Tuesday 5th February, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Continued Wednesday 6th February, 1963]

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Sunday 3rd February, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 15th January, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec, June Susan and Carol once again many thanks for letters received this morning – second post. Most of our long-distance letters seem to be arriving second post lately including that from Lyng yesterday*. Yes we could see last week’s letter was posted on the Tuesday and guessed weather conditions had delayed dispatch.

The position re snow etc. at your end noted and I cannot report much if any improvement this end. It is a fact the Council men have been clearing the snow from the main roads and dumping it in the sea but the side roads are ghastly. With the help of Bushell I got our car out of garage on Monday (yesterday) and down the drive to the asphalt section but it was a real effort and the spade had to be used continuously. He (Bushell) was anxious to get some coal and I drove him down to his coal dealer only to find the place under lock and key. We then went on to Yeates in Meadow Street who let us have three bags which we brought back in boot of car. They were right out of coal and we have already let them have a few bucketfuls from our decreasing stock. Later Mum and I went to library and I left car in drive with nose up against shed outside back door. Last Friday I got Bushell to take my battery down to garage for charging and Mr Heel fetched it on Saturday so will soon able to get car underway again. We have had some exceptionally sharp frosts and any thaw is restricted to about an hour daily whilst sun is out so very little improvement is being made.

As mentioned in last letter in P.S. Bushell’s guttering came down one night last week and fell through his glass veranda. It also came down on the house next to him and between them they have a pretty good mess. So far we have escaped that trouble but there is still a lot of iced snow on our roof to come down so I’m watching this closely. Indoors our water system has not been too bad. Last Sunday the downstairs cold water tap over sink was frozen until 3:30 p.m. and we eventually thawed it out by placing a 150 watt lamp under sink for two or three hours. No trouble since but we keep fire in living room burning day and night and we find it helps considerably. In garage both the fermentation locks were frozen solid this morning but I put them in greenhouse and noticed they were all right again just now. Potatoes unfortunately have taken the frost and Mum has to be careful when preparing them for dinner – a lot of waste.

Noted your difficulty in negotiating road with car. It is the same here especially on the side roads. The main roads are more flattened out by the traffic but when frosty are very treacherous to those walking. Have just taken Mum down to hairdressers and now parked car in position for the night. This week’s Mercury enclosed gives a lovely picture of Holly Lane taken from the Portishead Road and it is typical of what we have had round about. Your comment last week Re: the rent is ideally depicted in cartoon in Sunday paper which I have cut out and enclosed herewith. Must get a laugh out of it somehow.

We too have felt the power cuts in electricity supply and the people who have all electric fires are suffering most. To us there is nothing like a coal fire but I think you were very fortunate to get your gas fire fitted in October and it is obvious you have not suffered from the cuts insofar as heating of room is concerned.

We are sorry to hear you are all still under the weather in respect of cold etc. but I’m afraid only the warmer weather will help matters now. It is surprising you can all keep going. I’m very thankful I have not to go to Bristol nowadays. Shall be thinking of you tomorrow moving into number 17 Eccleston road but what good news June that there has been such an improvement in the decor of the house. Let us hope both your mum and dad will like what they see and enjoy the comfort of retirement together.

Incidentally how did the new rating affect the premises at number 155? We have gone up from £33 to £79 rateable value. What about number 84? Must wait and see now how much in the pound to the actual rate will be.

Some mini car at Hoddesdon than. Shows how snow can drift. Back in the 1880s your great grandfather Beacham who was a Goods Guard at Exeter worked a double home train from Exeter to Rogerstone and was snowed up for a week. The winter of 1927 you were in hospital at Trowbridge over the Christmas and Mum there too. I was on my own and worked 16 hours per day in Westbury Control to enable others to have the time off. I went back to my old lodge and when later I opened up house for you and mum to come back to found I had a burst pipe and was there a mess. It was a very severe winter and we sent snow ploughs up the M. & S.W. line to clear a path right through from Chiseldon to Andover Junction. I remember a winter at Tiverton something like this but cannot say the year.**

You had a nasty job with your boiler – could have caused a lot of trouble if you had not dealt with it promptly. Expect you have read of one or two explosions of boilers fitted at back of fireplaces. I never liked these and would never have one fitted in any house I occupied.

Yes it is amazing how the public drift back to rail when they cannot use road services when at other times they have not a good word for them. I see the powers that be are going to try and arrange through train loads from one point to another. I hope someone tells them this is not a new idea by any means but in my opinion they will not get very far with it. Some places like Bristol shed and Paddington shed yes, but where do they think they will get other through loads? Bristol shed used to be set up so that no shunting was necessary when the wagons were drawn out. The shed portion was backed on to the non-vacuum rear portion on the higher level and the train was away. Cannot see them improving on the freight train service the Great Western railway had in operation at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Back to your letter again. Yes the toboggan run at the back of Hack’s house is still the number one attraction for the boys and girls of today but the very bad spell of weather has enabled other runs to be made. Glad to hear Susan and Carol both enjoyed the party on Saturday. We do like the one about the sausages on cocktail sticks. – the young idea. I’m sure Dad could have done with a few.

Noted the arrangements for the girls tomorrow. Carol will wonder where Christopher is. Susan manages to get to and from school alright then.

The wood pigeons are being a nuisance now visiting the gardens to pick off what bit of greenstuff is showing above the snow. The horse is still with us and he is being fed on hay now. These last two mornings he has been covered with the hoar frost. Glad your primulas are alright – they are in a nice warm room. Ours recovered after their treatment with the warm water and are still in flower. I’m afraid a lot of things have gone west again this time because of such sharp frost.

*’long distance’ in this case being 35 miles from Lyng to Clevedon.

**Alec had a story about a heavy winter closing the lines to regular railway traffic and also blocking the roads. When a railwayman died at a remote location a platelayer’s trolley had to be sent out to retrieve his body for burial. This would have been in the Templecombe area of Somerset.

[Continued on Wednesday 16th January, 1963]

Wednesday 9th January, 1963

Continued from Tuesday 8th January, 1963:

Many thanks for letter received first post this morning – very sorry to hear June has some throat trouble and Carol another touch of catarrh. It is a wonder anybody can keep going these days, the weather is terrible. Anyhow we hope they will soon shake it off.

I’m surprised to hear the Wellingtons rub the skin of the feet – perhaps they are a size too large? You too have had some very bad weather but I think on balance it has been more severe around here. Noted you have been able to use car – this is more than we have been able to do for more reasons than one as previously stated.

So letter only turned up on Saturday. I struggled down to Post Box in the blizzard in time to catch the 1:15 p.m. collection on Thursday but like everything else the Post Office people were out of gear.

Yes a week today the move from West Drayton will be well under way and once again we hope everything proceeds satisfactorily and that the weather is much improved by then.

No we do not help Mrs Marshall go her rounds of the poultry yard – Bissix who lives opposite her goes across sometimes.

Your delivery of papers worse than ours. Our man only missed one day but has been very late on many others. The milkman missed us one day and delivered only one pint each on another day otherwise normal in this respect. So you had the Fine Food shop to yourselves then. A good one about the rent man having to take it out of the knocker at some houses following the lay-in of food.

So the girls enjoyed their party last Saturday. The young idea to only want the good parties at Sunday Schools or flats – Susan’s brain working it all out again?

I suppose I should have said that everything at Lyng must be new except the house. Cannot see them ever shifting from there although at the moment he cannot get in or out with car because of the slippery slope.

Sorry to hear Peter out of the job again – is he looking for anything in particular? Particular nice of him to help clear the snow from drive – most welcome in fact as you could not have tackled it very well. Yes we thought of Christopher on Tuesday and also of Susan as we imagined she would be returning to school. Not very nice walking to and fro. Carol will soon be off as well – my word how they are growing up. The holiday here this time has been a great one for the children who have been tobogganing down the side of Church Hill. I also noticed they had a go on Wains’ Hill.

We hear Les Garland’s wife – now in Frenchay Hospital in Bristol – is improving slightly but it will be another fortnight before can think of getting her home again. We also hear that Sheila their younger daughter has taken over the ladies’ hairdressing business of Hamblin’s at Six Ways (near Babyland). She has been with this firm ever since she left school.

By the way did you find any snow in the attic? A lot of reports around here indicate this trouble but we seem to be free.

Poor old Joey has been on short rations for a couple of days this week. I told Norman Baker Sunday night that we had given the horse the last of the bale of hay at 1 p.m. that day and he would not have any for breakfast until he (Norman) brought him some. We actually fed him on bread etc. but no hay arrived on Monday and at 11 a.m. Tuesday I phoned Norman’s house only to find he has gone to Winford market. However Mrs Baker said she would tell him when he arrived home. At 5:30 p.m. Mrs Baker arrived with two bales of hay – said Norman had had an awful job getting to and from Winford and had only just got home. She (Mrs Baker) carried the bales in one by one before I could stop her. Apparently she is used to it. Joey quite happy again now but he still cannot see or get any grass.

I like the idea of a St. Bernard dog for mother – puzzle find the dog first, let alone the brandy.

Meant to have told you last week Mrs Cornish has now had a taste of the apricot wine and says it is excellent. Have still a small drop left.

Yes we will keep the W.R. December mag for you.

Most of our pot plants have had a rough time recently and some of them have flopped altogether. The primulas were all frosted one morning but mum gave them some warm water and they revived alright. I’m afraid some of the others are gone all together now and even indoors the tradescantia have heeled over. Some of the potatoes now seem to have taken some of the frost but still are usable. It just does not seem possible to counteract such severe weather and I suppose we must put up with it. Yet how do they get on in Norway and Sweden?

Have you heard from the Benns over this period as to how they are getting on? Wonder how he has got his car in and out?

No more this time. I hope you will soon be better and that road conditions improve quickly. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. Mum and dad

P.S. Guttering on next two houses to us (Bushells and Mrs Drewett’s old house) crashed down under weight of snow and broke glass in verandas underneath.

Sunday 6th January, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks again for weekly letters, received Saturday this week, no doubt due to snow. Did not see the efforts from the girls last time, but gather they were good. Note your Xmas arrangements and the quiet time went satisfactorily.

Re: boots, I still use the pair you gave me (Wellingtons), but wearing them to the office is very bad on the feet – usually takes the skin off the heels however well padded in the sock line. I had to do just that in the early part of the week as the snow was so high, but on Friday I put on some overshoes over my ordinary shoes and found that walking was so much easier, and of course no trouble to the heels. Wellington boots at best are never a good fit, and doubling the trousers to fit in the tops does them no good either.

Snow inside the garage door gone now, and just a wet smear or two. We have had no further falls for some time, but that which is already down is proving a nuisance. Our road even now is six inches deep in / on top of frozen stuff. Cars have the greatest difficulty in getting up over the top. I saw one in the week stopped halfway up, and each time he tried to start (about twenty attempts) his back wheels just whizzed round and he dropped back a yard. In the end he got right back to the bottom and had to have another run at it. That is the secret – if you can get a good run up in third, and can control the car from sliding sideways, you can make the top. If anything approaches from the other direction doing the same you are in a spot of bother, or if there is a parked car sticking out. All we had was one track made by car wheels right in the middle of the road for both up and down traffic. I had three successful trips up the hill yesterday, and each time had to lose way a bit to let cars past. Of course once you stop you have had it. All other roads are pretty clear. This morning first thing a bulldozer arrived to clear snow from the hill, but after about ten minutes they gave it up as a bad job.

Sorry you have not got the premium bonds up, but note that the Pools did produce this week. Not a bad offer to pay part of the stake, if this is a permanent arrangement for the whole of the season I should accept too, or is it the sprat?*

Getting near to the time when we shall have finished with trips to West Drayton. Only another ten days now. We are planning to go to number 17 next Saturday to do one or two odd jobs.

Yes it is amazing that Christopher starts school next week, time certainly seems to flash in some respects. It has however seemed a long two years or so from the time Susan went to school. Carol of course now straining at the leash. With luck we may get her in after Easter but if not, it will be September.**

Good news of the horse then. Increased order from the grocer for sugar these days then.

You have me mystified about Don and his requiring everything new – full stop [sic]. What now, a new house??

You seem to have had a worse lot of snow then we have had. Your garage must have been in a bit of a mess. Three feet down deep down the drive too, would have buried the horse has he been lying down. Pity there were nine people in church last Sunday night. Had one less arrived the choir would have outnumbered the congregation. Glad your ringers “Do” went well. Not a bad muster at eleven. Sorry that Alec Parker missed it and also Les Garland on account of Mrs Garland having been taken to hospital. I hope things are alright again there. Glad you remember the seagulls. What was the reaction?

We did not stop up for the New Year – long time since I did so. Do I gather you are helping Mrs Marshall to feed the fowls?

A very gradual stop and start thaw has been taking place for a couple of days which has slightly improved things. Light indications of rain have appeared on the windows for a while while I have been typing this letter, but they seem to have stopped now. I think the temperature must be a little above freezing. Every now and then you have to get back to the weather for one reason or another. Can imagine Roy Hewitt having a lot of difficulty getting about and doubt if he attempts to go outdoors. Should not let Mum out delivering the mags without a St. Bernard. Then if you provide the little barrel that goes in front you can both go.

We have not suffered from shortage of food during the blizzard. Perhaps the quality of some veg is a bit poor, I do not know. We have had milk and bread up to the usual quantities. Milk has been a little late on occasions, and also papers late and missing all together on three days. After all the latter are not essential so no worries there. We went out at our usual early hour to do the Saturday shopping (despite the difficulty with the car on the hill) and found practically no one in Fine Foods supermarket. We were told by one assistant that there had been a rush on food in the week and they had had a rush comparable with Christmas – of people laying in stocks of food in case supplies were cut off due to the snow. The assistant said also she thought a lot of people had mortgaged their rent to do this and could expect the rent and to take it out of the knocker next week.

Glad you like the homemade wines (in principal) as I think they are better than the commercial wines because they are lighter and less bitter. For most commercial products I think one has to acquire a taste for them, but with homemade wines that taste accepts instantly one particular type of wine and rejects most most others***. I myself like a semi dry wine with just a hint of sweetness where as I do not go much for the very dry or very sweet. Again I prefer the white wines to the red.

You will be looking for a sub for this two and a half percent. If you find a suitable source let me know. We have heard nothing on this score as yet. Usually the rates go up, there would be no point in altering them if it were not so.

Carol has a little catarrh and June not too good with tonsillitis, otherwise all reasonably well this end. Yesterday was the day of the Sunday school Christmas party. June and I took them down in the car at 3:30 p.m. and collected them at 6 p.m.. I think they had a good time. Teachers etc. looked a bit fed up at the time or went home though. I shouldn’t wonder either. Two are bad enough, but all that mob at once – phew. Susan and Carol have been invited to a party next Saturday at a house a little way down the road. Susan says she does not want to go as it is usually dull, she only wants to go to parties that are in Sunday School or held in flats. (How sophisticated can you get?) Carol is all for it.

Have you built your sleigh yet? I note mother walking in other people’s footprints, but would be much easier for her if you could put her on the sleigh and tow her out for shopping. Good for you on the mince pies. I do not remember having any myself this year. Can always eat a mince pie.

You might like to keep the W.R. mag with my transfer as I have not seen it yet.

This colouring of the snowman is quite original. We do not see anything like that here. Would like to know how they do it.

I expect Alec Parker will make his fortune baking bread locally. With luck he may keep a lot of his customers.

Peter is out of work again****. He came over on Thursday and we had our side way of snow and did a couple of jobs he also very kindly brought over some small offcuts of wood for the boiler. At long last we are getting towards the end of the wood that was present here when we moved in. This has all come from dismantled summer house, dismantled shed etc. and sundry bits and pieces that were scattered about the place.

Well I hope you are both well apart from the cold that is. Must call it a day again and close wishing you all the best for now and love from us all.

*i.e. the ‘sprat to catch a mackerel

**Why have children if all you want to do is get rid of them? I’ve never understood. June’s sole focus was her housework – even in her last coherent days, all she cared about was cleaning and tidying and watering plants – and children, husband and everything else were simply barriers to her doing that to her satisfaction. What a shame to have so little of value in her life that cleaning was all that ever mattered.

***What a load of pretentious old bollards!

****Not at all surprised, he could be really argumentative – in fact, downright bolshie at times.

Tuesday 1st January, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for all your letters received this morning – quite a good one from Susan and another good effort by Carol. Glad to hear you all had a good Christmas and that the girls particularly enjoyed themselves. After all it is really a time for children. We spent it very quietly and just as well we did considering the hectic time we have had since. First however to your letters. 

Sorry to hear you fell down in Melthorne Drive and hope no ill after effects. What do you wear between home and station? A good pair of Wellingtons is the best proposition, carrying ordinary shoes to put on in office. These will not I know prevent slipping up but they do keep out the wet and protect the legs if you have to walk much through snow. 

Your trouble with snow in garage somewhat similar to mine – more later about that. Pleased to hear you all liked the bit of “Christmassing” you took back from Clevedon. As we said at the time we wish it could be more but so far we have not had a premium bond come up or touched the pools.

Your comment re chicken from Lyng some time ago. I’m sure it was intended as a present and again I’m sure you have done nothing ‘wrong’. I imagine Don and Joan felt they could not repeat the dose. Between now and next Christmas they will have to sort themselves out as to what they are really going to do in the future but we shall not be disturbed if they cut us out of the arrangement. They have a very big call for poultry at this time of year and can pick up a nice bit of money by selling the birds ready for table. 

The typewriter he has bought obviously is a good one but why pay so much for one at his time of life and almost on the point of retiring – seems such a waste of money to me but Don has to have everything new with a capital N. I could say a lot more but perhaps this is enough for the time being. 

Thank you June too for your letter – we are glad the roaster* came in useful and can only hope it was successful. Glad you were able to have your mum and dad over on the two days although not for very long. Yes I’m sure it is with mixed feelings you are looking forward to the 16th inst. – we do hope the move will be effected satisfactorily and that everything will be alright at Eccleston road. 

Hope Susan got through her letters in good order** – it was a very nice one she sent us. Carol too was not left out – she made a really good effort. Fancy Christopher starting school next week. They are all growing up – even the little girl next door here – Ruth – we can see such a difference in her already. 

Yes we felt the same about the horse as you apparently feel by your letter but we are assured he is quite alright this weather. No grass can be seen at the moment and Norman has had to bring him down a couple of bundles of hay which we dole out to him daily. Mum still takes him some bread and sugar and does he like it – starts smacking his lips as soon as she is in sight. Norman Baker told us yesterday the horse is 28 years of age. He does not work it nowadays but keeps it for sentimental reasons as he learned to ride on it as a very small child and his own children also learned to ride on him. 

Since our last letter we have really had some bad weather. Last Saturday night we had a blizzard here and this continued well into Sunday day, and after that the east wind continued making things doubly worse. Snow all over the place about 3 ft deep along our drive to garage and 2 ft deep between house and front gate with considerable drifting. Outside the front gate and right across the road the snow was as high as the front garden walls and cars and milk lorries were in real trouble. In our garage I found car with 6 inches of snow on roof and it was 6 inches thick on side of car nearest the small door. On the shelves there was a coating of 2 inches on books and tins etc. and on the floor inside small and big doors there was about a foot of snow. Never seen anything like it before. The snow must have drifted through the small spaces between corrugated asbestos roofing sheets and the tops of the upright walls. Cannot get car out of garage at present and in any case could not negotiate the drive to front gate. Have cut a path about 2 feet behind between house and front gate and snow is banked up to a depth of over 2 feet on either side. Now we hear there is more snow to come and another blizzard tomorrow night. 

So far we have had no damp patches in ceiling of bedrooms but Heel next door has one already. This means snow has got under felting and is melting. Understand the roads around here are most treacherous and I can well believe it judging by the ones in the immediate vicinity. Last Sunday morning there were 12 people in church at 8 in choir at night 9 people in church and 9 in choir. We did however have 6 ringers in the morning and 8 at night. 

The ringers’ annual party was quite satisfactory and once again Mum had a splendid do laid on. 11 sat down at 9:30 p.m. but the vicar cried off during the afternoon on account of the weather.  Alec Parker two could not turn up as they were busy baking bread which was selling as soon as they could get it into the shops – a shortage apparently. Les Garland had to go to Frenchay Hospital to see Mrs Garland who was taken ill Christmas Eve and he did not get home until 9:30 p.m. and felt too fagged out to come on here. Feltham was working and Ted Caple never comes along. The curate brought a gatecrasher (a student staying with him) and of course he had to hear about the “seagulls”***. Incidentally he drinks nothing but Scotch whisky. I told him now he was in Somerset he would have to learn to take the local beverage – cider – commonly known as agricultural wine. Did not seem to take kindly to the suggestion. The party finally broke about 1:15 a.m. this morning but mum had already gone to bed. When we came out of Belfry at 12:30 a.m. it was snowing again so this morning I had to have another go at clearing a pathway to front gate. The drift along the drive had deepened but we had to get through it to feed and water horse who was waiting for his usual. We had asked Roy and Mrs Hewitt to tea tomorrow (Wednesday) but I had to go down there early this afternoon to put them off indefinitely. In any case he could not have got round here. Mrs Marshall will not venture outdoors on her own and someone has to go with her to feed the fowls – afraid of falling down and not being discovered if on her own.

continued on Wednesday 2nd January 1963

*I wonder if this is the Pyrex chicken roaster, now in my possession, that I inherited when my mother downsized to a small flat towards the end of her life.  I certainly don’t remember her ever using anything different.

**I remember Christmas and birthday ‘thank you’ letters as being a time of terrible trial and am not remotely surprised that these seem to have gone out of fashion since!

***I suspect this may have been some ‘shaggy dog story’ regularly trotted out for newbies, but I have no definitive information.

Sunday 30th December, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad 

Thanks once again for weekly letter and all your news. I am surprised to learn that ours reached you so early. We posted it on the Sunday afternoon in the hopes that it would reach you at least by Christmas Day, and in fact that seems to be what it did do with a day to spare. 

Weather did you say? Well we note from the TV and News that the West Country has had it bad over the last few days. When we got up this morning we found heavy snow on the ground and even inside the house. Although the windows in the dining room are closed, and even covered with draught excluder, wood and rubber, the snow has penetrated and left a long pile two inches deep on the inside of the windowsill. Had to scrape it up before it melted with the heat generated by the electric fires. The snow is drifting badly and is piled up against the garage and the fence. I looked in to the garage this morning and started up the car just to turn it over and found a lot of snow inside. This has come in under the eaves. The milkman seems to be having a bit of trouble getting up the hill, and so far we have not seen the paper boy. Do not know if that means he has declined to travel, or if the papers have not reached the shop. I declined to get the car out on Friday night – my club night – and walked to station and journeyed by train. By Saturday the main roads had been made pretty passable by the heavy traffic on them, and although the side roads were bad I got the car out for the usual Saturday morning shopping expedition. The going was not too bad, but I was glad to get back. In the afternoon it got a lot colder and I went out to post a letter on foot. With a good walking pair of shoes on and walking very carefully I still fell flat on my back in Melthorne Drive. It could have shaken me up badly had I not put the flats of my palms down at the same time. These took the weight and I did not get much of a jar.

A very bad accident near Crewe as you say. How it always seems to happen at Christmas time. 

Believe you me the girls enjoyed themselves on Christmas Day. They were very good. A bit excited when they went to bed, but in the morning they stayed fairly quiet until I went downstairs to see if Santa had called. When I told them he had, that was the end of the quiet. They thoroughly enjoyed undoing the parcels as usual and much appreciated the presents you sent. You will hear from Susan on behalf of the two of them. So far as June and I are concerned, thank you very much for our gifts. My shirt in particular very good and very acceptable. 

Note your visit to Lyng and that Joan not so good. Hope that by now she will have improved. So far as the poultry is concerned, they will be well without that burden. I do not suppose they want the money all that bad, and it must take an awful lot of their time. We had a bird from Don the first year we were here. A Christmas present we think. We did not pay for it, and were not asked to do so, but there was no mention about chicken in subsequent years. Perhaps we made a mistake. I do not know what he charges, but we have not done badly for poultry this end.

So the typist did not arrive then. Was the machine worth the price? 

Poor old horse. This must be terrible weather for him. Surely he should not be left in the fields in these conditions? The lack of water is one thing, but protection from the wind and cold is quite another. 

Your wine should improve with keeping as I believe it is still fairly new. Your orange and cherry is only a few months old but it is a very fine wine. 

Note your activities over Christmas. Hope your match and return match with the Astons went well. Do they have the TV? Did not think much of the programmes on either channel this year. 

Hope your party for the bell-ringers goes well. Please give my regards to them, as you know I know most of them. 

Bad news about Ted Caple and Ern Cole then. But may be only the time of year. Hope you are both alright. Glad all liked the E.R. mag. 

Gardening eh? Coo rather you than me. 

Well now at the bottom of the page again so will close wishing you both a happy and healthy New Year. Love from us all.

Sunday 9th December, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks for letters, again arrived on Saturday, this time well after 9-00 a.m.. I began to wonder if we would get one or not this week.* I imagine it will all be due to the pre-Xmas rush or build-up.

Re: cold, yes it got down on the chest alright, and the fog when it came really made things difficult for stop anything like that is best avoided when the smog is about. Talking about that, I do not recall anything as bad in the whole time I have been this end, and I do not want any more of it. It was much worse than in the 1952 dose.** In normal fogs you can breathe although it is more moisture than air, but in this stuff it is like trying to breathe with an eiderdown jammed over the nose. The soot that goes down inside is nobody’s business. Everyone goes about with a nasty hacking cough which disappears only when the fog lifts. I had no difficulty in getting to work or getting home because of the route I take***. My only difficulty was fighting to get down the escalator. this latter is a bit tricky as they only let a certain number down when crowds build up. A bell rings then perhaps fifty to a hundred search forward to get into a space about two persons wide. This of course gets one a bit compressed by the time you get near the escalator onto which you get literally squirted.**** However, this apart, the rest of the journey is uneventful and only the walk from the station in the fog remains. This is probably the worst part, as by that time the temperature has dropped to freezing, and the density is at its worst. Needless to say we were all very glad to see the rain on Friday.

I am afraid that following Susan’s bilious attack last week, we had a further instalment of the same this week, only June was the victim. She had the morning in bed on Thursday, but was much better in the afternoon. I had the day off to do the bits and pieces, and it was a relief not to have to battle with the fog, although naturally we regret the cause.

Yes our 8th wedding anniversary has come and gone – still as hard up as ever – but that looks like being a permanent state.

Did not know that Hillman’s were going to deliver the firebrick to Clevedon as I imagined them to be a Weston firm. Not bad I suppose, 6/6d. Now you can at least use the fire. We used to have some firebricks at the back and sides which cuts down the space requiring to be filled by coal. We are glad you like it.

Now that Mr Richings has had his driving instruction I have been informed that I should do the same so that madam can have the benefit of the tuition passed on*****. I have not seen any advert by the local police to that effect. No more driving for June. We really shall have to get down to it, but of late the main object of life has been to get there as quickly as possible and get back in the warm.

Talking about the car, I had a bit of trouble in the week. I thought I would start up the car on Thursday just to get the engine moving and loosened up. Touched the starter and got one faint whirr out of it and finish. As it was dark and had the garage doors closed I did not bother to get it out to give myself room to fit the handle, but just gave it up as a bad job. The following night, wishing to go out in it, I opened the garage doors and pushed out the car. I applied the handle and could not get the engine round, it seemed to have jammed solid. I imagined this to be due to the frost. No antifreeze in yet. I routed round until I could find a watering can, and got it sorted out. (The can) then poured in some very hot water and attempted to get it into the radiator. All this in the dark mark you. A lot of the water dropped over the top and went down the outside of the radiator. I think this latter must have done the trick because as I turned the engine it progressively got easier and eventually it started up. Have  had no further such trouble as it has been a lot warmer. Yesterday I got a pane of clear glass from the ironmongers in Eastcote and fitted it in the window frame in the garage. It is surprising how much putty it takes. I bought a 4lb tin and have used half of it. The fitting of the window will mean that the garage will be that much warmer – I hope.

I see your police have caught the vicars wife who crossed the double white lines. A bit near home?§

Regarding the vacancies, I gather certain people have already been identified with the new posts. These include McDonald Productivity Assistant – R.J. Hill (in whatever capacity he will act) – F.D. Pattison Divisional Manager Plymouth – Hilton Divisional Manager Cardiff. These are the only ones so far that I know. The others will be named soon no doubt, then the rest of the jobs will be up for applications. I gather that one of the innovations will be the dispensation with the title of Assistant. Every officer will have a title in his own right, and will not be an assistant to anybody. This is as it should be, and a proper delegation of authority can take place. My frequently made statement that no one on the railway is responsible for anything will just become out of date??

I note you say ‘is something the matter with the ignition of the car’. I believe you may be right as when trying to start up in the dark with the bonnet open I noticed a number of blue sparks coming from the plug leads. This means that there are points where the electricity is being shorted. I must have a look at these soon.

Notley was under McDonald when in the Work Study Section but when he went into Traffic Costing on promotion to Special B, he came under Walton. Now McD takes over Traffic Costing in his new capacity and back comes Notley into  his staff. We do not know what will happen to Walton. Some say he will land one of the Divisional Productivity jobs.

I had Boots’ own antifreeze last year, and it is quite good. It is also cheaper than Bluecol.

Things not too bad in the loft although I have not been up there this weekend. Have ordered more wood to finish it off, but this will not be for a week or two. I have also a couple of hinges for the trapdoor. I think I can fix it so that it swings open. This will save scratching the paint every time it is lifted off. Both the girls have been up in the loft. They insisted in going up, Carol in particular. When it was time to go down she kicked up a fuss and did not want to go down the ladder and would not be persuaded. In the end I had to grab her and plank her on the ladder above me while I went down first. Never heard such a squawk. She has asked to go up again, but once bitten.??

Once a month my colleague Unwin has to act as chairman of a discussion group at the Work Study School. For the last two occasions he has cried off for various reasons, so I have had to do it. It is only for an hour in the morning, then in the afternoon we put onto films for the purpose of checking their rating ability. We have anything from 15 to 25 at a time and they come from all departments.

We are paying guests at this party. Last year we charged everyone and that was probably the reason that Bob Hill did not come although he said he would.

No more news (good or bad) about number 17.

Imagine Soole with a moustache – what a combination.

I hope you remembered me to the Bristol people you met. It is a long time since I saw any of them.

I shall not be in a position to apply for anything for at least a couple of years, as this is frowned on and not supported. I also gather that when the two years are up one does not go on to [illegible] Max as on W.R. but you get another 10% increase on the minimum and the rest some time later (after another two years I believe). I am not very worried about this as I have not been on a maximum for many years. I think I only reached Max twice on Class 4 and Class 2. (The only two promotions I got in the Freight Train Office in a total of 11 years with them.)

Bad luck on the sloes then. I must tell Peter he will have to find the sloes for you. A messy time of the year to go digging in the garden. Probably like digging glue.

Note your news re: Richings and Saunders. Will also read the mercury in due course, but have only just glanced at it at the moment.

I will be down on the 9:05 a.m. Paddington on Saturday (if I get up in time) and return on Monday morning. Hope this is all right by you.

Well I have been having trouble with the typewriter this week. The full stop sticks and so do the ‘1’ and the ‘o’. Makes life difficult so will close and try to clean. Love from us all for now.

*At a time when the Saturday service looks likely to disappear altogether (and rightly so IMHO) Alec’s complaint about a ‘late’ delivery on Saturday morning just looks petty and entitled, although clearly Sunday was his only available day for replying.

** I have distinct recollections of being out in a thick London fog with a yellow tinge, when we had been taken up to the city centre to ‘see the lights’ just before Christmas, and I’m assuming this would have been in 1962. Really, for a family known to have bronchitic tendencies, and who had been advised to take their children to a drier climate – preferably South Africa – for their health, this seems pretty irresponsible in hindsight. I don’t know about their other child – we are no longer in contact, thank goodness – but I still have bronchitic problems to this very day.

***Logic seems to suggest that he would have left the Central Line at Notting Hill Gate and transferred to the Circle Line as far as Liverpool Street. I have no idea why this was considered preferable as the Central Line would have taken him right through the heart of the city, but maybe it was because the Central Line trains were more frequent or likely to be less crowded. Or, indeed, both. I must admit that it’s a tactic I’ve always tended to use myself.

****Am I the only one shuddering in horror at the thought? This sounds incredibly dangerous, but of course it was just this sort of outmoded procedure which led to a number of tragic accidents in later years.

*****And once again we have Alec’s incredibly disrespectful attitude to women – all women, even his own wife and mother. If only they’d just sit down and shut up and make sure his tea’s on the table and his shirts ironed, how much nicer life would be!

§ Cutting enclosed with this letter:

Vicar’s wife fined

The wife of the Vicar of Failand, Bristol, Mrs Eirene Foster Young, of The Chantry, Failand, was fined £5 and had her driving licence endorsed at Calne Magistrates’ Court yesterday for crossing the double white lines in her car while overtaking another car.

This cutting seems to have been taken from one of the Bristol evening newspapers, date unknown, as an advertisement for a local Bristol business appears on the reverse. It is not known why Alec would have seen this before Leonard, unless someone had just happened to bring a Bristol even paper into the office. (Or left it on a train, of course.)

Sunday 2nd December, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks once again for another weekly letter each. This week for some reason it did not arrive until Saturday morning, perhaps the pre-Christmas post is on the increase. Glad you got the magazine O.K. The Binding at the end held all right then. The mag was a little larger than the envelope.

Yes I am afraid I succumbed to flu or what-have-you, and I am afraid it is now down on the chest. It is many years since I recall having a cough, although colds have been frequent. Again it seems to be the fashion round here. Roy – Delph’s husband – has been pretty rough, and I gather it has been through the same cause.

You refer to the weather. Last night there was a severe white frost and this morning it is extremely cold. The sun is trying to come up and the frost is going. I would say it is a very fine morning if you can keep moving. Otherwise it is a good morning to spend indoors.

I think we were rather lucky to be watching the TV on the day the elephants went to the zoo as it was a most unusual thing to do and the children were very interested. Good thing to spot that torn roll of wallpaper. No point in having and paying for dud stuff. I imagine there are not many people floating around the Weston shops now. It was was a bit hectic in the summer when we were there. Will the people let you know when the balance of the wallpaper has arrived, or will you have to go there on spec?

Very interesting to hear about the Advanced Motoring course that Richings is undergoing. Shall be glad to have more details of the instruction given. What made him go for that?

I understand that you still cannot have a coal fire in your front room. You will bless us if you do not get that firebrick, as the really cold weather is about now. Your electric heater is a good one though and perhaps you are warm enough with it.

No Baynton-Hughes has a job with the B.T.C., he has had no connection with Birmingham since he was the Timebill Clerk Special B. This post he did not occupy effectively as he was away with us at Reading at the time. In fact he never took up his duties. This phenomenon has followed him around in most of his posts. While holding one post (for salary purposes) he has in fact been doing something else. Rumour has it that although he has the job at the B.T.C. he is in fact without specific work, and thus becomes ideal for one of the productivity posts. Why we think he may elect for Bristol is the fact that his home District (Worcester) is now incorporated in the Bristol Division. We gather that from 1st of January the Development Assistants (to be renamed Productivity Assistants) will take over Work Study Research and Traffic Costing. McDonald has informed Notley that he will therefore be working for him again as from January. The latter is not very pleased. There were about fifty officers’ jobs on the W.R. Officers’ list this week. Again this is largely a question of men having to apply for the jobs they are already holding. I can imagine some of them are going to be disappointed as Soole was last time. This is a move to get placed some of the men from the disbanded B.T.C. I am sure.

June declined to do any driving last Sunday, and we have not had much opportunity since to do any. I am still having trouble starting the car, and it needs to be taken in for attention. I am afraid it will have to wait till after Christmas. The result of course is that the car needs a little coaxing until it warms up.

Sorry to hear mum had to leave church. Should have told the Curate she did not like his sermon. Very interesting digs the Curate has got. Hope he has a sense of humour.

I understand that the builders have been working hard in number 17. They say the ceiling in the kitchen is unsafe and will have to be attended to – this after the electricians has said it was in order, and fixed strip lighting to it. It seems that, when wainscoting was taken down, fungus was found growing behind, and when floorboards were looked at they were found to be soggy with moisture. What the eventual bill will be for this one I dare not think. They still hope to go in on the agreed date.

It is very nice to have wines and spirits for Christmas, especially at reduced prices. However up to date we have not been in a position to spare much for that side of Christmas fare. There have always seemed to be more important things requiring the £.s.d. and as you know Christmas is a shockingly expensive time.

There is not a lot wrong with the type from your machine. Last week I switched over to the bottom half of the ribbon you gave me although I think there is a lot more in the top part.

Sorry to hear that Bray has died. He was a comical chap. I knew him first as head messenger at Bristol D.S.O. he preceded Hallard. During the war Sid Guy, who had previously been a messenger in the D.S.O., returned (I think from Steventon) to take over for a short time from Hallard.

Just want to give myself a bit of elbow room in the loft. Every time I go up there it is a messy business getting ladder up and groping about in the dark. In addition there is a lot of useful room there for storing various things, and even getting a workbench fixed out of the way of small meddlers. Perhaps there will even be more room for the car in the garage when some of the stuff has been moved out. The main joists in the loft are level, but where the support beams from the roof are brought down at an angle to thrust on the joints, additional pieces of four-by-two have been tacked onto the joists so that these downward-sloping beams can thrust against one another to give added support. If I were to take away these added pieces, all the joints would be level but it would weaken the main supports of the roof. What I have to do therefore is to make all joists up to the level of the highest. This is an easier job than it sounds, as the usable area in the loft is not as vast as all that, and I do not propose to floor in any part where I cannot stand almost upright.

No comment on the geraniums etc from Mum, but nothing to reply to in my case.

I am quite happy to stay where I am for the time being thank you. While the W.R. is in a state of turmoil it is more than ever a rat race. I had another session over at the Work Study School on Friday and among the staff who came for a rating check were a number from Sheffield. One of these had had contact with Budworth who used to work with me at Paddington and who has gone to the North Eastern region at York. I think I told you that John Belcher who worked with me at Reading had been caught on some large-scale fiddle with passing fake cheques in banks. He had been doing this for some time apparently and he was well and truly caught. We gather that he has had the sack from the railway and has returned to the Cardiff area, but what he is doing now we do not know.*

I get a call from Notley and others occasionally at Paddington. June and I hope to go to the Christmas party on 14th December. It is the counterpart to the one I helped to organise last year.

Note with interest the detail of the proposed lake. I expect they will build it eventually as there is no doubt the Portishead Pool has put the council’s nose out of joint.

I did not see the wine-making on T.V. but would have been very interested. Have not made any as you know for some time. Peter was round last night to act as babysitter with Brenda while June and I went to Delph’s for a meal. She threw a party and we had an enjoyable time. When I got back I gave Peter a drink of fig and tangerine (generally accepted as being a good wine) and he quite enjoyed it. He asked when I was going to make some more sloe gin. Had to remind him that it was your brew. He was very impressed with it and keeps talking about it. You will have to make some more.

Have been instructed by Susan to clear the table for lunch, so will have to pack this in it now, and comply. Anything I have missed will have to keep for next week now, so will say cheerio for now and love from us all once again. 

*This John Belcher is almost certainly the same man as the ex-M.P., formerly ‘a railway clerk’, who resigned from Parliament in 1949 after some undesirable connections were exposed. Wikipedia says that he ‘returned to his clerical job with the railways’ after this.

Tuesday 27th November, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for letter received this morning together with magazine and letter from Susan and drawing from Carol. What a budget!

Very sorry to hear you have had a couple of days off but we were not surprised following June’s note that you had gone to work on the Monday with a cold coming on. Hope you are all much better now. There is a lot of sickness around here at the moment – flu, gastric and otherwise and no wonder with the weather prevailing. The conditions must be worse in the London area especially the fog. Unfortunately it is the time of year when we must expect a continuation of bad weather.

We were pleased to hear the girls saw the Johnny Morris programme with the elephants at Bristol Zoo – believe it or not we also looked into it and thought it quite good. We said at the time that we hope Susan and Carol were looking at it. Some of the children’s programmes between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. are very good.

Well we had our second visit to Weston last Thursday and before calling on the Richings had another look round the shops and I managed to get a haircut while mum toured Woolworths. Picked up the wallpaper ordered the previous but would you believe it one roll was damaged for about 12 feet of its length so I refused it and told firm to get another. At 14 shillings per roll* I did not want to waste paper. This means another trip to Weston later but this can be at our convenience as it is not proposed to start work until the New Year.

Had lunch with the Richings and afterwards he had an appointment at police station where he is taking an Advanced Driving course. The police at Weston apparently instituted this course which is free. There is no test afterwards but it is to give members of the public the benefit of the training given to the mobile police. We left them about 3:45 p.m. and were home again by 4:30 p.m. It was then just getting misty.

Yes it was a Work Study chap visiting Weston who told Richings of your move. He told me about Burt going to Euston.

We did not call at Hillmans’ this time as they told us it will take at least 10 to 14 days to get the fitting for the fire grate and in any case they would advise us when it arrived. No news to date.

I take it Baynton-Hughes is fancied for Burt’s job because he is being displaced at Birmingham?

Hope June managed to get in a bit of driving on Sunday even if only as far as the Sunday school. It was inclined to be foggy here but turned to a misty rain in the late afternoon and evening. We went to church and what do you think mum had to come out just after the sermon started because she could not stop a cough. Incidentally the Curate (who took service) called Monday afternoon when we told him mum had gone out to avoid the collection. He (the Curate) is moving into Miss Emly’s old bungalow in St Andrews Drive on the 13th of December – moving his mother and sister together with furniture etc. from Paisley Scotland by road. At the moment he is lodging at the Girls‘ Friendly Society hostel in Madeira Road off Sunnyside. What next.

Noted you had a bit of a scare at Ruislip Manor on Saturday but only from the spectators point of view. These occurrences can be very disturbing though and it makes one think. I’m sure speed is the root of most of the trouble – going too fast to pull up quickly enough. Bushell is still going out in his car without an experienced driver with him. Have not seen him lately to talk to.

Sounds as if the demolition squad is in number 17 Eccleston Road. Who is going to pay for that mishap? Cannot say I remember very clearly the layout of the premises. Hope the matter in connection with the disposal of number 155 proceeds satisfactorily to Mr and Mrs Baker. They surely must be looking forward to getting out as soon as possible.

So there is a possibility of getting some wines and spirits from E.R. Vaults at this time of year. Just as well to know. Have ordered a few bottles from Geoff.

Your visitors duly turned up then on Sunday at it worked out fairly well. Wonder Susan and Carol did not rebel at going to bed with the others still in the house. Perhaps they were tired. June would have been disappointed if they had not arrived with all the eats available. Your picture gallery will never get stale Alec and I expect you all enjoyed seeing it again. I noticed Geoff was very interested in the projector when they came over.

Yes June you must check on the Blenheim Orange apples now and see if any are gone or going bad. I think they should be alright but have a look in case.

Can see I shall soon have to go over to the red section of the typewriter ribbon or you will be complaining of poor type. Have not used the red at all so far so it should give good service for a while.

Had a letter from Griffiths (chief controller) this morning and he said that Albert Bray (Basher) died suddenly last Sunday and funeral is at Stapleton church next Friday. You remember him of course as being the Rolling Stock Inspector at Bristol for many years before going to London as Travelling Cleaning Inspector with home remaining at Bristol. I knew him when he first joined the service at Westbury Wilts as messenger boy in the D.B.O. that must have been in 1919 or 1920. I should say he was about 56/57 years of age.

What are you trying to do in the loft? Put another floor down for storage purposes? Surprised to know the joists are uneven though. Ours are level right across and will take flooring without any trouble. Not necessary here as we have such a lot of storage space in shed and garage. You will have to have a light ladder with just the right number of rungs to get you to the opening of loft. Unless of course you can afford one of those disappearing jobs advertised in magazines etc i.e. where the ladder itself can be pulled down from roof and returned to there too after use. Godfrey had one in his house at Maidenhead. Bit expensive and I expect you can do with lots of other things first.

The various queries you have raised about the geranium and succulents I will leave Mum to comment upon in her letter.

Have not read mag yet but will have a go this evening. All who have seen previous copy say it is more presentable than the W.R. mag. There are certainly some nice articles in it. The ones about the various stations I find most interesting.

I take it you would rather have your present job than be an applicant for one of the three you say Mann is after. Personally I think a change of venue will work out much better in the long run.

Not much doing in the garden etc. since I last wrote. Have picked up two or three hampers of ‘fall-downs’ in the field – mostly Bramleys – and stored them in the garage. Broccoli and cabbages seem to be very very small this season and it takes two to make a meal. Cannot quite account for this unless it was due to the ‘soppy’ weather in the autumn.

You are still in touch with Notley then although you do not come in contact at work. Expect he had a chat with old colleagues at Bristol.

The horse has not arrived yet. Norman Baker must put fence right first. I do not want the animal in the garden again although at this time of year I only have broad beans and onions planted apart from the fruit trees – currants etc. It will do the field good for the grass to be eaten off.

You will be interested in the Mercury this week with the scheme for making another lake at Clevedon. Somebody will have to pay for it unfortunately. Cannot see it being made for many years.

Now I see the Press are crying out about the railways being closed down on Christmas day. About time too they were closed. There was never much doing at Temple Meads that day and it was always a job to get people to work. Even those who were booked on duty did not all turn up – some of them suffering from a hangover from the previous night.

[Continued on Wednesday 28th November, 1962]

*This equates to about £16.65 in 2022 currency and the damaged portion would be maybe 40% of a roll or the equivalent of about £6.65 so I really don”t blame him for not accepting the roll.