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.

Thursday 18th October, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Am feeling a bit better tonight but more news about that later. Very sorry to upset your arrangements but I certainly do not feel able to make the journey this week hence my brief memo last night. If alright with you would try and come up next Friday but must wait for your reply before doing anything definite this end. Now for your letter. 

So sorry to hear June’s father and mother have the trouble all over again regarding the disposal of their property – what a worry for them. I wonder if it is the length of lease remaining which disturbs prospective purchasers? Noted how things are progressing at number 17 and apart from the lighting expect other work has now been put in hand. 

Re: glasses, the reason I was able to leave them off for a period was due to the fact I did not do so much clerical work in the army and the eyes had a rest.  You have had to use your eyes continuously since leaving school therefore have had to keep to glasses. It may be that Susan later on when not perhaps using her eyes so regularly can leave them off even if only for short periods*. We sincerely hope so. 

Did not drive up to Bristol because did not exactly  know where to go and got bus conductor to drop me down near the Church. In any case should have run into a busy time on the roads and was not that keen to get in too much traffic. 

I’m not surprised you cannot remember Wilkins – he had been in Control since 1938. 

Noted you are surprised I still have some apricot wine left. This is so good I want to keep it as long as possible but bottle is half empty now. Only comes out on special occasions.

Will come back to your letter again presently. Must now tell you of our experiences since we started out last Friday for Tiverton. We left here about 9:30 a.m. in a dry but dull morning and went direct to Dunster where we had a look round and had some lunch. Then into Minehead for a little shopping and a walk along the front. Left there about 2:30 p.m. and made for Tiverton arriving without incident about 4:45 p.m.. Before going to Somerholme went over to the cemetery with some flowers and then got into house before uncle Joe and Aunt Lydia arrived. (Key under the mat). It was about 1 a.m. when we went to bed. (What a natter).

Saturday morning after they had both gone to work Mum and I went down the town to look around. A lot of alterations since our last visit. At about 2:30 p.m. we started for Exmouth calling at Aunt Lydia’s shop to pick her up. Called at Heavitree churchyard enroute and arrived Exmouth about 4 p.m. in time for Aunt Lydia to do some weekend shopping. Found bungalow in good order and after tea had a walk along the front and sat down in one of the shelters for a while. Another late night for bed. 

Sunday morning saw Mum and I on our own for another walk on the front and in the afternoon we all went out cockling. Out about two  hours and came back with a bucket full of cockles. Most of these we brought home. Left Exmouth about 6:10 p.m. and arrived at Somerholme at 7 p.m.. Another late night. Got away about 10 a.m. Monday and called at Taunton (shopping) and Lyng and home just after 1.00 p.m. When I was putting car in garage noticed a couple of bulges about size of large eggs on rear offside tyre (tubeless) and as Bushell was next door called him over to examine. Said tyre was liable to burst owing to fault so there and then changed over to spare wheel and took a defect to garage. Here they were not all that surprised as others have been brought in pretty often. Said I could probably claim on tyre firm as tyre was faulty. Had a remould fitted and now have to change wheel back. Good job it did not give out on the journey. 

Re: cockles – mum boiled them up Monday night and after shelling they filled just over three 1lb jars and are now pickled in vinegar. Shall be bringing up one bottle for you to taste. 

On the Friday evening during conversation with Uncle Joe we heard that Uncle George (senior member of W. H. Fewings*) died last May and the business has since been in the hands of his son and daughter but it is not going very well for the simple reason they are not business people. They thought they had sold it – one of the conditions of sale was that new owner should continue to employ Arthur but somebody must have told prospective purchaser of Arthur’s character and the sale was off. Uncle Joe apparently is waiting his time. The business may be put up for sale again and if it can be got at his price without conditions he may have a shot at it the point being that he would not then have to do the donkey work but only supervise and meet prospective customers.*** 

Incidentally uncle Joe had a nasty cold on him all the weekend and it is possible I got my packet from him although I must not forget for the past three weeks I have had a nasty throat and could not get rid of it. This cold however seems to be shifting it and I hope to be all right in a day or two. In any case I’m not going outside the premises this weekend. Thought mum was going to be following but so far she is all right. We told them you wish to be remembered to them all and they were glad to hear of your latest move. 

We only saw John this time – on the Friday night when he was on his way home from operatic practice. On our way home on Monday we also called to see the stationmaster at Durston. [i.e. Don.] He was the only person on the station. Just had a few words with him before calling at Laburnum House for coffee etc. 

After returning from the garage on Monday with tyre I noticed a lot of movement outside Mrs Bush’s house and as Bushell (next door) was in front garden asked if he knew what was going on. Said doctor was attending Mrs Bush and with the same the ambulance drew up outside and Bushell asked them (his old mates) what was the matter. They told him “overdose of drugs”. The ambulance stopped outside a long time then drove away empty. Apparently Dr had got Mrs Bush round and no need to go to hospital. Have since heard he took 25 tablets out of her and she has hinted she will do it again. We do not know what the trouble is. As you know Valerie the youngest daughter was married a month ago and has gone to Winscombe to live. 

Back to your letter again. So your job at Paddington is posted at last. Query any difference in the rate? Peter with you again last Sunday and June and yourself at the kitchen with the paintpot. I’m afraid we have been hurrying you unnecessarily. 

Incidentally what about the fog? It has been pretty bad for Clevedon and when we get it here it is usually very bad elsewhere. Shall have to travel in middle of day to avoid it. Perhaps it will not be so bad when we come up. 

Noted your tomatoes now over. Not surprised as outdoor grown soon tail off in October.

Hope to have a few in good condition to bring up.

Well I think this is all for another week. Hope this reaches you Saturday morning. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls – hope they too were not disappointed we failed to turn up. Mum and Dad

P.S. Hope cream arrived in good condition.

*Translation:  ‘A woman doesn’t need glasses to do housework’.

**The family stonemasons’ business.

***To the best of my knowledge Joe never did take charge of the family business.  It could be that his health began to deteriorate before the matter was resolved.

Eva to the family on the remaining one-third of Leonard’s paper:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for a letter and drawings. I have caught dad’s cold a bit so will not use typewriter this week. I was disappointed we could not come this weekend and now especially as the fog has lifted. We hope to see you soon. We did not want to spread the cold about. As we caught this one off of Joe. 

What do you make of Mrs Bush. We do not see the car about now, perhaps that is the bother. 

Mrs Hoyle has a six weeks’ premature baby Caroline Joyce at Southmead. 

It was lovely at Exmouth and nice and warm during the day. Not many people staying there now. The sand was ankle deep in some places on the promenade. 

Dad has just looked out and says the fog has come up again. 

Hope Susan will soon have her glasses. 

We have a nice lot of chrysanths in the greenhouse now. 

[N.B. After this there is a gap where they clearly visited over the following long weekend.]

Bushell takes his test again tomorrow I think he will pass this time. 

Lots of love for now Dad and Mum. 

Tuesday 25th September, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for the usual budget of news received this morning but we are sorry to hear June still has an ache in her leg. A great pity if she has to put up with a niggling pain all the time. Is this the position which has to be accepted?

Very sorry to hear Susan has to have glasses but if she has astigmatism – which both Alec and I have – it is inevitable because the focus of the site is out of proper alignment. The specialist will say that is the trouble and nothing else and once this has been decided you will know how to proceed. It will make a tremendous difference to Susan inasmuch as she will see everything more clearly and the wearing of glasses should obviate headaches. All the same we are sorry that she has this trouble. I remember Don and I had to start wearing glasses at quite an early age but Geoff seems to have no trouble.

So further progress has been made regarding 155 High Street and the urgency in moving to Eccleston Road is on again. The sooner June’s father and mother are settled in the better for them as until then they cannot possibly relax. It will be a tremendous relief to them to have the business off their hands. Note the Electricity people have been busy at number 17 and that you have been having a field day their. Some job moving that dresser and I expect you  both got pretty filthy. An interesting relic in the 1919 newspaper and certainly topical as you say. Hope the tea did not taste of paraffin June?

I assume as you were over there on the Saturday you are continuing to have Saturdays off duty. Should not have been surprised to hear that down was a different arrangement on the E.R., i.e. perhaps only alternate Saturdays off or something like that.

Thank you very much for confirmation of date for a visit but do not hesitate to say so if you should find it is not at the last minute convenient for us to come up. We realise you have a very busy time ahead of you for the next six weeks.

Re. our visit to Burnham, if we had decided to go on further we should have had to proceed beyond Bridgwater and that would have been too much for the afternoon. In any case weather was not good enough. Have not been out since except to go to Southmead last Saturday with Mrs Bissix. Found him improved but that was because of the blood transfusions. He has had no other treatments to date but today he was due to have an x-ray and this will decide whether dieting or operation is the answer. Thursday we propose to go to Weston for a look around.*

By the way we did not hear anything more of the Richings and presumably he restarted work yesterday.

Bissix actually retires from business at the end of October (then aged 66) and he will have more time for organ and choir. It’s about the only thing he can take an interest in as he is practically barred from gardening because of his condition and he has – so far as I am aware – no other hobby.

Yes Alec I will try and remember to put sufficient sugar in the latest brew. It is working very well at the moment. I’m only making a gallon. My utensils are not big enough for greater quantities. Also when bringing to the boil Mother only has small saucepans and I have to boil up several times.

I’m not certain about the pond. Should like to think there is no leak but have my doubts. It is a very small one – that is if there is a leak – and if I have a connection from the garage this should keep it topped up. At this moment there are still about 3 inches of water in the shallow portion and no water (other than rainfall) has been put in for a month.

Thanks for further information re E.R. Presumably you are getting on all right with them and settling in satisfactorily. I have read the mag – quite good – and now lent it to Roy Hewitt and will afterwards let Aston see it. Noted the office you are in is the General Manager’s section and that the Line Managers are the equivalent to the old W.R. Supt. of the Lines. Have you any idea of the total mileage of the E.R. as compared with the W.R.? So Geoff was surprised then – must have made him think too. Have not heard from Don since I last wrote and told him of your move. expect it made him gasp a bit. Will let you know what he says in due course. Your office arrangements seem quite good and I expect you each have plenty of room.

Pleased to hear June progressing with her driving. Whatever did you have in the boot of car? The kitchen sink? Which reminds me I measured up the boot of a car for the tank you have and find it will not quite go inside – the difficulty is the height and lid of boot would not close by at least a couple of inches. However let’s see what it looks like when in position.

Stan James look around this afternoon in response to my earlier request to see what could be done to guttering outside of the bedroom in which you slept last August. He found that the joint was perfect but  it appeared the fall of water round from both sides and met outside the bedroom and over the top it went. The broken piece of guttering near the outer wall wanted replacing so he did this and raised the level of the rest of guttering – on Heels’ side – to give a continuous fall towards our corner. Made quite a good job of it but I fear that as there is a dip in the guttering over Heels’ front bedroom window they are going to get the water over the top at that point. At the moment they are away and know nothing about what has been done on our side so we must wait for the penny to drop. His remedy of course is to raise his guttering from the point of connection with ours to allow fall to his corner thence to downpipe. Will report further news later.

I have still not been out for any blackberries but hope I have not missed the boat. It is a lovely wine. Noted the cherry did not have the necessary effect on Carol this time. I wonder what my latest brew of cherry and orange will do for her?

The strike’s just a useless protest. It will have no effect on the ultimate position and the sooner the men realise it the better. Strike is about the only thing they think of when they cannot get their own way. Wants a dictator to deal with them**. I wondered what you would do. Quite a good idea to bring home sufficient work for the day. Assume your colleagues will do the same if living far from Liverpool Street. The roads are going to be chaotic and afterwards Diesel and coach working will be thrown out of course for days. It is absolutely senseless.

We have bought tickets for the Harvest Home so may have an evening out on the 3rd.

Have been doing a little more gardening this week, cleaning and clearing the ground also doing a bit of digging where sweet peas were grown. Pulled the remainder of the spring sown onions today – some were quite good others not up to much.

[Letter continues tomorrow. ]

*By an interesting coincidence this is precisely what I am planning to do on the Thursday after preparing this entry although – in common with Leonard – I am very familiar with Weston-super-Mare, and in fact lived there for a number of years myself.

**If there was any demonstration needed about how anti-union the whole family was to this point, this should be sufficient. They viewed unions as (a) divisive and (b) only relevant to working (i.e. lower-class) people. Despite humble family roots – earlier generations of Atkinses were cutlers and toolmakers – the generation featured in these letters considered itself ‘superior’, ‘professional’ and ‘middle class’ and was soundly against mixing with- or being influenced by – anyone lower down the social scale.

Tuesday 11th September, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks once again for your interesting letter received this morning together with drawings from Susan and query Carol. It is a very bad morning – rain and a very close atmosphere and although it is only 11 am I am starting to reply. Have been up the Library but can do nothing outdoors. Yesterday morning was the same but it cleared up in the afternoon and I was able to help Mr Bushell erect a fowlshouse he has bought second-hand. Earlier he had had another go at car to stop a vibrating noise in the silencer system – a leftover from his previous attention to same. Now quite alright.

We are very pleased June to hear there is an improvement to your leg following the injections but it is noted the latter will have to be possibly repeated in two years. If however you get some easement by this treatment then it will be worthwhile having this bi-yearly attention. We do hope you will have no further trouble with the leg now.

Thanks Alec for the up-to-date information on the move to the E.R. and state of the office you have left. Seems as if McDonald is drawing his money the easy way by leaving the work to other people. This unfortunately is typical of many highly paid officials when they can put the work out. Never mind it will be interesting to have his comments when he returns from leave.

Yes I was a bit out in the London terminal quiz. Where do the G.C. trains start from in London? The question now arises who is Jagger and Russell – is latter a relative of Russell who was once assistant goods manager at Bristol? If your proper designation is Senior Work Study Assistant than presumably the assistant already with Russell does not rank so high. It does seem as if the Western Region Staff have infiltrated quite well into the E.R. and I think there are very good prospects there. Anyhow it is no good speculating and we must wait for your report following your actual arrival at Liverpool Street and how you find things. You know you have our very best wishes on the new work and I’m sure you will be able to put them up to a thing or two in due course. Salary really good too – better than when I finished at Temple Meads. Actually if I remember rightly you had not quite reached the maximum of the job at Paddington so it should be a worthwhile lift to start with.

Note Douglas Matthews still with E.R. and continuing to reside at Ruislip. It is pretty certain you will run into him now so please give him my kind regards.

Thanks, in anticipation, of the magazines. I shall be most interested to learn a bit about the E.R. In the past it is a section of line I’ve never bothered about. In my old invoicing days it was G.E. via Acton and Hackney Wick or G.N. via Acton and King’s Cross. Noted you met Haynes and Scragg in the old days. I can faintly remember Alec Eagle and another S.R. man named English – one of Godfrey’s friends.

Your report of 17 Eccleston Road shows that it is in a shocking condition and it is obvious with the best intentions in the world the various members of the family cannot do what is necessary in the time limit of three weeks. It is a major job and professional workmen are needed to do the place right through. This means money I know and it must be a tremendous worry to you to know what to do for the best. Unfortunately applications for grants seem to take a long time to get past the authorities and then you are the builders’ and decorators’ hands as to when they can start. Meanwhile Mr and Mrs Baker want to move in in three weeks so immediate attention is necessary for at least a couple of rooms to enable them to feel a bit comfortable. As we have said before we are very sorry it is necessary for them to have to make a change like this at their age. We can only hope that when they are there they will feel better for the rest they get by not having to attend the shop.

Perhaps in view of all the circumstances it would be better if we postpone our visit – you will both want to do all you can in your spare time to improve number 17 in the shortest possible time.

Actually we had a letter from Tiverton this morning – same post as your letter – and they are asking us to go down on Friday October 12th for the weekend at Tiverton and Exmouth so by a pre-arrangement with you this would mean coming to Ruislip the previous weekend which does not give you much opportunity to straighten out things at Eccleston Road. We will leave the decision to you but to do not hesitate to postpone the visit if by our coming up it would complicate matters for you.

Yes Geoff was not due back at office until yesterday and I expect by this time he has been in touch with you. I know he is hoping to get another move shortly but at this precise moment I have an idea you have caught up with him. Nice of Bob Hill to wish you well – expect he reminded you it was his original suggestion that took you to London twenty years ago. Very nice of the staff to present you with a leather despatch case and June a box of chocolates. They had to think and act quickly to do that as it was less than a week after your notification of appointment. Noted you took them out to the Mitre – place I do not know. A leather dispatch case will be most useful to you now especially with travelling in the offing.

So your neighbour did not think much of the bungalow then. The only real objection I had to it was its position in relation to other premises – some of them seemed so near and you could almost see what the neighbours were having for breakfast. The site on Worlebury Common and the view of Sand Bay must be ideal on a fine sunny day. £5400 however is a lot of money for a residence and will take some pegging back. A good premium bond would help or a Lucky Strike on the Pools.

In addition to Bill Aston and Roy Hewitt Mrs Marshall asks us to send her very best wishes for your new post.

Regarding  Norman Allen’s T.S.S.A. effort I should think the Union has been given some inside information regarding redundancy and being told to pipe down for a while. It is certain that position at Bristol is critical and I should say at Cardiff also where the District and Divisional offices have to amalgamate. Wonder if there is any comparable position on the E.R. or is their organisation different?

Thanks for measurements of the tank. I must put the rule around the boot of car but speaking off hand I should think it would just about fit.

Don’t worry about visiting Tottenham Court Road Alec I will manage with what is on hand for the present which reminds me this time last year I had a nice lot of blackberries and a lot of loganberries soaking for wine but so far the weather has not been at all suitable for gathering.

It is now 12:30 p.m. and raining as hard as ever. Had one interruption – Mrs Clark over for tomatoes. Mum and I called in at Alf Crane’s place at East Clevedon last Friday to order some gravel and cement and he himself happened to be there attending to his own pond. Not nearly as big as ours but lovely with a fountain throwing up a jet of water and a miniature waterfall over a rockery. Altered my ideas of designing our pond but although his pond is entirely surrounded by a rockery I think on reflection such an arrangement would spoil ours. This does not mean I will not make a rock garden around pond but having regard to its size I think the flat surround will show up the water better. Anyhow it was a very interesting call on Crane for he showed us round the garden and lawns – latter not a weed in them.

Mr Heel and Mrs Heel are off tomorrow for three or four weeks’ holiday in the Rugby area. Mum and I have both been off colour for a week or more so not a lot of gardening done although mum has been doing a bit in the front where she has planted out some of the wallflowers. I have finally cleared up the raspberry canes and put the rose right for another season. There is still a lot to be done including hedge cutting. Yesterday morning between showers I cut off about a foot in width of the hedge on the path side of the pond preparatory to having a narrow path alongside as far as the pond but the rain since has put paid to any outdoor work for the remainder of the week. All water containers are full and overflowing – what a contrast to a few weeks ago.

We were in Sealeys in Hill Road the other day and I spotted a Wonderland on the stall so got hold of it for the girls and I am enclosing the same herewith. Have often looked for a copy but without success before.

The letter from Tiverton said that the business in Bampton Street had been sold but Joe did not know who had bought it. I think the disposal of the business was inevitable as George’s son is not capable of managing it. Understand he will remain with the business but how long he lasts is anybody’s guess. Joe did not know it was up for sale but in any case would not I think have made a bid for it. After all he is now over sixty and must be thinking in terms of retirement. Also heard that John (Chevithorne) has joined the golf club.

The Richings (Weston-super-Mare) started their holiday yesterday. Apparently after the wedding they can only manage day trips this year but they promised to get in touch with us for a run round one day. So far nothing doing but what can one expect this weather.

Since last writing have managed to pick enough runner beans for two meals but it is a sorry state of affairs to be short of this vegetable so early in the season. The rain has come too late for them to recover.

I do not think Norman and Marion had any particular wish boy or girl but I’m afraid Marion has her hands full now as the boy is not so very old yet.

Looks as if I’ve reached the bottom of the page again so muchst close with all my love to you both and lots of kisses for two little girls. Shall be looking forward to the next letter with more news on the new job and perhaps that information of number 17 Eccleston Road. We do hope that in spite of the upset Mr and Mrs Baker are keeping well. 

Tuesday 4th September, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

We were on the look-out for your letter this morning with all the good news and some unfortunately not so good. Now I’m starting to reply in order to cover as much as possible before posting on Thursday.

As we mentioned in short memo earlier we are delighted with the news of your promotion and it sounds like something worthwhile. The fact you are going over on the 10th inst. indicates they are in a hurry to get on with the work and my guess is that they have been lagging in Work Study organisation and are anxious to catch up. Moreover I should say they have not the staff with the necessary experience to get on with it. Although I have never worked at Paddington I agree things are not the same as they were years ago and a change may be all to the good. I too have heard the Eastern Region is very friendly one to another, but to start with you may find one or two disgruntled because the job did not fall to them. Is Douglas Matthews still with them? When opportunity occurs you must please send us an Eastern Region magazine and now we have a direct interest in them should like to have it monthly or is this asking too much?

I know the old G.N. and G.C. and G.E. with the L.T. and S. forms the E.R. and that King’s Cross, Marylebone and Liverpool Street are the terminals of the first three. Query Fenchurch Street the terminal of the last named. It’s a section I know nothing about but I think you have a grand opportunity to utilise the knowledge you have gained in the past 20 years to help the E.R. Is the post a new one or has the previous occupant got promotion or retired? Anyhow our very best wishes Alec and we are sure you will succeed.

June will not care much about your travelling but this is one of the hazards of railway life. I noticed your train service from South Ruislip runs direct to Liverpool Street so no more changing at Notting Hill for Paddington. What is the fluttering in the dovecote you refer to? The fact that you have the job or who is going to get yours?

Your final comment on this matter that you have gone further East whereas you would have preferred to have come more this way – this again is all part of the hazards of railway life but just think – if you had remained in Bristol you would have been lucky to have reached Class 1 by now.

We shall be pleased to have your remarks on the new job after you have had some experience there. There used to be a H. Johnston there and I think he finished very high up. He was one of a Control Commission with Haynes (W.R.) Smart (S.R.) and Scagg (L.M.R.) who came to Bristol Swindon and Westbury in 1941 when Assistant Chief Controllers were introduced and I was with them for about 10 days.

I guessed there would be no changing of house and it is good to know the housing loan is all right – still at 4% I hope.

Now for the news which was not so good. We are very sorry June to hear of the problem in front of your mum and dad. It is really a tragedy but although I am not in a position to comment it does seem the lesser of the two evils is for them to go in to number 17 Eccleston Road. At least they will be able to relax and not be at everybody’s beck and call every time the bell rings. That in itself must be a great relief to them. It is surprising how the interior of a house can be improved by the right selection of paint and wallpaper. We sincerely hope things will work out satisfactorily for them. They both need all the rest they can get and it may be a blessing in disguise once the worry of the business and its financial position is off their minds. If a grant can be obtained for renovations this will be great but obviously the place must be brightened up before they move into it. I think I can understand your mum not wishing to go there.

Now to more general topics. Yes Friday and Saturday last were very nice days but Sunday not too good. Today we have a couple of violent thunderstorms and baths soon filled up again – this after I was thinking of carrying water again. Have disconnected from pond now because I shall gradually empty for winter rains to fill up. Glad to hear the buddleias are recovering.

Never mind about the odd pictures that fails. Expect you have a lot of good ones to show us later on. Which reminds me – will your move affect our visit? We do not want you to start asking for time off on our account so early after appointment.

I had no idea there were three sizes of tyres on car. Noted the new ones help the steering. I think that tyres are one of the most important features of car – so much depends on them.

Bushell did not mind the work from his point of view. He is qualified to deal with such accidents.

Let’s get off general topics for a minute. Have just got to the point in your letter in which you tell us of June’s experience in hospital with her leg. I’m sorry and surprised an operation could not be guaranteed a success. Let’s hope the injections will give her a lot of relief. Is the next one the final or will more be necessary later on? I remember the hospital. You pointed it out to us sometime ago – stands well back from the road.

Note no more driving lessons June – a bit difficult unless you can find a home for Carol for an hour but we hope you will be able to resume soon. You will need car more than ever if Alec happens to be away on your shopping days.

Re: tomatoes Alec, pick them when they start to colour and put them in a box to ripen. They will ripen quicker and give the others a chance to develop. So Carol enjoyed the ripe one. What about Susan or does she not like them?

I put some lawn sand on lawn last week and it certainly scorched up the clover and plantains but I shall want a lot more to make the job effective. No more real progress on pond yet but I’ve done some more measuring up around it. Am now in the midst of cleaning through the raspberry canes and find the gardening gloves most useful.

Your new neighbours back from Majorca then. Geoff and family start back on Wednesday the 15th. Have written for them to have letter on arrival back but have said nothing about your move. He will throw a fit when he hears of it at the office.

Fancy a real doggy having a sniff at Perky Pup.

Note both girls have had a day off colour. Both Mum and I have had something of colds on us these last few days. Must be the changing of the weather from Summer to Autumn. Working in the garden makes one perspire freely in muggy weather and a cold can soon be taken.

How about your flu inoculation? Wonder if the E.R. deal out the doses.

Re: tank please let me know length, breadth and width so that I can measure up boot of car. I will bring it back if I can get it in.

Nice to have an evening showing yours and your neighbours’ holiday snaps through the projector. It is a wonderful record of events and you must have many hours of pleasure looking at them. Did they have a good time? What did they think of your description of the Worlebury bungalow?

Am sorry to hear about Ray Skinner. Jeff told me a letter or two ago he was having a bungalow built at Paignton in anticipation of his retirement at 60 years of age. Stronquist I only knew by name and I never met him or Ken Clifford as far as I can remember.

[Letter continues on Wednesday 5th September, 1962.]

Sunday 2nd September, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you once again for weekly letter, we have a little news for you this time, but first to reply to yours. As you say we could not have improved on the weather we had the week  following ours. However, the weather on one or two days since has been quite good, especially Friday and Saturday of this week. It was very hot in the garden in the afternoon, and yesterday we were able to sit in ours for a while. Odd about the thick fog, we have not had anything like that, but it has been cold first thing mornings with quite an autumnal air if not nip about it.

I am glad the pond extension works in practice as we were doubtful whether it would without prompting from us. It must have been quite some storm to fill all the levels though.

Yes we were sorry that Mum’s picture did not come out very well. I think I know the reason. If you recall we were in the cars sheltering from the rain when its eased off and we took the opportunity to get out while the going was good. It normally takes a little while to get a camera set for the picture, with lens hood and filter in place, but as I wanted to get a quick picture I did not fit these accessories. This would not have mattered normally, but it looks as if I took the picture directly against the light. We have the others back that we sent off at the same time. These were the ones we took when you were up. Most of them are alright. One of Carol did not come out and one of yours shows the top of your head missing. Mum’s dress came out very well indeed.

You will be glad to hear that all the buddleias are alive although one of them is only just so. The good one has been moved again since and still shows no sign of flagging.

I have no idea where we went wrong at Keynsham. On the forward journey we proceeded along the A4 until we saw the sign for Wells to the left. When we got to that junction on return journey we naturally turned right, and should have turned left again for Warmley, but did not see sign or turning. As you say, we approached Bath on a high level and found no trouble going through. I would say it is a much better way of disposing of Bath, and without increasing time or mileage.

The new tyres – now properly inflated – are a great help in steering. I found there were three sizes of tyre on the car. One was 5.0-5.25/16, one was 5.50/16 and the others were 5.25/16. You cannot tell any difference by the eye.

Bad business for Bushell, but of course it is now his job, and he will become more used to it than we should. Not a very pleasant job you might say.

Our lawns have dried up again through lack of rain and I had to get the hose out. I had put it away in the garage. It looks as though I shall have to give it another run again today as cracks appearing all over the place. The toms are ripening but I have not seen any red ones yet. Do these get red or do they remain orange? Carol kept on about picking the one ripe one so we let her do it. She had it for her tea in the week and apparently it went down well. I see there are several out there at the same stage now. Last week I cut off all the leaves except the top ones and this allows light to get to the plants. This week I cut back the trees at the bottom of the garden and let a lot more light in.

Our new neighbours returned last Sunday from honeymoon in Majorca. They both look very brown and seem to have had better weather than ourselves. Have seen little of them since they got back. He has mown the lawn but done little else outside. A workman who seems to be a relation of one of them is doing some exterior work on the house.

So things on the pond are moving. Your template must be quite large for that job. Is the pond holding or has the level receded? I note the depth is 2ft 1 in the centre. What will be the approximate height when you have built it up to the new level?

Carol likes her Perky Pup and still trots round with it. She was thrilled when a real dog took a sniff at it the other day. Good job I did not see it.

No more scares from the girls. Considering all things they have been moderately well behaved. Of course they were both poorly for one day each last weekend. No after effects. Carol had us awake most of Thursday night with a cough. Most of it was try-on though. She set up a mournful bleating and variously complained about head, throat and tummy. Tried hard to be sick but couldn’t and so on. I think it was a summer cold.

June has had no more practice with the driving, but there was some talk about having more lessons. Probably just now may not be opportune as you will hear later. With regard to the leg, June went to Uxbridge Cottage Hospital last Friday for examination as per the appointment. (This is not the place where Mrs Baker stayed, but first turning to the right beyond the Swakeley’s Road / Western Avenue roundabout.) I had the morning off from work as we all had to go because there was nowhere to dump the girls. June was inside for upwards of an hour, and they gave her the choice of an operation or an injection neither of which would they guarantee successful. In the event June chose the injection and they gave it to her there and then. This is having some effect although it is a bit early to say to what extent. There is some pain in the leg, and it produces the same results when knocked as it did before, but it looks a lot less angry and June is walking about with the aid of a special stocking. Another injection is due next Friday, but we think that June may be able to leave the girls with Ethel then.

The saga of West Drayton gets worse and worse. It appears that shortly after putting the property up for sale there was a queue of prospective buyers and the long and short of it is that the place has been sold. We do not know how much has been paid for it, but the agents told Mr Baker previously that “I could get £1,750 [roughly £41,600 in 2022 terms] for it tomorrow”. The lease has less than 10 years to run, and it may be that a price around that figure was agreed. In any case it is hard to see anyone paying more for such a short lease. Well it seems that the business was so bad that part of the pension has been used to prop it up and quite a lot of the proceeds of the sale will have to go to straighten things out. As for buying a house at current prices this is out of the question, but as number 17 Ecclestone Road has not been sold they will be moving in there for a purchase price of we think about £500 [roughy £11,900]. A retrograde step I call it, as it means going from one barn to another, but there seems to be little choice in the matter, and at least the old age pension will not be pillaged to keep the shop going anymore. Number 17 has 17 years of its 99-year lease to go so there is a respite for a while. It has no electric light or hot water system and is generally dirty and dark so it’s all hands to the pump now to get it shipshape. Its present furniture – which has been sold – moves out on September 6th – and various of us can then move in and see what needs doing and what can be done. *

Needless to say feelings are stretched at the moment. Peter who at first said he would not go near the place is now giving thought to possibilities of taking a floor for himself and Brenda but there are several ifs to be cleared up first.

I had a quick look through the Merc. but did not see the bit about young Richings. Will look again tho.

Have not done football this year yet but had a look at coupon for the previous weeks matches. It seems that Saturday comes around too quickly for me these days.

Cannot say I like Don’s cider much, but as I do not have the stuff regularly now it is probably not the fault of the cider. A spoonful of sugar would do it good from my way of thinking.

You would think Mr Heel would have seen the red light and cut out the heavy stuff in his garden. He will be back in hospital if he’s not careful.

About the waterfall arrangements, can you find room in your boot for our old water tank? It leaks, but Sylglas could put that right? We want to get rid of it, and it would be useful to you if you think it could be transported.

I did not tell you of my application for a job as Work Study assistant on the Eastern Region. I had an interview for it last Friday – it was a good one – and I had reasonable hopes. This week they told me I had got the job, so after 20 years at Paddington – almost to the day – I now go to Liverpool Street. I have heard good reports about that region and also understand they are a bit behind us in Work Study. The post is in the Regional Staff and Establishment Office and involves the whole of the Eastern Region’s three “Lines” viz the former GN and the GC and the former G and the former London Tilbury and Southend line. The scope is the whole of the Eastern England from Doncaster in the north to Sheffield in the west. I gather there will be a lot of travelling involved. What I am expected to do I do not know yet, but that will soon be known as I am starting on Monday 10th September. Of course there has been a lot of fluttering in the dovecote as you may expect. With the 3% award the top level of the salary range will be about £1,600 [equivalent of £38,000 today] so life has its compensations. It is a pity in a way to go further East when I would have preferred to go in the opposite direction, but it will be an opportunity to get away from Paddington which is not the place it was. There will be no question of moving house, and payments for the house will continue to be made through the paybill. Well we have upped tent and moved on before so it can be done again. Hope the news pleases you.

We have just had a small and welcome interruption over meeting Doug and Ethel and Christine for the first time since they returned from their holiday. It appears that they have a collection of colour films, but have no projector on which to show them. We have invited them in to see ours tonight and bring their own pictures with them.

The girls said thanks for the cards by the way. I do not know how many they want for the set.**

Bad news about Mr Skinner passing away last Friday. In view of the information given a few weeks ago it is not very surprising really. However he must have been much worse than most people realised. I gather Peter Stronquist is 53 and has a history of ulcer attack. A similar incident occurred about 20 years ago and he was in a bad way then. He is now in St. Mary’s Hospital and I had a word with Ted Rouse who visited him. He says he looked pretty bad when he left, in fact they thought he was a goner at one time. Ken Clifford, who was Waite’s Assistant and eventually succeeded him as head of P.T.O., retired on Friday. I did not go to the festivities. I had no idea he was going. It seems that they made the collection for him on a day I was out. Must arrange to be out more often.

Well I had better pack up now as one or two chores looming up. At least it leaves plenty of space for use by the distaff side if required. Love from us all once again. 

*This sheds an interesting light on Alec’s own past as the way he met June in the first place was through lodging with her aunt at the said 17 Ecclestone Road, either during or not long after WWII. (Most likely afterwards, as June referred to there being a lot of Indian merchant seamen living at 17 throughout the war, who were unable to get home for the duration. She learned to prepare curries for them, which were apparently very well received, but which put her off curry for the rest of her life.) There was clearly no electricity nor hot water when he was there either, but the post-war housing crisis would have made a lot of people grateful for any roof over their heads, no matter how basic it was.

**These would be P.G. Tips tea cards which were a staple of childhood life at the time. It was always a thrill to be allowed to open the packet of (loose) tea and find the card tucked between two layers of paper; they always smelled so wonderful, too. I believe the cards continued into the teabag era but they were eventually discontinued.