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.

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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.

Sunday 23rd December, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you for your letter this weeks arrived this morni [missing word]. Yes I agree that last week came and went very quickly and I am afraid it now seems a long time ago. Thank you for a nice week-end [missing word] you. I thoroughly enjoyed it and sorry we were not all able to be t [missing word]* Yes we look forward to Easter and your next visit, but first things first and we hope that you both have an enjoyable Christmas. This year Xmas seems to have crept up on us. Nice to know Ted Caple gave his approval to the photo’s [sic]. I suppose I must have known that he was an amateur photographer but certainly had forgotten. Does he do colour slides? and have you seen any of them? I forgot to tell you that when Rebecca phoned us to thank us for her birthday present she said that Stella was ill in bed with flu. I expect she has got over that by now. Reminds me of the attack I had just before Xmas one year when you were visiting us.

I think this business of closing stations on Sundays and at holiday times is a good thing. About time the public were trained to travel at respectable times. Not much profit in keeping the establishments open for just one or two late persons. So far as the staff are concerned it is about time they learned to live without overtime.**

Glad you reminded me about the Elderberry Brandy. It was very good indeed and I enjoyed it. I have in the last couple of days had a glass or two of your mixed orange and cherry. It required about three glasses before I was satisfied. The girls had a couple of glasses each and Susan got a very red nose into the bargain. Needless to say the level has gone down some.

Well I cannot give you very much this time, as dinner is almost ready and my room is required in preference to my company. Also I have passed over most of the news when I saw you. I shall continue until evicted. More orange etc. in a minute I hope.

We have not looked at our Xmas presents as we like to do that on Xmas Day. Thank you both for the ones you gave me to bring back. I was well loaded.

Some game with Mum’s cooker then What a price for just a switch. Cannot think that the total cost can be much more than that or you will have been robbed with a vengeance.

Give the horse his Xmas sugar mind. Have told the girls that he had arrived and they seemed very interested.

Well will close now until after the holiday and wish you once again a good time. We are all well and hope you both are and remain so until the better weather.

Love from us all.

*There seems to have been some carbon paper slippage in the early paragraphs of this letter.

**Alec’s politics are very much of the “I’m all right Jack” variety; he clearly can’t imagine, for example, hospital workers or other essential personnel having to go on duty in the middle of the night or on Sunday mornings – a time when, I should mention, he was most certainly not to be discovered in church. Nor does he seem to have any notion that the staff required to open the stations at 6 o’clock on Monday morning could have to set off from home at 4.30 or 5 o’clock and if there are no trains they will have to travel either by bus or some other form of road transport, which is pretty self-defeating. All this when he is also saying that if people don’t use the railways they will lose them. The essential point he seems to be missing is that a service needs to adapt itself to the requirements of its users, rather than trying to make the users fit the requirements of the ‘service’ – which then becomes not an essential but a luxury item which people will rapidly learn to do without. Not for the first time in the course of writing this blog, I would dearly love to jump back through the fabric of history and slap him upside the head for his very short-sighted and egocentric views.

Tuesday 4th December, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Once again many thanks for letter received this morning – second post – and the enclosure from Susan. Note our last letter did not reach you until Saturday. Must be the Christmas build-up or the weather. This is really the reason we try and post on Thursdays so that if one day is missed you are sure to get it on the Saturday and not be in suspense as it were over the weekend.

Very sorry to hear the cold or flu has got to down on the chest – it will want some shifting from there but we hope you can do just this before long. How are you keeping June, and the girls? Hope you have shaken off your illnesses.

Looking at the date we see it is the anniversary of your wedding – 8 years ago today. Congratulations to you both and very best wishes for the years to come.

Yes we had a very sharp frost here on Sunday and although sun came out later it remained cold all day. This morning we have a dense fog – in common with most of the country – and I cannot see the trees at the bottom of the field from the house. Mum went into the village this morning and said not many about and all cars had headlights on. I’ve not been out – this kind of weather gets on my chest so I stop indoors as much as possible. Went down to greenhouse about 10 a.m. just to have a look around and get some Savoys for dinner.

Hillmans have delivered the firebrick (cost 6/6d) [equivalent of £7.75 in 2022 currency] and I soon put it in position. This morning Mum lit up there for first time and everything going fine. It was worth going to the trouble to get the proper fitting and I can assure you the fire grate looks really nice in the sitting room. We told the other firm from whom we purchased the wallpaper to keep the odd roll until we came for it which might mean a fortnight or so. Expect it is there by now but they must hang on to it for the time being.

Understand Richings saw an advert in local paper from the police inviting motor car drivers to visit the police station and receive instruction from police drivers on how to improve driving. After so many lectures they were taken out on the road by police drivers and shown how to put theories into practice. That was all there was to it but no examination or test. Just a demonstration but expect it was very interesting.

Position noted re: Baynton-Hughes. Have also heard of the abnormal vacancy lists out on the W.R. Understand most of the jobs are being advertised at salaries lower than those now obtaining for the posts but the present occupiers will not receive any reduction of salary. Future occupants of the posts will however be subject to the new rates. Perhaps you were also aware of this.

I thought Notley was already under McDonald. If this was not the position who did he come under hitherto?

Noted June has not had any more driving experience lately – sorry about trouble with car – is it something to do with the ignition? Ours is still going well. Have not had Bluecol put in yet but Bushell said if I got the stuff from Boots he would put it in for me. Have had no further news from tyre people re: faulty tyre and to date have not paid for the new one. The local firm said leave it until we hear from tyre people.

What a shocking state of affairs at number 17 Eccleston Road. It is just as well though these things are coming to light now and not later when Mr and Mrs Baker have settled in there. That would be about the last straw.

Could not agree with you more regarding Christmas being an expensive time. It is absolutely devastating – good job it only comes once a year.

Thought you would remember Bray. I first met him at Westbury D.S.O. when he had just joined the service as a messenger and before being supplied with uniform he wore short trousers and I reckon at that time (1919) he was about 14 years of age. Expect you know Hallard left the service altogether to take up other work during the war. Sid Guy is the Passenger Train Inspector in place of Bill Hodge who retired last year. No you have not told me about John Belcher, he must have been mad to get up to tricks like that.

Position in loft noted. How do you find things up there query all nice and dry. There is certainly a nice bit of room there if you can fix things up to your liking. You evidently think the girls will not get that far. You never know. What was your session at the Work Study School for? Query a refresher or just an afternoon out.

I remember your party last year when it was such dreadful weather that the number attending was affected and even June did not get there very early. Hope you do better this year. In any case you will presumably be guests.

Talking about house repairs again I understand quite a lot has to be done to the bungalow into which the Curate moves on the 13th. This is Miss Emly’s former bungalow as I expect I have mentioned before.

Since typing the foregoing the fog has become thicker and it is quite dark although only 3 p.m.

I went up to Bristol on Friday last for Gray’s funeral. Not a lot of his old colleagues there really. Soole and his wife (the former Miss Richards) were there and I see he is sporting a moustache these days – looked horrible. Also saw Griffiths, Bill Williams, Yeandle, Vic Cox etc. I went on a bus from the Old Church through to Bristol travelling via Tickenham, Failand then down over Providence to Long Ashton and thence main road into Bristol. Very interesting but not a nice morning by any means. Got home just after 1 p.m. and enjoyed a good hot dinner.

Yes I guessed you would be content to stay with the E.R. and I agree it will probably prove to be the better investment in the long run. The W.R. seems to be in a state of chaos and nobody knows when or where it will end. Budworth now at York then. The W.R. staff are certainly moving all over the place.

I’m sorry cannot oblige Peter with some more sloe wine. Cornish has destroyed all his sloe bushes and it will be difficult to locate others. I did see one or two when out blackberrying in October but not in such numbers as would have enabled me to gather enough for making a drop of wine. Actually I planted some of Cornish’s in our field but they did not take. I certainly like it enough to go after some berries if can be certain of getting enough. Meanwhile the elderberry I made with the shredded wheat is proving a very nice drink and we both like it. The blackberry is still waiting to be racked off from fermentation.

Since writing last week have had a couple goes at digging the plot from which the runner bean sticks were pulled up earlier. Somewhat hard work but to date have done nearly half-way across garden. Another couple of good efforts will see that piece complete it. Have then to tackle the plot beyond the hedge and that is a good mess and will take some clearing. Broad beans put in in October not yet through and now it will soon be time for the shallots to go in (supposed to go in on the shortest day of the year year). Just been looking at Susan’s letter – another very good effort on her part. She uses her words very well in phrasing little paragraphs. How does she get on with her glasses? Rebecca’s birthday today too – 16 this time. How time flies.

It has been so cold down here these last few days that Mum has kept our all-night fire in since Saturday making it up late at night and closing the ventilator and opening up in the morning. Keeps room (living room) nice and warm to come down to. This could now be done in front room if required.

The Richings are expected to dinner on Thursday this week but must tell you about this next letter. Richings is wondering if John Saunders at Newton Abbot will apply for Swindon which is now coming vacant in which case he (Richings) will be an applicant for Newton Abbot. Obviously en route for Penzance where Michael Richings’ wife’s people live.

Heard from Geoff late last week. Says he is going to Taunton to see Don on Saturday the 22nd inst. so he will take a few bottles of wine I ordered down there and I will pick them up on the Monday when I see Don. Will you be coming down here on the 15th as you tentatively suggested earlier on? Get rid of that chesty cold meanwhile as travelling long journeys this time of year is not helpful. You know we shall be pleased to see you if you can come.

There is a lot more in this week’s Mercury about the development of Nailsea and of the proposed lido for Clevedon if you can find time to read it all. Frankly I do not read it to that extent but one can see there is going to be a lot of objection to both schemes.

Sorry you found Roy had been pretty rough when you visited them on Saturday evening and we hope he too is on the mend now. Pity we have to put up with such weather but it is one of the penalties of living in England. What about going out to Tristan da Cunha? Those people will be glad to get back there in spite of the danger from the volcano.

Our neighbour (Heel) is still busy on his garden and on hedge cutting trying to make up for the weeks they were on holiday.

Yes the mag reached us alright – I had not noticed it was just too large to go inside envelope. Roy Hewitt has it at present then it goes to Bill Aston before going to Don. I like reading about the various stations’ work and staff. Something entirely new for a W.R..

Thought I detected signs of a mouse in garage recently so have trap set but so far without results. I may be wrong about it of course but we’ll wait and see. It is the time of year when the field mice seek warmer places and I have not yet blocked up all the places where they could get in.

Down to the bottom of page again so time to close for another week. All my love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. I expect they are looking forward to Father Christmas – a lovely time for children. 

Sunday 2nd December, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks once again for another weekly letter each. This week for some reason it did not arrive until Saturday morning, perhaps the pre-Christmas post is on the increase. Glad you got the magazine O.K. The Binding at the end held all right then. The mag was a little larger than the envelope.

Yes I am afraid I succumbed to flu or what-have-you, and I am afraid it is now down on the chest. It is many years since I recall having a cough, although colds have been frequent. Again it seems to be the fashion round here. Roy – Delph’s husband – has been pretty rough, and I gather it has been through the same cause.

You refer to the weather. Last night there was a severe white frost and this morning it is extremely cold. The sun is trying to come up and the frost is going. I would say it is a very fine morning if you can keep moving. Otherwise it is a good morning to spend indoors.

I think we were rather lucky to be watching the TV on the day the elephants went to the zoo as it was a most unusual thing to do and the children were very interested. Good thing to spot that torn roll of wallpaper. No point in having and paying for dud stuff. I imagine there are not many people floating around the Weston shops now. It was was a bit hectic in the summer when we were there. Will the people let you know when the balance of the wallpaper has arrived, or will you have to go there on spec?

Very interesting to hear about the Advanced Motoring course that Richings is undergoing. Shall be glad to have more details of the instruction given. What made him go for that?

I understand that you still cannot have a coal fire in your front room. You will bless us if you do not get that firebrick, as the really cold weather is about now. Your electric heater is a good one though and perhaps you are warm enough with it.

No Baynton-Hughes has a job with the B.T.C., he has had no connection with Birmingham since he was the Timebill Clerk Special B. This post he did not occupy effectively as he was away with us at Reading at the time. In fact he never took up his duties. This phenomenon has followed him around in most of his posts. While holding one post (for salary purposes) he has in fact been doing something else. Rumour has it that although he has the job at the B.T.C. he is in fact without specific work, and thus becomes ideal for one of the productivity posts. Why we think he may elect for Bristol is the fact that his home District (Worcester) is now incorporated in the Bristol Division. We gather that from 1st of January the Development Assistants (to be renamed Productivity Assistants) will take over Work Study Research and Traffic Costing. McDonald has informed Notley that he will therefore be working for him again as from January. The latter is not very pleased. There were about fifty officers’ jobs on the W.R. Officers’ list this week. Again this is largely a question of men having to apply for the jobs they are already holding. I can imagine some of them are going to be disappointed as Soole was last time. This is a move to get placed some of the men from the disbanded B.T.C. I am sure.

June declined to do any driving last Sunday, and we have not had much opportunity since to do any. I am still having trouble starting the car, and it needs to be taken in for attention. I am afraid it will have to wait till after Christmas. The result of course is that the car needs a little coaxing until it warms up.

Sorry to hear mum had to leave church. Should have told the Curate she did not like his sermon. Very interesting digs the Curate has got. Hope he has a sense of humour.

I understand that the builders have been working hard in number 17. They say the ceiling in the kitchen is unsafe and will have to be attended to – this after the electricians has said it was in order, and fixed strip lighting to it. It seems that, when wainscoting was taken down, fungus was found growing behind, and when floorboards were looked at they were found to be soggy with moisture. What the eventual bill will be for this one I dare not think. They still hope to go in on the agreed date.

It is very nice to have wines and spirits for Christmas, especially at reduced prices. However up to date we have not been in a position to spare much for that side of Christmas fare. There have always seemed to be more important things requiring the £.s.d. and as you know Christmas is a shockingly expensive time.

There is not a lot wrong with the type from your machine. Last week I switched over to the bottom half of the ribbon you gave me although I think there is a lot more in the top part.

Sorry to hear that Bray has died. He was a comical chap. I knew him first as head messenger at Bristol D.S.O. he preceded Hallard. During the war Sid Guy, who had previously been a messenger in the D.S.O., returned (I think from Steventon) to take over for a short time from Hallard.

Just want to give myself a bit of elbow room in the loft. Every time I go up there it is a messy business getting ladder up and groping about in the dark. In addition there is a lot of useful room there for storing various things, and even getting a workbench fixed out of the way of small meddlers. Perhaps there will even be more room for the car in the garage when some of the stuff has been moved out. The main joists in the loft are level, but where the support beams from the roof are brought down at an angle to thrust on the joints, additional pieces of four-by-two have been tacked onto the joists so that these downward-sloping beams can thrust against one another to give added support. If I were to take away these added pieces, all the joints would be level but it would weaken the main supports of the roof. What I have to do therefore is to make all joists up to the level of the highest. This is an easier job than it sounds, as the usable area in the loft is not as vast as all that, and I do not propose to floor in any part where I cannot stand almost upright.

No comment on the geraniums etc from Mum, but nothing to reply to in my case.

I am quite happy to stay where I am for the time being thank you. While the W.R. is in a state of turmoil it is more than ever a rat race. I had another session over at the Work Study School on Friday and among the staff who came for a rating check were a number from Sheffield. One of these had had contact with Budworth who used to work with me at Paddington and who has gone to the North Eastern region at York. I think I told you that John Belcher who worked with me at Reading had been caught on some large-scale fiddle with passing fake cheques in banks. He had been doing this for some time apparently and he was well and truly caught. We gather that he has had the sack from the railway and has returned to the Cardiff area, but what he is doing now we do not know.*

I get a call from Notley and others occasionally at Paddington. June and I hope to go to the Christmas party on 14th December. It is the counterpart to the one I helped to organise last year.

Note with interest the detail of the proposed lake. I expect they will build it eventually as there is no doubt the Portishead Pool has put the council’s nose out of joint.

I did not see the wine-making on T.V. but would have been very interested. Have not made any as you know for some time. Peter was round last night to act as babysitter with Brenda while June and I went to Delph’s for a meal. She threw a party and we had an enjoyable time. When I got back I gave Peter a drink of fig and tangerine (generally accepted as being a good wine) and he quite enjoyed it. He asked when I was going to make some more sloe gin. Had to remind him that it was your brew. He was very impressed with it and keeps talking about it. You will have to make some more.

Have been instructed by Susan to clear the table for lunch, so will have to pack this in it now, and comply. Anything I have missed will have to keep for next week now, so will say cheerio for now and love from us all once again. 

*This John Belcher is almost certainly the same man as the ex-M.P., formerly ‘a railway clerk’, who resigned from Parliament in 1949 after some undesirable connections were exposed. Wikipedia says that he ‘returned to his clerical job with the railways’ after this.

Wednesday 28th November, 1962

[Continued from Tuesday 27th November, 1962]

Still dry dull and cold here today. Did you see on TV last night just for a couple of minutes between 8:23 p.m. and 8:25 p.m. a demonstration on how to make wine? The individual concerned had a good earthenware jug (holding about 3 gallons) and put into same 3lbs chopped raisins. 1lb wheat, 4 grated potatoes, 3lbs demerara sugar and 1 gallon hot water. Then 1 oz dried yeast and mixed the whole lot together and said it would remain covered up for a month after which it would be strained and the juice put under fermentation lock for 3 or 4 months. Called it Christmas wine – whiskey type.

I thought I would try my elderberry brandy this morning and was not at all bad. Mum liked it so that speaks for itself. This was the concoction in which I put 12 Shredded Wheats.

In last night’s Bristol paper was a photograph of the two elephants so have cut it out for Susan and Carol – may be interested.

Brought in another hamper of Bramleys today and there are at least two more hamperfulls on the tree to come in. We have had a thrush singing away on the top of one of our fir trees on the lawn for several days now – surely he is not mistaking the time of year? It is most unusual because the birds are very quiet along now although there are plentiful enough when any food is thrown out to them.

Well I think this is about the lot for another week – have pretty well exhausted all available news although now Mum will find something to write about in a minute or two I expect.

All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls. Mum and Dad. 

Wednesday 14th of November

Leonard to the family (continued from Tuesday 13th November):

Continuing from yesterday have now finished off the runner bean sticks off the second row and leave them up against the hedge to dry off. Not such a nice day – no sun – but very warm around midday. Have now decided to go to Weston Thursday when shall try and get fire brick. Also have to get paper, paint etc. for sitting room although operations have been postponed until after Christmas.

A letter from Geoff this morning says the 6% increase is to be based on salaries and wages that were in operation before the last 3% rise. The B.T.C.C. save a few pounds by this arrangement. It seems that the 9% rise from the two Awards is calculated from the previous rates of pay. Anyhow I do not suppose anybody is going to make a fuss about that. Very pleased to see the Fords management are sticking to their guns and will not re-employ the 70 troublemakers.

Any further progress at number 17 Eccleston Road yet? Hope both Mr and Mrs Baker are keeping alright these days also Peter* and Pauline – sorry we did not see any of them on our last visit but time was rather short. Perhaps next visit we may see them at Eccleston Road.

Geoff sent on the usual wine list for us to have a go at for Christmas. Does E.R. do the same as W.R. in this respect? Quite a saving by getting a few bottles from that source.

Ted Caple told me the other day he had had a bit of fun with another motorist in the Stroud area. Apparently this other individual passed Caple by crossing a double white line on a bend and later on the journey he caught up with him at some restaurant and tackled him about it. The man whose wife was with him poo-pooed the incident so Caple said he would report him. He did so and after some weeks had a reply from the police thanking him for his public spirited action and saying they had interviewed the man traced by the car number who had denied the occurrence and was supported by his wife in the denial.  Police said they felt the man was in the wrong by the way his wife gave her information but it was not considered desirable to prosecute. The police finished up by saying that they thought the action taken would prevent another case arising by this individual. As a matter of fact some individual passed us over the double white line on our way back from Ruislip a fortnight ago but he was going so fast did not even get his number. He was lucky as there was nothing coming in the opposite direction at the time but there well could have been.

Well I think this is about the lot once more. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for our two dear little girls.

Mum and Dad. 

*In the course of preparing this blog post we learned of the death of Peter Baker on 1 March 2021 – yes, it took eighteen months to get this information. Peter was the last family member of his generation.

Wednesday 7th November, 1962

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for letter received this morning with all the latest news. Expect weather was cause of late dispatch this week but yesterday (Tuesday) was the limit here. It rained continuously all day and the atmosphere was overpowering. Much better today and I felt able to do a little work in garage.

Yes we both enjoyed our visit to you and if not exactly restful it was certainly a change and of course nice to see you all again. Note you had another visitor almost immediately after our departure and I expect he was glad to see you and bring you up-to-date with the news from Weston. I’m surprised he is still called upon to deal with BBC matters in the London area but perhaps his successor is not yet in full control. I see in last night’s Bristol paper that a Bristol BBC engineer named Hawkes was killed in a car accident in Bristol a couple of nights ago.

Pauline too has visited you again. I’m sure the girls were pleased to have her there for a few hours – perhaps gave mother a bit of a break. Hope she is keeping well.

A really good idea for using the old tank – it will serve in turn as a collector for compost stuff. If I remember rightly the other container was practically worn out. All the tanks here as you may guess are full to capacity after so much rain.

Glad to hear June had an evening out with Delphine and hope they both enjoyed themselves. What did Carol think she was going to get then? Or was she really off colour? Susan too with an upset tummy after twisting herself around too many times. They will do it. So glad to hear how she took to the glasses. It could have been a most difficult time getting her initiated to them. Once taken to however she must realise herself she can see and read much better. It is going to make a tremendous difference to her at school to and I’m sure she will make headway now even more so then hitherto.

Yes June we are sure you must have been busy after our departure especially with the washing. Could you not get any help from Carol? And of course Susan as she was home for the week.

Plenty of bonfires and fireworks down here these last few nights and I understand there was a bit of a to-do along the prom Monday night when the police were involved. Teddy Boys were at the root of the trouble.

Glad the cherry-with-orange wine satisfactory – on your recommendation I tried some today and agree it is quite nice. Hope it does the trick with the catarrh this winter. By the way have you arranged for an anti-flu injection from your local doctor? June and told us on Tuesday before we left that the E.R. do not have their senior staff dealt with as on the W.R. but in your case I should certainly pay the doctor to give you one. Would help you through the winter.

The fire grate we brought back is a perfect fit for the front room but we are now up against a replacement for the fire brick that fits inside the front of the grate. Have tried three places in Clevedon without result and will try again when we go into Weston. If we light fire without the brick I fear the front of the grate will become permanently tarnished. Mum has cleaned it up now and it looks fine so it would be a pity to spoil it. Thank you very much for it, we must report further on our efforts to get firebrick.

I’m enclosing a cutting taken from last night’s Bristol Evening about screens for use in connection with projectors. Thought you would like to see it and maybe note suggestion for future information.

Well since writing last Tuesday week I have not done much about the place. For one thing the weather has been against outside work and it has been too cold to do much in the greenhouse or garage. Last Friday and Saturday I did manage to get in a couple of long rows of broad beans by using boards to stand on. At least half a dozen times I had to break off because of rain but eventually completed the job. Since then have picked most of the runner beans and shelled them for drying for seed. These are now spread out on the staging in greenhouse. All tomatoes have now been cleared out and both sets of staging reinstalled. Firewood to has had to be cut and chopped up. Impossible to cut lawns yet and grass is longer than I like to see it. Am wondering if shall be able to have another go at it this season.

Our next door neighbour (Bushell) is building a porch outside his French Windows. the framework was already there but he has had to fit glazing bars and renew cross pieces of wood and buy and fit glass. it will take some time yet to finish.

Not a lot of local news this week. I see Bill Raine has again secured the premier prize for chrysanthemums in the Clevedon Show. This is the second year running and he is up against experts like Mr Yandle whom I expect you remember at the Clevedon Hall Lodge some years ago. Bill I understand belongs to the Chrysanthemum Society but is only an amateur so far as growing is concerned. I saw the winning bloom last Sunday morning and it was a real beauty. Only grows one flower to a plant.

Mr Heel came round one morning when I was in garage (most unusual for him) and had a chat. Said he was feeling a lot better but still chesty following his recent illness. Have not seen Cornish (except at a distance) since we came back. Mrs Bush seems to be back in circulation again, none the worse for her drug taking incident. Had one morning in the field picking up fallers which are now spread out on floor of garage to dry off. A lot more down by now I expect.

Had to get TV people to look at set on Monday – the horizontal black line was creeping further up the picture and another had started to come down from the top. Required another valve. Now he has left the picture a little out of focus – elongated – and this can only be got up from the inside so I suppose he will have to come again.*

Good news today on the TV, Beeching has now offered 6% rise which has been accepted by the unions to date from Monday the 5th inst. No doubt it will come to the ‘Out of Categories’ later on. A letter from Geoff this morning says the reorganisation of timetables on W.R. expected to come into force for the winter of 1963.

Hope Susan and Carol enjoyed their fireworks on Monday night. We thought of them. Not bad weather here in the evening but heavy rain during morning and early afternoon.

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

Mum and Dad.

*For younger readers – this was even before the transistor revolution when both radios and TVs had glass valves inside. If you needed any evidence of exactly how much daily life has changed over the past sixty years, this should do the trick!

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

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for letters. Glad you had no trouble with Susan I think left to themselves they take anything in their stride. The grate fits perfectly and needs no filling up with cement. We are going into Weston on Monday to see if we can get the fire bricks. I think it makes the room look better and certainly won’t take as much coal to keep warm as our Devon grate.

I have just made a funny mistake in the tomato chutney I’m making put in a whole lot of Pudding Spice instead of the other and later looked to see if I had all the ingredients and it said tie the spice up (I ask you) so as it was put on top of sliced apple. I managed to get most of it out.

We enjoyed the trip to Walls factory only another in the country at Acton where they do not have visitors. It was a scream we had to leave all our possessions in the coach and when we got inside had to put on a white coat and fancy silk scarf which latter we kept. Then around the building, it’s really all automation. They employ coloured men. They gave us a good tea cheese and ham sandwiches, fancy cakes and a special gateau the chef made for us then all sorts of ice cream. On leaving they presented each with a square box which rattled. On opening it at home it was another cold pack with 1/6 ice cream in it so Dad had his ice cream after all. It simply poured all the time.

Glad June had a change lots of love Mum and Dad 

Sunday 4th November, 1962

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks once again for a weekly letter. Soon back to routine again. Glad you enjoyed your holiday and had a good journey home. I gathered you had some hail etc your end. Nice to know you have some Long Life beer in the house. I have not heard the story of the bag of apples etc. I suppose the girls thought you would like something to eat on the journey. Hope you will be able to find suitable uses for the stuff you were able to take back. We certainly appreciated the stuff you brought this way. I have not tried your cherry and lemon wine yet, but will take a drop before ending this letter if remember to do so.

The tank presents quite a problem now as I tackled the Rag-and-Bone man yesterday and he did not want it as it is galvanised. I have since discovered that in the week June got the local lads to clear away the logs and old gate from the back of the garage also the old dustbin full of tree cuttings. As the dustbin itself is now on the field it can stay there, and I will put the tank in its place. It will be just as good for an incinerator.

Susan still has catarrh but it is very loose. On Thursday night June had an evening out with Delphine and Carol told me she was feeling sick. We had to go through all the motions of getting ready for the event, but I think it was only a stunt to get a bit of attention while Mummy was away*. She was alright and fit as a fiddle in the morning.

Susan had a silly turn one day in the week. She turned herself round and round in the middle of the room until she was very giddy. this after a good feed did the necessary. On the brighter side, her glasses arrived on Friday. June did not make any bones about it but just put them available for her and walked out of the room. Later she walked in (with a toy as excuse) and found Susan with them on, reading away at her comics in fine style. Since then we have hardly seen her without them. She even had them on in bed last night and I had to come to an arrangement with her to leave them on the side for the morning. First thing in the morning she is out of bed, the light goes on, so do the glasses and the comic gets read.

We have had Eric Benn living with us since Wednesday night. He has been in charge of the boxing match (England v Russia) and today he is covering the church service 10:30 a.m.. I think he may be going back later today although he has not said. it is possible that he may stay until tomorrow of course but that is o.k. with us.

Well we have not done an awful lot since you went back. We have drunk all the beer so you are one up on us (four up did you say?). I must do something about the parsley later today as it is still on the coal bunker although it has been well watered.

Well I have had a taste of your cherry wine and I find it even better than previous lots. It is probably among the best you have made. I think it will have a satisfactory effect on catarrh.

Our fire is proving a good buy. Even with it on half-full we are occasionally obliged to turn it off as the room is hot enough. I am sure that when the really cold weather sets in that we shall have enough heat there.

The bonfire builders are at work in the field so I suppose we shall have another good display here again this year. We have bought a lot of fireworks for the girls so they are stocked up and ready.

Well it must be a short letter from this end this week as I seem to have exhausted the available news. Hope you both have shaken off the effect of your colds.

Love from us all till next week.

*This kid is four years old, remember. That one would need ‘a stunt to get attention’ at that age seems to indicate a failure of parenting rather than Machiavellian behaviour by a manipulative child…