked in.

With the money Dad gave us for the children we bought a Dolls House and managed to smuggle it in to 84. It has had good use already and was certainly one of the star attractions on Christmas morning. Carol liked her Big Ears and Susan has dressed and redressed her new doll. I am afraid that they squabble a bit now and then but we have pooled all the toys so there are fewer occasions for it. After one such battle Susan started crying and came to me with the tale that Carol had scratched her face. Could not see anything.

We had intended spending xmas day on our own and Pauline ( who was staying with us ) but understood from Peter that things a bit quiet that end so he brought the lot over in his car. I tried to get through to wish you Happy Xmas at 7-50pm but after three attempts the operator said there was no reply. We assumed that perhaps you had popped out for a while possibly with the Astons. The next day we went to West Drayton for the day. During the early morning the Bashams and Great Grandma arrived from Southend. She is still very active and had not previously seen Carol. Coming home it poured and gave car a very good wash off. Had to go through a deep puddle near Cowley and was doing thirty at the time. Car coming in the opposite direction so no avoiding it. Water and spray flying in all directions.

On the Sunday Mr & Mrs Baker and Peter paid the arranged visit. Peter disappeared after dinner to meet his pals and I took the others back about 9-0pm. Weather continued to be bad. Generally speaking the girls have been very good over Xmas. They have had a deal of excitement and seen a lot of people but they behaved well and slept much better than for some time passed. June’s Mum has given them a dressing gown each and they look a couple of nibs. Susans is red with a Bambi on it while Carols is light blue with an elephant motif. Received a couple of ties and a pair of socks from West Drayton. Susan received a “T” Shirt and Carol a pair of Blue Shorts from Headstone Lane and they both have lot of puzzles and games from relations friends and neighbours. They have had so much as usual that I cant keep track of where it has come from.

Carol is talking a lot now although she says a lot of gibberish. Yesterday she came out with the following long sentence;- ” Bye Baby Bunting, Daddys gone to Roses Atishoo Atishoo Pop goes the Weasel. ” We ran over to Greenford to take presents over to Delph and Roy and spend a few hours with them. Christopher making great strides but does not talk much. To-day we drove to Ealing and caught District line to Sloane Square for the girls to have their hair cut at Peter Jones, Pauline met us and toted the girls round to see her friends and colleagues. The car is going really well. We have done about 175 miles since we had it from Peter. Yesterday June paid a visit to Greenford to have tooth extracted by dentist. It was a back tooth and caused some trouble in coming out. Broke off a couple of times. Susan, Carol and I sat in car until patient returned. ( Rained all the time ) Pain was very bad yesterday and although a little easier to-day Junes face is still swollen and puffed.

Hope you were able to enjoy your Christmas and possibly go visiting. By the time you receive this letter you will have the New Year supper for the ringers well under way. My regards to those of them that I know. Thank Dad for his letter duly received on Christmas Eve. Gave a couple of bottles of wine to neighbours. Have had no complaints so far. Peter has gone off with a bottle of sherry (H.E.B.) He seems to like it. So for that matter do Susan and Carol. Carol in particular takes big sips and keeps asking for more. We have to pour out some for her to drink.

Mother will be pleased to know that Sheila the doll she gave Susan last Xmas has a new wig. We glued it on and June made it some more clothes. (It was naked all the Summer.) We hid the doll in the piano so that Susan would not see. Now it has golden blonde hair tied in two plaits. Susan approves. We got a small Xmas tree and stuck it in a Walls Tin* in the approved manner and put it on top of the T.V. There have been one or two raids on the chocolate ornaments but that proved to be as safe a place as any. Wilkinson leaves us for Birmingham at the end of this week. Do not know who is in charge of what after that. Well will wish you a very happy new year and hope to see you soon.

Love from June, Susan, Carol and Alec

*This would be a Walls ice cream tin covered with crepe paper; as Frank and Edith Baker had a tobacconists/sweet shop at this time, ice cream tins and cigar boxes were often forthcoming. Two of the latter have persisted in the family to the present day.