Sunday 19th May, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks once again for weekly letter duly received Friday as usual. Thanks also for doll etc for Susan’s birthday, she will be writing herself in a few minutes.

Yes weather last week not so good. This week it has been a mixed bag with warmth at times quite like summer, but every day has been a coat day really.

I agree about the slugs, and wonder how they managed to survive the winter. You said at one time that you were not troubled by slugs your end, but here they are out in force again. Have put down some slug pellets and these have seen off a few slugs, but have had a lot of rain since and although the things are supposed to be shower-proof some of the effectiveness must have been lost by now. I shall have to lay some more.

Cannot have a more powerful set as limited to maximum of 10 watts on this band. I already have six watts, and the additional four will not make all that much difference. The only thing that can be done is to increase the effectiveness of the apparatus by attention to detail of the various parts including aerial system. All takes time, and in the end the effectiveness of the operator counts for quite a lot. You will be interested to learn that on Tuesday I hooked up* with the chap at Cam near Dursley in Gloucestershire, and on Saturday with a man in Cardiff. Gradually pushing further out. Although both these contacts were made, conditions change so quickly during the calls that signals had practically disappeared at the end. Not knowing Cam, I looked it up in Handbook of Stations and found it to be on branch from Dursley to Coaley Junction. It has probably been closed long ago.

I remember the set Saunders made. It was a simple three valve receiver built in a stained wooden box with separate speaker. The corners of both being decorated with beading that had the form of dots and dashes (e.g. .. – – ..).

I planted out the sweet peas in pots as you gave them to us – two at a time. Also put in the beans so we shall see something come up. No more earth since last time. Each bathload goes only a little way, and in fact when scattered on the lawn can hardly see where it has gone. It will all help to cover up the Stones that are now showing too well.

No more from the Eastcote Timber Supplies. No further move in that direction yet. Good idea about the Aunt Sally. I think it will be cheaper in the long run to collect it oneself – less broken glass. If  the transfer of the property at the bottom of your field goes as hope, you would do well to collect a substantial amount of topsoil over a period of time, as it all comes in handy. I am not surprised about the dog being sick. Rather him than Mrs Gardner.

When we first went to Clevedon the quarry was used as such, and they used to take an old traction engine down there to work the stone crusher. I think it was just before the war that they removed the crusher and ceased to blast the rocks there. The large galvanised-roof shed that was there was also removed a little later. For a while after stopping the work of quarrying the Council used the site for holding contractors’ railway lines and tipper trucks. The shed before it was taken down housed stacks of these lines, and also large heaps of rotting potatoes – which made very presentable ammunition.

Nothing further about the holidays but a bit early to be definite yet.

Rather a good idea one year to have a go at dandelion wine especially if plentiful. I know the main difficulty is that when they are about you are at your busiest in the garden. You have had rather a lot of trouble with your grass this year. Ours has not been much trouble but wants cutting again. I have only cut the new lawn once but it is getting very straggly now and could do with a haircut.

Susan went to the Brownies on Wednesday and I gather she enjoyed herself. She came home on the bus with some other girls. She will not be going again this week as she has now to wait at home for a letter saying she can be accepted as there is a long waiting list apparently.** There is only one group in the district.

Trouble with the driving business is that now you must take the test when you have had three provisional licenses or before you get the third. It would be a waste of time and money for June to take the test at this stage, and licence is probably nearly out by now.

Your friends having a good time at Dunoon and Malta. you will have to have a trip to Weston to compete.

I had to go to Retford again on Wednesday and stopped the night this time. I may have to go again as there is a lot of information there that I need and it has to be kept up there. It is not a bad place really. I thought it was in Lincolnshire but it is in Nottinghamshire on the edge of Sherwood Forest. Some parts of the country are very nice but the town is a mixture of wealth and poverty. The shops themselves compare more than favorably with some of the London suburbs (West Ealing for example) and the population is about 20,000.

As you will see by Susan’s letter we went to London Zoo yesterday. Our party went by train although the rest of the school went by coach. We were 10 children and five adults for stop. Of course there were the usual muddles and waits for the group to collect for this and for that and most of the time was spent in waiting for someone or something or other. However we went via Marylebone, walked about half a mile and waited for bus to Zoo. (Number 74) As it happened we could only get a few on the first bus, and a couple on the second, and we finished up on the third. (8 minutes service). When we got to the Zoo entrance we had to link up with the main party, that meant waiting for one of our number (on first bus) who had gone to find them. After this we went to a further point and waited for main party to arrive. Once assembled we moved off to Children’s Zoo and had to wait to get in. Once inside there was a general dispersal to see various of the exhibits – chickens, geese, rabbits, ponies and the like. I suppose we were inside here for just about one hour then we made our way to penguins and seals. After this we waited again for the whole party to assemble and moved into the Lion House. Of course we had one bright boy with us who was a plague of everyone’s life. He dropped his sandwiches over the safety barrier and promptly went over after them. I grabbed him by arm and seat of pants and yanked him out. Tiger, which had shown great interest, had a disappointed look after that. Same child then disappeared and we all had to wait till he could be found before moving off. (Said he had been to Scotland.) All then went to the monkey house (usual cracks permissible) and found a few long lost relatives. After that we trooped to the giraffe house and on the way passed the antelopes (and Susan’s crack about unclelopes); last and largest were the elephants (two in number) who stood on a rocky island and passed their trunks over a wall to take food from passers-by. The girls were very keen to have the food but not to hold it out to the animals. The person in charge of the train party had some business to do before going to the station so asked if we would take train party back to Marylebone. We were successful in getting all ten back to station with help of one teacher, and concentrated them around chocolate machines etc. One herb kept putting sixpences in machine for dispensing milk. I told him not to waste his money that way but he said ‘I drink plenty of milk that’s what makes me so intelligent’? I gave up. In the end he took one carton home in bag for his mother – can’t think what she thought of it. By the way we only took light jackets and it turned perishing cold there with a strong wind. As a comparison with Bristol Zoo I would say they have more exhibits and probably a greater variety, but the horticultural side is not so good. There is a whole lot of new building though which promises much in the way of scenic effects.

I see from the window that it is blowing well outside again, but the sun tries to warm things up a bit.

June reminds me that you had a gas water heater to dispose of some time ago and she wonders if it is still available or if you have since got rid of it.

So far as any future holiday (possibly abroad) is concerned, we can discuss that one when we see you.

Well there it is again for another week. Hope you are both well as we are here. Love from us all once again. 

*Of course, the modern sense of ‘hook up’ is slightly different!

**This was the 5th Ruislip pack, and I did end up joining – and remember going to Brown Owl’s wedding in my first week – but it was deemed too far to take me after a while. When the 1st South Ruislip opened up I was also briefly part of that – but then I discovered a scheduling conflict (to wit, ‘Batman’ was on that night) and the Brownies ended up suffering.


Tuesday 26th March, 1963

This letter was originally misfiled and has been added retrospectively.

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol,

Well here we are again with many thanks for your usual newsy letter to hand this morning first post. Just fancy those girls getting bilious attacks one after the other – must be jealousy, if one has a turn the other must follow*. Glad they are all right again now.

Must thank them for the paintings enclosed with yours. Is this a first effort at painting? It is very good as it is not nearly so easy to paint as draw with a pencil.

Noted you have not seen Mrs Baker recently but expecting her on the day you wrote and that you all hope to go along to the Mothering Service in the afternoon. I went to the one here because of ringing and choir and the Vicar was really good with the children. The latter had all to go up to the altar at the close and receive a Mothering Sunday card from the Vicar which they had to give their mothers. There was a stream of children some of whom could not get up the steps and had to be helped.

So Tony and Lillian have good decor thanks to the handyman about the house – would be a bit different if there were a couple of children present and moreover he would not have the time to devote to the decorations. It is very nice though if you can get interested in such work. Unfortunately I am not one of those and I’m only too glad when I have finished a room and can get outside again. We actually finished off the front room yesterday after arrival of the felting which we used as a surround to the carpet. This only arrived Saturday morning after we had read the Riot Act to Challicoms on Friday afternoon when in town. Anyhow the room looks very nice once more. You have nothing to worry about with your house having regard to the fact two young children with plenty of life in them help occupy the premises.

I hesitate to ask but did June make the cake on which your tooth was wrecked? Sounds like a shop one if you had at the tree with it. You soon had the dentist on the job and back to normal. Should think it would be strong enough to bite on otherwise not much good having it treated. Might as well have the thing out all together.

Yes I agree about driving in the rain but when you cannot gauge the depth of the potholes which you have to pass over then it is not so good.

I do not think Don’s breathing will improve much with the coming of the warmer weather – the answer in his case is not to exert himself so much. He has always been a very hard worker manually and it is reacting on him now unfortunately.

Yes you must get the ground ready for the seed sowing please. I can see it is going to be the big thing for Susan and Carol assuming they are both interested.

Re: holiday it seems a pity to come back on the Tuesday considering it is Carol’s birthday but we imagined you might be having a bit of a children’s party and would require all the room available. If this is not so and you have nothing else in mind for that day we could return on the Wednesday but we will leave the decision entirely to you. Noted you will be getting a bit of leave and we shall look forward to a nice time.

So there is no further news of the accident there yet. These things take their course and the police are never in a hurry once the cases are on the files pending. Hope you found Mrs Baker improving when you saw her last Sunday and that she was able to go to the service. No doubt we shall see her again when we are with you at Easter.

Regarding eyesight, I had a suspicion they might be deteriorating a little hence was very pleased to have opticians report to the contrary. Have my new glasses now and they fit much better and as mentioned in previous letter the lenses for the the “distance” pair are bigger and more convenient. How is Susan getting on with hers?

I think you must have had vinegar for breakfast last Sunday by the suggestion that with a couple of new chairs and another watch we could sleep by the hour – not bad. The chairs are not yet here and it will be another 5 or 6 weeks before delivery is effected. The watch keeps excellent time as I have been checking it regularly with the BBC to make sure it is doing so. Told the shops people if it did not keep time they would have it back quick.

Glad to hear your one geranium plant is proving profitable by the number of cuttings June has been able to take. If you would like some more we have plenty but we do not want to overdo your stock. Let us know please. Also while I think of it I have now received the 1963 copy of the A.A. Members’ Handbook and if you would like the 1962 copy which is still in very good condition I will bring it along. I won’t forget the flagon of cider. 

Yes I’m afraid the horse’s visit this time was a dead loss to Norman Baker but it was just one of those things. In any case he was saved the trouble of looking after him and this was no soft job with the snow deep in the drive and the water in bucket frozen every morning for several weeks.

Thought you would be interested in the newspaper cuttings. C.R. Clinker is in the news again. He is noted to have travelled over every part of British Railways at some time or other. He left the railway long ago as I expect you can recall. Quite a nice chap but railway mad.

So you have two little girls making and bringing in the tea – very nice too. Has June restarted the driving lessons yet? Perhaps she is waiting to get Carol away to school to have a little more time.

Mum was clearing out the larder this morning preparatory to whitening the place and found a half bottle of 1960 elderberry wine which I promptly tasted at dinner time – quite good and very much mellowed. Have racked off the blackberry and the elderberry brandy and have earmarked two bottles of each to bring up. I’m afraid there will be no greenstuff June this time as we are right out and the new season’s planting is not yet ready. It has been a most disastrous winter for everybody around here and elsewhere for cabbage and broccoli. Since writing last week I have managed to get in a few hours on the garden and in addition to peas and shallots have now got in three rows of onions and another row of broad beans. Am now anxious to put in the parsnip and some early potatoes. In the greenhouse I have potted up 36 tomato plants raised from seed and sown a box of Brussels Sprout seed. The recent heavy rains however have stopped work outdoors for a day or two and the gullies in the field are again full of water.

Do you remember me talking about a Mr Stephens of Jonathan Hill and Co timber merchants of Bristol? He moved to Hereford a few years ago and we now hear he has had a severe stroke and even if he recovers will never work again. It is a very bad case and he is several years younger than me. We had a letter yesterday morning from Mrs Stephens to tell us all about it – apparently it happened about six weeks ago when the weather was at its worst. He collapsed when going to work one morning.

Bushell – our next door neighbour – is busy in his spare time preparing cars for his uncle who brings them along one at a time for him to do. The uncle actually is a farmer at Yatton at doubles in second hand cars putting them right when necessary and then selling at a profit. He buys a fair number of second-hand cars from Binding and Paynes (these people accept them from customers as part exchange and only too glad to get rid of them to anyone) and Bushell overhauls them and as I say repairs as necessary and then his uncle sells them. Not a bad idea for getting some easy and quick money.

We understand customers have already been found for the two houses which are to be erected in the quarry at the bottom of the Avenue. Not much of an outlook from the back of the premises – straight into the face of the quarry.

*What a charmingly generous interpretation of childhood illness. If this is supposed to be funny, I’m afraid I fail to see the humour.

“Speak roughly to your little boy,
And beat him when he sneezes;
He only does it to annoy,
Because he knows it teases.”

Lewis Carroll

Continued on Wednesday 27th March, 1963

Tuesday 19th March, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol,

Once again many thanks for your interesting letter and the enclosures from Susan and Carol – quite good drawings from both of them. Also thank you Alec for magazine also received this morning same post as a letter.

Very glad to hear Mrs Baker is keeping up and at this stage it would seem the shock is gradually receding which is a good thing. It will take a long time though to get back to normal and we know that you have been able to make a few journeys over to Ealing to see her. Expect she looks forward to your visit. For the time being then Mrs Baker has decided to remain at number 17 and try and make a go of it. One thing about this it will occupy her mind and help the days along. She evidently wants to be independent if she can and we hope the arrangement is a successful.

Very sorry to hear of Peter’s misfortunes – there is no let up by the Police. Either you are in the right or you are in the wrong – there are no halfway measures with them. It is most unfortunate it was an expectant mother in the other car and we hope there have been no after effects – or is it too early yet to say? Presumably the car was not overdue for test when this  accident occurred.

Poor Carol – we assume it was her last polio injection that upset her and we do hope she is alright again now. Can picture her going around holding her arm. Still game however for a trip in car to shops and Ealing – perhaps these journeys help to take her mind off it.

Yes the paper was finally stuck to the wall and not to me. I had to use a plumb line quite a lot and as paper reached from ceiling this was a bit of an effort. Now we are waiting for some felting to arrive from Challicoms for a surround to the carpet and some curtaining from Lewis’s of Bristol which mum then has to make up. Mum must tell you in her own words all about both items.

Noted marble clock keeps stopping and going. Does it want cleaning or overhauling do you think? When grandfather Atkins was about he looked after the clock as if it were a baby and kept it in excellent condition and we were not allowed to touch it.

Yes double glazing is alright but if you do this up go the rates. It is an item which is liable to cause re-rating. Personally I think it is more effective than the erection of a conservatory or glass porch but the latter is is what you want badly to stop some of the draught and also to give you a nice little place additional to your present accommodation. We do hope you will be able to have it put up this summer ready for next winter blast.

Your office not very well lighted then and must be a bit stuffy too at times. I take it you have to use electric lighting all day. Seems very strange your section has little work to do. Surely they knew this when the job you applied for was advertised? Not satisfactory to any of you really. Perhaps the powers that be are hatching up some big scheme to be tackled.

You asked if we have had any rain. Torrents of it and last Sunday for our trip to Lyng it proved to be the filthiest journey we have had by road for many a long day. It poured down for both journeys and the potholes – now numerous after the frost – being full of water 1 could not judge how deep they were consequently every now and again we dropped right into them with a splash and jolt. Anyhow Don and Joan were very pleased to see us and we had a most enjoyable time. Don not too good with his breathing and the least exertion cause him to double up and rest. They asked after you all and were sorry to hear that June’s father had passed away. There is already an invitation for all of you to visit them when you are with us in the summer and Joan gave us two Easter eggs to bring up to Susan and Carol. They have just finally decided to give up most of their poultry and keep only a few. They, like us, are beginning to feel the work is too much for them and Don certainly cannot do the hard work such as cleaning out the fowl houses that he has been doing for years.*

Incidentally the Jim Mead who has died was best man at Jessie’s wedding. Perhaps that will bring him back to your memory. He was 60 and single but lived in one of the farm houses attached to the farm he and Jessie’s husband worked. The latter now has the lot to see to and it is possible they will move into the house now vacant as it is a better one than their present home.

I see you all went over to June’s friends at West Drayton on the 10th inst. and had a good time as also did the children. We wondered if the girls had been on to you for some garden of their own but you are evidently going to anticipate them by taking down the wire around the plot at bottom of garden. Are they still keen on the seed planting? Note you will be able to have a few days off duty at Easter. If it is alright with June and yourself we could travel on the Thursday from here and possibly return the following Tuesday which is Carol’s birthday.

Mum and I went to Bristol yesterday (Monday) to get some curtaining (already mentioned) and I had an appointment with Pictons the opticians for sight testing. I had about three quarters of an hour with the optician and I was most pleased when he told me my sight had not altered since the last visit which was several years ago. I had thought it was weakening but that must have been due to being a bit off-colour in health. Anyhow I have decided to have new frames and, in the case of the the “distance” glasses, larger lenses. Whilst in Bristol I also bought myself a good wristlet watch – my present one has not been up to scratch for a long time and I made up my mind several months ago that I would eventually treat myself to a good one. The old one I can now use to some extent for work on the garden or other rough work. We also bought from Lewis’s two armchairs to replace those in the dining room and these will be coming down on Thursday this week. Fortunately it was a much better day than Sunday and we went up by bus.

In the afternoon (we got home about 2 p.m.) I dropped a line to Don re: our Sunday visit and we had late dinner and then put our feet up for the evening. I managed to pack up the runner beans for Geoff last Friday afternoon and got them away the same day and hope they have reached him by now. He sent me some geranium cuttings – arrived this morning – but package was badly smashed although it looks as if all contents were intact. It is to be hoped the beans reached him in better condition otherwise if packing broke he would lose the lot.

Talking about green stuff mum got fork this morning and found a nice lot of carrots in garden and I dug up the last couple of parsnips. We brought back the cwt. potatoes from Lyng which we had ordered at digging time and I paid 18/6d [approximately £23.50 in 2023 currency]** for them. Mum also has some eggs from Joan at 3/6d per dozen.*** Being a nice morning I started to dig up some old Brussels Sprouts plants and forked over the ground. Then I planted the shallots with about 72 shallots in a row. After dinner I had a just dug out a small trench for a row of peas when down came the rain again and I had to abandon work for the day hence this letter being typed this afternoon. I’m glad to have made a start however. Before coming indoors I potted up all the cuttings of geraniums received from Geoff. By the way Don let me bring back four gallons of cider so I’m all right for a drink night-times for a few weeks.

Norman Baker says he will fetch horse in a day or two and bring him down again later in the year when possibly all the fruit has been gathered.

Understand Don has some trouble with the roof of their house owing to snow getting underneath. The guttering too also came down.

[Letter continues Wednesday 20th March, 1963]

*Knowing of Don’s frequent respiratory ailments it seems more than likely that he was suffering recurrent bouts of psittacosis. His father was similarly afflicted, and he too kept chickens and other fowls. Add in the fact that both were railwaymen at a time when steam was the motive power and soot an occupational hazard, and you have a powerful recipe for disaster.

**My calculations suggest this would be roughly half what one would pay in the shops at the present time.

***Roughly comparable with the top price one would expect to pay for organic eggs in 2023.

Sunday 24th February, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Your letter to hand Friday morning, for which many thanks. I will deal with the points raised in due course. I have passed on your condolences to June in regard to her father’s death, and she may add a word or two on this point at the end of the letter. The occurrence was unexpected but peaceful. It seems Mr Baker had been much improved on the previous two days. His legs were back to normal, and he was eating and breathing normally. Mrs Baker was unable to wake him on Friday morning, and it was then realised that he had passed on in the night. The latest arrangements are that the funeral party will leave number 17 at 2 p.m. on Monday 4th March for Mortlake Crematorium. Due to the frozen grounds there has been a heavier than normal workload on the crematoria, and the Ruislip one has a waiting period of ten days. As there is only a wait of eight days at Mortlake the latter has been agreed to*. as Mr Baker used to be a choir boy in St. James, Ealing**, and in view of the family connection with that church there has been some talk of a service there as distinct from that at Mortlake. Whether it will be held, and whether it will take the place of the Mortlake ceremony remains to be decided, and we shall have to let you know if the times given above require to be altered. 

I am afraid we have had Carol and June both feeling queer during the last few days, and had a session with Susan during the night when she was sick. I came home on Friday about midday, and we left Ethel looking after Carol who was flat out on the settee, while June and I went over to number 17. Yesterday, June was less well, but Carol perked up a bit and I was able to take the girls out for a short walk in the afternoon. There is a general improvement today (Susan’s effort was only passing) but it will be a couple of days I suppose before we can be given a clean bill of health. I was sorry to hear your cold has made you particularly chesty this time. 

Had hoped that we were about to get some warmer weather, but last night was as cold as ever and the forecast again is bad. Two days last week we had a dustings of snow to depth of about a quarter inch, but all had gone again by evening. The main accumulation of snow is still with us but much reduced. We have about four heaps in the back garden each about three square feet in size. The front is all but clear, but there are a couple of heaps in the road by the kerb.*** 

You did did tell us about the rolls of wallpaper from Weston, but you have not said if the replacement roll had come in or not. 

I gathered that Peter and the new girlfriend are already engaged. She seems to be a very nice girl. We have not seen her since their arrival here though. Everybody seems more than pleased that the change has been made. 

Funny about the Stones Ginger Wine. We went rash at Christmas and bought one, and very often I have a nip to keep out the cold. Needless to say the bottle is now half empty. 

I do not know about feeling older in connection with the children. They certainly put years on you. Susan has been in trouble again for not coming home from school at the right time. On Friday I went in the car to collect her. I was not able to set out until well after the school had come out and all the children had passed the corner of the road long before I got near. However I went along East Mead, and there she was coming out of a side turning and going back towards the school. I came up and stopped behind her and she jumped a little. She said she had been delayed as she had lost her glasses at school and although the teachers had helped her to look for them they could not be found. I told her to hop in and we went back to the school direct. I pushed her through the doors and told her not to come back without the glasses. After about five or six minutes she returned with her teacher and the glasses. They were found all mixed up with some wireless parts that they have there with which they are making a so-called “wireless”. The teacher was not particularly pleased, and gave her a restrained lecture, but it’s like banging your head against the wall. 

I tried one of my two remaining carboys of wine yesterday and was very disappointed with the results. I think it was the apples you sent up about March last year. Of course I had to try the remaining one and that was a little better although far from my best. 

My colleague got his water back on Sunday last. It righted itself but not until after he had blown up the Water Board again on the phone. I suppose if the cold continues he will have to go through it all again. I think he was particularly unlucky though as all his neighbours had their water o.k. 

Our bottom fence was at one time supported by inclined wooden buttresses of 2×1 or 3×1, which just rested in the soil on my side of the fence. The wood was in reasonably deeply so that some support was given. However I did not want these obstructions in my way when trying to grow things down the bottom, so a few years ago I removed them and dug the soil over. This left the fence without any support other than its own solidity and the strength of the joint between each piece of asbestos. While the several roses were in position, they too helped to support the fence. This year we are not having the wild roses as they are a waste of time so we cut them down in the fall. This left the fence poorly supported so it has flopped backwards onto the iron pillars of the neighbour’s chain link fencing. These will keep it in place until I can do something about it, so not much to worry about just yet. 

You had to throw a lot of potatoes away. A hundredweight of frosted spuds is a great loss. Hope they have been able to keep theirs o.k. at Lyng. 

Bad luck to lose a pound per week off your income especially when on Pension. However, if they could provide for an Adriatic holiday out of it, its loss should not create real hardship.

Further news on moves. Wilkinson has gone to Bristol vice Burt [sic], and it is expected that Baynton-Hughes will succeed Hallett as Divisional Movements Officer (new title for Operating Officer – one-time District Operating Superintendent, one-time Divisional Superintendent). I also gathered that Claude Hankins has gone from Cardiff to Plymouth as Movement Officer there. So much for the checker at Clevedon. I should imagine a lot of that is going on about the country. I think Bull used to be a porter at Portishead once upon a time as I recall Frank Hessle mentioning the name when he was working there. It is probably the same fellow. 

I will leave June to comment about the curtain rail. Thanks for the offer. 

I see the larger birds are out on the lawns doing a bit of foraging at the moment. The sun is trying to shine but it is very cold. There has been no lack of attempts by the sun to shine in the last few days, but it does not seem to achieve much. Always promise but never payment as it were. 

Your clearance of the garage reminds me that I quickly swept out the main part of ours last week but there is a heap of stuff wants sorting out and probably throwing away. The car could do with a good clean, and if weather improves that will have to be one of the priority jobs. 

Well I will close now as it is getting there to chucking-out time. Look forward to your next. Love from us all. 

*Must confess I always wondered why Mortlake had been chosen; this is clearly the explanation!

**More accurately known as St James, Hanwell.

***I have a distinct recollection that these were still visible on Carol’s birthday, 16 April.

Tuesday 19th February, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol,

Here we are again with many thanks for another long and interesting letter duly received this morning with incidentally a very small cut out (about postage stamp size) from presumably one of the girls.

We are glad to hear June’s father is feeling better again and hope the improvement will continue although I’m afraid there is not much chance of that whilst this winter weather is with us. Last Saturday we had about two inches of the stuff and the bass broom was in use again and believe me this morning it has been on again – not very much but the sky is dark and every prospect of more. It is so cold too and the weatherman on the TV at dinner time told us there would be no break in the freezing conditions for some days yet. Job’s comforter.

Yesterday started off coldly but then the sun came out and we suddenly made up our minds to run into Weston to, among other things, pick up a roll of paper which must have been on hand there for about three months. Back in November (cannot remember if I told you) we bought seven rolls of paper for doing out the front room but one of them was defaced badly and I refused it and told them to get another and yesterday was the first opportunity to run in and get it. It was a lovely sunny afternoon but bitterly cold. We left here at 12:45 p.m. and were back home again by 3 p.m.. Today during a break in the snowy ran up to the library but within minutes of reaching home again down it came again. Such is life. We saw on TV dinner time that it was snowing on London.

Noted you have been glad of your overshoes quite recently and I think you will be using them for a while yet. Except for about two occasions I have been regularly using my wellingtons for all purposes and find them most satisfactory. They seem to grip the icy roads better than ordinary shoes and certainly keep out the wet. Yes we had a flurry or two on Sunday morning same time as you.

Noted Peter and a new girlfriend came over on Tuesday and gave you the news of Mr Baker. Did you like the new girl? I’m afraid Peter would want a lot of blackberry wine to upset him but I’m glad he likes it. Shall be bringing up a drop more in April together with some of the stronger elderberry brandy. Am thinking about trying to make some ginger wine. Went rash one day this week and brought a bottle of Stones Green Ginger wine at 9/3d a bottle [£11.75 in 2023 currency – the current price is a little more than half this] and is very nice indeed.

So the doctor would not care to find Mr Baker missing when he called – should have thought he would have been pleased to know that he was sufficiently recovered to want to get out.

Glad to hear the girls are keeping very well. Also good news of Carol starting school so soon after her fifth birthday. I’m sure she is looking forward to the day. Makes you feel a bit older to I expect to have them both at school. A chance perhaps for June to get her feet up for an hour or two with both away. (Alright June I did not hear you say anything).

So your colleague is still without water. So are the people on either side of Aston but I now understand the trouble is that the pipes between the main and the houses are frozen and that it is not a case of burst pipes. It’s the same in the end – no water. I read of one man in Bristol who has been without water for several weeks who had his water rate come and told the Water Board what they could do with it. Adding insult to injury.

Yes we thought the cost of repairs to Mum’s hearing aid was quite reasonable. There are two very old sets Mum says you can have. What on earth are you going to do with them?

What has happened to your bottom fence or is it just ordinary wear and tear> Our fences seem to be alright but I have not been down to river for a long time. It is sufficient to know the horse keeps within bounds. Late last week he was able to forage a bit for grass but after Saturday’s downfall it’s back on the hay again. Norman Baker tells me that present-day cost of hay is 7/- [£9] per bale. And he is only keeping Joey for sentimental reasons.

Yes I have had thermostat of heater in greenhouse set for 30 degrees all the winter and it has kept out the most severe of the frosts. The primulas however have been kept in the kitchen on the shelves around the window, Mum putting newspaper between them and the glass at the night. Most of them are still one mass of flowers and plenty of buds forming. Pleased to know you have kept yours alive. They give a nice splash of colour during the darkest of the days at this time of year. Have now finished all our eating potatoes after throwing away about 1 cwt. Mum bought some in Woolworths yesterday, English grown at 4d [42p] per pound. Had some for dinner today and they were quite good. Am waiting to get down to Lyng to pick up the 1 cwt they have for us there. These should then keep us going until the new ones come in.

Our two rows of broad beans which have been under the snow for weeks are now showing again and look fine. Also the winter sown onions and cabbage plants but latter will not be available for the table for many weeks yet. The pigeons and rabbits have departed and now they can find grass in the fields. Mum says the Hewitts are cruising in the Adriatic at the end of May. Understand he has now lost the £1 per week he has been drawing from a Sick Benefit Society ever since he first went off ill several years ago. Suppose they have rumbled him at last.

I agree about burning all timber taken from houses during demolition – much the best to get rid of it on site. Wonder how you got on at Christopher’s birthday party? Hope the girls enjoyed themselves.

Thanks for news on various people and the moves about the Region. Fancy Bryar gone to Plymouth – another house move for him. Is there such an upheaval going on at the E.R.? Should think not or you would have mentioned it. I should look forward very much to a visit to York although you will not have much opportunity to see much of the city. Probably be away one or two nights. All new territory and most interesting.

I get your point re: daylight at Liverpool Street. It was closing in when you started there and now only just opening up again.

Not a lot done here this past week – the weather still against outdoor work – but I did start to give the garage clean out after pushing car outside. Garage was in a good mess, rotten apples and potatoes all around and plenty of dirt on floor carried in there during the bad spell, tools and other gear all over the place. Gave it the once-over and promised to have another go later.

You will see in this week’s Mercury where a Clevedon BR checker has got himself a heavy fine for falsifying the number takers’ records for Yeates the coal merchants. The merchants themselves are also in the soup and their case is being dealt with today. If any news in Evening Paper will cut it out and enclose.

Your remarks re: Mrs Baker and number 17 Eccleston Road. If that is the case nothing will ever alter her mind about the place. It is a great pity as I am sure you have all done your best to make it a nice home and as you said some time ago something had to be done anyway. What is Mr Bakers reaction to not having to attend the shop? Must be a little lonely for him as he has not the customers to talk to.

You mentioned birds earlier in your letter. There has been a heavy toll of birdlife here but still enough left to cause a lot of damage. I see Peter Scott thinks that one or two breeds will become extinct as a result of the severe conditions. The goods we ordered from Smyths of Bristol arrived this morning and appear up to specification. Quite a useful pair of steps.

[Continues Wednesday 20th February, 1963.]

Wednesday 13th February, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Once again many thanks for your newsy letter received this morning. First of all we are very sorry to hear Mr Baker is so poorly and hope the better weather which should be just round the corner – as it were – will help him to get back to normal. The present conditions are very oppressive and no encouragement to anyone feeling a little off-colour. We are sorry to hear that Mrs Baker still does not care for the move – perhaps as she gets more settled in she will think better of it. It does seem that all possible has been done at number 17 to improve its former condition and I’m sure it must be a relief to get away from the shop.

Now back to the beginning of your letter. Did you get any snow last Sunday (10th February)? It started here about 9:30 a.m. and kept on until about 4:30 p.m. sometimes and sometimes very heavy. I swept the snow off path between back door and front gate at about 5.0 p.m. but  when we got up on Monday morning there was another lot about an inch deep. This weeks too we have had several flurries necessitating use of broom to clear pathways. It is lovely today though – sun shining strongly and it is quite warm sitting here in living room. We did catch sight of some grass before last weekend’s snow and again now the thaw is making a big difference. May it continue with the good work.

Noted your plumbing now in order and no further alarms alarms. Sorry the girls have been suffering from colds and coughs again – as I said before what else can one expect this weather. Mum and I keep going but it is a job at times and I’m really thankful I have not to make the journey to Bristol anymore. The operating side must be having a very worrying time of it. I see Marples was at Bristol last Monday blowing his top.

Your colleague has something to grouse about – no water since 26th January. The neighbours on either side of Aston are still without water waiting for plumber to attend burst pipes. Glad to hear June managing to keep well – good job somebody in the house can keep going but with your house without the necessary heating it must have been rough on all of you while it lasted. You would be surprised what a good slide the children made of the church pathway with so much snow to make a bed with and believe me it was pretty treacherous to step on last Sunday even with fresh snow on top. Wanted Jim White back again to chase the kiddies off. We had already suggested to Aston he should charge for water service to get back a little of what it cost him to keep going. Now we hear of another ceiling down as a result of snow accumulating under tiles. We have a lot to be thankful for here as had practically no inconvenience throughout.

Glad to hear car going alright. I did not keep ours out more than three nights the weather was so severe I put car back into garage even if it meant stopping there for a few weeks which fortunately was not the case.

Incidentally has Mr Baker had to change his doctor since they have moved over to Ealing? This is always a nuisance as you get used to one individual and he or she gets used to you. Mum’s hearing aid still going well and we heard from Fortiphones this morning that cost of repairing her original set will be £2.10s6d [roughly £57.50 in 2023 money] so I have now send off checque for this to be done. I believe mum has a very old set laying about here somewhere but whether she can spare it will be up to her to say. It has not been used for years and was I think her original set when she first started using aids. The cost of phoning London during the day is 2d [19p] for ten seconds i.e. 3/- [£3.42] for three minutes which is not at all bad. After 6 p.m. there as a reduction of course.

Mum went with the T.G. to Yatton Monday to look over the Avalon furniture factory (Wake and Deans in your time). Incidentally Ray Mogg who has been with the firm as their representative in the Manchester area for a long time now returns to headquarters at Yatton as their Sales Manager. Mum was not impressed with the furniture she saw – most of it was foreign wood veneered over.

Yes I expect the cost of clearing snow from the roads will run the rates up nicely but we are all in the same boat with this. What about the lottery for the proposed Lido in Clevedon? I like the story of the footballer and his ‘bonus’. Must pass this one on in due course. Pity the programme ‘That Was The Week That Was’ is so late on Saturdays but some of it is worth listening to especially Bernard Levin who is one of the regulars and comes on towards the end. Whatever was the matter with the girls on Saturday then – could they not get outdoors at all and felt fed up with themselves.

Noted your wine sinking fast in more ways than one. I have now started to sample the first of this last season’s blackberry – very nice too. Not properly racked off yet, still in the sweet jars.

You will see in ‘Mercury’ enclosed at Mrs Yandell (formerly of Clevedon Lodge) has died and also old man Gulliford. The Yandells have been living near the East Clevedon Triangle for several years since their return to Clevedon after leaving the Burden Estate after Mrs Burden died. Mr Yandell still does a bit of horticultural judging at shows.

A letter from Don this week indicates they have not had it quite so bad as we have but plenty bad enough for getting to and fro the station. He has not been out to his ‘local’ for many weeks. This place is right out in the country away from houses. I wonder how they manage to keep going for profit. The publican happens to be a smallholder as well so I suppose this helps.

Yes June we are both looking forward to being with you at Easter – won’t be long now. It will be eight months since we last saw you and the girls. Alec of course was down in December for a couple of nights. We shall also be pleased to go and see Mr and Mrs Baker and hope by that time things will have improved in many ways including the health of them both. Presumably Peter is living there but we guess Pauline maintains her flat in London and gets home as often as possible. Hope they both are keeping free of colds along now.

Noted you do not see much of your new neighbours. Like you we close the shutters early in the evening and stoke up the fire. No gardening as you may imagine but I did see a couple of broad beans poking through the snow today and hope the rest are safe. Another wood pigeon on the lawn requires cremation and I shall have to deal with it. Looks as if a cat had this one by the number of feathers scattered all over the place.* I spent a couple of hours in greenhouses this morning, temperature up to 70 degrees, sorting through the runner bean seeds. About 2% had to be discarded because of mildew but there are still hundreds left. Sowed the tomato seed in a box but shall have to bring it indoors or will they will never come up – temperature much too low (30) at night.

Had a letter from income tax people this morning to say my code number will be altered from 12 to 1 starting next 6 April so have written to ask them why seeing the position will be identical then as it is now. So far I’ve not heard from railway regarding increased percentage of pension but even that should not mean such a big difference in coding. They might as well have the lot and we can starve. Now we are waiting to know what the Council are going to do about the rates for this half year. Do you yet know how you have been re-rated? Thanks in anticipation for the E.R. Mag, always interesting.

We still have Joey the horse with us but he has been fed on hay for many weeks now. Today I noticed he has been scratching about in the patches free of snow but not much there – all dried up. 

Mutt and Jeff still at it – they have been very busy brushing up with so much snow about and the handles are quite suitable for leaning on. It looks as if we have saved a number of geraniums and our primulas are still in full flower. How about yours? This means that ours have been in flower continuously since last October and giving quite a nice splash of colour.

The water cart still going its rounds and must continue so long as people are cut off from the main. I’m surprised it has not been necessary for similar arrangements to have been operated at your end. The plumbers must be getting towards this end of the town now as mum saw one lot at Tom Garland’s bungalow this morning. This place is opposite Mrs Marshall’s field. Have ordered from Smiths of Bristol (big wholesale ironmongers) a pair of steps (8 tread), two dozen pea guards, some netting 25 + 2 yd, and some wire for tying things up. This firm advertises quite a lot in gardening and ordinary newspapers and prices fairly reasonable. Our existing pair of steps (5 tread) have had their day. Your grandfather Fewings had them for many years before they came up here and they have given us good service. Now I have to get a dozen angle iron stakes for holding up some more raspberry canes. In this case Smiths’ price was higher than a firm at Wolverhampton latter being actual makers thereby the difference.

We hear the Hewitts I having a cruise for their holiday this year. Hope sea keeps calm and nobody rocks the boat.

Apart from the odds and ends already mentioned there is no local news again this week – everybody keeping in out of trouble. The Salthouse Pavilion is now being dismantled and one of our neighbours has got hold of a lot of the rotten timber and is making the best use of it. It was free to anybody who fetched it. Just as well – nobody would have bought it.

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

*I suspect it may have been a bird of prey: a cat would not have made its meal in such a public place, but a bird would.

Sunday 10th February, 1963

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad,

Thanks for yours of 5th February. Very newsy and plenty of points to answer.

Thank goodness I can say that there has been a vast improvement in the weather this end although according to the news bulletins you have been having more snow your end. I can look down the garden from the dining room window and and see that the snowline has retreated to the level of the end of the garage and in the front garden there is practically no snow left. The grass has reappeared somewhat flattened but a welcome green. Friday night the streets were awash with water which has seeped out of the mountains of snow at the kerbside. (Sorry for Friday read Wednesday – I did not go out on Friday.) However since then it has alternatively frozen and thawed with a slight progress each day so that the amount is now less.

Since writing last we have had no alarms in regard to plumbing, and the house has felt generally warmer. Of course the electricity has mainly been up to the normal supply and so has the gas pressure. One colleague at Liverpool Street has not been so lucky as he has had no water from the main since 26th January although people in the other houses in his street are o.k. He is getting a little impatient and has written a stinking letter to local water company.

The girls colds have given us a bit of trouble this week as they have had coughs. We dropped them down to the doctor on Tuesday night and he prescribe the usual jollop (including penicillin) so we went round to to the chemist who stays open late in Eastcote and got the stuff. I must say they are a lot better now and we had no trouble from them in the last couple of nights although we heard the odd cough or two. June is pretty well and I am just shaking off a slight cold. You might say the decks are now cleared for some nice spring weather.

I had not heard that the slope from the Church down was a good run for toboggans. In old Pugh’s day he would have chased the lot away, but perhaps the present man is more tolerant. It is a silly place to use anyway as I would say there is little fun in tobogganing on a road surface even if it is well covered with snow.

With regard to prospects for next Winter, I have no doubt that your best bet is timber to beat the coal shortage. It is probably easier to acquire odd bits of wood for cutting up where you are and you have plenty of room to store it. What you will do about the potatoes etc. I do not know. It would not have been any good bringing them into this house even if we had the room, as most of the unused rooms were as cold as outside. Aston could have got part of his money back by charging a couple of coppers per gallon for water he supplied these neighbours. Come to think of it the way to beat the cold economically is for one householder to keep water circulating in his house by having all possible heating appliances on and for his neighbours to share the cost of his heating. Meanwhile those neighbours would turn their water off at the main and drain tanks. In this way they would avoid bursts. A bit communistic you say, maybe, but I think it would work.*

Remarks about T.S.S.A. and Guild noted, but I feel that the balance of staff will increasingly be in the higher income groups, and the T.S.S.A. will have to march with the times or go out of business. In any case through sheer weight of numbers they have the whip hand at the moment. For all that the key to the situation is what the N.U.R. decide to do.

Car again o.k. this weekend. I am finding it a lot easier to start then I did shortly after the work Peter did on it. I expect by now that you have got your car back into the garage again as a regular routine. Not much of a joke keeping it outdoors this weather.

We went over to see Mr and Mrs Baker yesterday at number 17 and they mentioned that they had had the cream and had written back. We found Mr Baker in a very poor condition indeed. He was fighting for his breath and could hardly speak. when we arrived he was leaning over an armchair and had difficulty in moving. Later he improved a bit and was able to help Peter get some water in can from the tap. He tells me he has not been able to eat anything [illegible] complaining of a pain in his stomach. It seems he has had no sleep for about a week and has been in the position of having to get out of bed in the early hours to get his breath. From what we saw and heard we thought doctor should see him and with Mrs Baker’s agreement we phoned him and ask him to call. He had not arrived before we left so we do not know what he had to say. We noticed that his feet had swollen in just the same manner as Miss Baker’s did, and if for the same reason this means dropsy. Altogether it is very distressing, and the need would seem to be some medical attention and the onset of better weather. The former can be provided no doubt, but it is a bit early for the latter.

Some game with the hearing aid then. Glad you have got a replacement that is superior to the original. Fancy having to turn down the T.V. Must be a good make this time. By the way if you have any old ones lying about waiting for the dustman, do not throw them away as I can make use of them. That is old ones that you have definitely finished with. What do they charge for phoning to London nowadays? I pretty penny I should think.

We have not had a water cart going around this end to my knowledge. Had no idea they still kept such things. It seems that the Clevedon Council are well provided with snow clearance apparatus according to papers and have in fact been able to lend men and machines to neighbouring councils. I understand they hired them rather than lent and which will help the rates a bit, but I expect you still have to pay through the nose for it later on.

Had a laugh about Mutt and Jeff. Should have thought Mutt (presumably Cornish) would have had more excuses than ever for staying indoors busy doing nothing like the popular song.

Good idea to leave gate partly open for postman etc. We have no difficulty like that as we did not have the accumulation of snow that you had.

We saw something on TV news about a flock of geese in the West Country. Don’t blame them for getting out. I expect a few people will contemplate emigrating to Australia or New Zealand. I think the latter is the better prospect as the people are a little more friendly.

Do not stay up for ‘That Was The Week That Was’ but I did see the start of last Saturday’s, 31st January. It seems quite a good program. Hear this week of the footballer who saw his manager and told him that has the pools panel had given his team the win that day, he was entitled to his bonus for a win. The manager replied that he had no claim as he was not in the team anyway.

Had a trying day with the girls yesterday. They were about as naughty as they could possibly be. Hard to put a name to it but there it is. Hope they are a little better today. Have not seen our new neighbours for some days but hear them about occasionally. It is not very sociable weather, a question of up drawbridge and retire for the night.

Not much news from the work front – will see if the February mag has been issued yet. Have not found out which day it is published and usually look for it about the end of the second week in the month.

Finished the last of my Fig and Tangerine in the week. I have given most of it away. Have now two gallons of wine untouched which I must try sometime. Both have deposits at the bottom, and one of them has one about 1-inch thick. Should have been racked long ago of course, but never got round to it.

Well there it is for this week. Hope you can both report a clean bill of health. Love to you once again from us all. 

*Or maybe everyone just has more efficient heating and water storage arrangements of their own?

Tuesday 1st January, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

continued on Wednesday 2nd January 1963

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

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

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

Sunday 30th December, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad 

Thanks once again for weekly letter and all your news. I am surprised to learn that ours reached you so early. We posted it on the Sunday afternoon in the hopes that it would reach you at least by Christmas Day, and in fact that seems to be what it did do with a day to spare. 

Weather did you say? Well we note from the TV and News that the West Country has had it bad over the last few days. When we got up this morning we found heavy snow on the ground and even inside the house. Although the windows in the dining room are closed, and even covered with draught excluder, wood and rubber, the snow has penetrated and left a long pile two inches deep on the inside of the windowsill. Had to scrape it up before it melted with the heat generated by the electric fires. The snow is drifting badly and is piled up against the garage and the fence. I looked in to the garage this morning and started up the car just to turn it over and found a lot of snow inside. This has come in under the eaves. The milkman seems to be having a bit of trouble getting up the hill, and so far we have not seen the paper boy. Do not know if that means he has declined to travel, or if the papers have not reached the shop. I declined to get the car out on Friday night – my club night – and walked to station and journeyed by train. By Saturday the main roads had been made pretty passable by the heavy traffic on them, and although the side roads were bad I got the car out for the usual Saturday morning shopping expedition. The going was not too bad, but I was glad to get back. In the afternoon it got a lot colder and I went out to post a letter on foot. With a good walking pair of shoes on and walking very carefully I still fell flat on my back in Melthorne Drive. It could have shaken me up badly had I not put the flats of my palms down at the same time. These took the weight and I did not get much of a jar.

A very bad accident near Crewe as you say. How it always seems to happen at Christmas time. 

Believe you me the girls enjoyed themselves on Christmas Day. They were very good. A bit excited when they went to bed, but in the morning they stayed fairly quiet until I went downstairs to see if Santa had called. When I told them he had, that was the end of the quiet. They thoroughly enjoyed undoing the parcels as usual and much appreciated the presents you sent. You will hear from Susan on behalf of the two of them. So far as June and I are concerned, thank you very much for our gifts. My shirt in particular very good and very acceptable. 

Note your visit to Lyng and that Joan not so good. Hope that by now she will have improved. So far as the poultry is concerned, they will be well without that burden. I do not suppose they want the money all that bad, and it must take an awful lot of their time. We had a bird from Don the first year we were here. A Christmas present we think. We did not pay for it, and were not asked to do so, but there was no mention about chicken in subsequent years. Perhaps we made a mistake. I do not know what he charges, but we have not done badly for poultry this end.

So the typist did not arrive then. Was the machine worth the price? 

Poor old horse. This must be terrible weather for him. Surely he should not be left in the fields in these conditions? The lack of water is one thing, but protection from the wind and cold is quite another. 

Your wine should improve with keeping as I believe it is still fairly new. Your orange and cherry is only a few months old but it is a very fine wine. 

Note your activities over Christmas. Hope your match and return match with the Astons went well. Do they have the TV? Did not think much of the programmes on either channel this year. 

Hope your party for the bell-ringers goes well. Please give my regards to them, as you know I know most of them. 

Bad news about Ted Caple and Ern Cole then. But may be only the time of year. Hope you are both alright. Glad all liked the E.R. mag. 

Gardening eh? Coo rather you than me. 

Well now at the bottom of the page again so will close wishing you both a happy and healthy New Year. Love from us all.

Thursday 27th December, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for your letter received first post on Monday the 24th inst. – Post Office people apparently recovered from their Christmas rush. Glad to hear Alec arrived home safely and hope by this time you have all enjoyed a very happy Christmas. The weather here was dry with severe frost and a biting N.E. wind – the best place obviously being indoors.

Yes the weekend you were here went very quickly but as previously stated we were pleased to see you and only wish all of you could have been with us. It’s the journey that one dreads at this time of year – can never be certain of good travelling weather by road or rail. 

What an accident too near Crewe yesterday – have no details yet other than that given over the TV last night. Our paper has not turned up today so far and it is now well after 10 a.m..

We thought of you all on Christmas morning and could picture the girls having a fine time. I went down to Durston on Monday for the chicken and was home again by midday. Don not too bad but Joan seemed a bit under the weather – been working hard I expect with the poultry etc. Geoff had been down on the Saturday but only had about 30 minutes with Don at Taunton before leaving on return train. I saw the new portable typewriter but typist not being provided with machine as I had suggested to him one might have been for the money he gave for it. He did say it may be the last year they would be able to supply Christmas poultry as they may give it up altogether. I gathered Don wants to give it up but Joan wishes to keep it going. We shall see. 

Our pony is having a rough time. The field is frozen and the water in bucket for drinking purposes freezes almost as fast as we put it in.  We take down boiling water and pour on top of the ice to thaw out sufficient for him to drink. Have not been down to river but understand the water there is also frozen over. Mum still takes him down his bread and sugar. 

I have never seen any of Ted Caple’s slides but his coloured mounted photographs are excellent. He turns out some really good stuff – has been at it for years. 

Noted you liked the elderberry brandy and must put some aside to bring up later. At the moment I am enjoying some of the cherry with orange and find it rather attractive and ‘Moreish’. Glad you liked it too. Fancy the girls liking it as well. 

We had a quiet day on the 25th. Mum and I went to church for 8 am service (I was ringing at 7.30am) and I went to 11 a.m. service. Had dinner about 12:30 p.m. then a sleep and the Astons came over about 4:30 p.m. for tea and left at 9 p.m. Yesterday we went over to their place at 4:30 p.m. and home again about 9 p.m. 

During the morning I went down to Mr Palmer’s house as he had not been seen at all over the Christmas period. Found he also had been under the weather but was better again. I think the biting N.E. wind has bowled over a lot of people. Ern Cole was also missing over Christmas and has a chill. 

Have now seen the W.R. mag for December and the recording of your move to the E.R. I took down three E.R. mags to Don and he said he liked the articles on the various stations.

10:45 am and paper just come.

Last Saturday I must have been feeling a bit workish as I got spade out and finished digging the plot on which the runner beans had been grown last season. There was a very thin coating of frost on top but that did not matter. The sun was shining lovely and although the N.E. wind was blowing across garden I was somewhat sheltered. Anyhow I finished the plot by 12:30 p.m. and now of course these latter frosts have done the ground a lot of good. Total number of mice caught in garage now three. 

This will have to be the lot for this week as I have exhausted all local news – there is just one point. June will see a picture of Mrs Rabbage the hairdresser in Clevedon Mercury enclosed.

We do hope you all had a very happy time over the Christmas (with no after effects) and wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year. Now looking forward to Easter. Lots of kisses for Susan and Carol.