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.]

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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.

Sunday 20th May, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad,

Thanks once again for the weekly letter and also for Susan’s special one to which she has replied herself. I am afraid Susan rather spoiled her birthday as she was naughty in the days preceding and some of her presents had to be withheld for a time as punishment. To give you one example, she wrote out a lot of invitations to a party and invited a number of children to various venues including the park, and dished these out somewhat indiscriminately. We had a mother turn up here with a rather tearful child asking if the party in the park was on or not, as she had been there and could not find anyone else. In addition this woman knew of someone else who was waiting to know what was happening. I suppose she will accumulate some sense in due course. In any case I cannot think what the women were thinking of in taking an invitation from a child without confirming it. As it turned out she had quite a good birthday with lots of odds and ends. Thought you would like the one about the hearing aid.

All the workmen have finished here now but the foreman has many jobs lined up. Never satisfied are they?*

Sorry to say that the health problem is again with us this week. Carol has had a shocking dry cough for several days now. We have had it continuously day and night with little to relieve it. We tried Grandad’s cherry wine with a variation to his elderberry wine but not 100% successful. A wineglassfull [sic] does not seem to do the trick. Tried a substantial amount of the cherry the other night and that did it for the rest of the night. The cough is much looser now so on the way out presumably.

Susan went to a party yesterday and I collected her in the pouring rain at 6:30 p.m. She gave us a bit of a night of it too. We started off by putting her in the back room to let Carol have an undisturbed night (she having gone to bed early), but the arrangements soon got changed around as she woke us in the night saying she was sick. In the event I do not think she was, but she certainly had a nightmare, and could well have been bad by the size of the  piece of birthday cake I saw her mum up just before bedtime. I therefore found myself in the back room and Susan in with June. This lasted two hours during which they say they got no sleep, after which Susan was turned out and supposed to go back to her room. I heard her wandering about on the landing for sometime. Her explanation was that she could not sleep. A good sleeping draught was applied to her rear (enough for a small army) and she howled the place down**, waking Carol in the process. She more or less cried herself to sleep after that, and that was that except that I could hear Carol coughing for some time after. This being the third disturbed night on the trot we are not very bright this morning.

This morning is quite good, but it is the first such day for many weeks, I do not understand your reference to a few good days and being glad to get out of doors. We have had fire (electric) every evening, and needed a water bottle as well.

I have had experience of this Polycell and agree that it is good for not marking the paper if you get any on the front. Shall not bother with paper again in view of the expert finish, reasonable charge, and speed of the professional man.

Your curate it really seems to be in the wars. Not up for long was he? I suppose he will be able to get about in the chair or is it too far gone even for that? It means a lot if you can get out even if it is in a chair.

Glad you have got the electric cooker working again. Can’t see Mum cooking over a bunch of twigs out in the backyard.

The sweet peas have diminished in number, but most are still growing.

Hope you do get a visit from Mr Palmer just a nice short walk for him. Will he have benefited from his first op or or has not the operation been a success?

I am afraid I have the worst news to give you a regarding Aunt Eda. she passed away in her sleep about 3 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. It seems that she was expecting it as she called in Uncle Rob to discuss financial matters in the morning (or previous day) and has said she did not want to carry on any longer. The expected has happened and as usual it has come as a surprise. The funeral will be on Monday at 2:30 p.m.. I am going but June will not be able to get away. Peter is getting some time off and taking Mr and Mrs Baker in the big car. I shall make it my business to be at West Drayton in the morning, and will go with them.

So far as the car is concerned, I took it into the garage and asked for a full servicing and pointed out that the engine was very rough. When I picked up the car they had done a good job on the oiling and greasing and the handbrake. All moving parts moved easily, the steering have been tightened, and there were no squeaks audible. However the engine was still very rough and they said compression was low in 2 and 3 cylinders probably due to cylinder head gasket having blown. I took the car away to think that one over, and in view of the fact that it had had no decarbonizing performed since new, I thought that the cause may be worse than they said. I decided to get a new cylinder head gasket and try to fit it myself and in doing so hope to find out if anything else wanted doing. Jacksons had offered to decarbonise the head etc fitting new rings etc.for £13 Peter rang up to say he had done his for about £2 with guidance from one of the partners of the adjacent garage. He offered to help me do it so I took the car over on Saturday. The conversation with the chap from the garage did not start on to healthy note as he said that there was not much point in overhauling the top of the engine without looking at the bottom especially in view of its length of run without attention. (The point being that we could put the top right but the bottom could go wrong at any time and the whole dismantling process would have to be under gone again.) He quoted £20 for the top overhaul assuming that the cylinder head had cracked – and £30 for a top and bottom overhaul. I asked him how much for a reconditioned engine and he said a new clutch should be bought at the same time as this was probably worn and greatest cost was the dismantling and assembly etc. He quoted £40 for the engine and clutch and £10 for fixing making £50 in all. I told him that the current value of the car was only about £100, which would still be the same if the overall was completed or not. He said that if Peter liked to get the head off, he would have a look at it and advise what should be done. This we agreed to do, and I ran the car into the back of number 155, and we spent the morning getting the cylinder head off. We found that the head was in perfect order, not having cracked even faintly. The head gasket had burst between number 2 and 3 cylinders and I had a replacement for 6/9d. There was considerable burned oil under the rocker cover and all over the rockers. Several of the valves seems to be seating badly and although we had to call a halt before we could remove the valves for inspection, I think that we may have to replace one or two. We can do the decarbonising and cleaning of the parts ourselves now, and reassembly. If we have to replace valves they work out at about 10/- each. The plugs are in working order, but replacements may be necessary after restoring the original compression in the pots. All in all an expense of approximately £5 will amply cover the job unless anything serious reveals itself. This is now unlikely as the worst part of the job is done.

So far June has had two lessons from the B.S.M. The drill is to have half an hour around side roads, and half an hour in traffic. It seems as if it is going well. June says she is a little more confident now. As it turns out she is not put out by moving in traffic. Just as well as there is a lot down this way. There has been no date fixed for test yet. The suggestion put forward – which is a good one – is that June has the first six lessons up to Whitsun, another six as soon as possible after, and then take her turn in driving when we are on holiday. The test can be arranged in August after she comes back.

I would not mind betting your neighbour did not pass over the whole of the M4. It bypasses Maidenhead and Slough when complete, but only cuts out Maidenhead at the moment. In any case it is worthwhile to avoid that town. So far as Slough is concerned, you can avoid that to if you wish by turning left off the A4 before you get to the main part of the town and making your way in the Burnham Direction. By moving towards the right (diagonally as it were) you can get on the Iver Heath Road and on to the A40 via the roundabout junction of the Uxbridge Road.

I am glad Moule got in for the West End. Liberals shaking them a bit now. The Conservative was returned here with 1434 with the Liberal second with 1299. Labour collected 870.

I expect I can bring on ten tomato plants if you have that many spare. June has asked me to say that if you have anything vaguely looking like a rockery plant we are interested. Do not bother with the dahlias. I shall not plant any this year now.

Our next door neighbours will be going in July and will be moving into a new garden. They will have to do a lot of work on it to make it into something worth sitting in. If you have any cuttings of practically anything that just wants sticking in the ground they will be pleased to have them. I know you have a lot of work to do, but I expect you can find an odd corner for privet cuttings and things like that. They want us to go over to see them when they are down there.

The trouble at Acton has quietened down for awhile. I have a meeting with them on Tuesday at which they will put their complaints and proposals. I already have an unofficial copy. Not much wants putting right. Other fish in the sea now. I have to start off Southall and Newbury. Want a day off to visit Newbury I should think. Apple blossom has blown away now, but the lilac is still flowering. Nothing else of colour if you except the Siberian wall flowers in the hedge.

Have not tried any more of the grape wine, but will have to start on something soon.

By the time Messrs Hewitt and Aston are joined by Mr Palmer, you will have a panel of three judges. I should give them slips of paper and ask them to judge the produce.

Your motor insurance is lower than mine. As you know I get nothing for no claim this time. The full sum is about the same as yours but Mr Grey knocked off his discount. I think the last lot cost me about £18.

Good crack about the runner beans. He cannot lose.

Spoke to Geoff on the phone on Tuesday and he seems largely to have lost interest in railway matters. I cannot say I blame him. All that is wanted now is reduction in cost. Less wages, less expenses, less people, more work person etc. etc. Mr McDonald now has to authorise any work on Sundays.

What is the position about the pond? Is there any life in it? Is there any water in it? I cannot think that all the creatures have died without trace.

Bad luck on the bath. this is a case of biter bit though. Cornish is one up there. I wonder you do not get in touch with a plumber and get him to tip you off when he renews cold water tanks. They usually leave the old ones to the owners to dispose of. It should not be difficult to patch up a tank sufficiently to hold water outdoors. You can have ours if you can move it.

Our kitchen has been completed so far as the woodwork is concerned, but the painting has yet to be done.

So you have been doing the twist. I should have liked to have seen that.

Cannot remember that Dad had a vine to plant. When can we expect the grapes, or will they be too sour?

Had not heard of Miss Hieatt for some long time how long has she been in Australia? How old is Suzanne Moore? Is she older than the boy? I remember him when he was in his pram.

Well I must close now as dinner in the offing. Clouds have come over to spoil the day which was very sunny to start with. We took some photos in the garden just after breakfast, when the sky was blue. Not much sign of blue now.

Well there it is again for another week. It will not be long before you are up – just two weeks. We are all looking forward to it as I expect you are.

Love from us all for now.

*Why are you?

**Outstanding parenting!

Sunday 25th March, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you for your letters, again received on Friday. No chance of being left in the post till Monday. Glad Dad liked the card from Susan, and will anticipate small parcel, probably enclosed with this letter. I like the idea of timing the separate items of the letter, gives a 3D effect. Time now as I type is 10:20 BST.

To take your letter in sequence of comments made, I have very little definite to report on the operation. The surgeon had little to say when I saw him last Tuesday. They are not giving me anything to take but say that it should go down on its own accord now. All that is want is peace and quiet and rest – joke. I have to go back next Tuesday for further comment. The surgeon says that if it starts to get larger again then I shall probably have to go back in and have the same thing done over again. Not very serious, but not very satisfactory. There is a very good hospital in the Ruislip area viz. Mount Vernon at Northwood. This is by way of being a general hospital whereas the one at Piccadilly is specialist for E.N.T.

I am surprised that the local life of a water tank in your area should be so low as 7 years but I realise that the water there is exceptionally hard. Here it is not soft by any means, but softer than yours I think. If I remember rightly you had no cold water tank, but had water in the bathroom straight off the main. This is not the present practice.

I would have thought that Sand Bay was too remote for residence. I am sure they are worse off there for access to schools then they would have been off Holly Lane. I have not heard any more from them but I see that Eric arrived here late last night from your end.

Yes I expect you will notice how the girls have advanced since you saw them last. They are both very active, and thank goodness they have slept well at night just lately.

I cannot say I recall Bridle by sight, but I remember the name. Did not know the other fellow was called Gillam, and did not know he was dead. Hope you have good news of Mr Palmer. I must say we could do with him up here at the moment in his professional capacity.

Having heard nothing from our joiner fellow, I went round to his place last Tuesday but no one would answer the door although I knew someone was in by the sound of children’s voices. I tapped on the door for quite a long time but no one came. Stopped in car on the opposite side of road and watched the house for about 15 minutes with the lights out to see if anyone put a light on or came out. Sure enough after a while the door opened and a young lady was shewn out and walked up the road. I promptly went back and tapped on the door again for a long time but no response*. We dropped him a note in the week telling him we would be here all this weekend for him to do his work, but so far have not seen anything of him. Now that we have taken down shelves etc to clear the decks for him it is a bit of a nuisance till the job is done.

I have not tasted the grape wine lately, but when last tried it was a little sharp. Did not put any sugar with it, but as it is still a comparatively young wine I shall not touch it for a while yet.

I suppose I shall clear a bit from the Wilts club, but not enough to abscond on. I have now six shares with the club, but I am only qualified for three as I have a few months to go on the balance, having only sent in the money and application for the additional three in January of this year. Presumably I have to wait a while before these latter shares qualify for benefit. My Rule Book is dated 1930 so expect the rules may have altered a little since then?

Note about Mr Gardner. What age was he? Had not seen him for a very long time.

Glad to hear that Don and Joan are in good fettle. This afternoon sleep of Don’s has become quite an institution. Has Geoff any idea what is causing his rash. Have you seen him recently?

Sorry I miscued with the date for receiving your pension. Anyway by the time you get this letter no doubt you will already have paid a visit to payment office.

Both the girls are in good health again now. Susan’s cold is just about over. I had a word with her this morning and she said she feels fine. By the amount of noise and mischief about, there is not much wrong with either of them.

I went back to work last Wednesday by the way. the op did not leave me with any after effects, and I had no pain of any sort either before or after. Apart from telling me not to do anything vigorous, and under the understanding that my work was clerical, the surgeon said I could go back to work. It appears that the conditions under which this thing is most likely to go down are rest and quiet. As I said before – joke.

Glad you have managed to do a bit of gardening despite the cold. Unless you can get cracking with a little work now and then it must mean that there is a rush and tear later to get up straight with it. From my window here I have been able to see June putting her rock garden to rights after the winter, and I see she has also planted out one of the honeysuckles that were in the pots. She and Carol together are watering it in, and now Carol is coming back down the path for some more water.

During the week June had a go at the lawn reconstruction. She has straightened the front row of stones to make it at right angles to the path, and has more evenly spread the ash over the top, and also brought a barrow or two of earth from the plot at the bottom and put on top ready for the seeds. When this is under grass, it will mean that about a third of the right-hand lawn has been leveled up. This is really about equivalent to half the work as the remaining two-thirds require less leveling up than the first part.

No trouble with the mower than. There can often be difficulty in starting a motor after a long layoff, but perhaps you have given it a turn or two in the winter.

Amazing to get a letter from Carver. I remember him as successor to Pritchard at Swindon.

June now know hard at work with my rope, putting up something on which to train the honeysuckle and clematis.

We ran the Acton station scheme in this week. So far as we are concerned it is going well. The staff are working really well. They have to. Unfortunately the traffic is up by 20% over our pre-scheme level and they have really been up against it. Their bonus is really good and they will have quite a bit to come, but they are all complaining that they have to work too hard to get it. They have written a letter to the L.D.C., but we do not know its contents yet. All in the game. Have seen a five page letter from the Acton Yardmaster explaining why the scheme will not work, and how we are all incompetent idiots etc etc.

Glad they have moved the caravan. For all the good it did they might as well not have put it up. If you recall Richard Porter was working for Hill the Builder at the time they put it there, and after painting it etc, all Hills men had their photo taken outside. I remember being on hand at the time and remember getting my ears boxed for passing some uncomplimentary remark about it and then not moving fast enough.

Sorry Mum cannot make out with the typewriter. All that is wanted as a bit of practice. Her first effort was very good I thought.

We have fixed up for a man to come on Saturday next to hang some paper in our bedroom. We have to do all the preparatory work including sizing** the walls, and he will do the rest in double quick time. We stripped the walls yesterday, and started painting the ceiling. Did not get it finished as darkness overtook us and despite the lamp we could not see what we were doing. At the same time one of the chaps from the office called to pick up some redundant music which we would otherwise have thrown away, so that was that. This morning before starting with letter June and I went over all ceiling again, and his now more or less finished, depending on what spots are noticeable after it has all dried. The woodwork will be started this afternoon. Pauline is supposed to be coming over today but as yet not arrived.

Well I am told the table is wanted for laying the dinner, so shall have to call it a day so far as this activity is concerned. Hope you are both well as we now seem to be. Love from us all.

*Even making allowances for the fact that ‘things were different then’, this is a bit extreme and smacks of the attitude that a workman’s time was less valuable than Alec’s: entitlement, in short. It would never have occurred to him that the man’s time was his own unless Alec was actually paying him, or that maybe he had decided not to do the job after all – or even that he might have been ill, or dealing with a family crisis, or whatever. Alec definitely thought he was a cut above other people, and did not approve of his daughters mixing with people he deemed socially lower than himself – those who lived in council houses, for example. His and June’s ‘social superiority’ or simply rank snobbism was the cause of considerable embarrassment over the years; they thought they were really something, but basically they were only a booking clerk and a barmaid and not really entitled to give themselves airs.

**’sizing’ isn’t a thing that seems to be done in home decorating quite so often these days as paints and finishes are generally of better quality, but it does still come up in some contexts. Basically it is preparing the surface with ‘size’ (wallpaper paste or similar) so that when you try to paint or wallpaper the medium isn’t all absorbed into the surface. It’s sealing/undercoating the surface to avoid wasting expensive paint or the risk of wallpaper drying out too quickly and falling off. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sizing for more information.

Sunday 18th March, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you both for your letters and the phone call during the week. Glad to see that the typewriter has arrived and that you both have had a bash at it. How long did mum’s letter take. One thing I notice about typing is the fact that the writing effort being less the content of the letter expands. Something to do with Parkinson’s Law I believe.

Yes the neck business is very queer. I think I wrote telling you that I had had an inoculation against smallpox. This was taken – as opportunity – when I visited the doctor for the first time with a swollen neck. June had noticed it the night before, and I could not account for it. There was no pain, only this tightly formed bump. Doctor examined and said he could find nothing wrong with ear nose or throat, but prescribed an antibiotic and said come back in one week. No change took place in that time, so he said I should go to the E.N.T. place in Piccadilly. They could find nothing wrong either, and said best to watch it and come back in a week. This I did and they confirm that x-rays and blood count taken the previous week revealed nothing. They could not say what it was but it was getting slowly bigger. I was sent back for another three weeks for a definite trend to establish, and on returning again they said I had better come in and they would take out a piece and examine under microscope. I now await the results of the examination, and have to go up on Tuesday to hear.

The water tank episode I thought would amuse you. On the Benns’ side they had had two tanks go in four years. I think the plumbers must be on a good racket. Doug Gray had his go last year also the hot water tank, but he had a little warning as he saw a trickle of water from base of tank. Ours went so suddenly that no warning given. He suggested last year that I should have a look at tank, which I did, but you cannot tell by just looking at it how long it will last. The thing was as you say a bit too much for Carol, and we had the water running downstairs as well as up. Fortunately Ethel next door was able to take them in and keep them out of the way for a bit so I only had one to contend with.*

The ground about here was in good fettle for working on about one week ago, but the weather is far too cold for any activity. And I have been instructed not to do anything energetic like gardening hahaha until signed off. Have not seen many people digging their plots yet.

Our neighbours found a nice bungalow in the Worlebury -Sand Bay area of Weston-super-Mare, and were trying to get it. On Friday Dorothy told me that Eric was at that moment in Taunton trying to fix something with the Somerset County Council for Janet to go to school at Weston etc etc. She was waiting for a phone call to see if it could be arranged or not. So far we have not heard any more.

Glad to hear that your neighbours’ period of waiting is over and that they have a baby girl. Was it what they wanted?

The water heater we have for the kitchen is an Ascot gas heater. The men came and fixed it up on Friday. it took them all the morning as they had to have gas stove out and put in a lot of new piping. After getting it back they discovered the gas leak we have been telling them about for months, so they had to take it apart again and tighten some pipes. We are no longer  dependent on the boiler, and it is quite nice to be able to have have a fast run of medium hot water or a slow run of boiling water – on tap – as it were.

Since writing last I see they have found the boy from Hayes. It is a tragedy, but no amount of sympathy can put it right.

Have not heard much from the office since I have been away, and that suits me for the time being. Acton Station scheme starts tomorrow, but there is nothing much I can do except show an interest in the figures produced.

Both girls listen to the radio and the TV, and they are well up with current news and personalities. Every so often they come out with something. Carol’s favorites are the jingles about buying the TV Times.

I am sorry that Mum’s typing sounds like water dripping from a tap. Just as well it does not sound like a man hammering nails into a piece of wood.

I expect I knew Ron Bridle. Was he the old man who used to wear a large black or navy blue Seamans pullover and spent much of his time looking over his front gate? Hope Mr Palmer’s stay in hospital is as pleasant as mine was. If you go to see him please give him my regards and best wishes for a quick return to circulation.

This new S.T.D. method must be good to all accounts. How long did it take to get through by that method? I noted you did not linger on the phone and guess that no pips would ring as the system was altered.

Do not forget to change over some of the liquid in that new yeast as it will only kill itself with alcohol ??? if left alone. If it should show signs of forming a scum or thickening, I should throw it away as it may contaminate your next wine. I must admit I used mine for the last lot of wine and had to remove some scum from the surface. I hope it works out alright. Will let you know. Have a good wine book from the library this week. It is even better than Bravery, but it is for the expert – reduces everything to mathematics of weights and specific gravities etc. There are one or two new slants on making the stuff which I shall probably adopt.

Nice thought that you only have one more stamp to put on your card and then you can get your pensions. Good for you, as you say glad to get some back. As you know my short stay in hospital was free. quite a change from the last time. By the way I am getting something back from the Wilts Working Men’s lot. I do not remember the last time I claimed, but I dropped them a line on the day I went into hospital, and received a P.O. for the first three days, with more to come.

I like the lettering of your machine. The type is prominent, and obviously the ribbon is fairly new. I shall have to try to get another for this one when I get back to work. The office ribbons probably do not fit this machine, but I am going to try.

Poor old Susan has got another cold coming but she is not all that the worse for wear for it. Very lively this morning. I suppose it is only a matter of time before Carol gets it. The latter woke us up in the night bowling over something or other. June had to go into her and slapped her bottom for her. That settled it.** Carol was awake at about 7 am singing at the top of her voice. Great life. They wanted to know how Mr Rust was (Mr Dean Rust) when I got back on Tuesday.

Re Mother’s letter – very nicely type – the lump turn out to be an abscess from which they removed a part. It is now only a quarter of its former size, and I hope it will eventually disappear. When I see them on Tuesday they should have found the stuff to help it on its way.

I am inclined to agree that the T.V. programs get worse. The best part is the adverts now.

Did not know that the Hewitts are going to Norway in June. Nice place I believe, but too cold for my liking. If I go abroad again I should like to go towards the sun to make it worthwhile.

Hope Don’s visit of to-day goes off well. Fancy the clocks going on next week. Seems too near winter for that but can always do with a bit of light in the evenings.

June’s mum has not been too well, and has to see a specialist in a few weeks. Poor old Uncle Will has had another stroke and is in a very bad way. I gather that Aunt at West Ealing is also a bit groggy again, so altogether the general health this end is not so good at the moment.

We hope you are both well and looking forward to that first sign of good spring weather. No more from this end for the time being, but thanks once again for your news and regards love from us all. 

*The only way to read this comment is ‘only one useless female’, and to conclude that he rates June’s intelligence/practical ability as that of a child – which is in line with what he says about his mother, too. No man should ever get married if this is what he believes, and Alec certainly never should have; his contributions to the household are made grudgingly, if at all, and he seems to derive no pleasure whatsoever from his family or his home – it’s all just a monstrous conspiracy to stop him having any fun.

**Outstanding parenting!

Monday 12th March, 1917

Left Frise at 2.00pm, arrived B209 at 3.00pm. Here I found my old Longmoor chum Bob Baker*. I am now about 2 miles from the trenches. This is a cosy little dugout, all boarded-in and no rats or mice. Shells whizzing over us all the time.

*It would be nice to think that this might have been Robert Lionel Baker (1885-1971), June’s Uncle Rob, and that this was how the connection between the families was first established. Whilst not impossible, this does seem unlikely as I am not aware of Leonard and Rob ever having met except at Alec and June’s wedding. My theory has always been that the first meeting took place when Alec went into lodgings run by June’s Aunt Eva; when describing June to his parents for the first time he referred to her as ‘Miss Baker’s niece’ rather than ‘Mr Baker’s niece’, which would have been the case if Rob had been the first point of contact. Unfortunately, therefore, I suspect this is merely a coincidence of (not uncommon) names.

Sunday 28th January, 1962

Dear Mum and Dad,

Thank you both for your letters again this week. You may by now have heard from Fortiphones, as I rang them on Wednesday – they were most helpful – and promised to send off one parcel of eight R.M.L.s that day, and unravel the difficulties later. I told them I was phoning on your behalf, and pointed out that you had not received any batteries since last November. The girl who answered said that the Main Office were at lunch, but promised to consult them and ring me back within the quarter of an hour. This she did, but their comment was that you had presumably discontinued your order. Disillusioned her on this score, so the promise was then made to send off the packet of eight. I cannot think why you have heard nothing from them, if you have written yourself. If you have heard nothing from Fortiphones since you wrote last, drop them another line, but put it in a letter to me, and I will take it up there.

I thought you would be surprised to get your letter on Monday of this week, but you were lucky as we had stamps etc. available and popped it into the three oclock post from the box at the bottom. Had hoped to do that to-day, but did not get round to writing it until 2-45pm. Yes I like to have the Mercury any time. Thanks for send­ing those two. Both have been passed on to the Benns as you might expect. Could not make out who the figures were who were marked in the British Legion picture. Thought that one ought to be Mr Garland and another Mrs Marshall, but was not sure. Who the dark person was at the back I could not say.

Gather from your remarks and the paper that storm damage was very heavy your way. No evidence this end now. Hope your journey to-day was a success. If you had anything like the weather we enjoyed, you had the best day for months.

Yes Carol is a much more willing helper than Susan. She tackled the whole washing up and did not flag. As you say she gives as good as she gets from Susan.

I am now wondering if the injection at the Dr’s was such a goad idea after all. Had a terrible time on Monday night every bit as bad as Asian Flue. Did not go to work on the Tuesday. The old arm is still painful and the affected area – about as big as a half penny- is as sensitive as a Radar Aerial.

I am afraid that. we are all under the weather again. We had practically no sleep last night. Susan was sick, and Carol was constantly coughing. I went in with Susan, and June had Carol with her. Susan was heavy with catarrh and I thought we should have a repeat performance at any time but she lasted out. Carol was really in the same boat, but with her it took the form of a dry cough. She is still at it$ and June has given her the Friars Balsam treatment. On tap of this, – of all people – June has got herself a cold. In short we are like a lot of Zombies at the moment.

You are right about the hard core of course. Many people dump there surplus rocks et on the field.

Interesting to hear how you have allocated the Burnham Loam. Also note the desire for a transistor radio. Aiming a bit high, but they are good value, as they are the most up to date thing in radios, are compact and the batteries are about the same as for the Fortiphone deaf aid.

I would personally have liked sliding doors for all the cupboards but of course to fit them would rather increase the cost. They do save a lot of space.

(Sorry to change paper but we are right out of supplies now.*)

Had a look at the inside of the airing cupboard, & can see no trace of wet. It would seem that [this] time the job has been done properly.

No more news about the proposed move of the Benns to Clevedon. He had an accident in his new car last week. Some chap without brakes bumped him from behind, and knocked him into the car in front. It looks quite a mess at the moment. Pity really as it was almost g new car.

Could not go to Reading Yard last week as had it fixed for the Tuesday. Two others acted on my­ behalf, and gave them the information. We now wait and let it take effect. No news either about interviews for Sp’cl B. The G,M.s cut on entertainment applies in particular to DivL Office staffs.

We have no recent news of Mrs Baker but she was none too well when last spoken to.

Your Vicar seems to be in the wars an no mistake.

Sorry to hear about old Houghton. I had formed the impression that he had died some years ago.

Regarding our invitation for you to visit us at Whitsun, note you have given qualified acceptance. You prefer not to visit in the Easter period, so assume Whitsun to be ideal for here, with the return match at Clevedon in August.

What is the effect of the Electricity Booster on the Sunday Yorkshire pudding?

Interesting to hear they are remaking your road. Thirty years is surely a short life for kerb stones.

Well there it is for now, hope we have healthier news to report next week.

Love from us all.

(*Here, Alec transfers his attention to a 5″ x 8″ sheet of paper.)

Sunday 31 December, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Well now the festivities are over once again, and everything back to normal or near enough. Thank you for your most recent letter which arrived punctually once again. Not to worry about the cold, there are enough around here for us all to have had them times over without your contribution. Just one of those things, you can’t stay locked up in a box to avoid meeting people with colds and in any case doubt if it would do much good anyway. I think with the children that each cold, however distressing to watch, is a step more towards immunity. It will never be total, but the more they get, the greater will be their resistance.

Sorry to hear you have not shaken off the effect yourself, and hope that it will not be long before you do. Apart from the usual catarrh, the children were free from colds over Christmas, and June managed to get over the worst of her cold by Christmas Eve.

Glad you were able to see the Astons on the two days, but it must have been awfully quiet for you. You should have moved a bit nearer to us, and joined in with our doings.* As you know we saw Geoff last Saturday on the day you went to Lyng. He said you were making the trip that day, and gave an account of his trip of the previous day. He complains that every time he travels something delays the trains. Question of physician heal thyself I think. 

Sorry to learn that Don was well off-colour again due to cold. Heard something on the wireless that it is desirable to have warm bedrooms, and in any case this is most essential for those who are subject to chestiness or bronchitis. We have kept the electric heater on all night in the children’s room for about one week now and the difference is amazing. Glad to hear Don is a little better now.

So you saw Richings and Saunders respectively at Weston and Bridgwater. Hope they had time enough to fetch the bottle while you waited. 

Yes we thought we had done very well to get 63 people to the party at Castlebar. A number of them said they came against their better judgement as they did not want to let us down in view of all the arrangements made. As a result of the band failing to turn up, and a small working surplus, we had £10 over so we were able to pay back money to all those who paid in advance and were unable to attend. The hit of the evening was C.F.E. Harvey. He joined in all the games with gusto, and in one form of musical chairs he missed his seat altogether and went rolling over the floor. 

Half the battle of driving in London is knowing where you are, and what roads to take. Once you have a route in mind driving is the same as in any other town. 

I gather that the weather round your way has been very bad. We have had it cold but only today did the snow arrive – much to the delight of you know who. It was raining on Friday morning so I took the car but before I got out of bottom gear had gone into a four wheel skid. Good job it happened straight away or I should not have suspected the possibilities. Trouble was rain on top of ice. 

I was sorry to hear about Mrs Drewett. Odd that it should have happened on Christmas Day the same as Mrs Beale. 

As I write you must be getting ready for the ringers’ supper. Hope it goes well for you. How do you pack in 15? Should think that you have to take most of the furniture out of the dining room to do so. 

Odd you should have mentioned the parsnip wine in your letter, as by now you will have received mine which said that we had some on Christmas Day. I found it very good, but Peter passed no comment – it just disappeared. I got the grape wine out also among the Christmas fare, but after trying it myself decided that it would be wasteful to push it around yet as a few months more should remove any trace of rawness. 

So Arthur is ill, is he? Nice of them to send a card – no dollars enclosed though I gather.

This morning I took the girls out into the garden to make a snowman, the snow being about five inches thick. It was still snowing hard, and although I used shovel and garden spade the stuff was too sticky to work with. Made a heap of snow about three feet high and let it go at that. Took the girls down to the corner and back. Coming back against the wind was like a blizzard, and they had enough by the time we got back to 84. 

Eric has to return to Bristol for work tomorrow, and a few minutes ago we saw them all troop out to remove snow from off the car and get it started. He had a job to get moving – had to go forward and reverse a few times but eventually left at about 5 mph. The snow eased off when he went and only a few thin flakes were falling but now it is as bad as ever. Hope he can get through. 

Well we all hope you have a good and enjoyable New Year, and thank you for your wishes on the same. Try and keep in the warm as much as possible and give the Christmas Cheer a bit of a bashing also to keep cold out. Love from us all for now.

P.S. We shall be thinking of you around midnight (if still awake).

*This was a constant theme at the time, and eventually did come to pass – although in an environment very different from Ruislip.

*****

Alec to his maternal uncle and aunt (Eva’s brother Joe and his wife Lydia):

Sunday 31st December, 1961

Dear Aunt Lydia and Uncle Joe

Thank you very much for Christmas wishes and the presents you sent to the children. I think there is an effort by Susan which will be enclosed. Hope you had an enjoyable Christmas as I am sure you must have done with all those children around (of all ages). Pity we were not a bit closer, so we could look in for an hour or so or vice versa. 

Snow lies thick here today and is falling fast. We had no snow before today so you may expect someone was excited. We went out in the garden this morning and tried to build a snowman, but the snow was too sticky and too cold so we only finished up the pile about three feet high. Had a walk down to the corner of the road but coming back was like going through a blizzard. That was enough for the girls. 

We had eight for tea on Christmas Day and the same number for dinner and tea on Boxing Day. Susan has been to a party and they both have another one to look forward to next week. Susan is able to read books to Carol now and you may expect she is in great demand.

Hope you liked the photo. Most of the pictures taken came out well, but are best seen on a projector. We were very surprised and delighted with them. Beginner’s luck I suppose. Have another film in the camera now and have taken a chance on some  indoor colour snaps without flash. Hope it works. 

We had a nice tree this year and got it suitably decorated. About as big as the one I remember at Somerholme many years back. We took the girls to Church on Christmas Day (grown-ups service) and they behaved themselves very well. They go there for Sunday school and children’s services, so it was not altogether strange. No requests for ‘more [illegible].’

Well I expect you are keeping the fire warm these days like us and looking forward to the New Year so will wish you all good luck and prosperity in it and love from us all.

*****

Alec to his paternal uncle and aunt (Leonard’s brother Don and his wife Joan):

Dear Don and Joan

Thank you once again for the kind Christmas wishes and enclosure to us all. There is a letter from Susan already prepared which I will enclose herewith. We hear you were not too well over Christmas but that you are feeling a little better now. Hope the improvement continues, but cannot but feel that the weather is the cause of the trouble. 

Snow lies thick here today and is falling fast, but we are fortunate that we have not had it before today. It has been bitterly cold here and that is no incentive to leave the fireside. The girls and I did go in the garden this morning to build a snowman, but were only able to stay out for about half an hour. My next door neighbour has just left for Bristol in his car. The best of luck to him. 

We all dropped in on Geoff and the girls last Saturday morning and exchanged Christmas presents but apart from that we had not seen them for some long time. On Christmas Day June’s parents and brother and sister came over in the afternoon until about 9 p.m. and on Boxing Day they all came to dinner and stayed till about 8.0p.m.. While we all sat around Susan read through the whole of a book to us and Carol who would not be outdone sang ‘Away in a Manger’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. Susan now reads books to Carol, not bad considering she is only in her second term. She can also knit a little and has something lying around with about seven lines of knitting on**. They both had some lovely presents and there was some fun on Christmas morning and wrapping them. 

Peter produced a tree about ten feet tall which made our five shilling [£6 in 2021 money – good luck getting one at that price today!] one look a bit silly so we dumped it in favour of his. With lights, tinsel etc. it looks quite nice. 

Managed to break the nutcrackers on an almond (we have some tough nuts around here) but other than that the Christmas passed without incident. 

Well we all wish you both good health and prosperity in the New Year 

**’A little’ was precisely the way it stayed for the next seventeen years, too, until the arrival of Robin resulted in a sudden desire to learn to knit.

*****

And this, dear readers, concludes our letters from 1961.

Please join us again from Monday 3 January, 2022

for what is going to be a very full and fascinating year.

***

Wednesday 27th December, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

In reply to your latest, arrived last Saturday or Sunday, I forget which. It arrived together with our card and that for Susan. Carol’s did not arrive until Sunday and there was quite a to-do from her as to where her card was. All ended well however. Sorry about delay in replying etc, but have not known where we were for a day or so, and odd postal deliveries on top.

Thank you for the presents you gave June and I, and also for those sent to the girls. They both had quite a few as you might expect, and no doubt Susan will try a few words herself in thanks. they were both very well over the holiday thank goodness, and we had no trouble with them at all. We all went to church on Christmas Day, and the girls behaved very well, especially as it was not a children’s service, and must have been boring for them. In the afternoon Mr and Mrs Baker and Peter and Pauline came over. Peter has had a tiff with the latest, so she was not in evidence. They all departed somewhere near 9 p.m. in Peter’s large car. Incidentally he tells me that the bottom and reverse gears have gone on his car, and it will cost about £50 [about £1200 in 2021 money] to have it repaired. I do not know what it will be if he has to do it himself.

On Boxing Day, the same party arrived about 1:45 p.m. when we all sat down to deal with June’s cooking.* I must say I sat in on all helpings, and had no difficulty with any of them. The girls had a most enjoyable time and so many presents that we had to reduce the numbers a bit so that we could all get in the room. At about 8 p.m. I took them all back to West Drayton, Peter having departed somewhat earlier. The roads were very icy and I had a lot of difficulty in seeing out through a windscreen on which ice kept forming despite the wiper being in action. By the time I got there, the heat from heater and passengers had raised the temperature enough for the  ice to  melt on all the windows. 

On Boxing morning I took the girls for a walk with their dolls’ prams out around the school and Clay Pigeon** and back via the little stream. It was very cold, but no wind blowing, and the sun was up so it was not unpleasant. 

I gather that Baynton-Hughes has got the job vacated by Pattisson. I told Geoff on Saturday, and we both had a good cry about it. I should think that six months later and he would not have stood a chance. 

Talking about Geoff, reminds me that we dropped in on them last Saturday to deliver the presents for Rebecca and Sarah. Mrs Peddle*** was there but mercifully the old man was out with his son-in-law. I did not realise it but I had not seen Mrs P since Stella’s wedding****. (She says so, but I am sure I have seen her since.) We missed Stella as usual, and everyone else was out, so it was very convenient. 

We hope you both had a good Christmas, and managed to see some people. Also hope your bellringers’ party goes well. What price some more flashlight snaps. (Chance to use up any bad wine you may have.) Instead of rough cider, try them with elderflower this year. 

Well will close now, more in the next Sunday letter. Happy New Year and best wishes from us all. 

*’We all sat down to deal with June’s cooking’ is hardly a fair way to describe eating a festive meal prepared by one’s wife.  June’s cooking was decent, if unadventurous, and I cannot recollect any absolute disasters except where the ingredients themselves were at fault – the occasional ‘not exactly fresh’ chicken, for example.

**The Clay Pigeon was, and still is, a local pub. See https://www.ruisliponline.com/the-clay-pigeon

***Mrs Peddle would be Stella’s mother (i.e. my great-uncle’s mother-in-law), Mr Peddle being her second husband.  I don’t know what the reference to his son-in-law may be – obviously Geoff was his (step) son-in-law but he was clearly there all the time; the obvious conclusion is that Mr Peddle had other children from a previous marriage, which I wasn’t aware of.

****Geoff and Stella were married in 1944 so this does seem unlikely; no doubt they met at one of the christenings of Geoff and Stella’s daughters in 1946 or 1951 – which is admittedly still a long time however.

Sunday 3rd December, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks for another newsy letter. Shall be down next Friday night so shall not read the next one until I get back. By the way I have not looked up train yet as all the times have been changed around, Cannot say offhand what it will be. Shall probably come down on something leaving about 5 p.m. (diesels excepted) or, if I fiddle a few hours off, it may be earlier. 

Glad to report that both of the girls are seemingly normal now, although Susan had a bit of a cough in the night. It did not amount to much. I am keeping the cherry wine for coughs, but letting them have apricot on demand when they think they would fancy a drop of wine. I think it is the sourness of the cherry that does the trick. Apart from a snivel or two, which thank goodness have not developed so far, June and I have both been free from colds etc. I did have one early in October, before the flu injection, but no sign of one since. 

I expect you are glad you finished the papering. Good to get the accolade from Mr Palmer. He should know a thing or two about it. Is this the first time you have tackled the dining room? I do not remember it being done before although I know it was done. 

Shall hope to see your agricultural and horticultural displays when I get down next weekend. Ours are finished now, and probably the first signs we shall get will be small show from the forsythia cuttings (if they flower this year).

I did  see David Dimbleby in the holiday programme some time ago, and think that was the only time I have actually seen him. I agree about the old pals act of T.V. stars. Shocking racket. 

No trouble since with the battery and I think that the topping up did the trick. 

I do not know how Sara came to take the 11-plus as I am under the impression that Middlesex contracted out of that business.

The annual wine list came round to our section and I had a couple of bottles in the order.

Hope you manage to get your TV right for Christmas. It was at this time the first year you had it that it failed. About time they found what the trouble was I think. 

There will be less and less cohesion between the Divisional Offices as time goes on. At the moment everyone is fighting for prestige etc. Orders from the G.M.’s office are being openly disobeyed, and the G.M. seems powerless to stop it. It is a serious state of affairs, as previously, even if the decisions were wrong, all Districts were wrong together. Today you can get five versions of wrongness. By now you will have read the note and closed to us all in our pay packets by Dr Beeching. Can only hope he gets cracking soon. it wants some strong handed person to unravel the present mess. 

Had not heard that Joan was going into hospital, but the operation is a very minor one so she should not have much trouble. Usually they do it with a local anaesthetic. Can’t think what they want her as an inpatient for. 

Mrs Baker is much better now after extractions. Just a little soreness which should soon go. Probably be able to bite a bit for Christmas. Went over there yesterday and they both seemed to be in fine fettle. Also went on to Ealing for June’s new glasses, and dropped in to see Aunt Eda. She was up in an armchair before the fire and seemed also in good shape. She asked after you both. A Mrs Moody is staying with her and looking after her. She herself is bent double with some disease, but gets around quite well. 

Could be that you now have new neighbours at the bottom of the garden. change from fairies. 

I do not suppose you will be hearing anything from Uncle Arthur again after his last visit to you. Should think he has got the message by now. 

Broke a pane of glass in the garage yesterday. Had a brick under the door to stop it from swinging-to, and found it jammed when I tried to close the door in the dark. Had to shift it with the mattock in the end, but before that, had pulled the top half of the door forward (the bottom remaining still), and the resultant twisting effect on the frame, broke the glass. It has only cracked across, and is held in by the putty. Shall I leave it for a while. 

Hard to think of Rebecca as fifteen. Not long now before she will be thinking about school leaving.

It is getting very misty here today, and as I write, the mist seems to thicken. After a fine day yesterday this is a bit of a contrast. 

Went to Reading and Maidenhead on Thursday. No trouble there. At each place we are gradually extending the field with good co-operation from the staff. Have not seen the yard people again yet, too tied up on other things. 

I gather that our old friend Baynton-Hughes is the leading candidate for David Pattison’s old job. That will give him well over 2000 per annum. Not bad when you think that he was a Special A in 1956. The Reading Station staff do not want to set eyes on him again. 

Of all things, I see it is now raining. Hope it keeps off for the afternoon. 

Well that is all the news for now, look forward to seeing you next weekend. Love from us all for now.