Wednesday 15th February, 1961

Leonard to the family:

Many thanks for letter received on Tuesday and another good effort by Susan – thank you very much Susan your drawings are improving wonderfully.*

Am glad to say we are both feeling very much better but a little exertion seems to take it out of us still – this will wear off in due course.

What a good idea to have the flu vaccine injections – private firms have been doing this for several years. Hope it works out alright and that it can be done annually. Do you remember some years ago we went to Dr Geo Mcleod for some injections and at that time three injections were necessary at monthly periods. Did not bother after the first year but if such injections are proof against flu then we must think about it next Autumn.

Note you have been busy with various meetings including one at Oxford – a place I’ve never been to by train although we had a choir outing there by road a long time ago. Sounds as if you are all going to have plenty of work to get on with. No wonder you want additional staff.

Have not heard from Norman. He will call up on phone if & when he has any news. There must be hundreds of applicants for Work Study posts and presumably all those successful must have a period at the school otherwise it would be most difficult for them to undertake the outside work. Have you had your chat with McDonald yet about things? and found out who is doing what etc.?

You still find a bit of time for winemaking then? I’ve nothing brewing up at the moment but am thinking of making some Parsnip Wine. Recently dug up the remainder of the parsnips and they are drying off in garage at the moment – about 4 or 5 lbs I should think, just enough for a brew.

Is there any more news of Susan’s possible start at school after Easter or have you still to wait for information? Is Susan excited at the prospect? We shall see a big difference in both of them – it will be about nine months since we last saw them and they can alter quite a lot in that time. Last June when you were here Carol was not too sure on her feet but I expect she is all over the place now. Susan will have grown too. They are both still fond of their prams then** – something to show us when we come up.

How nice for Pauline & Eileen to be with you last weekend. I’m sure Susan & Carol were pleased.

Had a line from Geoff last week to say you had all been over to Headstone Lane and that the children had had a good time. Note you visited Harrow last weekend but no lampshades on view. We have not been out in car except for local trips to library and Hill Road. Am gradually filling up with petrol for the journey and shall put car in for ‘short servicing’ in early March. Have you got certificate of roadworthiness for yours yet? I see the very old ones are now liable to prosecution if not in possession of certificate.

The current name of the hairdresser who bought Roselands is Hamblin and not Hamilton – my mistake. Hamblin has had a ladies hairdressing business at Six Ways (near Babyland) ever since that block of shops were erected and is noted for buying old property – renovating it – and then reselling. I don’t know if the other man – Hamilton – is still in Knowles Rd or not.

Someone was looming at Spencers’ house in this avenue last Sunday – understand Spencer starts his new job in Southampton on March 1st. At the moment he is busy painting the outside woodwork – windows, doors etc. – presumably to get a better price for it. Should think it’s a bit late in the day for that.

Those people in Cranley Gardens seem to be in it right up to their necks – the place was well organised. It would be very interesting to know who first put the police on to them.***

Have got down to some serious gardening this week. Dug another rough plot across garden and started weeding from the bottom end next to Heels. In the frames I’ve sown Lettuce – Carrot – Beetroot – Leeks and Cauliflower whilst in greenhouse I’ve taken quite a lot of chrysanthemum cuttings. It was a glorious day yesterday and from BBC accounts it was pretty general all over the country. No sun today but dry although very dull. Mum has gone to Townswomen’s Guild meeting this afternoon and is going with them tomorrow to Bristol to the pantomime. I shall be keeping the home fires burning or perhaps one in the garden – nearly time I started another.

Note you had a trip to Pinner Park on Sunday but that it was not too pleasant – not very nice here either. I went ringing morning and evening but we did not feel well enough to sit in church – still a bit of cough at times.

Have you disposed of all the Country Lifes we brought up last year? Hope so for we have another lot for you. Joan tells us that commencing last January she has changed to the ‘Field’ a somewhat similar publication to the Country Life but we shall still be having them as usual (i.e. the Field).

Quite a lot of train mishaps lately – what is the matter? Some of them appear to be carelessness from the brief particulars given in the Press but it is just as well to wait for the official verdicts. The fact remains however there are too many accidents occurring now-a-days****. Don in his last letter said he had heard that they are taking men from the Labour Exchange at Exeter and training them as goods guards and that when the period of training is over (ten weeks) the men resign and go back to the Labour Exchange having had ten stamps stuck on their card.

Well I think this is the lot once more. Mum must put a few lines before posting to say how much she enjoyed pantomime.

Hope you are all keeping well.

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

Mum & Dad

[*Against what standard, I wonder? And is improvement the only reason for making them? I think not. Why wouldn’t one tell a child that age ‘I really liked your drawing’ or ‘Your drawing made me smile’? Continually measuring any child against some imaginary yardstick must surely lead to disappointment on both sides – especially for the child who can never quite be ‘good enough’ for the adults in their life.]

[**Having owned the things for only about seven weeks at this stage this may not be too surprising.]

[***The simple answer to this question is ‘the CIA’, who had tipped off MI5 about the activities of a man known as ‘Gordon Lonsdale’ but who was in fact a Soviet agent by the name of Konon Molody. Permission was obtained to investigate the contents of a safe deposit box in ‘Lonsdale’s name, and spy paraphernalia was discovered. From then on he was under intense scrutiny until he was arrested on 7 January, 1961, and so was everyone he came into contact with.]

[****This was certainly a bad spell; Wikipedia lists three accidents very close together at this time – at Royton in Lancashire on 8 February, where the accident was followed by a fire which destroyed two houses; near Rugby on 11 February, when a driver was killed; and at Baschurch in Shropshire on 13 February, when three railwaymen were killed. Further crashes took place on 20 March at Canon Street, London; 11 April at Waterloo; 18 April at Pitsea in Essex; and on 16 July at Weeton in Lancashire, leaving a total of twelve people dead and at least 142 injured.]

Letter from Eva on the remaining two-thirds of Leonard’s sheet of writing paper:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for letter also Susan’s drawing. I expect she will be an artist later on.

Well we went to the Pantomime in King St. We had nearly left Clevedon when two members found they hadn’t got their tickets so back to Herbert Rd, & also Fearnville. We eventually arrived at the Theatre Royal* 2.15 p.m. & it commenced 2.30. This is not a very big theatre I was surprised. Jessie Matthews was the principal actress. She must be sixty if she is a day by now*. I remember her better in the films. We got home about 6.30 p.m. On the 22nd we hope to go to Capern’s Seed place at Yatton.

Dad has been busy putting the gate right today.

The Triangle Post Office was raided this week £500 stolen. Somebody said Mick Rees Barratt went off & left the door open. He works as a labourer somewhere not being fit for other work.

The Hamilton who used to live in Knowles Rd lived with a Mrs Middleton who had a number of children. Don’t know if he lives there now.

There was Ronnie & Reggie Hoy one of them died I think it was Ronnie, the other is a clergyman.

I have bought some paint to do the bathroom don’t know when it will be started all depends when the electricians do their job.

This is about all for the week. Lots of love from

Mum & Dad

[*Now known as the Bristol Old Vic and recently given a massive face-lift. (Mutter mutter, monstrous carbuncle…)]

[*A little unfair; she was fifty-four.]


Sunday 12th February, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad,

Thank you both for latest letter, glad to hear, you are both much better although not quite fully restored yet. Yes so far thank goodness we have all escaped the flu, and generally the epidemic seems to have been rather scattered in these parts. A list was sent round for key? staff to apply for flu vaccine injections. I had mine on Friday morning and can still feel tenderness in the arm. The vaccine is supposed to take full effect from two weeks after it has been given and to last for a year. If this can be given every year and it works, shall have to keep it going. There is some immunity degree even from the start, but there is still the risk of getting flu within the first fortnight.

I do not suppose you felt much like wine tasting recently however restful an occupation it is. Nevertheless I expect you are now feeling more able to cope. My Apricot/Celery mixture is in the last stages of fermentation and I have another concoction ready to take its place in the fermentation Jar. The latest is based on a packet of dates that got loft over from Xmas together with two old grapefruit and two old but very juicy and sweet oranges. One wizened apple also wont into the brew. There is upwards of half a gallon ticking over nicely. Have the remains of the last gallon of apricot which I shall try to keep for your approval next month.

Yes again we think the Field End School is quite modern and it certainly looks to be up to date from the inside as well as outside.

So far as meetings go, Mr Lay managed to stay away all last week so that we dropped in nicely for those arranged for last week. McDonald came back on the Monday still looking the worse for wear, but managed to last out. No more have gone down with it.

I noted the Class One vacancies. my strength is to be six each of “A”s Ones, and Twos, and as I have only two “A”s One One, and Two Twos at the moment directly attached (as distinct from those on loan) I shall certainly get some of this crop of twenty-five. The position changes rapidly from day to day however. For example, London (and now Bristol) are asking for a much larger establishment still, some vacancies will be filled from within the organisation which includes research men, and some will leave before even the initial posts have been filled. Where we shall be getting the staff from I cannot think. There are now hundreds of applications to come in – everybody now wants to jump on the wagon. They all seem to have forgotten what they had to say about the subject only a couple of years ago.

I am sorry Norman did not get a job. It was only an outside chance of course with his present grading so low. Still, tho fact that they interviewed 30 people is a good omen. It means they are looking around for likely candidates and are not just filling the posts for which the interviews took place. Some of the unlucky 30 will not bother again, some will have get other jobs by the time the next batch of W/S vacancies are advertised so it is bound to be to Norman’s advantage to persevere and particularly to show interest in the work that is going on in the section by asking the people in it. I cannot say how important a display of enthusiasm on his part is at the present time and he should not do too put out by his lack of success so far. By far the most important part of W/S is tho “Human Relations” angle and it has been said that that amounts to about 75% and tho remaining 25% is Black Magic (Slide Rule, and various technique etc.)

We had interviews for five two’s [sic] on Thursday and again on Friday morning. I do not know how many there were, but I am satisfied that two of my temporary two’s will be made permanent.

My requisition for coach equipment was cut and I am now trying to find out who deals with such matters. It seems incredible to me that no one seems to know. Shall drop a fair sized spanner in his basket when I find out. I cannot seem to get far over tho coach business. We had a good meeting at Oxford so that I shall probably start a team there soon. When I do I shall ask for a coach, and bring some more pressure on the subject. At the moment I have no immediate use for one anyway. I do not know whether I told you but I have the keys of the Westbury coach in my drawer, so it is someone else’s next move.

We still have not had much chance to do any serious window gazing for a lamp shades and although we went to Harrow this week-end did not see any there.

Some rain your end to all accounts, but you did manage to make a start with some of your sowing. I remember the gulley when it fills with rain, but I suppose you hare cured that bit between the greenhouse and garden by the construction of the concrete paths. Prams are getting plenty of exercise but no doubt this will increase with the arrival of better weather. There is still plenty of indoor activity that goes on with them as well.

Cannot comment on the price for Roselands as I have no knowledge of its size and condition. I remember Hamblin the hairdresser although you have the name wrong. It is Hamilton, but Gfr. Fewings* said he knew him when he lived at Tiverton but his name was Middleton then – some mystery. I asked him many years ago if he know Tiverton and he said he did.

I am sure you will look forward to seeing Arthur when he comes to England this year. As you say it is necessary to have some funds to keep travelling like this, but I suppose it is all a question of values and the relative standard of living here and in America. It must be rather nice where he lives. I expect he likes to have someone to look up on his trips.

I said at Headstone Lane that you would be thinking of us all. The jaunt went well but of course Carol got so excited that she was sick as soon as we got back. To complete that side of the picture we had a repeat performance from her when returning from Harrow yesterday.

Cranley Gardens is at Ruislip Manor. If you face up the hill there, you take the last turning to the left before you get to the railway bridge, and then it is a turning to the left again.

Eileen is spending tho Week-end with, and so is Pauline. We went to Pinner Park this morning but it was not too pleasant. Few flowers out and a host of dejected ducks feeding off bread crumbs that the girls threw them.

I note all the people are selling their houses in your area – is it coincidence? The place must look a lot better without all the tree branches – more light.

Well that is all from those “Bowler Hatted people”.


[*Joseph Henry Fewings, 1873-1943]

Wednesday 8th February, 1961

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for another nice letter received on Tuesday and we are very glad to hear that so far you have escaped the flu and hope you will avoid it altogether. According to this morning’s paper the epidemic has now reached its peak and from now on should decrease. Mum and I are both feeling a lot better but not by any means 100% yet. We don’t want any more of that kind. From what you say it would appear to be very similar to that which you had in 1957. Anyhow enough of that for the time being. Note several absentees from your office and hope they will soon be back.

Have not had very much inclination for wine tasting but we were put on to a very fine pick-me-up called Vibrona 13/9 a bottle at Wine Merchants* – quite a kick in it.

We can both remember the school in Field End Road – it’s quite close to the Clay Pigeon. A nice looking building from outside and I should think it is quite up to date. Let’s hope Susan can get into it after Easter.

You are in for a number of meetings then by the sound of it – keep you on your toes. In a letter from Don this morning he says that last week there were no less than 25 Class 1 vacancies advertised for Work Study on W.R. – presumably some of these will come to your dept.

Norman Allen called up after his interview last Friday and said he was with them for about 20 minutes. Apparently Gallagher & Mann were two of the panel and a lot of questions asked which he thought he had dealt with alright. I asked him how many were interviewed and he said 30 for four vacancies. This seems ridiculous. Anyhow even by an interview he said he had got further than he thought he would.

Your accommodation at Paddington is pretty bad comparably with other areas but I suppose it will be remedied in due course. Did your requisition for coach equipment go forward or was it slashed? And did you manage to secure the coach you had your eye on at Westbury? It is all very interesting to be although not directly concerned now-a-days. You will have to have a fairly large staff to cover all the assignments in mind. By this time you will no doubt have settled one or two things with McDonald i.e. if he has returned to duty. His Swiss holiday did not do him much good going off so soon after his return.

Note you were at Ealing last Saturday but not much time for window gazing. We thought in the meantime before we come up that you would like to look at some lamp shades hence the suggestion. Put another coating of polish on standard this morning. Its raining in torrents and impossible to do anything outdoors. Quite nice yesterday and Mum and I dragged some of the apple prunings from the field to quite near garage for breaking up. Still some more to come when it is next dry again overhead. In the afternoon I put in three rows of shallots – working from concrete path – so that little job’s done. The gulley in the field between greenhouse and bungalow at the bottom is as full of water as I’ve ever seen it.

Fancy Susan wanting a paddle this weather! How are the prams getting on – plenty of exercise I expect when weather suitable.

We hear Roselands has been sold for £1800 [roughly £41,850 in 2021 money] – a more reasonable figure than first anticipated. Hamlin the hairdresser in Knowles Rd has bought it – expect you remember him from schoolboy days. Now we hear Spencers (Ian’s parents) are moving to Southampton and their house in the Avenue is up for sale. I remember the Hoys who used to live near Elfords many years ago.

So far as John is concerned I think he has done this on his own but no doubt Joe & Lydia would know what was happening. I’m sure he has made the right move otherwise he might have been an Irononger’s Assistant all his life. In a way both he and Pat have been fortunate inasmuch as they have been able to make their homes in their home town.

Arthur is supposed to be coming to England again this summer and he has said he is going to call on us this time. Must have some money to keep touring like this.

Am expecting my National Health contribution to be increased in April but am hoping to draw from them in just over a twelvemonths time to make up for it. Obviously I’m not going to get any increase in railway superannuation but the fact that some increase is being given to certain colleagues is interesting and as you say shows somebody is waking up at last.

We thought of you last Sunday afternoon going over to Headstone Lane – not altogether a nice day and I should not think the children were able to play on the lawn but we hope you all enjoyed yourselves. I went over ringing morning and evening but we did not go to Church, neither did I go over Monday night to ringing practice.

I see Ruislip getting a lot of newspaper publicity in connection with the alleged spying on behalf of Russia. Where are Cranley Gardens? Cannot seem to remember seeing the place. According to one account the person concerned used Ruislip Manor Station.**

Heard this morning Mr & Mrs Aston both ill with flu. Cornish looked over yesterday – first time for about four months – looking as artful as ever. He and Heel the other neighbour walk the sea wall after heavy seas and secure anything washed up. I call them Flotsan & Jetsam. They generally come back with something even if they have to drag it through river (at low tide) into Heel’s field. The people who bought Mrs Drewett’s house are there every day at some time busy with redecorating it but there is no sign yet of them moving in.

Quite a lot of the early spring flowers are out including snowdrops and crocuses so we must look forward to some better weather soon. Gardening will be all behind this year but it’s useless to get on the ground at present – more suitable for paddy field cultivation.

I will let you know if Norman hears anything further but it is possible you may hear before me via your Bristol contacts. Don’t worry about car when we come up – ours can stand in the ‘drive in’ if necessary but if anyone should have a garage vacant for a few days then we would like to take advantage of it.

Now I think this is the lot for another week – hope you are all keeping fit and well.

All our love to you both and once again lots of kisses for dear little Susan & Carol.

Mum & Dad

[*Not cheap; this would be £16 in 2021 money!]

[**This was the infamous Portland Spy Ring, which operated from a bungalow at 45 Cranley Drive. According to Google Earth the distance between the two houses is just under two miles, although this is a journey distance and not ‘as the crow flies’. 45 Cranley Drive is tucked away from any main travel routes so it’s most unlikely that Leonard would have been anywhere near it.]

Eva to the family on the remaining two-thirds of a sheet of Leonard’s writing paper:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

I saw the writing on the underside of envelope & think it was Susan writing Queens Walk. Did you have a nice time at Headstone Lane last Sunday, it was not a very nice day here.

Norman has just rung up to say he was not lucky with any of the jobs.

It has been lovely here today but very windy. Shall soon have to think about gardening I suppose.

Lots of people are selling their houses down this area. Mrs Harding in Westbourne Avenue is going to Hallam Rd to live with her mother & selling. Her son got married the other day & the daughter married a Spencer some time ago. You can see the furniture vans about every day at some place or other.

You can see nearly every house in St Andrew’s Drive now our trees have been severely pruned. Mr [illegible] has been doing drastic cuttings on his estate, he couldn’t see the wood for the trees. We may not get so much fruit now in consequence.

I expect Carol will want to go to school when Susan starts. Were you successful in getting her in? I think I can remember the school.

Ruislip was well in the news columns of our paper yesterday describing the place & people a nice set of bowler-hatted gentlemen who like “doing it yourselves” to keep their thoughts off the city. Lots more besides.

Lots of love to you all,

Mum & Dad