I have mentioned before when I started this project, that both my grandmother (who saved these letters), and my mother (who got them back when my grandmother brought them with her when she came to live with my parents), read, organized and enjoyed these letters years after they were written as they read them again in their old age- and how I am following in their footsteps! On the envelope of this long typed effusion Carol had written an identifier in pencil: ‘Cyn’s trip and what she thought of everyone’ and Cyn later wrote her own on the back: ‘England Visit 1967’. It must have been entertaining to write about her friends after meeting them for the first time in 18 years, and fun for Carol to read about them, and for each to re-read years later. However, at the end of the letter, Cyn asked her mother not to tell anyone about her opinions, or she wouldn’t have a friend left. I am now literally “spreading…[her] opinions to the winds” and hope that they will not offend anyone reading them today! She wrote this spread over a week while working at the newly opened Nursery School, and I am sad that the sequel she promises at the end does not exist- no more letters until April 1968 were preserved.
Box 330, R.R.1
I am quite shocked and horrified at the wickedness of the Trinidad Post Office! Imagine not even trying the address on a letter but sending it on to an old address. I quite thought when your letter from me was sent back to England that somehow I must have got the wrong P.O. Box number, but when it was right after all, I was disgusted at them. I wonder how many of the letters and cards I sent were delivered to you, because I think I sent most of them to Bill’s address, particularly after you went to Tobago. As far as I remember I wrote 3 letters from England and sent various cards, and then I wrote at least twice in August before you went back to St. V. and after we returned to Ottawa. Anyway, for once it may not be just my irregular writing habits!
I am still looking forward to hearing how you got on with the hurricane – it really was a bad one, and on this morning’s news the people in the Rio Grande river area in Texas were having to leave their homes again because of more flooding of the rivers. We had beautiful warm weather till the middle of last week, and then suddenly the rain came and it got cold and very autumnal. Some places got frost, but we were lucky and our garden is still fine and we have lots of lovely tomatoes. It is very windy today, but mild and so far it hasn’t been too killing out in the playground with the children! I am sure that in the winter we are going to hate that playground, but at the moment it is quite fun. We have a big sandbox with spoons and shovels and pails etc. and then a horse – not a rocking, but a jumping horse – then a big log for climbing on and jumping and two old tree stumps for the same thing – then a big concrete drain pipe which they climb inside and pretend it is a rocket or a house, and also a great big tractor tire and various old car tires! It is marvellous what fun they have! On Friday it was raining so we couldn’t go out, but every other day we have had about 1/2 hour or more outside. I am still not used to this getting up and rushing out to work! However, it is quite fun, and I had the French cleaning lady one day last week and so my house was cleaned. She is coming next week and seems very good – we manage the language problem without too much trouble -Lindy says that I talk to her in English and she talks to me in French and we understand each other, but I talk a bit of French too and if she is stuck she can say some English and we can both gesticulate very well!
I go to my class at the University tonight and I feel very happy that I don’t have to do the homework etc. Gertrude has to spend 2 mornings at other nursery schools this week, as part of her ‘observation’ work, but I just can stay happily at our own little place. There is an awful lot of reading to do if you are going to take the thing seriously, and although I like to read I don’t see me reading children’s psychology text books with my bedtime cup of tea! I am tired enough to fall asleep over my murders these days let alone textbooks!
Linda still has not quite finished her English Diary for you but she had a big history assignment today, and she had an English one the week before, so she has been kept busy, but perhaps she will be able to get it finished. I thought that if she told you about the places and what we did I would tell you about the people and what we thought of everyone. Well, of course the first family we met were the Aldridges – Jessie and her family, and as far as Linda and Charlie were concerned they liked them better than any of the others! The reason was easy to see, as you remember that underneath it all Jessie had a very warm affectionate nature, and Marriage with Norman has brought this out and done away with all the little affectations etc. They are very obviously an affectionate closely-knit family, and so pleased to see us, and out to do all they could for us so that we really enjoyed them. You were surprised that I said Jessie looked like her mother, and I was surprised to see the likeness myself, but it was somehow the way her cheekbones stand out now her face is thinner which at once brought Mrs. Muir to my mind and yet as you say, she really had more the look of her father. Norman looks just the same as he did 20 years ago, and is just as nice and easy-going and has the same sense of humour – he had apparently said to her that she was to enjoy my visit and not to worry about anything, so he and Sandra got all the meals ready, and cleared away, and he wouldn’t let her do anything, so that she could just relax and enjoy herself with me – wasn’t that sweet of him? It seems to me that this kindness of Norman’s has brought out all the best in Jessie, because I don’t think that she is the selfish rather self-centred person she was at one time – she has a full-time secretarial job at the RAC on Piccadilly and from the way she talks she has no help at all and they have an old dog she looks after very devotedly, and altogether I am sure she has plenty to do, but she never said a word about it being hard or anything – in fact the opposite – how Norman and the children helped etc. As far as money goes, I don’t think they are hard up, but I am sure that they are a lot less affluent than most of my friends in England, but again she didn’t say anything. The house is in quite a nice part with a quiet road and little gardens – it isn’t very big, and they were in the throes of re-decorating, so it wasn’t all that tidy, but it was all right. All the children are very nice looking – David and Sandra have Norman’s colouring – brown hair and eyes, and both have a very nice clean cut profiles and Jessie’s lovely complexion. Zinnia is blonde and blue-eyed – apparently dyed blonde now, but it looks very nice. Neither of the girls are very tall – I think Linda is taller than either – but Sandra is the one with personality. She is very cute and friendly, whereas Zinnia hasn’t much to say for herself, and as I think I told you, Cec thinks she is a real dumb blonde! They are sending David to a Grammar School in Harrow, I think it is, and so he has quite a long journey each day, but he is a nice boy and he and Charlie got on like a house on fire – they are both pretty much the same type I think and they just disappeared and played games and chitchatted and had a good time. Jessie and Sandra and Linda and I went up into Sandra’s bedroom and looked at clothes and gossiped. Sandra had been to a 21st. party the night before and showed us what she wore – a silver mini dress with silver shoes and stockings! Altogether, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit with Jessie and Norman and it really felt as if we had seen them 18 weeks ago instead of 18 years.
Our next family was Nan and Dick and their children, and of all my friends they seem to me to be the most like us! By that I mean Dick has the same sort of job as Cec and their circumstances are much the same as ours and they lead the English equivalent of our life here in Canada. If you remember, Mr. and Mrs. Carnegie once wrote and said something about Cheadle being a dreadful place and by this I imagined that it must be very much the suburbs of Manchester with industry around, but it isn’t like that at all. It is suburbs, yes, but it is right amongst the lovely Cheshire countryside, and in about 5 minutes you are in beautiful villages with thatched roofs etc. and no hint of the city at all. The only thing is that Manchester Airport is very near and the jets scream over at all sorts of hours, which must take some getting used to. It didn’t bother me, but Cec said that he couldn’t have lived so near the planes. The house is a nice one in a very nice development. It is detached and although the houses are quite close together they have a lovely long garden at the back which has a gate onto a little lane which is a shortcut to the small shopping centre, which has a very adequate array of shops. The house has a built on garage, and the family which had it before them built on an addition over the garage, so instead of being a 3 bedroom house, they now have 5 bedrooms upstairs, one of which Dick has as a study. Downstairs they have a hall and stairs, a dining room in front of the house and a very nice sitting room with french windows onto the garden at the back. The kitchen is modern and nice and has a space for eating and I was full of admiration as Nan and Dick had done all the decorating themselves and it was all spic and span, with very pretty colour schemes and wallpapers. Dick looked just the same, but with a bit more grey in his hair like the rest of us, and Nan is very much the same too, except that she is now matronly. You couldn’t say she was fat, but she is just a well built woman and her face is fuller. Her hair is grey with white around her face and actually it suits her as she still has a pretty colour and she looks very well. Both the children have gorgeous red hair, and apparently it comes from both sides of the family! Sandy’s is a more golden red and curly and he has a fair rather freckly skin with goldy brown eyes and LONG eyelashes! He’s very tall and slim and I thought he was a very nice looking boy – Linda and Cec don’t think he is as good looking as I do but he has a sense of humour and a twinkle in his eye and a very pleasant personality, so maybe that made me think he was handsomer! Barbara has lovely hair – dark red and very thick – she wears it shoulder length and it is straight, but curls under at the ends and looks very nice. She has a pretty complexion, but she is a big girl and at the moment has rather a long heavy face, if you know what I mean. It is as if she is in the middle of growing and is rather unfinished at the moment. She seems solider and stolider than Sandy, so she didn’t appeal to me as much, but she is a nice girl, and Cec says she will be lovely when she grows up. They are a nice family, but not as carefree and relaxed as the Aldridges. Of course we were staying with them, and they were in a perfect turmoil with Sandy doing one thing and going one place and Barbara somewhere else etc. so I don’t wonder that things were a bit frantic at times, but Nan is a very good manager and was marvellously organized. We got on very well with Nan and Dick, and I felt that if we lived near we would still be good friends. I had a lot in common with Nan because I felt we lived very much the same way as I told you, but of course Nan is never one to tell you her innermost feelings or what she thinks of other people. I thought it was funny – she was talking about John Barton coming to see them one day – he is Dottie’s nephew, Marjorie’s oldest boy, and he is now a psychiatrist. Anyway, Nan said he was telling them his opinion of Dottie’s family, from a psychiatric point of view and according to him they were all queer except Peter. So I laughed and said, “What on earth did he say about the others?”, but Nan just said ‘Oh that would be telling’ or something like that and wouldn’t say, which seems so strange. I would imagine if John was airing his opinions to her and Dick that he was making no secret of them, but she wouldn’t gossip! I didn’t know before, but Sandy is very artistic, and is interested in making a career in the Arts. With his A- level, O-level exam marks he could get into a University easily in Science or Math, but apparently it is very hard to get into a University in Art. The applicants have to send a portfolio of their work to some board, and out of 400 applicants, 100 were chosen and Sandy was one of these, but only 40 were chosen out of this 100, and he wasn’t one of the finalists. However, he is going to go to an Art School in somewhere like Nottingham I think, and then will have another try at getting into a University next year. We were most impressed with the work we saw which he had done. There was a big oil painting on the sitting room wall of the view from his bedroom window in winter, and it was very good – as Cec says, it was good enough so that it might have been painted by anyone! We didn’t see much else in the painting line, but he seems to be very versatile and had a carved wooden knight on a horse on the mantlepiece, and various metalwork ashtrays, and he brought home from school a set of chessmen he was carving. It will be interesting to hear how he gets on.
Our next visit was to Wales to stay with Prof. and Mrs. Sheridan on the Isle of Anglesey. The children and I weren’t looking forward to this too much, because the only member of the family we knew was Prof. Sheridan who has stayed with us in Ottawa a couple of times, and he is rather a queer duck! He is about Cec’s age I suppose, and in the same field of research, but he always seems to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder, so we wondered what the family would be like. He hasn’t been at the University of Wales for very long, and have built a new house on Anglesey in the small town of Beaumaris. John and Mary were away at a meeting when we arrived, but were coming home later that night, so we had dinner at a hotel in the town and John had left a letter there for us telling us to get the key from the next-door neighbour and to go in and make ourselves at home as they didn’t know when they would be back, so we did just that. It must have been about 9 o’clock when we got there and Mary had written little notes all over the house telling us which beds were for who and where everything was. We unpacked a bit and got organized and then about 10:30 I made a cup of tea, and in the two of them came and shared the teapot with me. Mary turned out to be the nicest person – just as friendly and outgoing as John is quiet and ingoing! In 15 minutes you feel as if you had known her for years and we all liked her very much – Cec had met her before and said she was nice. They have 2 boys – one at boarding school who we didn’t meet, and the younger one who was staying with friends when his parents were away. He came home the next day and was a very cute little fellow. He is about a year younger than Charlie, but much smaller and kind of cute and funny – he and Charlie gotten well together, the small amount they saw each other. We really only had one full day with them and 2 nights, and then we left on the Saturday morning to go to Dottie’s.
We arrived at Dottie’s about teatime and found her and Tim having a cup of tea in the garden, so we joined them. Ken had very kindly got a ticket for Cec to go with him to the British Grand Prix that day, but we couldn’t possibly make arrangements to get there a day earlier when Dottie let us know, so Cec had to say ‘Thank you, but sorry…’ so Ken took his second son Richard with him instead. Ken and his 2 sons are car crazy and Cec said although it would have been interesting to go he would have been sure to show his ignorance, and he was sure that Richard would appreciate it much more. Dottie looked very much the same, but in a way more so! Her eyes deeper set, and her dimples deeper, and of course her laugh lines showing more, like the rest of us. Her figure is just the same and her hair doesn’t show any grey, but somehow both Cec and I thought she showed more signs of tension and being a bit harassed than we would have expected. Mind you, she has a busy time with a big household, but she was always such an efficient happy go lucky kind of person that we were a little bit surprised. Sutton Coldfield is a village which has been sort of surrounded by suburbs, and I believe that driving from there into Birmingham is very dreary – a long built up area, but we never went in to B. at all, and S.C. gives the impression of being country. It has a big park – like a big estate which has been given to the town, with a lake, woods etc. and this is very pretty. The house Dottie lives in is much the type of Roseworth Lawn. Not in appearance particularly but inside, with big rooms and high ceilings and built around the pre-1914 time, I should imagine. It is closer to the road than Roseworth Lawn was, with a big hedge and bushes and a little steep driveway, but behind they have an immense garden, beautifully kept. It is about an acre I think, and has a small flag stone terrace next to the house, then a big lawn with flowerbeds on one side and a pergola on the other, and some big trees. There are more flowerbeds at the end and then at one side a big vegetable and fruit garden, so there is a tremendous lot to look after. They have a gardener coming in a few times a week but Ken and Dottie do a lot of work, and Dottie loves gardening. It was really lovely, but somehow too big to be cosy or personal as it were! I don’t know if it was because I saw Nan’s garden first, but it sticks in my mind as being so pretty, and the roses there lovelier than anywhere else. I don’t remember Dottie having so many roses, but she had beautiful flower arrangements all over the house which she had made from flowers picked in her garden. The living room was a very nice room – sort of dark-oakish if I remember, and Dottie has had it re-decorated and some new furniture since she got married, and said that she had changed things gradually.
The little boy, Tim – about 9– is a strange little fellow. Very much a “Loner” with all the grown-up brothers etc. and Linda and Charlie didn’t like him at all! He is spoilt of course, and they were not at all of an age to appeal to one another. If he had been much smaller Linda would have been delighted, but as it was he was too young for Charlie and they had nothing in common at all. He plays by himself all the time, with obviously imaginative games, talking away to himself all the time and L. and C. were quite amazed to find he still played in the sandbox at that age! At the weekend with all the adults there he just lived a sort of separate life of his own taking no notice of anyone else – the only time Dottie told him to take L. and C. a walk in the park, he apparently marched on ahead of them and never spoke while they trailed behind, and when it began to rain and they said they should turn back he announced he was lost! However, he got them back safely, but Linda was furious and called him ever afterwards “That beastly little boy!” He goes to school nearby, but it is a Jr. school so he must change soon but Dottie says he won’t go away to boarding school as he doesn’t want to, but it seems a pity as it seems as if he needs other children.
During the evening, in came Peter and his fiancé, Val. It was so strange to see Peter – if I’d seen him coming down the street I would have thought it was his father, Ken. I don’t know if you remember Ken Burton very much, but Peter has the same rather stocky figure, his face is the same, his manner is the same, and Ken’s two front teeth grew to a sort of little point – not buck teeth, but a bit forward, and Peter’s are just the same. His voice is even the same and of course he is now very much the same age as Ken was when I last saw him. His fiancé (now his wife – they were married last month) is a little blonde girl – very sweet and adoring and apparently very clever. She has trained as a jewellery designer, and has won all sorts of awards in the De Beers diamond contests, and has made a big name for herself already. She is 22 and is not only the first girl, but the youngest person ever to win these awards so has been on TV and in mags. etc. She was over in New York to get some award last winter and may be again, so we may see her and Peter as he is now working for an American firm in England, but may be sent on a trip to the U.S. too. He works in computing, which of course is big business now and he’s doing very well. Dottie was telling me that Ken had advised him to go into this field, and not being his own father he could take his advice! Peter is apparently much brighter than the other 2 boys, which is a little difficult, but they are good friends. Ken and Richard came in for supper – Ken is a big tall dark man – very good-looking with dark smooth brushed back hair and a toothbrush moustache. He was very nice and kind – seemed quiet, but that may have been with the influx of guests in his house! The son, Richard, about 21 I think, is also tall, but not nearly as good looking as his father. His hair and eyes are dark, and his skin is on the sallow side, but he has one of those faces that slopes out from his forehead to his nose and then slopes back to a rather receding chin. However, poor fellow, he was very pleasant, although I gather he is the one who didn’t do very well in school and isn’t settling in a job very successfully. The older one, Peter’s age, Jem, is very nice. He is a big man too, not as dark as his brother, and very pleasant and friendly – very like his father in his manner, and he works with his father in the firm. He has a pretty little girl friend called Jill, long dark hair and blue eyes, but no engagement yet. Linda and I liked her very much and hope that the romance will prosper. You can see what a weekend Dottie had with us, then her own family and girl friends as well – they all seemed to be there for meals, so she had a busy time, but everyone cleared away and washed up together, so that was a help. Grace and Bob Spellar had asked us over for a drink on Sunday, so as a joke the whole a lot of us went and filled the house! Grace looked just the same and in fact her face was as smooth and unlined as when I saw her last. She’s perhaps a little slimmer, which is an improvement, and is now a grandmother as her oldest boy, John has just become a proud father. John was there to talk to us as he had had an offer from his firm of a job in Canada, so we answered all his questions, but I don’t know if they will come. It didn’t sound as if his wife were too keen.
On the Monday, everyone was back at work, and Tim was at school and after breakfast we set out for Stratford. It was a lovely drive through Kenilworth to Warwick, where we stopped and went over the castle. It was really beautiful, and Linda and I particularly enjoyed all the gorgeous paintings and fascinating things inside, and all the beautiful rooms arranged with lovely furniture, but it didn’t appeal to Cec and Charlie as much as the big ruined Welsh castles with broken down ramparts and little spiral staircases in the walls. Linda will tell you more about Warwick, I’m sure, so I won’t elaborate. We went to a very nice Hotel there and had a lovely lunch – it was a roasting hot day, so we were quite tired after our tour of the castle and gardens, so were glad of the lunch and rest. We got to Stratford in the early afternoon and found it crowded of course. Jessie Aldridge had managed to get us seats for the theatre through the Club where she works, and so we had to go and claim them. Then we toured around and saw the various sights – Shakespeare’s birthplace, his daughter’s house etc. etc. It was so hot – about 83°, that day, so we took full advantage of all the pretty gardens and parks and kept sitting down in the shade of trees wherever we went! We had tea in one hotel, and then we felt we had to have something before the theatre at 8:30, but having had a big lunch, we weren’t all that hungry, and you know in England you either go to a hotel for a Full Course Dinner or to a café for sort of fried egg and chips, and the latter were hot and crowded! Finally we found one kind hotel which put us in a sort of bar-lounge and served me with cider and Cec with beer and the children with cokes and served us a huge plate of sandwiches – tomato, chicken and beef and they tasted wonderful!
We were in good time at the theatre and enjoyed the play, but “All’s Well that Ends Well” is not one of my favourites, and although it was good, it wasn’t outstanding I didn’t think. None of the actors were well known and of course, the theatre is so hideous outside, and although pleasant inside isn’t as different and exciting as OUR Stratford! However, we enjoyed it very much and were delighted that we are now able to say that we have been to Stratford on Avon! We drove back to S.C. and had a cup of tea with Ken and Dottie before going to bed, and said goodbye and thank you to Ken. He was very kind to us and Dottie and they seem most compatible and happy together. It’s nice being able to think of Dottie in those surroundings now and to know what all her new family are like. It’s strange though, of all the friends we met, there were 3 with whom I wasn’t quite at ease. Dottie, Joan Appleyard and Gunborg Sutherland. All the rest I felt I picked up where I left off, and it was easy to talk to them, but with those three I felt a barrier, and it was unexpected with Dottie as we have kept in quite close touch. Perhaps her life has changed too much and too many things have happened to her since we met, or perhaps she was just in a bit of a flap with such a lot to do, but Cec felt it as well, so It wasn’t just my imagination.
You know here I am on page 8, and I have hardly begun, so I am going to send off this installment and continue in my next. I will have been writing this for weeks, a bit at a time, so when I will finish the whole saga I don’t know. You can’t complain that you didn’t hear what I think of everyone after this, but don’t go spreading my opinions to the winds or I won’t have a friend left.
Much love from us all to you and Auntie Muriel – hello to Doris and Luenda from Linda and Charlie.
Will continue in my next ……