Tuesday 5th February, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for another newsy letter received this morning first post and we are glad to know you have had a fairly comfortable week in respect of frozen pipes and blockages. We continue to be free of these troubles but a number of the people in Old Church Road at this end of the town are still short of water until the plumbers have attended the bursts etc. There is still time for more trouble of course as the winter is by no means over. Yesterday for example we had a good fall of snow continuing from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. necessitating the bass broom being used later in the evening to clear the stuff away from the pathway. Sunday was a nice sunny day here too but it was so cold. Today although sunny there is a bitter East wind blowing making things most unpleasant outdoors.

Glad to hear June’s back is a bit better and hope it will continue to improve. What was Susan up to to be late home*? Query kept in at school for some misdemeanour. Not surprised to hear she had another cold and hope well again now. There are a lot of coughs and colds about – what else can one expect with such contrary weather.

Sorry you slipped down again – under car this time. We have to move about very carefully here especially when there is a fresh fall of snow on top of frozen ice. Mum delivered the magazines one day last week and just after she left the house down came the snow quite thick. I expected her home again quick but she went on and completed the job. Last Sunday the road leading from church house to the church was like a skating rink and no wonder – the children had discovered another place for their toboggans right down the roadway.

Yes one may well ask what about next Winter. What with the multitude of electrical gadgets on the market and a severe spell of weather there is bound to be a repetition of this winter’s shortage of power. We shall get in a stock of coal and a good load of wood to try and cover ourselves and of course something else will have to be done about the storage of potatoes and apples etc. even if this means bringing them indoors. It seems we never finish learning. I think you are right in assuming that anything left in your garage must be dead by now. There will be quite a lot of plant life to be replaced this spring.

Noted your plumber has been in and renewed all washers etc. and reported copper tank in order again. You had an amazing experience this time and no doubt will be on the alert in future as soon as bad weather commences. You could of course have had a very serious mess up in more ways than one. Talking about the cost of keeping the electric lighting and firing going to keep pipes working Mr Aston came over last Friday and said the electrical man had called to read meter and found that they had used over 4000 units during the quarter; this works out to about £25. [£570 in 2023 money.] Our meter has also been read and reading was 1975 working out to about £13. [£295 or thereabouts.] I think the Astons must have been having electricity to eat for breakfast. Anyhow they have a nice sum of money to find this time although they have the satisfaction that all their plumbing functioned throughout the bad period.

I like your suggestion about paying surtax. I went down to Roy Hewitt’s this morning and told him he would get no increase in pension as he retired after July 1958. Noted you have not joined B.R.O.G.. Maybe as the years go on some of your fellow workers will rope you in. The Guild is still only in its infancy but as time goes on it is possible they will accomplish more for the higher rated staff than the T.S.S.A..

Your car starts up very well considering you only use it at weekends. I have had no further difficulty with mine and I let her run over daily whether we go out or not. The trickle charger not yet available but I think it will be one that will charge quickly.

Had a letter from Mr Baker this morning to thank Mum for cream which apparently arrived last Saturday in good order. At the time of writing he said they had not yet one room completely finished but were very grateful with the assistance you had given with electrical jobs and curtain making etc. Mentioned that it was their 14th move. When we came to Clevedon it was our third move. Anyhow we hope they are settling in now and able to enjoy some of the leisure they have missed at the shop. Wonder if you saw them over the weekend.

So you are on the round of the Esso Blue Man then. Pity you could not store some but this would be very dangerous at your place.

Must now tell you of the trouble we have had this week with Mum’s hearing aid. Last  Wednesday the appliance conked out all together and mum was cut off from all sound. Could not get set to work no matter what she did with it. There was nothing for it but to phone Fortiphones direct at their Regent Street office and this I did from Mrs Marshall’s house at 11 a.m.. They had no solution other than the set must be returned to them for repairs etc. but said they would do best possible to get it back in time for you over weekend. When I got back home mum had made some impression on set and was getting some slight measure of sound out of it – sufficient in fact to carry on for a while. I wrote Fortiphones that night and explained circumstances and asked how much a reconditioned set would cost as we had it in mind to have a spare set on hand in case of future trouble and also that present sent could be sent in for attention. Had reply Friday to say they could supply such a set for £25 so we sent off for one immediately and this turned up with your letter this morning. Now we have to turn the TV down instead of up. The new set has made a tremendous difference to Mum. Have now packed up the set she has been using for six years and sent it off today to Fortiphones for overhaul. Who said we could do with a pension rise?

Have not heard of any new law governing the erection of building annexes with glass roofs but it is quite possible and really seems a reasonable requirement. Perspex is the ideal material to have but again this is more expensive than ‘wire impregnated glass’.

Mum and I continue to keep about the premises except when we have to go out for this or that but neither of us likes the cold weather and the sooner the thaw sets in for good the better we shall be pleased. Heard of one house that has had no water at all since Boxing Day. Back to primitive Britain**. The water cart was still going its rounds up to last Saturday but I have not heard about this week so far.

Yes Cornish and Heel still do plenty of talking over their front gates and I suggested to them the other day they might find their feet frozen to the ground if they stopped there much longer. Heel also said he saw two rabbits on our garden other day but I’m afraid they will not find much now after the pigeons have had their share. Three foxes were seen recently on Durdham Down (Clifton, Bristol)*** and I am rather surprised they have not visited Cornish’s and Heel’s poultry.

*I think that may have been the memorable day I joined in a snowball fight on my way home. I was SIX, for crying out loud. You’d have thought I was selling myself on street corners, the way they carry on.

**Maybe, but ‘primitive Britain’ didn’t think it was primitive – it thought it was doing better than the generation before because the Black Death was over and the cow was still alive and there was porridge for tea…

***Urban foxes are a much more recognised phenomenon these days. When we lived in Bristol we knew precisely when and where we could see them, and once had the honour of seeing a vixen and about four or five kits.

[Continued Wednesday 6th February, 1963]

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Sunday 3rd February, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad,

Thanks again for your weekly letters, arrived on Friday as normal this week. I guessed you would have a fit at our escapades with the frost last week. I noticed it took a full page to write so must have wanted some following.

Well we have had the partial thaw this end too, and it did make a bit of difference to the going. Not all the paths were cleared before the next lot started, but for long stretches one could walk fairly comfortably (for one evening only). We have had no heavy snow since, but one or two steady falls have given us a fair covering again. The going is not too bad now, but Friday night it was very treacherous and I had a job to stand on the concrete outside our garage. When I stepped out of car at the other end my feet went away from me, and I finished up with them back under the car. The snow dusting makes walking much easier. I doubt if we had any in the night but there is an occasional flake in the wind today and the forecast is for heavy deposits in this area today.

By the way the plumber promised to come last Sunday but did not. He came round on Monday evening from work, but as he had no washers on him, he arranged to come yesterday (Saturday). As he had not appeared by about 4 p.m. I rang up his house, but they said he was out but intending to call about 5 p.m.. He duly turned up here about 6.0 p.m. and we let him renew all the washers on the taps upstairs to be on the safe side. He said our hot water tank suffered no damage, and it seems that copper tanks are fairly safe in these circumstances. The only antidote for frost in pipes is heat. He confirms my opinion that lagging is not much effect against continuous cold. I agree that what is wanted is emergency heating (even a 100-watt bulb) to be switched on as required.

June’s back seems to be a lot better. Susan was a bit naughty the previous week and did not come home from school at the right time in the evening, and June had to go out and look for her and wait in the cold. We think this was the probable cause of the trouble.

Sorry to hear about all the broken limbs etc. your end. A wonder there are not more of them. I have not heard about Doug’s wrist but imagine it is getting on better now.

Unless there is a crash programme for more power stations we shall have the same risk of cuts next Winter and for several years ahead. There is just not the power available to meet the present peak demand. With the welfare state, etc., and never having it so good, everybody has obtained all the electrical gadgets. It is logical that on occasions they will use them, and electricity boards should not be so surprised.

We had heard of the milk being frozen in the bottles, but it has not so far happened to us. Some game. Can almost imagine buying milk by the pound.

We do not know much about Peter’s job, we only got the information second-hand. No visit to number 17 this week so no report on progress. Things seemed to be sorting themselves out last weekend so each week will show more accomplished.

Gas pressure did seem to drop a bit at times early last week, but we were able to remedy that by turning the indicator to ‘full on’.

I have not bothered to join the B.R.O.G*. I cannot think that they can do much that the T.S.S.A. [Transport Salaried Staffs Association] cannot. Bad luck about your missing the extra percentage; you still don’t want to have to pay Surtax.

Very bad luck on your vegetable storage arrangements. You seem to have lost a great deal. I do not expect to find anything alive in the garage, and it is too cold to go out and check. Our car gets two outings per week on Friday nights and Saturdays. I start on Fridays by turning several times with handle and engine switched off, then it starts pretty well on the ignition. Saturdays there is no trouble after the previous day’s run.

I would not have put it past Cornish to have seen a pink elephants down his garden instead of rabbits.

What is a trickle charger costing? A charger which charges in a matter of a few minutes is quite popular and costs about 50/-. [£57.00 – a decent one today would be half as much.] I have seen several for sale they send, and when Eric was here I borrowed his. It charges a flat battery to a usable level in about ten minutes to quarter of an hour.

Not much in the way of traffic collisions from this end although there have been many reports of conditions on the M1. A bit far from here though. Not much seems to occur on the Western Avenue – thank goodness.

Pigeon pie then for the Bushells’ dinner. Have had pigeons’ eggs in the past but do not think I had pigeon to eat.

Do we dream of burst pipes? Well I do not know, but with the bathroom tap running (before plumber repaired it) I woke up three mornings following at about 4 am, and there is no peace then until a check has been made that all is well. Can imagine water over the top of basin and running down the stairs etc.

Susan has been kept home from school with a sore throat which subsequently turned into a cold. She has had little or nothing to eat, and not wanted it. Today she had a good breakfast and said her throat was better and she only had the cold. Carol so far touch wood seems all right. June thought she had it coming and I had a sneeze or two, but so far we are clear. Sorry to hear that the cold got to you – probably affected the bronchitis. Best place is indoors if you have no need to go out. The garden can go hang for a bit.

Thank you for the thought about the cream. As we have not been over we have not heard from them that they have got it yet. They are not going on the phone.

The paraffin heater certainly comes into its own in present circs. No reduction in the power of the heat either. Yesterday however paraffin was hard to get for the first time. Tried at Cato’s but none there. Tried over the road at the Northolt Tyre Co. but had to leave can. Got fed up with that and went back to pick up empty can and try somewhere else. Tried the garage, and they were sold out. June tried Skinner and Parker down by the station and they had some. We had enough for the weekend, and the Esso Blue Man calls in the week, so we were alright in any case.

I understand it is now the law that you you put up any building annexe with a glass roof it must be constructed of ‘wire impregnated glass’ in other words the glass must surround the wire netting. This type of glass is more expensive than ordinary glass. An alternative is plastic but this is also very expensive.

I imagine poor old Hewitt has a job getting about these days. Do not blame him for staying put although it must bore him a little. I expect Mr Palmer is in the same boat. Sun shining now and no further snow. It all looks very pleasant through the glass.

Well will close now until next week, and hope we get no further weather to annoy us meanwhile. Love from us all.

*This put up quite a fight and I ended up having to ask all sorts of people before finally tracking it down. It was the British Railways Officers’ Guild, founded in 1947, but which seems to have changed its name to the British Transport Officers’ Guild some time between 1963 and 1974 when it is mentioned as being part of the negotiation process for management staff. I believe – but have not been able to verify – that it later underwent another change of name and has now ceased to exist as a separate entity.

Wednesday 30th January, 1963

[Continued from Tuesday 29th January, 1963]

More snow during the night – about an inch deep and with the thaw the roads are in terrible state this morning. Mum could not get her hearing aid to function at all and I had to phone Fortiphones (London) to ascertain best thing to do. Only solution from them was to return set and they would repair as quickly as possible. When I got back home found Mum had somewhat repaired set and it was working very well. Then Bushell called and said he could now get four bags of Glowcoal from Yeates if it could be fetched so went down with him and brought them home quickly as he was right out of coal again.

Should imagine from the T.V. news that the snow was pretty general and may have started earlier at your end. We have had enough for one winter but we are not out of the woods yet. Marshall told me this morning they are having pigeons for dinner – some of the wood variety that have been alighting on gardens for food. He said they were not too bad considering the lean time the birds have been having lately.

Les Garland’s wife is now home again from Frenchay Hospital but has to take things very quietly. Now understand Mrs Cummings had cracked her shoulder blade and not broken bone in wrist as previously stated but going on alright.

Getting near the end of the page again. Wondering if you both dream of burst pipes and iced-up tanks etc etc. We still cannot see garden and this season’s work on it will be very much in arrears as it will take some time to dry out when the snow has disappeared.

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

Ps Thursday morning snowing again from 9 a.m.. 

Tuesday 22nd January, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Once again many thanks for all your letters received first post this morning but we are very sorry to hear of your troubles with frozen pipes etc. Until you can remedy matters it will be difficult to keep the house sufficiently warm to prevent recurrence but heating throughout is the answer to the problem – or so we find it. It is going to cost us a lot of fuel and lighting this quarter but in the end it will be cheaper than plumbers bills. You are certainly having a rough time and unfortunately your plumbing arrangements are mostly on the east side of the house catching the worst of the weather. Hope you will soon be able to put things right.

So far we have had no further difficulty and as you know our plumbing is on the southwest side of house and escapes the keen easterly winds. We keep fire in all night still and put a sixty watt lamp under sink in kitchen. Naturally we do not venture further than is necessary by day but a visit to Elfords must be made occasionally otherwise no food. I went down to Roy Hewitt’s house yesterday morning as it is impossible for him to get about just to see how they were getting on.

Glad to hear the move from 155 to 17 was successfully made last Wednesday but you did not say how Mr and Mrs Baker liked the decorations etc. Perhaps it was a bit early for them to comment. Sorry Peter overdid things but expect he worked like a navvy when on the job and ran himself down. Noted he is alright again now. You have all been busy at number 17 and every little helps nowadays. How about the plumbing there?

If you can eventually get the fibreglass into position under your roof it is bound to make a difference in the long run but you still have to sort out your tank and pipes to start with and until there’s a break in the weather I’m afraid you have a job on. It is good to hear you are keeping very well – the colds will start with the thaw. (Jobs Comforter did you say?) Actually mum and I are warmer in bed than sitting in front of fire but it is a job to break away from fire at bedtime.

Our neighbour Bushell is now push cycling to Portishead to arrive there at 6 a.m. this week facing due east and on a very bad road. Reminds me of the winter of 1915 when I cycled 5½ miles each way daily between Long Sutton and Martock station arriving 6:30 a.m. one week and leaving there 10 p.m. the other in all winds and weathers including snow. Could not do it today.

Last Saturday Bushel and I went down to sawmills in car and picked up two bags each of firewood logs (at 2/6d per bag) [roughly £2.85 in 2023 money]. These were very useful for making up fire in evening. Last Friday morning the coal man arrived with ten hundred weight of coal – really good stuff – that so we are right for the rest of the winter. Plenty of power cuts here and in some parts of Clevedon they have actual blackouts – the top part of town have had several. Our T.V. picture has been almost nil at times but that is the worst we have suffered. Gas has come into its own once again and you are fortunate to have your gas fire and cooker. We have not had to go without a cooked meal or the power down in cooker around dinner times.

Heard that Mrs Bush (number 11 in the Avenue) was frozen up last Saturday but put stopper in wash basin upstairs and turned tap on then went to Bristol at 11 a.m. and return very late at night only to find water cascading down the stairs and upstairs flooded out. The pipes had thawed out in her absence with disastrous result. Had to call out next door neighbour (already gone to bed) for help. What a life. Late last week with car stabled outside back door I could not start her up again one morning and had to call Bushell who soon found that when I put battery back in I had not tightly screwed on the connection. This in spite of the fact I had on two or three previous occasions started car up since I restored battery. One lives and learns. They (Bushells) have been frozen up once or twice but managed to get things going during the day.

Very serious troubles have occurred at various places in Clevedon and plumbers are worked putting things right. We had another fall of snow last Saturday night – the same as you but it did not last long. Just enough to be a further nuisance but on Sunday it was most treacherous for getting about – soft snow on top of frozen ice and previous snow. I nearly slipped up myself coming home from church in the morning on the slope just outside the Lych Gate*. Managed to recover in time and the next trip saw me wearing Wellingtons. All cars have to get up to the church by the direct route near the Church Cottage – it is impossible to go via the road near the cemetery.

The wood pigeons are now a menace, they descend on the gardens in batches and pick off all the green stuff they can see. Yesterday morning a flight of about forty wild geese went over inland from the sea. It is possible they come from Peter Scott’s place at Slimbridge which is situated between Avonmouth and Gloucester. Have never seen so many geese on the wing before.

Yes we thought you would be interested in the picture of Holly Lane in the Mercury – just shows the depth of the snow.

Noted Susan has had another visit to Mount Vernon. Does she use her glasses regularly now? Funny remark that she should be able to see better than she does. Wonder what is behind this. The next visit will be about Easter then.

Sorry to hear Mr Gray has broken a bone in his wrist that it is so easily done. Hope you have felt nothing more of your fall a week or two ago.

Yes it was sad news of Gaitskell – only 56. According to some papers this week he was suffering from some disease that would have killed him in two or three years’ time but the virus infection accelerated death. There will be a bit of squabbling in the party now before things settle down again.

I have just heard that the bungalow at the far end of St Andrews Drive on the right hand side has been re-rated from £35 to £90 per annum. This is the place a man named Pope lives in – just retired from accountancy section at Temple Meads. Noted primulas still alright hours are too but the Christmas cactus are now dying off. They have been a very nice sight.

Gave engine of car a run in garage this morning – no difficulty. I’m glad I had antifreeze put in last month. Should have been in a mess now without it.

How does Christopher like school? Noted you saw them at Eccleston road last Saturday. If I remember rightly Roy and family live not so very far from there. In spite of the cold you are experiencing we had to laugh about putting the butter, milk etc. on dining room table and then running for it. Obviously you are living in front room as we are living in our dining room – these being the warmer places in each house.

The horse still with us. Plenty of hay for him now and he seems to be in very good condition. Norman said if he rolls in the snow there is not much the matter with him and he certainly does this at times. Flattens it out into ice. No more snow has been moved from the roads here and the position in Tennyson Avenue is as mentioned last week. At last grit has been put down Old Church Road from the corner by Wilcocks Garage. Formerly this section had been left out. Generally speaking the main roads in Clevedon are now in good order but the exception is over that part referred to above.

We have forgotten the incident about the front garden in 1926 or thereabouts – you must remind us please.

Have now read Mag and passed it onto Roy Hewitt for perusal. The articles on the various stretches of line I find very interesting and of course it is all fresh reading. The Parkeston Quay Harwich and cross Channel service boats to the continent must be a big job. Query more so than the Channel Islands services from Southampton and Weymouth. 

*Not surprising as there are slopes at each entrance to the churchyard and IIRC nothing much to hold onto.

[continues on Wednesday 23rd January, 1963]

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!

Tuesday 15th January, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec, June Susan and Carol once again many thanks for letters received this morning – second post. Most of our long-distance letters seem to be arriving second post lately including that from Lyng yesterday*. Yes we could see last week’s letter was posted on the Tuesday and guessed weather conditions had delayed dispatch.

The position re snow etc. at your end noted and I cannot report much if any improvement this end. It is a fact the Council men have been clearing the snow from the main roads and dumping it in the sea but the side roads are ghastly. With the help of Bushell I got our car out of garage on Monday (yesterday) and down the drive to the asphalt section but it was a real effort and the spade had to be used continuously. He (Bushell) was anxious to get some coal and I drove him down to his coal dealer only to find the place under lock and key. We then went on to Yeates in Meadow Street who let us have three bags which we brought back in boot of car. They were right out of coal and we have already let them have a few bucketfuls from our decreasing stock. Later Mum and I went to library and I left car in drive with nose up against shed outside back door. Last Friday I got Bushell to take my battery down to garage for charging and Mr Heel fetched it on Saturday so will soon able to get car underway again. We have had some exceptionally sharp frosts and any thaw is restricted to about an hour daily whilst sun is out so very little improvement is being made.

As mentioned in last letter in P.S. Bushell’s guttering came down one night last week and fell through his glass veranda. It also came down on the house next to him and between them they have a pretty good mess. So far we have escaped that trouble but there is still a lot of iced snow on our roof to come down so I’m watching this closely. Indoors our water system has not been too bad. Last Sunday the downstairs cold water tap over sink was frozen until 3:30 p.m. and we eventually thawed it out by placing a 150 watt lamp under sink for two or three hours. No trouble since but we keep fire in living room burning day and night and we find it helps considerably. In garage both the fermentation locks were frozen solid this morning but I put them in greenhouse and noticed they were all right again just now. Potatoes unfortunately have taken the frost and Mum has to be careful when preparing them for dinner – a lot of waste.

Noted your difficulty in negotiating road with car. It is the same here especially on the side roads. The main roads are more flattened out by the traffic but when frosty are very treacherous to those walking. Have just taken Mum down to hairdressers and now parked car in position for the night. This week’s Mercury enclosed gives a lovely picture of Holly Lane taken from the Portishead Road and it is typical of what we have had round about. Your comment last week Re: the rent is ideally depicted in cartoon in Sunday paper which I have cut out and enclosed herewith. Must get a laugh out of it somehow.

We too have felt the power cuts in electricity supply and the people who have all electric fires are suffering most. To us there is nothing like a coal fire but I think you were very fortunate to get your gas fire fitted in October and it is obvious you have not suffered from the cuts insofar as heating of room is concerned.

We are sorry to hear you are all still under the weather in respect of cold etc. but I’m afraid only the warmer weather will help matters now. It is surprising you can all keep going. I’m very thankful I have not to go to Bristol nowadays. Shall be thinking of you tomorrow moving into number 17 Eccleston road but what good news June that there has been such an improvement in the decor of the house. Let us hope both your mum and dad will like what they see and enjoy the comfort of retirement together.

Incidentally how did the new rating affect the premises at number 155? We have gone up from £33 to £79 rateable value. What about number 84? Must wait and see now how much in the pound to the actual rate will be.

Some mini car at Hoddesdon than. Shows how snow can drift. Back in the 1880s your great grandfather Beacham who was a Goods Guard at Exeter worked a double home train from Exeter to Rogerstone and was snowed up for a week. The winter of 1927 you were in hospital at Trowbridge over the Christmas and Mum there too. I was on my own and worked 16 hours per day in Westbury Control to enable others to have the time off. I went back to my old lodge and when later I opened up house for you and mum to come back to found I had a burst pipe and was there a mess. It was a very severe winter and we sent snow ploughs up the M. & S.W. line to clear a path right through from Chiseldon to Andover Junction. I remember a winter at Tiverton something like this but cannot say the year.**

You had a nasty job with your boiler – could have caused a lot of trouble if you had not dealt with it promptly. Expect you have read of one or two explosions of boilers fitted at back of fireplaces. I never liked these and would never have one fitted in any house I occupied.

Yes it is amazing how the public drift back to rail when they cannot use road services when at other times they have not a good word for them. I see the powers that be are going to try and arrange through train loads from one point to another. I hope someone tells them this is not a new idea by any means but in my opinion they will not get very far with it. Some places like Bristol shed and Paddington shed yes, but where do they think they will get other through loads? Bristol shed used to be set up so that no shunting was necessary when the wagons were drawn out. The shed portion was backed on to the non-vacuum rear portion on the higher level and the train was away. Cannot see them improving on the freight train service the Great Western railway had in operation at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Back to your letter again. Yes the toboggan run at the back of Hack’s house is still the number one attraction for the boys and girls of today but the very bad spell of weather has enabled other runs to be made. Glad to hear Susan and Carol both enjoyed the party on Saturday. We do like the one about the sausages on cocktail sticks. – the young idea. I’m sure Dad could have done with a few.

Noted the arrangements for the girls tomorrow. Carol will wonder where Christopher is. Susan manages to get to and from school alright then.

The wood pigeons are being a nuisance now visiting the gardens to pick off what bit of greenstuff is showing above the snow. The horse is still with us and he is being fed on hay now. These last two mornings he has been covered with the hoar frost. Glad your primulas are alright – they are in a nice warm room. Ours recovered after their treatment with the warm water and are still in flower. I’m afraid a lot of things have gone west again this time because of such sharp frost.

*’long distance’ in this case being 35 miles from Lyng to Clevedon.

**Alec had a story about a heavy winter closing the lines to regular railway traffic and also blocking the roads. When a railwayman died at a remote location a platelayer’s trolley had to be sent out to retrieve his body for burial. This would have been in the Templecombe area of Somerset.

[Continued on Wednesday 16th January, 1963]

Wednesday 9th January, 1963

Continued from Tuesday 8th January, 1963:

Many thanks for letter received first post this morning – very sorry to hear June has some throat trouble and Carol another touch of catarrh. It is a wonder anybody can keep going these days, the weather is terrible. Anyhow we hope they will soon shake it off.

I’m surprised to hear the Wellingtons rub the skin of the feet – perhaps they are a size too large? You too have had some very bad weather but I think on balance it has been more severe around here. Noted you have been able to use car – this is more than we have been able to do for more reasons than one as previously stated.

So letter only turned up on Saturday. I struggled down to Post Box in the blizzard in time to catch the 1:15 p.m. collection on Thursday but like everything else the Post Office people were out of gear.

Yes a week today the move from West Drayton will be well under way and once again we hope everything proceeds satisfactorily and that the weather is much improved by then.

No we do not help Mrs Marshall go her rounds of the poultry yard – Bissix who lives opposite her goes across sometimes.

Your delivery of papers worse than ours. Our man only missed one day but has been very late on many others. The milkman missed us one day and delivered only one pint each on another day otherwise normal in this respect. So you had the Fine Food shop to yourselves then. A good one about the rent man having to take it out of the knocker at some houses following the lay-in of food.

So the girls enjoyed their party last Saturday. The young idea to only want the good parties at Sunday Schools or flats – Susan’s brain working it all out again?

I suppose I should have said that everything at Lyng must be new except the house. Cannot see them ever shifting from there although at the moment he cannot get in or out with car because of the slippery slope.

Sorry to hear Peter out of the job again – is he looking for anything in particular? Particular nice of him to help clear the snow from drive – most welcome in fact as you could not have tackled it very well. Yes we thought of Christopher on Tuesday and also of Susan as we imagined she would be returning to school. Not very nice walking to and fro. Carol will soon be off as well – my word how they are growing up. The holiday here this time has been a great one for the children who have been tobogganing down the side of Church Hill. I also noticed they had a go on Wains’ Hill.

We hear Les Garland’s wife – now in Frenchay Hospital in Bristol – is improving slightly but it will be another fortnight before can think of getting her home again. We also hear that Sheila their younger daughter has taken over the ladies’ hairdressing business of Hamblin’s at Six Ways (near Babyland). She has been with this firm ever since she left school.

By the way did you find any snow in the attic? A lot of reports around here indicate this trouble but we seem to be free.

Poor old Joey has been on short rations for a couple of days this week. I told Norman Baker Sunday night that we had given the horse the last of the bale of hay at 1 p.m. that day and he would not have any for breakfast until he (Norman) brought him some. We actually fed him on bread etc. but no hay arrived on Monday and at 11 a.m. Tuesday I phoned Norman’s house only to find he has gone to Winford market. However Mrs Baker said she would tell him when he arrived home. At 5:30 p.m. Mrs Baker arrived with two bales of hay – said Norman had had an awful job getting to and from Winford and had only just got home. She (Mrs Baker) carried the bales in one by one before I could stop her. Apparently she is used to it. Joey quite happy again now but he still cannot see or get any grass.

I like the idea of a St. Bernard dog for mother – puzzle find the dog first, let alone the brandy.

Meant to have told you last week Mrs Cornish has now had a taste of the apricot wine and says it is excellent. Have still a small drop left.

Yes we will keep the W.R. December mag for you.

Most of our pot plants have had a rough time recently and some of them have flopped altogether. The primulas were all frosted one morning but mum gave them some warm water and they revived alright. I’m afraid some of the others are gone all together now and even indoors the tradescantia have heeled over. Some of the potatoes now seem to have taken some of the frost but still are usable. It just does not seem possible to counteract such severe weather and I suppose we must put up with it. Yet how do they get on in Norway and Sweden?

Have you heard from the Benns over this period as to how they are getting on? Wonder how he has got his car in and out?

No more this time. I hope you will soon be better and that road conditions improve quickly. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. Mum and dad

P.S. Guttering on next two houses to us (Bushells and Mrs Drewett’s old house) crashed down under weight of snow and broke glass in verandas underneath.

Tuesday 8th January, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec, June, Susan and Carol

No letter today so thought I would start one for you in anticipation of yours turning up tomorrow. if the weather is anything like what we have been having this last week you must be having real difficulty in getting about. Last Thursday the 3rd inst was about the limit. It raged a blizzard here all the previous night and all day Thursday until about 3:30 p.m. and afterwards you never saw such a mess in your life. I certainly have not. Where I had previously cleared the snow from front path it was all covered up and more so. There were and still are drifts in the drive about 5 to 6 feet high and Tennyson Avenue was almost covered to a depth of 3 ft with drifting well up over the front garden walls. It remained in this state until 4 a.m. this morning when we were awakened by a mechanical shovel pushing its way down the Avenue, having just reached us after doing Old Church Road. Still impossible to get car out and this morning I could not even start it and it appears the battery is right out. Must see Bushell for next move. He had been on nights at Portishead and had to start on the night I mentioned above. Heel and I had to help take his car out from the side of house and he left it in the middle of the road ready to start off at 9 p.m. backing out to the main road. Took his spade and shovel with him. This journey he has done nightly since but I’ve not seen him to know how he has managed it. 

On the roof of house there is no accumulation of snow on side where the netting has been fixed but of course outside on French windows side there is at least a foot depth of snow on roof and this has been easing towards edge daily during the few hours of thaw so that I have had to stand on a chair in back bedroom and knock off the overhanging quietly to prevent breakage of top glass in veranda. Mr Heel told me just now he went over to Churchill today and found about 18 inches of snow on the ground right through Yatton and just beyond to the level crossing at Congresbury a narrow road had been cut through the snow and it was piled up on either side to a height of 15 to 16 ft leaving room for single line working only.

Reports are coming in of guttering breaking under weight of snow and falling down through conservatories causing more damage to glass. All lorries have been pressed into service by the Council to cart the snow to the beach where it is dumped into sea. The frost these last few mornings has frozen the ridged-up snow into a really dangerous menace for road traffic. Needless to say apart from going down to feed horse and mum struggling down to Elford’s we have not been out except on Sunday and again yesterday when we managed to walk up to library in our Wellingtons. We have a drift between shed and kitchen of about 3 feet high and I’ve cut the path through it to reach garden. Except for the tops of a few of the tallest sprouts and the raspberry and currant bushes the garden looks like one large sheet of snow. 1927 and 1947 were bad winters but this one easily beats them both. The east wind too being so continuous has made things much worse for getting about. 

I wonder how you have fared at Ruislip and for getting to station and shops? Most of the schools have announced later opening dates on the radio and TV and what about the football last Saturday? 

Both mum and I have had chills in our stomachs resulting no doubt from the cold atmosphere. With all what I have mentioned above I think we have escaped the worst of the trouble. You have heard and read about the state of the weather throughout the country. No letter from Lyng this week so have no information from Don. Our coal is going down so fast that I have had to order another 10 cwt this morning or we shall be right out in about six weeks. We started the winter with about 27 cwt. How about your gas fire in front room? You have found the benefit of that one many times over by now. 

Have you been able to get enough vegetables this week? We are all right for potatoes and mum has got tinned carrots and steak and sausages from Elford’s which has obviated going into the village or up Hill Road. The bus service has been upset of course and I believe one day they did not reach Clevedon. On the branch train service it is standing room only mornings and evenings. What will they do if the service is discontinued? 

Continued Wednesday 9th January, 1963

Wednesday 2nd January, 1963

Continued from Tuesday 1st January, 1963

So far no more snow since yesterday but the colder East wind is now springing up and probably heralds the blizzard forecast last night. I’ve been down and blocked up the crevices between roof and sides of garage hoping to obviate the trouble experience last Saturday night. Mum has just gone out to deliver the January [Parish] Mags but will not complete if weather too bad. This morning I started to dig a path way down to the bottom of garden but gave up for the time being when I reached a point opposite the pond – will continue possibly tomorrow. In surrounding district it has been very bad and I think we have escaped the worst so far. Milk is scarce but we have had one pint per day and are satisfied. Bread too is short but our baker has kept us going. Now vegetables will be short this coming weekend. Had to get off about a foot of snow just now to get at a cabbage underneath for dinner. Potatoes stored in garage are alright to date and not frosted. The piled snow is still as high as yesterday and no sign of lessening so car continues to be blocked in – perhaps it is all for the best at the moment. Our living room is rather dark at present because of the snow on top of glass outside French window but this should help cushion the snow which is on top of main roof when it begins to thaw and fall down. The glass over the back door is protected by netting along ridge of roof – expect you remember this. If you eventually have your little porch or conservatory outside your back door be sure to have some netting fixed along the ridge of your main roof*.

I’m glad you liked the homemade wines. I particularly like the cherry with orange and the elderberry brandy and have a bottle of the former in house for daily consumption at dinner times. Strange but true that I like it better than the proprietary brands of wines.

Wonders never cease. Last Saturday on the pools I did a small perm on the Nothing Barred list of Hills. Only four of the games I covered were played and these all came up. Hills did not cancel their pools for that weekend as did most of the other firms and this morning I had 17/6d from him. [Approx. £20 in 2023 money.] Mum now wants to know when I want her 2/6d [£2.85] towards the entry.

Have you any idea yet of your reassessment on the house? Understand the details for Clevedon are available for inspection at the Council House but who is going up there this weather? General opinion here is that most properties will go up by about 2.5 percent. Looks as if I shall have to get a job as road sweeper or something to keep going. Have ruled out a tent since the snow came.

This is about the lot for another week – mostly about the weather I’m afraid but it is the chief topic down here. Once again wishing you all a very happy and prosperous New Year and all our love to you both and lots of kisses for our two dear little girls.

Eva to the family: 

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Thank you all for the nice letters and drawings. Well Christmas has come and gone again, and we shall not forget this one for some time. The snow is laying about and waiting for the next lot we have been promised. When you go out you simply put your feet into somebody else’s footprints and they go deep believe me. The horse is a nuisance just now as it means an extra journey to garage.

The party went off alright but the bellringers had to broom themselves before coming into the house, I mean their shoes. It was a shuttle service and they did full justice to the food. Mrs Cornish and I took fine care we received some mince pies for ourselves this time as we never got a look in last year. The cureate is giving a party at Ledene, St Andrews Drive, tonight for youth club. Shades of Ms Emly the former owner. I’m glad your move was printed at last and expect some of the railwaymen will stare.

Can hardly believe Christopher has reached the school age, hope he does not play Delphine up the first day. It’s nothing but big snowmen around here and the children have them coloured don’t know how they do it but they are striped all colours.** There are no buses running from Bristol and the Co-op people have not delivered any bread since Saturday. That is why Alec Parker is doing such a roaring trade. We did have one pint of milk today after all. Hope you get on with supplies alright. Lots of love. Mum and Dad. 

*This plan never materialised, as four years later we left that house and relocated in a very different part of the country.

**Poster paints would be my suggestion – dab paint powder onto a wet surface like snow and the results would be spectacular.

Tuesday 1st January, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for all your letters received this morning – quite a good one from Susan and another good effort by Carol. Glad to hear you all had a good Christmas and that the girls particularly enjoyed themselves. After all it is really a time for children. We spent it very quietly and just as well we did considering the hectic time we have had since. First however to your letters. 

Sorry to hear you fell down in Melthorne Drive and hope no ill after effects. What do you wear between home and station? A good pair of Wellingtons is the best proposition, carrying ordinary shoes to put on in office. These will not I know prevent slipping up but they do keep out the wet and protect the legs if you have to walk much through snow. 

Your trouble with snow in garage somewhat similar to mine – more later about that. Pleased to hear you all liked the bit of “Christmassing” you took back from Clevedon. As we said at the time we wish it could be more but so far we have not had a premium bond come up or touched the pools.

Your comment re chicken from Lyng some time ago. I’m sure it was intended as a present and again I’m sure you have done nothing ‘wrong’. I imagine Don and Joan felt they could not repeat the dose. Between now and next Christmas they will have to sort themselves out as to what they are really going to do in the future but we shall not be disturbed if they cut us out of the arrangement. They have a very big call for poultry at this time of year and can pick up a nice bit of money by selling the birds ready for table. 

The typewriter he has bought obviously is a good one but why pay so much for one at his time of life and almost on the point of retiring – seems such a waste of money to me but Don has to have everything new with a capital N. I could say a lot more but perhaps this is enough for the time being. 

Thank you June too for your letter – we are glad the roaster* came in useful and can only hope it was successful. Glad you were able to have your mum and dad over on the two days although not for very long. Yes I’m sure it is with mixed feelings you are looking forward to the 16th inst. – we do hope the move will be effected satisfactorily and that everything will be alright at Eccleston road. 

Hope Susan got through her letters in good order** – it was a very nice one she sent us. Carol too was not left out – she made a really good effort. Fancy Christopher starting school next week. They are all growing up – even the little girl next door here – Ruth – we can see such a difference in her already. 

Yes we felt the same about the horse as you apparently feel by your letter but we are assured he is quite alright this weather. No grass can be seen at the moment and Norman has had to bring him down a couple of bundles of hay which we dole out to him daily. Mum still takes him some bread and sugar and does he like it – starts smacking his lips as soon as she is in sight. Norman Baker told us yesterday the horse is 28 years of age. He does not work it nowadays but keeps it for sentimental reasons as he learned to ride on it as a very small child and his own children also learned to ride on him. 

Since our last letter we have really had some bad weather. Last Saturday night we had a blizzard here and this continued well into Sunday day, and after that the east wind continued making things doubly worse. Snow all over the place about 3 ft deep along our drive to garage and 2 ft deep between house and front gate with considerable drifting. Outside the front gate and right across the road the snow was as high as the front garden walls and cars and milk lorries were in real trouble. In our garage I found car with 6 inches of snow on roof and it was 6 inches thick on side of car nearest the small door. On the shelves there was a coating of 2 inches on books and tins etc. and on the floor inside small and big doors there was about a foot of snow. Never seen anything like it before. The snow must have drifted through the small spaces between corrugated asbestos roofing sheets and the tops of the upright walls. Cannot get car out of garage at present and in any case could not negotiate the drive to front gate. Have cut a path about 2 feet behind between house and front gate and snow is banked up to a depth of over 2 feet on either side. Now we hear there is more snow to come and another blizzard tomorrow night. 

So far we have had no damp patches in ceiling of bedrooms but Heel next door has one already. This means snow has got under felting and is melting. Understand the roads around here are most treacherous and I can well believe it judging by the ones in the immediate vicinity. Last Sunday morning there were 12 people in church at 8 in choir at night 9 people in church and 9 in choir. We did however have 6 ringers in the morning and 8 at night. 

The ringers’ annual party was quite satisfactory and once again Mum had a splendid do laid on. 11 sat down at 9:30 p.m. but the vicar cried off during the afternoon on account of the weather.  Alec Parker two could not turn up as they were busy baking bread which was selling as soon as they could get it into the shops – a shortage apparently. Les Garland had to go to Frenchay Hospital to see Mrs Garland who was taken ill Christmas Eve and he did not get home until 9:30 p.m. and felt too fagged out to come on here. Feltham was working and Ted Caple never comes along. The curate brought a gatecrasher (a student staying with him) and of course he had to hear about the “seagulls”***. Incidentally he drinks nothing but Scotch whisky. I told him now he was in Somerset he would have to learn to take the local beverage – cider – commonly known as agricultural wine. Did not seem to take kindly to the suggestion. The party finally broke about 1:15 a.m. this morning but mum had already gone to bed. When we came out of Belfry at 12:30 a.m. it was snowing again so this morning I had to have another go at clearing a pathway to front gate. The drift along the drive had deepened but we had to get through it to feed and water horse who was waiting for his usual. We had asked Roy and Mrs Hewitt to tea tomorrow (Wednesday) but I had to go down there early this afternoon to put them off indefinitely. In any case he could not have got round here. Mrs Marshall will not venture outdoors on her own and someone has to go with her to feed the fowls – afraid of falling down and not being discovered if on her own.

continued on Wednesday 2nd January 1963

*I wonder if this is the Pyrex chicken roaster, now in my possession, that I inherited when my mother downsized to a small flat towards the end of her life.  I certainly don’t remember her ever using anything different.

**I remember Christmas and birthday ‘thank you’ letters as being a time of terrible trial and am not remotely surprised that these seem to have gone out of fashion since!

***I suspect this may have been some ‘shaggy dog story’ regularly trotted out for newbies, but I have no definitive information.