Wednesday 6th February, 1963

[Continued from Tuesday 5th February, 1963]

When we looked out this morning we found there had been a lot of snow in the night and it was still coming down – this time the direction is from the East-South East. Already there is a fourinch layer on the ground which depth is increasing fast.  Drifting is also taking place and we seem to be heading for some more hard work clearing paths. Mutt and Jeff (Cornish and Heel) will be busy again too. Latter already trying to clear path has given up halfway down. Small coating of snow already on top of car in garage. Have left front gate half open to enable milkman postman etc. to get in. Last heavy fall we could not open gate very easily hence precaution this time. It must be bad for you at Ruislip getting to station, shops and school – perhaps you will escape this lot. I hope so. Can assure you we shall not venture far away from house and we still keep fire in living room light continuously. Have just been out (10 a.m.) and cleared passage to front gate during a lull in the snowfall. Sky as black as ink and obviously more snow very near. M&J were both at it. Would you believe it – it is snowing again as thick as ever at 10:30 a.m.. Mum has gone down to the post office for a few odds and ends.

As last week there is not much local news apart from the weather. No letter from Don yet this week and I expect they are having a rough time of it at Lyng and Durston.

Referring to the flock of geese we saw last week flying overhead, I see in paper that Peter Scott says a lot of wild geese have left a Slimbridge because of the weather and it is probable that the ones we saw were from that place and en route to Africa. Pity we could not clear out as easily as that for the winter.

Do you look in to the program ‘That Was The Week That Was‘ on TV late on Saturday nights? Some of it is real good. Newspapers, public men and other personalities come in for a good shaking – so much so that the papers concerned are upset and at least one legal action is pending from one individual who was given the works.

No more now. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls.

Mum and and Dad. 

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Tuesday 5th February, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for another newsy letter received this morning first post and we are glad to know you have had a fairly comfortable week in respect of frozen pipes and blockages. We continue to be free of these troubles but a number of the people in Old Church Road at this end of the town are still short of water until the plumbers have attended the bursts etc. There is still time for more trouble of course as the winter is by no means over. Yesterday for example we had a good fall of snow continuing from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. necessitating the bass broom being used later in the evening to clear the stuff away from the pathway. Sunday was a nice sunny day here too but it was so cold. Today although sunny there is a bitter East wind blowing making things most unpleasant outdoors.

Glad to hear June’s back is a bit better and hope it will continue to improve. What was Susan up to to be late home*? Query kept in at school for some misdemeanour. Not surprised to hear she had another cold and hope well again now. There are a lot of coughs and colds about – what else can one expect with such contrary weather.

Sorry you slipped down again – under car this time. We have to move about very carefully here especially when there is a fresh fall of snow on top of frozen ice. Mum delivered the magazines one day last week and just after she left the house down came the snow quite thick. I expected her home again quick but she went on and completed the job. Last Sunday the road leading from church house to the church was like a skating rink and no wonder – the children had discovered another place for their toboggans right down the roadway.

Yes one may well ask what about next Winter. What with the multitude of electrical gadgets on the market and a severe spell of weather there is bound to be a repetition of this winter’s shortage of power. We shall get in a stock of coal and a good load of wood to try and cover ourselves and of course something else will have to be done about the storage of potatoes and apples etc. even if this means bringing them indoors. It seems we never finish learning. I think you are right in assuming that anything left in your garage must be dead by now. There will be quite a lot of plant life to be replaced this spring.

Noted your plumber has been in and renewed all washers etc. and reported copper tank in order again. You had an amazing experience this time and no doubt will be on the alert in future as soon as bad weather commences. You could of course have had a very serious mess up in more ways than one. Talking about the cost of keeping the electric lighting and firing going to keep pipes working Mr Aston came over last Friday and said the electrical man had called to read meter and found that they had used over 4000 units during the quarter; this works out to about £25. [£570 in 2023 money.] Our meter has also been read and reading was 1975 working out to about £13. [£295 or thereabouts.] I think the Astons must have been having electricity to eat for breakfast. Anyhow they have a nice sum of money to find this time although they have the satisfaction that all their plumbing functioned throughout the bad period.

I like your suggestion about paying surtax. I went down to Roy Hewitt’s this morning and told him he would get no increase in pension as he retired after July 1958. Noted you have not joined B.R.O.G.. Maybe as the years go on some of your fellow workers will rope you in. The Guild is still only in its infancy but as time goes on it is possible they will accomplish more for the higher rated staff than the T.S.S.A..

Your car starts up very well considering you only use it at weekends. I have had no further difficulty with mine and I let her run over daily whether we go out or not. The trickle charger not yet available but I think it will be one that will charge quickly.

Had a letter from Mr Baker this morning to thank Mum for cream which apparently arrived last Saturday in good order. At the time of writing he said they had not yet one room completely finished but were very grateful with the assistance you had given with electrical jobs and curtain making etc. Mentioned that it was their 14th move. When we came to Clevedon it was our third move. Anyhow we hope they are settling in now and able to enjoy some of the leisure they have missed at the shop. Wonder if you saw them over the weekend.

So you are on the round of the Esso Blue Man then. Pity you could not store some but this would be very dangerous at your place.

Must now tell you of the trouble we have had this week with Mum’s hearing aid. Last  Wednesday the appliance conked out all together and mum was cut off from all sound. Could not get set to work no matter what she did with it. There was nothing for it but to phone Fortiphones direct at their Regent Street office and this I did from Mrs Marshall’s house at 11 a.m.. They had no solution other than the set must be returned to them for repairs etc. but said they would do best possible to get it back in time for you over weekend. When I got back home mum had made some impression on set and was getting some slight measure of sound out of it – sufficient in fact to carry on for a while. I wrote Fortiphones that night and explained circumstances and asked how much a reconditioned set would cost as we had it in mind to have a spare set on hand in case of future trouble and also that present sent could be sent in for attention. Had reply Friday to say they could supply such a set for £25 so we sent off for one immediately and this turned up with your letter this morning. Now we have to turn the TV down instead of up. The new set has made a tremendous difference to Mum. Have now packed up the set she has been using for six years and sent it off today to Fortiphones for overhaul. Who said we could do with a pension rise?

Have not heard of any new law governing the erection of building annexes with glass roofs but it is quite possible and really seems a reasonable requirement. Perspex is the ideal material to have but again this is more expensive than ‘wire impregnated glass’.

Mum and I continue to keep about the premises except when we have to go out for this or that but neither of us likes the cold weather and the sooner the thaw sets in for good the better we shall be pleased. Heard of one house that has had no water at all since Boxing Day. Back to primitive Britain**. The water cart was still going its rounds up to last Saturday but I have not heard about this week so far.

Yes Cornish and Heel still do plenty of talking over their front gates and I suggested to them the other day they might find their feet frozen to the ground if they stopped there much longer. Heel also said he saw two rabbits on our garden other day but I’m afraid they will not find much now after the pigeons have had their share. Three foxes were seen recently on Durdham Down (Clifton, Bristol)*** and I am rather surprised they have not visited Cornish’s and Heel’s poultry.

*I think that may have been the memorable day I joined in a snowball fight on my way home. I was SIX, for crying out loud. You’d have thought I was selling myself on street corners, the way they carry on.

**Maybe, but ‘primitive Britain’ didn’t think it was primitive – it thought it was doing better than the generation before because the Black Death was over and the cow was still alive and there was porridge for tea…

***Urban foxes are a much more recognised phenomenon these days. When we lived in Bristol we knew precisely when and where we could see them, and once had the honour of seeing a vixen and about four or five kits.

[Continued Wednesday 6th February, 1963]

Sunday 3rd February, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad,

Thanks again for your weekly letters, arrived on Friday as normal this week. I guessed you would have a fit at our escapades with the frost last week. I noticed it took a full page to write so must have wanted some following.

Well we have had the partial thaw this end too, and it did make a bit of difference to the going. Not all the paths were cleared before the next lot started, but for long stretches one could walk fairly comfortably (for one evening only). We have had no heavy snow since, but one or two steady falls have given us a fair covering again. The going is not too bad now, but Friday night it was very treacherous and I had a job to stand on the concrete outside our garage. When I stepped out of car at the other end my feet went away from me, and I finished up with them back under the car. The snow dusting makes walking much easier. I doubt if we had any in the night but there is an occasional flake in the wind today and the forecast is for heavy deposits in this area today.

By the way the plumber promised to come last Sunday but did not. He came round on Monday evening from work, but as he had no washers on him, he arranged to come yesterday (Saturday). As he had not appeared by about 4 p.m. I rang up his house, but they said he was out but intending to call about 5 p.m.. He duly turned up here about 6.0 p.m. and we let him renew all the washers on the taps upstairs to be on the safe side. He said our hot water tank suffered no damage, and it seems that copper tanks are fairly safe in these circumstances. The only antidote for frost in pipes is heat. He confirms my opinion that lagging is not much effect against continuous cold. I agree that what is wanted is emergency heating (even a 100-watt bulb) to be switched on as required.

June’s back seems to be a lot better. Susan was a bit naughty the previous week and did not come home from school at the right time in the evening, and June had to go out and look for her and wait in the cold. We think this was the probable cause of the trouble.

Sorry to hear about all the broken limbs etc. your end. A wonder there are not more of them. I have not heard about Doug’s wrist but imagine it is getting on better now.

Unless there is a crash programme for more power stations we shall have the same risk of cuts next Winter and for several years ahead. There is just not the power available to meet the present peak demand. With the welfare state, etc., and never having it so good, everybody has obtained all the electrical gadgets. It is logical that on occasions they will use them, and electricity boards should not be so surprised.

We had heard of the milk being frozen in the bottles, but it has not so far happened to us. Some game. Can almost imagine buying milk by the pound.

We do not know much about Peter’s job, we only got the information second-hand. No visit to number 17 this week so no report on progress. Things seemed to be sorting themselves out last weekend so each week will show more accomplished.

Gas pressure did seem to drop a bit at times early last week, but we were able to remedy that by turning the indicator to ‘full on’.

I have not bothered to join the B.R.O.G*. I cannot think that they can do much that the T.S.S.A. [Transport Salaried Staffs Association] cannot. Bad luck about your missing the extra percentage; you still don’t want to have to pay Surtax.

Very bad luck on your vegetable storage arrangements. You seem to have lost a great deal. I do not expect to find anything alive in the garage, and it is too cold to go out and check. Our car gets two outings per week on Friday nights and Saturdays. I start on Fridays by turning several times with handle and engine switched off, then it starts pretty well on the ignition. Saturdays there is no trouble after the previous day’s run.

I would not have put it past Cornish to have seen a pink elephants down his garden instead of rabbits.

What is a trickle charger costing? A charger which charges in a matter of a few minutes is quite popular and costs about 50/-. [£57.00 – a decent one today would be half as much.] I have seen several for sale they send, and when Eric was here I borrowed his. It charges a flat battery to a usable level in about ten minutes to quarter of an hour.

Not much in the way of traffic collisions from this end although there have been many reports of conditions on the M1. A bit far from here though. Not much seems to occur on the Western Avenue – thank goodness.

Pigeon pie then for the Bushells’ dinner. Have had pigeons’ eggs in the past but do not think I had pigeon to eat.

Do we dream of burst pipes? Well I do not know, but with the bathroom tap running (before plumber repaired it) I woke up three mornings following at about 4 am, and there is no peace then until a check has been made that all is well. Can imagine water over the top of basin and running down the stairs etc.

Susan has been kept home from school with a sore throat which subsequently turned into a cold. She has had little or nothing to eat, and not wanted it. Today she had a good breakfast and said her throat was better and she only had the cold. Carol so far touch wood seems all right. June thought she had it coming and I had a sneeze or two, but so far we are clear. Sorry to hear that the cold got to you – probably affected the bronchitis. Best place is indoors if you have no need to go out. The garden can go hang for a bit.

Thank you for the thought about the cream. As we have not been over we have not heard from them that they have got it yet. They are not going on the phone.

The paraffin heater certainly comes into its own in present circs. No reduction in the power of the heat either. Yesterday however paraffin was hard to get for the first time. Tried at Cato’s but none there. Tried over the road at the Northolt Tyre Co. but had to leave can. Got fed up with that and went back to pick up empty can and try somewhere else. Tried the garage, and they were sold out. June tried Skinner and Parker down by the station and they had some. We had enough for the weekend, and the Esso Blue Man calls in the week, so we were alright in any case.

I understand it is now the law that you you put up any building annexe with a glass roof it must be constructed of ‘wire impregnated glass’ in other words the glass must surround the wire netting. This type of glass is more expensive than ordinary glass. An alternative is plastic but this is also very expensive.

I imagine poor old Hewitt has a job getting about these days. Do not blame him for staying put although it must bore him a little. I expect Mr Palmer is in the same boat. Sun shining now and no further snow. It all looks very pleasant through the glass.

Well will close now until next week, and hope we get no further weather to annoy us meanwhile. Love from us all.

*This put up quite a fight and I ended up having to ask all sorts of people before finally tracking it down. It was the British Railways Officers’ Guild, founded in 1947, but which seems to have changed its name to the British Transport Officers’ Guild some time between 1963 and 1974 when it is mentioned as being part of the negotiation process for management staff. I believe – but have not been able to verify – that it later underwent another change of name and has now ceased to exist as a separate entity.

Wednesday 30th January, 1963

[Continued from Tuesday 29th January, 1963]

More snow during the night – about an inch deep and with the thaw the roads are in terrible state this morning. Mum could not get her hearing aid to function at all and I had to phone Fortiphones (London) to ascertain best thing to do. Only solution from them was to return set and they would repair as quickly as possible. When I got back home found Mum had somewhat repaired set and it was working very well. Then Bushell called and said he could now get four bags of Glowcoal from Yeates if it could be fetched so went down with him and brought them home quickly as he was right out of coal again.

Should imagine from the T.V. news that the snow was pretty general and may have started earlier at your end. We have had enough for one winter but we are not out of the woods yet. Marshall told me this morning they are having pigeons for dinner – some of the wood variety that have been alighting on gardens for food. He said they were not too bad considering the lean time the birds have been having lately.

Les Garland’s wife is now home again from Frenchay Hospital but has to take things very quietly. Now understand Mrs Cummings had cracked her shoulder blade and not broken bone in wrist as previously stated but going on alright.

Getting near the end of the page again. Wondering if you both dream of burst pipes and iced-up tanks etc etc. We still cannot see garden and this season’s work on it will be very much in arrears as it will take some time to dry out when the snow has disappeared.

No more now. All my love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. Mum and Dad.

Ps Thursday morning snowing again from 9 a.m.. 

Tuesday 29th January, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol,

What a terrible week you have had at number 84. We had to read your letter – to hand first post this morning dash two or 3 times to get hold of all the details. We have had nothing like this here at Clevedon and I expect you are all glad the thaw has set in. We do hope things are alright now after visit of the plumber. Looks as if you had one or two narrow squeaks from serious trouble with frozen pipes and caved-in copper tank. The question arises what can be done to prevent repetition if weather conditions such as those obtaining during the past few weeks return either this or future winters. So far you have the fibreglass packing but is that going to be enough? Seems to me some emergency heating is required for switching on at a moment’s notice to keep plumbing arrangements working. No doubt you have given that considerable thought already.

Sorry to hear about your back, June. Query have you strained it by going up ladder etc. or have you slipped on ice without actually falling down? It is so easily done. Mrs Cummings here fell down twice this week and on one occasion broke (I think) bone in wrist and we hear that Mrs Pearson (opposite) fell full length and had to have some time in bed. Several houses in this area still without water and the council have water carts going about the place with water for those without. Have never seen this before in Clevedon or elsewhere. It became so cold this week that we kept the electric fire on all night in bathroom to avoid further trouble and in this we have succeeded. Cannot quite understand though why you feel cold in bed. With us this is the warmest place in house.

What a greeting to receive from the two girls when you got home to be told through letterbox that there was a burst in water pipe. That must have cheered you up a lot. June seems to have been busy in your absence in freeing some of the pipes. Yes it is all very well to have the various electronic gadgets, clocks, TV, radio, cookers and lighting but when there is a power cut the whole lot is off. This time gas was in trouble to especially in the South West area where it was cut off altogether for many hours per day. But what is the answer to all this? Next winter we could have the same difficulties. Years ago when severe weather was an annual occurrence there was practically no electricity and very little gas, people relying on coal for heating and cooking and oil for lighting. Wonder how they got on – must have been pretty bad sometimes.

Our TV was very poor. Like you we had sound but little or no picture for several nights until about news time. Our milk has been frozen when delivered many times and about an inch of solid cream has been sticking up through the paper top. I liked the story in Sunday paper about the man who went to pick up the milk from the front doorstep and found no bottle round it. The bottle was lying in pieces beside the frozen milk.

Bad luck about the inspection cover – no doubt your hands were cold and the iron slipped. Suppose these can be replaced though – have never had to buy one myself. What a lot of fatalities now happening because of gas leakages. I see one case where three people died – they themselves were “all-electric” but the leakage was in adjoining house and gas escaped into the house occupied by the three people concerned. You were fortunate to get plumber into your house so quickly – here there is a long waiting list for attention. Our stop tap in hot water system dribbled after I forced it and I got Stan James to look at it but all that was necessary was the tightening of the nut.

Now over to number 17 Eccleston Road. What a fright for Mrs Baker when she tried to light gas stove. Glad to know it was no worse than stated but it could have been. Sorry to hear Mr Baker has a touch of bronchitis and hope this will soon clear up. The very cold weather played me up a bit but I kept indoors out of the worst of it. Mr Baker will now be able to take things more easy without the worry of the shop. no doubt they both felt a bit strange without the comings and goings of the customers. Glad to hear Peter fixed up again. Sounds quite an interesting job and query an indoor one. What about the dog? Did he come back to number 17? Nothing like getting on top of fire for a warm-up.

Did you have any lessening of gas in your heater in front room? As I mentioned above it was cut off altogether here for several hours per day. Our neighbour (Bushell) is still unable to get any coal but has some on order.

Pleased to hear Susan has got used to her glasses and takes to them automatically – as it were – now. Does she keep her head away from the writing or reading matter now i.e. getting a better focus? Noted Christopher finding it difficult to settle down in school.

Yes the re-rating of property has caused some heartache everywhere but I’m afraid in has to be faced. Had a letter from the B.R.O.G. last Saturday with a circular giving particulars of increases in railway pensions. I get a 4% increase but had the date of retirement been March 31st 1957 instead of the 27th of April 1957 I should have got 8%. Just my luck again. Anyhow the National Health pension will go up from May 27th to 10/- a week for myself and 6/6d a week for Mum. [Equivalent of £11.40 and £7.40 in 2023 currency.] Anything to come glad of it.

Note Woodward packing up on March 1st. He has stopped to the bitter end then for he is now 65. That is one job you must let go. No good to anyone. Freight train working is in for some drastic overhaul and those connected with it going to have a very worrying time. Crane too giving up. I do not think he is 65 yet.

A letter from Geoff this morning says Hallett of Bristol was given a post under the reorganisation but told the G.M. he did not agree with the reorganisation and offered his retirement notice which was probably accepted. And so it goes on.

Not a lot to report from this end again. Found a dead pigeon on lawn one morning. It had apparently dropped there from one of the fir trees during the night. Plenty of live wild ones descend on garden everyday for anything they can get. Cornish says they have the rabbits over his side again and one morning I even saw a moorhen running down our garden.

Have now been through our potatoes/apples. All the latter are frosted and all except about a quarter cwt. of potatoes. We are using the frosted apples and potatoes as far as possible but it has been necessary to throw away any amount. A really disastrous winter. Onions came through all right but we do not have many of these. No further trouble with car – I start her up every day whether we go out or not. Our new neighbour (Hoile) in bungalow at bottom of our field is getting me a trickle-charger at trade price so should not have any more trouble with battery when can put that one on in garage. There have been a lot of collisions on the roads around here, buses with buses, cars with cars, and cars with lorries. Parking more difficult to because of the piles of snow stacked alongside the road has narrowed the width of the latter. Yesterday I saw one of our neighbours running about with his drainage rods and ascertained there was a block somewhere above us in the Avenue. Fortunately we were clear and not affected but I think normal working was resumed later in day. If it is not one thing it is another. In fact during the past few weeks I would say we have had the lot.

I saw Aston this morning and he is still supplying water to five houses around him and also for a pony grazing in a field near the church. One neighbour could not get gas last Sunday and found all her neighbours were. She called up the Gas Board who told her to apply some heat to the gas pipe which rises from the ground up the wall all outside of her house for about 8 feet as it was anticipated the pipe had frozen. This was done and within a few minutes gas supply was normal again.

What a lucky thing it is that the plumbing at number 17 stood up to the weather for stop. Had it failed it would have been the limit for Mr and Mrs Baker after all they have been through lately.

[Continued Wednesday 30th January, 1963.]

Sunday 27th January, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad ,

Thanks for another newsy letter. Thank goodness I can type this one back in the dining room in some semblance of warmth. When we can call 30 degrees warm, 40 degrees is like a heatwave*.

Troubles with frozen pipes, you have not heard the last of it. One day early in the week I was washing my hands at the hot tap downstairs (only cold water coming out as heating off) when I heard a rumbling sort of bang somewhere above. Popped upstairs and looked round but could find nothing wrong – loft included. Went back to complete wash thinking noise must have come from neighbours freeing their tank. As soon as I turned on the (same) tap, another bang, so back upstairs for another look round. Found the hot water tank which is supposed to be cylindrical had caved in quite considerably although the welding round top and bottom was a strong as ever. (Copper tank.) I realised that ice above the tank, and the withdrawal of some water, had created a partial vacuum in the tank, and air pressure from outside had pushed in the walls. Put an embargo on further use of the hot tap, and did best with hair dryer and heaters, but not much electric pressure, and no luck**. At this time inlet and outlet from cold water tank frozen solid, and inlet to all taps and outlet from bath and basin all frozen up. Also no water into toilet cistern so parade of buckets each time etc. etc. Situation stayed like this for a couple of days, but during the course of Tuesday and Wednesday the outlet from the toilet pan became partially obstructed, and only cleared slowly. Late on Wednesday this blocked up altogether. When I got home, June had put the oil stove in toilet and although this had sorted out the inlet to cistern, the outlet remained to be dealt with. (Sorry one day out this happened on Thursday). Got up the ladder on the outside of the house and poured a kettle of boiling water on to junction of pipes outside wall to no effect. Got through to Public Health Officer who recommended same course of action also blowlamp if available. Tried to borrow one from Webb across the road but neither of us knew how to use it so we settled for relays of hot water. He brought two over and we managed to get one boiled, and that luckily did the trick. Before ringing the health officer, I had tried the sewer hatch to see if there was a blockage there, and the cover slipped out of my hand and split across into two pieces. After I had gone to work the next day day, June nipped up the ladder (permanently in position) into loft with a kettle of boiling water, and succeeded in thawing out the cold tank to such effect that water flowed again from the hot tap in the kitchen, and was replaced in the hot and cold tanks by water from the cold tank and the mains respectively. In addition to this the hot tank was pushed out straight again. I was telephoned with this news and on the agreement that we kept a 150 watt bulb a light over tank, and frequent inspections, June went off to light the boiler. When I got home the children were shouting on the inside of the door that we had got a burst pipe, but neither of them could turn the latch to let me in, June being upstairs dealing with the matter at the time. Sure enough when I got in there was water dripping through the ceiling of the front room and assumed the worst. However it seems that with the thawing-out of supply pipes we had a minor Mrs Bush, because the washer of the cold tap came out and [d]ripped water, which could not run away due to the outlet still frozen up. As a result the basin had filled up and gone over the top. You will have realised that the water had gone somewhere under the floorboards as the bathroom is over the hall. a little later the fall from the ceiling started again, and we thought that we really had got a burst from under the bath somewhere. However I got outside on the ladder again with more buckets of hot water and slung them over the outlet pipes from bath and basin, and after about 15 minutes these were free again. By this time the drips of water stopped again, and can only think this must have been due to a small pocket of water from the previous dose, just finding its lowest level. The paraffin heater left in the bathroom – now – with doors closed eventually thawed out the taps in the bath as well so that all systems were again go. We left the 150 watt bulb on all Friday night to ensure that the cold water tank would continue to feed the hot as the fire was still well alight. Bulb would also ensure that the vent pipe would remain open and risk of explosion avoided. However at about four in the morning June said she could hear the sound of dripping water in our room. Could find nothing, so I went over the house including the loft but no luck. Got back to bed, but again later could hear this drip drip so up again and eventually put it down to our alarm clock which has a spring which jumps every now and then giving a slight thump like a drip of water. At this time I went down and made a cup of tea feeling thoroughly cold. Light at this time was flickering considerably. When we woke up eventually at about 8:45 a.m., found that all lights and power were off, and according to the electric clock had been off from 6:45 a.m.. So much for the precautions of the electric 150 watt bulb in the loft. Fortunately the thaw had arrived and all systems still at go.

At this time by the way our television has been out of action – at first due to picture being reversed on screen, but sound o.k., then no picture but sound o.k., then no picture, and sound almost gone. We (June) fixed up for man to come on Saturday morning, but he arrived during the power-cut so could do nothing. Everybody else’s TV o.k. so we assume ours to be faulty. However power came back at 12:30 p.m. and with it the BBC programme on TV as normal, but ITV a bit of a mess. After about 15 minutes of this, that picture began to break up and eventually disintegrated into a white jumble. Tried again in the evening and found both programs normal, and remained so for as long as I looked so it seems the set is o.k. again now we are back to full power. Have plumber coming today to fix washers on all taps in bathroom so perhaps we can forget the plumbing for a bit.

Well to turn to other news, we went over to number 17 yesterday and more completed. The builder hopes to be out of there by next weekend. Three items of news there. One is that the gas cooker had been out of action while they mended something to wall behind. When again used, Mrs Baker set match to oven only for the thing to blow up in her face including singeing of eyebrows and hair. Someone must have left a tap on. Fortunately Mrs Baker was only shaken up, but a nasty thing to have happened. Item two – the dog which has been roaming around ever since the move – getting acclimatised – always gets as close to the fire as possible. He overdid it in the week by getting his haunches right in the grate, and leaning his back up against the gas fire. As a result his hair caught fire, and he now has a long brown mark from head to tail. He went off one day and fortunately was seen by one of the builder’s men who recognised the brown burn on his back. At that time he was going into the canal at Southall about two miles away. The third item of news is that Mr Baker is unwell with bronchitis. When we were there yesterday he was feeling poorly and had had the doctor. The latter has told him it is nothing to worry about.

Peter has a job now as storeman at a firm on the Perivale Estate. Put up a couple more curtain railways yesterday and June did the curtains. Plumbing is ok at number 17, and they seem to have had no trouble since moving in. I agree that now is the time when the colds start to resume. Always the same at a big thaw. We are all well, very warm in front of our gas fire, but latterly could not keep myself warm in bed. Friday night especially I do not remember when I have been so cold for so long.

Note your episode with the car. I had same trouble some time ago with loss of connection to battery.

Mrs Bush seems to be a bit of a nitwit. If outlet frozen or blocked it is only sense to turn off tap.

Note also your antics getting away from church. It could be very bad up there I should say.

Susan is good with her glasses. She is lazy when it comes to going into another room to get them to put on, but if to hand she remembers pretty well.

That re-rating of £35 to £90 a bit of a jolt. He can always pay by instalments if he insists. The council will not like it, but he can do it provided each instalment is paid in advance.

Christopher seems to like his school o.k. but he is still a bit difficult, and they have a deal of trouble with him.

The thaw continues, and yesterday we had a small pool of water at the intersection of the roads in front of the house. All the road edges are swimming in water and quite wide in places. Fortunately for that sort of thing we are on a hill so someone else has the pleasure further down.

The incident of the transplanting at Westbury occurred after you had done some dividing-up. I was seen doing the same, and stopped, but it transpired that it was the right time of year so everything in order.

I think the Parkestone Quay traffic is quite large, and should say it exceeds the Weymouth to Southampton trade. In the future it should be even greater if the Common Market business get anywhere.

I have little faith in lagging for pipes or tanks unless coupled with a separate source of generated heat. The water in the pipes does not generate heat so that there is nothing to oppose the cold from without. Lagging only provides a barrier which slows up the cold from getting through, it will not stop it. The best form of lagging is that which stops cold draughts from entering the loft; under such conditions a source of gentle heat should be sufficient. What do you say, physician heal thyself, well maybe we have now.

Just a reminder by the way, Woodward is reported to be finishing on March 1st, and so also is Crane of Southall. Woodward’s job has been advertised on this week’s list and is rated (now) at 1450 to 1750***. No doubt he was getting more than that. From my point of view, even for the money, it is not worth applying for, quite apart from what is involved in the job.

Well again we can report we are all well so far as colds etc. concerned but June has hurt her back somehow – maybe lumbago or sciatica as it pains her to bend. Nevertheless she has just completed a week’s washing which is now out on the line. Well I will close now and leave the rest for the kids to say. Love from us all once again. 

*This is of course Fahrenheit: the Celsius equivalents would be -1º and +4º.

**Ummm, he means the power was down, i.e. not quite a brownout but reduced capacity in the system probably as a result of demand elsewhere.

***£33,000 to £40,000 in 2023 currency.

Wednesday 23rd January, 1963

[Continued from Tuesday 22nd January, 1963]

A very bad night. Our hot water circulation is now out for the time being. I found the hall tap in tank under roof frozen up and released this but still no water would come through indicating pipes also frozen. Have had electric fire burning in bathroom all morning but it makes no difference. Now we hear the mains water pipes are frozen in parts of Clevedon and people are running around from house to house with buckets begging water. The South West Gas Board to are on the warpath cutting off the gas for many hours of the 24th. This does not of course affect us as we are all electric but power is reduced quite often. Harder frost forecast for tonight so look out. Not many houses now without some water trouble or another these days.

Had a most difficult job early on trying to start car and apparently another hazard is that even the antifreeze is freezing. I got ours going eventually and we went into Hill Road and the Library. Everybody looking fed up with themselves. The sun is shining lovely now at 2 p.m. and it is quite warm outdoors but it will only last for a few minutes. Has the gas cut made much difference to your gas fire in the front room?

Incidentally when in attic this morning I had a look at the insulating material a box about 3 in wider in every way than the tank surround the latter and the space is filled with small shavings or this is what it looks like. There is also a wooden cover which is covered again with asbestos sheeting. There was a very thin layer of ice and water in tank which is about half full. All pipes leading to the tank are lined with felting but even so the frost got in somewhere. Suppose we shall have to leave it now until the thaw sets in and hope for the best.

Well this is about the lot for another week – a pretty dismal picture I’m afraid but you are having your share at number 84 .

No more now. All my love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. Mum and Dad.

P.S. Hot water system going again at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Tuesday 22nd January, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Once again many thanks for all your letters received first post this morning but we are very sorry to hear of your troubles with frozen pipes etc. Until you can remedy matters it will be difficult to keep the house sufficiently warm to prevent recurrence but heating throughout is the answer to the problem – or so we find it. It is going to cost us a lot of fuel and lighting this quarter but in the end it will be cheaper than plumbers bills. You are certainly having a rough time and unfortunately your plumbing arrangements are mostly on the east side of the house catching the worst of the weather. Hope you will soon be able to put things right.

So far we have had no further difficulty and as you know our plumbing is on the southwest side of house and escapes the keen easterly winds. We keep fire in all night still and put a sixty watt lamp under sink in kitchen. Naturally we do not venture further than is necessary by day but a visit to Elfords must be made occasionally otherwise no food. I went down to Roy Hewitt’s house yesterday morning as it is impossible for him to get about just to see how they were getting on.

Glad to hear the move from 155 to 17 was successfully made last Wednesday but you did not say how Mr and Mrs Baker liked the decorations etc. Perhaps it was a bit early for them to comment. Sorry Peter overdid things but expect he worked like a navvy when on the job and ran himself down. Noted he is alright again now. You have all been busy at number 17 and every little helps nowadays. How about the plumbing there?

If you can eventually get the fibreglass into position under your roof it is bound to make a difference in the long run but you still have to sort out your tank and pipes to start with and until there’s a break in the weather I’m afraid you have a job on. It is good to hear you are keeping very well – the colds will start with the thaw. (Jobs Comforter did you say?) Actually mum and I are warmer in bed than sitting in front of fire but it is a job to break away from fire at bedtime.

Our neighbour Bushell is now push cycling to Portishead to arrive there at 6 a.m. this week facing due east and on a very bad road. Reminds me of the winter of 1915 when I cycled 5½ miles each way daily between Long Sutton and Martock station arriving 6:30 a.m. one week and leaving there 10 p.m. the other in all winds and weathers including snow. Could not do it today.

Last Saturday Bushel and I went down to sawmills in car and picked up two bags each of firewood logs (at 2/6d per bag) [roughly £2.85 in 2023 money]. These were very useful for making up fire in evening. Last Friday morning the coal man arrived with ten hundred weight of coal – really good stuff – that so we are right for the rest of the winter. Plenty of power cuts here and in some parts of Clevedon they have actual blackouts – the top part of town have had several. Our T.V. picture has been almost nil at times but that is the worst we have suffered. Gas has come into its own once again and you are fortunate to have your gas fire and cooker. We have not had to go without a cooked meal or the power down in cooker around dinner times.

Heard that Mrs Bush (number 11 in the Avenue) was frozen up last Saturday but put stopper in wash basin upstairs and turned tap on then went to Bristol at 11 a.m. and return very late at night only to find water cascading down the stairs and upstairs flooded out. The pipes had thawed out in her absence with disastrous result. Had to call out next door neighbour (already gone to bed) for help. What a life. Late last week with car stabled outside back door I could not start her up again one morning and had to call Bushell who soon found that when I put battery back in I had not tightly screwed on the connection. This in spite of the fact I had on two or three previous occasions started car up since I restored battery. One lives and learns. They (Bushells) have been frozen up once or twice but managed to get things going during the day.

Very serious troubles have occurred at various places in Clevedon and plumbers are worked putting things right. We had another fall of snow last Saturday night – the same as you but it did not last long. Just enough to be a further nuisance but on Sunday it was most treacherous for getting about – soft snow on top of frozen ice and previous snow. I nearly slipped up myself coming home from church in the morning on the slope just outside the Lych Gate*. Managed to recover in time and the next trip saw me wearing Wellingtons. All cars have to get up to the church by the direct route near the Church Cottage – it is impossible to go via the road near the cemetery.

The wood pigeons are now a menace, they descend on the gardens in batches and pick off all the green stuff they can see. Yesterday morning a flight of about forty wild geese went over inland from the sea. It is possible they come from Peter Scott’s place at Slimbridge which is situated between Avonmouth and Gloucester. Have never seen so many geese on the wing before.

Yes we thought you would be interested in the picture of Holly Lane in the Mercury – just shows the depth of the snow.

Noted Susan has had another visit to Mount Vernon. Does she use her glasses regularly now? Funny remark that she should be able to see better than she does. Wonder what is behind this. The next visit will be about Easter then.

Sorry to hear Mr Gray has broken a bone in his wrist that it is so easily done. Hope you have felt nothing more of your fall a week or two ago.

Yes it was sad news of Gaitskell – only 56. According to some papers this week he was suffering from some disease that would have killed him in two or three years’ time but the virus infection accelerated death. There will be a bit of squabbling in the party now before things settle down again.

I have just heard that the bungalow at the far end of St Andrews Drive on the right hand side has been re-rated from £35 to £90 per annum. This is the place a man named Pope lives in – just retired from accountancy section at Temple Meads. Noted primulas still alright hours are too but the Christmas cactus are now dying off. They have been a very nice sight.

Gave engine of car a run in garage this morning – no difficulty. I’m glad I had antifreeze put in last month. Should have been in a mess now without it.

How does Christopher like school? Noted you saw them at Eccleston road last Saturday. If I remember rightly Roy and family live not so very far from there. In spite of the cold you are experiencing we had to laugh about putting the butter, milk etc. on dining room table and then running for it. Obviously you are living in front room as we are living in our dining room – these being the warmer places in each house.

The horse still with us. Plenty of hay for him now and he seems to be in very good condition. Norman said if he rolls in the snow there is not much the matter with him and he certainly does this at times. Flattens it out into ice. No more snow has been moved from the roads here and the position in Tennyson Avenue is as mentioned last week. At last grit has been put down Old Church Road from the corner by Wilcocks Garage. Formerly this section had been left out. Generally speaking the main roads in Clevedon are now in good order but the exception is over that part referred to above.

We have forgotten the incident about the front garden in 1926 or thereabouts – you must remind us please.

Have now read Mag and passed it onto Roy Hewitt for perusal. The articles on the various stretches of line I find very interesting and of course it is all fresh reading. The Parkeston Quay Harwich and cross Channel service boats to the continent must be a big job. Query more so than the Channel Islands services from Southampton and Weymouth. 

*Not surprising as there are slopes at each entrance to the churchyard and IIRC nothing much to hold onto.

[continues on Wednesday 23rd January, 1963]

Sunday 20th January, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Many thanks once again for weekly letter. I am afraid that the oil in this machine is frozen and I am having the most difficulty with sticking levers. Must reply to your comments first before putting in my own.

Your letter arrived on Friday O.K. this week. Our last to you went on Sunday as we collected the girls so that it would have gone away from the box on the first post at 8 a.m. on Monday. How your Council men can move the snow beats me. Ours this end is so hard packed, smooth, and frozen that it would be impossible to move it. Note the arrangements about temporary stabling of your car outside the shed and the difficulty you had in getting it out from garage. This machine is beginning to thaw out a little in the warm room and I am able to proceed a little faster. Have you been able to get any more coal yourselves? Another hurrah for the gas heater. Our thaw such as it is (or was) was about the same duration as yours; one hour daily. I think it did a little good, as those places which had been reduced to just a thin covering of ice on the pavement became clear, and there were a few rare occasions when I saw pools of water. If you have iced snow on your roof I think you may be lucky if the thaw, when it comes comes from above, and not from the heat of the house. I do not think iced snow will slide.

Your circumstances with the house plumbing noted. We have had a hard time of it here. This week when I got home I found water coming out of the hot tap in a trickle, and suspected the supply had frozen from upstairs cold water tank. Sure enough when I got up into loft (in about 5 seconds flat) I found not a drop of water in cold tank, the ball valve stuck again and no water moving in downpipe. We let the fire in boiler out instantly, and stopped trying to draw water from hot tap. I connected the hairdryer to a long length of flex, attached it to light socket in the toilet and took the free end into the loft*. For about twenty minutes I played the dryer on to water inlet pipe, the ball valve, the outlet pipe, and the elbow bend where it goes through the ceiling, and got it all sorted out. We had, all the time, the paraffin heater under the open loft hatch where it had been all day. Nevertheless, within 10 minutes of going downstairs for my meal, the whole lot was frozen solid again. Apart from leaving the hatch door open and heater burning continuously below night and day, the position remains the same today. The wind here has been been directly from the East, and a water tank is within two feet of the eaves on that side of the house. I have packed the gap between the eaves and the tank with old clothes, rags etc, put a piece of wood completely over the top of tank, and the rug you gave us over that, but still it remains frozen solid.**

We have stopped using our dining room, and disconnected the fridge in the kitchen as being a waste of time and money. We now put meat, eggs, butter lard etc. on the table in the dining room and run for it. Things were better on the roads at all last night. It started snowing again at about 4 p.m. and seems to have done so for quite some time as there is a substantial fresh deposit over everything. All reasonably well this end, but could do with the bath.

We have no news of the effect of the new rating yet on our property or on 155. Doubt we shall hear of the latter at all now. Move went fairly well on Wednesday. At number 17, the removal men arrived at 1.00 p.m. and were gone by 3.00 p.m.. Peter must have been a tower of strength at the West Drayton end and I think it must have knocked him up as after he brought Mr and Mrs Baker over at about 5.00 p.m. he retired to his room feeling quite sick and queer. However he is as right as a trivet now. Managed to get a few plugs on electrical gadgets for them on Wednesday, and we all went over on Saturday (yesterday) and today they’re putting up curtain railways and runners, and putting a few more plugs on etc. We did our shopping after we got back at approximately 4.00 p.m., and June popped into the local Do-It-Yourself shop and ordered £5 [about £114 in 2023 currency] worth of Cosywrap, the fibreglass rolls that you lay in the loft. You get five roles for that sum and should cover most of the loft. Have put the rolls up there already, and shall lay them in position after finishing this letter. The idea of course is to keep the house heat below the layers of fibreglass so that careful siting is required to include as much of the plumbing as possible yet leave good access in case of bursts etc.

Thanks for the Mercury again and picture. The winter of 1927 I would have been four, and some time early in in 1928 before going to Clevedon I went to Cross Keys for a short while. I do not think the Tiverton snow which I remember could have been 1928 as I was six then and would have remembered it more clearly. I think it must have been winter of 1926 when I was four. I seem to remember snow at Westbury so it would have been the same here. (Query the same year as doing the transplanting in the front garden?)

Yes these boilers keep on exploding, and each day there is a new report about them in papers.

Paddington shed is still set the same way as you say about Bristol. All the shed roads have an allocation and are drawn and amalgamated into complete outgoing trains by the capstans.

Yes I could have done with a sausage on a stick, for all we saw were two very sticky, gooey looking cakes that we could not bear to rob the children of.

Our primulas still O.K. but as very dry this morning I took them out into kitchen and gave them a bath. Will bring them back in here when some of the surplus water has gone. Yes we had snow on Wednesday but it held off while I was driving to and from number 17. Car still going quite well and if anything since the antifreeze the starting behaviour has improved. I wanted to send mag and letter together, but did not have an envelope big enough. The office issue too are too small so have got a supply from stationers.

When we were around at 17 yesterday, Roy arrived with Christopher. He said he had spent the morning in his loft assisted by his neighbour attending to a burst pipe. Snowing again now as I look through the window. This machine has spent the week in the cold dining room and has taken an awful long time to de-freeze. Your flagons of cider would freeze as the alcohol content is only at about 7%. The wine at anything from 14 to 25% alcohol according to whether a wine yeast or bakers yeast was used should not freeze.

On Friday we took Susan back to Mount Vernon to have her appointed check-up on her eyes. I did not see specialist but according to my reporter he said she should be able to see better than she does. Another visit booked for three months’ time.

Another side effect of the freeze-up is the ritual of thawing the false teeth out of the cup each morning.***

Doug next door fell down in the week, and in putting hand out to save himself, dislocated his wrist and broke a small bone into the bargain. I must say people are adapting themselves well to the cold. The only time I feel really cold is going to and getting up from bed. It is also a job keeping warm in bed, at other times I do not notice the cold much even though there is frost inside the house in the form of ice in bottom of bath and hand basin.

Well there it is again for another week. I gather you are both pretty well apart from the cold. Now we are at the end of January it cannot be long before we get some better weather.

Sad about Gaitskell, I think he was the pick of the bunch. He should have been a Liberal. Probably would have been if they have been more prospect in the party when he started up. Well best of luck from us all, roll on April.

Love from us all, Alec

*For younger readers – yes, this dangerous-sounding practice was perfectly possible back then: there were connectors which would plug into a light-socket if you took the bulb out. (See https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/showthread.php?t=99598 for a discussions of these.)

**It’s difficult to remember that in those days there was really no such thing as insulation in houses, either under roofs or on pipes. You just ordered more coal and made the best of it.

***This was a time when people had their teeth removed, even when there was nothing wrong with them, and got false teeth, because it would be cheaper in the long run. Benevolent parents sometimes used to pay for their offspring to have all their teeth removed for their 21st birthday or similar milestones. Bearing in mind that dentistry in those days was often painful and unpleasant – even more so than it is today – there is a certain logic to it, but it’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater, or taking a sledge-hammer to crack a nut. If my personal experience is anything to go by, Alec’s own teeth should have been absolutely fine until his seventies at least, whereas they’d all gone long before his fortieth birthday. The very definition of a false economy IMHO, paying to replace something you got free of charge in the first place which wasn’t giving you any trouble!

Wednesday 16th January, 1963 

[Continued from Tuesday 15th January, 1963]

Well I suppose it is a sort of D-Day at West Drayton today and we are thinking of you all in the removal to Eccleston Road. We do hope things are proceeding satisfactorily and that the job will be completed before dark. Not quite so cold perhaps but still cold enough for such a job just now (before lunch) we had a few flakes of snow and forecasts for this area give us some more later on.

Went downtown this morning re: coal ordered last week and find orders are taking a month to deliver. Can possibly hang out till then but hope we get a delivery earlier than anticipated.

Thanks for the magazine to hand this morning Alec – must browse tonight. It is the night of the parish church party at Sunhill but mum and I long since decided we should stop home and keep the fire company. There is no sign of the snow disappearing and it is still as hard as ever on the ground in spite of the slight thaw yesterday.

Saw Hankey (local stationmaster) who lives on Strawberry Hill* and he said several of the places there had had frozen pipes and one or two bursts. They are in the right place for any trouble of this kind.

Just heard on TV news 1:25 p.m. that the West Country has had more snow and that more is coming up. Hope it misses Clevedon.

Two of the four flagons of cider I brought back from Lyng at Christmas have burst in the garage and of course are now written off as a total loss. None of the wine has been affected for which many thanks. I’m still enjoying a glass or two lunch times. The cherry with orange is now almost non-existent.

I see Heel has put up some sort of scarecrow arrangement to keep the birds off the greenstuff but it looks as if they take it as a sign to come along in their hundreds. It is a good job the birds do not eat hay or the horse would lose his rations very quickly.

Not much to tell you of gardening exploits here – ground completely covered – wonder how the broad beans and spring cabbage plants are getting on underneath the snow? Should be alright eventually. Time now to get in the shallots. Have not yet ordered the seeds for 1963 – cannot bring one’s mind to gardening these days.

It’s 2-0p.m. now and started to snow in earnest and sky looks full of it. And keeping car near house so shall be almost sure of being able to use it as required. Hope you get everything in at number 17 before snow reaches you and that you all get back to number 84 safely. No more now – all our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls.

Mum and Dad.

P.S. Thursday – snow soon ceased but we have a bitterly cold East wind now and still freezing at 10 a.m.. Dad.

*Many years later Alec, June and Leonard would also end up living on Strawberry Hill.