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.]