Wednesday 12th July, 1961

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Another week gone – how they slip by. Thank you once more for your newsy letter duly received. Sorry to hear June and the children have been under the weather but hope all right again now. The continuous dry atmosphere must be blamed for a lot of nose and throat troubles at the moment – a great pity that fine weather does any harm. Thought we were in for a downpour yesterday afternoon. The sky was covered with dark and angry looking rain clouds but we had less than five minutes and the paths were not even damped so it was back to the hosepipe again. Note you have not looked at Rebecca’s puzzle yet should very much like to know the proper way of working that one out but it shows the kind of problem set for the children nowadays or did you have anything similar? Nothing wrong with Susan’s ‘thinking box’ in suggesting it was a snake in the pea. I think she worked that one out very well not actually knowing the name of the pest. We both had a little chuckle over it though.

Surprised you did not visit cafe on the beach while you were here but on reflection you did not have many opportunities of getting that far. Bad luck with your fence posts but presumably they will be alright for the job required. Creosote is good stuff for woodwork but oh what a mess one can get into using it and it takes a long time to get off hands, arms and even faces but I don’t think it comes out of clothes. Some of my old gardening shirts and trousers have carried the stain until the articles have finally been discarded.

Yes it is a bit disconcerting to find the pond still has a fairly large leak but yesterday when in the ‘Do-It-Yourself’ shop in Alexandra Road I bought a tin of bitumastic paint and in the near future will try and fill up all known cracks across pond with it. Incidentally I had to go into that shop to get a piece of glass for the end frame 14½ by 41¼ in the original having been accidentally broken last Sunday. I don’t know how livestock getting on in deep portion have only seen the one eel but it was lively enough.

Oh yes Don does drink other than cider but not a lot – usually a glass of Burgundy which he often has, I understand, before dinner says it keeps him going. These last few weeks with weather so sultry I’ve enjoyed a drink of cider about midday and again for supper.

So Beeching is on the warpath than regarding stations – he should see what kind of staff is available to keep them clean. The new rates of pay do not appear to have lured many of the better type of individual to the railway service and I believe some places are still seriously short of men*. Note you have applied for another post – the best of luck. Can you give more details? It will in any case let McDonald know you are not on your present job indefinitely. Expect by this time he has mentioned it to you.

I saw Payne (Binding and Payne) on Monday when calling for petrol and he asked how you were getting on with your car. Said he saw it in Old Church Road a few weeks ago and guessed you were down on holiday. He has changed his car now (one identical to mine) for a second hand model of the later type. He said he was quite happy about having a second hand car. it certainly looks a nice job as he had it with him whilst we were talking so examined it thoroughly. I told him you had covered many hundreds of miles when on holiday and had had no difficulty with the car.

Bill Aston gone to Bristol today for results of X-Ray and I may know results before posting this letter. (Nothing serious will tell you next letter.)

I put blackcurrant and rhubarb wine brew under fermentation lock on Monday but it is only just working. it is however clearing rapidly so maybe worked out. Note you may try some greengage. Not surprised you don’t care for the elderflower – neither do I. A great pity really but trouble no doubt due to too much flower when brewing. Your garden like mine very dry and as hard as concrete. Shall be picking first runner beans this weekend after which they will be plentiful.

Mr and Mrs Baker then up to their eyes in redecorating work hope they are both keeping well this hot weekend – not much shade for them to take advantage of at 155.

Had a letter from Arthur in America this week and we learn from him that Tom Chilton, (Lily’s husband – Dawlish) died a few weeks ago. Lily you remember came to Heavitree Church to funeral service for Grandma. It is obvious Uncle Joe had not heard as we had a letter from him last week but no mention of Dawlish. We do not know at the moment what to suggest about August. Arthur is coming over by Jet Plane early in August and we have not heard how he is spending his time or for how long he will be in the country. As mum has already mentioned Uncle Joe and Aunt Lydia will be here on Thursday 10th August for the weekend. Arthur has been invited to call on us and spend a few days but we are waiting to hear when that will be.  Must keep in touch with you about this but I’m sure in any case you would not want to travel at the peak holiday period so towards the end of the month may be best.

The Spencers moved out last Saturday and the Rees Barretts in on Monday. No local news again unless mum can give you some. Has Susan returned to school?

No more now. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for two little pea shellers.

Mum and Dad.

Eva to the family on the remaining three quarters of a sheet of Leonard’s writing paper.

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol,

Many thanks for letter what a change to the weather. I have a sniffy cold now and do nothing but sneeze. I think it must be hay fever. The wind has been terrific and blown down lots of stuff.  We have today been staking the gladioli etc. The roses snapped through the wind and no sap in the stems. We are still picking raspberries, come to hate the sight of them.

We hope the weather will clear for you later on when you come again.  I wish we knew the various dates Arthur and you were coming don’t want it to clash. He leaves on 6th or 7th August and only takes 10 hours and he said he would be going to Taunton first but now Uncle Tom has died and he has been been invited to Dawlish he may change his plans, at present he is in Canada for 3 weeks then going back to California for one week before coming here.

Some more furniture gone in the newlyweds’ so I reckon they have completed their house now. Gibsons have not moved in yet their paint is a black and white affair far more professional looking than the others who have done theirs. 

Well I think this has to be the lot just now so will close with love from

Mum and Dad

Staceys stayed at Butlins hotel in Hove £13.10 each and at a Brighton hotel B&B 37/6d each and they couldn’t sleep for noise. 

*You would think this might have been taken as an indication that the jobs could be opened up to women, but nobody seems to have thought of that.


Sunday 26th March, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks again for your latest letter. By the time you get this you will have one day to go before departure. Glad you had plenty of letters and cards for your Birthday, and could celebrate with Aston.

I agree that the weather has been far too cold to have for Easter, but it has Improved-a little over this week-end. Had the first experience of the clock going on this morning but unlike the popular programme, the clock did not beat us this time.

Sorry to hear that Don and Joan have not been too good. Not surprising that Don feels the effect of the colder weather, but they must both find it trying being both out of sorts. Note Don was well enough to go for sustinance [sic] in the afternoon so recovery cannot be long delayed.

I remember now that you visited Torquay soon after you bought the car just at the time of the first floods Also I recall how you found water lying inside.

I was not aware that Mr Hessel had married again but expect you told me and I have forgotten. Did not know that he was living opposite the station, had not seen him for many years.

Note you have some cuttings for us, we can do with some alternative colours to those we have already.

Should have thought that Don could have arranged a run-round in his place so that he could run head-on out of the gate instead of backing out every time. A periscope suitably sited would assist I should think.

Don’t know whether there is a drawing from Susan this week or no, but have seen one or two good ones on white cardboard floating around.

Don’t go scorching along to get here by l.30pm on Wednesday, but grub will await you on arrival. By the way should you find it necessary to phone, don’t forget the number is now Viking 2808.

Should imagine that following the visit to Caperns you can now claim to have heard the first Cuckoo.

Have no blossom on my plum yet but as it is a very young tree do not expect we shall see any for a-year or two.

See you have got some of the spuds in and have had a frost or two. We have been having regular white frosts mornings but I have nothing to damage except the Dahlia tubers in the shed and the indoor chrysants.

Note the fermentation lock will secure your latest brew when you are here. I put a whole oz. packet of dried yeast in the last brew, and it went into an immediate furious ferment to such purpose that at the end of one fortnight I looked at it and found that fermentation was complete. This rather put me out as I wanted to put under fermentation lock and add nutrient. I strained off the must, added a spoonful or two of sugar and put in a few drops of specially prepared wine yeast. As this will stand a higher proportion of alchohol [sic] than ordinary yeast, this started things going again. That seems to be a good way of speeding up the process.

Saw old Beeching on T.V. and thought how old and florid he looked for a mere 47 years. Hope he can mow his lawn too but no doubt there will be a queue form to help him with it now.

Sounds as though you will be getting a good crop of sunflowers this year. Bad luck about the geraniums but they are surprisingly hardy and you may save them yet.

Well will not give all the news now, will save some for Wednesday. Love from us all until then.

Wednesday 22nd March, 1961

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for letter and card received on Tuesday together with greetings and best wishes for the 21st. Also noted ‘something’ waiting at Ruislip for which, in anticipation, thank you very much. Had a letter from Geoff and card from Rebecca & Sara also card from Don. Am glad it is not Easter this week as it has been so cold – feel it all the more after the nice spell of warm weather. Let’s hope it will improve a little bit next week – not forgetting the clock goes on an hour on Sunday.

It was dry but rather cold for our trip to Lyng last Sunday. Don & Joan made us very welcome of course but it was obvious both were not 100%. Joan was recovering from a dose of the flu and the colder weather was affecting Don with his breathing. Anyhow Don & I went in car during afternoon out to the cider maker and returned with several bottles some of which we brought back to Clevedon including two or three to come to Ruislip. Joan also gave Mum a dozen new-laid eggs for the children – shall soon want a trailer. Incidentally it was not first long trip in the car – we went to Exmouth through the floods in it last October if you remember – the weekend before you came over for the Austin A40. Still it was nice to get out and have a good run on Sunday even if it was a bit cold.

Now you have said where Richings Park is can recollect you have told me before but when I mentioned it last letter had completely forgotten.

There was no mention of Mr Hessel’s funeral in Mercury and not even an announcement and Mum recalls now that it was the same when Mrs Hessel died several years ago. Expect you knew he married again and was living in Kenn Rd. opposite the station in the house formerly occupied by Cuff.

Have taken two cuttings each of three rose bushes growing in plot between house and golden privet hedge and specially marked those we think are from the bush you have in mind.

We saw the Lambretta at Don’s, he uses it for getting to & fro [sic] Durston. Can understand it in one sense for it is a most difficult job to get out of his yard – somebody must stand in road every time because of the heavy occupation of same and of course because one has to back out blindly.

Sorry to hear you have all been a little out of sorts recently – query due to the sudden changes in temperature. Hope all back to normal by now. Yes Mum is keeping the drawings the girls send along and as we have said before some are really good. This week’s effort very good indeed. It won’t be long now before we see you all again. We shall do our best to come before 1.0 p.m. but don’t wait any longer than 1.15 p.m. should we not be along by then. If any big delay likely will get on to telephone. Note you will be having some leave as from Wednesday evening – this will be very nice but please order some warm weather.*

Mum gone out to Caperns this afternoon with T. W. G. party – may come back in a cage twittering! Understand Mr & Mrs Palmer gone to London by coach today to visit Ideal Homes Exhibition – may be alright going up but expect it will be cold on the homeward run tonight.

We had a white frost this morning – many more of these and it will be goodbye to the bit of plum blossom we have on the trees in field. Have put in all the Ulster Chieftain early potatoes [ref ?] 28lbs and now have a similar quantity of second earlies to go in but by the look of things this will be after we return from you. Managed to put out a row of sweet pea plants and another of gladioli corms but since last writing this is about the extent of the new plantings. Mum weeded the two rounds on lawn and I’ve since dug them – terrible stuff. Now sprinkled lime on them to help break up clods. Strange to say the new rose trees in the rectangular plot seem to be coming on nicely.

Note your remarks about the fennel on Church Hill – must look out for it one day. Glad you found the parsnip wine recipe interesting – my brew seems to be developing alright – shall put it under fermentation lock this coming weekend. It will be safe then whilst we are away.

Did you see the TV reports on Beeching in ‘Tonight’ and ‘Panorama’ on Monday evening? A lot of people appear to be very sore over the appointment. I notice in Sunday’s paper he knows the way to use a lawnmower.

Saunders (Yatton) moved his home to Bridgwater today where he has had a bungalow built on the Westonzoyland road. We passed that way on Sunday and looked out for it but failed to identify.

Have not seen Payne this week so cannot comment further on the car hand brake question.

Mum just arrived home with everything except the bird but she must tell you about it later.

Not much more to say now except that we are both looking forward to being with you next week – shall be quite ready for a crust of bread & cheese by the time we arrive June.

All our love to you both and more kisses for the girls.

Mum & Dad

[*According to online sources, the weather in London over Easter 1961 was ‘mostly mild and sunny’, with the cold weather and rain returning on Easter Monday, April 3rd.]

From Eva to the family on the (whole!) reverse side of Leonard’s second sheet:**

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Thank you for nice letter & drawings by the artist. They are very good.

Well here I am back from the Trill factory complete with Budgie grit & seed plus booklets plus papers for bottom of cage. Only needs the bird & cage. It was a good outing – the factory is oil fired. We went round in batches of seven: the noise was terrific but everywhere was very clean. At 3.40 we were conducted to the canteen & regaled with sandwiches (lettuce & tomato) tea cakes & jam & iced cakes & tarts. The grounds outside are nicely arranged, quite a change from Lewin’s Mead Bristol.*** It is the only factory in England of Caperns.

It’s been too cold for gardening these last few days so have been doing a spot of spring cleaning instead. Dad is going ringing at St. John’s tonight Mr Bees who was a ringer was buried today.

Dad & Mr Aston were each wishing each other a happy birthday yesterday (Tues). Mr Aston is 67. Fancy June’s dad 70. How the time flies.

Oh we had some sunflower seeds given us as well, they are also ground down for food.

I put out a few geraniums last week thinking they would be alright but I believe they have had it.

The people in the next house to the newly marrieds are in the garden & I believe they are trying to cut the grass with scissors. They must be moving in for Easter I should think as the Electricity Co. have been busy there.

Well I think this is the lot just for now, won’t be long now.

Lots of love from

Mum & Dad.

[**Eva’s handwriting here is something like 7 mm tall whilst Leonard’s is much neater and only 3mm – taking totally unscientific random samples from this letter.]

[*** Despite being very familiar with Bristol we can’t quite puzzle out the reason for a direct comparison between Caperns’ grounds and Lewin’s Mead at this time, unless perhaps there was some municipal flower-bed or other in the vicinity of Lewin’s Mead that wasn’t being maintained to the same standard, and which had become Eva’s personal standard for poor garden maintenance.]

Thursday 29th December, 1960

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for your letter of Sunday the 18th inst* which reached us about 11.30 a.m. on Friday and which of course crossed ours posted on Thursday the 22nd.** Perhaps now the heavy post is over we shall get back to normal deliveries.

We do hope you all had a very happy Christmas and that the girls were able to fully enjoy themselves. We thought of them on Christmas morning examining – among other things – their Dolls’ Prams and imagining that a walk in the Park might be necessary to give them an airing. Expect you were both glad when Susan & Carol had gone to bed that night.

We had a quiet day as anticipated but did not go to bed until about midnight. Quite a nice morning but we had some rain in the afternoon and evening. Since then however we have had almost everything except snow and even that fell as near as Tickenham. We have had several very heavy hailstorms – winds at gale force and torrential rain and sleet with thunder – not at all a nice holiday for getting about. Naturally we kept the fire warm as much as possible. I went to Durston on the Saturday [24 December, presumably] to take down a few things for Don & Joan and to bring back the Christmas dinner.*** Apparently the day before Geoff had made a disastrous trip from Paddington and for the second year running arrived at Taunton about an hour late and again at the wrong platform much to Don’s disgust who went into Taunton to exchange parcels with him.

I went down with Saunders as far as Bridgwater – he had been home to Yatton for the night – and of course had a nice chat with him. The train was about 30 minutes late arriving Durston whereas return train was right on time so I had about 30 minutes only with Don. Took car to Yatton and picked it up again there on return. Strange to say it was very foggy between Devonia and Clevedon station but much clearer thence to Yatton than when you returned the previous week.**** Noted from your letter you were also late into Paddington. It was a short visit as you say but we were glad to see you and it gave us the chance to exchange presents. You have had our letter b y this time thanking you for all the lovely things you brought down.

Still having some trouble then with Baynton-Hughes, but what is going to happen under latest reorganisation plan? Seems there will be good reason for keeping a Work Study Section at Headquarters – i.e. higher than at four Divsional levels – What do you think may happen?

Our ringing peal failures may very well be due to insufficient practice but the trouble is that it is a job to get eight experienced ringers altogether as there are so many learners and those less experienced to be found places in the band at practices and on Sundays. We shall probably have another try early in New Year. meanwhile Mum is getting ready for the ringers’ supper on New Year’s Eve when we expect 14 or 15 to be seated at tables in our dining room. (Odd numbers breathe out whilst even numbers breathe in.) The vicar is coming but the curate is in bed with bronchitis and lumbago so am afraid he will be a non starter.

Note your efforts to keep car clean – mine has recently been out in the bad weather and requires a good clean but after every trip I wipe the Chromium parts dry – this is the most important.

Your account of Susan & carol at the carol service and of their antics at home gave us both a good laugh and we can just picture them doing all you said. The congregation of one for instance is delicious and we can see Susan reading out the verses to Carol then presumably “all stand up”. Thanks very much for the photograph too – it is lovely – the little boy we assumed is Michael Benn? Both Susan & Carol look very nice in it.

No local news this time – have had a lazy week myself – no gardening and no work in garage other than to chop up sticks for fire lighting. Yesterday morning after a full night’s downpour of rain little pools of water were standing about on garden but they disappeared during the day.

Glad you got back with the lamp in one piece and that you can find use for it. The standard lamp has had a rest over Christmas but shall press on with it now.

Hope you enjoyed your convivial party with McDonald on the Monday before Christmas. I hear Transom House had a party on the Thursday and finished work at midday on the Friday for the best part of a week. I cannot believe it.

Well no more for now – hope you are all keeping in good health. All our love to you both and a very happy and prosperous New Year to you all.

Lots of kisses for carollers Susan & Carol.

Mum & Dad

P.S. Nearly forgot – thank you Susan & Carol for those lovely drawings – you are improving every time.

[*Absent from the collection.]

[**Also absent from the collection.]

[***Don and Joan kept chickens, so this was presumably what Leonard went to collect.]

[****This would suggest that Alec travelled down on Friday 16 December and back on Saturday 17th and that Leonard drove him to Yatton to catch the train. This arrangement had clearly not been finalised when Leonard wrote and posted his letter of 15 December, however.]

Alec to his paternal uncle Don Atkins and Don’s wife Joan:

Dear Don and Joan

Thank you both very much for the card and contents sent here for Christmas. The children would also thank you but they cannot write yet. Susan occasionally tries her hand at it but until she gets to school it will still be a bit laboured. She draws and colours very well – much better than I could I am sure. She has a fair idea of picture composition and puts in the sky and grass and trees in the background as well as figures. Scrap paper from the office is in great demand you can imagine. Carol’s efforts are formless as yet but after all she is only two.

They both enjoy going to Sunday School and it is one of the highlights of their week. They both learned a couple of verses of ‘Away in a Manger’ and have driven us nearly dotty with repeating it. Can not seem to get the other side of the record. They had a grand time at Christmas. Lots of people came to see us including their small cousin Christopher from Greenford, and they paid a return visit there on Boxing Day. The centrepiece of the “stocking” ? was a large Dolls Pram each. Sundry other games and dolls, and sweets and clothes arrived and they were so confused rushing from one to the other and borrowing each others presents that we spirited some of them away to make a bit of room.

Generally speaking they were very good over the holiday but you can not expect children of their age to be 100%. Their cousin is a little imp and drives his Mother round the bend. He is a likeable kid though but certainly a handful. We had him here for the Saturday afternoon while his Mother did some belated Christmas shopping. He played quite well with our two but wanted a bit of watching.

I passed through Athelney a few weeks ago when the floods were at their height. It certainly looked grim. The men seemed to be shoring up the embankment on the Westbury side of Curry Rivel Box. The train came to a stand in the middle of what appeared to be the sea. I saw the pictures of Lyng in the Bridgwater paper sent up from home. We had very little to trouble us this end except the incessant rain.

Have not been able or willing to do anything on the garden lately. All activity has been confined to the house and garage. I have to put up some shelves quickly before the floor gets covered with all the odds and ends dumped out there from the house.

Well must close now so will wish you both a very happy New Year and hope that you are both keeping well.

Love from us all, June, Susan, Carol and Alec

Thursday 22nd September, 1960

Leonard to the family – not, for once, on timetable paper!

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for another nice long letter and the drawing from Susan. Thank you very much Susan.

Naturally we are wondering how you got on at the interview on Monday and hope you will soon have some good news for us. Things seem to be looking up at Bristol. I hear Ernie Iles has a Spl A at Transom House and Norman Allen (at last) a Class 3 also at Transom House. Several other appointments but nobody else of note. No further news from Geoff yet – expect he is waiting for confirmation.

Note Mr & Mrs Baker not yet fixed up. That house you described in Hillingdon sounds awful. However anybody has the cheek to offer it for sale in that condition I just cannot imagine. Hope the house problem will soon be solved – it will be a big load off their minds once a decision has been made.

Don & Joan duly arrived just after 11.0 a.m. on Sunday and departed at 4.10 p.m. – weather was really lovely whilst they were here although actually raining when they left Lyng. Mum & Joan had a walk along the front in the afternoon whilst Don had a short sleep. He is looking remarkably well & says he feels fit. A big difference to twelve months ago. We did not say anything about the changing of the car until we were all walking down the garden to have a look round. They were very impressed and thought we had got hold of a good one. Both Don & Joan sat in the front to get the measure of it. Incidentally Don brought up four flagons of cider which I’m enjoying.

Had a call from Uncle Joe at Tiverton on Tuesday evening. They want us to go to Tiverton on Friday 30th inst then on to Exmouth following day and stop there until the Tuesday i.e. 4th October and this we have arranged to do. Will give us another short break before settling in for the winter.

Talking about winter we have had to start fires as it has been so cold – nearly a frost yesterday morning and now it’s raining again as bad as ever. Managed to dig a small piece of a large plot yesterday but this latest downpour will stop operations for a day or two. Pity our neighbours at Croyde, their fortnight is up on Saturday and I’m sure they will be glad to get home.

Mrs Marshall – with others – went on a coach tour to Scotland last week and arrived home Sunday. Had three wet days but all on the coach apparently thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Roy Hewett and his wife are returning from Worthing today after a visit of nine days – don;t expect to see him sunburnt when he next calls round here.

No I did not shed any tears over the shallots Alec. I skinned them outdoors and positioned myself so that the prevailing wind took the odour of them away from me. No trouble at all.

Note you are at Cardiff again some time this week and that additional staff should be available from Tuesday – query at London or Cardiff. Also that you have made further applications for vacancies in Research Section. What happens if you get one of the posts for which you had interview Monday?

So Barnes and Baynton-Hughes have moved on – both trainees I believe. Don had a letter from Geoff saying that Bob Taylor had got Hart’s old job at Birmingham. He has done very well if this is true.

You are still busy at weekends on garage preparations – hope you will have a fine day when you come to erect the building.

The bombs at Pill turned out to be three mortars ? and they were exploded last week. Apparently they were of British origin and it is assumed they were part of a lot used by troops billeted in the neighbourhood during the war.

Ian Spencer is better again but has given the complaint to his baby sister and a young girl in her early teens who goes in to play with them.*

Notice in the press parents at Derby in a hurry to get their children immunised against Diphtheria following death of one child in the area. No such thing in my day and I had six weeks in an Isolation Hospital with it.

Not much to report from the garden this week. Tomatoes still plentiful but much slower in ripening due to lack of sun and consequent warmth. A lot of apples are falling from the trees. Yesterday just before 2.0 p.m. I was walking down garden path and just as I turned to go along path to greenhouse a grey squirrel jumped onto the garden frames and scurried over the tops of all of them towards field and disappeared in direction of bungalow at the bottom. Must have been one roaming from the grounds of Clevedon Hall where I think they are fairly plentiful.** Anyhow I hope he does not come back here.

We heard yesterday that Mrs Stacey, (wife of Bristol TM Yard Insp.) with whom we exchange visits occasionally, who has been in Southmead Hospital for observation, now has to go to Frenchay Hospital for an operation for a growth on the brain. This sounds a pretty bad job but cases are on record of full recovery being made.

Mrs Cornish came over this morning and said her elder flower wine made last year is very good. I put sugar in the lot I made after your visit here in June and it is now very sweet – too much so I think but it’s very strong stuff. This year’s orange and elderberry wines are still in fermentation jars but working very slowly due to the continuous cold weather.

I put in a claim for partial refund of cost of renewing water pipes following burst but have heard nothing so far from Insurance people.

Our ton of coal came last Friday and I had it dumped outside shed so that I could sort it out and stack in shed. Coal arrived at about 11.30 a.m. so decided to have dinner first. Started on coal about 1.30 p.m. and soon after down came the rain. Persevered until about 3.30 p.m. and was then wet through so have up for the day having moved about 17 cwt. Finished the job off before breakfast next morning. All under cover now except for the 1 cwt slack which is lying in V corner outside shed.

Well I think this is the lot once more – hope you are all keeping fit.

All our love to you both and lots of kisses for dear little Susan & Carol.

Mum & Dad.

*Ian Spencer’s latest indisposition must have been described in a letter from Eva which has since been lost. Very few of Eva’s have survived, and as they were addressed to June my assumption is that they were either used to light the boiler or torn up into shopping lists. Late in June’s life she had to be relieved of several reams of paper she was intending to use for shopping lists – never realising that it would take her a thousand years to use it all up. The habit of thrift has stuck, though. I’m *still* working my way through stationery supplies bought by Alec before his death in 2001.

**Except that Clevedon Hall is a long way away on the other side of town and there is woodland much closer. An odd conclusion to draw.

Thursday 15th September, 1960

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for the big budget of news received on Tuesday and the drawing of motor car from Susan – never mind if it did only have three wheels she has a pretty good idea of the shape and knows where to put windows. You are quite right regarding use of this paper at times – the other sort (printed one side) weighs heavier and more sheets of it have to be used.

Glad to hear the week’s leave was not a ‘washout’ at least not in one sense of the word. Actually I think you all did remarkably well under most difficult circumstances. Let’s hope conditions will improve for you the next two or three weekends to enable you to finish the job satisfactorily.

Noted the route taken by you to get to Westcliff – sounds as if you had some busy roads to pass along – all completely foreign to me. Have never even been to Southend by rail. Anyhow it gave Mr & Mrs Baker an opportunity to look at the bungalow – have they had any luck elsewhere yet? query the place at Hillingdon which of course is not very far from their present home.

We are very pleased you have at least an interview for another job on Monday next and wish you all the best for a successful result – presumably it is for the jobs each at Paddington – Bristol – Birmingham & Cardiff. Who is on the panel? Any idea beforehand?

A letter from Geoff since his return from holiday says he did not get either of the posts for which he had interviews about three weeks ago. Now he has another interview on Friday this week for something else. Have not yet heard if Norman Allen was successful for one of two jobs at Transom House for which he had interview on the 7th inst. Incidentally Hallett & Arthur Price were two of the three on the panel – how exciting!

We shall be very pleased to hear how you get on and if there were any ‘catch’ questions some of the panels appear to be fond of asking. Re: Saunders – he got his Class 1 on assimilation whilst at Temple Meads and moved to Yatton on same grade. Now he gets Spl. A at Bridgwater.

Note June busy stripping paper in Dining Room – surely this would have been an ideal job for Susan & Carol? I’m sure they would have been delighted to do it. We have not had account yet but anticipate the total cost including paper for papering and painting the Hall & Staircase will be £30 [£700 in 2020 money] and it really is a splendid job – made such a difference as you will see next visit. In my opinion the Hall & Staircase are the two worst sections of any house for redecoration etc. and whilst it is being done practically the whole house is affected in one way or another.

So you have had a go at the grass and the girls have been haymaking – not surprised you could not keep box on. I could not risk the motor mower and had the job of raking grass up afterwards. It’s been a most disastrous period for any outdoor activities and I pity the people who still have to dig their potatoes – cannot tell potatoes from clods of sticky earth.

We went to Bristol yesterday afternoon to see the Newmans and rain lashed down – some cars even had lights on it was so dark. It was our first trip apart from local runs to the village in the new car but we reached there and got home safely at 10.15 p.m.*

Heels (next door neighbours) went off to Croyde near Woolacombe last saturday – weather then good and continued so on Sunday and Monday but since then back to the water cart again – have been able to roll up the hosepipe and put it in shed for the winter. One thing about it – I know I shall not be carrying water to bottom of garden next season.

Houses seem to have risen in value in your location since you bought in 1954 – fancy nothing available under £3000. The garage on your place will make a big difference if & when you want to sell – much more than the actual cost of and erecting the same.

What an outing in the Cardiff area and good entertainment too by the sound of it. I like the idea of visiting the various places – it is the only way to get a real insight into the layouts and working. Godfrey was very fond of doing this whenever he was in new territory. You can get it in the mind’s eye and retain it better. The session with Pattisson presumably was to report on the position. Noted you were not visiting the Cardiff area this week – just as well perhaps having regard to weather.

Have not told Don & Joan we have changed cars so when they come on Sunday in the Countryman** they will have something to see.

Glad to hear your tomatoes are reddening up a bit – have to watch out for frosts soon and then must pick them quick and let ripen indoors. Shall have to pick all mine later this month and let green ones ripen in trays as I want greenhouse for bringing on the Chrysanths and Cinerarias, geraniums etc. The totasl weight of tomatoes picked is now 130.5 lbs [nearly 60kg]. At the moment I am suffering from hedgitis as cannot do anything on garden – too wet. Most of the hedges have been attended to and am now tackling the bushes alongside the concrete path adjacent to big lawn. these had reached a great height and I’m now bringing them back to about 7 ft. The growth is so thick have had to use saw many times. It will give more room on lawn and allow sun to get at a bigger area of grass therefore it will be drier for cutting.

I still have a bottle or two of greengage wine on hand & several of plum all last year’s. This year’s Orange & Elderberry still in their respective fermentation jars & working. Nothing much else about at the moment.

When we got back from Church last Sunday evening found two young girls on front door step trying to sell a basket of blackberries they had picked on the hill during the afternoon – we did not want them. Could pick our own if needs be by going on hills or in fields towards Kingston Seymour as you well know.

After cutting strawberry plants down to earth level so that you could not see any leaves at all they have shot up again – flowered and Mum picked two or three ripe berries yesterday – this is second crop. Shall have to cut them all down again now as soon as can get on ground.

Well no more now – hope you are all keeping fit – best of luck on Monday.

All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls.

Mum & Dad

*With all due respect to Leonard’s spirit of adventure, this is a mere 20 miles in each direction.

**This is of course not a Mini Countryman, which would have been a pretty new innovation in those days. It’s far more likely to have been something like this.

Thursday 19th May, 1960

Alec to his uncle and aunt:

Dear Don and Joan

Thank you both very much for the card sent in aid of Susan’s fourth Birthday also enclosure. She is getting to be quite a big girl, in fact they both are pretty hefty for their ages. We invited a few girls in to tea on the Saturday and her little cousin Christopher came over from Greenford. It was luckily a fine afternoon so they were able to get out in the garden and generally make a mess of it and also take turns on the swing. Of course June prepared loads of grub but very little was eaten – shades of years ago.

By the time all the Mothers and Fathers had arrived we were able to make inroads on the food. I am sure Carol felt a little out of it on the 16th as when all the cards came for Susan Carol said “Carol some too”. I understand they spent the morning fighting over the presents but that is only to be expected I suppose.

Hope the new car is going well, no fears about the ten year tests next September.

It has been pouring with rain all day to-day as it did yesterday. We were crying out for rain a week or so ago but it never seems to come in moderation. At least it saves me from doing regular watering which is very tiring at the end of the day.

I understand our lads will be in the Taunton area soon so you may see something of them. I shall not be with them unfortunately.

Our dustmen have gone on strike this week so that dust bins are cluttering up the place and no where to put rubbish. I shall have to start burning the stuff when the week end comes. Of course it is all soaking wet now. I suppose they have taken exception to the popular song.*

Well here’s hoping you are still keeping fit. Love from June, Susan, Carol and Alec

*Lonnie Donegan: My Old Man’s a Dustman

Monday 25th April, 1960

Alec to his uncle and aunt:

Dear Don and Joan,

Just a line to thank you very much for the card and enclosure sent in aid of Carol’s second Birthday. She was a very lucky girl as she had 14 Birthday Cards and we lined them all up for her on the piano. Of course she is still much too young to appreciate what i.t is all in aid of but she enjoyed herself all the same. June stuck a couple of coloured candles on a rock cake and she and Susan blew them out, I think most of the puff came from Susan.

As you know Grandad and Grandma came up to see them for Easter but I am afraid they were most unlucky as they both had wretched colds and there was no doubt it spoiled the holiday for them. I gather they are on the mend now though.

I understand you have a new car, will this mean that you may one day come as far as Ruislip? G.Y.C. 100 certainly served you well over the twenty years that you had it. As a matter of interest my registration is G.J.O. 120 something similar.

We have had the first rain to-day since well before Easter and the garden needed it very badly. From what I could see of it when I planted out some lettuces it could do with plenty more as this lot has not penetrated very far. It has only been enough to lay the dust and fetch out a few thirsty slugs.

I am afraid the children have both caught the colds. For the last three or four days Carol has been coughing fit to bust and unable to sleep for catarrah and now Susan has got it and retired to bed early to-day with the same trouble. I suppose this Winter will eventually end and we shall get some germ-free days of sunshine.

They are both growing up very fast and I bet you would not recognise Carol now for the baby who was christened at Clevedon. She is a real imp of mischief and is another little Susan with a mind of her own. She walks up and down stairs unaided and talks quite well. Susan of course is now well advanced and helps around the house in all sorts of ways. She will be thinking about school in a years time? It seems unbeleivable.

Well there it is for the time being. We hope you are both enjoying better health now, Hope to see you some time in the Summer when on visit to Clevedon.

Love for now from June, Susan, Carol and Alec

Thursday 24th March, 1960

Leonard to the family, on the reverse of Timetable 21, LONDON and EXETER and PLYMOUTH

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks once again for your long and newsy letter duly received on Tuesday also card to hand the previous day. I think first comment should be about the writing paper – it does show who’s got the money! I’m always grateful for scrap. It was a lovely day Sunday and Don & Joan had a good run both ways. They arrived about 11.15 a.m. and departed 4.00 p.m. Don told me it was last time GYC 100 would come to Clevedon as on Friday 25th inst. they were taking delivery of an A35 Countryman i.e. a car from which the rear seat can be removed if necessary to provide more luggage or produce accommodation. Cost just over £600*. The firm were allowing him £110 on his old car – an Austin 8 1940 as I expect you know. They had it new so have had use of it for twenty years.

On Monday (the 21st) Mum and I had a run to Weston in the afternoon and called on the Richings (by invitation) for tea and the evening. Left them about 10.0 p.m. and had a good run home. Again it was a glorious day. Yesterday I had to see Surgeon for final check up following the two operations and he reported everything satisfactory – it ought to be too considering the manual work I’ve put in on garden lately. I finished with Surgeon at Bristol at 2.30 p.m. and Mum and I decided to make an afternoon of it and accordingly returned via Portishead and Coast Road. We were again very fortunate for it was a beautiful day.

After the Lord Mayor’s show – as it were – it was back to the land today and I’ve now finished digging the whole of the garden except the new piece beyond the hedge. Have put in the first lot of seeds outdoors and also 35 cauliflower plants raised in greenhouse. Shall soon start to put in early potatoes. Note you have several lots of flower and potato seeds waiting to go in.

We thought you would attend funeral service for Graham – it is a very sad occurrence to pass out so suddenly and so young, and Iris now has a tremendous responsibility on her hands. It was good of Norman Thorne to make that long journey but I believe in the old Westbury Control days they were very great friends. Incidentally Geoff tells me that Woodward told him that he (Woodward) had got Graham the post with Esso. Did you know this?

Pleased to have more details of the doings of Susan & Carol. They both evidently like the Clevedon Guide. It will soon be Mobo toy time again here and they should be in full swing by the time you come down. In three weeks’ time we will be with you for a few days – you must let us know how you are taking your week’s leave and best day for us to make the journey. Let’s hope weather is nice.

Sorry to hear Ronnie Grey still under the weather and hope he will soon be on the mend. Don was fairly satisfactory so far as health concerned but he still has some difficulty in breathing and tires very quickly – he had a sleep in armchair whilst here.

Mr Grey soon got rid of his Ford Prefect then. Sounds as if he has a real good one now – query bigger garage required. This brings me to another point. I’ve tried the window frames in car and cannot get them inside no matter how I place them and same difficulty occurs with the quarter size frames as well. This is just too bad as it will be impossible to bring any of them up. I’m very sorry but there it is – shall have to borrow Don’s A35. What a hope. It is a problem that I shall have to try to solve later on.

You were very busy last Sunday with your electrical fittings – I don’t understand it and never mess about with it on my own. Do you remember when Don extended light to shed one Saturday and when switched on all the lights in house and we found the fuse in the Main box had gone and consequently were without light until the service people could attend on Monday. They asked a lot of funny questions which were not answered but we had to pay for their attendance and work. How is the ‘fridge’ behaving? Hope it is satisfactory – you will have quite a lot of fresh things for us to see this time including the alterations to your kitchen and the car. Note invitation to 169 on Easter Sunday afternoon – presumably picking up Susan after Sunday School and then going on to Harrow.

June must have had some entertainment at the barber’s if they were all in there for over an hour. Do the children mind having their hair cut? Glad to hear Carol was alright in car this trip. Expect they can get out in garden more now the weather has improved – do they still use the swing?

Have not seen Aston this week expect he is busy on his allotment but Roy Hewitt called round on Monday for a short while just before noon – apparently he has been nursing a cold. Still walks with some difficulty on his two sticks.

Well I think this is all once more so will close with love from us both and lots of kisses for Susan & Carol.

Dad & Mum

P.S. Geoff says query Hamblin interested in Edwards’ job?

*Over £13,000 in present-day terms.

**Roughly £2,500 today.

Thursday 17th March, 1960

Leonard to the family on the reverse of Table 31 – continued – WEST OF ENGLAND to SOUTH WALES VIA BRISTOL

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for letters received on Saturday & Tuesday. It was a shock to hear about Graham Adlem – he was so young for such a complaint. Thank you very much for including us on the card attached to sheaf of flowers – will settle when we meet. We wondered on the Saturday morning what to do but time was so short – your idea put things right in that respect. It must be a terrible blow to Iris & family. I think both his father and mother are dead – in fact I believe I understood many years ago that when in the Westbury Control he lived with his sister – query at Steeple Ashton near Trowbridge. Hope the Esso people look after them – he could not have had many years’ service to qualify for various funds of the firm.

Now to your second letter. Susan must have a pretty good memory to remember parts of the seafront and the Mobo toys – after all she was only just over three years of age when she was here in July last. I thought you would like the Clevedon Guide – a bit fanciful to people who know anything about the place but quite attractive to others.

We both had a good laugh over Susan’s ‘painfully’ experience – I expect you did also behind her back. They must be very interesting now-a-days in spite of all the work and worry they give you.

We went to Exeter on Monday but it was a poor day really. Rained most of the time and it was also much cooler. Got out to Heavitree about 11.30 a.m. and found everything in order.* Did not stop many minutes owing to the rain and took bus back to centre of City where we had lunch. A look round the shops then but weather still unpleasant so made our way back to station and home.

Saw Don at Durston going down in train seemed to be looking his normal self again but of course we only saw him for less than a minute. He and Joan are coming up to lunch on Sunday the 20th inst. – a date arranged when we went to Lyng in January.

Yet it was rather strange how I saw Snow at Gowan’s funeral. After we had found a seat in back row but one of the church the person in front of me turned round and it was Snow. It was the only time we met as when we got outside again there was no trace of him – in fact quite a lot disappeared in that short space of time including Charlie Rust. I thought Snow was beginning to look old – gone quite grey. George Grant was at one time the chief divisional inspector – he was predecessor to Willmott and Ashton followed Willmott. The Lovemore you mentioned was Yard Insp. at Temple Meads – responsible for working at Dr Day’s – Malago Vale** and the Midland [????]? Stacey now holds this job.

I did not study the Guillebaude report very closely and handed it on to Don on Monday as per Geoff’s wishes. Noticed he was trying to blind everybody with figures though. I see the ASLEF want increase to date from August 1956 – pity they could not go back to 1912 when I should get another picking.***

Bad luck for Ronnie Grey but hope he is getting on alright again now. Appendicitis is something they have to deal with very quickly or serious developments occur. I remember G. A. V. Philips was rushed off to Cottage Hospital many years ago here and operated on immediately for same trouble.

So you have bought a new hat and had a job to get a fit – why? The last I bought was the cap I use occasionally – got it in Exmouth about three years ago when we went there for the day.

Thank you very much for remembering 21st March and I shall look forward to receiving whatever it is when we are with you too – two years old, how time flies.****

Weather still generally unkind down here but am plodding on with garden – have now put out 84 lettuce plants and given them a dose of Sluggit mixture. So far so good. Ground still much too wet for seed sowing so I’ve put in a lot in three of the garden frames. Might as well bring them on in there and plant out later. Have taken a few more chrysanth cuttings and will bring up one or two rooted plants for you. Have cracked up all the bricks and stone alongside Heels fence – this was a tiring job and only accomplished in small sessions since Christmas. The shallots are all shooting out now and I have two nice long rows of them. Mum has been busy cleaning up some of the flower borders. You are ahead of me with dahlias. I’ve only just tipped mine out of winter quarters onto one of the concrete paths. Have far too many to try and bring them on in greenhouse and all the frames except one are in use. The one exception is the frame I’m keeping for a hot bed for cucumbers. Am wondering if Don will bring up a sack of dry poultry manure***** – as he did last time – to go in there. By the way rabbits are again plentiful on the hills and they destroy a lot of the flowers on graves in the churchyard & cemetery. Some men get after them with guns – not without result but I should not fancy any now-a-days. Hope they will leave garden alone this year.

Well I think this must be all once more. Lots of kisses for our two cherubs.

Dad & Mum

*’Everything’ was presumably the gravestone for Emily that Don and Geoff had arranged.

**Now a trading estate.

***I’m not sure what ‘another picking’ may be in this context, although 1912 was the year Leonard joined the GWR and presumably he had to decide (or be told) which sort of work he would be most suitable for. He may have thought, rather cynically, that driving a train would have been more lucrative than the traffic management work he ended up doing.

****This would be a reference to Carol, about to turn two in April.

*****Don and Joan kept chickens, of course, but I wasn’t previously aware of him trucking sacks of dry poultry manure around the country!