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.]

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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.

Tuesday 8th May, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol,

Many thanks for letter and budget from the children received this morning. Glad to have another ‘all well’ report and hope it will continue throughout the summer. Shall be glad when your neck trouble is cleared up too.

Note your next visit is on June 5th – be careful you are not inside of the Whitsun holiday. June’s mother will be there as it is and I’m sure June won’t want you both laid up at one time.

What a grand effort by Susan this week; she is making a remarkable progress. Another week and she will be 6 years old.

Our weekend was a bit of a washout – storms frequent on Saturday and Sunday but it is good growing other. We again went to Southmead on Saturday and found Mr Palmer much improved, so much in fact that it is possible he will be allowed home some time this week although as mentioned before the second operation is very much in the distant future if at all.

Your kitchen improvements are proceeding very slowly but hope by this time it is finished to enable you to get on with your part of the job. Mum is having trouble with our electric oven and today asked the local people to attend to it. Note your reason for the hinges on trap door – we do not go up into the attic very often but apparently you have something stored there.

Position re dahlias noted and if can get the cuttings I have taken to root will put in a couple for the journey to Ruislip. They are of course from those you gave me last October. It was a very bad winter for storing anything like that and as mentioned last letter I had similar trouble with the gladioli and had to throw away about thirty corms – a big loss. Note June busy with sweet peas. I put out mine (raised in greenhouse) end of week and the very next morning the birds had bitten off the growing shoots of most of them. Fortunately this makes them bush out but to prevent more attacks I cottoned off half a row (no more cotton) and put bushy sticks around the rest. Anyhow it stopped the birds. Now they are after the lettuces I put in this week. Slugs have been busy too since the rain came at but slug bait has routed them.

Yes it was a bit steep having to pay £13 out for car repairs but the work has had to be done. Your friend with his Anglia must have been surprised with his account. Did he have to pay or was it covered by insurance? Note June having lessons with the B.S.M. – this was the firm I took lessons from but had about ten or twelve altogether. Cheaper then of course – believe it is about £1 per lesson of one hour now. The sooner June can pass the test the better as I’m sure she would be glad to use car locally.* By the way is not the 1962 A40 fitted with gear change on the steering column? Anyhow the best of luck June.

Yes I was surprised to learn that office outings are still being held. Perhaps Raymond has not got onto that one yet. Note you had a day out with McDonald, presumably in his car. I hear the M4 has now been completed so perhaps we may travel that route next month avoiding Maidenhead.

You seem to be lucky with the grass and earth being dumped in field. Pity you do not know who it is – might dump it direct into number 84.

Obviously no news of your neighbours  yet or you would have said. Noted you can do with any spare flower items we have available when we come up. The vegetable line am afraid will be a blank – just in between times after broccoli and before peas and beans. Even the broad beans will not be ready, worse luck. I’m still getting a few potatoes from day to day – have not been without yet.

Voting day today and someone you know is putting up for this Ward – R. Moule. Plays rugby for Bristol and is a schoolmaster here in Clevedon**. I think however you knew Alan better. Not much excitement these days but the cricket field will cause a lot of heart burning now following results of Minister’s public enquiry some months ago – see front page of Mercury to you with this letter***. After all that was said, the decision is that the cricket club has to come out of it in five or six years’ time.

Going back to your comment about sizing the walls. I wonder what paste your paperhanger will use? If Polycell wall should not be sized but treated with a coat of Polycell paste instead. This was something I learned recently. The instructions are on the packets of Polycell.

We went to Mr Newman’s last Wednesday but what chaos along York Road near Temple Meads Station – single line working, man one end and policeman the other and a long queue of traffic on either side. We read in next days evening paper that two cars had collided there and two or three people killed and next day there was another fatality. Bristol is getting almost impossible but when we go to Southmead we go over the bridge and alongside the zoo and it is much easier.

[continued on Wednesday 9th May 1962]

*As mentioned before, June never *did* manage to pass a driving test; she went to her grave half a century later still unable to drive.

** and *** – unfortunately I have been unable to track down any further information on either of these topics. I’m sure it’s out there in the multiverse, but I have limited resources and even less time; I have to draw the line somewhere!

Sunday 11th March, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Well thank you very much for two letters, one received on Monday and the other on Friday. I will work through them in date order.

Glad you like the drawings from the girls. Susan’s pictures get better and better especially now she is able to put some titles to them. (How did you like Mr Krooschop – worked it all out herself, we did not know she had done it .) They are both pretty fit again now.

Regarding the weather, yes we have had ‘best mixed’ for a while now. At the moment it is raining lightly, but practically all yesterday it was a very heavy. If you have been able to go through the winter on 25 cwt of coal you must not have done so badly. Perhaps a few logs would help out. Must watch the river again in the summer for flotsam.

I would not have thought the east wind would have made a lot of difference to the inhabitants of the Swiss Valley, as it does not blow from that direction all that often. Note you comment on our house roof having come through the storms intact, but we have other troubles of which more later.

We are getting no trouble with the envelopes now – all arriving in one piece.

Should not have thought there was much future in the St. John Ambulance Brigade. Perhaps your neighbour knows better though.

I am not surprised that Mogg does not remember the incident of taking me around a corner in a gale. It was mid-day, and I do not think he was very pleased at being called from his dinner.

Have not touched the lawn since last writing, but shall have to do something pretty soon as the grass-growing weather is now arriving.

I think I know what caused the tyre to go flat. The Sunday before I tested all tyres to see if they wanted pumping up. All except that one were okay, but oddly enough that particular tyre was reading about 10 lbs more than it should have been, probably due to miss reading the airline meter at the filling station. I promptly let out some air to get pressure back to normal, and my guess is that the valve must have stuck open a little and let all the rest out gradually.

I have not been having any wine lately, but hope to resume shortly.

I agree about being only in the fringe of Work Study. It has a tremendous future and the great thing is to go with it for the time being.

Glad your hand is now better, and in good condition to use the new typewriter.

I do not know what is going on next door about moving but Dorothy was at Bristol again yesterday, and I think they are still looking for a suitable place.

No they still have not found that small boy who was missing from Hayes. When I came past the canal at Hayes on Friday afternoon (returning from Reading) I saw half a dozen police with a boat raking through the reeds etc.

I note all the comment on the improvements proposed for the seafront, but I do not understand why they have written off that part from the Pier to the Flagstaff as having no potential for improvement. I would have thought what that there was a long stretch on the pier side of the bandstand that could be improved.

Sorry about the box in the church. It must be the same person all the time, as cannot think there are many who would help themselves.

I did not hear that Dawlish Warren had been washed away again, but as we had trouble this week in the area I cannot think there can be much left now.

The tooth question so far as I am concerned is not serious. I try to go regularly, but six months is a bit too regular for me. Had not been for quite some time so as the girls and June were having theirs seen to I thought I would have mine done as well.

We have selected our gas heater, but it will be a few weeks before we order it. We ordered a water heater for the kitchen on Saturday and hope they will fix it in this week.

I would not be definite about the Esther Reeds as, although I have not seen them, they may well be rooted underground.

McDonald tells me that the Acton Yard Report has had an impact on all who have seen it. Remains to be seen what it provokes.

Had the car tested on Wednesday, and it passed okay. The man at the garage said the brakes were good, but had quite a bit of travel on them (same as last time) and they had to lower one of the headlamps. No extra charge.

Interesting about Bushell’s motorbike. Should have thought Puddy would have had the sense to keep his mouth shut.

Sounds as though your church party went off well despite the absence of the vicar and Curate. The new hall also sounds to be a good place. We must see it when  next in Clevedon.

I saw the article about the man washed up at Clevedon in the Daily Telegraph towards the end of this week. I see that they have identified him.

It sounds as though you have got a good buy for your typewriter. For the price you certainly have not been robbed.

Well for news from this end. On Thursday having a heavy cold, and some trouble with my neck (more later) I did not go into work. By the time I had had my dinner I was not feeling too bad. Susan had gone to school, and June and Carol had gone out shopping when I heard a faint tap tap coming from somewhere. Rushed upstairs and found that water was pouring through the ceiling in our bedroom and cascading on the bed. It was also pouring through the ceiling of the landing and running down the wall of the little back bedroom. I rumbled that the cold water tank had burst, and nipped smartly down and turn off the main. This of course had no immediate effect and by the time I got up again with bucket etc. the lights have come on. Dragged the bed and bedding to one side, turned on the cold water taps in the bathroom and down again to turn off the electricity. Back with more buckets and swabs to mop up, then down again for the ladder out of the garage. By this time June had arrived home, and water was already downstairs in the front room, Carol started to cry and got the wind up properly so she had to be taken next door. I got a rag to jam in the cold water tank to stop the flow, and promptly put my fist through the bottom it was so rotten. Managed to stop the flow there, although by this time the whole of the floor of the loft was covered to a depth of about half an inch with dirty black water which was sleeping through at every crack. By the light of three candles and a dim torch we mopped this up, and the flow through the bedroom and landing ceilings gradually ceased. Of course everything was soaking wet, so put oil heaters on the landing to start drying things out. After a while I took a chance and switched on one of the electric circuits. The one I had put in. It held so we put a couple more electric heaters on. This also gave us some light as we could move your standard lamp up into the girls room, and had the TV lamp ourselves downstairs. June and I slept on the studio couch in the front room. Next morning the ceiling was sufficiently dry to chance putting on the other electrical circuits, and they were then alright. Plumber arrived at 8:15 a.m. and put in a new tank. Apart from stains on wallpaper that has to be replaced anyway, we have only the bedroom carpet that is the worse for wear. The insurance people will pay for them to be cleaned so we shall be only the price of the tank worse off. What a life.

Regarding my neck, for some two months I have had a swelling in a gland on the left side, and although I have been attending an ear nose and throat clinic they have been unable to do anything about it. They are not certain what is causing the trouble and I shall go into hospital later today for a minor operation on Monday for them to discover what it is. I have asked June to hold this letter over until Monday so that she may have some later news for you. it appears that the gland is inflamed due to some infection but they cannot find anything wrong with ear nose or throat yet. There is no pain, but it has become large enough to hinder turning the neck, and it looks a bit unsightly. We have told the children I am going to see the Station Master at Bristol, and they are going over to Grandma Bakers this afternoon while June and I go to the hospital.

By the way, while we were waiting for the plumber to ring on Thursday night, the man to do the work in our kitchen turned up. He is so-called starting this weekend but, but we did not see him yesterday.

Well there it is again for another week. Will leave a bit of space for June. Love from us all.

Sunday 4th March, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Well surprise, surprise, no letter this week, at least up till last post on Saturday. Imagine you must have been snowed up, or snowed in this week. Hope it does not mean that you are unwell and unable to get outside. The weather has been so shocking, and the temperature so low that going outside the house is quite an ordeal.

I took the car out on Monday morning as we had arranged to spend the afternoon (half-day) at the dentist. The roads were very treacherous, and a lot of snow fell. When we went to see the dentist in the afternoon it was still falling heavily. We left the car at Ruislip Station and walked from there. The dentist is a couple of hundred yards beyond the traffic lights in the direction of West Ruislip. There are two of them there working more unless independently, but our chap was very nice. He has very spacious and modern premises, with good light waiting room complete with comics. When it was our turn we all went in together. June had first go in the chair, and the dentist knowing that neither of the girls had been before, invited them round the front to see what was going on. Susan would not go, but Carol nipped round and stood on the front of the chair and had a good look at the proceedings. Of course it was natural for Carol to go next, and the dentist gave her a couple of rides up and down in the pneumatic chair. Of course she had nothing to be done, and by the time she had been dealt with, Susan was ready to be  looked at. Carol tried to operate the chair for her to go up, but she was not strong enough. Susan had to have a drilling, but it was all over so quickly and so gently that she really did not know what had happened. Yours truly has to have seven fillings, etc etc. Harking back on Susan’s treatment, I must say she did not twitch a muscle during the whole of the operation.

On the completion of our dental visit, we went along to the gas showrooms to get some more information about fires etc. I am sure I must have told you that we are interested in getting one of the latest ones for the front room. Although our electric heaters are good ones, we do not seem to get instant heat in that room, and in the really cold weather, even two kilowatts are insufficient to keep the place warm. June brought the oil heater down from the bathroom during the week and placed it in the hall just inside the front door. With that on all day, the warmth all over the house was appreciable.

Poor old Carol has got a cold again, and has been waking up at night. As it happens I have not heard much of it after I have gone to sleep, but we had one evening when we had to bring her down even before we had got to bed. That was Friday night. Of course, with a head cold, heavy catarrh, and a flushed face she looked a picture of misery, but she seems well enough in herself during the day. She has been pottering around filling a coal bucket for us this morning. It is hard to realise she is nearly four years old.

No further work on the lawn as you might expect. Had a look round the garden yesterday and there is no sign at all of the Forsythia, I am sure all the cuttings are dead. Your rose has put out some new shoots, and the beeches (from Burnham) seem to be going on well. The Buddleia has had some of its new growth affected by the frost, but there will be some to prune later in the month. Those (indoor) chrysanths (now outdoors) are still alive and well with plenty of shoots from the base. No sign of the daisies (Esther Reed, or what have you) in fact there is no trace at all of all the clumps we put in.

On Tuesday I held the second informal meeting with the Acton Passenger Station Staff side of the L.D.C. and we were able to agree at what level to introduce the scheme experimentally for a period of six weeks (starting on March 19th). On the Thursday we held the official L.D.C. meeting and produced a minute to that effect. We are getting to the interesting stage of a number of investigations now – Acton Yard with savings of £31,000 per annum [roughly £707,500 in 2022 money] was dropped on Phillips’ desk on Friday night. If the staff are satisfied with the station scheme after the six weeks trial, I am sure I can get the Yard scheme accepted. The same L.D.C. is involved for both.

To hear the children stomping around in the front room now, you would think they were both 100%. I have just been in there and they have lined up the cushions, stools, dumpy* and table to form a railway track, and the bumps and bangs are coming from that.

By the way we shall soon be losing Tony Notley. He has got a Special B with the Traffic Costing Service. (B.T.C.) It was all very hush-hush for a few days, but he was told during the week that he had got the job. It is one grade below that for which I unsuccessfully applied a couple of years ago. although attached to the B.T.C., he will be working on the Western Region at Paddington attached to the divisional setup. His boss, recently appointed, is Walton, and their premises are on the 6th floor, the one immediately above us. Sounds like an Irishman’s transfer.**

Have not seen Geoff since last writing, so will be glad to have any details on his condition.

While on the subject of work, we handed in an outline report on Old Oak Common Carriage Cleaning Depot during the week, and it is going to cost us about £16,000 per annum [roughly £365,000 in 2022 currency] to apply our scheme. This will make them cough a bit when they study it.

Have had no further trouble with the car. Since pumping up the back offside tyre two weeks ago, it has required no further attention. The test certificate expires on 8th March so I shall have to get it retested.

We are getting a little sunshine now, but there is no heat in it. Yesterday afternoon we had quite a lot of sunshine but it was notably cold outside the car.

By the way it appears that our new dentist was also Bill Bryer’s, as he was asking me if I knew him.

We have had no sign from the joiner who undertook to do our kitchen. He said he would be along at the end of February, which presumably is earlier than the beginning of March. I suppose he has been tied up with other jobs – a bit like old Drewett. June gave me a hand yesterday with the crosscut saw, and we polished off most of the wood that required sawing up. It has taken us seven years to get rid of all the accumulated wood left by the previous occupants. This as you know included an old shed and an old summerhouse. We shall endeavour to clear all of this as logs, and will also run down coal stocks before we go over to gas.

We thought we had cleared out all the bulbs from the front garden in the autumn, but they have come up as thick as ever to all accounts. Hope they are not all blind ones this time. There were quite a number in the back garden but I have seen no sign of them yet.

The officers are feeling the pinch of Raemond’s policy already. Leslie Morgan, up to a meeting last week was not entertained, and gave his opinion of it in no uncertain terms. By the way the betting on Powell’s successor has now shifted in favour of Claude Hankins. No further news on that score.

Well there it is again for another week. Hope you are both alright, and look forward to hearing from you. Love from us all. 

*A ‘dumpy’ in family parlance was a pouffe, or a footstool without legs. I have never heard this expression used anywhere else, so it might have been a childhood nickname for the thing or possibly a short-lived brand name; a superficial internet search has produced no applicable results.

**’An Irishman’s transfer’ also doesn’t seem to be an established expression, and Googling it only produces results related to Irish footballers being transferred here and there. It’s probably on a par with the other casually-racist ‘thick Irish’ jokes that were about at the time and to a certain extent still are. I take it to mean that ‘an Irishman’s transfer’ is a distinction without a difference; Notley is going to in the same building, with the same people, doing much the same work, but with a new title and presumably a different salary – which Alec probably considered not worth the effort required to achieve it.

Sunday 18th February, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks again for weekly letter and newspaper. I am sorry to report that last week the envelope containing both had become open at both ends although the contents were intact, and again this week precisely the same thing happened. I suppose it is a bit of a risk if this happens regularly as contents may get a stray. It would seem that the Sellotape you put on the end is insufficient for the job.

Thought you would have a laugh over the bread and water bit. So far nothing further in that line thank goodness.

One thing about Fortifones, they have supplied a number of batteries to keep you going for a while. If you get stuck again do not hesitate to let me know if you want me to phone them. Something seems to have twisted their conscience for them to mark the latest packet no charge? Hope it is not no change.

Note you had some severe weather your way last week. I had a meeting at Southall last Monday, and during the proceedings had a message from Paddington to the effect that June had telephoned to say roof of garage had blown off, and neighbour had helped to fix it temporarily, and could I come home before dark to make sure all was secure. It was a garbled message in the event. When the meeting ended, instead of going to lunch, I caught the bus across to Ruislip, but found that all that had moved was the crown piece at the house end, and the piece next inside it which was secured only by the weight of the first piece. These pieces are about 6 ft long, and had been lifted off by the force of the wind coming in through the open door of the garage. I had taken the car to station, and left a half door wedged open. All should have been in order, but it appears that a short metal bar to which the end piece was originally secured had worked loose and fallen off. At least this bar could not be found, and as it should have dropped inside the garage, can only think it had been missing for some time. I know it was there when we put the garage up. It appears that Eric and June together put the pieces back, and when I got there I found that they there were locked in place with a strong piece of wire tied round the main crossbeams. Poor Eric could only use one arm as the other was in a bad state following the vaccination. Doctor would not let him drive his car for a day or so.

I well remember a similar strong wind occurring when I was going to St. John’s School. I got as far as Mogg’s place but could not get round the corner. Had to dig out Mr Mogg to get me into Tennyson Avenue.

Have not heard the latest in the housing situation – next door. I suppose they will tell us one day what they are going to do, but I suppose it is none of our business. So far they have not said definitely if they are going to have that plot or not. If not, of course, it’s throws the whole thing wide open again.

Nothing further in the lawn Improvements so far, but the “Surveyor” has informed me that the work must be completed by May. I think we shall have to have a go slow for a while to push the wages up.

I should imagine that some of the last year’s parsnips will find their way into wine. As you know the older the potato or parsnip is, the better for wine. Talking on that subject, I forgot to tell you that last week (probably after going to press) I started off some more wine. This lot was based on 2 lbs of old parsnips, to which were added 1 lb of currants, tinned lemon juice (pure) equal to about 10 lemons, one orange complete with peel (very juicy), the peel of a second, and two banana skins. This lot has 2 lbs of sugar in it and the liquid wine yeast (as given to you). As Jungle Juice has already been taken as a name, I think I will call this one Alec’s Anaesthetic and hope for the best.

The mileage when you passed LTA 259 over to me was  46286 so you did rather less than 26000 miles in it. This over a period of six years. The average to you would be about 4300 per year. It is about half as much again as our average, but I would say that the average length of your journey was longer.

I thought there was something the matter with Geoff’s face the last time I saw him, but I did not like to mention it. Saw him again on Friday, and noticed little change. Glad you told me that he had been having trouble with it or I would not have known.

I have no doubt that you will lose the Clevedon train service altogether eventually, unless more people travel by it. There is no likelihood of that however as people’s habits have altered in the last twenty years or so. Nearly all have cars, or access thereto, and the television keeps them in in the evenings anyway.

We can find a corner for the thornless loganberry if you care to bring it up. Thanks very much. I do not know how long it is before they fruit.

Did not hear of the bad business at Lyme Regis.

Things seem to be happening in the housing line in Clevedon now. All the vacant plot are going by the sound of things. Of course what was once an out of the way spot what is now accessible by car. I recall a number of such plots in Edward Road which hung fire for years mainly because it was so far out of the main part of the town.

Sorry to hear about Dad’s thumb. How long has that been giving trouble? Note no bones broken – good job.

Pauline came over yesterday and released us to go to the pictures. We think it is the first time we have been since we possessed the car. Quite something to come home and not have to wait for a bus.

I see the chap at the bottom is digging his garden, and I expect several others are at that game today, it is such a nice day. Quite spring-like weather, and the girls are out in the garden on the swing. Of course they cannot agree for more than two minutes and a squabble begins. I see the prams are also getting an airing.

Had several trips out last week including a trip to Swindon. There I met Mr Armand now assistant to C.M.E. Spent most of the day with him, including lunch, and he asked to be remembered to you. it appears he is also a homemade wine merchant, and says he has even made his own whiskey, but he did not say if he distilled it or not.

No news of our joiner yet, but expect him at any time now.

Well must report that we are all fairly well at this end, and hope that goes for you too. Looking forward to that typewritten stuff. Is Mother going to be allowed to use it? Distaff side is barred this end. *

Well there it is again for another week. Love from us all. 

*’Distaff side’, i.e. his wife, June, but the implication is that she isn’t allowed to use the typewriter because she’s female … and we’ll just allow the stupidity of that to sink in a little, shall we? Younger readers may never have encountered a ‘typing pool’ in real life, but they turn up occasionally in films and TV shows set in the past, and you would have to look a long time before you found anybody male working in a typing pool. Men were usually very good typists, many having learned during their time in the services, but they didn’t type for other people – only for themselves. This is Alec’s attitude to life summed up in a nutshell, really; what’s yours is mine and what’s mine’s my own. He and June were both textbook narcissists, and it’s really no wonder that they had such dreadful rows.

This image was found on https://www.edn.com/how-it-was-life-in-the-typing-pool-ii/, where it is unfortunately not credited.