November 1962

Charlie is the one at the back.

November is not a great month for camping but it appears that Charlie’s Cub Group (the younger division of Boy Scouts) had a cookout one weekend.

Cec preferred indoor activities, and went bowling with his colleagues from the Lab.

The Costains no doubt sent best wishes and congratulations to Santiago Polo on the occasion of his wedding, and probably some of his friends from the Lab in Ottawa attended.

However, for the Costains, the main event in November seems to have been preparing for the Public Speaking Contest at the school. Both children incorporated some personal connection into their speech based on the gifts Cec had brought home from his trip, but most of the speech was informative and factual. Cyn typed their efforts but at this level, there was less input from her. The speeches were given in class, then the best competed within the school. Linda made a case for reading being her favourite hobby, and ended her speech on ‘Hobbies’ with this paragraph. “Most boys and girls have at least one hobby. I collect postcards, small china figures and dolls of all nations, and I learn a great deal every day through my favourite hobby, reading. One of these might lead to my life work and anyway I will get a great deal of pleasure from them.” This speech went no farther (probably to her relief), but Charlie was once again one of the 7 contestants in the Intermediate Level with his telescope speech.

After touching on the history of telescopes with Galileo and Newton, he went on to explain that Newtonian telescopes like his were based on mirrors, and gave details about the biggest in the world at Mount Palomar, then returned to his personal experience. “It is rather unfortunate that at first when I got my telescope, it turned cloudy. Instead of looking at the sky, I have had to look at other things. I can see the Uplands Airport radar tower about 5 miles away and I can watch it turning around with an occasional flash as a plane comes down. I can also see birds in perfect detail on the telephone line if they would only stay in one place. The magnification of the telescope is 126 so if a bird is 126 feet away, it appears to be only 1 foot away from your eye. I have also been looking at the sun, and for this I put a special sun glass in the lens.” He goes on to describe and explain sun spots, then his observations of Jupiter and Saturn once there was a clear night. He finished with “I don’t know much about astronomy yet but it is very exciting to look and to learn.”

This time, Charlie won the Intermediate Contest, and got a letter of appreciation from the Fairfield School District Association, as well as a page of the scrapbook devoted to it. The typed copy probably was sent to Carol in the West Indies, but the rough copy survives.

As a teacher (my life work?), the adult Linda found looking at the children’s work at the Grade 6 and 7 level an indication of future direction. I believe Linda’s ‘Hobby’ topic had met some opposition when she stated that her hobby was reading books. Her speech carefully defines the different sorts of hobbies- Collecting, Crafts, Activities- and in the latter category, which she explains as doing things for relaxation, she lumps all sports (which she was not at all interested in) with bird-watching, gardening, and, in her case, reading. It was an argument which she made sure to win, presaging her interest in debating in high school and her future success in essay writing and exams at all levels- not to mention the collecting of a library of over five thousand books.

Charlie’s speech shows his interest in science, and illustrates clearly the technical points as well as personal observations made with his telescope. And I believe at this point, the Costains started to plan their 1963 summer holiday, when there would be a total eclipse of the sun, best seen from the province of Quebec with a telescope …


From Poland

During the war, Cyn, her family, and friends in Newcastle had come to know some of the Polish officers who were part of the Polish Armed Forces in the West.  Her friend Anne had met and married Tadek Winnick, who had become a British citizen, and they were now living in Cambridge with their baby daughter Janita. But her friend Ludwik had a mother in Warsaw, to whom Cyn had sent parcels, so he had returned there, presumably after the forces were disbanded in 1947, and in 1950 Cyn had sent a Christmas card to his mother’s address, explaining her marriage and move to the States. This letter is his reply, alluding to their mutual interest in philately- see the envelope!- and giving interesting details of his life. The shadow of the Cold War hangs over this letter.  I hope she answered and sent him his requests.

I have transcribed this as faithfully as I could, but some words gave me trouble, although the general sense is clear.

Warsaw, Poland.

 1. J. 1951.

Dear Cynthia, 

After the long interval, who was about one year, I have got desired letter and erlier two “Lifes”. Thans ever so much. I thought that you being somewher in a big World completely forgot after me.

I am enjoying to know that you have a happy married life and to know that your Mother lives quietly in her native country. Please write to her, that in Poland is very cold winter, snow, wind and that I envy her tropical sun, warm, tell her that we in Poland see the coloured people only in the pictures except Paul Robeson, an american singer who was twice in Warsaw.

Dearest Cynthia, the cardinal differance in the mood of life, there where you are and here is, that you can organize your life as you like and wish but our life is bound with realization a great idea which is called socialism. In our country are performing the big transformations in all kind of life, social, political, cultural and economical. It is very difficult to be out of those changes. One must deal with them.

As you know I am living in Warsaw with my mother who keeps our small house. I have a dog name “Azor” he is very funny dog and attached to our home. I get up very erly in the morning at 5:30 and go by bus to my office. The communications in Warsaw are difficult problem. It takes me one and half hour to get office. Work begin at 7:30 up to 18:00. We have many conferences, meetings and akademies[?]. I am welfare officer in a big cooperative which has establishments in many cities in Poland. I like my new job, because social welfare helps many people especially women children. When I am at home I read very much. Histori of political system, teorie [theory?] of Marxism, art, philosophy. My hobbies is collecting the new one Polish stamps. I have many of them and I would like to send you some of them.

I am not get married yet because the times are unquiet but I appreciate the married life and I am longing for. I fear the war because I have to go away.

My thoughts are travelling to those times when I was abroad and I am longing for friends.

Dear Cynthia, the post is going well, always put adress in the same way as last (my mother). I have got all the magazines which you sent to me. Do not fear, please send them as much as you can. “Lifes” are very interesting lecture[?]. Excuse me my asking but if you can send me some coffe. Unfortunately there without coffe for a while. My mother remembers that you were so kind and during the war sent her some tins. She keeps them as a souvenir, but they are empty. Please write to me as often as you can. Maybe soon we could see once again. I think that independent of which side we are, we always could be good friends. You know, the world is divided, but not really. Please write me, your husband knows foreign languages. In the New Year the best wishes and I wish be peace. I send you and your husband my best regards. 

                    Your friend 


P. S.

Excuse my English, it is very bad, because for a long time I did not speak at all and not read. Please, let me know, if you read the nice book Somerset “On the Edge of a Razor”. I am enchanted of this book. What you thinks, Larry was a communist or not, because as you know, he left all his things and went to America to be a chauffer. I read this book in Polish but I would like to have original copy to compare.

I send you some Polish stamps for your friends, if you want more I will send more, because I have many of them.

Once again I send for you and your husband the best regards and please write to me as soon as possible. 

                       Your friend Ludwic—— 

This letter is giving two weeks.

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…