Sunday 30th April, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you for your letters again this week. Sorry I was unable to complete my last in time for your Tuesday morning delivery but gather that June finished off all the news. No more serious accidents at school to report thank goodness but there were a couple of grazed shins which the teacher dealt with on the spot.

As you say Susan is not very forthcoming about her activities at school but occasionally, as if by accident, she drops out a little bit of news. Susan has pals everywhere, she seems to attract them. She has an invitation to a party of a girl she met at this school. It was a nice little formal card, and we shall let her go. She was so independent minded that after a couple of days she was allowed to go to and from school on her own, but now she wants June to take her again. I suppose these fads will come and go according to circs. , but anyway June is now taking her and she finds her own way home.

June’s cold is much better now thank you, and I am happy to say that for the time being at least this one seems to have passed over.

I am sure that Peter and Brenda will look you up if they take a trip your way. I think it quite likely that they will come as he seems to like taking long trips.

Hope your week-end at Exmouth goes off O.K. From the weather point of view though it needs to brighten up a lot. To-day went according to the B.B.C. forecast (cloud early – turning to rain).

Carol does not mind at all being on her own all day. She is quite a good little girl, and for the first time we are seeing her outside of the influence of Susan. We are quite sure that left alone she would be much better behaved. She did say on Friday “Susie stop home from school to-day and play with me” but did not press it. She will stay quiet on her own for a long time just looking at a book.

Don seems to have stocked you up well with cider this time. Accord­ing to my reckoning you had six gallons, and that must be about half his supply. I hope we shall be seeing something of them when we are on holiday but will not make any definite arrangements until we find out the most convenient date all round.

Why not accept the invitation to go on the office outing? I know you have been there before, but it might give you a chance of a natter with old friends, and if you do not want too much refreshment you can always claim “Doctors Orders”. I wish I could give you copies of the Railway Gazette to read and pass on but ours has a long distribution list. The one you had was one I took home and forgot about go long that it was easier for it to vanish.

I notice that Nos 1 and 2 bays also 3 and 4 bays in the green house are fully utilised, but you do not say what is the occup­ation of the Main Line Platforms. Perhaps it is because you have no through service. *

Note you are again planting runner beans in bulk. Hope to sample some of those in due course.

Decorations are causing you some disturbance, but at least the waiting for the men to start on the wiring is over. Note the horse still in good order. ( What about preparing a hot-bed, and forcing a plant or two?) Is the river fenced off so that he cannot get out? We shall have to go on the hill to fly the kite I expect otherwise he may take fright. Why not suggest that Mother takes a toasting fork down – it was effective against Felix. Incidentally, what inspection does Mother do to the fruit trees, and is it effective?

Note your Parsnip wine still under fermentation lock but working slowly. You will find that if you use more yeast you will speed up the process. In each of my last gallons I have put in a whole one oz. packet of powdered yeast with the result that there is a terrific fermentation started almost immediately, and it comes to a full stop at approximately three weeks.

Note you had a good trip to Bristol and that there seems to be another in the offing.

Yesterday I set about making the low cupboard in the alcove behind T.V. so that we can dispense with the T.V. stand. After most of the day on it, apart from afternoon shopping, managed to get most of it done, the original cupboard with the glass fronted doors now rests at an angle of 90 degrees to the diagonal of the room with the right hand end ( front corner ) touching the corner of the chimney breast. All the space between the existing cupboard and the wall has now been filled in with the wood taken from the old bookcase on the right hand side. This is supported on battens fixed to the wall with plugs and screws, and the whole assembly screwed together. Due to using old wood of a fixed length it was necessary to leave odd shapes out if the best possible utilisation was to be obtained, and these shapes have since been filled in rather like a jigsaw puzzle. One remaining side, that adjacent to the bureau, has to be fitted but as I am now out of wood altogether, that will stay until next week-end. The surface is fairly level and with the application of a plane and sandpaper plus some plastic wood for the small cracks and a coat of paint, it will look quite passable.

To-day we went over to Tufnell Park to visit friends of June’s. The last time we were there we had not long been engaged. We went via the Western Avenue to the North Circular Rd then turned of into Archway Rd (A1). The forward journey took 21 miles and 90 minutes. The delay was due to having engine failure when on the Western Avenue. I had had trouble getting away and this I thought was due to some dirt in the filters. I thought if I could get out on the main road and rev the engine up for a bit, the trouble would clear. This seemed to work until we got almost into Greenford when the car stopped and would not go further. I managed to push it back about 10 yards into a layby with June’s help. After taking raincoat and jacket off and rolling up my sleeves and generally looking important and getting nowhere, a chap offered assistance. We tried the plug wires which I suspected but they were all in order, so was the feed. All the trouble was caused by a loose connection on the coil. This tightened, off we went without any further to-do. Coming back we crossed over Hampstead Heath and went by way of Cricklewood, Harlesden, Willesden, Stonebridge Park and Wembley. This journey was only 17 miles and about 50 minutes.

Note Mother has been doing some clearance work on the long grass. Could do with her assistance ( or that of the horse ) on our lawn as it has not been cut for over two weeks now and looks it.

So Mum is delivering the Church Magazine, I thought they would get her on it in the end. What is the commission?

We got a few barrow loads of earth off the field the other night to make up the levels a bit and hope to get some more when convenient.

Well that’s all for this week. There was something from Susan floating about, but the output has seriously fallen off since school started. Will get Carol to take over as soon as possible.

Love from us all.

*Railway humour, arf arf!


Sunday 22nd January, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you very much for comprehensive letter with all the latest dope. I am not surprised you had to read my last several times to sort out all the bits and pieces. We certainly had variety all right and there is more to come later in this letter.

Firstly let me say that June’s foot is much better now, and can almost be trodden on with safety. Most of the old skin has now gone, and only the hardened edges of the scald are left. The new skin tender and red is toughening up satisfactorily and there is no sign of any part turning septic. For all practical purposes the case book there is now closed, with relief and luck.

The episode of the car is quite amusing to look back on and I agree that good job doors were closed. I take no steps to lock car doors in garage as the girls are not supposed to be let in. There is usually a saw or two, or bottle of some slug killer or liquinure floating about, and it would make hard and unnecessary work hoisting all the lethal objects up out of the way, so easiest way is to keep them out.

Susan has produced another nice drawing this week, in fact the place is covered with them. I am not sure which one is intended for you, will have to find out.

Yes I started the new job on Monday last but not very much to report yet. The Motive Power chap is not very happy – he comes from Newport and as his equivalent job in Cardiff has become vacant already he is after a transfer. The Commercial man is not far off retirement ( less than ten years). He is a big N.U.R. man having started on the deck at Paddington Goods and stayed there all his working life to date. He came to us at Reading for his training. He told me then that he went to Moscow with Jim Figgins* and met Stalin or who ever was the big shot then. Quite a nice chap but has a somewhat limited scope.

So far the drill has been indoctrinate into Commercial Department methods. McDonald has the reins in his hands and insists that everything be standardised on Commercial lines. Remember the three Work Study Assistants so far appointed in the Divisions are all Commercial? My staff have been put with existing commercial assignments to learn their methods. I gather that my first job will be to supervise the Paddington Parcels job which has already started. Applications have been received for us to prepare schemes for the signalmen at Old Oak Common (about six boxes ) Yard Staff at Acton, Parcels staff at Acton, and the Area Board Chairman (who lives at Oxford ) wants Oxford station re-appraised. Can see a merry time ahead. McDonald started off by lunching the three of us plus head of his admin. section.

I am sorry Mum had got ahead with preparations for my visit, but as you appreciate I cannot look very far ahead in planning these trips. Visits are out now for a while I am afraid. Yes Easter will not be long now will it? I have not looked up the date but gather it is in March this year. With February a short month we shall have to start preparations for your visit.

You certainly have got some bother with your electric lighting. I should imagine Bell’s best bet ( and cheapest ) will be to disconnect the existing wiring altogether, put in a 30 amp. fuse box and put you in two separate ring mains ( 13 amp. sockets) one downstairs and one upstairs. At a guess I would say that the 30 amp. box would be about £1 plus say £3 for wire, apart from labour charge of installation. To this should be added the cost per socket outlet which would be say 12/- ea. excluding labour charge. I think your cooker which comes off a separate fuse box would not be affected. Of course by this method you would not have centre or wall lights in rooms, or unsightly switches by the door. Wall lighting could be provided by running a short length of conduit up from the junction box. By the system described, the fuse box, two ring mains, with outlets ( two in Dining Boom, and Front Boom, and in kitchen, and one each in hall, landing, three bedrooms and bathroom) would come to about £ 11 excluding labour charge ( which is anyones guess ). All additional points could be put in by yourself, and this would also give some scope for standard lamp making. It would appear from the evidence of burning that you have been very lucky – that is how Mr Baker’s cinema at Southend burned down.**

Note you will be coming round with the hat and no doubt an advance on car just now would be helpful, but I am afraid I shall have to say I am sending you £5 but not this week. Seriously, I have not forgotten the subject, and have to say the outstanding will be cleared off this year.

I note your request about Norman Allen. So far as he is concerned, I do not think he need worry. As he says not many want to rough it and do much travelling about. My advice to him is to show the maximum of enthusiasm for the work, say that only by Work Study can the present mess be sorted out, and believe it himself. Persons applying for Class Twos are not expected to know much about Work Study, that can be taught. What is necessary is to decide if the man is the right type.*** He should at some stage of the interview mention that he has applied before, is still anxious to take up this work, and has made enquiries from staff as to the nature of the work etc. If he has any sense he will not mention George Welch’s name in this connection unless he is asked point blank. He can mention my name if he likes.

Mann is in the Bristol Area all next week until Friday, so I can not get hold of him but Stevens is at Transom House on Monday and will see Mann that evening so if Norman wants to he can contact him and express his enthusiasm for the work. ( Sorry I realise that this letter will arrive too late to do any good for this Monday ). I should certainly tell him to get in tough with Mann or Stevens on the side and explain the position.

Nothing further to report on the Yiewsley Housing situation. Seems to be a lack of funds on the part of the prospective purchasers, linked with the refusal of their plans by the council etc. Everyone there is as well as can be expected although not exactly bursting with health.

Sorry to hear of the Kenn Rd accident. How we avoided a similar incident I do not know, June took Susan and Carol to the party on Saturday while I went off to the match. I got back about five past five and was just putting the car away when June came round from next door. It appears that only a few moments before, a knock came at the front door, and there was Carol with no hat or coat. She had slipped out of the party and found her way back in the dark across two roads. Of course June nearly passed out when she saw her and was just dumping her on the Benns to go to look for Susan in case she was out anywhere. When I got to the party Susan was there right enough and no one had noticed that Carol was gone. Was able to pass on the shock to the Sunday School Teachers there. No one will ever know what traffic was on the roads that she crossed and I suppose it is better not to think about it. It appears she had lead them a bit of a dance by asking to go to toilet and then not doing anything. Who opened the door for her no one knows. I am pretty satisfied that Susan did not do it.

Not much point in giving you a report on the match. The result was no more than just. I was surprised to see that the team as a whole played as if it did not matter awfully much one way or the other. I saw Doug Hand after the game and he was greatly disappointed. He says he is working in Portishead ( ? in or near the Gas Co. or Works ) right opposite to the Electricity concern and sees Frank Hessel frequently.

Sorry your gardening endeavours upset pencil holding. Why not try one of these? [ i.e. a typewriter]

Note Mum’s remarks on the scald treatment but our book says the same. Dr. said not to cover it at all or put anything on it and ordered bathing in pint of tepid water to which one teaspoon of salt had been added.

Yes the lights in the garage must have been nuts for them. They pulled all the knobs in sight, and it must have been like playing a harmonium.

I must tall you what Susan told me about the party. She said “I tried to get some of the boys to dance with me” and then said ( like an angler who has fished all day and only caught one) “one did for about half an hour”.

Bad luck on your entry in the competition, but your outings sound good also the film. Talking about Madeira, I had a taste of my latest concoction yesterday and it is progressing very well. Shall have to make some more soon – I see some dates left over from Xmas lurking around doing nothing.

By the way please let us have George Hunt’s correct address when you get a chance. We keep sending card c/o Mr P.

Well there it is for this week again. Hope you are well. Won’t be long to better weather now. Love from us all.

[*General Secretary of the N.U.R. 1948-1953]

[**Okay, this is a bit bewildering. Frank Baker ran both the Strand and the Mascot cinemas in Southend/Westcliff. You would think, from the way Alec expresses himself, that the cinema in question had been destroyed by fire, as indeed the Mascot was – but not until 1964. The Strand closed in 1960 and was subsequently demolished to allow for the extension of a nearby department store; I have been unable to find any mention of a fire there. In fact it looks as if Frank might have left the Strand when it was bought by the Essoldo chain in 1955 and taken on the sweetshop/tobacconist in West Drayton/Yiewsley at that point. At any rate the ‘Picture Palaces’ page on the ‘Southend Timeline’ (see Mascot link above) only lists one cinema as having been completely destroyed by fire and that was much later and as a result of boys throwing fireworks, apparently, not electrical failure. If either cinema – or indeed a different one – was damaged but not destroyed by fire at another time, I have yet to locate any information about it.]

[***Naturally, no women were expected to apply.]

Monday 9th January, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Just a day late this week, barring posting accidents. Could not get round to writing yesterday due to the visit of Geoff and family. Yours truly in action from 2-30 pm to 9-0 pm. I am afraid the big news of the week is all bad although things are fully restored now. Will answer your letter first and then enlighten you.

I expect you would have liked to see their faces when they saw the prams. Susan was in the lead and got to the front room door first but she stopped for a second or two in the doorway taking it all in before she trotted in. They had a good time with all their new toys. Yes we will be looking forward to seeing you at Easter, leave dates to you.

I was to have gone to Cardiff Tuesday of this week but plans changed and will probably go next week now. It will only be three weeks now before I go to the London Division, and believe me I shall not be sorry.

You certainly seem to have a large circle of friends and acquaintances with whom to exchange visits. No doubt you will have been able to sample the relative quality of the mince pies. I note the odd numbers etc are still breathing out etc at your bellringers evenings. According to Mothers note she was washing up in the early hours. One thing I expect you got an early morning cup of tea – with a vengeance. I note also that the Lyng cider went down well, and apparently stayed down. Some contract to mix it with sherry.

Dan Mann is anxious to live in Bristol itself, I would have thought that he would have taken the opportunity to live outside but it appears that his wife likes Bristol itself although I do not remember which part.

A correction on the Vinegar of mine. I thought it was the plum wine that had gone off because of its colour but I found my two large Jars of plum after I wrote to you and they both tasted fine. It seems that the apple wine that I had in the same compartment had turned dark as well as turning vinegary. Have made some Apricot/ Grape/Orange/Celery wine – some mixture.

You have certainly dug quite a big slice of land. If a piece that size were dug in our garden that would complete the work for one year.

Dropped a no note to the Council about the garage. Had told them it would be av available for inspection from Oct* 15th but no-one came. Last week some one came to the front door and mumbled something about “garage”. June offered to open the doors but he did not want to see inside or go round the back of it to inspect. He walked off without saying anything and nothing by post yet.

Nice to be able to see Mrs Hillman again. Some changes up at Alexandra Rd. I expect Dad will patronise the do it yourself shop.

Well to tell you the story of our plight this week, we start on Thursday. We went to bed about 10-30 pm and were disturbed at 11-0 pm by Carol, She was crying and coughing and became sick. Things got steadily worse as she could not get her breath. We took her down stairs but the reaching continued so we sent for Doctor. He soon came and made out a prescription which he said should be made up at once, I dressed and got car out and hammered on the back door of the local chemist. Eventually a chap came to the door in his pyjamas only to tell me the chemists house was next door. I tapped on that door for about twenty minutes without success.

Went over to Ruislip Manor and by luck saw a man leaning out of the upstairs window. I called to him and he grumbled a bit and then came down. Got back with the medicine and it seemed to do the trick. Carol took it very well and dropped off to sleep so June decided to stay downstairs with her. One arrangement we had on advice of Doctor was kettle steaming on the hob to moisten the air. Unfortunately this fell off and poured scalding water over Junes foot at about 5-0 am and we had to ring Doctor again for her. I am afraid June had a very rough time and was in great pain with shock. Of course this has gradually diminished but she can only now put a shoe on and has the largest blister I have ever seen. I had Friday off to help out a bit and the impending visit was in jeopardy for a while. Everything going on O.K. now. What next?

Well will close with those few words and hope you are fit. Love from us all.

Breakfast in the Park

A few times in 1960/1961 Alec and June took the children to have breakfast in Pinner Memorial Park and feed the ducks – at a distance of just over three miles from home. Although described by Alec in his letters as ‘spontaneous’ or ‘spur of the moment’ these jaunts required a considerable amount of planning, in which he of course did not participate. The food had to be prepared and packed – without the use of plastic containers, which were not especially common then – and the children had to be dressed up smartly as if they were going to church. The following picture is from 1961, but will give a fairly clear idea of what was involved.

Sunday 1st May, 1960

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you both for your letters. Hope by now you have both got rid of the colds and are again in the pink. I do not know about Susan and Carol picking up your cold, they had bad catarrah for several days but they are both as fit as fleas now.

Carol has had quite a week-end of it. Yesterday she fell half way down the stairs on to her head and got jammed under the wooden gate. Her head was one side and her tail the other. It raised a bruise on her left temple and for a while she gave us several verses of the song the donkey died of*. It sobered her up for a bit but she shook off the effects fairly quickly and became her usual self again before evening. To-day she fell down three times, once off a chair and once in the garden which took some skin off her nose, I am afraid she has a tendency to cut the corners just like Susan.

We gave up the attempt of getting polio injection on that day as you know but I went down the following Friday evening. Had to wait three quarters of an hour before attention. No joke if you happen to feel off colour.

Have had two rounds of golf this year so far. The object of starting at 7-45 a.m. was to get round or at least get started before the crowd. It did not work however as on both occasions many were before us and on the last visit had to wait from 8-0 a.m. to 9-15 a.m. before could start. I wanted to get home by noon but as it takes three to three and half hours to go round that was doomed to failure. Almost as bad as waiting in the Doctors.

It could have been the Sloe Wine that upset me of course but I doubt it. It also could have been the exertion cleaning the car which is far more likely. Gave it another good clean yesterday and of course it rained during the night which just about put paid to it. I sponged off as much of the water as I could this morning but it had already done the damage. I saw to-night that a bird has left his card as well, so cleaning cars kept outdoors is a dead loss.

Have no news of Iris’s Father but the feeling is that it is nothing to get alarmed about.

I enclose one of the snaps promised. They did not print the good one of the group and they are arranging to do it specially this week. The others are well worth keeping as records, but as camera compositions they are none too special. Will try to remember to bring them when I come down.

The chrysanths you brought up have made terrific progress and I have already re­potted two to larger pots. Please advise re pinching out as I do not wish to lose the opportunity of getting good size blooms.

The children have put paid to the greengage tree that was in the middle of the lawn. I have since sawn off the stump to below ground level. Susan and Carol heard the cuckoo (in the clock at No. 17) some time ago so they beat you this year.

I take it you have no bananas from Avonmouth.

Have done quite a bit in the garden to-day. At least we have some variety now even if the layout leaves much to be desired. I expect you are now in full swing with yours. Well that’s all for now, see you soon. Love from June, Susan, Carol and Alec

*I’ve been unable to track down ‘the song the donkey died of’ although there seem to be a surprising number of songs about dead and/or dying donkeys. I suspect this may actually have been a line from a comedy routine, and as such could date back fifty years or more from the time Alec is writing. We only have to compare it to the Monty Python dead parrot sketch to realise how a few random words may be completely understood by one generation but mean nothing whatever to those who come after them.

Monday 21 September 1959

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you both for your letter duly received. We are still having trouble with your grandchildren. Since writing last we have not had a clear night’s sleep. To-night for variation June put them in the same room. Carol is in a single bed. This changed the tune. Since she has been in there she has been laughing and crowing and playing games with Susan. This lasted about half an hour and then she started climbing out of hers and into Susan’s bed. I looked in once to find her sitting on Susan’s head. We eventually put them back in their proper beds and put the light out. We had not been downstairs five minutes when Carol fell out of bed. Of course she bawled and that meant hot milk each. We put them back, Carol still bawling, and waited outside. Two seconds later Carol was seen sliding gratefully out of Susan’s bed on her head. Carol was taken back to her old room and the cot. That produced the greatest sounds yet. They both contributed to it. As I write June is up in the large back room and both the girls are in the single beds. How long the silence will last is anybody’s guess.

Your trip to Swanage and the surrounding area seems to have been a good one. Of course I have heard a lot about that country. We had dealings with a lot of the stations when I was in the Bristol Passenger Train Office. No news about the applications for jobs. I think that the announcements for the interviews for the D.O.S.O. job may come out soon. Pauline flew to Jersey yesterday for her holidays. A bit late I fear but it is still dry anyway. We still have had no rain. Yesterday two of June’s old friends came to tea and brought there 8 year old daughter. We had not seen them for two years and we all notice a difference in all three children. They had of course not seen Carol before. Over the weekend I cleared the remains of the wine you brought up. It is very clear now and free from sediment. I have also got a gallon of apple fermenting away in the shed. I made it from a recipe not in H.B.B.** The formula involves the use of Barley which is supposed to mature the wine quicker. Carol woke again a few minutes ago and has had a bawl. It is difficult to concentrate with that noise going on. Cleared some of the rubbish etc. from the front garden on Saturday but otherwise this week-end has been quiet from the gardening point of view. Hope you did not bother with the plays on T.V. on Sunday* they were both awful. The set is switched on now but no-one is looking in. I am afraid we have become quite disjointed over this bedtime lark. June has just come down now so that means they are both off at last. This I am afraid is only the first stage. We usually get about four sessions during the night and finish up by putting Carol in the big bed with June.

Sorry this letter will be a little late this week. Have not felt up to writing any more due to lack of sleep.Have resumed after a two-day interval. June took Carol to see the Doctor yesterday to see if he could suggest some way of getting over difficulty. He says she has got catarrah and is teething. We can expect her to wake up in the night. Last night we put her cot in with us and she was not too bad, only woke up about four times. June is up now trying to settle her off for to-night. I have just read Susan a couple of stories and she seems to have quietened down. Still no news of applications. The L.D.C.s have been given copies of the Old Oak Common Carriage Cleaning Report and are now reading it. A special saloon has been provided at 0.0.C. and they have been given two days off to read it. Budworth, and Welchman are there to answer any questions they may ask. Wilkinson told me today that he may want me to go down and help put the scheme in if they accept it. Of course Barnes will do his best to stop it. We had some rain here on Tuesday night. It was just about enough to lay the dust and the effects soon wore off. Had a look at my apple wine this morning only to find that about fifty small flies were flying about under the polythene. There must have been a hole in it. I had to dig out all the pulp (which was on the surface) and throw it away. I hope that the pulp has soaked for a long enough time to get all the goodness out. June tells me that there has been a lot of wasps round the pulp where I threw it on the garden. She had to get spade and bury it. Must be good stuff. Carol bawling again – sounds like Eddyson Bell Record. Well I hope you are both in good health as we are (except Carols Catarrah). Love from June, Susan, Carol and Alec

*The TV schedule for Sunday 20 September is online. The BBC play would have been Sartre’s Crime Passionel which sounds really good and has a stellar cast, but probably wasn’t the light entertainment Alec was hoping for. ATV had ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’, presented by Val Parnell, featuring Jane Russell and Jewell and Warriss***, and there was also a play called ‘After the Show’ which starred Hermione Baddeley. This, however, was on at the same time as the Sartre, and it would have been impossible to watch both. However, Alec lived in the London Weekend TV region and there’s no telling how the schedule may have varied where he was. Of course it’s quite possible he tried the Sartre, gave up on it, tried ‘After the Show’ and gave up on that, too.

**I’ve been unable to identify ‘the H.B.B.’ but I’d be willing to bet it was something along the lines of The Home Brewer’s Bulletin.

***Apropos of not very much, except that for the last several years I have been involved in LGBT publishing, Jimmy Jewell’s ‘This is Your Life’, aired on 30 January 1974, was the first time I ever saw two men kiss each other on the mouth.

Sunday 5th July 1959

Alec to his parents

Dear Mum & Dad

Well it’s almost a week since I last wrote so herewith a few more taps on the machine. Duly received cheques from G.H. Kite & Sons, and returned the receipts, I paid mine in to G.W.R. Savings Bank on Thursday, the day after receipt. The clerk at the Finance Office Paddington where I paid the cheque in drew my attention to two entries of the previous day under the same surname and enquired from a point of interest if they were my parents. The cheques of course came from G. H. Kite & Sons and were made out to Geoff and Stella. I have of course said nothing to them.

As per P.S. on outside of envelope of last letter, we are catching the 10-05 a.m. from Paddington on the 9th which is a through train to Yatton due 1-08 p.m. I expect we shall endeavour to work towards the rear but not quite so far as last time. Can of course do with some prompt assistance from train.

We have to-day visited Yiewsley, transit arranged by kind permission of the Grays. I am afraid that it has been very hot and children found it very trying. Generally they were quite good but inclined to be a bit crotchety. They have been running round in nothing but a pair of pants and looked a darn sight cooler than I felt. Carol walks round the furniture very well now and has had the confidence to stand on her own just a couple of times. She twice climbed the stairs from the “Dug-out” to the Shop over at Grandma’s today. She has quite a lot of words now some distinct and some less so. We had our breakfast out in the garden again to-day as it was so warm. It is a bit tricky as table space not so great as indoors.

Fetched out some of my Beetroot Wine yesterday, and found it has a taste similar to your Elderberry although not quite so pronounced. Gave Gray a bottle and put the rest back for further maturing. At the time I saw the bottles of Clevedon Apple Wine and although the bulk of the wine is clear, there appears to be a certain amount of flotsam in the bottles. Will leave a little longer then strain. Dug up the Nasturiums yesterday, they were covered with Black Fly and infecting everything else including the Montbretia. I have transplanted the Chrysanthemums in their place, which was behind the Dahlias you bought. The latter have again had their black fly scraped off and are not looking too bad. No sign of flower from the Mesembryanthemums although they have made terrific growth since planting. We have a strange a range plant, tall, red daisy1ike flowers with yellow edges. Can this be the Agrostemma you gave us last year. I suppose the flower heads must be about three feet from the ground. The carnations are just coming into flower and I have staked them as they are a bit sloppy. Have also transplanted Double Orange or Mock Orange that you brought up. This time it is at the bottom of the garden so when large will make a good screen. The effect of last week’s rain soon wore off and soil is as bad as it ever was. It takes a very long time evenings to carry all the water. Have now got most of the Cactus plants in the shed where the watering gets proper supervision. All the plants therein are still doing quite well but seem to be suffering from heat exhaustion. I can sympathise. No more office news since the last. We shall of course bring the minimum of luggage but I suppose it will contain everything including the kitchen sink as usual. Have not been able to contact Pauline re visit but hope to do so soon. I am uncertain which train she will catch but it will be after noon on Saturday. Well other than to say we are well and hope you are, had better save the rest until Thursday. Looking forward to coming down and hoping for decent weather but not too hot.

Love June Susan, Carol and Alec

Sunday 28th June 1959

Alec to his parents

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you very much Mother for the Shirt and enclosed letter. Also thank Dad in advance for mysterious parcel to come. I am afraid that I no longer have any blue shirts or suits and have been collecting white ones so that they go with anything. It may be possible to change the colour at the shop where it was bought so I will bring it down with me. If they will not do it, it will not matter as can wear it with my sports coat. Susan presented me with a box of chocs from herself and Carol and I have received a few cards. Thanks also for Dads long letter and Birthday wishes. Latest about the children – I took Carol down garden path a couple of times to-day holding one hand only. She was keen to hold two hands at first, but would not let her so she is putting up with it and making the best of one. She walks quite nicely this way but have to watch and move quickly in the event of capsize. There are ten days to go before we come down so should hardly think she will be walking freely by then. Anyway it will be touch and go. Susan has had a few smacks to-day for disobedience. There have been too many incidents to relate them but they all add up to the fact that she has a will of her own. The Grays returned from Broadstairs yesterday after a good holiday and brought Carol a pink squeaky dog and Susan a cloth doll in Hungarian Costume. We were given a 10” vase in two shades of grey, just right for a few red roses with which in fact it is now filled. This afternoon took Susan for ride on her tricycle. Intended to take her down to swings in park, but weather put that out of question. She rode down Queens Walk in direction of Whitby Rd, turned right by Doctors house into Mount Pleasant which veers right again at 90 degrees and joins East Mead almost out by Field End Rd. She rode all the way except for crossing other roads. June will no doubt write in due course, but confirm that she has been feeling better at least as regards pain in back. Although it has occurred before it seems to be temporary and is probably due to picking up the children who are no light weights. Sorry to say that garden is not looking very nice. It is the same old story that there is plenty in it but when you look out of window you can’t see any flowers. They are always about to come out or have just finished. The nasturtiums are badly affected by black fly. This has passed onto Dahlias and they are really covered with them. I poured plenty of cold water on them on Friday in the hopes that it would aggravate the fly but to little effect. To-day I scraped the plants with a twig and removed most of the fly but expect them to be back by morning. The correct treatment is to mix soft soap and water with “Quassia Solution” whatever that might be. This should be syringed on but am afraid the Dahlias will have to make there own arrangements. I asked Geoff if his Dahlias were Australian ones but he thinks I should give them more water. They have had about six buckets full at a sitting so it can’t be that. Out of some fourteen or fifteen tubers, three have actually come up. I have not disturbed the others so perhaps they may yet come through as rain has been quite heavy although still insufficient. The five remaining Mesembryanthemums down in the bottom plot have become quite large ( say four inches across ) but as yet there is no sign of flower. The others in the bed outside the French windows are not nearly so large ( say average 1.25 inches across ) Clematis is in flower if you can call it that. The blooms ? are about [half an inch] across and are blue and bell shaped. There are going to be a lot of them but they seem washed out somehow. The pinks are over of course but the carnations will be out shortly. I pricked out some of the Petunias from the seedling box to two others about thirty-six plants and there are quite a number left in box to sort out. Apart from two other boxes, have reduced the activities in shed to pots only. Note Sweet Peas and Sweet Williams doing well. Have none this year. Do not forget that Cherries make a very excellent wine. If your variety are no good for table try them in the cellar. I am surprised the Elderflower ceased to ferment after so short a period. Perhaps it is an idiosyncrasy of the type. One stock reason for so short a fermentation period is low sugar content. How many pounds per Gall. did you put? If you have not had the full staff changes from Geoff I set out below the latest that I am aware of at time of going to press.

1. The new organisation provides for Divisional Traffic Managers at Paddington, Bristol, Birmingham and Cardiff. Under these men will be their own personal staffs, (Assistants etc.) also District Traffic Managers at Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth — Newport , Cardiff and Swansea — Birmingham, Gloucester and Shrewsbury.

2. The London Divisional man, combines the function of Divisional and District, and will have a larger staff than the others but no Districts under his control.

3. London Appointments

Divl. Traffic Manager – Paddy Phillips

Asst. Divl. Tfc. Manager – C.P.E. Harvey

Goods Commercial Asst – ? Seymour

Passr. Commercial Asst. – R.J. Hill

Running & Maintenance – W. Sidwell

Staff. Asst. – H.S. Atkins*

Operating Officer – N.H. Briant

(No other appointments known in this area)

4. Bristol Appointments

Divl. Traffic Manager – Leslie Edwards

Development Asst. – Gerry Burt

Staff Asst. – C.L. Newbury ????

Operating Officer – Grannie Hallett

Running & Maintenance Officer – ? Reynolds

District Traffic Manager (Bristol) – ? Bastin

District Traffic Manager (Exeter) – ? Hartnell

District Traffic Manager (Plymouth) – ? Dean

(No other appointments known in this area)

((Re.: Bristol. Understand John Allen formerly of the Paddington D.O.S.O. Staff section has got Staff Asst. to Bastin.))

5. Birmingham Appointments

Divl. Traffic Manager – ? Hilton

Development Asst. – H.L. Wilkinson

Staff Asst. – Jack Donovan

Operating Asst. (? Officer) – C. Galley

Running & Maintenance – A.N. Other

Commercial – A.N. Other

District Traffic Manager (Gloucester) – J. Powell

District Traffic Manager (Salop.) – O. Veltom

District Traffic Manager (Birmingham) – A.N. Other

(Staff. Asst. Geiger)

6. Cardiff Appointments

Divisional Traffic Manager – ? Stevens

Development Assistant – A.N. Other

Operating Officer – L. Morgan

Staff Assistant. – L.C. Barron

Commercial Officer – ? Jenkins

Running & Maintenance – A.N. Other

District Traffic Manager (Newport) – W.J. Morris

(Operating Assistant or Officer J. Pallett)

District traffic Manager (Cardiff) – ? Page

(Staff Asst. C.L. Moore our Head of Section)

District Traffic Manager Swansea – ? Taylor

Staff Asst. – Geo. Nicholas

Dist. Commercial – W. Griffiths

Well that is all I know at present. The list is out and it has been seen. I have it on very good authority that Bill Bryer has not got anything out of it. As you see I am quite a bit short on info re the Assistants to assistants but no doubt will get them in due course. I suppose Gerry Burt’s appointment has caused a bit of heart burn. At this point your call came through. Yes I had a copy of the Lyng letter. I expect I precipitated it as I wrote confirming that I wanted them to be Godparents, they were somewhat doubtful of the office due to advancing years. I am not surprised that you have large cracks in pond as I do not suppose it has been full since the war. The work done on It will be all to the good however. Clock gained eight minutes this week so shall have to let out pendulum a bit more. I can hear Susan talking to herself upstairs, shall have to go up if this continues.

Well sorry to fill up letter with staff matters but it is a bit longer to compensate. Carol now tuning in so June to rescue. Will write again after Mother’s letter to hand.


*no relation

Sunday 14 June 1959

Alec to his parents

Dear Mum and Dad

Herewith letter in answer to both of yours and items in June’s Birthday letter. We are all well and hope you are. It has been very fine here these last few days and have made the most of the sunshine. Looking forward to our visit, please say if all arrangements now confirmed.

Office Barnes now on leave will return on 29th June, shall not have very much of him before go on leave myself. More than a strong rumour that L.W.I. has got Hammond’s job no doubt Geoff has same info. Yes I know all about new S.M. Clevedon. If you remember, I told you. Re L.W.I., a probable candidate for his job is G.E.R.P. Quite a number of high powered vacancies brewing up so await the future with interest (not personal).

Children Had some trouble with Carol yesterday, she has cut another tooth and she let the road know about it. The pantomime started at about 6.0 p.m. and she was still howling at 11.30 at which time I nursed her off to sleep. She was awake at 2.30 again and June had her in with her while I went in Susan’s room. All was then quiet until 5.45 a.m. To-day she has not been herself but this evening seemed much more normal although we did have about twenty minutes of ructions before she dropped off. At the moment all is quiet. Susan has been the same as usual, very good and very naughty. She pulled all the blossom off the Double Orange you brought up some time ago, and she persists in digging in the wrong places. I took her for a walk this afternoon soon after dinner and we went to the park. She tried all the swings, roundabouts and see-saw and was quite tired when we got home.

Garden Since you were up have completed the path to the bottom of the garden. I dug out all the loose top soil from the part to be cemented and transferred it elsewhere, the filled in the vacant space with all the old rubble and brickbats I could find. When this was completed, I took all the best of the broken paving stones and used them for the two outside edges of the path and put cement down the middle. (Carol now awake and bawling.) After two days this had hardened into quite a good path. Have taken out all the Spring stuff from the front and removed all the London Pride. This has left a big hole as you may imagine but I transferred about eight barrows of top soil from the back levelled the bed up and planted Scabious down the middle. So far have not put anything else in. Have had to carry bags of water all over the place as still no rain. Your Dahlias making good progress but those from Geoff that we planted have not yet hit the surface. (Four weeks) The pinks have been quite a good show but they are a bit thin on the ground. The rose hedge is magnificent but all petals dropping now. Carol tried to eat one for her elevenses. Geoff’s mesembryanthemums are now sturdy plants and we await the first flowers. My third lot seem to be more of a success than the first two tries but still only about 1/2 inch tall in the box. Cut all the lawns to-day but the earth is badly cracked. (Carol quiet again.) Susan rolled the top lawn this morning. Rolling pin tied on behind tricycle. Planted out a number of asters outside dining room and a couple of Perennial Daisies the rest are in pots waiting to go out in the front. Note you have been busy shall expect to see results when we arrive.

Wine Note the Elderflower and hope it is a success. I have not made any for some time but have been watching the price of fruit. All the items seem to be listed at 1/6, Gooseberries, Apples, Strawberries, although doubt whether the latter are at the pound rate. Some of the Grapes too are at 1/6. Have finished your Elderberry and have some in more bottles. I shall have to have a sort out before long.

General Very sorry to hear that Mother had fallen down, it is usually quite a shake up when you don’t expect it. Hope all effects now over. You have probably heard from June that Susan has damaged our T.V. She amused herself by banging rolling pin along the top. The woodwork is quite dented on the top forward edge and will take a French Polisher to put right. It is not too terrible in appearance if you do not know it is there but will not have it done yet awhile in case we get further trouble. June liked her new blouse and looks quite smart in it. Have not seen our Vicar about Christening and have no intention of making any sort of contact with him over our arrangements. Have you heard from Don and Joan in this connection. They mentioned that they would be willing to come and stand as Godparents but pointed out that they were getting on a little and the job was that for a young person. Have not replied to this as take it as acceptance. Donald Campbell and Bluebird at the Lido yesterday. Some crowd there by all accounts. Clock still gaining as a result of my alterations but have again lengthened the pendulum a shade and hope for improved timekeeping. Well that is all for the present except to wish you all the best until next time.

Love, Alec

NB: Posting dates got away from me briefly due to a holiday and an unexpectedly heavy workload, plus having the PC completely decoked and having to find everything again afterwards. Normal service has now been resumed!

Sunday 31st May, 1959

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad.

Just a letter to tell you arrived back safely and Mum’s letter since received. We agree that the best date to come down will be on Thursday July 9th for the ceremony to be performed on Sunday July 12th, Perhaps you will be good enough to fix it up with the Vicar. We have asked Don and Joan but as yet have not heard from them. I expect they are waiting to hear the date. This week-end, I have fitted glass to the frame brought from Clevedon and have built staging immediately below the windows to hold seed boxes and pots. This will now hold eight seed boxes in a row and with the other shelf on the other side of the shed I can now house about sixteen boxes at once. Have patched the roof by inserting below the tarred felt the old lino we took up from our bedroom. A couple of roses have come out but the others are not far behind now. One of the Pinks is out, it is a pink one, and Allwoodi. with a ringed centre. No sign of any of the Dahlias Geoff gave me but I expect they will be through any day now. The Spirea you brought up and the two we transplanted are all alive but the latter suffered a severe check. Mother’s Dahlias are healthy but not growing very fast I expect they need some genuine rain. We have Eileen with us for this week-end and Susan of course has been quite excited. I am afraid Carol played up a bit to-day but as she did not get a sleep this morning I expect that was the cause. Grandma’s clock gaining now since I shortened the swing of the pendulum. If I release it a half turn I shall be about right. Carol not walking or even standing on her own yet apart from holding on to a chair or something. She is now walking along by hoisting herself onto hands and feet and going along with arched back. Have not replied to Don yet but must do so to-day or he will be wondering what has happened. There does not seem to be anything to beat the National Savings Certs for simplicity so will plump for that although I see today’s paper warns of a possible reduction in the rate of interest. It seems that Pauline* quite likes the idea of coming down to Clevedon for the week-end that the Christening is held and returning on the Monday morning. Have nearly drunk all the Elderberry Wine. You will have to make some more when the elderberries are next available, I don’t suppose there will be any about at this end. I have not made any more since I saw you last but have been accumulating empty bottles, I have so many now that I shall have to take the board up again and put some out of sight under the floor. Our neighbours just returned from a week’s holiday at the Isle of Wight. They say it is very nice there and nearly all of them are very sunburned. Well hope you are still as well as when I saw you last and not overdoing the gardening. Will close for now.


*June’s younger sister, at this time working in the shoe department of Peter Jones in Sloane Square and living in Battersea.

Dear Don and Joan

Thanks for circular letter of 25th May. Having ascertained that GWR Savings Bank however attractive is a “no go”, we are faced with the problem of finding an investment that is reasonably safe, reasonably simple in its operation ( from the point of view of the person making the investment,- presumably the Trustee) and having a reasonable rate of interest. The National Savings Certificates would seem to meet these requirements except in regard to simplicity of operation as when the period of the issue expires it will then be necessary to reinvest in the next or subsequent issues. From my point of view this method of investment is satisfactory but I am prepared to accept the decision of the Trustee as he has to carry the can back if things go awry. Nothing much to report from gardening front this end. Everything retarded by lack of rain. Grass which was in good condition early in year has withered already and there are many bare patches and cracks about 2 inches across. Have done a number of “Hatchet Carpentry” jobs lately and you may be interested to know that the spare window frame left over after Clevedon shed was built has this week been incorporated in the South Ruislip shed and glass fitted**. I have practically completely rebuilt shed since arriving here. No new timber has been used. There was quite a lot of poor quality second hand wood on hand when we got here but most of it was only suitable for the fire. However I was able to sort out enough to use. Apart from raising the level of one lawn about 9 inches to the level of the path thereby making the whole garden level, I have no major works to carry out now.

Susan and Carol still thriving, latter almost at walking stage. We have heard from Clevedon that Vicar is prepared to perform ceremony at Parish Church and we are going to ask him for Sunday 12th July.

Perhaps you will let us know if this date is convenient please. Grandma’s clock working well but gaining slightly, I hope to make the necessary adjustment this week-end when winding. Well hope you are both keeping as well as may be expected.


**One may ask how a window-frame (with or without glass) was transported from Clevedon to Ruislip. Two options occur: 1) it went by train as with all other parcels – entrusted to someone who passed it on to someone else etc. etc. etc. and then presumably brought home by Alec on the Tube, but I think this is unlikely. 2) Geoff – or someone else with a car – was able to deliver it. Other candidates are a) Peter, June’s brother – he was at the time working for a removal firm and may have been in the West Country on business; b) Doug Gray and c) Eric Benn, the other neighbour, who was employed by the BBC and ended up moving to Weston-super-Mare. This is the sort of extremely trivial question to which I would very much like to have an answer.