Wednesday 21st February, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks once again for your usual weekly letter which postman delivered first post Monday. Glad to hear you are all keeping up fairly well – the winter is gradually passing Into Spring and several nice days recently makes us realise the better weather is coming. Had a bit of another blow on Friday evening but not nearly as bad as on the previous Monday. Noticed this morning that about a dozen ridge tiles are missing from Mrs Drewitt’s old house and our new neighbours (Bushells) have lost a couple. Fortunately we had someone in about 18 months ago to reset our ridge tiles onto new cement and this has now paid off. Sorry about your garage roof and it is a good job it was not worse – could easily have lost the whole of the roof in wind like that. Presumably house roof all right or you would have mentioned it. Sheffield had it very badly – must have caught the worst of the gusts.

Note letters are reaching you with envelopes burst open. I thought the paper was weak hence the strengthening with Sellotape but shall have to try and seal over the ends altogether or else get stronger envelopes. It is a tight wad by the time we have got it all in.

Glad no further need of bread and water diet – may have had the desired effect as they are bound to think about it now and again. You can do without scares like that. I see up to time of writing the boy from Hayes is still missing after being taken off by a man. *

Mum says she remembers the incident when you could not get round the corner of the Avenue and had to ask Mogg to help you. I must have been at Bristol as knew nothing of this until you mentioned it in letter.

No further news of your neighbours then regarding their move to Bristol area. The Swiss Valley is not a locality I would like to live in but one must admit it is being opened up now by new houses and by the siting of the school at bottom of Holly Lane. Can see the Portishead Road beyond Holly Lane being built on in the future.

So you have had an ultimatum from your local “surveyor” to get a move on with lawn. It would certainly be nice to see the completed job when we come up at Whitsun or is this just a bit too much to expect? I’m afraid I have no improvements to report outdoors this winter – still want some concrete put down alongside green house and garage but other things must come first. Just at the moment – and for at least another week – and a bit handicapped by having left thumb tied up. This more or less means using right hand for most things including gardening and you can imagine the results. There is no pain in thumb but it has to be kept rigid for sinews to get back to normal.

Your mixture of wine sounds interesting but keep it out of garage or you may certainly lose the roof. My parsnips (stored) keep disappearing into the kitchen so may not have many left for wine making. Note you would like thornless loganberry and we’ll take care of It for you. If it is put into position in your garden this summer you may get an odd berry in 1963 but it should do well the following year and continue so afterwards. It is a good fruit to have in the garden and you can train it like honeysuckle.

Still no further news from Fortifones and it looks now as if they do not intend to write or send their representative.

Yes I saw in paper the 3% had been accepted by rail unions but I think the most significant remark was made by Beeching who said in regard to salaries and wages “the railwaymen were leading from behind”. How true this has been – perhaps things will improve in due course. Looks as if there will be another application for increases in the autumn.

Your details of mileage with LTA 259 very interesting. I certainly used that car far more than the present one for very obvious reasons. Mum and I went to Weston last Thursday the 14th inst at the invitation of Mr and Mrs Richings and had lunch with them. It was his half day so at about 2:30 p.m. we set off in car via Bridgwater and Saltford Cross and over the Mendips getting back to Station House about 5:15 p.m. where we dropped them and came on home. Total mileage covered from this house to back again 93 miles. Quite a nice day for motorway not too hot and a little sun in late afternoon. He told me he has to take over Weston Goods in the near future and will probably move from Special A to Special B for the extra responsibility.

No further news from Geoff since our last letter to you – noted you have seen him recently and not much change – if any – in condition of his face. Query could he have picked up a germ abroad? By the way he told us Stella’s sister and husband who have been stopping with them since returning from Tanganyika are moving to Hull** where the husband has secured an appointment with Reckitts.

Very nice of Pauline to come over and give you an opportunity for an evening out – hope she is keeping well. I expect the girls were delighted to see her.

Thanks for remembrance of Armand. He started coming to the freight train meetings a couple of years before I finished with them. He has certainly made progress if he is now assistant to  C.M.E. Presumably your visit to Swindon had connection with Work Study.

No typewriter yet as you can see but when it does arrive mum hopes to type a few letters on it. Houghton was away last weekend when his son was married to a girl at Harrow-on-the-Hill -announcement in Mercury to you with this letter. I reckon Susan and Carol would just love to have a go at your machine – one of these days you will have to get them an old one to practice on.

Re: train services I see some union members at Bristol have themselves called a meeting to protest against the recent withdrawal of services and urging the public to protest also. About the only thing they are interested in I think is the possibility of redundancy of staff. Yes I am sure one of these days the Clevedon branch service will be a thing of the past – many other branches to will be closed down.

No more this time. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for Susan and Carol.

Mum and Dad

*The missing boy was 10 year old Billy Holloway who was a wolf cub from Hayes. There were organised searches, many by cubs and scout groups from across the area. He went missing on February 14th but sadly his body was found in the canal in Hayes a month later on March 14. At the inquest an open verdict was recorded and death was due to drowning.

Despite the reports of Billy ‘speaking to a man’ no one was ever traced that could be linked to Billy’s disappearance and an open verdict was recorded.

Information retrieved from British Newspaper Archive by Andy Gardner of the Ruislip Memories Facebook Group on 28 January 2022.

**I was not aware that Stella had a sister, but it turns out that she in fact originally had two – although the younger one had died unmarried in 1958. Stella’s older sister Nora married a man named Ronald Middleton, who seems to have been concerned in the oil business. I haven’t been able to trace whether or not they had any children, but as the letter doesn’t mention any perhaps they didn’t.

Eva to the family on the remaining ⅝ of a sheet of Leonard’s paper:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Thank you for letter. Went to the Guild yesterday and four4 places for the proposed summer outing in June are Torquay, Windsor, Southsea or Isle of Wight. We have to let them know by next meeting. I would rather have one of the last two as shall be going Windsor way a fortnight before so it would be the same country and Torquay is is a washout. We got our money back for the party so I’m 5/- better off.

Mr and Mrs Hewitt are going to Norway for their holiday this year so excited she was holding forth yesterday. I suppose it all right in summer but would rather have somewhere a bit warmer.

Mr Gardiner had a stroke last week and [is] in the Clevedon hospital. Miss Weekes is moving after all these years, going next month to one of the old people’s homes around by Coleridge Estate. Mrs Bushell any day now for the Knoll nursing home.***

I think Michael Richings is going to have a go for a place in the new school as for certain they will want extra staff. It’s a lovely building and contains everything.

Dad progressing with his thumb has to go up next Wednesday by then the doctor won’t recognise the bandage as it’s black. I put a clean one outside when he goes out.

Love from Mum and Dad. 

***At first I wondered if this was an older Mrs Bushell going into a care home, but it seems more likely to be the wife of the young couple next door who is due to give birth imminently.


Wednesday 27th December, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

In reply to your latest, arrived last Saturday or Sunday, I forget which. It arrived together with our card and that for Susan. Carol’s did not arrive until Sunday and there was quite a to-do from her as to where her card was. All ended well however. Sorry about delay in replying etc, but have not known where we were for a day or so, and odd postal deliveries on top.

Thank you for the presents you gave June and I, and also for those sent to the girls. They both had quite a few as you might expect, and no doubt Susan will try a few words herself in thanks. they were both very well over the holiday thank goodness, and we had no trouble with them at all. We all went to church on Christmas Day, and the girls behaved very well, especially as it was not a children’s service, and must have been boring for them. In the afternoon Mr and Mrs Baker and Peter and Pauline came over. Peter has had a tiff with the latest, so she was not in evidence. They all departed somewhere near 9 p.m. in Peter’s large car. Incidentally he tells me that the bottom and reverse gears have gone on his car, and it will cost about £50 [about £1200 in 2021 money] to have it repaired. I do not know what it will be if he has to do it himself.

On Boxing Day, the same party arrived about 1:45 p.m. when we all sat down to deal with June’s cooking.* I must say I sat in on all helpings, and had no difficulty with any of them. The girls had a most enjoyable time and so many presents that we had to reduce the numbers a bit so that we could all get in the room. At about 8 p.m. I took them all back to West Drayton, Peter having departed somewhat earlier. The roads were very icy and I had a lot of difficulty in seeing out through a windscreen on which ice kept forming despite the wiper being in action. By the time I got there, the heat from heater and passengers had raised the temperature enough for the  ice to  melt on all the windows. 

On Boxing morning I took the girls for a walk with their dolls’ prams out around the school and Clay Pigeon** and back via the little stream. It was very cold, but no wind blowing, and the sun was up so it was not unpleasant. 

I gather that Baynton-Hughes has got the job vacated by Pattisson. I told Geoff on Saturday, and we both had a good cry about it. I should think that six months later and he would not have stood a chance. 

Talking about Geoff, reminds me that we dropped in on them last Saturday to deliver the presents for Rebecca and Sarah. Mrs Peddle*** was there but mercifully the old man was out with his son-in-law. I did not realise it but I had not seen Mrs P since Stella’s wedding****. (She says so, but I am sure I have seen her since.) We missed Stella as usual, and everyone else was out, so it was very convenient. 

We hope you both had a good Christmas, and managed to see some people. Also hope your bellringers’ party goes well. What price some more flashlight snaps. (Chance to use up any bad wine you may have.) Instead of rough cider, try them with elderflower this year. 

Well will close now, more in the next Sunday letter. Happy New Year and best wishes from us all. 

*’We all sat down to deal with June’s cooking’ is hardly a fair way to describe eating a festive meal prepared by one’s wife.  June’s cooking was decent, if unadventurous, and I cannot recollect any absolute disasters except where the ingredients themselves were at fault – the occasional ‘not exactly fresh’ chicken, for example.

**The Clay Pigeon was, and still is, a local pub. See

***Mrs Peddle would be Stella’s mother (i.e. my great-uncle’s mother-in-law), Mr Peddle being her second husband.  I don’t know what the reference to his son-in-law may be – obviously Geoff was his (step) son-in-law but he was clearly there all the time; the obvious conclusion is that Mr Peddle had other children from a previous marriage, which I wasn’t aware of.

****Geoff and Stella were married in 1944 so this does seem unlikely; no doubt they met at one of the christenings of Geoff and Stella’s daughters in 1946 or 1951 – which is admittedly still a long time however.

Sunday 25th September, 1960

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you for letter of 22nd. No letter from Susan this week, must remember to get her to do one next time.

Well the interview went off very well. There were no questions of significance asked. Each candidate had 10 minutes and the first two of mine was taken up by the introduction by the Chairman to the other members of the panel all of whom I knew personally. Jefferies of the GM’s Work Study Section was in the chair as was also Wilkinson, McDonald and Roy Benns (formerly of the Running and Maintenance W/S Section at Bristol). You would not have known the latter. It appears that all of our four candidates had the same type of interview in that no awkward questions were asked.

Glad Isles has his Special A, but I think he has had the grade on a temporary basis for some time. About time Norman got something. What section is he now gracing? I have heard nothing from Geoff or any further news about his job, I expect we shall hear in due course.

There has been no further activity in the search for a house for June’s parents, A house in Eccleston Rd West Ealing a couple of doors from Miss Baker was examined and found wanting but I can not think that that was a serious proposition.

Glad Don and Joan were able to make their proposed visit and that you found Don in improved health. He certainly likes his afternoon sleep. Wish I could get one occasionally. I gather they liked the car. The contribution of one gallon to the sinking fund also assisted no doubt.

So your second visit to Torquay has come round so soon. If you are lucky you may get a couple of good days. Every now and then we seem to get a good day out of the blue. To-day is an example. First thing there was quite a thick mist cutting visibility down to about 30 yards but it gave way to a sunny and hot morning with fading cloud. I note you have had to start fires. We have the heaters as you know so the problem has not hit us yet. Up until a few days ago we had not had to put heaters on and I for one had not felt cold but I see that it has been switched on a couple of times to take the chill off the air.

Your gardening activities seem to be at a low ebb for the time being due to inclement weather. No point in flogging yourself into digging waterlogged soil and there are always lots of things to attend to in greenhouse or garage.

Most unlikely that you will see Hewett sunburned, more likely he will be browned off.

Cardiff jaunt went off all right again – details later. My further applications will be unaltered by my possible promotion. If I get one of the first group of jobs the apps, will stand as the second group are a category higher, I do not think that Baynton-Hughes was a trainee. If so it must have been Departmental. Not surprising is it to learn that Bob Taylor has done so well. The wheels were truly enmeshed where he was concerned.

So the bomb scare has been settled. I wonder you did not find it was a squib left over from 5th Nov. (of Brocks origin).

Re garden produce, I have brought in all the remaining tomatoes and put in room near airing cupboard. The last of the beans has been picked and eaten, and the haulms fetched up. All that remains of the vegetable patch is the Pumpkin ( now about 10 inches across ) and a good row of dahlias. We have not tried to take off any apples from the trees yet as they do not seem to be quite ready. Few have fallen off so far.

You may find the squirrel has come to stay. It may be that he has made his nest in one of your tall trees down the bottom of the garden. I suppose if it is not rabbits it has to be something else.

Rotten luck on Mrs Stacey to have to undergo such an operation. As you say it is quite serious but there have been several successful jobs done and reported on in the press, Hope she is able to withstand it satisfactorily.

If your Elderflower wine is still working you need have no worries about its sweetness. After a while it will sort itself out. If fermentation has stopped the only way you can get rid of the sweetness is to mix a quantity of new must with it but make sure that you add no more sugar. Of course this means that you will have to ferment the whole all over again and this means an extra long wait before you can taste it. As you have plenty of apples, I suggest they might make the extra must you need especially if you have some sour ones.

Well to tell you of the Cardiff trip. Went down on the 8-5 a.m. Paddington on Tuesday and had lunch in the Great Western outside Cardiff General. Caught a train from Riverside at about 1.30 p.m. for Barry via Sully. From there went to Bridgend round the coast. Dumped bags at Bridgend and then went to Maesteg to view the layout but this was not successful. Returned to Hotel. Wednesday caught the 8-50 a.m. to Cymmer thence to Treherbert via Blaengwynfi. From Treherbert we went down the Rhondda Valley to Pontypridd from there we went to Merthyr High St via Quakers Yard and Merthyr Vale Bus to Dowlais Top and by train to Pant. Caught the Colliers Train back to Bargoed then walked to New Tredegar. On arrival walked across the valley to Tirphil and caught train to Rhymney. From Rhymney we returned to Cardiff and thence to Bridgend. On Thursday we again caught the 8-50am but this time only went to Maesteg to have a look at the junctions we missed on the Tuesday. Hitched a lift on a passing freight to Tondu South Yard then walked to Coity Yard and back to Bridgend along the road. The Mac. came in very useful not so much to keep rain out but as a badge of authority. Strange as it may seem the freight we caught reached Tondu about one hour earlier than it usually does. ( Broomstick with Bowler Hat on Etc ).

Well the Garage arrives on Tuesday and I hope we shall be able to get it up the following week-end. I hawked the car round to dealers on Saturday morning but the best offer I got was £7-10-0. As we had to get rid of it and to avoid paying to do so as we might well have had to do in a few weeks time I took it back in the afternoon and got my £7-10-0. As I walked back instead of getting bus that put the value up to £7-10-6*. I have as yet not seen Mr Gray since but will do so as early as possible to get insurance changed. Will let you know more on the point in due course.

I am afraid the children have both got colds they picked up from Christopher last week. Not very bad but they are having difficulty in breathing. They are past the worst now.

Well that is all from this end again for one more week. Hope you are both keeping well and that you enjoy your short holiday. Love from us all.

*Faulty logic IMHO; walking back actually kept the value of the sale at £7-10 instead of reducing it to £7-9-6!

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.

Sunday 22nd May, 1960

Alec to his (much younger) cousins:

Dear Rebbecca and Sara

Thank you both very much indeed for the card and Birthday present you sent Susan, Unfortunately Susan cannot write yet or she would have written to say thank you herself. She can draw a bit so she has drawn you a picture which is with this letter. One or two very young children came to tea with her last Saturday and both she and Carol enj­oyed themselves.

Carol gave her a blackboard and easel and since then they have put chalk on the front door and the back door, the walls and all over my shed. I do not think the blackboard was big enough.

Poor little Carol has not been very well lately. I expect she got fed up with the weather and thought it would be nicer to stay in bed. She will have to buck up and get better before we go on holiday.

Have you worn out that hammock yet? You will have to fix one up for Dad when he comes home tired after a busy day at the office. I can not think that he would get much peace though.

Susan has a copy of Alice in Wonderland and we have to read her some every night at bed time. Do you still get bedtime stories? Well I hope you recognise the picture. Love to you both.

Thursday 3rd March, 1960

Leonard to the family (on reverse of Table 58: Cholsey & Moulsford and Wallingford, Week days only (second class only)):

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for the letter received on Tuesday with all the news and enclosures – quite a budget but very interesting. Glad to hear the young ladies escaped serious mischief during the past week but sorry you have had another lot of colds. It is very boisterous here today but a nice sun makes things fairly pleasant outdoors – have been quite busy one way and another but rain during night kept me from digging.

Yes you are right about the allotments behind Moggs – expect you remember getting on to the hill that way – short cut. Sorry Miss Baker not making much progress – the end of Winter usually has its effect on the older people but Spring is not far away now and already there are numerous signs that it is approaching. Yes Randle lived in Neweys house on the corner of this avenue opposite side to where Cummings now live. The chrysanths cuttings I’ve taken are of the indoor varieties only but you are certainly welcome to a few of these if any good to you.

Will one window frame be enough? Can supply a couple if desired but think could only manage one at a time. I remember talking about rose cuttings but we have not taken any this time and our new bushes – planted last year – are not in full growth yet – anyhow will keep this item in mind.

Am returning the show and price lists as desired – many thanks for sight of same. According to the monthly bulletin not many take a real interest in the affairs of the Society.

Norman did not hear any more about his applications for W/S* – seems to be really up against it at the moment. Expect you have heard that Leslie Edwards died this morning at 9.0 a.m. in St. Mary’s Hospital following a stroke in the Refreshment Rooms at Temple Meads on Tuesday. It is a real tragedy and his second wife whom he married last March is expecting a baby this month. Without doubt his fondness for intoxicants hastened his end which some of us at Bristol foretold long ago. All the same it is a tragedy. He would have been sixty next November I think. Now there will be another dogfight for his job.

Note your forecast of Guillebaude report but you say ‘out of category’ is not covered – this will of course automatically follow.

Understand Soole, Pierce & Griffiths all up to London recently for interview for Soole’s job which is being redesignated. None of them got it – an outsider and much younger man (former trainee) from Gloucester name of Dent got it, resulting in a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth at Bristol.

Had a letter from Geoff this morning and reading between the lines as it were it looks as if he has not got any of the jobs for which he applied. At any rate some of them have been filled but he has heard nothing.

Your garden must look a bit of a wreck with Susan & Carol using it for a playground but after all there is not too much room for them especially when they start scrapping for the various toys.

I put in a long row of peas on Monday but it was a sticky job – ground still very wet. Today have been busy putting some edging boards between path and garden across bottom of middle piece of ground. Am anxious now to get a seed bed made and one or two lots of small seeds in.

We went to Bristol yesterday afternoon to visit Mr & Mrs Newman. He is still troubled with arthritis but having some special treatment which must continue for two or three more weeks. Not much if any improvement noticeable in him at the moment.

This coming Saturday we are hoping the Staceys will come down for the evening. On Monday 14th Mum and I hope to go to Exeter by train for the day to visit Heavitree.**

The rating authorities put up our rateable value by £1 in consequence of improvements to kitchen and incidentally our rates are now 22/6d to the pound. The improvement was well worth doing and we cannot grumble at £1 increase.

The lorrying of hard core to the sea wall has now ceased and a levelling machine has been busy this week. Understand the top and sides will be concreted when the hard core has settled down.

Mum wrote you a letter in the week which no doubt you duly received. Mrs Heel & Mrs Cornish with other members of Tickenham Women’s Institute went on the evening excursion from Bristol yesterday to see “My Fair Lady”. Heard this morning they all had a good time.

Assuming Pauline now recovered normal health by this time and hope Mr & Mrs Baker both keeping well.

Note possibility of W/S going to divisions – presumably this would come under development department in each area.

Will sort out some more string to bring up but it is in somewhat short supply at the moment.

No more now – hope you are all keeping well.

Lots of kisses for Susan & Carol.

Dad & Mum.

*Work study

**Leonard was actually born in Swindon and baptised in Weston-super-Mare but spent much of his childhood at Heavitree near Exeter.

Friday 4th December, 1959

Leonard to the family, once again on the reverse of Timetable 179, Leamington Spa, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bormingham, Stourbridge Junction, Kidderminster, Bewdley, Dudley, Wolverhampton and Wellington:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for your letter received on Tuesday and you should have had Mum’s the same morning. I see by date above it is five years ago today you were married. Congratulations to you both and very best wishes for the future. It’s also five years off the payments for house and although very little difference as yet in your pay packet it is that much further towards the place being your own. That was a splendid effort of Susan’s and the drawing shews she can put her ideas on paper. Noted they both keep you on your toes. They used to say “Boys will be boys” but we must alter it to “Girls will be girls”. Good job the hand bell was used in Sunday School as presumably she was not allowed to bring it home. Yes we heard from Geoff that you had called on them having lost your way when out in car shopping. They were pleased to see you and said “How the girls have grown.” Stella was apparently away working in Watford (query in Marks and Spencers). Geoff made his usual annual visit to Ireland last week* but crossed over one night and recrossed the next – cut the trip by two days this time. I also see British Railways dispensing with their Christmas [illegible] cards this year – about time too.

Thanks for information re your Parcels effort at Paddington – the electronic computer will save hours of calculating work by the sound of it. So manning has gone to Euston – query whether he would be an applicant to get back on WR when suitable sideways vacancy occurs. Don’t think I’m a Job’s comforter but things like this happen all too frequently. Note your remarks re garage and I agree the arrangement of the door on garage at Whittlesea is an ideal one but must obviously cost more*. I believe Don & Geoff fixed it between them but it’s a job I should not like to tackle.

Yes we heard Bill Harper had finished and am wondering how he will pass the time as he has no known hobby and no garden on house – he lives in Brislington not so very far away from the Newmans who we visit two or three times a year.

I nopte re: apples and will pick out some nice ones from the Bramley Seedlings [sic] and Jersey Beauty – the former are the best cookers and can be used from November onwards whilst the Jersey beauty is eater and cooker but must be kept for a while as at the moment they are very hard. Should keep until February or March in good keeping season but you must keep your eye on them as season not so good. Weather here has been pretty bad but not so foggy as in your area.

We went to Weston on Tuesday and although we came away again about 7.0 p.m. had to run through blankets of fog for most of journey.

Apart from sawing wood up for logs and chopping for firewood have not done very much out of door work since I last wrote because of wet state of ground. The pond filled with water overnight but soon returned to normal level (top of deep part) when it stopped raining – have not yet been able to mend leak although have had a couple of goes at it. House next door still empty and garden now looking like a piece of waste ground. I notice the broad beans Cornish put in for me on Nov 5th are breaking through the soil and about 25% of my spring cabbage plants look as if they may recover in due course. There is still a lot of white fly about in spite of frost and torrential rain and greenstuff generally is going to be scarce later on. We are using cabbage which normally would not be cut until towards end of January.

Am glad to say Mum is much better although still troubled with a cough – these appear to be very common at present – she will write to June in reply to her letter later. I’m still getting on alright but as mentioned above have not done any serious gardening yet – fortunately the weather would have stopped me in any case.

Shall be looking forward to seeing you next week and you must let us know time due Yatton or Clevedon.

No more now – all the best once more and lots of kisses for Susan & Carol.

Dad & Mum

*’Whittlesea’ was the name of the house in which Emily lived before she began her peripatetic lifestyle (see ‘The Mother Problem’). It was in the immediate vicinity of the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital premises at Wonford in Exeter but I have been unable to establish whether or not it’s still in existence. The derivation of the name is an interesting one; it was named for the town in Victoria, Australia, where Emily’s sister-in-law Mary ended up living. Mary is an interesting character whom we’ll be meeting in more detail at a later stage. At any rate, it sounds as if a segmented sliding garage door may be what Don and Geoff installed on the premises, and what Alec was craving. When he did get one, many years later, he decided it was more trouble than it was worth.

Tuesday 1 September 1959

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec, June, Susan and Carol

[On reverse of timetable paper table 179 Wellington, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Bewdley, Kidderminster, Stourbridge Junction, Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon and Leamington Spa]

As promised in Mother’s letter a few more lines in reply to your long letter received last week. We are of course very interested in all the news and latest ‘doings’ of Susan & Carol. They must be getting to be a little company for one another even if it is only getting into the same mischief. How did Carol like having her hair trimmed? – does she object? I know Susan does not mind.

Very sorry the fruit arrived in poor condition this was undoubtedly due to being in the box for such a long time without air. As you know this kind of produce usually travels in open or lattices receptacles. Must try and do better another season. Except for a few preserving plums all ours are gone and the next item will be apples – plenty on trees if they will only hold. Tomatoes still plentiful and moving on much quicker now – was told to try a little sulphate of potash on each plant and it seems to have quickened them up. Pity about the cream too but we hope June and the girls enjoyed a little of it. Yes I am sure you would see a difference in the South West coastal towns after such a long time. It appears most of the places have improved their amenities at a tremendous rate – almost looks as if they are competing with one another.

How did the big meeting go off? Shall be pleased to have all the news. I suppose John Snow had to say he liked the scheme having regard to local opinion. Hope you also had a lunch on the strength of the expenses application. Surprised to hear you applying for Asst to DOS Paddington but best wishes all the same for a good interview. Should think your future prospects would be better with Work Study* for the time being even if the department is in the melting pot as far as Headquarters concerned but you may have some inside knowledge!!

I do not think the DOS jobs can be regarded as ‘plums’ nowadays 0- much different thirty-forty years ago.

Had a letter from Geoff this morning all about his holiday in Dinard with special emphasis on the condition of the toilets out there – it is his first visit abroad and was a bit of an eye-opener for him I think anyhow they all enjoyed themselves.

Since writing last I have been clearing the garden of weeds and generally tidying up for the season. In between whiles have been cutting out strips (wood) to make lattice sides of compost container – not nearly enough yet. Hedge cutting too occupies a deal of time just now but weather keeps fine and warm. Have not been out in car (except into Village**) since the day with Stephens – a fortnight ago today but may have a trip again in near future. Mr Parker – Alec Parker’s father – died last week. You may remember him as a former Church sidesman. In business of course he was a baker and had two shops near Triangle clock. Had been retired for a good number of years.

Well I think this is about the lot once more – wish I had a typewriter could get on much better.

Hope you are all keeping well. Lots of kisses for Susan & Carol.

Dad & Mother

*Work Study in this context is the old name for ‘time-and-motion’ or ‘efficiency’ (see, i.e. the process of studying and hopefully streamlining working procedures. Growing up with an efficiency expert for a father was no picnic; he always knew of a better way to do something, even when speed and efficiency were less important than the process itself – i.e. if one wanted to go out for a bike ride he would point out that it was quicker by bus, even though the bike ride itself may have been the object of the exercise.

**Leonard’s reference to Clevedon as a ‘village’ is interesting. Its population would have been about 10,000 at the time (it has doubled since), so by most standards it would be considered a small town. However Wikipedia says a village is distinguished from a town in that:

A village should not have a regular agricultural market, although today such markets are uncommon even in settlements which clearly are towns.

A village does not have a town hall nor a mayor.

If a village is the principal settlement of a civil parish, then any administrative body that administers it at parish level should be called a parish council or parish meeting, and not a town council or city council. However, some civil parishes have no functioning parish, town, or city council nor a functioning parish meeting. In Wales, where the equivalent of an English civil parish is called a Community, the body that administers it is called a Community Council. However, larger councils may elect to call themselves town councils.[27] In Scotland, the equivalent is also a community council, however, despite being statutory bodies they have no executive powers.[28]

There should be a clear green belt or open fields, as, for example, seen on aerial maps for Ouston surrounding its parish[29] borders. However this may not be applicable to urbanised villages: although these may not be considered to be villages, they are often widely referred to as being so; an example of this is Horsforth in Leeds.

It also suggests that the population of ‘a village’ is under 5,000, which would seem to exclude Clevedon – although I don’t know how many of the other criteria Clevedon (a) met at the time or (b) would meet today. It’s probably a distinction without a difference, anyway.

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad,

Mothers letter to hand yesterday for which many thanks. Don’t worry about the plums, we had all that we wanted and there was no waste. The fruit was certainly ripe and very juicy, I am surprised to hear that the tomatoes are still going strong, you must be feeding them on some good stuff. They are far superior to the Covent Garden Fruit so you can tell the woman at the bottom to put that in her frying pan. They seem cheap enough in the shops, but you must expect that at this time of the year. Re apples, I wish I was down there to help pick them. The worst of it is that the better the crop the more work it causes. I should not be surprised if you are not an expert at standing on ladders by now. You would not have had time to bother about fruit when you were younger anyway. Note the coal hauling went to plan. When are the men coming to do the job? Its not the first time that coal has been put under the bench in the shed but did not think there would be enough room this time. The weather has turned noticeably cooler lately. There is a distinct touch of Autumn about it and the leaves are beginning to turn colour and fall off the trees. The wireless warns about possible ground frost but should think: that is still a rare occurrence yet. We can of course do with rain but its too late to do much good now except to grass and weeds. Talking about hammer and nails, I remember at Westbury being given a small carpenters set with hammer, saw, etc. but got down beyond the end of the garden where there was a pond and soon lost some of it. It was never found. Sorry for Ching, thats one way of getting out of it. I suppose Charlie goes off and leaves it all to him to do. I saw Burge when I came to Clevedon on my own the last time. We travelled back together to Bristol. If you mean Paddy Philips, I did not know he had married again, in fact I did not know of the circumstances of his previous marriage. I will believe anything re L.E. Yes that part of France is much like Cornwall, but that is not such a bad thing after all. I like Cornwall, but I suppose there is less trouble to go than to Brittany. We have not had a card of course. Well so far as I am concerned, last week end was the limit. On Saturday morning I telephoned to Builder and ordered cement and ballast for the paths. This arrived about half past ten and Doug and I set about laying the stuff. By lunch time we had done just over half the job and finished it off in the afternoon plus a smaller job for him. I am afraid that it looks like a patchwork quilt now as the concrete has gone down in about three different colours. The first lot is quite sandy on the top while the rest is in two shades of off white. I know that the last lot was of four to one mixture and the first lot of five to one, but I did not expect that the result would be so startling. Of course the shuttering was all bits and pieces as I have no decent wood. Part of it was the remains of a sleeper, there were two pieces of sawn sleeper, a dart board, some short lengths of firewood, a plank borrowed from Doug, a shelf from the shed and two broken pieces of asbestos that bent out like a bow. I am afraid that the edges are anything but straight but at least there is something to walk on and it is at the level of the other path. I must now get enough earth to fill in the gap in the middle I am banking on the bonfires that I shall light on the spot to raise the earth level a bit. Got the report typed on waxes*** to-day and the appendices that have to be typed will be done to-morrow. The Engineers have ten copies of five different plans ready so should be ready to send someone to Swindon on Thursday or Friday with the stuff for binding. Have not had a go on the pools yet, have you had any luck? Will look forward to Dads letter in due course. Hope you are both well as we are here.

Love from June, Susan, Carol and Alec

***See – I’m assuming the reference is to ‘wax’ stencils, which were actually more like a very thin linoleum. Although old-fashioned, these were the go-to means of reproducing fanzines when I started – photocopiers being expensive to own and operate at the time. The internet has, of course, largely rendered these technologies obsolete.

Sunday 14 June 1959

Alec to his parents

Dear Mum and Dad

Herewith letter in answer to both of yours and items in June’s Birthday letter. We are all well and hope you are. It has been very fine here these last few days and have made the most of the sunshine. Looking forward to our visit, please say if all arrangements now confirmed.

Office Barnes now on leave will return on 29th June, shall not have very much of him before go on leave myself. More than a strong rumour that L.W.I. has got Hammond’s job no doubt Geoff has same info. Yes I know all about new S.M. Clevedon. If you remember, I told you. Re L.W.I., a probable candidate for his job is G.E.R.P. Quite a number of high powered vacancies brewing up so await the future with interest (not personal).

Children Had some trouble with Carol yesterday, she has cut another tooth and she let the road know about it. The pantomime started at about 6.0 p.m. and she was still howling at 11.30 at which time I nursed her off to sleep. She was awake at 2.30 again and June had her in with her while I went in Susan’s room. All was then quiet until 5.45 a.m. To-day she has not been herself but this evening seemed much more normal although we did have about twenty minutes of ructions before she dropped off. At the moment all is quiet. Susan has been the same as usual, very good and very naughty. She pulled all the blossom off the Double Orange you brought up some time ago, and she persists in digging in the wrong places. I took her for a walk this afternoon soon after dinner and we went to the park. She tried all the swings, roundabouts and see-saw and was quite tired when we got home.

Garden Since you were up have completed the path to the bottom of the garden. I dug out all the loose top soil from the part to be cemented and transferred it elsewhere, the filled in the vacant space with all the old rubble and brickbats I could find. When this was completed, I took all the best of the broken paving stones and used them for the two outside edges of the path and put cement down the middle. (Carol now awake and bawling.) After two days this had hardened into quite a good path. Have taken out all the Spring stuff from the front and removed all the London Pride. This has left a big hole as you may imagine but I transferred about eight barrows of top soil from the back levelled the bed up and planted Scabious down the middle. So far have not put anything else in. Have had to carry bags of water all over the place as still no rain. Your Dahlias making good progress but those from Geoff that we planted have not yet hit the surface. (Four weeks) The pinks have been quite a good show but they are a bit thin on the ground. The rose hedge is magnificent but all petals dropping now. Carol tried to eat one for her elevenses. Geoff’s mesembryanthemums are now sturdy plants and we await the first flowers. My third lot seem to be more of a success than the first two tries but still only about 1/2 inch tall in the box. Cut all the lawns to-day but the earth is badly cracked. (Carol quiet again.) Susan rolled the top lawn this morning. Rolling pin tied on behind tricycle. Planted out a number of asters outside dining room and a couple of Perennial Daisies the rest are in pots waiting to go out in the front. Note you have been busy shall expect to see results when we arrive.

Wine Note the Elderflower and hope it is a success. I have not made any for some time but have been watching the price of fruit. All the items seem to be listed at 1/6, Gooseberries, Apples, Strawberries, although doubt whether the latter are at the pound rate. Some of the Grapes too are at 1/6. Have finished your Elderberry and have some in more bottles. I shall have to have a sort out before long.

General Very sorry to hear that Mother had fallen down, it is usually quite a shake up when you don’t expect it. Hope all effects now over. You have probably heard from June that Susan has damaged our T.V. She amused herself by banging rolling pin along the top. The woodwork is quite dented on the top forward edge and will take a French Polisher to put right. It is not too terrible in appearance if you do not know it is there but will not have it done yet awhile in case we get further trouble. June liked her new blouse and looks quite smart in it. Have not seen our Vicar about Christening and have no intention of making any sort of contact with him over our arrangements. Have you heard from Don and Joan in this connection. They mentioned that they would be willing to come and stand as Godparents but pointed out that they were getting on a little and the job was that for a young person. Have not replied to this as take it as acceptance. Donald Campbell and Bluebird at the Lido yesterday. Some crowd there by all accounts. Clock still gaining as a result of my alterations but have again lengthened the pendulum a shade and hope for improved timekeeping. Well that is all for the present except to wish you all the best until next time.

Love, Alec

NB: Posting dates got away from me briefly due to a holiday and an unexpectedly heavy workload, plus having the PC completely decoked and having to find everything again afterwards. Normal service has now been resumed!