Sunday 26th May, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks once again for weekly letter. Glad the girls managed to get one in as well for you last week. The doll was very much appreciated, and although Carol wanted to have it at first they have now settled down to one each and no grumbles. The rock of course went down well. Ribbons duly appropriated. Glad you had a long letter from Susan – I saw it being composed, but she has named a couple of animals in the list that were not there (hippo and rhino) but she left out two others that were there (guess what*?).

It has been dreadfully cold here this last week. The first week of the year that the office heating has been turned off and did I noticed it. Of course this is the trouble of turning heating on and off according to the calendar. Have had no thunderstorms come up but yesterday the weather made a vast improvement and was very hot at times with a general level higher than for some time. I believe there was a forecast of thunder and it was almost impossible to hear anything on the radio last night due to atmospherics. Gather you were able to do some gardening despite the storms your end. I had a clear up in garden last weekend, but have not done anything since. No seeds through of course and I have now written them off.

Nothing much to report on the radio this week. Had contacts with Cheltenham and Hall Green, Birmingham in the week and this morning at about 8 am worked a portable radio station located near Birmingham.

So far as our old set is concerned, it was dismantled to make other sets at Devonia some many years ago, but the speaker was in use a long time after the main set went. It is just possible that the speaker is still lurking about in the shed. It was not a good one, having the cone manufactured of brown paper.

The sweet peas are in pots, and should be fairly well protected from the slugs, but main thing is to see that they do not dry out. Most of our garden shrubs etc. survived the winter o.k. We have had to retrain the honeysuckle as we took down the supporting wire and unfortunately had to cut much of the growth to get at it. There have been a number of cuttings planted out and in tubs and we have been successful with many of them.

No news from Brownies yet. We think you are right in that there are not enough adults to run more than one pack at this end. Too many counter-attractions.

No further trips to Retford although always a possibility. I would rather somewhere closer. That jaunt takes about three hours to get there from King’s Cross and it is an hour to that point from here.

Not too worried about the gas water heater. I had an idea it would be gone by now. June had an idea for it at number 17.

You really are having trouble with your TV. Good idea next time to have one from the rental people then you can get set attended to free, and also if not satisfied with set you can get it changed. Also when new features come out you can always have such changed for one that includes them. I know Donald Fortune. We went to school together (St. John’s) and I recall being at Clevedon once when you were at work and he turned up then to fix the set for you. I recognised him then.

Good luck to the sailors this weekend. Not bad about the 31st of June. Some one wants to go back to school.

Glad you got the mag okay. I have a number of old London Divisions News in the office, but they do not fold into so small a size as the mag and I shall have to look out for a larger envelope for them.

So Rodney Meadows turned up in the Belfry did he? I knew he did a bit of ringing. He is not married and as he has moved about the country bracket (on promotion etc) he has joined various bands on a part-time basis. As you say cannot think what he is doing down your way. He is now Traffic Costing Officer to the line manager (G.N.). I have not seen him since I have been with E.R. (which is now 8 months).

It does not matter much what they intend to put on the property (except factories) so long as they give you good price.

Your apple blossom must be a fine sight and it is a pity you cannot take a picture of it.

You are likely to get a cackle or two from next door then up to Christmas. Not very good idea putting house down the end of garden unless to minimise the noise. Pity you lost your chrysanths. We have not got any this end. The buddleia doing well and already the top leaves are near the top of fence at bottom.

Our office outing (Isle of Wight) took place last week. I gather they all had a good time with plenty of sunshine. I think that is a place I would like to go to one year. Not a bad trip by car and latter essential on the other side to get most of the views etc.** I understand that there were three outings on the train from Victoria, and there are murmurings against having any more. I think the things are out of date myself.

So the goods at Clevedon will close altogether. What happens to the coal wharves?

I understand that Canada is a good place to go to, especially if you are in any form of Engineering. Douglas Dugdale is out there (in Ottawa I believe) and his mother told me he is a production engineer of a large firm. Iris’s sister and family are also out there, but they make periodic visits home. They of course travel by air each time and have plenty of money.

Glad the pictures were approved by your neighbour in St. Andrew’s Drive. Have not done any more since, but may show the pictures on the wall tonight.

So Ruth was saved a fall then. If she is anything like our two she will have a fall or two to come on the stairs yet. They do not fall about on stairs much now, but we had a few scares in the past. They have both tumbled from top to bottom.

Well we must look forward to the heatwave in August as you say, but to be fair it is not too bad today. Doug is cleaning the windows next door so that shows. Well that’s all for this week so refer to mother’s letter for further news . Love from us all once again.

*Us. He meant us. Animals.

**Because of course the local people are so primitive that they’d never think of running buses/coaches for visitors, or anything like that.

Dear Mum

A special letter to wish you Many Happy Returns of the day. Will get the letters all off today so that you can have this one on the date. Hope you also receive by the same post small parcel from us all. Latter posted yesterday should reach you okay. Hope you are able to sit out in the garden on the day and watch Dad do all the work. I should imagine that by now you have got the flower garden pretty shipshape.

Copious arrangements then for Geoff, Stella and family to get time off to come and see you. We have Eileen*** staying with us this weekend. It is the first time we have seen her for eighteen months. The girls had forgotten what she looked like. Eileen came on Friday night after work. Yesterday she and June and the girls went over to see Grandma Baker in the morning. (On train as I was cleaning the car****.) In the afternoon I took them all to Chorleywood in car and we watched the cricket and sat in the sun having a bit of a picnic. Roy was at a conference all day so we picked up Delph and Christopher as well. I suppose we set off at about 2:30 p.m. and got back at 6:30 p.m.. There were hundreds of police and people lining the Western Avenue, and we could not understand what it was all for, but it eventually clicked that this was in aid of the expected crowds for the Cup Final.

I do not know what pipes you are referring to which you are having put underground. I cannot recall any external pipes.

Plenty of Spring decoration going on in Avenue then. There is a man at the bottom who has a garden just about as small as ours and he has a motor mower working on his lawn. He has been at it for about half an hour so must be giving it a close shave.

Some game about the sugar. They were limiting people to 6 lbs each in Fine Foods during the week, and on Saturday they had none at all. June has got some lump sugar from somewhere, but that goes quicker than the other as the kids eat it like sweets. Auntie Eileen brought them some spearmint, and they are both at it now, their jaws jumping away.

I understand that Norman and Pauline are having lunch today with Roy and Delphine. This business blows hot and cold. No more news from number 17 except that like us the gas bill has arrived. Enough to frighten anyone. Ours this year was pretty stiff, but after all we had the water heater and gas fire extra, and did not use any coal. Also we must have used less electricity as did not heat the front room by that means this year.

Susan has written a special letter for you and it seems a good attempt at writing. I expect we will sit in the garden this afternoon*****. I must say I can do with it as cleaning the car yesterday was no joke. It really looks nice again now. Have to start on the inside now.

Well we shall be thinking of you tomorrow, so for the time being, love from us all. Alec 

***Eileen Basham, June’s cousin, is the only member of that generation of the family still with us, and at the time of writing has recently turned 97. It’s a constant and enduring joy to have her in our lives.

****Naturally a priority – let two adults and two small children (a) walk to the station (b) take the Tube to Greenford (c) change to the push-me-pull-you to West Ealing and (d) walk from the station to Eccleston Road, which Rome2Rio reckons at something like two hours including the walking, and then do the whole thing in reverse at the end. That’s four hours of travelling time as opposed to potentially half an hour each way in the car. But you do you, Alec; clearly polishing the car is far more important than your family’s comfort. Have I ever mentioned that he was a selfish bugger and didn’t like children?

*****Alec’s ambition in a nutshell, just to ‘sit out in the garden’. Personally I can’t think of anything less interesting to do.


Tuesday 19th March, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol,

Once again many thanks for your interesting letter and the enclosures from Susan and Carol – quite good drawings from both of them. Also thank you Alec for magazine also received this morning same post as a letter.

Very glad to hear Mrs Baker is keeping up and at this stage it would seem the shock is gradually receding which is a good thing. It will take a long time though to get back to normal and we know that you have been able to make a few journeys over to Ealing to see her. Expect she looks forward to your visit. For the time being then Mrs Baker has decided to remain at number 17 and try and make a go of it. One thing about this it will occupy her mind and help the days along. She evidently wants to be independent if she can and we hope the arrangement is a successful.

Very sorry to hear of Peter’s misfortunes – there is no let up by the Police. Either you are in the right or you are in the wrong – there are no halfway measures with them. It is most unfortunate it was an expectant mother in the other car and we hope there have been no after effects – or is it too early yet to say? Presumably the car was not overdue for test when this  accident occurred.

Poor Carol – we assume it was her last polio injection that upset her and we do hope she is alright again now. Can picture her going around holding her arm. Still game however for a trip in car to shops and Ealing – perhaps these journeys help to take her mind off it.

Yes the paper was finally stuck to the wall and not to me. I had to use a plumb line quite a lot and as paper reached from ceiling this was a bit of an effort. Now we are waiting for some felting to arrive from Challicoms for a surround to the carpet and some curtaining from Lewis’s of Bristol which mum then has to make up. Mum must tell you in her own words all about both items.

Noted marble clock keeps stopping and going. Does it want cleaning or overhauling do you think? When grandfather Atkins was about he looked after the clock as if it were a baby and kept it in excellent condition and we were not allowed to touch it.

Yes double glazing is alright but if you do this up go the rates. It is an item which is liable to cause re-rating. Personally I think it is more effective than the erection of a conservatory or glass porch but the latter is is what you want badly to stop some of the draught and also to give you a nice little place additional to your present accommodation. We do hope you will be able to have it put up this summer ready for next winter blast.

Your office not very well lighted then and must be a bit stuffy too at times. I take it you have to use electric lighting all day. Seems very strange your section has little work to do. Surely they knew this when the job you applied for was advertised? Not satisfactory to any of you really. Perhaps the powers that be are hatching up some big scheme to be tackled.

You asked if we have had any rain. Torrents of it and last Sunday for our trip to Lyng it proved to be the filthiest journey we have had by road for many a long day. It poured down for both journeys and the potholes – now numerous after the frost – being full of water 1 could not judge how deep they were consequently every now and again we dropped right into them with a splash and jolt. Anyhow Don and Joan were very pleased to see us and we had a most enjoyable time. Don not too good with his breathing and the least exertion cause him to double up and rest. They asked after you all and were sorry to hear that June’s father had passed away. There is already an invitation for all of you to visit them when you are with us in the summer and Joan gave us two Easter eggs to bring up to Susan and Carol. They have just finally decided to give up most of their poultry and keep only a few. They, like us, are beginning to feel the work is too much for them and Don certainly cannot do the hard work such as cleaning out the fowl houses that he has been doing for years.*

Incidentally the Jim Mead who has died was best man at Jessie’s wedding. Perhaps that will bring him back to your memory. He was 60 and single but lived in one of the farm houses attached to the farm he and Jessie’s husband worked. The latter now has the lot to see to and it is possible they will move into the house now vacant as it is a better one than their present home.

I see you all went over to June’s friends at West Drayton on the 10th inst. and had a good time as also did the children. We wondered if the girls had been on to you for some garden of their own but you are evidently going to anticipate them by taking down the wire around the plot at bottom of garden. Are they still keen on the seed planting? Note you will be able to have a few days off duty at Easter. If it is alright with June and yourself we could travel on the Thursday from here and possibly return the following Tuesday which is Carol’s birthday.

Mum and I went to Bristol yesterday (Monday) to get some curtaining (already mentioned) and I had an appointment with Pictons the opticians for sight testing. I had about three quarters of an hour with the optician and I was most pleased when he told me my sight had not altered since the last visit which was several years ago. I had thought it was weakening but that must have been due to being a bit off-colour in health. Anyhow I have decided to have new frames and, in the case of the the “distance” glasses, larger lenses. Whilst in Bristol I also bought myself a good wristlet watch – my present one has not been up to scratch for a long time and I made up my mind several months ago that I would eventually treat myself to a good one. The old one I can now use to some extent for work on the garden or other rough work. We also bought from Lewis’s two armchairs to replace those in the dining room and these will be coming down on Thursday this week. Fortunately it was a much better day than Sunday and we went up by bus.

In the afternoon (we got home about 2 p.m.) I dropped a line to Don re: our Sunday visit and we had late dinner and then put our feet up for the evening. I managed to pack up the runner beans for Geoff last Friday afternoon and got them away the same day and hope they have reached him by now. He sent me some geranium cuttings – arrived this morning – but package was badly smashed although it looks as if all contents were intact. It is to be hoped the beans reached him in better condition otherwise if packing broke he would lose the lot.

Talking about green stuff mum got fork this morning and found a nice lot of carrots in garden and I dug up the last couple of parsnips. We brought back the cwt. potatoes from Lyng which we had ordered at digging time and I paid 18/6d [approximately £23.50 in 2023 currency]** for them. Mum also has some eggs from Joan at 3/6d per dozen.*** Being a nice morning I started to dig up some old Brussels Sprouts plants and forked over the ground. Then I planted the shallots with about 72 shallots in a row. After dinner I had a just dug out a small trench for a row of peas when down came the rain again and I had to abandon work for the day hence this letter being typed this afternoon. I’m glad to have made a start however. Before coming indoors I potted up all the cuttings of geraniums received from Geoff. By the way Don let me bring back four gallons of cider so I’m all right for a drink night-times for a few weeks.

Norman Baker says he will fetch horse in a day or two and bring him down again later in the year when possibly all the fruit has been gathered.

Understand Don has some trouble with the roof of their house owing to snow getting underneath. The guttering too also came down.

[Letter continues Wednesday 20th March, 1963]

*Knowing of Don’s frequent respiratory ailments it seems more than likely that he was suffering recurrent bouts of psittacosis. His father was similarly afflicted, and he too kept chickens and other fowls. Add in the fact that both were railwaymen at a time when steam was the motive power and soot an occupational hazard, and you have a powerful recipe for disaster.

**My calculations suggest this would be roughly half what one would pay in the shops at the present time.

***Roughly comparable with the top price one would expect to pay for organic eggs in 2023.

Tuesday 12th March, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol,

Many thanks for letter with all the news received usual post this morning. Yes we were sorry to have missed you Alec but had we been certain of the time of your return would have waited, although by the time we arrived home we had both had about enough for one day. I expect you were all tired out too after a long, anxious and sad day but hope you are all feeling better now. We hope to Mrs Baker is keeping up as well as possible – it is when she is on her own, her thoughts must be running over very many things of the years that have gone. At the moment she must obviously feel very unsettled and we can now appreciate her feeling for the house in Eccleston Road. It was Mr Robert Baker who told me that June’s father was born there and that the house had been in the Baker family for very many years. You have a problem to deal with but we are sure you will eventually make the best arrangement for Mrs Baker. it is certain she cannot stop in the big house on her own and that would be the position if Peter is out most evenings as he is already out in the daytime at his place of work. Old age and loneliness is a terrible thing and unfortunately it is the prospect of most people if they live long enough*. I hope I do not sound like a dismal Jimmy but both Mum and I have seen it over and over again.

As mentioned in last letter we were very glad to have made the journey on the 4th inst and in the little time we had passing through the Ealing Shopping Centre were staggered at the quantity and prices of the vegetables. I should think the market is governed by Covent Garden but in view of the serious shortage of all kinds of vegetables it was a sight for sore eyes. The tea on train was not bad for British Railways – good job I did not have to fork out for dinner. Noted you found girls in good order on your return to Ruislip but sorry to hear Susan has had another bilious attack. Query hereditary – I was always getting them as a child**. Noted also that Iris’s brother and wife visiting you next Sunday – hope you all enjoy yourselves.

Yes our car alright again but I do not know what Bindings had to do to it as I have not since seen them or had the account. The certificate covering the Ministry of Transport inspection was in the pocket of car so that part of it was alright that actually I did not expect anything else. To my mind it is ridiculous to have to submit a six-year-old car for such inspection.

Thanks for mentioning Tom Hobbs – he did not do all that well for himself by going to London – bit of a moaner really, perhaps that had something to do with it. That rise you have received as a result of rearrangement of gradings is a wonderful job and gives you an unexpected lift really into the next category. Quite an interesting position with the possibility of your immediate colleagues moving to Derby. Worth keeping an eye on. Anyhow congratulations on your present achievement.

I understand Price of Bristol is in the second position out of category but is hoping to get something else with the changes pending at Bristol. He is 60 now so should doubt if he will be considered. Hallett presumably has gone now – there was an account and photo in one of the Bristol evening papers last week with Price making the  presentation – making assurance doubly sure I’m certain.

Very strange the marble clock should suddenly start and continue to work. Hope it will keep up the good work now. Expect you know it was a wedding present to your Grandmother Atkins from her Uncle who was W.H. Fewings. He gave all or most of his children, nieces etc. a marble clock as wedding presents – symbolical perhaps of his connection with marble at his monumental works.

Talking about putting paper down under carpets etc. do you know I have had paper down on wood floor of front room to catch drippings of paint etc. but the draught has been so strong at times that I have had to put something on the paper to keep it down. I’m getting on slowly with with the papering. Started yesterday afternoon but only got on about three pieces before it was dark. The trouble is trying to match the pattern. It certainly is a most awkward match and the pattern only repeats itself once every 22 inches so unless one is very careful there is a lot of waste with each cutting. Today I managed to finish the chimney breast and either side of same so I’m more or less on the straightforward pieces now. Will try and enclose small piece of paper for you to see pattern.

That Mr Webb you mentioned knows a thing or two if he is thinking of double glazing his windows – it makes a wonderful improvement and I have thought of it once or twice myself but that is as far as it has got.

Noted you told Susan we had been up to Ealing – hope she was not upset. It seems so near and yet so far and I’m sure we did the right thing by not seeing them on that particular day. We are both looking forward to coming up at Easter and it is noted that it will only be four weeks from Thursday this week. Have you given Susan a plot of ground into which she can plant her seeds? Must see if I can find a few seeds – would dandelion seeds please Daddy?

Had a letter from Lyng last week asking us to go down on a Sunday in the near future so have fixed for the 17th inst. when can bring back the cwt. of potatoes Don has been storing for us. He told us that Jessie’s husband’s brother*** who has been ill for a long time had been taken into hospital seriously ill. Have since heard that he has passed away. We think it was some sort of stomach trouble but shall hear more next Sunday.

Mum and I are going to Bristol – by bus – next Monday. I want to see Pictons again about some more glasses – it is many years since I last had eyes tested and feel some stronger ones are now necessary. Shall also have a look round the Bristol Selfridges i.e. Lewis’s as we require a few things for redecorated room.

Have now heard from income tax people. It appears that when National Health pension was paid me from 21st March last year they did not start to tax that money until August so have re-coded me for 1963-1964 to cover the period March to August when tax was not deducted. They are probably right but I’ve had the satisfaction of getting the information out of them. I suppose they will want a bit more when the national pension is increased on May 27th. But how much lower can one be coded than ‘I’ which is the number now allotted to me.

I am sorry to admit June that my collar size is 16½ and not likely to get any smaller.

What has Beeching done about closures on the E.R. Alec? We hear quite a lot about W.R. closures in the local press but nothing of other regions’ troubles. Is your own job continuing satisfactory from your point of view? I mean has it turned out as expected?

Plenty of rain here too and even if available I could not have done anything outdoors since the snow disappeared. I see some of the broad beans are likely to survive – perhaps a total of three parts of a row out of two rows. Must get in some more as soon as possible. By the way Geoff asked me for some runner beans. I should be glad if you will kindly tell him I have not forgotten them but at the moment I am up to my neck in the decorating business. Will post them on later.

The horse is turning the field near the fence into a bit of a quagmire and he’s still being fed on hay because there is practically no grass available yet. The little girl next door (Ruth) was a year old last Sunday and they brought her in to see us dressed in her party frock. She has not crawled at all and is almost walking.

Mum has been on one of her half-day outings today – to Frys at Keynsham – brought back a good sample of various kinds of chocolate. She will tell you more about it but apparently it is a tremendous place now and they provided tea for the party.

Well I really think this is all for this week. Hope you are all keeping better now, all our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls.

Mum and Dad.

P.S. finished papering 6 p.m. Wednesday now have to clean the front room up. 

*It’s a matter of perspective, obviously, but Edith Baker was born in October 1895 and would have been 67 at the time Frank died: this does not seem particularly ‘old’ by present-day standards. When Edith was born, average life expectancy for a female would have been 74 – which in the end she handily exceeded.

**Or could have something to do with forcing children to eat things they find repulsive???

***Okay, this is where I have to confess myself defeated. I do not know who Jessie is or was, nor her husband, nor his brother. I can only imagine this is something to do with Don’s wife’s family (Joan): presumably her sister, although I am not currently in a position to check this information.

Tuesday 19th February, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol,

Here we are again with many thanks for another long and interesting letter duly received this morning with incidentally a very small cut out (about postage stamp size) from presumably one of the girls.

We are glad to hear June’s father is feeling better again and hope the improvement will continue although I’m afraid there is not much chance of that whilst this winter weather is with us. Last Saturday we had about two inches of the stuff and the bass broom was in use again and believe me this morning it has been on again – not very much but the sky is dark and every prospect of more. It is so cold too and the weatherman on the TV at dinner time told us there would be no break in the freezing conditions for some days yet. Job’s comforter.

Yesterday started off coldly but then the sun came out and we suddenly made up our minds to run into Weston to, among other things, pick up a roll of paper which must have been on hand there for about three months. Back in November (cannot remember if I told you) we bought seven rolls of paper for doing out the front room but one of them was defaced badly and I refused it and told them to get another and yesterday was the first opportunity to run in and get it. It was a lovely sunny afternoon but bitterly cold. We left here at 12:45 p.m. and were back home again by 3 p.m.. Today during a break in the snowy ran up to the library but within minutes of reaching home again down it came again. Such is life. We saw on TV dinner time that it was snowing on London.

Noted you have been glad of your overshoes quite recently and I think you will be using them for a while yet. Except for about two occasions I have been regularly using my wellingtons for all purposes and find them most satisfactory. They seem to grip the icy roads better than ordinary shoes and certainly keep out the wet. Yes we had a flurry or two on Sunday morning same time as you.

Noted Peter and a new girlfriend came over on Tuesday and gave you the news of Mr Baker. Did you like the new girl? I’m afraid Peter would want a lot of blackberry wine to upset him but I’m glad he likes it. Shall be bringing up a drop more in April together with some of the stronger elderberry brandy. Am thinking about trying to make some ginger wine. Went rash one day this week and brought a bottle of Stones Green Ginger wine at 9/3d a bottle [£11.75 in 2023 currency – the current price is a little more than half this] and is very nice indeed.

So the doctor would not care to find Mr Baker missing when he called – should have thought he would have been pleased to know that he was sufficiently recovered to want to get out.

Glad to hear the girls are keeping very well. Also good news of Carol starting school so soon after her fifth birthday. I’m sure she is looking forward to the day. Makes you feel a bit older to I expect to have them both at school. A chance perhaps for June to get her feet up for an hour or two with both away. (Alright June I did not hear you say anything).

So your colleague is still without water. So are the people on either side of Aston but I now understand the trouble is that the pipes between the main and the houses are frozen and that it is not a case of burst pipes. It’s the same in the end – no water. I read of one man in Bristol who has been without water for several weeks who had his water rate come and told the Water Board what they could do with it. Adding insult to injury.

Yes we thought the cost of repairs to Mum’s hearing aid was quite reasonable. There are two very old sets Mum says you can have. What on earth are you going to do with them?

What has happened to your bottom fence or is it just ordinary wear and tear> Our fences seem to be alright but I have not been down to river for a long time. It is sufficient to know the horse keeps within bounds. Late last week he was able to forage a bit for grass but after Saturday’s downfall it’s back on the hay again. Norman Baker tells me that present-day cost of hay is 7/- [£9] per bale. And he is only keeping Joey for sentimental reasons.

Yes I have had thermostat of heater in greenhouse set for 30 degrees all the winter and it has kept out the most severe of the frosts. The primulas however have been kept in the kitchen on the shelves around the window, Mum putting newspaper between them and the glass at the night. Most of them are still one mass of flowers and plenty of buds forming. Pleased to know you have kept yours alive. They give a nice splash of colour during the darkest of the days at this time of year. Have now finished all our eating potatoes after throwing away about 1 cwt. Mum bought some in Woolworths yesterday, English grown at 4d [42p] per pound. Had some for dinner today and they were quite good. Am waiting to get down to Lyng to pick up the 1 cwt they have for us there. These should then keep us going until the new ones come in.

Our two rows of broad beans which have been under the snow for weeks are now showing again and look fine. Also the winter sown onions and cabbage plants but latter will not be available for the table for many weeks yet. The pigeons and rabbits have departed and now they can find grass in the fields. Mum says the Hewitts are cruising in the Adriatic at the end of May. Understand he has now lost the £1 per week he has been drawing from a Sick Benefit Society ever since he first went off ill several years ago. Suppose they have rumbled him at last.

I agree about burning all timber taken from houses during demolition – much the best to get rid of it on site. Wonder how you got on at Christopher’s birthday party? Hope the girls enjoyed themselves.

Thanks for news on various people and the moves about the Region. Fancy Bryar gone to Plymouth – another house move for him. Is there such an upheaval going on at the E.R.? Should think not or you would have mentioned it. I should look forward very much to a visit to York although you will not have much opportunity to see much of the city. Probably be away one or two nights. All new territory and most interesting.

I get your point re: daylight at Liverpool Street. It was closing in when you started there and now only just opening up again.

Not a lot done here this past week – the weather still against outdoor work – but I did start to give the garage clean out after pushing car outside. Garage was in a good mess, rotten apples and potatoes all around and plenty of dirt on floor carried in there during the bad spell, tools and other gear all over the place. Gave it the once-over and promised to have another go later.

You will see in this week’s Mercury where a Clevedon BR checker has got himself a heavy fine for falsifying the number takers’ records for Yeates the coal merchants. The merchants themselves are also in the soup and their case is being dealt with today. If any news in Evening Paper will cut it out and enclose.

Your remarks re: Mrs Baker and number 17 Eccleston Road. If that is the case nothing will ever alter her mind about the place. It is a great pity as I am sure you have all done your best to make it a nice home and as you said some time ago something had to be done anyway. What is Mr Bakers reaction to not having to attend the shop? Must be a little lonely for him as he has not the customers to talk to.

You mentioned birds earlier in your letter. There has been a heavy toll of birdlife here but still enough left to cause a lot of damage. I see Peter Scott thinks that one or two breeds will become extinct as a result of the severe conditions. The goods we ordered from Smyths of Bristol arrived this morning and appear up to specification. Quite a useful pair of steps.

[Continues Wednesday 20th February, 1963.]

Wednesday 13th February, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Once again many thanks for your newsy letter received this morning. First of all we are very sorry to hear Mr Baker is so poorly and hope the better weather which should be just round the corner – as it were – will help him to get back to normal. The present conditions are very oppressive and no encouragement to anyone feeling a little off-colour. We are sorry to hear that Mrs Baker still does not care for the move – perhaps as she gets more settled in she will think better of it. It does seem that all possible has been done at number 17 to improve its former condition and I’m sure it must be a relief to get away from the shop.

Now back to the beginning of your letter. Did you get any snow last Sunday (10th February)? It started here about 9:30 a.m. and kept on until about 4:30 p.m. sometimes and sometimes very heavy. I swept the snow off path between back door and front gate at about 5.0 p.m. but  when we got up on Monday morning there was another lot about an inch deep. This weeks too we have had several flurries necessitating use of broom to clear pathways. It is lovely today though – sun shining strongly and it is quite warm sitting here in living room. We did catch sight of some grass before last weekend’s snow and again now the thaw is making a big difference. May it continue with the good work.

Noted your plumbing now in order and no further alarms alarms. Sorry the girls have been suffering from colds and coughs again – as I said before what else can one expect this weather. Mum and I keep going but it is a job at times and I’m really thankful I have not to make the journey to Bristol anymore. The operating side must be having a very worrying time of it. I see Marples was at Bristol last Monday blowing his top.

Your colleague has something to grouse about – no water since 26th January. The neighbours on either side of Aston are still without water waiting for plumber to attend burst pipes. Glad to hear June managing to keep well – good job somebody in the house can keep going but with your house without the necessary heating it must have been rough on all of you while it lasted. You would be surprised what a good slide the children made of the church pathway with so much snow to make a bed with and believe me it was pretty treacherous to step on last Sunday even with fresh snow on top. Wanted Jim White back again to chase the kiddies off. We had already suggested to Aston he should charge for water service to get back a little of what it cost him to keep going. Now we hear of another ceiling down as a result of snow accumulating under tiles. We have a lot to be thankful for here as had practically no inconvenience throughout.

Glad to hear car going alright. I did not keep ours out more than three nights the weather was so severe I put car back into garage even if it meant stopping there for a few weeks which fortunately was not the case.

Incidentally has Mr Baker had to change his doctor since they have moved over to Ealing? This is always a nuisance as you get used to one individual and he or she gets used to you. Mum’s hearing aid still going well and we heard from Fortiphones this morning that cost of repairing her original set will be £2.10s6d [roughly £57.50 in 2023 money] so I have now send off checque for this to be done. I believe mum has a very old set laying about here somewhere but whether she can spare it will be up to her to say. It has not been used for years and was I think her original set when she first started using aids. The cost of phoning London during the day is 2d [19p] for ten seconds i.e. 3/- [£3.42] for three minutes which is not at all bad. After 6 p.m. there as a reduction of course.

Mum went with the T.G. to Yatton Monday to look over the Avalon furniture factory (Wake and Deans in your time). Incidentally Ray Mogg who has been with the firm as their representative in the Manchester area for a long time now returns to headquarters at Yatton as their Sales Manager. Mum was not impressed with the furniture she saw – most of it was foreign wood veneered over.

Yes I expect the cost of clearing snow from the roads will run the rates up nicely but we are all in the same boat with this. What about the lottery for the proposed Lido in Clevedon? I like the story of the footballer and his ‘bonus’. Must pass this one on in due course. Pity the programme ‘That Was The Week That Was’ is so late on Saturdays but some of it is worth listening to especially Bernard Levin who is one of the regulars and comes on towards the end. Whatever was the matter with the girls on Saturday then – could they not get outdoors at all and felt fed up with themselves.

Noted your wine sinking fast in more ways than one. I have now started to sample the first of this last season’s blackberry – very nice too. Not properly racked off yet, still in the sweet jars.

You will see in ‘Mercury’ enclosed at Mrs Yandell (formerly of Clevedon Lodge) has died and also old man Gulliford. The Yandells have been living near the East Clevedon Triangle for several years since their return to Clevedon after leaving the Burden Estate after Mrs Burden died. Mr Yandell still does a bit of horticultural judging at shows.

A letter from Don this week indicates they have not had it quite so bad as we have but plenty bad enough for getting to and fro the station. He has not been out to his ‘local’ for many weeks. This place is right out in the country away from houses. I wonder how they manage to keep going for profit. The publican happens to be a smallholder as well so I suppose this helps.

Yes June we are both looking forward to being with you at Easter – won’t be long now. It will be eight months since we last saw you and the girls. Alec of course was down in December for a couple of nights. We shall also be pleased to go and see Mr and Mrs Baker and hope by that time things will have improved in many ways including the health of them both. Presumably Peter is living there but we guess Pauline maintains her flat in London and gets home as often as possible. Hope they both are keeping free of colds along now.

Noted you do not see much of your new neighbours. Like you we close the shutters early in the evening and stoke up the fire. No gardening as you may imagine but I did see a couple of broad beans poking through the snow today and hope the rest are safe. Another wood pigeon on the lawn requires cremation and I shall have to deal with it. Looks as if a cat had this one by the number of feathers scattered all over the place.* I spent a couple of hours in greenhouses this morning, temperature up to 70 degrees, sorting through the runner bean seeds. About 2% had to be discarded because of mildew but there are still hundreds left. Sowed the tomato seed in a box but shall have to bring it indoors or will they will never come up – temperature much too low (30) at night.

Had a letter from income tax people this morning to say my code number will be altered from 12 to 1 starting next 6 April so have written to ask them why seeing the position will be identical then as it is now. So far I’ve not heard from railway regarding increased percentage of pension but even that should not mean such a big difference in coding. They might as well have the lot and we can starve. Now we are waiting to know what the Council are going to do about the rates for this half year. Do you yet know how you have been re-rated? Thanks in anticipation for the E.R. Mag, always interesting.

We still have Joey the horse with us but he has been fed on hay for many weeks now. Today I noticed he has been scratching about in the patches free of snow but not much there – all dried up. 

Mutt and Jeff still at it – they have been very busy brushing up with so much snow about and the handles are quite suitable for leaning on. It looks as if we have saved a number of geraniums and our primulas are still in full flower. How about yours? This means that ours have been in flower continuously since last October and giving quite a nice splash of colour.

The water cart still going its rounds and must continue so long as people are cut off from the main. I’m surprised it has not been necessary for similar arrangements to have been operated at your end. The plumbers must be getting towards this end of the town now as mum saw one lot at Tom Garland’s bungalow this morning. This place is opposite Mrs Marshall’s field. Have ordered from Smiths of Bristol (big wholesale ironmongers) a pair of steps (8 tread), two dozen pea guards, some netting 25 + 2 yd, and some wire for tying things up. This firm advertises quite a lot in gardening and ordinary newspapers and prices fairly reasonable. Our existing pair of steps (5 tread) have had their day. Your grandfather Fewings had them for many years before they came up here and they have given us good service. Now I have to get a dozen angle iron stakes for holding up some more raspberry canes. In this case Smiths’ price was higher than a firm at Wolverhampton latter being actual makers thereby the difference.

We hear the Hewitts I having a cruise for their holiday this year. Hope sea keeps calm and nobody rocks the boat.

Apart from the odds and ends already mentioned there is no local news again this week – everybody keeping in out of trouble. The Salthouse Pavilion is now being dismantled and one of our neighbours has got hold of a lot of the rotten timber and is making the best use of it. It was free to anybody who fetched it. Just as well – nobody would have bought it.

No more this time. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. Mum and Dad. 

*I suspect it may have been a bird of prey: a cat would not have made its meal in such a public place, but a bird would.

Sunday 10th February, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad,

Thanks for yours of 5th February. Very newsy and plenty of points to answer.

Thank goodness I can say that there has been a vast improvement in the weather this end although according to the news bulletins you have been having more snow your end. I can look down the garden from the dining room window and and see that the snowline has retreated to the level of the end of the garage and in the front garden there is practically no snow left. The grass has reappeared somewhat flattened but a welcome green. Friday night the streets were awash with water which has seeped out of the mountains of snow at the kerbside. (Sorry for Friday read Wednesday – I did not go out on Friday.) However since then it has alternatively frozen and thawed with a slight progress each day so that the amount is now less.

Since writing last we have had no alarms in regard to plumbing, and the house has felt generally warmer. Of course the electricity has mainly been up to the normal supply and so has the gas pressure. One colleague at Liverpool Street has not been so lucky as he has had no water from the main since 26th January although people in the other houses in his street are o.k. He is getting a little impatient and has written a stinking letter to local water company.

The girls colds have given us a bit of trouble this week as they have had coughs. We dropped them down to the doctor on Tuesday night and he prescribe the usual jollop (including penicillin) so we went round to to the chemist who stays open late in Eastcote and got the stuff. I must say they are a lot better now and we had no trouble from them in the last couple of nights although we heard the odd cough or two. June is pretty well and I am just shaking off a slight cold. You might say the decks are now cleared for some nice spring weather.

I had not heard that the slope from the Church down was a good run for toboggans. In old Pugh’s day he would have chased the lot away, but perhaps the present man is more tolerant. It is a silly place to use anyway as I would say there is little fun in tobogganing on a road surface even if it is well covered with snow.

With regard to prospects for next Winter, I have no doubt that your best bet is timber to beat the coal shortage. It is probably easier to acquire odd bits of wood for cutting up where you are and you have plenty of room to store it. What you will do about the potatoes etc. I do not know. It would not have been any good bringing them into this house even if we had the room, as most of the unused rooms were as cold as outside. Aston could have got part of his money back by charging a couple of coppers per gallon for water he supplied these neighbours. Come to think of it the way to beat the cold economically is for one householder to keep water circulating in his house by having all possible heating appliances on and for his neighbours to share the cost of his heating. Meanwhile those neighbours would turn their water off at the main and drain tanks. In this way they would avoid bursts. A bit communistic you say, maybe, but I think it would work.*

Remarks about T.S.S.A. and Guild noted, but I feel that the balance of staff will increasingly be in the higher income groups, and the T.S.S.A. will have to march with the times or go out of business. In any case through sheer weight of numbers they have the whip hand at the moment. For all that the key to the situation is what the N.U.R. decide to do.

Car again o.k. this weekend. I am finding it a lot easier to start then I did shortly after the work Peter did on it. I expect by now that you have got your car back into the garage again as a regular routine. Not much of a joke keeping it outdoors this weather.

We went over to see Mr and Mrs Baker yesterday at number 17 and they mentioned that they had had the cream and had written back. We found Mr Baker in a very poor condition indeed. He was fighting for his breath and could hardly speak. when we arrived he was leaning over an armchair and had difficulty in moving. Later he improved a bit and was able to help Peter get some water in can from the tap. He tells me he has not been able to eat anything [illegible] complaining of a pain in his stomach. It seems he has had no sleep for about a week and has been in the position of having to get out of bed in the early hours to get his breath. From what we saw and heard we thought doctor should see him and with Mrs Baker’s agreement we phoned him and ask him to call. He had not arrived before we left so we do not know what he had to say. We noticed that his feet had swollen in just the same manner as Miss Baker’s did, and if for the same reason this means dropsy. Altogether it is very distressing, and the need would seem to be some medical attention and the onset of better weather. The former can be provided no doubt, but it is a bit early for the latter.

Some game with the hearing aid then. Glad you have got a replacement that is superior to the original. Fancy having to turn down the T.V. Must be a good make this time. By the way if you have any old ones lying about waiting for the dustman, do not throw them away as I can make use of them. That is old ones that you have definitely finished with. What do they charge for phoning to London nowadays? I pretty penny I should think.

We have not had a water cart going around this end to my knowledge. Had no idea they still kept such things. It seems that the Clevedon Council are well provided with snow clearance apparatus according to papers and have in fact been able to lend men and machines to neighbouring councils. I understand they hired them rather than lent and which will help the rates a bit, but I expect you still have to pay through the nose for it later on.

Had a laugh about Mutt and Jeff. Should have thought Mutt (presumably Cornish) would have had more excuses than ever for staying indoors busy doing nothing like the popular song.

Good idea to leave gate partly open for postman etc. We have no difficulty like that as we did not have the accumulation of snow that you had.

We saw something on TV news about a flock of geese in the West Country. Don’t blame them for getting out. I expect a few people will contemplate emigrating to Australia or New Zealand. I think the latter is the better prospect as the people are a little more friendly.

Do not stay up for ‘That Was The Week That Was’ but I did see the start of last Saturday’s, 31st January. It seems quite a good program. Hear this week of the footballer who saw his manager and told him that has the pools panel had given his team the win that day, he was entitled to his bonus for a win. The manager replied that he had no claim as he was not in the team anyway.

Had a trying day with the girls yesterday. They were about as naughty as they could possibly be. Hard to put a name to it but there it is. Hope they are a little better today. Have not seen our new neighbours for some days but hear them about occasionally. It is not very sociable weather, a question of up drawbridge and retire for the night.

Not much news from the work front – will see if the February mag has been issued yet. Have not found out which day it is published and usually look for it about the end of the second week in the month.

Finished the last of my Fig and Tangerine in the week. I have given most of it away. Have now two gallons of wine untouched which I must try sometime. Both have deposits at the bottom, and one of them has one about 1-inch thick. Should have been racked long ago of course, but never got round to it.

Well there it is for this week. Hope you can both report a clean bill of health. Love to you once again from us all. 

*Or maybe everyone just has more efficient heating and water storage arrangements of their own?

Tuesday 5th February, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Continued Wednesday 6th February, 1963]

Sunday 3rd February, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.