Family holiday, Exmouth and Clevedon, 1961

On the beach at Exmouth with Joe and Lydia
By the failing pond, 1961 – Eva, Alec, Leonard
The orchard – minus horse!
Greenhouse with crops, as referred to in a later letter.
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Thursday 14th July, 1960

Leonard to the family – on reverse of Tables 163: LONDON, OXFORD, KINGHAM, EVESHAM and WORCESTER (both directions); 125: TREHERBERT, PORTH, MERTHYR, ABERCYNON, PONTYPRIDD, CARDIFF, PENARTH, BARRY and BARRY ISLAND (both directions) and 152: LONDON, OXFORD, BANBURY, LEAMINGTON SPA, STRATFORD-UPON-AVON, BIRMINGHAM, WOLVERHAMPTON, SHREWSBURY and CHESTER (Mondays to Fridays – continued):

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for letter duly received on Tuesday with all the news and we note you are now settled in once more after your holiday. The weather has certainly been poor since your return although today has been quite nice again. We both think you had a really good journey home – the A4 of course is the quickest route but can be very busy and difficult at times. Glad the children got through satisfactorily – must have made it a bit easier for June.

Hope by this time all the chrysanths have recovered. Since you were here one of my best (and most brittle) the Beacon has been broken off about six inches from pot level and I suspect a bird tried to alight on it so causing the break. Fortunately I have another and must take greater care of it. The rain has improved the crops wonderfully and apart from runner beans and raspberries which are plentiful we are marketing beetroot & marrows and now have carrots & lettuce available.

Before I forget it we have not yet come across the tweezers you mentioned – can June say where she last saw them, Mum will have another search. I myself have put my hand down the backs of the arm chairs and settee in front room without result – it’s really surprising what does disappear in these particular places – pencils, hairgrips, coins and even scissors I’ve found there in times gone by.

We note you did not have a very enjoyable day at Kew – it was a pity the various ‘Houses’ were closed during the period you were there.

Geoff and family duly arrived on Sunday – train about half an hour late at Yatton and whilst I was waiting there a terrific thunderstorm broke over the place but strange to say it was dry overhead when they arrived and remained so with quite a few sunny periods until their departure at 5.0 p.m. We had a nice walk along the Front (nearly to Pier) after dinner & it was quite warm.

Yesterday afternoon we visited Mr & Mrs Newman at Bristol – they had recently returned from a holiday at Harefield (near you). He could tell me that Joe Dunsdon (one of Bristol TM Chief Insps when I was there) had recently died following a stroke. You remember him I expect.

Yes we miss you all very much but have got back to our normal routine. Anyhow we have something to think about especially the nice days at Burnham. I expect both Susan and Carol will remember various incidents of their visit – perhaps the Mobo toys in particular.

As you know we expect Uncle Joe & Aunt Lydia here on the 22nd inst. for a weekend. Then on Bank Holiday Sunday* we have an invitation to visit Griffiths’ (Chief Controller) home and on Bank Holiday itself Mr & Mrs Newman with their two nieces from Harefield are coming here to tea and on Thursday 4th August we go with them on a coach tour from Bristol to Symonds Yat – quite a round of visits etc.

Thank you June for your letter following on Alec’s – we note you have made the first move to recover insurance on your necklace and hope settlement will be satisfactory although we know what the loss meant to you apart from its monetary value.**

Carol has learnt the way to get quick attention alright by her ‘announcements’. How far is Wembley from Ruislip? I cannot remember although on one occasion when on holiday with you Mum & I found ourselves there but did not stop.

Note you have started movement to get rid of car. When I told Mr Payne (Binding & Payne)*** you had got home alright in it he said he was very glad to hear it as anything could happen with a car in that condition.

Mum and I have been talking it over and if you would like to have our car for half of its current value we should be very pleased for you to have it providing Mr Payne can fix us up with something suitable for ourselves. We have already spoken to him and he is on the lookout for us. Our car has been in for attention this past week and it has been given a thorough overhaul including the wireless set which is now A1 again. One small item still to be done but they have to get a spare fitting from Bristol. Actually the car is in excellent condition except that the battery has now gone over its guarantee period of two years and the front wheel tyre (Driver’s side) should be renewed at an early date as it is getting worn. We think its present value is about £200**** but if you would like it – would only ask you to find £100 altogether and this could be handed over in instalments spread over any period – years if you like. It may of course be a little time before we get fixed up ourselves but if you like the idea it seems that your immediate problem would be to get garage erected in readiness.

You must of course please yourselves entirely and if you feel you would rather make a deal locally we shall not mind in the least. In such circumstances we may decide to keep car for our own use. On the other hand if you would like it then we will get Payne to find us another as soon as he can – he is as I’ve already said looking out for us now.

That was a very bad trick by the gang to tear off wipers and aerials & most fortunate your car was absent. Presumably Police have all particulars of damage and taking necessary action. We understand from the Newmans something similar also happening in Bristol.

No more just now – hope you are all keeping fit & well – any news of the applications you sent in yet?

All our love to you and lots of kisses for our darling grand daughters.

Mum & Dad

P.S. Thanks for Horticultural pamphlets.

*Not sure what is going on here as of course there was no Bank Holiday in July; maybe Leonard is getting mixed up with either August or perhaps June (i.e. Whit) which is not at all like him; this out-of-sequence account is very untypical of his usual precision.

**Ah. [Insert sound effect of penny dropping with a very loud clang.] I should explain that I’m not systematically ‘reading ahead’ through these letters, especially the hand-written ones, so have been caught unawares by the revelation that the loss of June’s pearls occurred in 1960, not 1961. However this is what the law refers to as a ‘contemporaneous note’ and cannot possibly be gainsaid – even though it throws other evidence into confusion. It’s of such significance, therefore, that it deserves its own post – so for the time being I will only say that June’s pearls were lost while out for a walk one Sunday afternoon during the holiday in Clevedon, and that we’ll return to the subject shortly.

***Still in existence!

****Roughly £2350 in 2020 currency.

Sunday 10th July, 1960

Clearly the holiday in Clevedon was from Thursday 17th June to Sunday 4th July, 1960. Just as clearly, Leonard wrote as usual on Thursday 8th July, but that letter has since been lost. So has everything but the first page of Alec’s reply, which therefore ends abruptly.

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you for letter which arrived on Saturday. Thank you also for the very nice time we had at Clevedon. We all enjoyed it but of course it was far too short. I agree that the weather was at its best for us, but what a change now. It has been depressing here all day and we have had several heavy thunder showers. As I write it is coming down in sheets. All the time though there is sunshine in the background and for a minute or two it gets quite hot.

As you know by now we got home safely and in good time. We stopped at Chippenham for.quarter of an hour ( pot purposes and to repack back seat of car ) and we got to Marlborough at 9-10am. We popped in to Cafe which was doing a roaring trade. Of course the milk was too hot for the girls to drink right away so we had to wait a while and it was 9-30am before we left.* We found the A4 a better road than the one used for forward journey and without unduly pushing the car we were able to maintain a fairly high speed. We went so well in fact that I decided not to turn off to Henley but to keep on through Reading and Slough. The children meantime were not shewing any signs of discomfort. We turned in at 84 just turned 11-30am**.

I am afraid that grass and hedges were overrun when we got back and due to rain I have not been able to put things right. I managed to cut both the back lawns with mower but before I had a chance to get shears on the tall grasses it started to rain and ground has not dried out since. The lawns now want cutting again. We found all the chrysants alive but a couple had wilted badly. The Budleia are both alive but they had severe checks and are only just now lifting their heads even after all the rain. Slugs have made inroads on the lettuces that have not bolted and altogether that crop is diminishing fast.

I expect you found it quiet after we had gone. No help for it. We were very sorry to hear that Mrs Parker lost her cardigan as indirectly it is our fault. Incidentally June cannot find her tweezers and thinks she may have left them at Devonia – ? any trace.

Sorry we had no tickets for the ‘Great Fire’ would have postponed our holiday a week if we had known. It must be done deliberately. Someone in the Fire Brigade I expect. Note the pond leaks. I feel that had it been filled as soon as set it may have held. As it is the clay may have contracted in the heat but should expand now the wet weather is here. Susan often says little things about when we were at Clevedon” and I know she would like to go again.

We went out on Monday as arranged but I would not say it was highly successful. We went to Kew Gardens ( my idea ) but after admittance at 10-0 am, we found that all the indoor ‘Houses’ did not open until varying times later in the day. We wandered about looking at trees and shrubs until Midday then got out and had our picnic lunch in the car which was in an outside car-park. Lunch completed we made our way home by circuitous route but it rained heavily so that was no pleasure. I was not very impressed with Kew.

I hope your visitors had good weather to-day but the omens this end are poor.

*Twenty minutes in a cafe, with young children? What a wicked waste of time! I can’t help thinking that Alec, being an efficiency expert by way of a profession, found his children inefficient units and was constantly trying to redesign them. June, on the other hand, wanted matching and obedient dolls without personalities of their own. What a shame.

**That would be a decent journey time even today; Google Earth suggests about 90 minutes from central Marlborough to South Ruislip, via either M4 or M40, for a journey of roughly 70 miles, so Alec is clearly maintaining an average speed of 45 mph or so – maybe slightly more, given that the route he took was via A and B roads which can be assumed to be less direct and to have more obstacles on them in the form of junctions, lights, etc.

Thursday 7th July, 1960

Leonard to the family (on the reverse of Table 105-continued: Cardiff, Newport, Cheltenham Spa, Gloucester, Swindon and London, and Table 131: Cardiff, Coryton, Caerphilly, Senghenydd and Rhymney):

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol,

We were very glad to hear you reached home safely on Sunday and in such good time. Hope Susan and Carol both had good journeys and enabled June to take things a bit easy. It is a fortnight ago today you arrived – how time flies. We had the best of the weather apparently for it has been very different this week. Plenty of rain and a cold strong wind which would have made things most unpleasant on the sands at Burnham or on the lawn here. At this moment (late afternoon) it is emptying down again and work outdoors impossible. We hope you enjoyed your holiday –  Mum and I certainly did and of course we were delighted to see Susan and Carol looking so well and obviously enjoying themselves. Several of the neighbours have since told us what lovely children they are. It was so quiet here for a day or two after you had gone back but I think we are more or less normal again now.

I’m sorry to say we have not had any response to the advert in the ‘Mercury’. I walked up around the hill last Sunday about 11:30 a.m. but with the long growth of grass and weeds it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. It does not look as if we shall recover the necklace now June and we are very sorry it was lost in such circumstances. On the same day (26th June) Alec Parker (one of our bell-ringers) met his wife after ringing for evening service and took a stroll around Poets Walk. They sat down on one of the seats near churchyard and as seat was very hot Mrs Parker took off her cardigan and sat on it. Whilst there Alec Parker told his wife they would walk slowly over the hill and see if they could spot the necklace of which I had just spoken about. They started off and in less than five minutes Mrs Parker realised she had left cardigan on seat so back they went but it had gone and although they retraced their steps through Salthouse Fields they could not see anybody carrying it. Loss was reported to Beach Supt. without result. The case was not to be compared with the necklace but it just shows there are some light-fingered people about. 

On Monday this week Mum and I went to library and on return – about 11 a.m. – Fire Brigade passed us  and when we turned into Tennyson Avenue the crowd were at the end of the road watching fire on the hill immediately behind Moggs’ house in exactly the same position as a fire last year which I mentioned to Alec in the week. I also noticed last Sunday on the far corner of Wains Hill (seaside corner) the shrubs and grass have been burnt to the ground for a considerable distance and understand Brigade had to turn out for this.

I filled the pond up on Monday but it leaks about half an inch per day and is now nearly down to the level of the shallow part. I’m leaving it alone for the time being to see how far it will go.

Tell Susan I am missing a young lady who last week used to open and close the front gates for me. I have to see to them myself again now. We hope you were able to get out on Monday with your friends and have a good time. It was a bit cloudy here and we had a storm or two during the day.

Had a letter from Don and I quote extract below:

“Glad you got back safely last Monday. Quite a car load. Was very pleased to see Susan and Carol once more. They are certainly fine children and growing fast.”

Put car into garage for servicing and attention on Tuesday and it is still there. Understand too small pars have to be replaced and these have to come from Bristol. Must get it out for Sunday in order to meet Geoff and family at Yatton. Hope it is fine for them the few hours they will be with us.

have been busy on garden weather permitting this week as you may imagine. mum has picked more raspberries and blackcurrants and we have sold 3 pounds raspberries to neighbours at bottom of field. had a small feed of runner beans this week but they will turn in quickly now the ground is soaked.

Well I think this is all except to say thank you both very much for such a lovely time and for the various articles including hosepipe and couplers which you gave us. So far as hose concerned before rain came to anything this week I  made good use of it.

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

Mum and Dad.

P.S.: thought June might see the funny side of the enclosed cartoon.

Sunday 19th June, 1960

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Your letter arrived on schedule for which many thanks. We have told Susan that she will be expected to help with the washing up so look out for breakages*.

Gather that June’s spree was a bit of a dry job apart from wine with meal. Could have provided that to save expense.

Susan and Carol have been told of the proposed visit, in fact they have known for some long time. I doubt if they will get really excited until things actually start moving on Thursday morning. We went out this morning early (of which more later ) and Carol wanted to know if we were off to Grandma Atkins.

Glad the Mobo toys are still there. I still get requests to see the Mobo toys every time I go to the bureau although the book has long since been torn to shreds (by them). It is a pity as I rather wanted to keep that book.

Re weather, the last few days have really been hot and enervating. It seems that the weather has changed for the better and I hope it will last for us. Since writing to you I have had an opportunity of studying a map of the whole area from London to Taunton and I find that I am going somewhat out of my way to go to Cirencester. It would have been better had I arranged to meet you on the London side of Malmesbury as I can get from Wantage to Malmesbury without actually going into Swindon. Still in case you come to meet us as you say, I will go via Cirencester and look out for you where you said. Should you not be there, and if we are not due for a halt and things progressing well, I will continue as per your A.A. point to point route and keep a sharp look out for hand signals etc.

Note your endeavours in the field, I expect we shall all get bitten. The midges usually lie in wait for us Town Dwellers.

The Grays went off on Saturday for their tour of Devon and Cornwall. I think they said their first objective was Lyme Regis. They will go along the South Coast and return via the North Coast and join the main London Road at Taunton or thereabouts.

Put the car in for servicing some days ago but all he did was to change the engine oil. There is some story attached which I will tell you when I see you. Have spent a while this week-end on car oiling odd points and cleaning. Have also rigged up the fan part of the old heater I had and connected it to fuse box. It keeps the air moving in the car which will be just the job for a long journey.

On the spur of the moment we went to Pinner Memorial Park this morning and took our breakfast with us. Of course we did not have egg and bacon** but the flakes and bread and butter and marmalade plus tea from flask went down well. There was no one about until after we had our meal.

Well we are looking forward to the trip and shall be glad to get started. As June says please do not get meal ready for us. I doubt if we shall feel much like it after journey. Love from us all till Thursday.

June, Susan, Carol and Alec

*The amount of energy and preparation devoted to a four year old child ‘helping with the washing-up’ is excessive! There is a real performative element to this: ‘Look, we are raising our daughter to be useful and domesticated so that she can attract a decent husband!’ It’s absolutely vomit-inducing!

**Oh, no, le scandal! The very thought of having breakfast in a park without access to bacon and eggs is almost too much to contemplate! If the presence of bacon and eggs at breakfast time is so important to one, then stay at home and have bacon and eggs rather than going out and then complaining about their absence. Again, this was a trait that continued in the family until very late in life when June, on being taken to Mumbles Pier, complained that it wasn’t as good as Southend Pier. Maybe not, but they are 250 miles apart; Southend Pier was not on offer that day, Mumbles Pier was, and it made better sense to evaluate it for what it *was* rather than what it *wasn’t*. Neither June nor Alec ever really seemed to learn how to live in the moment and appreciate what they had, rather than what they didn’t have. It’s a very unattractive way of looking at the world, guaranteed to breed dissatisfaction and discontent and to sour relations with anyone who couldn’t share that perpetually disappointed outlook.