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

***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.

Wednesday 15th November, 1961

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for a budget of news and a lovely drawing from Susan and another from Carol – thank you very much young ladies for sending them on to Grandfy and Grandma – we shall put them with the others in the desk. 

Glad to hear you are all fairly free of coughs and colds at the moment of writing. Mum and I are both keeping free at present but the N.E. wind which has been prevailing for several days keeps us more or less indoors. I did manage to put in a row of peas on Monday but was somewhat sheltered by one of the hedges. Tried to do some digging though yesterday but gave it up after about 15 minutes and crept back into greenhouse. 

So the ‘penny for the guy’ was duly registered by the girls – they do not miss much. Glad they enjoyed themselves although too tired to see the display by next door neighbours. Yes accidents happen every season in spite of warnings and it’s generally a case of ‘who would have thought it’. 

Thanks for information re Reading Yard et cetera and shall be pleased to hear in due course what progress you make with L.D.C. Noted no suitable vacancies about just at the moment.

It is possible the ice plant will not produce any more leaves this year and that what remains will gradually die right back. Keep it in a safe place and it should shoot out afresh next spring. If  it does not we can easily replace as have several rooted cuttings on hand.

Bill Raine did remarkably well considering he was up against such men as Mr Yandell whom you will remember was formerly head gardener to Mrs Burden at Clevedon Hall. Fancy you remembering a walk with him on sea wall to Wick st. Lawrence. Incidentally the body found near the Blackstone Rocks has not yet been identified. 

Did not realise you had already seen one change of occupants in Number 82. Somewhat solves his garage problem now as he will not be further interested in getting a piece of land to erect one. Wonder what the house will sell for? Lack of garage and garage space may cause a bit of difficulty as most people want this facility even if not in possession of car. 

Glad to hear Mrs Baker getting on alright following extraction of teeth – should make a difference to health but a bit awkward without them. Time will come when she will want to take out her dentures to enjoy a good meal, that is unless she has become acclimatised to having false teeth in her mouth. I remember that only too well. 

No I’ve not had any more timber from river – in fact I do not think I’ve been down that far but once since you were last here. The bit you helped to get ashore I cut up only last week and used as logs on fire. Could wish we had a lot more of them as have been cutting up sleeper wood for this purpose. It would be some job to level a strip down to river to enable motor mower to be used – sounds like hard work too. 

Thanks for comments on antifreeze. Actually I never had my radiator flushed out this year so the remains of last winter’s Bluecol is still there but if weather turns in particularly severe shall have to have the job done. 

So you went to West Ealing for June to see an optician and came home with a new hat. The query is did June get the hat before or after visiting optician as it is suggested that if the visit was before perhaps there was then no need to see the optician. Anyhow we hope June was delighted with the hat. 

It was an uncle of Mr Palmers who died at Cannington and and he is having a bit of job settling matters up. Our visit to wallpaper and paint shop took place yesterday and mum was in her element for a few minutes picking out the winners. Shall now have to start stripping the dining room and commence operations. Just as well perhaps to have job indoors for a week or so considering the state of the weather outside. Think of me next week. What is it the old song said?  “When father papered the Parlour” etc. 

Report on the various wines noted. I fully agree about the blackcurrant and rhubarb mixture – much too sharp at the moment. Mrs Marshall gave Mum (for me) a stone jar complete with cork and handle (gal. size) as used for cider in the fields during haymaking time. Quite a nice job and in good condition. Shall use it for storing wine. I noticed today the grape wine is still fermenting fairly fast in spite of fact it is in garage which is on the cool side. Will keep you advised. 

So you have had a couple of power cuts. Now it is reported in the Press there may be a strike over Christmas which will result in a general blackout. 

Yes we know how narrow the road is at Yiewsley – sorry to hear of the accident there but if there is a drunken driver at the wheel of a car anything can happen even if road is very wide one. 

Shall be delighted to see Alec evening of December 7th and we’ll meet him at Yatton when we know time he will arrive – wonder if wallpapering etc will be completed by then? 

Not a lot to report in the way of local news. Have finished digging the plot on which runner beans were grown and and that in the main completes all urgent work in garden until the spring. 

You mentioned something about brackets for wall lamps when we were at Ruislip.  Wondering if I can try my hand at making something as saw Mr Palmer had a couple in his living room which he had made. How many had you in mind?  And have you any particular design in mind? 

British Legion annual church parade last Sunday in common with rest of country. It was the biggest here for many years and they could not get them all in church. A fine day but cold Any wind kept people on the move. 

Cornish came over one day last week – could see me digging from his landing window – said the sewer which runs practically the length of his field was broken in five places and ground on top was sinking. I told him he had better tell Surveyor. Fortunately I have no sewer running through our field but I think Heels have one and they seem to have a lot of trouble. Must wait and see what is going to happen. 

Well this is the lot for another week – hope you are all keeping fit. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for Susan and Carol.

Mum and Dad.

Eva to the family on the remaining three quarters of a sheet of Leonard’s paper:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for letter and drawings by the children. We are well and truly up to our necks in paint and paper etc and don’t know which way to turn. We put one easychair in porch outside kitchen, one in the kitchen and small chairs upstairs which just left table and sideboard sitting in room. Dad spent all yesterday scraping paper off and and it is jolly hard in places although swamped it with water. The room was done back in 1952  as decorator had put date on it we thought it was that year. I have chosen two papers full. One for chimney breast to represent a wall & the rest of paper off-white raised with stripes in places of green, and silver paint for woodwork. I must say it is cold down here and shall be glad when we can get back in dining room. 

Shall be pleased to see Alec down when he can come. It was our T.G. general meeting on Wednesday – the voting for next year’s committee took place and Mrs Hewitt got herself in as the Vice Chairman which she promised herself. 

We went down to Mr Palmers one afternoon this week and to see the wallpaper. The taste some people have. First it was a lilac ceiling in itself was quite good, but the wallpaper (main) was trailing ivy leaves in vivid green while the chimney piece was done representing a wall with bricks big enough for a huge room in heavy black-and-white, the carpet was all colours topped by a circular rug of emerald quite cheerful don’t you think. Joe Reed had to see specialist this week with lump in stomach. He lives opposite Bill Raine in that little cottage belonging to Cox whom he works for. 

Well I think this is all for now so will close with love to all Mum and Dad.

Picture Eva has drawn shows step ladder, bucket, paint brush, two pots of paint marked ‘top silver’ and ‘under silver grey’, a broom, a sponge, a scraper and a wallpapering brush.

The Strand Cinema Fire – Southend, 14 November 1926

The Strand had originally opened in 1909 as a skating rink and was converted to a cinema in 1911, opening as the Kinemacolour Theatre with seating capacity of 1,000.

The following text is taken from Roy Dilley’s ‘Southend’s Palaces of the Silver Screen’, published in 2011 by Phillimore & Co Ltd., ISBN 978-1-86077-680-9

On 11 September 1919 the cinema was renamed The Strand, and the ownership changed to Mr Frank Baker*. A magnificent pipe organ was installed at a cost of £4,000. The advertisements proudly proclaimed the Strand as being “The Home Of The Pipe Organ”. This instrument had been supplied by William Hill and Son of London. Solo organist was Florence De Jong (late of the Marble Arch Pavilion). The cinema also hosted a full orchestra (musical director Mr Harry De Jong, former conductor at Sexton’s West End Cinema). The Strand also held first exhibition rights of all the Famous Lasky pictures.

On Sunday, 14 November 1926 the Strand was completely destroyed by fire. The blaze was discovered at 5 a.m. and caused £35,000 damage. By 5:30 a.m. the building was a raging furnace, with flames leaping 40 ft high. The roof slates exploded like rockets, and pieces of blazing wood were carried by the high wind onto the roofs of houses in Southchurch Road. Some blazing debris struck a woman standing in a doorway in Warrior Square and burnt her badly. There was no hope of saving the cinema. All the fire brigade could do was try to save adjoining properties, which they were successful in doing. People in their night attire flocked from the surrounding streets to see the spectacle.

The only part of the cinema left standing was the box office and projection room, which were situated at the High Street end of the building. One projector was destroyed; the other was damaged, but was repairable. The film was undamaged, being stored in steel boxes. The roof had caved in and the organ melted. The only part of the organ left was the two pedals. £6,000 would not replace this instrument. 40 people including the orchestra were thrown out of work. The cause of the fire was unknown; a cigarette had been discounted as the fire had started near the roof**. In those days telephones were few, and the owner Mr Frank Baker lived at Leigh***, so friends rushed to his house, to tell him the cinema was destroyed. Mr Baker was then driven to Southend, in dressing gown and pyjamas, to behold the tragic sight.

“Billy”, the mottled cat who slept and lived on the premises, was missed after the fire, and everyone feared the worst, but, to the astonishment of all, the feline was seen prowling around the debris the next day****. 

. . .

A new picture house was built on the site, the general contractor being Arthur J. Arnold. The frontage of the building in Warrior Square was 90 feet wide, the entrance being in modern Renaissance style, with ‘Hathernware’ Faience tiling, to match the adjoining Strand Arcade. The auditorium was 131 ft long and 70 ft wide, with a sloping floor, which had a comfortable rake of seven feet. The proscenium width was 34 ft and the depth of the stage 16 ft. The seating capacity was 1,640, and the walls were finished in cream fibrous plaster, the curtains (by Messrs. Kimballs of Westcliff) and seats were in a restful shade of blue. Heating was achieved by a hot water installation with radiators, while the lighting effects were secured by electricity, with an auxiliary gas lighting plant in case of a breakdown.

The cinema opened on Saturday, 28th January 1928. A distinguished company gathered for the opening, which was performed by the mayor, Councillor A. Bockett.  The guests included many members of the town council, Mrs Eleanor Percy (chairman of directors of the Warrior Square Picture Theatre Ltd) and Mr Frank Baker (managing director). After Mr Harold Judd had sung ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and Mr D H Burles (architect), had briefly described the new building, the Mayor was invited formally to declare it open. 

. . .

A Western Electric sound system was installed for the ‘talkies’, which was changed in April 1934 for Western Electric Wide Range sound equipment.  On 7th March 1937 the cinema was sold by Mr Frank Baker to Messrs. Mistlin Theatres Ltd who were building up a new circuit. The directors of the company were David and Louis Mistlin, the latter becoming manager of the Strand.


*Frank was never the owner of the Strand; he was its manager, installed by his sister Eleanor Percy who had inherited a number of businesses on the death of her husband John Stewart Percy in June 1926.  He was also manager of the Mascot Cinema which itself burned down – but not until many years later, by which time both Frank and Eleanor had also died.

**An entirely uneducated guess might focus on the projector that was destroyed.  At the time the projector’s light source would almost certainly have been a carbon arc, and having witnessed first-hand carbon arc projectors being operated in the late 1960s/early 1970s I can testify that this was a dangerous business and that small fires in projection booths (and the attendant melting of the film) were still a relatively common occurrence.  Back in 1926, also, film stock could be highly flammable, especially if kept in a particularly dry atmosphere and not handled with great care.

***Frank must have moved to Leigh when John Percy died, and may actually have been in lodgings at the time of the fire, as his eldest three children were born sixty-odd miles away in Cambridge – one of them, Pauline, within three days of John Percy’s death.

****This not only explains the old photograph shown above, which has been in the family collection for nearly a century, but also dates it precisely.  (It may have been taken on the same day, and by the same person, as this one:  Billy’s ultimate fate is not recorded, although possibly he hung around long enough to supervise the rebuilding of the cinema and may even have been able to take up residence again in the new building – but sadly this will have to be left to the individual imagination!

Wednesday 8th November, 1961

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec, June, Susan and Carol

Once again many thanks for another long and newsy letter. Not surprised to hear of colds and coughs as we are well and truly into the season of damp and fog. anyhow we hope the tablets will help Carol with the catarrh. Were those prescribed by Doctor? 

Thank you very much Susan for some more lovely drawings – was it a round house with smoke coming out of chimney? Where have you seen one of that sort? 

Expect both Susan and Carol were excited to have a few fireworks and to see the bonfire. It’s quite different round here nowadays. I did hear a few isolated bangs in the distance but no bonfires about. Heard young Moore – about 12 years old – and lives in Avenue next to Bushes lit a banger in a bottle and had bits of broken glass in his face but I see he is out and about as usual so obviously no serious harm. What a lot of really bad causes of injury including some deaths have been noted in the newspapers and strange that we should know where Wraysbury is after our recent visit to you. That was a case of a gay party misfiring.*

Your comments on the various office matters noted with interest also that the reading yard staff are proving a bit obstinate. Who is Y.M. there now? I take it the Yard is separate from the Station. Should have thought a serious hitch like that would have necessitated a visit from McD not Lay. Also interesting to note the position of Gregory who had job Geoff was after. understand from Geoff C.W.P. goes on holiday in January with retirement effective in March but perhaps you know all about this. Any more vacancies posted?

So your neighbour has secured a position at Bristol – he seemed to like the idea of moving to the ‘West Country’ when he was talking to me about the time of his earlier application. He will have to watch where he parks his car down this way the police are not nearly so lenient as they appeared to be up there. Facilities however are I think a bit better generally. In due course you will have new neighbours next door so let’s hope they will be satisfactory from your point of view. 

Cannot remember if Prescott was a particular friend of Les Garland but I think you have identified the individual all right. No further news of the boy and presume back to normal.

Note all your dahlias now inside garage, this should keep them from being frosted. When earth on tubers is dry rub it off and pack tubers in newspapers and store. Unless frosts are very severe they should survive in garage – put a sack or two over them during worst of weather. This last week I’ve pulled up all the runner beans and sticks and started to rough dig the ground. Could not touch it Monday owing to rain but yesterday and today have plodded on quietly. It will be a good job done before ground becomes unworkable.

Fog here recently not clearing until late morning and foghorn in Channel on most of day and night. 

Funny thing you saying must get some sticky paper for labels – in my last letter to Don I asked him to send on a few sticky back blank labels for same purpose.

The grape wine is still fermenting – now over 4 weeks since put under lock.

Yes we thought you would be surprised to hear the number of flowers on African Violet. Mum put two of the leaves in water and roots formed on both. We then transferred them to 3-inch pots containing potting compost but so far can not be sure if they are going to grow; a question of wait and see. 

Expect your Mimosa pudica has passed out by now. Ours seem to have followed same pattern as yours and I’m certain an insect is responsible. Anyhow hope remainder of plants going on alright. Thanks for naming chrysants. I thought it was Westfield Flame** as have a catalogue with a coloured illustration of this sort. 

At last Saturday’s Clevedon Chrysanth show Bill Raine (old choirboy) took the Premier award for the best chrysanth in the show – also took several other high prizes. He told me a long time ago he belongs to the National Chrysanth Society and of course gets all the literature published on the subject. Still it is quite an achievement for him seeing he has little time to look after the plants. 

Any ill-effects from inoculation against flu? I think I forgot to mention it last week but it is a good idea and should have been organised years ago by British Railways. 

Read your comment on price of fireworks. I’m afraid we have no idea of cost now. I do not think we have bought any since you used to like them complete with bonfire down the field. Must be cost of living which has put them up.

We both hope Mrs Baker will continue to make progress following extraction of all her teeth. It must have been a bit of a shock to her system to start with but at least she did not have to go a second time and must feel thankful for that. 

Not much local news I’m afraid. I did hear on Monday night at bell ringing practice the body of a man had been recovered from the sea at Blackstone Rocks on Saturday but have no further details – could have been washed across from Wales. 

So Mr Grey has already put antifreeze in car. What does he use and presumably recommend? The  proprietary brands put in at garages seemed a bit costly to me. Cummings who used to live next door never bought any but put a quantity of methylated spirit in water in radiator, a dangerous practice I think but as far he has escaped from any serious consequences. 

We were going to get some paper and paint this week to do our dining room but Mr Palmer who would have got it at trade price that has been called away to Cannington to arrange funeral details for a relative who has just died so our visit to shop must be postponed until sometime next week. In the meantime must press on with the digging. 

How are driving lessons going, June? Any practice lately? 

No more now but hope you are all keeping well. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for Susan and Carol.

Mum and Dad

*Not, of course, the same thing as a ‘gay party’ would be these days. I have been unable to locate any information about a firework-related incident at Wraysbury, presumably in the 1950s.

**Nor have I been able to identity a picture of a ‘Westfield Flame’ chrysanthemum online; there are plenty of pictures of spectacular bronze flower-heads, some of them even real, but they are not given this particular name.

Eva to the family on the remaining two-thirds of a sheet of Leonard’s writing paper:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for letters and drawings. glad the children’s colds are better. I have found those “Tunes” advertised on the TV better than anything I’ve tried for catarrh although they do not have a nice flavour to them. 

I’m very glad June’s mother has now had her teeth out, she will feel a lot better in consequence. 

It is lashing down with rain at the moment but we have had a nice few days. All the children here had four weeks holiday, although I did not see guys in four-wheel buggies going round to get a penny. 

The Social Studies Group (T.G.***) are going to Bristol to the Coal Utilisation Council on the 23rd, it’s in Park Street. Mrs Hewitt can tell the tale at these meetings as she is the chairman. 

Bill Raine’s chrysanths got the blue riband prize, he must have spend hours on the job. We have a nice little lot coming on and I like your bronze one. 

The flu is about here among elderly people, November is a bad month all round. 

You did not comment on my special drawing last week. 

We have had two power cuts here lately. The second lasted one-and-a-half hours, a good job didn’t have a cake in the oven. I had to put kettle on fire for tea time. 

They had a mouse in the choir stalls on Sunday evening – much craning of necks on opposite side and rustle of paper going on. 

No more for the moment.

Lots of love Mum and Dad. 

***T.G. = Townswomen’s Guild, the urban equivalent of the Women’s Institute.

Eva’s drawing this time comprises a chrysanthemum, a singing kettle, something that might be a grill pan with two pork chops on it, a silver cruet, and the two recognisable little figures of ‘Peppy’ and ‘Salty’, a turned wooden cruet set much beloved by us as children.  The original Peppy and Salty vanished over the years, probably when Leonard and Eva downsized to move to Yorkshire in the late 1960s, but in recent years I have been able to import a similar set from the USA.  In fact they were probably made there, which may suggest that they were originally sold in the UK by F.W. Woolworth; certainly they seem very much to fit in with the company’s other usually cheap and cheerful wares.

Peppy and Salty 1961-style, by Eva
Peppy and Salty, 2021-style, by yours truly

Sunday 5th November, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks once again for weekly letter. Glad you like Susan’s drawings, I am afraid I do not see them as they go into the envelope sometime after I have prepared the main letter. If they are up to the standard of some of the drawings I have seen about here then they are not too bad. 

Both girls are much better than at the last time of writing. They are not 100% as both have  lurking colds. Carol has been started on adrenaline tablets to remove the catarrh and they make her very tired and crotchety. The trend is to get her to bed a little earlier. Susan starts school again on Monday and from all appearances she should be alright by then. 

I agree that it is strange that they should have picked another “Engineer” for the lecturing job, but there may have been a little “cancelling-out” of the other candidates. I note your suggestion about applying for any job fancied. Of course there are fewer and fewer such jobs going nowadays. McDonald asked me what I thought of the lecturing job, he said was that what I really wanted. I told him that the money was more than useful, and that the job was much like any other. They don’t think he thought much of that. I guessed Geoff would not get the job he was after. The post went to Vic Gregory who used to be with me on Work Study. The latter was a 3 in HQ Control Rolling-Stock section when I was a 2. C.W.P. took a fancy to him and all sorts of queer things then started to happen. Personally he is quite a likeable chap, ex-Bomber pilot with decoration, not over brilliant, but solid. I doubt if he could have made that level without a good push from behind, but stranger things have happened.

Reading Marshalling Yard has gone down the drain. the L.D.C. reported that the staff have declined to have Work Study there. Of course McD. is furious, and is seeking an explanation in the shortcomings of his staff. Mr Lay now has to go to Reading yard and find out from the Yardmaster why they have refused. I think it a foolish move, as by putting in an appearance on the ground so soon, the staff will think we are pushing it, and will be even more inclined to refuse. In any case he cannot tell them any more than we have and it will be useless to reiterate the bare facts to the men’s reps. I would rather work out a “demonstration scheme” which would show them exactly what they would get in terms of £.s.d. for the work performed. 

At the moment things are going well with the Old Oak Common Carriage Cleaners and we are progressing towards a stage of mutual confidence. Snow is still Snow. He gives little credit to others, and is saying that it was his efforts that got us back into Reading station. I do not mind in the least, it pays at this stage to get his co-operation but we shall tie him up pretty tightly in due course. 

I remember Prescott, he is the man I have in mind from your description. Was he not living with or friendly with Les Garland? 

By the time last Sunday’s frost came, the dahlias this end had been removed from the ground and transferred to the garage where they are at the moment inside the large basket you brought up. I hope they are alright there for the time being. 

Have not got the old wireless working yet, but only had one session on it for the time being. Will have another go soon. 

Note your remarks about the wines. I shall have to have a tasting session soon on all brews, both yours and mine. I must get some more sticky paper to make into labels for the bottles. At the moment I have half dozen bottles of apricot without labels, and it is a fact that the identity of wines can be forgotten much quicker than one would suppose, so I must get cracking. Glad to hear your blackberry is going to be good. Shall look forward to trying that. My Apple etc wine has now been transferred to top shelf of the airing cupboard. The fermentation slows up a lot overnight in the kitchen here with the drop in temperature. I do not think that can do it much good. With the addition of the requisite amount of sugar the liquid content is now just under 2 gallons, and I suppose I shall lose a little in the sediment etc. Think I will just call it the “Omnibus Edition”.

Hope Don was primed with sufficient Jungle Juice to last him until 2:45 a.m. Who would be a stationmaster? 

Quite incredible to learn that there are 25 flowers on the one plant. What has happened to the leaves that were being used as propagation? Have they turned into strong plants yet.

Sorry to learn that you have finally been cut off from the telephone. It must be a loss after so long, but if you did not use it much there was no point in having it. We are now back on the air as you know and we’ll make a note of the phone numbers you gave us. 

Sorry to hear that someone is sufficiently hard up to tamper with the money boxes in the church. So much for welfare state. 

The name of the Chrysanthemum is Westfield Flame. Perhaps we forgot to tell you. 

Well Guy Fawkes day has come and gone again. We only had a few interspersed with plenty of sparklers. To large bonfires that survived the vandals were lit, and we took the girls down to see them. Of course they were jumping up and down with excitement. The Catherine Wheel went much better this year. Last year it got stuck after two revolutions. The price of fireworks has leapt by leaps and bounds since I was a boy. A rocket stick landed in our front garden and this morning I went out to clear it. It was about the size we used to pay 2d for and when I looked on the cover it was marked one shilling. 

I cannot remember seeing any Gay in the post. Perhaps ours is still to come. 

Yesterday we went over to Yiewsley to take June’s mother to the dentist. She was to have had the first of two sessions to remove her remaining teeth, a prospect that none of us relished. As it turned out she was there for nearly 1 hour and had the lot out. We shall telephone shortly to find out how she is, but when we left yesterday she was standing up to it very well. The girls are down the road with their prams giving them an airing. The cat has come out to greet them and they were playing with him when last seen.* June has just telephoned and discovered that Mrs Baker is feeling quite well today. 

Eric has landed a job in Bristol, and no doubt he will soon be making his way there. I gather that he will move first (lodge) and the others will move after Janet has passed the 11-plus, an event which is some time away yet. It could be that he might show up one day, I do not think they know anybody in Bristol. Doug in the sideway at the moment putting antifreeze into his car. Of course Susan and Carol have got their noses into it. 

Well that’s the lot for now, hope you are both well. Love from us all. 

*This must have been a neighbour’s cat, and I have very vague recollections of a narrow ginger-striped creature visiting us.  We didn’t get our own first cat until 1965 (and have never been without one since), although we did briefly have a tortoise at one point.

Wednesday 25 October, 1961

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for your long and newsy letter duly received yesterday morning – also thank you Susan and Carol for your lovely drawings and Susan’s little letter about the comic. Grandma and Grandfy thought you would both find something to interest you in it. Hope you are feeling better now Susan and able to go to school again this week. 

Yes we had a nice run home on the 16th but with the mileage up a little it takes a drop more petrol. No doubt about it we had the best weekend for weather in spite of fog on the Sunday. It has been rather poor since our return – gale force winds and frequent heavy rain storms but there it is – we were fortunate for our stay with you. 

Sorry Susan a bit off colour but presumably alright again on the Sunday. We thought they were both looking and feeling very fit – they improve every time we see them and my word we can see a difference – they are both growing up fast.  

Glad to hear Mr and Mrs Baker with Peter and Pauline reached home safely on the Saturday and that you were able to make the journey to West Drayton for June’s mother’s birthday. It was Geoff’s on the 23rd and we dropped him the usual – he was 53 this time. Says he –”another 7 years to do”. Sounds like a sentence for some crime. 

It was excellent news that you had had an interview for the lecturing job but I quite agree with your comments. On a job like that you are not getting any practical experience, which experience must count for very many higher positions. One thing about this incident however indicates that you were recommended by your own department otherwise I do not think you would have got as far as an interview. Keep it up, you will get something one of these days which will be worth having. Do you know if Jeff has heard any more about his recent interview for another job? 

Noted also you have had some interesting meetings at Reading – query with what results – also when do you find time to write up the minutes or is this a job for others to do? 

Grandad Atkins was born at Beckington Somerset, a little village that is at the crossroads made by the Warminster-Bath and Frome-Trowbridge roads*. When visiting Salisbury regularly during the war with Mr Pole for meetings with the Southern Region we used to always pass through Beckington. 

Did you see in London papers last week a Clevedon boy named Prescott aged 14 was missing from home? Disappeared on the Wednesday because of some alleged trouble at school but was found at Tickenham on Sunday in a pretty pretty distressed condition because of the rough and wet weather. His father is in Parish Church choir, he was actually a member in my time but left the town and recently returned. He has a younger son aged 12 who is in Wells Cathedral Choir. Quite a rumpus here for a few days. Now we hear on wireless there is a 13-year old girl missing at Glastonbury. 

The chimney sweep arrived at 6 a.m. on Monday – raining in torrents – but mum must tell you more about this. I stopped in bed out of the way. 

No work on garden this week so far – the ground is soaked and more rain coming down. Last weekend managed to lift all the gladioli corms and put them in the frames to dry. Also made the first picking of runner bean seeds (the ripest) but there are plenty more to come. Now is the time for broad bean seed to go in but ground conditions just hopeless at the moment. 

Have put the 35 chrysanths in greenhouse after taking out all the tomato plants – the fruit is ripening off in drawers in garage – as mentioned in last letter your chrysanths are in full flower quite a nice reddish bronze colour. 

We are still picking runner beans to eat and I think they will continue wearing until frosts finish off the plants. Will let you know no final total weight for tomatoes and runner beans in due course. 

No more mice about in garage and for time being think we are free of them! It is quite possible some of them made a nest in the old wireless set – strange to say it was one place I did not investigate when trying to trace them. 

The wine I have tried was the one other than the parsnip – a cloudy wine which I thought was the Jungle Juice but which you suggest is Rhubarb. It was not labelled but tastes very nice. The grape wine continues fermentation but not quite so vigorously as when we came up to Ruislip. Have racked off all the others into sweet jars for storage purposes – the best tasting at the moment being the Blackberry. The liquid yeast you gave me seems to be working very well but I have have no further winemaking prospect at present. 

Have not used any of the leaf mould yet but have tipped it into a box to keep. It is most valuable stuff being mould from beech leaves which – with oak leaf mould – is the best you can possibly get. When in the vicinity at any time you should get some to dig into your soil – bound to improve it. 

Last Friday after a dry night – about the only one for a week – I managed to cut all the grass with the motor mower. It had got very long since previous cutting but it came off very easily. May have to have one or two more cuttings before closing down – as it were – for the season. 

The clock goes back next Sunday so it will be pretty well dark by the time Susan comes home from school. Any more driving lessons yet June? Or is weather getting too bad for this year? Since our return from you we have only been out twice – shopping and library. May pop into Weston one day next week – weather permitting. 

You will hear about Stonehenge from Mum in a minute or two. By the way it was not by side of road we took but well over to the right on a branch road in the direction from Ruislip to Clevedon. It was certainly adjacent to the branch road one I think leading to Devizes**. Do you remember this? 

No more now dash all our love to you both and more kisses for two little girls from Mum and Dad.

*As formerly mentioned, Tom was born in the Workhouse at Westbury, Wiltshire, and raised by a couple at Rode/Rode in Somerset, although Road and Beckington are pretty much side-by-side and there must be some doubt as to where one starts and the other ends.  Either Tom and/or Leonard were deliberately not told the whole story, or the story had become garbled over the years.  On reflection it is quite possible that Tom grew up having no idea who his mother actually was, only that he had a sister named Mary.  His marriage to the fiercely moral Emily may have ensured that this particular aspect of family history was ruthlessly suppressed thereafter and never mentioned again.

**A quick look at the map suggests that Leonard and Eva were travelling west along the A303; the ‘branch road’ described no longer exists – it would have run past Stonehenge to join up with the A360, but now seems to be solely an access/service road for the ancient monument itself and its visitor centre.  The A360 does indeed – eventually – find its way to Devizes.

Eva to the family on remaining three quarters of a sheet of Leonard’s writing paper:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for letting us and drawings which were very good. We looked into Charlie Drake’s Bingo tonight, and Michael Aspel mentioned there was goings-on at Ruislip and they were supposed to be going down there, he was a scream. 

The sweep came 5 minutes early had gone at 7. He said he had to go to Mrs Cummings next but didn’t think she would be up because he believed his wife had mixed the dates. Anyway I saw her today and he had only come a fortnight too soon, still she had it done – she has the old people from Cornwall there too. 

I should think we have had enough rain since coming back everywhere is soaking so gardening is out for the time being. 

Lots of love from (Grandma and Grandfy) Mum and Dad

[NB: there was of course no reference to Stonehenge but Eva did contribute a drawing which I was going to attempt to describe but to be perfectly honest my powers of description failed me.  It is attached below, together with a photograph of what probably inspired it.]

Sunday 22nd October, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad,

Once again the round of letters begins, and yours of this weeks arrived about 9 a.m.. Thank you also for your note sent on arrival back at Clevedon. It seems that you had a very good run and a much more enjoyable one than you thought you would get on the previous day. I think the route is quite good, and will prove much less exacting from the driving point of view when it has been done a couple of times and we are used to it. 

Thank you also for the book sent to the girls, they enjoyed it. 

You certainly had quite a while in Andover – much more than we had, as we only got involved in a traffic jam. I think the best sausages I have ever tasted were the chipolatas made by Maunders of Tiverton. If the Andover ones come up to that standard they must be good. 

Susan and Carol were very glad to see you, and had looked forward to it for a long time. They seemed to accept the comings and goings of people quite well. I do not think they have a great deal of feeling for time and distance yet. 

Susan has been a bit of colour for a couple of days. hard to put a name to it, but she did not have any dinner yesterday, and did not eat much tea. This morning’s breakfast disappeared quickly enough though, and she seems more herself. they have been giving us a duet of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in the front room. 

Glad you managed to spot Stonehenge this time – it is big enough. I was surprised to hear you had missed it on the way up as it is so close to the road. Some walk up to it though I believe. 

I am glad you enjoyed the visit. I am afraid it was over so quickly, and hard to believe that it was made apart from the tangible evidence. That of course is the drawback of long weekends which are so infrequent due to the distance involved. I expect you could come up more often if we lived near Reading. This would reduce the journey to about 100 miles and the time to about two-and-a-half hours. 

Yes I am pleased with the photographs. short of cinematograph films I think that is the best way to do the job these days. The results amazed me as hitherto my efforts in black and white came in for severe criticism. 

Mr and Mrs Baker arrived home safely on the night of their visit – Peter’s driving having improved. It being Mrs Baker’s birthday yesterday, we went over to Yiewsley in the afternoon. We have had to return the projector so Pauline will have to wait now before she sees the large sized pictures. As you know she has already seen them in a pocket viewer.

Our heavy rain occurred on Sunday night if I remember rightly, and we had another dose of it last night. Dahlias still flowering – we were able to take a mixed bunch over to Grandma yesterday. 

Note your clearing up activities going to plan. I noticed that my indoor chrysanths or some of them have flower buds. If we do not get a severe frost I may get some blooms.

I am afraid I cannot guess which bottle of wine you sampled. I thought that I gave you a Parsnip and a Rhubarb. Both of these were fair drinks, but I had to add some sugar to the Parsnip and I had not tasted that particular bottle perhaps you found it not sweet enough. My grape wine is still fermenting, but is obviously slowing down. Have not made any apple wine but with luck I may get round to it soon. Now that you have reminded me of this subject, I have had a swig of the Parsnip for myself – not bad. I must have a racking session with my wines and get them into bottles.

So the mice are still in evidence – I think one must have made a nest in the old wireless set as I got out enough pieces of paper, leaves and straw from underneath the chassis to make a large sized ball. Almost filled up the vacuum cleaner bag. 

Had a series of good meetings last week. The most important thing that happened was an interview for the lecturer’s job. Had my interview on Wednesday at 11:15 and a very good one it was. I gather that I have not got the job as McD phoned up and asked how I had done. It appears they were suitably impressed, but the job went to someone with previous lecturing experience. John Welshman was also up for interview, and the betting was even between us according to the G.M.’s office, so assume he got it. I do not wish to give the impression of quotes “sour grapes”, but although the money was worth having, I am still not sure that the best has not happened. I can see no future in the lecturing business, apart from the initial rise in salary. Of course there is the principal’s job to aim at, but there are others ahead already, and the need to train staff in work study will not continue indefinitely. Visited Reading three times last week – it gets like old times. 

We have decided to retain the telephone and have written accordingly. 

Pouring with rain again now, hope it eases off when the children go to Sunday School. Have not had a chance to get on the back lawns yet due to wet, and the front one looks as if it wants cutting again. All the honeysuckle plants are alive, as are the ivies. It seems as though the Esther Reads are doing well but have not been at close range since last weekend. One in flower is still flowering. The rose you saw is still in bloom. I must say if this continues in subsequently years we shall be pleased.

Have you used the leaf mould yet? By the way, what was the name of the Wiltshire Village that you told me Granddad Atkins was born in. Seem to remember it was a double-barrelled name, but it is escapes me at present*. 

Thought Grandma’s picture was good – could it have been Stonehenge? Well that is all the news etc.l for this week, I think we are up-to-date with most of it. Look forward to your next. Love from us all. 

*If by ‘Grandad Atkins’ he is referring to Tom, i.e. Leonard’s father, the answer is that Tom was born in the Workhouse at Westbury, Wiltshire, to a single mother, and was raised in the village of Road/Rode in Somerset – famous for the Constance Kent murder case – by an unrelated family.  Tom’s father’s identity is unknown.  Tom’s grandfather, i.e. Leonard’s great grandfather, was born and died in the village of Mells, near Frome, but had been in his grave for eleven years before Leonard was born.  Tom’s mother presumably made a special effort to give birth to him at Westbury as she had previously given birth to a daughter (Mary Maud) at Frome Union Workhouse in Somerset and it would no doubt be sensible for her not to have two successive children in the same county as otherwise enquiries would be made as to the identity of the father/fathers.  So far there is no indication as to who either father may have been, but there is clearly more research to do in this area.