Tuesday 14th May, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for such a budget of news received this morning including one each – by the look of it – from the girls. Thank you Susan and Carol for them both. As you may guess we have been very busy to day packing up a parcel for someone at number 84. thought it had better be on way today otherwise it might miss the actual birthday. In it there should have been the doll, hair ribbon, two small sticks of Weston Rock (for Susan and Carol), the ‘Mercury’ and a ‘Wonderland’. It was packed up as securely as possible and we do hope it reached you in good condition and that Susan is pleased with the doll. We went into Weston yesterday (Monday) hence the Weston Rock – just something for them to taste. The birthday card will be posted on Wednesday and of course should reach you before Susan goes to school on Thursday.

Now for your letter. We guessed the girls had been busy hence no letters from them but they have made up for it this week. Not surprised you were unable to get out on Sunday for a run round – it was not very nice here again and goodness knows when we shall get some really good weather. This week the cold winds have continued and it is been miserable working outdoors but the time cannot be wasted as such intervals are not long between the showers when we are driven indoors altogether. Slugs seem to teem down here – the hard winter did them no harm. It is really amazing they should come through that particularly bad spell. The birds too are still at the lettuces and peas and I now keep some pea-guards over both crops until they are perhaps a bit too strong for attack. Yes the fruit blossoms still holding up and the cherries are just one mass of flower at the moment – the apples will be in full flower in a week. Sorry about yours – must wait until the trees have grown up out of the girls’ reach or until they get tired of it.

Note your comments re: eye specialist and ear doctor. No doubt you are right and it is a paying proposition for patients to be kept on the books for attention. A good idea really apart from the inconvenience you have of taking Susan (and Carol too I suppose later on) to see these people. Yes I should think she has got used to the glasses now and takes them as a matter of course which is a good thing.

A bit congested on the air then in the evenings but what can you expect when you see the number of people who are authorised to transmit and receive? What is the real answer to this? Query a more powerful set to block out the others or have a good many already thought of this one and acted accordingly? Sorry about the missing tip from Newmarket – might have been a bad one.

Your recollection of the Whittlesea home-made wireless set is more thorough than mine but now you mention various items they come back to me. as far as I can remember you are absolutely right in all your facts. I suppose the set has long since been broken up. John Saunders made the very first set we had and I expect you remember that one too. Your remarks about TV sets being affected by the power cuts back in the winter almost interesting. We are still waiting to hear from Bell as to the charge for putting our set right.

Did you get in the sweet peas Sunday? Ours are up in a box and waiting to be planted out but I shall not do this until the cold winds have ceased. This applies also to our runner beans – the cold will do a lot of damage to all growing crops.

Note you have been moving another lot of earth from West Ealing – every little helps. Yes Miss Sperrings enjoyed herself and I assume she is now on holiday – was due to be away about now. Tomorrow (Wednesday) Mr and Mrs Newman are coming from Bristol – as you know they were due a week or so ago but Mr Newman was taken ill hence the postponement. Hope it is a fine day as I do not think he is very well yet.

Glad to hear you are now forming your ideas for the extra room/conservatory. Did you hear any more from the Eastcote Timber Company? How far out will you have to start with the shuttering? Presumably there is plenty of rubble in the field but takes time to get it in. What about putting up a big Aunt Sally in the garden and inviting the local lads to try and hit it with stones?

You are right about the ground being lower between the new path and the hedge and I’ve not made up my mind yet how I shall deal with this. There is a fair amount of sun on the patch and if I lose some of the garden for building purposes it may come in useful as an additional plot but the level would have to be raised. Query get the earth from the garden which I shall lose before handing it over. Incidentally there has been no further development in regard to the land since I last wrote and it may be a long time now before we hear anything.

We thought you would have a laugh over Jeffries Jones’s car and the dog’s dinner – sorry sponge cake and eggs. Further information is that the dog was later sick but do not know if in house or outside.

I agree that I  did not see quarry being used as a dump after our arrival here but assured it was so used until about 1935. We notice the windows upstairs are now in position so good progress continues to be made.

Noted you have mentioned the proposal re: holidays to Mrs Baker and must leave matter with you now to follow-up as you both think necessary but you know we shall be very pleased for her to come down with you if you can persuade her.

Dandelions did you say. I could have picked enough to make wine but at the moment could not be bothered. The heads had to be picked off though to prevent them going to seed. On the long wide rough path between our garden and Mr Heel’s I put down some sodium chlorate and this has shrivelled everything up. I had another go at the grass late last week and it was really hard work. The grass is now down to a reasonable height and it will not be so tough again this season. It was the first time I had to replenish the tank with fuel to complete all the lawns so that will tell you how the mower was working.

So Susan will be joining the Brownies tomorrow. It will give her another outlook on things and probably get her interested and occupied. Now Daddy must take her photo in the uniform. Wonder how you got on at the Sunday School anniversary and what did Susan have to do? Perhaps she will tell us in her letter next week.

A trip to London Zoo eh? Is it in Regent’s Park? Again we hope the weather keeps fine for you. Assume you will go by coach with the party.

Glad to hear Peter has his car back and that it is in good condition.

Now for June’s letter. Having got so far with the driving lessons June I should make an effort to go on with them. The longer you leave it the less likely you will want to restart. It is better to feel as you do that you are nowhere near ready for the test than to be overconfident. It is the overconfident ones who come unstuck so often. We have one living next door to us here. He for the moment has given up trying and is still riding the motorbike. Anyhow you know best how you feel about it and although you may not do a lot of driving even when you have passed the test it is nice to know you can manage a car if necessary. It is however quite certain that the older you get the less interest you will have in trying to learn.

Regarding holiday abroad next year if (and it must be a big if) we sell part of our land we wonder what you have in mind. Perhaps you have nothing in mind at the moment but just wondering if we would be that interested. Well now Mum and I would not want much running about and would much rather take things quietly. On the other hand yourself and Alec are years younger and would probably wish to get out and about and make the most of the time. Alternately it may be that you would not feel like moving about too much after reaching the destination point but would rather stay put. The girls would not want anything except the sea and sand and plenty to eat. I have often wished to have a cruise in the Mediterranean but I do not think Mum is all that keen for a long sea trip. Anyhow June it is an interesting idea and although it must be a long time to look forward to if you have any particular places in mind please tell us all about them. Having regard to the girls being at school now presumably anything arranged would have to be at the end of August or early September. Our passports would have to be renewed but that is a minor matter.

Very sorry Susan is worrying you June – she is full of energy and must use this up somehow. As mentioned above perhaps the Brownies will give her another outlook on things and keep her busy.

Nearly forgot – thanks for the printed pamphlet enclosed with your letter Alec. Makes nice reading but it looks as though they are only too glad to clutch at a straw like a drowning man. Any aftermath from Butcher’s visit?

Had a card this week from Ted Caple who was on holiday in Malta. He flew out from London Airport and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Also had a card from Mr Palmer this morning – he and Mrs Palmer are gone on holiday with an old age pensioners’ party to Dunoon. I hope it is warmer up there than here. And I hope they get better weather to than we had several years ago.

Also enclosed in parcel this morning a small piece of vinyl–something floor covering which we got at Weston yesterday and laid in position in the afternoon. Similar stuff to that Mrs Baker has in her bathroom. It is only made in four feet widths and our bathroom is four feet four inches so had to join in one place. Look very nice.

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

P.S. Sorry Susan’s birthday card was accidentally posted on Tuesday. Mum and Dad. 


Wednesday 1st May, 1963

[Continued from Tuesday 30th April, 1963]

What a change in the weather this morning – it started to rain during the night and continued until dinnertime since when it has gradually cleared finishing up with sunshine. Mixed up more compost for the tomatoes this morning in greenhouse and started to string up those already planted out. This afternoon decided I could have another mix up of concrete and was able to put in another stretch right in front of garage door. One more good mix will see me to the end of garage and shall I be glad. Must first get another cwt. of cement as have now finished the two bags on hand.

Roy Hewitt came round just as had started mixing so he had to stand to until I could deal with him. Told him of your trip to Watford and Lyneham and he was very interested. Mum and Mrs Hewitt are running a jumble sale on Saturday (I hope mum gets home again all right) so I have to have car out for conveyance purposes. Mrs Clark (in bungalow out bottom of field) has contributed three cracked egg cups – query how much for them.

I see in this morning’s paper an article by a former headmistress of a school that in her opinion the full school hours are too much for five-year-old children just starting. Rather interesting in view of what you suggested about Carol. Wonder how she is getting on this week? Will try and enclose cutting for you to see – probably not in Telegraph.

Did you see the Wincanton station staff on Panorama Monday evening? They were being interviewed regarding the closing of their station under the Beeching plan. None of them were very bright in their answers. The film was taken at Wincanton and of course showed a train at the platform and an engine shunting the yard. Perhaps they will deal with Clevedon next. Understand the council have already approached British Railways about the station and yard premises – they want it for including other things as a parking site.

What did your colleagues at Liverpool Street have to say about the Watford do or have some of them already been there?

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

Wednesday 17th April, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec, June, Susan and Carol,

Well here we are again back home after a very nice holiday with you and we both thank you all very much for giving us such a lovely time, including two little girls who kept us wide awake – I wonder. Had a shocking journey for weather – windscreen wipers working throughout the journey without any exception and in the Bath to Clevedon area there were huge puddles of water about suggesting a cloudburst. We got onto the M4 at its commencement at 9:20 a.m. and off it at 9:35 a.m. and the distance was 11 miles*. Called at Marlborough 10:55 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and arrived home at 1:45 p.m. Had about 10 to 15 minutes hold-up at Pickwick** owing to an accident. I was about the sixth to arrive at the scene and ambulance already there but police did not turn up, from Chippenham, until 5 minutes later. A bus was involved but I do not know what other vehicle but there were injuries if nothing worse. By the time the traffic not moving again there was a good queue on either side.

Had a quick look round garden after putting car and garage before coming indoors and everything appears satisfactory. Mum had dinner ready at 3 p.m. and just afterwards Bushell called in with the greenhouse key. Four of the houses above us had had and still have drain trouble and he asked how the inspection chamber was constructed. They had already been in and worked the drain rods from our main inspection chamber but this was clear. I said well have a look at our domestic inspection chamber and you will see. He did and the pit was full to the brim and smelling very well also. I thought to myself this is a good homecoming as it meant changing into old togs and getting down to the job of clearing. Had to bail out the chamber and found obstruction further along in the pipe but try as we did we could not move it. Eventually it came to taking off one’s coat and rolling up the sleeves and feeling for the blockage. This proved most difficult but gradually I pulled out several pieces of chipped bricks which had collected and set up the obstruction. Finally got it clear so then went out to Bushells to see if same trouble. Unfortunately it was not and although we worked on it until about 6:30 p.m. had to give up. The three houses above him are also affected and I think they will have to call in some professional drain cleaners. The blockage in our case had nothing to do with their trouble. After a bath and another change of clothing it was about 7:30 p.m. when we sat down to supper.

Referring to our trip back this morning I took a slightly wrong turning when approaching the Langley connection with the main Slough road and we found ourselves a little nearer Slough but we took London direction for about a mile and then got onto the M4 at its commencement. At Marlborough we managed to park in the only place left vacant in the middle of the road and it rained very heavily whilst there but Mum got some meat etc. and I bought a billhook to replace the one broken several months ago.

Heel came over to see what was going on with the drains and he told me quietly that the men who had recently seen him regarding the surplus land had called again and wanted to see me but were told I was away for the Easter. Understand they will be around sometime tomorrow. I think they want to work up a scheme which they can go to the Council with and say this is what they could do if given authority for an entrance road between Heels’ and Cornishes’.

I have not yet had time to examine the boot of car to see if the glass travelled safely but we had quite a number of heavy bumps en route potholes full of water.

Well our holiday is over and now we must look forward to your visit to us in August. Meanwhile Alec must talk to Mrs Baker re: mum’s proposition for her to come to Clevedon as well. We thought you were all looking very well and certainly Susan and Carol have grown since October when we last saw them. Susan reads excellently putting such good expression into her reading. Carol must benefit by her copying of Susan and should do well at school. Should like to see them next Monday when they start off.

You surprised me with your radio outfit – had no idea you were following up the Morse code to such an extent.

To crown the day at this end I found my income tax questionnaire on the mat when we got indoors. What a day!

I wonder what you have all been doing since we left – not much chance of getting outdoors and planting the sweet pea seeds.

No Mercury left for us last Saturday so may not get it this time.

No more just now – once again many thanks for such a nice time and all love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls.

P.S. glass in boot of car quite alright. Dad

Bushell’s drain trouble now diagnosed as broken interceptor pipe.


A glorious day here today – it would be. Dad. 

*Presumably this would be the new section just opened that year commencing at Slough (Junction 5) and continuing along the Maidenhead bypass to Junction 9, which is given as a total of 10 miles on roads.org.uk, and indicates a modest speed of roughly 40mph.

**Apparently, Pickwick was once considered a separate village but has now been incorporated into Corsham.

Wednesday 20th February, 1963

[Continued from Tuesday 19th February, 1963]

After yesterday’s slight snow which made a very thin covering on the ground it is bright and sunny today that’s quite warm behind glass but still cold Outdoors. Have had no reply from Ministry of National Health [sic] people in Liverpool suppose it will take them weeks to write. Last night’s paper indicated that the firm of Yeates had been cleared of the charges mentioned earlier in this letter but unfortunately paper has been destroyed but it will be in next week’s local. There was also an announcement from the Weston U.D.C. that parking charges are going up to 2/6d per car [£3.18 in 2023 money] – a rise of 6d. This is getting beyond a joke.

Have not seen Roy Hewitt this week – he has not been able to get up here since before Christmas – but I believe he is now able to get out for short walks where the snow has been cleared.

I have taken down the curtain rail which we had behind the sitting room door. Mum thought it was a bit heavy and wanted a lighter one which we have ready to go up. Personally I think the original one is quite good and before disposing of it wondered whether it would be any good to you. It is in good order as only wants a clean. Don’t hesitate to say if you do not want it as we can soon get rid of it here but would rather you had it if you have any use for it.

The Test Match seems to have fizzled out rather tamely and altogether I think our team put up a poor show in this series. Will have to look for some reliable batsmen when the next series is played in England.

Just looking up the dates and find that if we come up to you on the Thursday before Easter we shall be on the road seven weeks tomorrow the 21st inst – not long now. Just get rid of all the snow etc. and turn on the sunshine by then.

I see I have to get car certified by the end of April – Marples now having all cars over five years old tested.

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

Tuesday 29th January, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol,

What a terrible week you have had at number 84. We had to read your letter – to hand first post this morning dash two or 3 times to get hold of all the details. We have had nothing like this here at Clevedon and I expect you are all glad the thaw has set in. We do hope things are alright now after visit of the plumber. Looks as if you had one or two narrow squeaks from serious trouble with frozen pipes and caved-in copper tank. The question arises what can be done to prevent repetition if weather conditions such as those obtaining during the past few weeks return either this or future winters. So far you have the fibreglass packing but is that going to be enough? Seems to me some emergency heating is required for switching on at a moment’s notice to keep plumbing arrangements working. No doubt you have given that considerable thought already.

Sorry to hear about your back, June. Query have you strained it by going up ladder etc. or have you slipped on ice without actually falling down? It is so easily done. Mrs Cummings here fell down twice this week and on one occasion broke (I think) bone in wrist and we hear that Mrs Pearson (opposite) fell full length and had to have some time in bed. Several houses in this area still without water and the council have water carts going about the place with water for those without. Have never seen this before in Clevedon or elsewhere. It became so cold this week that we kept the electric fire on all night in bathroom to avoid further trouble and in this we have succeeded. Cannot quite understand though why you feel cold in bed. With us this is the warmest place in house.

What a greeting to receive from the two girls when you got home to be told through letterbox that there was a burst in water pipe. That must have cheered you up a lot. June seems to have been busy in your absence in freeing some of the pipes. Yes it is all very well to have the various electronic gadgets, clocks, TV, radio, cookers and lighting but when there is a power cut the whole lot is off. This time gas was in trouble to especially in the South West area where it was cut off altogether for many hours per day. But what is the answer to all this? Next winter we could have the same difficulties. Years ago when severe weather was an annual occurrence there was practically no electricity and very little gas, people relying on coal for heating and cooking and oil for lighting. Wonder how they got on – must have been pretty bad sometimes.

Our TV was very poor. Like you we had sound but little or no picture for several nights until about news time. Our milk has been frozen when delivered many times and about an inch of solid cream has been sticking up through the paper top. I liked the story in Sunday paper about the man who went to pick up the milk from the front doorstep and found no bottle round it. The bottle was lying in pieces beside the frozen milk.

Bad luck about the inspection cover – no doubt your hands were cold and the iron slipped. Suppose these can be replaced though – have never had to buy one myself. What a lot of fatalities now happening because of gas leakages. I see one case where three people died – they themselves were “all-electric” but the leakage was in adjoining house and gas escaped into the house occupied by the three people concerned. You were fortunate to get plumber into your house so quickly – here there is a long waiting list for attention. Our stop tap in hot water system dribbled after I forced it and I got Stan James to look at it but all that was necessary was the tightening of the nut.

Now over to number 17 Eccleston Road. What a fright for Mrs Baker when she tried to light gas stove. Glad to know it was no worse than stated but it could have been. Sorry to hear Mr Baker has a touch of bronchitis and hope this will soon clear up. The very cold weather played me up a bit but I kept indoors out of the worst of it. Mr Baker will now be able to take things more easy without the worry of the shop. no doubt they both felt a bit strange without the comings and goings of the customers. Glad to hear Peter fixed up again. Sounds quite an interesting job and query an indoor one. What about the dog? Did he come back to number 17? Nothing like getting on top of fire for a warm-up.

Did you have any lessening of gas in your heater in front room? As I mentioned above it was cut off altogether here for several hours per day. Our neighbour (Bushell) is still unable to get any coal but has some on order.

Pleased to hear Susan has got used to her glasses and takes to them automatically – as it were – now. Does she keep her head away from the writing or reading matter now i.e. getting a better focus? Noted Christopher finding it difficult to settle down in school.

Yes the re-rating of property has caused some heartache everywhere but I’m afraid in has to be faced. Had a letter from the B.R.O.G. last Saturday with a circular giving particulars of increases in railway pensions. I get a 4% increase but had the date of retirement been March 31st 1957 instead of the 27th of April 1957 I should have got 8%. Just my luck again. Anyhow the National Health pension will go up from May 27th to 10/- a week for myself and 6/6d a week for Mum. [Equivalent of £11.40 and £7.40 in 2023 currency.] Anything to come glad of it.

Note Woodward packing up on March 1st. He has stopped to the bitter end then for he is now 65. That is one job you must let go. No good to anyone. Freight train working is in for some drastic overhaul and those connected with it going to have a very worrying time. Crane too giving up. I do not think he is 65 yet.

A letter from Geoff this morning says Hallett of Bristol was given a post under the reorganisation but told the G.M. he did not agree with the reorganisation and offered his retirement notice which was probably accepted. And so it goes on.

Not a lot to report from this end again. Found a dead pigeon on lawn one morning. It had apparently dropped there from one of the fir trees during the night. Plenty of live wild ones descend on garden everyday for anything they can get. Cornish says they have the rabbits over his side again and one morning I even saw a moorhen running down our garden.

Have now been through our potatoes/apples. All the latter are frosted and all except about a quarter cwt. of potatoes. We are using the frosted apples and potatoes as far as possible but it has been necessary to throw away any amount. A really disastrous winter. Onions came through all right but we do not have many of these. No further trouble with car – I start her up every day whether we go out or not. Our new neighbour (Hoile) in bungalow at bottom of our field is getting me a trickle-charger at trade price so should not have any more trouble with battery when can put that one on in garage. There have been a lot of collisions on the roads around here, buses with buses, cars with cars, and cars with lorries. Parking more difficult to because of the piles of snow stacked alongside the road has narrowed the width of the latter. Yesterday I saw one of our neighbours running about with his drainage rods and ascertained there was a block somewhere above us in the Avenue. Fortunately we were clear and not affected but I think normal working was resumed later in day. If it is not one thing it is another. In fact during the past few weeks I would say we have had the lot.

I saw Aston this morning and he is still supplying water to five houses around him and also for a pony grazing in a field near the church. One neighbour could not get gas last Sunday and found all her neighbours were. She called up the Gas Board who told her to apply some heat to the gas pipe which rises from the ground up the wall all outside of her house for about 8 feet as it was anticipated the pipe had frozen. This was done and within a few minutes gas supply was normal again.

What a lucky thing it is that the plumbing at number 17 stood up to the weather for stop. Had it failed it would have been the limit for Mr and Mrs Baker after all they have been through lately.

[Continued Wednesday 30th January, 1963.]

Sunday 27th January, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad ,

Thanks for another newsy letter. Thank goodness I can type this one back in the dining room in some semblance of warmth. When we can call 30 degrees warm, 40 degrees is like a heatwave*.

Troubles with frozen pipes, you have not heard the last of it. One day early in the week I was washing my hands at the hot tap downstairs (only cold water coming out as heating off) when I heard a rumbling sort of bang somewhere above. Popped upstairs and looked round but could find nothing wrong – loft included. Went back to complete wash thinking noise must have come from neighbours freeing their tank. As soon as I turned on the (same) tap, another bang, so back upstairs for another look round. Found the hot water tank which is supposed to be cylindrical had caved in quite considerably although the welding round top and bottom was a strong as ever. (Copper tank.) I realised that ice above the tank, and the withdrawal of some water, had created a partial vacuum in the tank, and air pressure from outside had pushed in the walls. Put an embargo on further use of the hot tap, and did best with hair dryer and heaters, but not much electric pressure, and no luck**. At this time inlet and outlet from cold water tank frozen solid, and inlet to all taps and outlet from bath and basin all frozen up. Also no water into toilet cistern so parade of buckets each time etc. etc. Situation stayed like this for a couple of days, but during the course of Tuesday and Wednesday the outlet from the toilet pan became partially obstructed, and only cleared slowly. Late on Wednesday this blocked up altogether. When I got home, June had put the oil stove in toilet and although this had sorted out the inlet to cistern, the outlet remained to be dealt with. (Sorry one day out this happened on Thursday). Got up the ladder on the outside of the house and poured a kettle of boiling water on to junction of pipes outside wall to no effect. Got through to Public Health Officer who recommended same course of action also blowlamp if available. Tried to borrow one from Webb across the road but neither of us knew how to use it so we settled for relays of hot water. He brought two over and we managed to get one boiled, and that luckily did the trick. Before ringing the health officer, I had tried the sewer hatch to see if there was a blockage there, and the cover slipped out of my hand and split across into two pieces. After I had gone to work the next day day, June nipped up the ladder (permanently in position) into loft with a kettle of boiling water, and succeeded in thawing out the cold tank to such effect that water flowed again from the hot tap in the kitchen, and was replaced in the hot and cold tanks by water from the cold tank and the mains respectively. In addition to this the hot tank was pushed out straight again. I was telephoned with this news and on the agreement that we kept a 150 watt bulb a light over tank, and frequent inspections, June went off to light the boiler. When I got home the children were shouting on the inside of the door that we had got a burst pipe, but neither of them could turn the latch to let me in, June being upstairs dealing with the matter at the time. Sure enough when I got in there was water dripping through the ceiling of the front room and assumed the worst. However it seems that with the thawing-out of supply pipes we had a minor Mrs Bush, because the washer of the cold tap came out and [d]ripped water, which could not run away due to the outlet still frozen up. As a result the basin had filled up and gone over the top. You will have realised that the water had gone somewhere under the floorboards as the bathroom is over the hall. a little later the fall from the ceiling started again, and we thought that we really had got a burst from under the bath somewhere. However I got outside on the ladder again with more buckets of hot water and slung them over the outlet pipes from bath and basin, and after about 15 minutes these were free again. By this time the drips of water stopped again, and can only think this must have been due to a small pocket of water from the previous dose, just finding its lowest level. The paraffin heater left in the bathroom – now – with doors closed eventually thawed out the taps in the bath as well so that all systems were again go. We left the 150 watt bulb on all Friday night to ensure that the cold water tank would continue to feed the hot as the fire was still well alight. Bulb would also ensure that the vent pipe would remain open and risk of explosion avoided. However at about four in the morning June said she could hear the sound of dripping water in our room. Could find nothing, so I went over the house including the loft but no luck. Got back to bed, but again later could hear this drip drip so up again and eventually put it down to our alarm clock which has a spring which jumps every now and then giving a slight thump like a drip of water. At this time I went down and made a cup of tea feeling thoroughly cold. Light at this time was flickering considerably. When we woke up eventually at about 8:45 a.m., found that all lights and power were off, and according to the electric clock had been off from 6:45 a.m.. So much for the precautions of the electric 150 watt bulb in the loft. Fortunately the thaw had arrived and all systems still at go.

At this time by the way our television has been out of action – at first due to picture being reversed on screen, but sound o.k., then no picture but sound o.k., then no picture, and sound almost gone. We (June) fixed up for man to come on Saturday morning, but he arrived during the power-cut so could do nothing. Everybody else’s TV o.k. so we assume ours to be faulty. However power came back at 12:30 p.m. and with it the BBC programme on TV as normal, but ITV a bit of a mess. After about 15 minutes of this, that picture began to break up and eventually disintegrated into a white jumble. Tried again in the evening and found both programs normal, and remained so for as long as I looked so it seems the set is o.k. again now we are back to full power. Have plumber coming today to fix washers on all taps in bathroom so perhaps we can forget the plumbing for a bit.

Well to turn to other news, we went over to number 17 yesterday and more completed. The builder hopes to be out of there by next weekend. Three items of news there. One is that the gas cooker had been out of action while they mended something to wall behind. When again used, Mrs Baker set match to oven only for the thing to blow up in her face including singeing of eyebrows and hair. Someone must have left a tap on. Fortunately Mrs Baker was only shaken up, but a nasty thing to have happened. Item two – the dog which has been roaming around ever since the move – getting acclimatised – always gets as close to the fire as possible. He overdid it in the week by getting his haunches right in the grate, and leaning his back up against the gas fire. As a result his hair caught fire, and he now has a long brown mark from head to tail. He went off one day and fortunately was seen by one of the builder’s men who recognised the brown burn on his back. At that time he was going into the canal at Southall about two miles away. The third item of news is that Mr Baker is unwell with bronchitis. When we were there yesterday he was feeling poorly and had had the doctor. The latter has told him it is nothing to worry about.

Peter has a job now as storeman at a firm on the Perivale Estate. Put up a couple more curtain railways yesterday and June did the curtains. Plumbing is ok at number 17, and they seem to have had no trouble since moving in. I agree that now is the time when the colds start to resume. Always the same at a big thaw. We are all well, very warm in front of our gas fire, but latterly could not keep myself warm in bed. Friday night especially I do not remember when I have been so cold for so long.

Note your episode with the car. I had same trouble some time ago with loss of connection to battery.

Mrs Bush seems to be a bit of a nitwit. If outlet frozen or blocked it is only sense to turn off tap.

Note also your antics getting away from church. It could be very bad up there I should say.

Susan is good with her glasses. She is lazy when it comes to going into another room to get them to put on, but if to hand she remembers pretty well.

That re-rating of £35 to £90 a bit of a jolt. He can always pay by instalments if he insists. The council will not like it, but he can do it provided each instalment is paid in advance.

Christopher seems to like his school o.k. but he is still a bit difficult, and they have a deal of trouble with him.

The thaw continues, and yesterday we had a small pool of water at the intersection of the roads in front of the house. All the road edges are swimming in water and quite wide in places. Fortunately for that sort of thing we are on a hill so someone else has the pleasure further down.

The incident of the transplanting at Westbury occurred after you had done some dividing-up. I was seen doing the same, and stopped, but it transpired that it was the right time of year so everything in order.

I think the Parkestone Quay traffic is quite large, and should say it exceeds the Weymouth to Southampton trade. In the future it should be even greater if the Common Market business get anywhere.

I have little faith in lagging for pipes or tanks unless coupled with a separate source of generated heat. The water in the pipes does not generate heat so that there is nothing to oppose the cold from without. Lagging only provides a barrier which slows up the cold from getting through, it will not stop it. The best form of lagging is that which stops cold draughts from entering the loft; under such conditions a source of gentle heat should be sufficient. What do you say, physician heal thyself, well maybe we have now.

Just a reminder by the way, Woodward is reported to be finishing on March 1st, and so also is Crane of Southall. Woodward’s job has been advertised on this week’s list and is rated (now) at 1450 to 1750***. No doubt he was getting more than that. From my point of view, even for the money, it is not worth applying for, quite apart from what is involved in the job.

Well again we can report we are all well so far as colds etc. concerned but June has hurt her back somehow – maybe lumbago or sciatica as it pains her to bend. Nevertheless she has just completed a week’s washing which is now out on the line. Well I will close now and leave the rest for the kids to say. Love from us all once again. 

*This is of course Fahrenheit: the Celsius equivalents would be -1º and +4º.

**Ummm, he means the power was down, i.e. not quite a brownout but reduced capacity in the system probably as a result of demand elsewhere.

***£33,000 to £40,000 in 2023 currency.

Wednesday 23rd January, 1963

[Continued from Tuesday 22nd January, 1963]

A very bad night. Our hot water circulation is now out for the time being. I found the hall tap in tank under roof frozen up and released this but still no water would come through indicating pipes also frozen. Have had electric fire burning in bathroom all morning but it makes no difference. Now we hear the mains water pipes are frozen in parts of Clevedon and people are running around from house to house with buckets begging water. The South West Gas Board to are on the warpath cutting off the gas for many hours of the 24th. This does not of course affect us as we are all electric but power is reduced quite often. Harder frost forecast for tonight so look out. Not many houses now without some water trouble or another these days.

Had a most difficult job early on trying to start car and apparently another hazard is that even the antifreeze is freezing. I got ours going eventually and we went into Hill Road and the Library. Everybody looking fed up with themselves. The sun is shining lovely now at 2 p.m. and it is quite warm outdoors but it will only last for a few minutes. Has the gas cut made much difference to your gas fire in the front room?

Incidentally when in attic this morning I had a look at the insulating material a box about 3 in wider in every way than the tank surround the latter and the space is filled with small shavings or this is what it looks like. There is also a wooden cover which is covered again with asbestos sheeting. There was a very thin layer of ice and water in tank which is about half full. All pipes leading to the tank are lined with felting but even so the frost got in somewhere. Suppose we shall have to leave it now until the thaw sets in and hope for the best.

Well this is about the lot for another week – a pretty dismal picture I’m afraid but you are having your share at number 84 .

No more now. All my love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. Mum and Dad.

P.S. Hot water system going again at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Sunday 20th January, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Many thanks once again for weekly letter. I am afraid that the oil in this machine is frozen and I am having the most difficulty with sticking levers. Must reply to your comments first before putting in my own.

Your letter arrived on Friday O.K. this week. Our last to you went on Sunday as we collected the girls so that it would have gone away from the box on the first post at 8 a.m. on Monday. How your Council men can move the snow beats me. Ours this end is so hard packed, smooth, and frozen that it would be impossible to move it. Note the arrangements about temporary stabling of your car outside the shed and the difficulty you had in getting it out from garage. This machine is beginning to thaw out a little in the warm room and I am able to proceed a little faster. Have you been able to get any more coal yourselves? Another hurrah for the gas heater. Our thaw such as it is (or was) was about the same duration as yours; one hour daily. I think it did a little good, as those places which had been reduced to just a thin covering of ice on the pavement became clear, and there were a few rare occasions when I saw pools of water. If you have iced snow on your roof I think you may be lucky if the thaw, when it comes comes from above, and not from the heat of the house. I do not think iced snow will slide.

Your circumstances with the house plumbing noted. We have had a hard time of it here. This week when I got home I found water coming out of the hot tap in a trickle, and suspected the supply had frozen from upstairs cold water tank. Sure enough when I got up into loft (in about 5 seconds flat) I found not a drop of water in cold tank, the ball valve stuck again and no water moving in downpipe. We let the fire in boiler out instantly, and stopped trying to draw water from hot tap. I connected the hairdryer to a long length of flex, attached it to light socket in the toilet and took the free end into the loft*. For about twenty minutes I played the dryer on to water inlet pipe, the ball valve, the outlet pipe, and the elbow bend where it goes through the ceiling, and got it all sorted out. We had, all the time, the paraffin heater under the open loft hatch where it had been all day. Nevertheless, within 10 minutes of going downstairs for my meal, the whole lot was frozen solid again. Apart from leaving the hatch door open and heater burning continuously below night and day, the position remains the same today. The wind here has been been directly from the East, and a water tank is within two feet of the eaves on that side of the house. I have packed the gap between the eaves and the tank with old clothes, rags etc, put a piece of wood completely over the top of tank, and the rug you gave us over that, but still it remains frozen solid.**

We have stopped using our dining room, and disconnected the fridge in the kitchen as being a waste of time and money. We now put meat, eggs, butter lard etc. on the table in the dining room and run for it. Things were better on the roads at all last night. It started snowing again at about 4 p.m. and seems to have done so for quite some time as there is a substantial fresh deposit over everything. All reasonably well this end, but could do with the bath.

We have no news of the effect of the new rating yet on our property or on 155. Doubt we shall hear of the latter at all now. Move went fairly well on Wednesday. At number 17, the removal men arrived at 1.00 p.m. and were gone by 3.00 p.m.. Peter must have been a tower of strength at the West Drayton end and I think it must have knocked him up as after he brought Mr and Mrs Baker over at about 5.00 p.m. he retired to his room feeling quite sick and queer. However he is as right as a trivet now. Managed to get a few plugs on electrical gadgets for them on Wednesday, and we all went over on Saturday (yesterday) and today they’re putting up curtain railways and runners, and putting a few more plugs on etc. We did our shopping after we got back at approximately 4.00 p.m., and June popped into the local Do-It-Yourself shop and ordered £5 [about £114 in 2023 currency] worth of Cosywrap, the fibreglass rolls that you lay in the loft. You get five roles for that sum and should cover most of the loft. Have put the rolls up there already, and shall lay them in position after finishing this letter. The idea of course is to keep the house heat below the layers of fibreglass so that careful siting is required to include as much of the plumbing as possible yet leave good access in case of bursts etc.

Thanks for the Mercury again and picture. The winter of 1927 I would have been four, and some time early in in 1928 before going to Clevedon I went to Cross Keys for a short while. I do not think the Tiverton snow which I remember could have been 1928 as I was six then and would have remembered it more clearly. I think it must have been winter of 1926 when I was four. I seem to remember snow at Westbury so it would have been the same here. (Query the same year as doing the transplanting in the front garden?)

Yes these boilers keep on exploding, and each day there is a new report about them in papers.

Paddington shed is still set the same way as you say about Bristol. All the shed roads have an allocation and are drawn and amalgamated into complete outgoing trains by the capstans.

Yes I could have done with a sausage on a stick, for all we saw were two very sticky, gooey looking cakes that we could not bear to rob the children of.

Our primulas still O.K. but as very dry this morning I took them out into kitchen and gave them a bath. Will bring them back in here when some of the surplus water has gone. Yes we had snow on Wednesday but it held off while I was driving to and from number 17. Car still going quite well and if anything since the antifreeze the starting behaviour has improved. I wanted to send mag and letter together, but did not have an envelope big enough. The office issue too are too small so have got a supply from stationers.

When we were around at 17 yesterday, Roy arrived with Christopher. He said he had spent the morning in his loft assisted by his neighbour attending to a burst pipe. Snowing again now as I look through the window. This machine has spent the week in the cold dining room and has taken an awful long time to de-freeze. Your flagons of cider would freeze as the alcohol content is only at about 7%. The wine at anything from 14 to 25% alcohol according to whether a wine yeast or bakers yeast was used should not freeze.

On Friday we took Susan back to Mount Vernon to have her appointed check-up on her eyes. I did not see specialist but according to my reporter he said she should be able to see better than she does. Another visit booked for three months’ time.

Another side effect of the freeze-up is the ritual of thawing the false teeth out of the cup each morning.***

Doug next door fell down in the week, and in putting hand out to save himself, dislocated his wrist and broke a small bone into the bargain. I must say people are adapting themselves well to the cold. The only time I feel really cold is going to and getting up from bed. It is also a job keeping warm in bed, at other times I do not notice the cold much even though there is frost inside the house in the form of ice in bottom of bath and hand basin.

Well there it is again for another week. I gather you are both pretty well apart from the cold. Now we are at the end of January it cannot be long before we get some better weather.

Sad about Gaitskell, I think he was the pick of the bunch. He should have been a Liberal. Probably would have been if they have been more prospect in the party when he started up. Well best of luck from us all, roll on April.

Love from us all, Alec

*For younger readers – yes, this dangerous-sounding practice was perfectly possible back then: there were connectors which would plug into a light-socket if you took the bulb out. (See https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/showthread.php?t=99598 for a discussions of these.)

**It’s difficult to remember that in those days there was really no such thing as insulation in houses, either under roofs or on pipes. You just ordered more coal and made the best of it.

***This was a time when people had their teeth removed, even when there was nothing wrong with them, and got false teeth, because it would be cheaper in the long run. Benevolent parents sometimes used to pay for their offspring to have all their teeth removed for their 21st birthday or similar milestones. Bearing in mind that dentistry in those days was often painful and unpleasant – even more so than it is today – there is a certain logic to it, but it’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater, or taking a sledge-hammer to crack a nut. If my personal experience is anything to go by, Alec’s own teeth should have been absolutely fine until his seventies at least, whereas they’d all gone long before his fortieth birthday. The very definition of a false economy IMHO, paying to replace something you got free of charge in the first place which wasn’t giving you any trouble!

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.