January 31 1951

31st Jan. 1951

Dearest Mummy,

We are in the middle of a Cold Wave and you basking in the sun & a bathing twice a day!! Since the weekend it has been so cold- the night before last was 5° below zero, & another place in Michigan not far away was 43° below! Last night and today weren’t quite so bad as it was snowing but plenty bad enough for me! We were very pleased because MacTavish has been a good car & has started off each morning without a murmur, & lots & lots of people were stuck & couldn’t get their cars to go at all.

Since I last wrote your two kiddies have been poorly bad with colds. I told you that Cec had an awful cold the week before last, but it seemed to be getting better, then on Tues. of last week I began to get a sore throat etc. & stayed away from work in the afternoon. However, Wed. it was really in full swing & continued so & to make matters worse, Cec’s cold got bad again too, so there were the two of us snuffling away & feeling mis. together! I stayed at home all the rest of the week & Cec worked at home most of the time, but it wasn’t really till Sunday as we began to feel at all cheery again, & even now we still sound coldy & are snuffling & blowing away. It’s the most horrid cold I remember having for a long time, but being back at work this week we feel quite cheery again & in our usual spirits!

You can imagine there’s not much Noos with our being in the house most of last week. I used to stay in bed most of the mornings & Cec would bring me my breakfast, & I would get up around lunch time. Cec worked, but I felt so heavy and fractious! that I would read for a bit & then get fed up & knit for a little etc. etc.! I was finally reduced to “Set in Silver”& (s-sh!) “Jo of the Chalet School” & they kept me amused! On Sunday Cec went up to the drug store for a paper & came back with a jigsaw puzzle!! Quite like old times! Millie (from work) & her husband Jerry called in to see how I was on Sat. and mentioned they were doing one, so it reminded Cec as it were & it really was fun. We began it on Sunday evening & got about 1/3 of the way when I was sent to bed. Then on Monday morning lo & behold- it was all done except the sky- my naughty little husband! We finished the sky on Mon. evening, & now Milly & Jerry are going to swap theirs with us! Cec & I were saying though, that it doesn’t seem right doing jigsaws without you & Frank here too!

Last week to cheer our colds we got your nice long letter begun on Jan 12th, & telling about going to the bungalow, & also that at last our parcel had arrived. I am so glad that it did get there safely, though late, but sorry that you had to pay so much duty – I suppose the bag & galoshes would be the worst offenders. I was sorry the silly little snapshot album got there first as a false alarm! It was supposed to be just an oddment in the big parcel, as you had mentioned you needed another album, but when I was packing it just wouldn’t fit in, so I sent it separately. You needn’t worry that I am still holding out over the snaps we took in Canada – I still haven’t got them – probably Carman is busy just like his big brother!

This week I got your little fat envelope with the John Hazell diary in it, & I was so pleased! It is lovely & I am delighted to have it – Cec was going to get me one, but hadn’t done so yet, so I hadn’t got one & was feeling the need- thank you very, very much – & also for the cute Christmas card with all the little “cards” in. I didn’t say thank you for your letters yet, but we both love them, as we always do, & say thank you very much.

It is my bedtime now, so I must stop, but will write more at the weekend. Have a lovely time at the beach – we’ll be thinking of you.

              With lots & lots of love 

                                           from Cyn & Cec

I want to add a note about the ‘comfort’ books Cyn was ashamed of reading while she was ill.  I have mentioned my library before- 5000 + books- which I built up by hanging on to all my books from childhood on up, and those of my parents, and then adding to the collection.  So besides battered Agatha Christies, Sayers, Simenon, and sundry other murders from the Classic era, I have Cyn’s “Set in Silver”, a copy originally given by her to her mother in the 20s judging by the handwriting, and suffering from mold due to our occasionally flooded basement in twentieth century Ottawa, when the sump pump broke down.  C.N and A.M. Williamson wrote mild romances about the early days of the automobile (even one about the air)- a sub-genre with a brief life, but one shared by Dornford Yates, whose books had more adventure in them, with car chases that I believe influenced Ian Fleming. Would James Bond films be the same without Yates and the Williamsons?

I have been a bookworm since childhood, and was always puzzled by those questions about hobbies since if you had a book to read, you did not need a hobby, but now that I think about it, I have to admit my hobby from my teens on was ferreting out books for my collection from secondhand bookshops!  The Chalet School books, of which Cyn had three, were English school stories by Elinor M. Brent Dyer, set in Austria in the 20s- to me, an exotic, unfamiliar setting (as to the mountains anyway, Ottawa had plenty of snow); a completely different sort of school life- only girls, living at school, speaking different languages; and I wanted more!  So while Cyn had a few books by these authors, I collected as many as I could, helped by the reprinting of the Chalet School books in paperback in the 60s, the bookshops in England with the discards of the decades, and then the internet with access to discards across the former empire. (I should mention that the Chalet School books have a very solid fan base, some of these books are very expensive now, but the writers on fan fiction sites keep the school going for free!) Now I may have a dozen Williamsons, all the Chalet books, and all the Dornford Yates, Maurice Walsh- not literature, but the genre junk of Cyn’s day, plus a lot from my own day.  My excuse for carting around this library all my life was that I invariably lived in places without book stores and with limited libraries- and libraries throw out their old books (some of my best acquisitions result from this habit) so they aren’t always available to reread, which is what Cyn and I wanted to do. Now there are ebooks, so the present generation will not have the packing problem I had whenever we moved, and can read privately without going s-sh like Cyn…

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