Sunday 18th June, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad,

Thanks once again for weekly letter. It will be Interesting to learn what variations the A.A. give for the route back via Frome Radstock etc. We could have gone via Devizes and Marlborough but decided on Warminster as we liked the A.303. No doubt they will be able to give you a shorter route than the 152 miles we took. The road from Chew Stoke to West Harptree is very hilly and narrow but elsewhere the road is more than wide enough. No doubt you have both had a rest and recovered from our visit.

Work did not go so badly this week. It was apparent that the week would be disrupted so fitted in a visit or two. Must go to Maidenhead some time this week and have to go to Reading to see Snow. Looks like we shall start Kensington almost immediately, and that will be another of my pigeons so plenty on hand.

I heard that the traffic moving towards the West was heavy, and that there were jams at Honiton and the Exeter by-pass, but we had no real difficulty. Plenty going the other way though.

Most of the dahlias I put out seem to have taken. I can be certain of 33 from the 36, but as the others were only sprouting white shoots will have to wait a day or two for leaf to appear. Re deck chairs, I find that our other one is in order.

Glad to hear that the pond is keeping up. Perhaps it is in order, and the first filling was partially absorbed by the concrete. No doubt you will know for certain in a week or two. Glad to have tidings of the livestock. Any sign of the newt? I see that we were fishing illegally as the Coarse Fishing season did not open until Friday 16th June. Perhaps we deserve some leniency in view of the ‘catch’?

Some effort on the cinerarias, What happened to the other two? Our cacti are all in good condition and now bedeck the landing window.

June has been busy putting a lick or two of paint over the walls in the front room. We have quite a bit of the paint we used and a dab or two smartens things up a lot. My work on the T.V. cabinet had left a few marks. We also wanted to paint the hardboard surface of the T.V. shelf/cabinet but the paint has not taken well. Look as if it will have to have several coats.

Got our first film back from the dealers. Apart from the one blank that I knew about, there were no failures, and we have 21 good colour transparencies. Have looked at them through a viewer lent by Eric, and have since built a rough sort of projector. This throws the pictures on the wall in colour, but due to the low power of bulb, they are as yet only feint [sic]. A stronger bulb should do the trick. Still have about three shots left on our second film and no doubt we shall use It up next week-end when Junes friends Les and Barbara and their little girl call.

Cut the two back lawns yesterday and the grass looks very good. There is a lot of clover in it how so it is green enough.

Well you heard Beechings Pill too, did you He does not seem to gild the lily, and has good reasons for doing what he intends to do, but after all he is only reflecting Government Policy in the matter – could he do otherwise?

We have conveyed Stella’s ring to its proper address. Job was done yesterday when out on our usual shopping jaunt.

Note Mothers bath with the sprinkler. Expect that to be used regularly when the weather Is hot.

I saw Norman Allen at Bristol, and he told me of their new arrival.

Doug and I have ordered the wood for a respectable bit of side fencing each. He has set two concrete posts and a couple of uprights and intends to run his between his garage and the house, with a gate near the garage. Mine will ran from the garage along the back of the replaced coal bunker, then at a slight angle toward the house, with the gate next to the house. Arranged for him to order in bulk to get the cheaper rate, then ran into him in Eastcote Timber Supplies when he was placing the order. Doubt if I shall have much of mine done next week end in view of the guests coming, but we shall probably do his first. I have to get a couple of concrete posts first.

Saw Bob Hill again in the week. By the way I should hare passed on his kind regards when I came down, he mentioned it some time ago.

Ken Lay is looking for a house at Brighton in view of his retirement in four years. Everything is going fairly well except short of staff as ever. Well will close now and look forward to your next. Love from us all.

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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.]

Sunday 19th March, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

The usual weekly letter herewith also Birthday Greetings to Dad in aid of the 21st. We will hand over the present when you arrive. It only wanted Easter to be one week earlier and you would have been here to celebrate your Birthday. Well it will not be long now, must keep fingers crossed for illnesses etc. This last week end we had a spot of trouble with the girls and felt a little out of sorts ourselves, but apart from the usual minor accidents that lot has passed off now.

Glad you like the drawings, and have kept them. We shall be interested to see them as we have no continuous record of progress such as that. I have seen this week’s and it it looks a good one to me.

Hope your visit to Lyng to-day was a success. I suppose this is the first time you have made a long trip in your new car.* Should think you have got it well under control by now.

Very sorry to learn of Mr Hessel. It was obviously quick especially as you had seen him out and about the very same day. I did not know that Frank had moved to Clifton to work. Saw Doug Hand at the Walton match and he told me that he was working opposite to Frank but I thought he meant at Portishead. Sounds as though he is doing rather well.

Glad you will be able to take a couple of rose cuttings. We have had a bit of a clear up in the garden to-day, but it still looks very bare.

Could not tell you what prices are like at the ‘Aerial’, had the good sense to suggest we move on to the Towers before it became necessary to find out. Richings Park is between Ivor and Langley, but the Tower Arms is only a little way up the road from Iver Station (on the Down Side).

I see the cutting of P.G. you sent me, and very interesting it is. I have had in mind for some time using Lemon Balm, but have never had enough to use. Lemon certainly has a beneficial effect on most wines, You will be able to look out for the fennel on Church Hill. It grows high and is sprouting like cow parsley.

As you know we have lunch around the 1.0 pm mark but it will be held up till l.30 pm should you be late. I shall not be home until evening when I start my leave, but June and the children will be looking forward-to having you to lunch.

Have not cut any lawns yet – am still waiting for some of the bare patches to cover over. Took the lawn mower to pieces to-day cleaned and painted some of the parts. It will take another Sunday morning to get it back together again.

Can’t think what Don wants to have Lambretta and a car for. I know it is cheaper to run a scooter than a car but should not have thought that would make much difference to him, and a car is more comfortable. (Perhaps Joan uses it?)

I am sure Our section will get only benefit from the appointment of ‘Beeching’ to succeed Sir Brian. You may not know that I.C.I. where Beeching comes from were the pioneers in Work Study in this country and are the leading exponents by far. I saw the letter in the Telegraph from the ex Swindon Driver, but am afraid he is like so many others, prepared to condemn without a hearing.

Note Mothers competition problem, why not fill-it up with “Flowers of Sulphur“?** get more than anyone at least. Alternatively fill it up with Flowers Keg Bitter.

Well short and sweet this week, once again best wishes for 21st, and love from us all.

*[The distance according to Google Earth is roughly 37 miles each way, but the M5 hadn’t been built at this stage; let’s say it’s a 90-mile round trip, about three hours of driving … It’s no use, I still can’t make that feel like a ‘long’ journey.]

[**Once again, Alec demonstrates his propensity for being a smart-arse. It’s so tiring to have to live with over many decades; eventually the desire for straightforward communication becomes almost overwhelming. Not everything is a joke, FFS.]

Wednesday 15th March, 1961

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol,

Many thanks for another budget of news and drawings received on Tuesday – thank you very much Susan & Carol for the drawings and for the one in the special envelope with the stamp on it. The postman knew we were waiting for it. Can quite understand the rush on paper envelopes & stamps this will last until something new turns up to attract their notice.

Glad to hear car now alright and that you have the necessary certificate. Now I see the authorities propose to bring cars less than ten years old in[to] the scheme. Suppose its as good a way as any to get more money out of us.* Note cost of certificates – I had no idea what the procedure was. Have not seen Payne to have a talk with him about the handbrake.

Had a letter from Lyng Saturday asking us to go down on Saturday 19th inst – this will be out first visit since you were with us and we all called in there on Monday 27th June. They last came to Clevedon on Sunday 18th Sept. when of course they saw the A55.

Last Monday the 13th Roy Hewett looked in during the morning and in course of conversation asked if we were going to Mr Hessel’s funeral that afternoon. This was a shock as on the previous Friday Mum and I had seen and spoken to him on Hill Road and later in the Library. He must have died the same day and apparently had a heart attack after he got home. Would have been 68 in July. Will try and remember to bring Mercury up if account of funeral printed. Understand that some time ago he had a serious heart illness and had never fully recovered. On the Friday morning he told Mum that Frank was doing very well and was now in the Clifton office of the Portishead Power Station but what actual work he is doing we do not know. Last we hear was that he was the Welfare representative for the firm.

Yes Heels car is in good condition but as I think I said last week we do not know price he paid for it.

Had forgotten all about the rose cuttings but I will put a couple in a flowerpot and bring them along. Let’s hope they take root alright.

I see Moore (No. 12 this Avenue) has now changed his very old car for one not quite as old but still very much over ten years of age. He uses it to carry his ladders about in connection with his job as a window cleaner.

Saw Mr Aston on Sunday last and he feels a lot better so much so that Dr says an X-ray not now necessary.

We went for our usual walk round the hill but it was a bit colder than what we had been having previously. It’s grand again this week so far.

Note you had an evening out on Friday last. Have read and seen on TV pictures of the hotel ‘Aerial’ – how were prices there? I see you did not stop long but went on to Mr Baker’s former place. You must please congratulate him for us on reaching his seventieth birthday – hope he and Mrs Baker are keeping in good health. Whereabouts is Richings Park?

Re: Parsnip wine I am enclosing the recipe which I cut out of Popular Gardening a long time ago and am making the wine to these instructions except that as the lemon balm was growing in the garden was rather young at this time of year and did not appear to have much strength I put in the juice of a lemon extra. You can let me have cutting back when I see you. At the moment the ‘must’ is in a polythene bowl in greenhouse.

Have never heard of the fennel growing on Church Hill. The Elderflower wine still in cupboard but am afraid it will have to go down the drain. I really think it must be worse than Epsom Salts.

Yes we will bring up the Christmas cards for Susan & Carol – we just wondered whether you would like the girls to have them to write on before destroying them ourselves. Keep them amused for a few minutes I expect.

May get some Somerset Jungle Juice at Lyng this weekend – if so will bring a drop along.

Just remembered that in your last letter you mentioned the possibility of installing a parking meter outside 84 Queens Walk – am keeping all bad coins for use therein. Thank you very much for your invitation to arrive in time for lunch on the 29th. Will you please say latest time of arrival and incidentally if we don’t make it by then don’t wait lunch. We shall be there alright if no trouble with car.

Now for a continuation of Gardener’s Gazette. Managed to cut grass on all lawns on Saturday for the first time this season but it was very hard even with motor mower – the grass in places, particularly under the trees, being six inches or more long. Looks a bit rough now but the work is over for another year as it will be easier to cut from now on. Put in quite a lot of seeds earlier this week and one row of potatoes. This morning I cut a lot of sticks from hedge (adjacent to Heels in the field) for beans. By the way all the grass mowings went into runner bean trench.

Did I tell you Don has got rid of his motor bike and bought a new Labretta. He had a lot of trouble with his motor bike and eventually got rid of it cheaply.

What about the new railway appointment announced this morning – Beeching. Am afraid this is going to cause a flutter in the camp again and I should think the Union would object too. The whole concern may be reorganised again now and put progress back for some time. Did you see the letter in the ‘Telegraph’ recently from a retired engine driver? Evidently does not like Work Study. Roy Hewett brought the extract from paper for me to see.

Mum gone to Townswomen’s Guild this afternoon and going out to Caperns the seed people at Yatton next Wednesday.

Not much more to say this time – if there is anything else you can think of that you would like us to bring up you must tell us next letter – am already sorting out one or two items to make sure we don’t leave them behind. Must put one more coat of polish on lamp and work out best way of putting it in car.

Hope you are all keeping well.

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

Mum & Dad

*Because it’s definitely not to remove a lot of mobile deathtraps from the road and bring the number of deaths and serious injuries from car accidents into more manageable proportions, of course.

Eva to the family, on the remaining three-quarters of a sheet of Leonard’s paper:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for my very pretty Mothers’ Day Card. I also had a nice bunch of daffodils from Mr Aston. Plenty of them about this year as the weather has been much warmer. Not very long to Easter now so hope some of this weather will be saved for then. We have been slogging away at the weeds this week & its very hard work.

We had our T.G. on Wednesday & it was a packed room. On June 1st we are going to Cannington Farm Institute. Some of them are also going to Trowbridge egg packing station in April but I jibbed at that not interesting enough. We have for next time a posy in a thimble I ask you what flowers can you get in there?

Spencers haven’t sold their house yet, have had some offers though the latest £2,250 [£52,300 in 2021 money]. I reckon we could get a good price for ours if we wanted to sell it.

Those two grocers at the top of Hill Rd have amalgamated now known as Wilkins & Bull [? or Butt ?].

I don’t think we shall have a great number of plums this year but certainly more than last year.

Nearly all the oil has been cleaned from the beach. At one time the sea reached as far as the houses opposite the Pier and they were streaked with black oil. They have been bulldozing the oiled pebbles & sea weed from the beach. Hope it doesn’t return. Some ship must have thrown it out.**

No more now lots of love

Mum & Dad

[**I have been unable to locate a specific incident that might have led to this remark, but I did find a reference in Hansard to the ongoing problem of merchant vessels discharging oil at sea and the fact that this was an increasing concern at the time.]