Tuesday 28th May, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

The postman certainly called on Monday the 27th inst. and what a budget he brought. Thank you all very much for same and I see both Susan and Carol were allowed to use the typewriter this week. Also Susan trying out her longhand – very good indeed for a start.

What a change in the weather over the weekend. Pity to complain about it but it was so sudden that it took all the energy out of one. The sun was so scalding when I was working in garden on Saturday and I had to turn my cap round to protect my neck. Expect you thoroughly enjoyed your trip out in car on Saturday. A good day for the cup final for once too. How did June find her mother? Going on all right we hope. Nice to have Eileen with you again for a weekend and no doubt two young ladies kept her very busy. What a load up for the car for Chorleywood!

Am sorry you imagine flower garden pretty shipshape. I honestly think it is the worst effort we have made for years. It is due however to bad autumn when we could not square up for the winter following the severe winter and wet spring. However we must make the best of it this time and see if things can be improved as we go along. We shall have some flowers of course and the beds will be tidy (I hope).

Yes all arrangements well in hand for Geoff and family who arrive at 12:53 p.m. Sunday. Evidently Stella and Rebecca going to work on the Saturday.

That chap at the bottom of your garden with the lawn mower (motored) does not intend to push around an ordinary mower. Perhaps he picked it up cheap.*

Yes sugar well in the news but prices seem to be steadying again. Quite a shock to find that commodity going up – what about our winemaking? Noted Pauline and Norman visiting Roy and Delphine last Sunday and your comment re: former. What surprised you about the gas bill? Presumably it covered the worst period of the winter. Have the charges been increased?

Spearmint eh? Years since I had to go at this stuff. Hope the girls do not take it to school with them or the teacher will be after them.

You clean your car far more often than I clean ours** but I suppose in point of fact you use it far more often and in all kinds of weather whereas if possible (Ruislip trips excepted) we try and get out in the nice weather.

Noted you have picked up other contacts with the transmitter – Cheltenham and Hall Green. Geoff said he had recently spoken to you but not on the radio. I do not think there is any part of our old wireless sets laying around in the shed nowadays. We have to have a clear out every so often otherwise we would never get into the shed.

Sorry no seeds have come up. Great pity but I think it proves that the soil is infested with insects who destroy the seeds. just as well you have the sweet peas in pots. Any sign of them?

Hope Susan has not to wait too long before she can really join the Brownies. Last Sunday afternoon there was the usual Commonwealth Youth Service at the church and all the Guides, Brownies, Scouts including Sea Scouts, the St. John Ambulance cadets etc. etc. paraded with their banners and it was a very good turnout. No doubt the same kind of service was held at Ruislip and other places. The new headmaster of the school at the bottom of Holly Lane gave the address and he opened up by saying “I hope those of my pupils who are present will not think it is a bit thick to have to put up with me today as well as on weekdays”. He gave a wonderful address however and it was noticed that he is a Cambridge M.A..

Yes Roy and Mrs Hewitt are now well on their holiday. Apparently they went to Paddington last Friday evening and stopped the night at a hotel and proceeded to Liverpool Street to catch the 10.05 a.m thence to Harwich to be on board for sailing at midday to Amsterdam. Change there into a Dutch boat and cruise up the river. Cannot say if they are gone for 10 days or a fortnight but we shall get a card in due course. If they had been travelling from Liverpool Street on a day other than a Saturday you could have wished them ‘bon voyage’.

No further trip to Retford then so far. Does it really take you an hour to get from Liverpool Street to King’s Cross?

So you remember Donald Fortune then. Is he not in the photo taken at the infant school?

If they are not in the way please keep old London Division News until we next come up to Ruislip – they are always interesting even if stale news to a lot of people.

Have since heard that Rodney Meadows was one of the band of ringers who rang at Westminster Abbey for Princess Alexandra’s wedding last month. He must be quite an expert ringer to be included in such a team.

No more news of proposed land sale – no news is good news – so they say.

It was only the old chrysanthemums we lost by slugs. I have a lot of new rooted cuttings in pots in one of the frames and they should give us some good flowers later on.

Evidently you did not go on the annual outing to the Isle of Wight.

Clevedon Goods closes on the 10th prox. after which date all traffic will be dealt with at Yatton including coal. Deliveries of latter to be effected from Yatton. This will increase the cost of coal per ton to everybody in Clevedon.

Last week I noticed starlings going in and out of the next doors vent shaft near guttering of house and suggested to Bushell he should borrow our ladder and investigate as he had no wire basket on top. He did so and found young dead starlings in the bend of the pipe. Apparently when they were ready to fly they could not get up the shaft to get out and eventually the old birds abandoned them. He has now put some wire gauze over the top to keep out future nest builders.

Mum just told you last week we had Stan James here doing something to our pipe. About two years ago we noticed a small damp patch on wall at bottom of stairs and this had gradually increased in size so we had to investigate. My first thought was that the asphalt on path had ridden above damp course but this proved not to be the case. The downpipe from roof guttering at this point we knew only drained into a soakaway and over the years this pipe had become choked with soil and muck washed down off the roof. Consequently the water was finding its way back into the wall of house above the damp course and causing the patch inside on the wallpaper. The remedy was to put underground pipes to take water direct to the inspection chamber near the small triangular piece of garden at back of house. So while Stan James went to Yatton to get about fifteen 3 ft pipes I dug out the trench. Fortunately it was dry for the two days the job took and all in order again now except that we have a rough surface to walk over for the length of the trench. I lost two days on the garden because of this and I’m now trying to catch up before the weekend.

Mr Aston brought me around two bundles of bean sticks and together with those I had left over after putting in one row enabled me to make a second row. This was completed on Saturday and I put beans (seed) in on Monday. Altogether I have 218 bean sticks and the equivalent number of beans sown. Mum has been busy cutting grass around the trees etc. on the lawn and planting out flower seedlings. I’m still at a loss to know what to try next to seal pond and I think I may try Sylglas before embarking on anything more costly. I would like to get the thing put right.

Had a walk down the field the other day and can only confirm what has already been stated that the apple trees are one mass of bloom. The cherry blossom is over now but this too has been a picture.

Had not realised until you mentioned it that you have been at Liverpool Street for eight months now. How time flies.

Assume you have not done any more decorating June lately – nothing mentioned of it in letter this time.

Yes Alec your photos have been most favourably commented upon by all who have seen them. Did you have your picture show on Sunday evening? How far out is it to Chorleywood?*** and what teams were playing cricket there? Presumably only local sides but I expect it was interesting. As you can see in mercury there is cricket most Sundays on Dial Hill.

Saw Elford the other night and he said the police still have no clue as to who broke into their shop.

Was very pleased to see the Ford management were sticking to their decision not to reinstate the seventeen men who were the chief agitators in their works. Something like this should have happened years ago when perhaps a lot of the trouble in recent years might have been avoided.

Have had to use hose to fill up the baths twice this week and at the same time have also taken opportunity of watering the garden. The winds had hardened the top crust of soil which had to be broken. We are cutting lettuces now and mum says they are priced at about 1/3d[£1.60 in 2023 money – a little cheaper, in fact, than they are at present] in shops. This is a bit surprising as there should be plenty of them about now. Other green stuff is still very scarce and Mum continues to buy frozen peas and broad beans. Incidentally my broad beans I see are just beginning to form but will not be ready for this coming weekend unfortunately. The first row of peas not yet in flower but second is already showing through ground. Have earthed-up a few rows of potatoes. According to my gardening diary the tomatoes were forming this time last year but it will be a few days yet before this year’s fruit will begin to show. Just shows the state of the gardening world for 1963.

A little rain is falling at the moment (6:45 p.m.) but it does not look like continuing very long. I wish it would rain most of nigh.

Think I must close now. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. I’ve got a postcard of Walton Castle to enclose for Susan this time and not to leave Carol out of it have one of the Old Church for her. Mum and Dad. 

*Or perhaps he had a bad back/leg/heart and just needed a bit of extra power. Let’s just try to think of a charitable explanation for once, shall we, rather than assuming the guy is lazy or has more money than sense?

**Only when there’s something he wants to get out of doing…

***I make it roughly fourteen miles, mostly along the valley of the River Colne.


Sunday 26th May, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks once again for weekly letter. Glad the girls managed to get one in as well for you last week. The doll was very much appreciated, and although Carol wanted to have it at first they have now settled down to one each and no grumbles. The rock of course went down well. Ribbons duly appropriated. Glad you had a long letter from Susan – I saw it being composed, but she has named a couple of animals in the list that were not there (hippo and rhino) but she left out two others that were there (guess what*?).

It has been dreadfully cold here this last week. The first week of the year that the office heating has been turned off and did I noticed it. Of course this is the trouble of turning heating on and off according to the calendar. Have had no thunderstorms come up but yesterday the weather made a vast improvement and was very hot at times with a general level higher than for some time. I believe there was a forecast of thunder and it was almost impossible to hear anything on the radio last night due to atmospherics. Gather you were able to do some gardening despite the storms your end. I had a clear up in garden last weekend, but have not done anything since. No seeds through of course and I have now written them off.

Nothing much to report on the radio this week. Had contacts with Cheltenham and Hall Green, Birmingham in the week and this morning at about 8 am worked a portable radio station located near Birmingham.

So far as our old set is concerned, it was dismantled to make other sets at Devonia some many years ago, but the speaker was in use a long time after the main set went. It is just possible that the speaker is still lurking about in the shed. It was not a good one, having the cone manufactured of brown paper.

The sweet peas are in pots, and should be fairly well protected from the slugs, but main thing is to see that they do not dry out. Most of our garden shrubs etc. survived the winter o.k. We have had to retrain the honeysuckle as we took down the supporting wire and unfortunately had to cut much of the growth to get at it. There have been a number of cuttings planted out and in tubs and we have been successful with many of them.

No news from Brownies yet. We think you are right in that there are not enough adults to run more than one pack at this end. Too many counter-attractions.

No further trips to Retford although always a possibility. I would rather somewhere closer. That jaunt takes about three hours to get there from King’s Cross and it is an hour to that point from here.

Not too worried about the gas water heater. I had an idea it would be gone by now. June had an idea for it at number 17.

You really are having trouble with your TV. Good idea next time to have one from the rental people then you can get set attended to free, and also if not satisfied with set you can get it changed. Also when new features come out you can always have such changed for one that includes them. I know Donald Fortune. We went to school together (St. John’s) and I recall being at Clevedon once when you were at work and he turned up then to fix the set for you. I recognised him then.

Good luck to the sailors this weekend. Not bad about the 31st of June. Some one wants to go back to school.

Glad you got the mag okay. I have a number of old London Divisions News in the office, but they do not fold into so small a size as the mag and I shall have to look out for a larger envelope for them.

So Rodney Meadows turned up in the Belfry did he? I knew he did a bit of ringing. He is not married and as he has moved about the country bracket (on promotion etc) he has joined various bands on a part-time basis. As you say cannot think what he is doing down your way. He is now Traffic Costing Officer to the line manager (G.N.). I have not seen him since I have been with E.R. (which is now 8 months).

It does not matter much what they intend to put on the property (except factories) so long as they give you good price.

Your apple blossom must be a fine sight and it is a pity you cannot take a picture of it.

You are likely to get a cackle or two from next door then up to Christmas. Not very good idea putting house down the end of garden unless to minimise the noise. Pity you lost your chrysanths. We have not got any this end. The buddleia doing well and already the top leaves are near the top of fence at bottom.

Our office outing (Isle of Wight) took place last week. I gather they all had a good time with plenty of sunshine. I think that is a place I would like to go to one year. Not a bad trip by car and latter essential on the other side to get most of the views etc.** I understand that there were three outings on the train from Victoria, and there are murmurings against having any more. I think the things are out of date myself.

So the goods at Clevedon will close altogether. What happens to the coal wharves?

I understand that Canada is a good place to go to, especially if you are in any form of Engineering. Douglas Dugdale is out there (in Ottawa I believe) and his mother told me he is a production engineer of a large firm. Iris’s sister and family are also out there, but they make periodic visits home. They of course travel by air each time and have plenty of money.

Glad the pictures were approved by your neighbour in St. Andrew’s Drive. Have not done any more since, but may show the pictures on the wall tonight.

So Ruth was saved a fall then. If she is anything like our two she will have a fall or two to come on the stairs yet. They do not fall about on stairs much now, but we had a few scares in the past. They have both tumbled from top to bottom.

Well we must look forward to the heatwave in August as you say, but to be fair it is not too bad today. Doug is cleaning the windows next door so that shows. Well that’s all for this week so refer to mother’s letter for further news . Love from us all once again.

*Us. He meant us. Animals.

**Because of course the local people are so primitive that they’d never think of running buses/coaches for visitors, or anything like that.

Dear Mum

A special letter to wish you Many Happy Returns of the day. Will get the letters all off today so that you can have this one on the date. Hope you also receive by the same post small parcel from us all. Latter posted yesterday should reach you okay. Hope you are able to sit out in the garden on the day and watch Dad do all the work. I should imagine that by now you have got the flower garden pretty shipshape.

Copious arrangements then for Geoff, Stella and family to get time off to come and see you. We have Eileen*** staying with us this weekend. It is the first time we have seen her for eighteen months. The girls had forgotten what she looked like. Eileen came on Friday night after work. Yesterday she and June and the girls went over to see Grandma Baker in the morning. (On train as I was cleaning the car****.) In the afternoon I took them all to Chorleywood in car and we watched the cricket and sat in the sun having a bit of a picnic. Roy was at a conference all day so we picked up Delph and Christopher as well. I suppose we set off at about 2:30 p.m. and got back at 6:30 p.m.. There were hundreds of police and people lining the Western Avenue, and we could not understand what it was all for, but it eventually clicked that this was in aid of the expected crowds for the Cup Final.

I do not know what pipes you are referring to which you are having put underground. I cannot recall any external pipes.

Plenty of Spring decoration going on in Avenue then. There is a man at the bottom who has a garden just about as small as ours and he has a motor mower working on his lawn. He has been at it for about half an hour so must be giving it a close shave.

Some game about the sugar. They were limiting people to 6 lbs each in Fine Foods during the week, and on Saturday they had none at all. June has got some lump sugar from somewhere, but that goes quicker than the other as the kids eat it like sweets. Auntie Eileen brought them some spearmint, and they are both at it now, their jaws jumping away.

I understand that Norman and Pauline are having lunch today with Roy and Delphine. This business blows hot and cold. No more news from number 17 except that like us the gas bill has arrived. Enough to frighten anyone. Ours this year was pretty stiff, but after all we had the water heater and gas fire extra, and did not use any coal. Also we must have used less electricity as did not heat the front room by that means this year.

Susan has written a special letter for you and it seems a good attempt at writing. I expect we will sit in the garden this afternoon*****. I must say I can do with it as cleaning the car yesterday was no joke. It really looks nice again now. Have to start on the inside now.

Well we shall be thinking of you tomorrow, so for the time being, love from us all. Alec 

***Eileen Basham, June’s cousin, is the only member of that generation of the family still with us, and at the time of writing has recently turned 97. It’s a constant and enduring joy to have her in our lives.

****Naturally a priority – let two adults and two small children (a) walk to the station (b) take the Tube to Greenford (c) change to the push-me-pull-you to West Ealing and (d) walk from the station to Eccleston Road, which Rome2Rio reckons at something like two hours including the walking, and then do the whole thing in reverse at the end. That’s four hours of travelling time as opposed to potentially half an hour each way in the car. But you do you, Alec; clearly polishing the car is far more important than your family’s comfort. Have I ever mentioned that he was a selfish bugger and didn’t like children?

*****Alec’s ambition in a nutshell, just to ‘sit out in the garden’. Personally I can’t think of anything less interesting to do.

Tuesday 14th May, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for such a budget of news received this morning including one each – by the look of it – from the girls. Thank you Susan and Carol for them both. As you may guess we have been very busy to day packing up a parcel for someone at number 84. thought it had better be on way today otherwise it might miss the actual birthday. In it there should have been the doll, hair ribbon, two small sticks of Weston Rock (for Susan and Carol), the ‘Mercury’ and a ‘Wonderland’. It was packed up as securely as possible and we do hope it reached you in good condition and that Susan is pleased with the doll. We went into Weston yesterday (Monday) hence the Weston Rock – just something for them to taste. The birthday card will be posted on Wednesday and of course should reach you before Susan goes to school on Thursday.

Now for your letter. We guessed the girls had been busy hence no letters from them but they have made up for it this week. Not surprised you were unable to get out on Sunday for a run round – it was not very nice here again and goodness knows when we shall get some really good weather. This week the cold winds have continued and it is been miserable working outdoors but the time cannot be wasted as such intervals are not long between the showers when we are driven indoors altogether. Slugs seem to teem down here – the hard winter did them no harm. It is really amazing they should come through that particularly bad spell. The birds too are still at the lettuces and peas and I now keep some pea-guards over both crops until they are perhaps a bit too strong for attack. Yes the fruit blossoms still holding up and the cherries are just one mass of flower at the moment – the apples will be in full flower in a week. Sorry about yours – must wait until the trees have grown up out of the girls’ reach or until they get tired of it.

Note your comments re: eye specialist and ear doctor. No doubt you are right and it is a paying proposition for patients to be kept on the books for attention. A good idea really apart from the inconvenience you have of taking Susan (and Carol too I suppose later on) to see these people. Yes I should think she has got used to the glasses now and takes them as a matter of course which is a good thing.

A bit congested on the air then in the evenings but what can you expect when you see the number of people who are authorised to transmit and receive? What is the real answer to this? Query a more powerful set to block out the others or have a good many already thought of this one and acted accordingly? Sorry about the missing tip from Newmarket – might have been a bad one.

Your recollection of the Whittlesea home-made wireless set is more thorough than mine but now you mention various items they come back to me. as far as I can remember you are absolutely right in all your facts. I suppose the set has long since been broken up. John Saunders made the very first set we had and I expect you remember that one too. Your remarks about TV sets being affected by the power cuts back in the winter almost interesting. We are still waiting to hear from Bell as to the charge for putting our set right.

Did you get in the sweet peas Sunday? Ours are up in a box and waiting to be planted out but I shall not do this until the cold winds have ceased. This applies also to our runner beans – the cold will do a lot of damage to all growing crops.

Note you have been moving another lot of earth from West Ealing – every little helps. Yes Miss Sperrings enjoyed herself and I assume she is now on holiday – was due to be away about now. Tomorrow (Wednesday) Mr and Mrs Newman are coming from Bristol – as you know they were due a week or so ago but Mr Newman was taken ill hence the postponement. Hope it is a fine day as I do not think he is very well yet.

Glad to hear you are now forming your ideas for the extra room/conservatory. Did you hear any more from the Eastcote Timber Company? How far out will you have to start with the shuttering? Presumably there is plenty of rubble in the field but takes time to get it in. What about putting up a big Aunt Sally in the garden and inviting the local lads to try and hit it with stones?

You are right about the ground being lower between the new path and the hedge and I’ve not made up my mind yet how I shall deal with this. There is a fair amount of sun on the patch and if I lose some of the garden for building purposes it may come in useful as an additional plot but the level would have to be raised. Query get the earth from the garden which I shall lose before handing it over. Incidentally there has been no further development in regard to the land since I last wrote and it may be a long time now before we hear anything.

We thought you would have a laugh over Jeffries Jones’s car and the dog’s dinner – sorry sponge cake and eggs. Further information is that the dog was later sick but do not know if in house or outside.

I agree that I  did not see quarry being used as a dump after our arrival here but assured it was so used until about 1935. We notice the windows upstairs are now in position so good progress continues to be made.

Noted you have mentioned the proposal re: holidays to Mrs Baker and must leave matter with you now to follow-up as you both think necessary but you know we shall be very pleased for her to come down with you if you can persuade her.

Dandelions did you say. I could have picked enough to make wine but at the moment could not be bothered. The heads had to be picked off though to prevent them going to seed. On the long wide rough path between our garden and Mr Heel’s I put down some sodium chlorate and this has shrivelled everything up. I had another go at the grass late last week and it was really hard work. The grass is now down to a reasonable height and it will not be so tough again this season. It was the first time I had to replenish the tank with fuel to complete all the lawns so that will tell you how the mower was working.

So Susan will be joining the Brownies tomorrow. It will give her another outlook on things and probably get her interested and occupied. Now Daddy must take her photo in the uniform. Wonder how you got on at the Sunday School anniversary and what did Susan have to do? Perhaps she will tell us in her letter next week.

A trip to London Zoo eh? Is it in Regent’s Park? Again we hope the weather keeps fine for you. Assume you will go by coach with the party.

Glad to hear Peter has his car back and that it is in good condition.

Now for June’s letter. Having got so far with the driving lessons June I should make an effort to go on with them. The longer you leave it the less likely you will want to restart. It is better to feel as you do that you are nowhere near ready for the test than to be overconfident. It is the overconfident ones who come unstuck so often. We have one living next door to us here. He for the moment has given up trying and is still riding the motorbike. Anyhow you know best how you feel about it and although you may not do a lot of driving even when you have passed the test it is nice to know you can manage a car if necessary. It is however quite certain that the older you get the less interest you will have in trying to learn.

Regarding holiday abroad next year if (and it must be a big if) we sell part of our land we wonder what you have in mind. Perhaps you have nothing in mind at the moment but just wondering if we would be that interested. Well now Mum and I would not want much running about and would much rather take things quietly. On the other hand yourself and Alec are years younger and would probably wish to get out and about and make the most of the time. Alternately it may be that you would not feel like moving about too much after reaching the destination point but would rather stay put. The girls would not want anything except the sea and sand and plenty to eat. I have often wished to have a cruise in the Mediterranean but I do not think Mum is all that keen for a long sea trip. Anyhow June it is an interesting idea and although it must be a long time to look forward to if you have any particular places in mind please tell us all about them. Having regard to the girls being at school now presumably anything arranged would have to be at the end of August or early September. Our passports would have to be renewed but that is a minor matter.

Very sorry Susan is worrying you June – she is full of energy and must use this up somehow. As mentioned above perhaps the Brownies will give her another outlook on things and keep her busy.

Nearly forgot – thanks for the printed pamphlet enclosed with your letter Alec. Makes nice reading but it looks as though they are only too glad to clutch at a straw like a drowning man. Any aftermath from Butcher’s visit?

Had a card this week from Ted Caple who was on holiday in Malta. He flew out from London Airport and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Also had a card from Mr Palmer this morning – he and Mrs Palmer are gone on holiday with an old age pensioners’ party to Dunoon. I hope it is warmer up there than here. And I hope they get better weather to than we had several years ago.

Also enclosed in parcel this morning a small piece of vinyl–something floor covering which we got at Weston yesterday and laid in position in the afternoon. Similar stuff to that Mrs Baker has in her bathroom. It is only made in four feet widths and our bathroom is four feet four inches so had to join in one place. Look very nice.

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

P.S. Sorry Susan’s birthday card was accidentally posted on Tuesday. Mum and Dad. 

Sunday 12th May, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks once again for weekly letter, duly to hand on Friday. Note you had nothing from the young ladies last time, but it was probably due to the picnic, as usual letter-writing habits were altered to suit. I did not type the letter until I got back from the run instead of doing it at about 10 a.m.. At that time they were being prepared for bed. There are signs of drawings and letters being prepared at the moment, so you may get something this week. I also enclose for your interest, and to pass it on, a copy of the “Beeching Retort” prepared by the N.U.R.. A bit of a squib, but their idea was a bit clever. Girls still in trouble with behaviour so no typing allowed again this week.

Weather this end has been a mixed bag. Have had two or three days in which the day started wet and dull, and picked up to quite early summer conditions in the afternoon, only to revert to rain for the journey home. Yesterday was fine but a bit chilly after a windy night, but this morning there is a lot of fine rain. Good growing weather – for slugs. I put some slug pellets down yesterday and they are supposed to be proof against showers so may catch a few today. Have not noticed any frosts, and certainly no plants have suffered that way. Note your apple and cherry trees doing well for blossom. We have had a spate of blossom-picking by the children so can expect few apples on our tree this year again.

Nothing out of the ordinary by the eye specialist. This is booked working these days – once you start, Doctor, Dentist or others they have their pound of flesh from you as National Health payments to them depend on number of patients on the books, and therefore if they do not sign you off, you stay on the books. As for the benefit of the treatment, the only result from its so far is a certain degree of resignation on Susan’s part to the wearing of the glasses. She does not treat them very well, but they are no longer the object of any deliberate naughtiness. By now too her school chums will have got used to the idea which also helps*. As for the sight improving only the expert can tell and he hasn’t.

Very little likelihood of any ‘long shot’ as you call them now, as I find my best to chances are during the day when few people are about to clutter the air up. In other words the long-range people are less likely to be drowned by more powerful locals. The only chance to get on during the day when there are likely to be others also able to do so is at holiday times such as Easter etc. At nighttime the band is absolutely cluttered up, and although the range is greater then bracket (by about ten times) all the local stations are that much louder too. Had a chap at Newmarket on Thursday, but got no tips.

I well remember the radio set at Whittlesea (formerly at Cross Keys). It had a horn loudspeaker, and ebonite front with many dials, a central switch which worked in the vertical position for switching in an additional power valve, and a pair of coils on the extreme left-hand exterior which could be moved towards or away from each other by means of a rod – to provide reaction. The batteries if I remember rightly were resting on a shelf of the bamboo-legged table.

I thought I saw a few Larkspur seeds coming through on Thursday, but all trace has since disappeared. We still have our remaining sunflower and it is permanently under the glass jam jar. I will let it out only when I think the stem is strong enough to resist the slugs. Also I suppose I shall have to be careful of acclimatising it to the open air. No we have not put in the sweet peas, but as it has now stopped raining I may do so later this morning.

So strike is off, and honour seems to be satisfied for the time being. Good luck for Ernie Isles for stop I saw him a time or two when he was at Paddington deputising for Ivor Coggins. One of those chaps who are never satisfied. Poor Griffiths, he is also a bit of a grumbler, but it is a sorry state to be in to lose job to someone out of section.

Went to Ealing again yesterday and brought back another bathful of earth. It all helps, and if we keep this up it will not be long before some of the low-lying patches on the lawn are filled in.

Note your visitor had a good evening before her return to Bristol.

We have a pretty good idea of the building we want now as an extra room/conservatory. I have to fix up some shuttering and then start collecting rubble from the field.

Price of chicken this end just about same as for joint, and it makes a change.

So the greenhouse/garage path is finished, and quite a job worth doing too. What are you going to do about the section between the new path and the lawn hedge? This will be low-lying compared with the path, and somewhat in the shade. What about a higher level pool (level with the path) with an overflow into the other? Bit risky of course after a late night return from Salthouse.

June is abandoning the idea of driving for the time being.

Old J. Jones a bit of a fathead to leave his ignition key in car – asking for trouble. Lucky he got it back with out damage? A dog’s life, your end then. Fancy feeding Bushes’ dog. I expect he is waiting for the next lot. Have you asked him how he liked the sponge?

So the partners have been to see you about the land. All takes an awful lot of time, but the Council’s agreement or otherwise should not take too long.

Did not remember you saying the T.V. had to go in for inspection. There is so much in a T.V. that can go wrong that is a wonder they go on so long working o.k. The power cuts have affected a lot of people’s sets, and they will be getting troubles about now that were caused when the mains voltages dropped during the big frost. A form of emission from part of the valve is stepped up to compensate for the lower H.T. voltage with the result that the part works beyond its accepted rating. Although it is in no sense burned out the effectiveness falls off after prolonged work in these conditions, and the life is shortened as a result. The T.V. repair fellows are well up to this one.

Okay if you can get some slag for the path. The quarry was not used as a dump after 1928 to my recollection, but it may have been before that time. Not a good place for a house, but every last inch is used these days. Imagine anyone having a house built there in the 20s?

We have raised the question of the holiday with Mrs Baker, but to no effect. She wants to see how things work out before she makes any promises. What this means we do not know but that is as far as we can take it at the moment. She thanks you for the invitation, and we shall have to see what happens.

I see from Mother’s letter that she has tulips etc. coming out. Very nice, we have a few choice dandelions. The only thing growing with any reliability this end is the grass, but I am pleased about that.

We expect Susan will be joining the Brownies on Wednesday. She would have joined last week but was just a bit too naughty and had to have it postponed. We are all going to the Sunday School this afternoon as it is the school anniversary. Susan is down to do something – say or sing a verse or the like.

Nothing further on the fence, but must get down to that soon now.

Butcher was at Liverpool Street on Friday but we did not see him. He was supposed to have arrived in time for lunch with Hammond.

We have a jaunt to the London Zoo next Saturday with the Sunday School crowd. Hope it is not a hot day. Everyone this end reasonably fit except Carol who says she has a bit of a cold and has been sneezing a bit.

Peter has had his car back from the panel beater and they have made a fine job of it. The damaged wing looks even better than the other. Well that is about all for the present. No trip out this week, and just as well as weather raining again. So love from us all here once again. 

*This is naive at best and wilful ignorance at worst, and wholly ignores the massive fact that the main person teasing me about glasses was June, my own mother. It was her lifelong contention that “men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses” and that if I ever wanted to get married and have a family – which was the only suitable life for a female human being after all – I should avoid ever wearing glasses at all. This was the start of her saying one thing to her children in private and then denying it to everybody else in the world, to whom she liked to pretend she was a devoted and caring mother. It took another fifty-plus years to escape her double-dealing, which only became worse as time passed. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s perfectly clear that she had a classic narcissistic personality and viewed herself as the only person of importance in the world – with others merely serving as acolytes and admirers who had to be kept firmly in their subservient places. She hated to be challenged, and was never in her life wrong or flawed about anything – hence her giving up on the driving: because she couldn’t be brilliant at it right away, she didn’t want to do it at all. The fact that neither Alec nor his father ever took a test, but that she would have to (the regulations having changed in the meantime), no doubt played into this: someone outside the family would test her and find her wanting, and she couldn’t have that at any price.

Tuesday 7th May, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Again many thanks for another interesting letter received this morning usual post. Nothing from the young ladies this week expect there are resting after their school efforts. We thought last week’s effort by Susan was a special favour but evidently she is in trouble this time. Hard lines Susan.

Weather – yes it has been very cold here the wind being Up North as the locals say. Some nice days however and today for instance has been quite an improvement. Slight frosts some mornings but not enough I think to spoil the plum blossom. If anything the winds would have affected it. The cherry and apple trees are now showing large promise of blossom so we are hoping for the best.

Noted Carol still a bit unsettled but this should wear off shortly – is she still eager to go to school? What is the matter with the eye specialist? Is Susan showing some improvement in her sight or is it something to say. Back in six months eh? They intend to follow her up all right and perhaps this is a good thing although a bit tedious for you having to make the journey every time.

Your temperature in attic seems to vary quite a lot – a fan as well as a heater seems necessary. Any more long shots since the South Shields man? Yes as I mentioned last week Don was most interested and if they lived nearer he would certainly like to inspect it if not to test it out. It was not so easy in his younger days to get the parts cheaply for assembly but he had a go at several radios sets. Expect you remember the one at ‘Whittlesea’* just inside the living room door. He knew the subject fairly well.

Glad to hear June has finished off the back bedroom and that it looks very nice. What next June? Oh yes the children will appreciate the decorations especially if you give them a pencil or to when they go to bed.

Noted Peter still being kept waiting by the police – seems part of their policy to get people’s nerves on edge.

Bad luck about the seeds but I’m afraid some of my vegetable seeds have gone the same way. Slugs are really numerous this year – pity the hard winter had not finished them off. Cannot remember giving you the sunflower seeds though. Have you put the sweet peas in yet or are they included with those lost?

Yes you had a grand week at Watford. I told Roy Hewett and Bill Aston about it, reading extracts from your letter. They were duly impressed.

If the strike does take place and you can manage to stay home for three days it will be a blessing. The journey to London under such conditions must be appalling. Let’s hope it does not occur.

Miss Sperrings arrived about 5 p.m. last Thursday and caught the 8.15 p.m. train back – she has to get out to Staple Hill after reaching Temple Meads**. Had quite a nice chatter about old times and she was able to tell me that Ernie Isles has now got a freight job which gets him in a position over Griffiths the chief controller. Iles used to be journal clerk when Griffiths was a controller. Should like to hear latter’s comments on the matter.

No further news of Mr Newman but we have asked them to let us know when they can come down.

Noted the Eastcote Timber Company duly called up on phone but no further contact. Also noted you have literature from other firms who specialise in these things. Between them all you should get fixed up and for your sakes I hope you manage to get the job completed in time for the wintry weather.

Some job carting earth from number 17 to number 84. Last year when visiting Lyng I brought back a sack of poultry manure in boot of car. We had to keep going to get away from the smell but we reached home safely.

Have finished the concreting along the front of the garage and greenhouse. At a guess I should say the path is about 2 ft 6 in wide and at least 33 ft long. What a difference it has made already and it will be of great benefit in wet weather. No further trouble with the drains and I have opened the inspection chambers once or twice to make sure everything working properly.

Yes jumble sale went off all right and mum duly returned unsold. Would you believe it one of the articles handed in for disposal was a parachutists dress. (anymore for the space ship?)

Chicken for dinner? My word – the best we can do is an egg. Fridge is proving very very useful and a nice beer off the ice goes down well.

You had a nice run out on Sunday then and lunch in car. We had a heavy storm that morning at about 8 a.m. drenched everything. Afterwards it turned out nice but cold wind prevailed all day. Expect Susan and Carol enjoyed their first ice cream of the season. Glad you were able to see some of the animals – somewhat an educational trip for the girls. Did June do any driving on this trip? Have you been over to number 17 recently and had a chat with Mrs Baker on the holiday subject?

Jeffries Jones (one of our churchwardens) had his car stolen from outside the church a week ago yesterday. He had driven down to the church to take the cash out of the safe after Sunday’s collections and was only in the church a few minutes. Of course he had left ignition key in position. He phoned the police and within three hours they had got it back again. The police had telephoned the police in the district and one patrol saw the car going over Ashton Gate Bridge and gave chase. It was a couple of National School boys in car and they were out for a joyride. Fortunately no damage to car and nothing taken from it.

Yesterday Mum made a sponge and put this and some eggs and a jelly in a basket and left it outside Mrs Cummings’ back door for Mrs Gardner who is ill. Later mum went to pick up the basket and found jelly intact and it appears someone lifted the sponge and eggs but did not fancy the jelly and so Mrs Gardner had none. Doing well around here.

Last Friday afternoon Cornish came over to find out if I had heard anything from the prospective land purchasers but I had to tell him no news yet. While he was here the two gentleman called so I got rid of Cornish and duly dealt with them. The project is still very much on the go and they measured up the land I was prepared to let them have and said the next move was with the architect who already had matter in hand with the Town and Country Planning section and he would draw up a plan showing position of proposed houses. Understand it will be semi-detached houses erected and not bungalows as Heel at first thought. I gave them a tentative line from the back of garage and greenhouse across to Heel’s joining up with his proposed partition. It may now be some time before we hear anything more from them. Afterwards out of courtesy I told both Cornish and Heel what transpired. The former has stakes driven into the ground indicating his new boundary lines. I’m afraid they will have rotted off by the time the purchasers are ready to move in. 

[Continues Wednesday 8th May, 1963]

*Their mother’s bungalow in Exeter, long since demolished to make way for an extension to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital at Wonford.

**I’d love to know where, having lives at Staple Hill for eighteen years in an earlier phase of my existence.

Sunday 5th May, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Your letter to hand punctually again this week. Many thanks for all the news etc. Yes I did take up a lot of space with the Watford saga, but there was quite a lot of it to tell. Yes the typewritten note from Susan was a special favour but not repeated this week owing to misbehaviour.

The week for weather has not been too bad but one or two days and nights were rather cold. Glad to hear the cuckoo has arrived your end – no trace here yet.

I suppose there will inevitably be a short period of cooling off by the people who are enquiring about your land. All done to whet your appetite. I have no doubt they will bite as you say, but greed may make them bite too early if they do not watch out.

Carol still as full of tantrums as ever although she is sleeping quite well. She did have a dream or two at first but seems to have settled a little more now. The present reaction is as I say plain naughtiness.

Heat in the attic variable. Could have done with the heater there on Thursday night (the maid’s day off). It is not an ideal place for the job in many ways, but the only one in which I am fairly sure that things will remain where I leave them.

Eastcote Timber Supply did manage to telephone but so far nothing further from them. We now have catalogues from several firms who specialise in these things and in due course will be more able to decide on the article.

Glad the visitors from Lyng had a good day albeit rather cold. Note the reaction re: radio. All these things can and could be made at next to no price provided you have time, patience and know-how, but I suppose that parts were rare and hard to come by many years back.

June’s work in the back bedroom now finished and a very fine job it is. Hope the children appreciate it. They are now back inside once more.

Susan’s visit to eye specialist was typical. You could almost write the words for him in advance. “She’s a genius – come back in six months.” So there we are about that one. So far as ears go, a clean bill of health.

No more ‘hat’ trouble since the beret was cut. Susan came with a story that she knew the person who had done it, but she has a strong imagination and changes her tale too often in regard to details that think it best to forget it.

Have heard nothing further from Peter regards the Police, but they are somewhat long-winded as you know and it may be this time next year before all is settled.

Yes Watford was a good week, and all in all I am quite sure that all who attended have benefited. Butcher is supposed to be going to see the General Manager soon, but presume only to make his number.

Odd about the plum blossom coming out after you had thought it all lost. Not a lot of fruit in this area, but the flowering shrubs have been a picture and still are. As regards the seed you put in there is a sorry tale to tell. About a week ago five of the sunflowers came up, but after two days of rain I looked and found that slugs had eaten all but two. Promptly put jars over these, but one was chewed so badly that it just shrivelled up and now there is one. Have not much hope that I can keep this one from the wild beasts. No other seeds of any kind have appeared, but they may have shown above the ground and been eaten by slugs. I’ve not got round to putting the others in.

I agree about the strike – all futile and senseless. I suppose it will mean three days away from office as I cannot possibly get there by road. It may well be that they will make a great show of having the public good at heart and call off the strike in the interest of alleviating inconvenience. This would be a typical Kruschev move.

Sorry to hear that Mr Newman not too well. Hope you were more fortunate in Miss Sperrings’ visit.

Sounds as though you are really going to town in the garden and have got a lot done. The concrete will be a great improvement. I have cut the front lawn at last and have also given a second cutting to the left hand back lawn. I am allowing the other to grow a bit as the stones are showing through badly, and I am gradually levelling it up with earth and ashes. We brought back a large tin tub full of earth from number 17 where they have a surplus. I hope we can do that trick several times more. They have already got rid of a lorry load of surplus earth. Had I known, it could have come here.

Note the drains still giving trouble. Can it be there is something radically wrong with them – after all they are 35 years old and a lot of water has passed under the bridge etc. etc. Glad your chairs and the fridge now installed. Every mod. con.

What width are you making the concrete outside garage? I suppose that by now you will have finished it.

Hope the jungle sale [sic] went off all right. We passed one in Hanwell the other day. I wonder if there is much call for that sort of thing nowadays. They used to be all the rage if you wanted to make some money for club funds etc. The Boy Scouts round here run one in preference to the bob-a-job week. Their chief is against the principle of boys going around begging for money, and I think he has a point.

Note the cutting about strain of schooling on five-year-olds. Of course this is generality – it all depends on the school and the child, and as all schools and all children are different, you have to settle for the average if you are to get anywhere.

I did not see the Panorama or therefore the Wincanton staff. Should think they are pretty typical.

Most of the Liverpool Street staff have already been to Watford so not much subsequent comment. I believe it comes around about once every two years.

Tell Mom not to put the eggs in the deep freezer as the chickens don’t like it. Talking about chicken we had one yesterday and very nice it was. Today we had a picnic lunch – we went out in the car and passed over the following route: northbound Rickmansworth- Chorleywood-The Chenies-Chesham-Berkhampstead to Whipsnade. We saw some of the animals who were near to the wire fence: kangaroos, goats, bisons etc. From there we went to Dunstable Downs – very high chalk downs where they do a lot of gliding – and then through Dunstable, Tring and Chesham again to Ley Hill Common. Here we stopped until about 3:30 pm and then went on to Chorleywood Common. The girls had a good run around at both places. We flew the kite at Ley Hill but not very successfully. Just after 4 pm we left via Rickmansworth and took the Denham Bypass which passes the film studios and brings one out onto the Western Avenue at the Denham roundabout. We got here about five pm. The early part of the day was poor with some rain but the afternoon was very fine and sunny. Although it was a little cold in the wind outside the car there were thousands out in the afternoon, but we had the place to ourselves in the morning. Of course we had to produce the first outdoor ice cream of the summer.

Well that about brings us up to date again, so we’ll say love from us all once more. 

Wednesday 1st May, 1963

[Continued from Tuesday 30th April, 1963]

What a change in the weather this morning – it started to rain during the night and continued until dinnertime since when it has gradually cleared finishing up with sunshine. Mixed up more compost for the tomatoes this morning in greenhouse and started to string up those already planted out. This afternoon decided I could have another mix up of concrete and was able to put in another stretch right in front of garage door. One more good mix will see me to the end of garage and shall I be glad. Must first get another cwt. of cement as have now finished the two bags on hand.

Roy Hewitt came round just as had started mixing so he had to stand to until I could deal with him. Told him of your trip to Watford and Lyneham and he was very interested. Mum and Mrs Hewitt are running a jumble sale on Saturday (I hope mum gets home again all right) so I have to have car out for conveyance purposes. Mrs Clark (in bungalow out bottom of field) has contributed three cracked egg cups – query how much for them.

I see in this morning’s paper an article by a former headmistress of a school that in her opinion the full school hours are too much for five-year-old children just starting. Rather interesting in view of what you suggested about Carol. Wonder how she is getting on this week? Will try and enclose cutting for you to see – probably not in Telegraph.

Did you see the Wincanton station staff on Panorama Monday evening? They were being interviewed regarding the closing of their station under the Beeching plan. None of them were very bright in their answers. The film was taken at Wincanton and of course showed a train at the platform and an engine shunting the yard. Perhaps they will deal with Clevedon next. Understand the council have already approached British Railways about the station and yard premises – they want it for including other things as a parking site.

What did your colleagues at Liverpool Street have to say about the Watford do or have some of them already been there?

No more this time. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. Mum and Dad.

Tuesday 30th April, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for the usual budget received first post this morning – more interesting than normally by reason of the fact you have given a lot of details re: the Watford week. A typewritten note from Susan too – must have been a very special favour, perhaps she had been a ‘useful girl’ while daddy was away.

Yes we also have had some very nice days although cold early morning and again in the evening. The cuckoo arrived in this vicinity on the 24th instant has been heard several times since. Mutt and Jeff have been at it again but none of us has heard from the people concerned yet but I feel sure there will be at least one more visit even if only to say proposed deal is off. My opinion is that one of the partners is still indisposed and that they will turn up one day. The money aspect will undoubtedly persuade both of my neighbours to bite.

So you cannot get much out of Carol after one week at school. Is she still as eager to start off in the morning? This might give you a clue. I expect she will settle down soon – always a bit of a novelty to begin with.

Instead of the heater you now require a fan in the attic. The heat must be pretty strong to penetrate the tiles.

Sorry no visit from the Eastcote Timber people so far and hope by this time they have paid you a call.

Yes Don and Joan arrived duly on Sunday but it was a funny sort of day here. The mist hung about the tops of the hills (Church and Wains) all day and the sun did not come through. It was very cold too and Don was glad to get in front of fire where he had his usual nap after dinner. He was most interested about your radio transmitter etc and said if he could have afforded it when he was younger he might have taken it up. He knew someone who – in those days – had a set fitted up.

So you took purse to Watford and watch. Mum noted the point made. Also noted June has been busy in your absence and got on with the painting and papering. Expect she finds time going very quickly and by the time she has had a quick look around it is time to go to the school again for the girls. Was it not a bit strange June the first day or two with both Susan and Carol away? We thought of them several times. In fact we think of you all quite a number of times during the weeks.

You had so much to tell this week Alec that you missed any mention of Susan’s visit to the eye specialist and to the other one for her ears. Hope the report from Susan’s headmistress was satisfactory too. No more hat trouble presumably since Carol has the new beret?

Have you been over to see Mrs Baker lately – if so we hope you put the holiday proposition to her and we shall be very pleased to hear that she can make the journey. Has Peter heard any more from the Police? And what about his car? Hope he has got it going again.

You had a lovely time at Watford etc. by your account. Fancy it being mooted you should do the journey to Lyneham by air at 100 gallons of petrol per minute. I thought you would be going down by train from Paddington to Dauntsey thence by R.A.F. tender to the Air Force station. Your journey by road (somebody else driving) must have been very interesting to you especially the M4 section. You properly had the V.I.P. treatment both at Watford during the week and at Lyneham on the day’s visit. Plenty of brass about both at Watford and at Lyneham and some of these gentry no how to sink a drink or two especially when somebody else is paying for it. The hospitality at Watford was excellent. I remember when I used to stay in London for the compilation of the winter or/and summer train services most of the timebill clerks stopped at the Albert Hotel and it was 2 a.m. before anyone thought of retiring. It was a case of occupying the hotel lounge and drinking and talking all night. Your stay at Watford however was not in the same street as the Albert by the sound of it. You were well cared for there (Watford) as if you had been at the Great Western Hotel. I should think now it is over you are glad to have had the opportunity of experiencing a course there. Good job you took your purse!

Yes I did mention to Don the remote possibility of parting with some of the land here but he did not comment much. Incidentally I told you in a previous letter of the scarcity of plum blossom once again. Now I have to correct this statement. I have never seen so much plum blossom on our trees since they were first planted. It has come out in a matter of days and if only the frost will keep away we should have a bumper crop. Unfortunately there have been slight frosts this week and we are not out of the wood from them for another three weeks.

So the N.U.R. have called a three-day strike for this coming month. How silly and how futile it all is. Now they are at it hammer and tongs in Parliament – best place for any argument but I do not think the government will be deflected from the implementation of the Beeching Report. Looks as if your department will be busy before long then if what Butcher says becomes effective.

The Newmans were to have come down for lunch tomorrow from Bristol but a card received today says Mr Newman is ill in bed again and visit must be postponed. Miss Sperrings (my private secretary at Temple Meads*) however is coming down to tea on Thursday – have not seen her for nearly two years. May get some station news.

Since writing last week I have been making great strides in the garden. Have now finished the plot beyond the hedge and it is practically full of potatoes. Have dug a large piece of the main garden and weeded the ground between the current bushes. Have also put in some beetroot seed. The first row of peas is well through the ground now and a second row should go in soon. The runner beans sown in boxes on the 1st April are now showing through the soil. The grass has been cut twice and on each occasion I have had to raise the rollers because the grass was so long. And more important of all just at the moment I have started to put concrete in the path running along in front of greenhouse and extending to garage. This, as you know, has been in the rough for a couple of years. I’m doing about five to six feet in length per day as it is such hard work. Another two layers will see the completion of the job.

We have had a slight further difficulty with the drains but this was more or less the backwash of the previous clearance – the clay which had got into the pipes had not been completely washed away.

Bushell, next door, has made a sandpit for his little girl and it won’t be long before she is playing about in it.

I have taken all the staging down in greenhouse and started to plant out the tomatoes. The ones I raised from seed are making good growth and ready for putting into their final places.

Our new chairs have arrived from Lewis’s of Bristol and for the time being the old armchairs we had in the dining room are in the shed. The refrigerator is now in service and we are now able to have bread and ice cubes for dinner. Makes a change I suppose.

Had a communication from tax people yesterday to say I had overpaid just under £2 [the equivalent of £50 in 2023] for this year ending 1962 and asking for a rebate form to be filled out. this was done at once and returned before they changed their minds.

*Miss Sperrings was clearly very loyal, as she – together with a couple of male colleagues – was present at Leonard’s funeral in 1986.

[Continues Wednesday 1st May, 1963]

Sunday 28th April, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks very much once again for weekly letter. Also for newspapers duly received. Weather this end this week has not been too bad. Watford as you know is not far away from here so for all practical purposes can say we had the same weather. It was a beautiful day on Monday and a real touch of Spring on Tuesday. On Wednesday however, although the forecast was good, it remained cold all day. Back to a warm one on Wednesday and Thursday while Friday and Saturday were really heatwave conditions. Today looks to be starting out for a repetition of Wednesday.

Note your points about the M4 and confirm them as I travelled over it on Thursday in both directions when we went to Lyneham. Note also the cuttings you sent and the details of the Pickwick accident and business at Failand.

Glad you have finished with the drains episode. You do not want to have drain trouble it always kicks up a bit of a stink. Mutt and Jeff in a bit of a dither over their land. That all comes of being a bit secretive about their affairs – always causes suspicion in the end. I am sure that if the price is right they will both find they are in agreement.

Carol had her first week at school this week, but we cannot get much out of her. She is just the same as Susan – either she will not or cannot remember what has happened during the day, and tells us very little. Perhaps after a few more weeks she will have something to say. One result any way is a very noticeable cantankerousness on her part. I do not know if the mental strain is a bit much on the first week, but she cannot get out of trouble at home.

Mr Palmer gave me more than a box of bits as I recall. I think there were at least three three-gang condensers, many fixed, a few coils, and a box of nuts bolts and screws which would come in very valuable if I had them now. Have not been operating this week as you may expect. Went up there just before lunch yesterday and found it like a furnace. Quite a change from a couple of weeks ago.

No luck with the Eastcote Timber Supplies. They said they would send a man around on Monday last, but he did not come, and nothing has been seen or heard of them since. If they do not bother, we shall go somewhere else.

Glad to know that you are having visitors from Lyng today. I hope the weather your end will be up to the mark. I expect Don will have something to say about your prospective business deal, and no doubt will have some helpful hints to pass on.

Yes I took purse to Watford all right – and the watch…..* We were to have flown from Bovington Aerodrome to Lyneham in a Britannia (R.A.F. Transport Command) but the arrangements were stopped by the Air Council who were unable to justify the expense in the end. These aircraft use about 100 gallons of fuel per minute etc.** We traveled by coach leaving Watford at 9:00 a.m. and went via Denham Bypass to Iver Heath and Langley where we joined the M4 thence to Marlborough where some of us had coffee. After that we went via Calne to Lyneham and arrived at 12:30 p.m.. Drinks in the Officers’ Mess and general chat with the R.A.F. work study officers until 1:30 pm when we went into the V.I.P. lounge for lunch. After a good lunch we were taken to the Outward Bound Lounge (where intending passengers await their planes) and had an address by the Station Commander on his station, and their setup. He was followed by the Director of Work Study of the RAF (an Air Marshal who had come down especially to talk to us) and then by a Wing Commander who talked to us about one of his schemes for increasing the availability of aircraft by speeding up the maintenance arrangements. The station has two squadrons of Britannias and one of Comet IVs. After the talks we were taken in turn to see the huge inspection tower (part of the scheme as described) which by means of several platforms one can get to the top of the tail fin. We went from there to the Operations Room where we were shown maps etc which depicted the current position. Rather like an illuminated control diagram. From there we went to the Engine Maintenance Bay. Here they do not attempt to deal with the mechanical parts of the engine, but separate them from the electrical parts, and send them back to Bristol’s. The assembling and electrical arrangements they do themselves. Next move was to the Officers’ Mess for tea, and exchange of mutual congratulations and away again in the coaches. We got back about 8p.m.

With regard to the rest of the week, we were addressed by Lord Netherthorpe (Chairman of National Productivity Year); Sir Steuart Mitchell (Beeching’s assistant); Larkin Deputy General Manager Workshops Division; Philip Butcher Director of Work Study B.R.; Mr A. Dean General Manager North-east Region; F.C. Margetts, Member of B.R.B. and Scott Russell, Member of B.R.B. We also had various others – consultants etc. We were also formed into syndicates of six each and had to prepare a considered report on our findings on a particular policy problem.

During the time we were there we were looked after to a high standard. The sleeping accommodation (one to a room) was up to first class hotel***, and the food even better. The Grove is situated in its own grounds (about one mile to gate) and quite high up. Morning walk before breakfast at 8:30 a.m. the regular practice and most enjoyable. Lectures and meals were complete by 8 p.m., but syndicate work required to be done as necessary thereafter according to the state of work. One free night only was listed and that was Wednesday. There was a well-equipped bar on the premises, large Lounge, Billiard Room (1 table) Table Tennis Hall (2 tables and one dartboard), a putting rink – 9 holes. Also cards to taste. Needless to say the average retirement time for most was about 1 a.m., and the brighter sparks nearer 3. I have no idea why it should be, but everyone felt fit and well there despite all this. No-one overslept, and there were no sore heads to be seen on any day. It must have been the combination of good food, pure air and exercise plus change of beer. I find that the grass has grown a lot since I went to Watford so I shall be able to use some of the energy in cutting it I suppose. We managed to get a pretty clear idea that Butcher (a new man from I.C.I.) intends to get cracking very quickly so there may well be some work around before long.

June has been decorating the bedroom at the back and so far has done very well. Most of the painting is done, and a start made on the wallpaper.

Well now at the bottom of the page so love from us all for now. 

*I have no idea what this refers to unless it was some previous occasion when someone had managed to go away without either their purse or their watch – presumably Eva?

**Looking at the distance involved, the journey would probably have taken about half an hour and cost (by Alec’s reckoning) maybe £3,000 – plus everyone would have had to get from Liverpool Street to Bovington in the first place, roughly a two hour journey in completely the wrong direction. So the coach was undoubtedly cheaper unless there was an operational need to move the aircraft anyway – which is perhaps the reason the idea was considered in the first place. Otherwise it just seems pretty stupid – and, for people supposedly interested in efficiency and cost-saving, a bit of an own goal to say the least!

***Which it now, apparently, is!

Tuesday 23rd April, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec, June, Susan and Carol

Many thanks for letter duly received this morning usual post. Yes we had a very good holiday with you and the weather although not too fine did not make all that much difference to any of us. Noted Sunday not a bad day with you but here at about 10.15 a.m. a violent thunderstorm broke – lightning and heavy hail. This lasted for a few minutes but afterwards for the remainder of the day it rained frequently and very heavy at that. As with you Saturday was bad again and weekend gardeners had a poor time of it.

We left you last Wednesday at 8:45 am so took 35 minutes to reach the M4 – it was a little easier to negotiate the roundabout at West End Road than at Swakeleys Avenue but at that time of the morning there are hundreds of cars about. Have since heard that the accident at Pickwick was due to a car running into a bus. The latter tried to swerve to avoid a collision but only partly succeeded and the driver of the car had a broken leg and several passengers in the bus had minor injuries necessitating hospital treatment. Am enclosing extract from last night’s evening paper wherein you will read of another accident on the Failand Road at a spot you will recognise. A woman was killed and up to the time of going to press had not been identified.

As stated in the P.S. last week Bushell’s trouble with drains was a broken interceptor pipe and since that has been renewed everything is working satisfactorily.

No further news re: land. One of the two parties concerned did call one morning but only to say his partner was ill in bed and they would both come along as soon as possible. Cornish is still out measuring his piece (gets a different one each measure I think). Heel says that Cornish is likely to be the stumbling block and Cornish says the same of Heel. I wonder what they both say of me?

Sorry to hear June was a bit off-colour on Saturday but hope all right for your proposed visit to West Ealing Sunday. Mum has been rough these last few days and has had to keep near toilet. Her stomach must be upset going back to bread and scrape after the rich living at Ruislip. Expect she will tell you more about it in her letter.

Noted the Sunday School people paid for another hat for Carol and that she was ready for school at 8 a.m. Monday. We thought of you trudging off with the two of them and coming back alone. Was it a bit uncanny?

Yes Alec I was very interested in your attic arrangement and so was Mr Palmer when I told him all about it. He can remember the box of bits he gave you years ago. Getting South Shields was good work and one to be chalked up on the board until you can get one further away.

Have not put glass to any use yet but may try and cut to size for frame lights and so avoid buying. We are both very pleased you have a approached the Eastcote Timber Supplies for an estimate for your porch. It will cost a bit more but you will have a much better job – moreover they may be sufficiently interested to keep you advised. I take it the specifications will include Western red timber in the construction. Please do not think we take as hints the information you give us regarding your plans and desires for the present and for the future. We like to hear about them and are just as interested as if we were so planning. So continue to tell us anything about ideas for the future please.

By the way you did not tell us anything about the radio job until it was well in hand and we could actually see the result of your work. This was a pleasant surprise though and Don is going to be very interested when we tell him on Sunday next when he and Joan come up for dinner. It was last October when they last came up and we have been down there just once since that time.

Note you are at Watford this week – minus pyjamas according to June’s letter. Have you got your purse? Nice trip to Lyneham on Wednesday then. How will you go down? Query by train from Paddington. I guess you call June up on the phone when you can from Watford.

Should just like to have seen Carol in school on Monday. Expect she had a lot to tell Mummy when she got home. Very strange that Mrs Benn should get in touch with you so soon after we had gone when we had been inquiring about them. Expect you had all the news of their troubles, if any, during the winter. Also now they have settled in how they like the surroundings and the town of Weston.

So you had the ‘Any Old Iron’ man around your area the other morning. Mr Gray having a good clear out.

Hope you were able to plant sweet peas on Monday. Mum is going to put in the Viscaria the girls gave me in the little border just outside the back door where we had some last year. Must tell Susan and Carol what is being done with them. Note your pot plants also forging ahead now after having tasted a drop of rain.

June evidently busy with some decorations in Alec’s absence. Hope the dinner party went off all right on Monday June. Christopher not back at school that day? Mum missed a bottle of aspirins after we got home and we had visions of Susan and/or Carol getting hold of them before you found them but they were later found wrapped up carefully with some of our things. Wonder what Miss Dix has to tell you about Susan – if it is to do with her reading then it must be an excellent report. She is really remarkable at this for her age. Are you sure June the biros did not go into the girls satchels?

Yes the breakdown of our local drain service was not appreciated after the journey from Ruislip but all’s well that ends well and we are back to normal. When Don wrote and said they would be up next Sunday he said they were having trouble with their drains and concluded it was due to the bad weather during the winter. He has not heard about ours yet.

Well you can guess we have got back into our stride again and now trying to catch up on the gardening etc. Have now finished digging and planting (potatoes) the plot in the field beyond the main garden and it was a filthy patch owing to being infested with withy vine, nettles and dandelions etc. Every spadeful had to be passed through the hands to ensure every bit of weed being taken out. The first sowing of peas is showing through soil and also the third row of broad beans – the first two recovering from the effects of the winter. In the greenhouse I have put out a dozen tomato plants – bought at the Corn Stores for 8/6d [roughly £10.75 in 2023 money] and hope these will give us the first pickings. Have another 30 odd (grown from seed) about three inches high coming on for planting out later. Sweet Peas in the greenhouse are through the soil but will not be ready for putting out for several weeks. Made the first cutting of the lawns last Friday and had to adjust rollers to fullest extent as grass was – in places – 6 inches thick. Could only make a very rough cutting and shall have to have another go soon.

Bushell had mended the feed pipe of mower and I fitted it on Friday morning. He is making a sand pit for his little girl – it won’t be long now before she will walk. Heels had friends here for the Easter and they went back to the Midlands on Sunday afternoon during a break in the thunderstorms. Took with them some of our Lonicera Nitida hedge cuttings to plant at their home. The Newmans are coming down to lunch next Wednesday first prox. Both of them have been very poorly during the winter and only just beginning to get about again.

I’m going to try and get two Mercurys in this week. You will see the Council are getting a bit bothered about losing the station and doing ‘everything in their power’ to keep the place open. Some power!

In the field one of the plum trees (the one nearest the greenhouse) is full of blossom and if only the frost does not spoil it we should get a good crop. There is a bit of bloom on some of the others but nothing to speak of. Apple buds are forming and there should be a good supply of apples in due course. Mum says some of the damson bushes are also in flower. The recent heavy rains however have made the field a swamp once more and this does not do the roots of the fruit trees any good.

Aston called round with some more beet on Saturday and I thanked him for what we brought up to you. He was also pleased to hear of your radio effort – he of course had to use the single needle in his time on the railway. Bushell was very pleased with the trowel I brought back for him and I saw him today planting potatoes with it – the easy way.

Workman are digging out the foundations for the two houses in the quarry at the bottom of our Avenue so they evidently mean business.

Just gone back on June’s letter. How did you get on with Susan at Mount Vernon the other day? And have you to take her there again? Presumably no trouble when you took her for ear examination? Where was it – ? at the clinic.

Think this must be the lot for another week. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. Mum and Dad.

PS: two papers by separate wrapper – same post.