Saturday, October 7, 2000

New York, New York, October 2000

The flight to New-York was just under 8 hours and fairly uneventful. The couple next to me were going to spend 3 nights in the City and I was most intrigued when 20 mins before touch down the young man got a box down from the luggage rack possibly 15”x 6”x 6” which he handed to his Lady. She opened it up to reveal a pop-up mirror and umpteen pots and boxes and numerous brushes with which she proceeded to do art work on her face. On taking a good look at her face I could not say that it was an improvement as I had not seen her last year but it seemed an example of excess vanity baggage compared with my Bic razor, comb and tooth brush. They were staying at the Marriot Hotel.                                  

By 10.30 we were through customs and baggage and waiting outside for the Grey-line Transport that Mark had arranged through his Travel agent to get us to the Hotel. As there was no sign of him Mark spoke with the large black clerk at the desk. On her doing some phoning it appeared that we would have to wait 2 hours, she soon put a stop to that nonsense and the guy was on the scene in 20 mins. The small run around had about 8 lots of visitor including us and I noticed a sign inside that said “Your Voucher payment does not include the drivers tip!”. However as the guy could not or would not find our Hotel and we finished 2 blocks from where we should be his remonstrations fell on deaf ears with Mark who was handling everything.

Union Square Inn is in a somewhat seedy part of lower Mid-Town Manhattan and the whole of the front was in the process of being “Done up”. However once inside and at the desk things looked smarter. Nice carpeting, woodwork and door furniture but on looking for the lift as we were room 404 on the 3rd floor we find we had to resort to climbing the stairs (50) to get to our room. The key to the door is a piece of plastic which opens the door to reveal a room approximately 7 feet and a half by 11 feet and a half with one bed a bedside bit of furniture with a bed-side light on it. On the other short wall by the door is a chest of drawers and that is about it, apart from the on-suite bathroom facilities. The first words Mark says are “Where’s your bed?”. Mark queries the situation with the office and returns with the news that there are two beds there but one is sitting on top of the other the top one being made slightly larger. We first have to find a home for the bedside gear and so get it jammed in beside the chest of drawers and the door, which leaves just enough room for the bathroom door to open. Once we get the beds in place there is about 18 inches between them. However there is a T.V. fixed up on the wall and air conditioning also, it’s true we are short on space but what would we have done with it if had some, eat it? 

By 1.30 we are on the streets walking with a view to find the City Library so that Mark could have a session on the internet and get some messages back home. We find the library on 5th Ave and Mark has to wait till 3.0 p.m. to get a place on a computer so the 45 min wait. I was quite glad of the sit down as my back had developed a painful muscle, I think I must have been sitting in the plane in a poor posture. The Library rooms are magnificent, beautiful big tables and chairs, the wooden armchairs quite huge, to fit one big American or one and a half Englishman. We spend the time perusing the map of Manhattan and planning a few trips. Mark gets a half hour on the internet and gets 6 or 7 messages off. We then made a point of searching out the Empire State Building and return back to base via the Flat Iron Building where we stopped for our first meal in an eating place. Mark orders a chicken sandwich that comes with a salad dish. The sandwich is so large he cannot get his mouth round it. My meal was a Macaroni cheese dish with ham. I could only manage half of this of course and Mark decided to call a halt at half way through his. He asked for the remaining half to be wrapped up to take away and it came back in a neat plastic container. This first meal cost 17 dollars, about £12 which for what we had and being where we were was par for the course.

Back at the Inn about 5.0 p.m. where I tried out the kettle and had a drink and started on the first of the loaves with an Apricot Jam Butty. It had been a long day, by now it must have been about 2.0 a.m. our time but only 7.30 p.m New York time but we settled down to sleep anyway. Not a great night’s sleep for me, could not locate the sleeping pills and was awake on and off all night. Awake from 4.0 onwards and just waited till 6.0 when I thought it time I got a hot drink going. The local electric power was 120 volts so our little kettle took a good 15 mins to get the 2 cups of water to boil. Whilst this was happening I would get washed and shaved and dressed and then was ready to get a little something for our Breakfast.

On the road again just after 8.0 a.m. and walked through Chinatown, very interesting, fruit shops with all the fruit polished up and the Chinese eating houses with rows of roast duck in the windows. Chinatown seemed to cover a very big area. Found Brooklyn Bridge and walked across it. Plenty of people on bikes or jogging, skating or just generally taking a walk and some fresh air. A really fine day, Blue sky and good views of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Took almost half an hour to get across the bridge and then we walked into Brooklyn itself via a wooded area and a small park where we sat and eat the contents of the “doggy” bag and a ham sandwich that I had made before we left. Walked further into Brooklyn with a view to getting to the Botanical Gardens but on asking a couple of chaps they said it was too far to walk and in any case we would have had to go through a rather rough area. They suggested we walk to the promenade and pointed us in the right direction. Great views of Manhattan from the promenade and got talking to a gent who was out for a stroll and he took us to another viewing point and chatted to us about Brooklyn and New York. Made our way back across the bridge and made our way towards Battery Park and the ferry area.

This must have been Saturday as we had decided to drop the idea of having Lunch at the Jazz Club that Roger had mentioned as we were too far away by now. Thought we might go eat in McDonalds as I could see a jazz pianist playing in an upstairs. Had fun watching the customers, lots of weird blacks and odd New York Characters. Onto Battery Park and saw the big queues of folks waiting to get on to the ferry for Statue of Liberty. Visited the World Trade Centre and sat for a while in the vast atrium and just wondered at everything. Set off back up town at 2.0 p.m. going past the old jetties where the big Atlantic Liners used to berth and then cut in to get to the Contemporary Art Museum then a brief look at the Puck Building and back along Lafayette & 4th Ave. Bought some ham and some cake and got back at the Inn at around 5.0pm.

Sunday. We have a late start, 9.0 a.m. after a breakfast in the room of ham sandwich followed by an apricot jam sandwich and ample coffee we are on the road again. We decide to give Marks feet an easier day as he had developed a blister on the bottom of each heel so decided to take the Cruise around the island of Manhattan. With the concession for me this came to $41, which was our biggest expense for the whole 6 days. The boat could had held about 150 passengers and slowly worked its way anti clock-wise around the whole island and had a drinks and sandwich bar on one of the decks. A commentary was being given by “Dave … my name’s Dave”. He was a real New Yorker with attitude and made the trip very interesting with plenty of good information and witty remarks. 
This took just over two and a half hours. We took several photos of the skyline of Manhattan and Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. A beautiful clear day, blue sky but cold.

From Battery Park where we disembarked we set off to walk to Central Park. Somewhere along the way we passed through a rather smart section with Hotels with a canvas awning out in front covering the sidewalk to the kerb with a convex mirror at each outer corner. Mark had the idea they were to see that nobody of mischievous intent was found lurking about. However to get to the bottom of the puzzle I stopped and asked at one place where there was a doorman on duty and had a good chat with him. In the Winter when it is well below freezing the mirrors enabled the doormen of these places to keep an eye on the streets without getting frozen and he said that it was important to stop “Dogs Delivery” in the vicinity of the place. At various places we saw “Stretch Limo’s”, a white one which Mark took a photo of me holding the door measured 12 of my paces about 20 feet.

Central Park starts at 59th street and carried on for two and a half miles up to 108 Street. We of course walked all the way stopping to have a Hot Dog at a food stand and then to watch the passing show at one of the big lakes with a water fountain playing. From here we decided to walk to the very top of the park to where there was the Conservatory Park. We didn’t see anything of a conservatory but the was an excellent water fountain and formal gardens. Not a lot of people at this end, quite a peaceful bit of space. We found a spot where we could look out on to the lake at the top of the park so as to be able to say we had seen the top of Central Park.

It was now time to make our way back to the Inn and there was no way I could manage to walk all the way back to 14th street which could have been another 4 miles!! We then got a bus going down 5th Ave. The fare is one and a half dollars each so Mark tendered $3 to the Driver who said “Coins only.” we said we had no coins so he motioned for us to sit down anyway and set off on his route. Subsequent passengers who were in the same predicament who refused getting to stay on the bus so we considered ourselves lucky. Again it was fun to observe the passengers and the driver who was a big black guy. We bought some food in a “deli”. Here we helped ourselves to salad and stuff and got the whole lot weighed and carried it away in a plastic box. This we had back at the Inn with 2 beers. Watched T.V. and read and Mark worked out that we had spent $100 in 3 days and he had $160 left, of course I had at least £100 so no worries.

Monday was a Public Holiday also Yom Kippur but everything was open and working. We decided we would walk through Chinatown again and also see the Stock Exchange. It was quite cool 10c and a North wind blowing so we got extra clothes on. When got to Chinatown we saw lots of the local Chinese doing Tai Chi type of exercises with some Chinese music coming from a load-speaker a couple had wooden swords which they did special movements with also there was a man stripped down to his blue jeans walking around this little playground with 3 or 4 plastic cups balanced on his head just slowly walking round and round, we figured it must be some form of meditation. We were wrapped up in several layers against the cold but he did not seem to feel it. Outside the playground we saw a crowd of men gathered in a bunch and on closer examination saw there were 2 small tables and they were playing a serious game of Majong. Nearby a crowd of Chinese women round a table and they were playing cards. All in the open, about 9.30 a.m. on a cold morning but they were all wrapped up. 

We made for the river then and made our way through Fulton Fish Market and gradually round so that we could look down Wall Street. Here we saw the large Bronze of a Bull which was attracting the attention of a crowd of Japanese Tourists, Mark took a photo of the Bull and then we had to wait a while for the next group of tourist to view the Exchange. Finally we got into the Exchange building after going through a security check. From up above the dealing room we could observe the frenetic activity of the dealers busy making deals and share prices being logged on a big screen.

After this we headed back into Chinatown again and sorted out the Chinese restaurant we wanted to eat at. Mark had spotted some Peking Duck in the window of one particular place and this is where we finished up. This was the most expensive meal we ever had the whole time, but we enjoyed it all. Started with a pot of tea which we drank while waited for the stuff we had ordered. As a starter we had a dish of what I could only describe as “baps” opened up and filled with duck by the waiter and then the main course of Peking Duck with plenty of green shoots and veg of a Chinese nature and finished with an Orange. 

Mark wanted to get some presents for home so we made our way to “Macy’s” which was not to far from the Empire State Building. However we went too far and got near the Grand Central Station so called in there and admired the huge interior. We went down below and explored the Food Concourse. Treated ourselves to an Ice Cream. We also spent a bit of time in the Railway Museum there, which was fun and then to “Macy’s”. Mark was pondering whether to buy a “Macy’s” shopping bag, a rather swish affair but then went off to look at other stuff. I, while this was going on sat resting myself and noted that the Gay fellow at a desk was issuing these bags for free if the customer could produce a receipt for goods spent up to $30 so as soon as Mark showed up I tipped him off about this and a satisfactory deal was done.

We had decided to get up the Empire State Building today but to wait until it was just approaching dusk and so it was time to get along. The entrance price was $9 & $7 for my concession, and up we went in the lift to the 86th floor. The view is indescribable, it has to be experienced, we saw it in daylight, dusk and as the light went completely. The view is so compelling it is with difficulty that you tear yourself away from it and come down to earth again. I bought a calendar of New York Views for $7 and then we got a couple of bottles of beer and some ham and got back to the Inn. Now 8.0 p.m. so we had been on the go for 12 hours and still had to climb the 50 steps to the room!!

Tuesday. Set off for the “Met” at 8.30 a.m. and got there after an hours walking just as the place was opening. Saw much of interest, most impressive being the structure and open space layout. Trees in pots etc. Great American section, stained glass windows and huge artefacts from the various rich benefactors such as the Vanderbilts. Had a couple of hours there and then moved up town to have quick look at the Guggenheim, which was under extensive renovation. Crossed the park and saw the Belvedere Castle type building. Then a little walk downtown to take in the Natural History Museum; we used Robs free voucher here. Vast place; quite tired by now but covered a fair bit of the place. We had a simple meal soon after this. Mark had a chicken sandwich and I had a meal of Tuna and some salad all weighed out on a scale by the till. Mark was now seeking out a magazine shop as he wanted to by a magazine on Embroidery for a friend. Found a shop with a reputed 7,000 magazines for sale!!

Mark phoned the Grayline people and came back with the news that they would not or could not pick up from the hotel, only from the corner of 7th Ave & 31 St. Later he phoned the airport to confirm the return flight. We bought 2 cans of beer and a tomato for (35 cents) to go with the sardine sandwich I planned to make for our supper. We walked all the way back to the Inn a total we figured of 11 kms which we thought was the average for each day. I worked out that each block was a total of 90 paces and taking about a minute a block to walk.

Wednesday. We packed up the bags and left them in the office. We then set off for the Forbes Inc Museum, on the way we passed an old Jewish Cemetery. We had some difficulty in locating the Forbes Collection and asked a Lady doing some gardening and finally found the building.
It was now 10.30am, the Forbes collection started off with a huge collection of model boats and ships, could have been 200. Then a collection of very important letters from men of state and various notables. Finally the Faberge collection and just at the exit a most amazing mechanical device mounted on the wall with a series of large ball-bearings going through hoops and loops and swinging arms and then to start all over again, a most gigantic Executive Toy designed to try and take your mind away from your falling the stocks and shares market.

After this we had our midday snack in a small park and amused ourselves watching the locals again. We wanted to see the tour that took us all over the Tenement Blocks that the immigrants to New York lived in during the early part of the century. This started at 2.0pm so we made our way to the site and joined a group of 12 and a guide who gave an excellent talk about the building and the occupants and how they lived in those times.

We had a fair bit of time to fill between now and when we should pick up our bags from the hotel and make our way to the pick-up corner. We thought a diversion would be to walk to the middle of the Williamsburg Bridge and this did indeed take up about an hour’s walking and exploring, not a great view as the structure of the bridge blocked out a lot of the scene, however we can say that we walked the Williamsburg Bridge!!

So it’s now back to the Inn and get on the Underground to get to 7th Ave and 31st. The stop was a little further on so more walking this time with our bags. However we found an interesting spot near Madison Square Gardens and watched the antics of the fans going in to see a ball game of some kind. Finally we moved over to where the transport would be hopefully stopping to pick us up to take us to Newark Airport. We finally finished the last of the 2 loaves of bread with a large ham sandwich.

A truly memorable holiday, quite unforgettable.

Saturday, January 1, 2000

From Calpe to Ashton-under-Lyne

An account of the second half of Cyril Smalley’s life, in particular the last decades, by his brother, Philip Smalley; and based on Cyril’s frequent letters.

Cyril used to boast that the photographic work at 221 Dawes Rd was the worst in London. Both the advances in black and white quality and the gradual change over to colour was leaving him behind in the 1960’s. His machines were getting worn out and he was looking for another challenge. Letter 78 shows him giving vent to his feelings about the state of things at that time.

Thinking back to your mechanical problems last week made me think of my machine when it decided it was time to show who was master. Everything revolved around those two machines --- the Kenprinter and the Processor. It was pleasant to boast that the only time a print was touched by human hand was when it was tucked into the Wallet but if the processor went temperamental then bedlam reigned. How the machine continued to work so long more or less diligently is a mystery for it was a mass of rust and eaten away metal, one daren’t disturb the tanks or a mass of ‘orrid sludge would appear, even worse was the Grit which would be compressed into the print ere it was glazed. It was my silent boast that we turned out the worst photography anywhere, but the people never complained and even came back for more.

It must have been in the Winter of 1963/4 that he took a holiday on the continent with Molly a part-time worker at 221 Dawes Road. She was for a few years his Mistress, coming in between Dot Stevens and Violet who was to with him almost to the end.

Taking in the coast of Spanish could see the possibilities of property development in the coastal towns and villages. He found the kind of Brit around Malaga and Torremolinos not to his liking and went on to take a liking for Calpe on the Costa Blanca.

In collaboration with 2 or 3 Brits who were I think living there for the Winter they bought a plot of land at the back of Calpe. The names of Gibbs and Heard show up in subsequent letters. Calpe at that time was in fact just a large village. By some quirk of fate Jose Artieda had become an acquaintance of Cyril’s in Fulham long before a penny was spent in Spain. Spanish law demanded a Spaniard be a major shareholder in any enterprise as large as this was envisaged. It so happened that Pepe had some building experience and so he was brought into the scheme. Pepe, at this time was without a bean and Cyril had developed quite a liking for him and so the die was cast.

So much trust did Cyril have in Pepe that he was given Power of Attorney in the operation in Calpe Estates as the project was to be known. The first projected ideas were very large, a sketch exists of a scheme for 128 villas and two large blocks of flats plus swimming pools etc. In the end 39 villas were built together with a swimming pool, a Super Mart was planned but when Peg and I visited the place in April 1968 I don’t recall seeing the Super Mart. The pool was to become a source of agro as water problems occurred more often than they should due to water shortage and mismanagement on Pepe’s part.
Before the villas were finished another large project was started in the main street of Calpe. Ponderosa was a block of flats with shops at street level. 50 apartments of various sizes also offices at ground level. It occurs to me that not a lot of money had been made in doing the villa scheme as money always seemed to be short during this final venture and got worse as time went on. Ponderosa, as far as Cyril’s fortune was concerned was a “Bridge too Far”, and where his dream of being a property tycoon was to begin to unravel.

At this time however Cyril’s prestige was very high with the folks in Calpe. The building of the villas had brought much work to the town and there was talk that he could be made an Honorary citizen of the town and the road leading to the villas from the town be named after him. However, in the Summer of 1968 the first rumblings of trouble started. One of the owners of a villa complained to the U.K. newspapers carrying the advertising campaign to the effect that Escritura’s were not being handed over after being fully paid up and a further complaint was made to the Banks. With the end of the advertising came the end of fresh money coming from U.K. to Spain and also questions were being asked in high places. As Cyril could not come up with satisfactory answers to these questions the pressure built up to such a pitch that he must at that stage have lost his nerve and he decided to do a “runner”. Why he took this path I never knew. It could have been loss of nerve or maybe there was currency transactions that were not strictly adhered to. Money could have been moved from U.K. to Spain illegally to ease customer’s purchases. Cyril put the blame on Pepe for mismanagement of funds in the building of the apartments and no matter how much money was sent over to Calpe it seemed like a black hole that could never be filled. So whereas clients’ money should have gone to the bank to release the Escritura’s it was used in the construction instead. Clients lost their patience and the complaints began to mount. Several people saw Pepe as a crook including Cyril’s wife Phyllis but possibly because he had such a high opinion of his own judgement of people and a low one of Phyllis’s that he could not see what was afoot.

August of that year saw him leave London and his office at 166 Piccadilly for the North to try and get some anonymity where he could not be got at. He had not been up there long before he decided a change of name would be a good idea and seeing the name of Tom Chadwick over a Butcher’s shop he thought “that’s a good name, I’ll have that”.
He wasn’t penny-less but he had to somehow get back in business. His assets were the Dawes Rd property, (half in hock to the bank), the lease at 166 Piccadilly, his old Cresta car, (a constant source of worry from carburettor and overheating problems) and a few hundred in cash. An excerpt from letter 23 gives the gist of the carb trouble.

Just had a go at the garage people who replaced the carburettor some time ago. It is still giving me occasional trouble after returning it to them several times. I rang them up this morning to ask them for the address of the carburettor people. This appeared to cause some disquiet and the works foreman came on the phone. He remembered the car and asked again for details of the trouble. You see, the damn thing doesn’t act in a reasonable fashion, it is only intermittent. After the engine has done a bit of idling it suddenly stops and it is impossible to re-start. The only way is to unscrew the four screws at the top of the carb, drop the chamber and empty it, put it back, tighten up and start it up and it is as good as gold, till the next time!! Of course it only happens at traffic lights or some equally unfortunate place. The foreman now tells me that it is definitely rich mixture coupled with pump trouble. Certainly my petrol bills are heavy. But this asking for the address of the carb people brought things to a head. It’s a terribly hard world.
This was to occur time and time again. It is a constant theme running through the 150 letters that he wrote to me over the first ten years he was in the North. None of the letters were dated, just headed by the day of the week he was writing. The first 120 were during the first three years and the rest came after. The only personal contact he had in the early days were myself and Violet who was living with him at Dawes Rd and remained behind until the place was sold. So worried was he that his position would be given away that even Phyllis was kept in the dark for quite a long time and her letters to him would re-directed from St Goar Cottage.
Without dates the letters were quite difficult to get in some sort of chronological order. Only by reading them through and his references to the weather and holidays such as Easter and Christmas and the run of the story could any order be made. Mention of birthdays was a guide, namely Grace, Phyllis and Father’s birthday dates as in letter 68.

Hell of a night Friday, wind and rain in abundance, I earned my four quid on the collection of the Television rents. I finished up about nine thirty a quivering mass of venom, radiating evil and discontent to all who came within my range.

It was Grace’s Birthday on Saturday, I remember the day she was born. Just like Friday --- slates blowing off the roof and Christ knows what. She was a very pretty girl.

The collecting of television rents was all part of how he earned a living. Palatine Commercial Services was a firm he set up with my help. The principle aim was debt collection from firms on a commission base but he was forced to take on other forms of collecting including rent collecting. As he had cut himself off from all previous business activity he had no status to start up a business in his own name or even the name of Tommy Chadwick. The only way out was to use me and the Ifield Road address as a cover as “The London Firm” whereas he would pose as just working for “head office”. He would write out a letter to whoever and send it to me to be posted showing a London address. A small snippet on letter 30 shows his sound way of dealing with money matters.

Just had a telephone conversation with a builder client in Stockport. One of those cases where a bloke does work on a verbal contract and when things go sour there isn’t a piece of paper as big as a stamp to support the claim. If life has taught me anything at all its taught me always get a piece of paper, a date, an address and a signature. With those three things you can go as far as the House of Lords. I don’t take a job on without they sign an application form and there is supporting correspondence.

The letters are full of his experiences of collecting, also running through are his trouble with Vi. The stress of the debacle had put too much strain on the pair of them, and all harmony had gone from them. However, she needed a roof over her head and to earn some money so Cyril was useful and he needed her to help support his fiction of running a company, she being down as company secretary. So as well as trying to pull himself up by his boot straps he had to contend with her whiplash of a tongue. Letters 31 & 36 show the scene.           

Got caught in a shower this morning. I don’t like getting wet before I start work. Vi has a very bad cold and although it must be on its way out by now it shows very little sign. These smokers certainly make life difficult for themselves. We are on a very poor personal relationship and have been for some weeks. The reason is not difficult to see nor can I see it ever being ever any good. It’s a pity but affairs like this can never turn out to be of any value. It’s impossible to have any social life for all social life in a civilised society depends on a sound domestic background. The only friends we could ever make were the people who knew about us and were prepared to accept it. I never wanted the damn thing to go on for ever but it did.

A week or so later on letter 36.

Still living a day at a time which is nerve wracking and takes its toll. It seems a long time since laughter rang through the place but doubtless the return of good spirits will be resurrected in good time but this is a tough period. Vi gives me a good pasting periodically which I can take on top of me ‘ead for she is unable to hurt me which, when one ponders on things is a pity for her. I suppose she knows this and is all the more bitter., but it can’t be otherwise and I want it not.

I try to provide a roof but apart from that there is little comfort and less companionship which is bad for a woman.
My thoughts are all taken up with survival and there are none left whether good or bad and this must be the road until such times as a gleam of light shows. As usual I am the Villain.
She has just turned up at the office. A joyless face and she was sparing with words to me. I wish her well but I am unable to give her much. I shall pick her up at 5.45 and the journey homewards will be empty of words of that know only too well.

‘Tis strange that I can make these liaisons so easily and the other side enter into them with such enthusiasm, much more than they ought but they always end with bitterness but oddly enough, with little regret. They learn a lot and get a lot of enjoyment that’s for sure and experiences that they never thought possible and freely admit it, but nothing last for ever and it’s wrong to expect it but people do all the same.

On top off this domestic agony he had the daily worry of his cover being blown during the first 12 months until the authorities found someone more important to chase. Letter 7 contains a passage where he is trying to justify his present position.

When I came up here I did so in the full knowledge that I might never return permanently. Staying in London meant never being able to start up in business and at my age I’m quite unemployable at anything except a lollipop man. The problems that I would have to face would mean no chance of ever salvaging anything out of my assets, perhaps even worse. It may be that sooner or later the smash will come but I would rather it was as late as possible.
It is a pity that both you and Vi are in possession of certain facts which places you both at a disadvantage but it’s difficult to operate without some sort of connecting link.

Sometime during the first 3 months I got a phone call from either a Mr Boff or a Mr Powell but whoever it was he was looking for Cyril Smalley and could I help them with “their enquires” and if so would I ring Whitehall 1212. I did not deny that he was my brother but chose to say that the last I had heard from him was that he was in the East of the country. Letters 26 & 27 gives the reader the strength of the pressure that was building up.

By the way, a bloke called Powell is looking around for me. He’s from the Bank of England. I had previously received a note from him saying that he had called but that I was not around. This time the news came from the solicitors who asked Vi if she knew a man by that name. How he’s got there I know not but he might contact you. I think it better to refer to the East coast rather than the North, that is if at any time you are asked and cannot escape.
By letter 27 you can really feel that Cyril is getting the cold sweats.
I phoned Vi from Warrington and told her my news and asked her for hers. The Police rang promptly at ten o clock asking for me. She of course said I wasn’t there. They then asked for Mr Chadwick and were told he was out. She asked them if she could be of help and was told it was a personal matter. She was then asked to leave a message for me to ring Whitehall 1212. and ask for a Mr Boff on an extension number.

It really is shattering news. All this time and we get our first break and then this business. Can’t see how I can escape now and I’m practically over to the idea of going to London tomorrow and phoning this chap. If the end is on me I want to keep this end out of it and would rather by far face it from London. Wouldn’t be so bad if I knew the strength of it but it’s being played with cards close to the chest. Seems all wrong to walk into it with eyes wide open but it’s all got very complex at this end with names and addresses intertwining.

If it was simple with one address it might be worthwhile a try to skip but now I can’t see it getting me very far and sooner or later there would be a showdown on ground not of my choosing.

If I’m in London tomorrow, I’ll call on you and chat about it prior to me sticking my neck into the lion’s den. Just when we ought to be shouting for joy we are tolling the bell for another reason. Ah me.

Affectionately, sorry the news is bad.

Frustratingly, I either never knew the outcome of the London visit or even that it took place, but things never got as bad again and of course in due course after a lot of people had suffered agonies over all this sad business the bank took charge of the affair and everybody got either their money back or their Escritura’s for the flats. Not only that but there was one flat remaining which could go to nobody other than Cyril and which I managed to get sold and the money into Cyril’s pocket.

Getting Dawes Road sold was quite a problem as it was in his name and with his need to remain invisible he had to do some sleight of hand to liquefy those assets. I see I have got this letter as Number 8 but I feel sure it could easily be 88 in relation to the rest of the letters.
I have seen the solicitor regarding Dawes Rd and he is preparing a Deed of Assignment transferring the property to you. This is being done at a figure of £3.500. The Bank have a charge of approx. £2,000 which will stand although he is not informing the Bank of the assignment who may like it or they may not. If they get to know and they are unlikely to do so and force a sale it matters not because they will get their £2.000 and you will get the rest, or I would like to think that we would get the rest as I still owe you the money you lent me.

The reason I think this letter is too early is because Cyril mentions the money I lent him which relates to the £1.000 I let him have to enable him to purchase one side of Andrew Street in Mossley from numbers 2 to 50 a total of 25 houses for £3.600.

Once Palatine Commercial Services was set up and running adverts were going in the press telling of their services to collect bad debts. This brought Cyril into contact with a Brian Buckley who was running a joinery business and needed some debts collected. Buckley had inherited this half street of properties but they were all let to statutory tenants at a very low rent. Cyril suggested that he take on the collection of the rents and see that all was kept up to scratch. First of all, Cyril managed to get to rent number 50. He was very successful in collecting Buckley’s debts and eventually managed to buy the rest of the street. Letters 73 & 81 mention the deal with Buckley also more of the trouble with Vi.

Business is a little brighter, not I hasten to say with any new clients but old clients getting further and further into the fertiliser business. One was a bad debt of Buckley’s to whom he had lent £750 which turned sour and it was my lot to retrieve the situation which I have relentlessly and remorselessly assailed, early next week I expect to garner in a cheque for £330 leaving a morsel of £100 which I think will take the best part of a year to complete.

I saw Buckley a fortnight ago when we discussed this account. He is unstinting in his praise at our efforts being equally well aware that his chances of being paid were absolutely zero without our professional efforts. I was at pains to mention that in this particular case our commission would be in excess of the usual as we had used special efforts and we would expect to be rewarded accordingly.                                                                                                                                                                          
Phyllis’s letter arrived by this morning’s mail. She is well and loving me. The relationship at this end must tear itself to pieces ere long for it is no relationship at all --- to be on my own would be a happy release from all the emotional upsets. Why she doesn’t cut the slender thread I know not for both her daughters are anxious for her to join them. The daughter in Australia would pay her fare and no one can be more generous than that but blow me tight even that isn’t sufficient inducement. I’m told the daughter and son in law from Kings Lynn are arriving here this Easter but what day I know not or for how long. I desire no interference with my building operations as time is so important.

Letter 73 contains another item about the car and some move to getting the big property purchase completed.

Picked up the car Saturday after the exhaust had been fitted. Certainly makes a difference, it’s as quiet as a mouse. It was too late to get the job done Friday so I had to take it minus the exhaust. Christ what a row. Managed to get back without interference which is a blessing. It rained again in the evening which makes collecting anything but a pleasant job. This is one of those weeks when I hang on to the money for another week. The exhaust cost me nine and a half quid instead of twelve for the other people so the cost has to be financed out of the television money for a week or so.

The passage graphically shows how tight he was for cash.

Went across to the solicitor this morning to find out progress re the purchase. He tells me he has received the contract from Buckley late last week. He informs me that the contract will be ready in a fortnight. I’m most anxious for this to be a final move as the rents are badly needed to finance us through this difficult time, not that there is any change out of the transaction in the early months until we get something sold but once they’re under our control an application for extra rents can be made of a threat of same, we must get more income out of the tenants and make the set up more productive. I was beginning to wonder if Buckley had second thoughts about the deal for the horizon is slightly brighter for property owners now that the rent act is going to be amended.                                         
I’m glad I went across because I was able to pick up a cheque for eighty quid which between us we had managed to lever out of a debtor.

From time to time Cyril could wax lyrical about the day if his mood was receptive enough.

Letter 44.

Had to go to a little place this morning the other side of Bury. The weather was glorious and although my inner mood matched not the day it was nevertheless very pleasant. The moors still retain their green look and what trees there were seemed soberly dressed as if not to appear too frivolous for the long unbroken line of the hills. I was away about a couple of hours and seemed reluctant to return to --- I know not what.

His use of “Head Office” to deal with complaints is shown in letter 34 also a smattering of his funny story telling.

No sooner had I phoned Peggy when McKendrick came into the office to tell me he’d had a complaint from Mr Smalley. He agreed very much with the complained items and he had promptly put a bulb in the socket in the passage way and agreed to put the suggested air brake on the door. He said it never occurred to them about the noise. He naturally (I knew he would) ask me why I hadn’t complained to him personally and I made some excuse or other, but I find that the correct approach is always the one that gets the results.

Funny how McKendrick turned up as soon as I had enquired from Peggy if the letter had been sent off. It always happens like this. I’ve always found that the quickest way to get someone to turn up quickly when you are waiting for them is to go to the loo. They are SURE to turn up when it isn’t all that convenient.

Jack used to tell a story about a chap who cured aeroplane’s wings from dropping off by drilling a lot of holes just along where they were found to be snapping off and it cured it. When he was asked how he had discovered this cure he replied that he always noted that lavatory paper never seemed to tear along the dotted line.

Letter 55 mentions Father’s birthday. Cyril being 15 years older than myself had no doubt time to get these dates into his memory whereas the only one I could remember was Mother’s and that was only because it was the same date as mine. It also contains the pie incident.

Fathers birthday today --- I never seem to forget. I remember him with much affection ---pity he couldn’t have had more pleasure in his later years instead of the burden he had to bear and I never heard him complain. It’s a great comfort to me that I was able to spare Phyllis to nurse him and ease his last few months.

What a week-end, and some of it is still with us, and so cold. I was glad the rain kept off ‘till I had completed my collection which went over Saturday morning for a few of the bigger accounts. Vi came with me, she called at our local confectioners and ordered four pies to be picked up later but what she wasn’t told was they close at 12.30 on Satdy. We returned at 1.30 to find the shop shut. I was livid. Satdy without my pies is like suddenly being made an orphan. I ranted at Vi for being a poor shopper and Christ knows what. In short we had words and the week-end was bleak.

A previously mentioned visit by Vi’s daughter, hubby and child came to pass, letter 54.

They brought the baby AND the dog and stayed the night. Being in the heart of the canning district they can acquire tinned goods at ridiculous prices (tins of soup for 2d) and they brought twenty or thirty tins of food for us. Lots of it unlabelled which makes preparing a meal an exciting experience, the thing is to open the tins first so one knows whether it is a savoury or a sweet.                                                                                     
The dog is a great big brown collie which is quite well behaved and obviously a dog of pedigree but unfortunately he’s been sold a stumer in so much as the dog has developed some bone trouble in the back joints which makes it useless even for breeding.

Never could cotton on to dogs --- they’re not for me.

In the time period of the letters numbered in the 70’s he is very close to gaining possession of Andrew St and has already got plans to get a more profitable scene as number 78 shows.

Now that contracts have been exchanged for the deal I’m thinking of advertising the two empty houses for sale at £480. £50 deposit and the rest over 5 years. which would work out at £3 quid a week plus rates. If I can pull it off it will make the deal a lot more palatable and give us a bit more margin to work on immediately. I expect to stand the mortgage in the early years anyway unless the client is very credit worthy and in that case I’ll pass it over sharpish and collect. The new rent act and a brighter prospect means we must make money. We could hardly have bought cheaper unless they were given to us. £160 is no price for a house, it’s only the price of a couple of concrete garages. Feel sure the land can be turned into something viable. Worth a try.

It had taken him eighteen months to two years to get to the position of being able to buy Andrew St which from the low base he started at was a great effort. This must be the year 1971 approx. and he would be 65. Just when he should have been thinking of retirement he is working and scheming day and night to try and get to a position where he could be fully independent and have some spare money.                                                          
He was now at the time where he could draw his retirement pension but because his cards were unstamped for the last two and half years that bit of comfort money was out of his grasp. However, I funded him the money needed to get them up-to-date and he began to draw. How that was done with him having a new name of Tom Chadwick and the cards in his own name I know not.                                                                                            
The pressure of this daily struggle must have put him close to going under with depression but his optimism kept poking through to keep him sane. In letter 57 he is a little down.


My dear Philip,

The days drag along with leaden feet but it’s always a pleasure to drop you a line, one assumes that you are able to spare a few minutes from your envied activity to give a slightly more than superficial glance at thoughts that are made tangible.

There is no doubt and he made it plain to me several times that his link with me in the letters saved him from going under especially as he was in trouble with his live-in-partner Vi.

The weather has been very trying although not cold. No shortage of water here as there now seems to be not many days when it fails to rain to a major or minor degree, mostly major. Vi is a little more cheerful now that she has a little more money coming in from this new extra job. Certainly she is not afraid of work and its odd how that there is a compulsion in working in order not to starve, there is now no time off from work as hitherto when she was in London working for Smiths and an absence of pressure of survival.
If only business would take a turn for the better for me I would be overjoyed, the days are so very, very empty and such little return for so much expected and hoped for. I have such a capacity for work that anything shorter than a full day of maximum effort gives me a guilt complex.

We should soon have word from the solicitor that matters are approaching finality. I can then give some thought to other matters instead of this insular concern of mine and transform me with a degree of hope and optimism.

My thoughts fly to you on the wings of a swallow.

Affectionately as always.
Vi’s refuge at this time of sadness must have been the couple of jobs she was doing as well as earning some money. She had lots of different jobs while she was with Cyril, letter 53 mentions a floor walking job.

We had words soon after arriving back at Andrew St. Blasted working class attitude, makes me sick. It’s part of her job as a floor walker to spot and apprehend if necessary any pilfering by the public. Saturday is always the day for the ravaging to take place. Fifteen people were caught but none by her although she admits to having had her eye on someone but they slipped away.

If it’s a job to be done no matter now matter how unpleasant it must be done. They are always easier next time. She won’t take on a job at this office although the money is good.
I can never be humiliated by any task no matter how menial because I am me. I surround myself with a sheath of nonchalance and disdain for the opinion of the public who interest me with their opinion not at all. My only concern is with the opinions of the people I cherish and admire.

When things were bad at Highfield Road, Mother used to tramp the streets selling custard powder for about thirty bob a week and expenses. Slogging hard work in all weathers and not too well in health and often with a blinding head ache, but it was done and for a time the only wage coming in was what I brought as an apprentice and hers. You were only four at the time and unemployment was rife, but we got through but it was bloody tough going.

Seems almost like a full circle sometimes.

My love to all.

The occupation of 50 Andrew St gave him great joy, to be able to improve the state of the place and just to be busy kept his mind in a happier state. He had great pleasure out of getting the open fire going. there was some coal left by the previous tenants but this got used up and then he would scrounge timber for either burning or other uses. The construction of the toilet seems to have given him some trouble and me much amusement.

Letters 70, 72 & 40.

I have now left t’other place and spent most of yesterday at Andrew. A fair bit of coal in the cellar and my first job was to light a fire. First fire I’ve lit for years. Soon had a marvellous fire and loads of hot water, after a couple of hours the cistern was heaving like an active volcano and I had to run off some hot water to stop the convulsions.
The hot water had that smell of super-heated steam. A load of “slack” kept it in all night and a kettle of hot water for coffee was at hand. Although the bathroom suite is brand new it has a slightly Gothic air about it. The loo is tipped to one side and not accidentally, a small piece of wood under one side is evidence of this and the experience is slightly maddening, one has other things on one’s mind without having to concentrate on remaining seated.
It’s a sort of double relief to eventually rise and allow one’s natural balance to take charge. Something will have to be done about that, sharpish.

Later in letter 70.
A bit of bowel-trouble this Sunday. Don’t quite know how it happened but I seem to have landed up with a blunt end to start the evacuation instead of a sharp end. Apart from this the Lob-Sided Loo tried my patience but the deed was eventually done with no hard feelings. I had previously only superficially inspected the Loo but on this occasion I made a closer scrutiny and found one or two interesting things which will have to be rectified.

Letter 72 finds him on the lookout for timber.

Winter is now on us and beating at the door, it was cold at Andrew last night and as Vi is a fiend for fresh air and invariably has one window somewhere open and with this altitude the wind whips through the house in a split second wiping out utterly all previous efforts to induce some warm air into the rooms.

I’ve spent a few hours sawing wood, which up to a few days ago was reasonably plentiful. The youngsters with 5th of November in mind have made inroads into the timber lying around. Last night I was in the cellar cutting away when I heard a few youngsters outside and saw them throwing some pieces over the wall into the field outside, pieces which I suppose that they had scrounged from some outlying field. Once they had left the scene I nipped out sharpish and whipped the lot into my cellar. Their faces when they discover the loss will be interesting.

All this sawing of wood which he tackled with a little too much vigour resulted in a tennis elbow The discomfort of the elbow was to feature in many letters for the next few months as he had a job to get it mended due to continually using it to get the house in order. It so happened that I had been trouble with frozen shoulder due to my enthusiasm for making pots on the wheel. At the same time as remarking on his elbow he would be commiserating with me about my shoulder.
In one of my letters I must have mentioned the Fulham Rd Pub “The Finches” that I would occasionally visit for a beer.                                                                                                                                                                                  
I know “The Finches” well. I used to visit at one time but I never found it to my liking. I was ever conscious of this awful leftish crowd who knew all the answers except how to keep in regular employment and always there seemed to be someone pushing a collection box under my nose for some “anti” movement. At that time, it was one of the few places where you could get draught Bass or Worthington and as such I found it tolerable.
Cyril had started keeping bees during the war mainly because one could get an extra sugar ration and he had kept them on and off since.

Took possession of two hives and two swarms Saturday evening. It all came about through Vi. She became acquainted with a customer who said he had some bees for disposal. The swarm was in a tree and I arrived with a large plastic sheet. Lucky I did as the hives were without roofs so they were most insecure.

Getting them into my backyard at Andrew was a hell of a game as one of the hives was so heavy it was almost beyond me. I got a barrow but the hive was too wide and sat cock-eyed and on turning round the whole thing slid off on to the ground. Luckily the whole thing was still inside the sheeting but as you can imagine the bees found escape holes and let me know it. The noise was like being in a power house with dynamos humming away. My face where it had been stung through the veil was slightly out of contour and didn’t look like me but next morning I had assumed my customary good looks.

I have now abandoned my slimming and settled down at a loss of ten pounds. I appeared to be getting too weak. Whether this was due to the crash timing I know not but for the future I shall cut down on the fats and sugar.  Went to the Doc last week and got a letter for the hospital about my prostate but oddly enough it took a turn for the better as soon as I got the note so I doubt whether I shall bother now.
Funny how he like the rest of us feel better after seeing the Doc. That was letter 128. The following letter mentions letter writing ability.

Number 86.

Am sending out a hundred letters to the clients telling them of our collection and asking for their best day and time. Another hundred needed but this is to see how this one shot shapes.

The T.V. boss mentioned what a marvellous letter I sent. THERE MUST BE A PLACE FOR A BLOKE LIKE ME. But he never replied by letter as I knew he wouldn’t. So few people can put pen to paper and convey thoughts into words. Strange ain’t it?

Mark writes a good letter as you do yourself. I remember a letter I received from you as a boy when you went to the Isle of Man for the T.T. Terrific letter, remember it to this day.
Excerpts from 3 letters follow showing him buying houses at prices you would not believe possible. The house at £250 was to enable Vi to move into as there was the possibility of Phyllis coming over from Spain for a longish spell and Vi had to be got off the scene although I’m sure that Phyllis had an idea that she was not far away. The one at £450 was the house they lived in after Andrew St and where Peg went up to stay a while with Phyllis and Cyril after he had suffered a stroke.

A small house advertised in the local paper for £250. Vi went after it, not much interest as far as we can see, it might come off. Somewhere for Vi and to get her off the premises. If it doesn’t come off it is a move in the right direction. It was one up and one down with a bathroom and kitchen. No garden back or front but it could be tarted up.

I eventually bought that small house for £15 quid??? I prepared a preliminary agreement and this afternoon I see the solicitor acting to give his instructions. We pay all the legal fees. I went round to the house and slapped the pound notes in her hand. I have no remorse for the undeserving poor.

The latter sentence sounds a bit brutal but I feel sure he liked to portrait himself in an extreme light. He was fairly ruthless but a lot of bravado comes through in the letters.

Had the builders on the roof of the £15 pound house this week-end. The weather was out of this world and they and myself enjoyed working no end. I was patching up a ceiling and the dust of ages as well as the soot from countless fires dropped on me and I got as black as a sweep.
Much curiosity from the natives and an enquiry from one of the children and the builders told them that the house had been taken by Pakistanis and pointing to me said I was one of them!!
Managed to get the roof fixed, gutters in place and woodwork painted. In comparison to the surrounding properties it shines like a jewel. Next week we will concrete the floors, kitchen and living room and from then on things will take shape. Might get all the work done except for the bathroom for £70 quid.

Bought a useful place last week for £450. Nice clean house on the main road to Ashton from Mossley on the top road. Four floors at the rear and two at the front . The two lower floors will be under a closure order but I might make them into a garage.

Mossley was built on hills and it was not unusual to have houses built on the side of a steep hill and whereas when they were built the whole could be occupied but with present day regulations some were deemed to be substandard with regard to light and air.

In the same letter which I date around early June 1972 he remarks on being contacted by the B.B.C.

Just had a telephone call from the B.B.C. They are running some sort of an interview with debt collections in mind and wanted some reputable firm to put the other side. I think it could be the local Manchester radio although I didn’t enquire too closely as I wasn’t interested in the thing as the interview would probably been in the morning with a lot of stupid housewives listening whilst washing the baby and with no impact with the professional classes. Nice however to be classed as a reputable firm!! Made me think of the couplet “The working class can kiss my arse – I’ve got the foreman’s job at last.”

The mention of “Stupid Housewives” put him on the same wavelength of Alf Garnet as a male chauvinist but it was just another part of the image I feel he was projecting in the letters. The next letter shows the prospect of Phyllis arriving on the scene.

Vi continues to be a demon and I could wish her far enough. Frustration is now entering her soul and her actions are now triggered off by this embitterment. The present situation with the entrance of Phyllis has aggravated matters and as I say little about my future movements the arguments continue un abated. Apart from the obvious unpleasantness of living with the situation I refuse to let it affect me and try not to join in the slanging match, as you can imagine whichever way I react it fans the flame.

In spite of all his trouble he had plenty of buoyancy and bounce about him when it was needed.

Letter 62.

Still living from day to day which is a far from easy life and yet I am constantly surprised at my ability to change my mental approach to people I meet whilst having this problem for ever on my mind. I went to a house yesterday and I was the soul of animation for half an hour.

The resilience of the bloke is amazing!!

I had a touch of the runs early Monday and felt far from well all day but yesterday I bucked up and felt reasonably well. I could look at the weather and not feel as miserable as I ought.

Vi is feeling depressed for as usual at this time of the week her money has run out. It’s true she gets little enough, but it was always a problem with her and in any case I am in a poor position to help. I’ve already spent more of my capital, which I was saving for the house purchase, than I should, but it’s bound to end with me giving her a quid to eke out, we always loose --- Bloody Smokers.

Three letters later in letter 65.

Vi was skint again this morning and borrowed a quid. What with that on top of all my aggravations I can’t see any light. I keep saying the Lord doesn’t give one more burdens than one can bear but I’m getting bowed down nearer and nearer to the ground. My working hours with minor problems are bearable but the silent hours of the night cannot be shared.

The next letter gives an insight into his collecting experience with the T.V. people.

Spent a few minutes with the television firm who allow me to collect the rents. Squeezed a few more bob out of them for the people who pay direct. I doubt whether they ever had anyone so dedicated to collecting. Little do they know how I need the money.

Quite a few clients when I call Friday suggest I call Saturday. I’m not making two Bloody calls for their convenience and I just stand there waiting. Can’t come Saturday ‘Cos it’s The Sabbath I tell ’em. Who, in their right minds would pay seven bob a week for a second-hand T.V. set. I’ve been collecting six months from the same people and that is over eight quid and you could buy a s/h one for a fiver in the shops.

Most of the clients are two weeks away from the workhouse and if they get into arrears it’s a hell of a job to get them straight.

I lent one woman six quid for her licence and collect seven at five bob a week!!

There is a great similarity in Cyril’s life at this time to the principal character in Arnold Bennett’s “The Card”.

The land at the back of Andrew St was included in the deal and Cyril had the idea he could get permission to build six bungalows there. the following has been gleaned from the next batch of letters.

Have applied for overall planning permission to build six houses on the plot of land at the back of Andrew and if this is granted it will lift up the value of the land enormously. There is a problem at the entrance to the land. We are about ten feet short in width to conform with regulations This will either have to be taken forthwith or make a “fait accompli” or some other arrangement.

Cyril was adept at producing a “Fait Accompli” to force an issue but sadly this problem of the entrance was to be the stumbling block in this scheme and was never to come about but his hopes remained high as letter 112 shows.

There is much future in our present package but timing is bound up with our limited finances but when the first house is sold we shall be out of the mud. The asking price is £1,200 which for a stone house with bath and inside loo and decent kitchen is low enough in all conscience, but such a lot of people in this district are afflicted with what I call “Mossleyitis” --- a refusal to realise that a habitation has a relationship with comparative values. The town is a tight unit and people seldom move in or out, as a consequence prices tend to keep low. I AM GOING TO ALTER ALL THAT.

Letter 100 shows him getting well in with the planning people.

Went to the Town Hall yesterday to see them in the planning department and I was met with a report that nothing could be done about planning. Local Elections are intervening so the next committee meeting is in five weeks’ time. I told Mathews that our dead line is the 22nd of June and there is not much time left.

However, during the conversation he mentioned that there were no three bedroomed bungalows in Mossley as well we know and suggested that he would be interested in one as a buyer. he also suggested that he would prepare plans instead of us using an outside architect which would slash costs and also facilitate the passage through the departments as I could well agree. I followed this up with the suggestion that as I wanted the first bungalow for myself he could have the split-level job and do all the labour arrangements himself and have the plot for a nominal price in exchange for his planning. He thought this a splendid idea and I thought so too with having a bloke working for me on the inside of the Town Hall.

Letter 112 reveals the exact date of the letter as Cyril mentions his birthday which was the 12th of March 1906 and he is 65.

My insurance card is still doubtless lying in the back of your office drawer and me 65 this week. I sacrificed so many items to get this package under control but as I say, once a sale takes place one can flow with the stream --- For a time??

Letter 141

Still haven’t got me pension so I sent off a letter today to complain. Only a few days away from my SIXTY SIXTH birthday. Something cock-eyed somewhere because it doesn’t seem natural to have all this energy at this age. Slept like a top last night and loth to get up this morning. A real lovely feeling to lie awake and wallow in the warmth and luxury of a comfortable bedroom. Had the fire lit in the bedroom, I always sleep better when I’m breathing warm air.

Sometime later.

I note with some modified satisfaction that the State is now granting me a well-earned pension of £5.75 per week. Not before its time of course and they have managed to gip me out of about two hundred quid.

He did get what he was entitled to, I was always under the impression that as the cards were brought up to date that there was no short-fall. In the same letter the following shows up.
A couple of good blokes have started working for me at the week-ends. Sunday only at the moment but they are willing to work holidays etc. I can get on with blokes who are greedy for money.

These two have their own transport which is a relief and they start at eight, working right through dinner hour and their tea breaks and finish at four o clock. Pretty flaked out I should hope. They turn out first class work although obviously not professionals.

Letters 109 & 110 show some trauma with the death of his solicitor and shock at engaging another.

Went to the solicitors this morning and was met with the sad news that he had been killed in a car accident. A great shock and one that is difficult to take in as we were so close and I had only spoken to him three days before. We have so much unfinished business it has put us in a hole and it will be difficult to sort out for a while.

Went to see the new solicitor yesterday who had bought the deceased business. Although slightly prepared for his appearance I was not totally prepared for the impact. He is hardly more than twenty-five and dressed as one would expect a woman dress designer or a West End ladies’ hairdresser. Light coloured suit with coloured shirt and flowing flowered tie, tied in a loose knot and acres of shirt cuff showing. Shoulder, or near shoulder length blond hair and an image totally unlike any solicitor you could imagine. I think the bloke is gormless and reminds me vastly of Vi’s son Charlie. All the staff are dolly-birds as you would think. A strange sight was the telephonist from Bennett’s office and in THAT setup she didn’t look out of place but here she looks like bloody witch.
I’m told the bloke is bright but without wisdom. After weighing it all up I shall be on the lookout elsewhere. Give the bloke a chance first.

Letter 96 is interesting in so much as it shows how he was dealing with debtors and how he got close to being opted on to the council.

We have one bad tenant who keeps us waiting for rent. Arrears up to £12 now so I told the collector not to call and sent them a letter by recorded delivery giving them 4 weeks’ notice. Monday his wife is on the phone begging and praying for respite but I told her it was all down to Head Office and I could do nothing. In the meantime, she went to the local solicitors but he couldn’t act as he was our solicitor. He shoved her in another office and phoned me with the details. He told her if it went to the County Court they would show no sympathy and it would be curtains. What alarmed them was our refusal to accept the rent.

The solicitor and I usually have noggin together Saturday Lunch time as he plays dominoes with some chums. He’s a local councillor and very helpful. He suggested me putting my name forward as a candidate but my past and my future life does not permit such luxuries.

It’s quite possible that this was the same solicitor who tragically died in the car accident mention in letter 109. It does show how his charm and persuasive manner could get him through a few barriers. Letter 124 shows him “buttering up” the guy who had given him his big chance, Brian Buckley.

A short letter from Buckley. His wife has to have a small operation for female trouble which coincides with the holiday to Calpe, so the visit may be off but he wants the villa to offer to a friend if he himself cannot take it.

All very matey and signs off “Brian”. Very nice boy and a lovely family.

The letter finishes off with a little bit about Roger who at this time which I worked out was the time Roger was taking photos of Estate agents shops/offices and selling them “open & closed” cards for the doors. Roger must have been 16 at the time.

Glad to hear that Roger has made a reasonable success of the enterprise. It will soon wane of course as there is no necessity for him to continue. It’s not his bread and butter unlike ourselves. Nevertheless, I was pleased that he could make the thing work and whatever he accomplishes it will be sound experience for later. Most important is the ability to face the public and separate them from their money. Not an easy task for a youngster.

Cyril’s prediction that it would “wane” was not well-founded as Roger just went on from strength to strength.

By letter 127 he has joy in his heart as Vi is making positive moves for the Australian visit.

Cheap trip to London on Tuesday, only £2.60 from M/C. Vi will travel with me as she has to attend to her passport to visit Australia to see her daughter and son-in-law, which will last 6 months. It will be a happy release for me for the constant pressure is more than a little irksome. Wrong of me to say this of course as she has so many good qualities but selfish as I am I ask for much more, probably more than she or anyone for that matter, can give. But such is me!!

He had been successful in cultivating someone at the Town Offices and got some good news as a result.

I received the valuation from the bloke I mentioned before. The report came in and I was agreeably surprised as he had valued it at £5.000. Not bad when one thinks that the land was thrown in with the package. Of course the planning has made it viable, without that the land is just land. Anyway with this document from him with his valuation is a passport to better things and it was a good move getting him buttered up. if this second house fails to sell to this couple I’ll pass it over to him and lift the price to cover his commission.

He was gradually getting into bigger deals but this next deal was too big for him to swallow and he had got Buckley to go in with him. The same letter shows that the scheme for bungalows has fallen through after all his efforts of buttering up the relevant parties.

Enclosed is the plan of the farm that Buckley and self are purchasing. Price £45.000 for the whole thing. Deposit now paid and I’m negotiating the mortgage. Not easy and I expect to pawn all my stuff but it’s just too good to miss. Unable to pull it off by myself but Buckley is dead keen as well he should be. Trouble is I have to strip all the assets and only be left with the 16-acre lot for possible outline planning. The farm deal that went sour eventually sold for £12.000 with only half an acre. Reckon this lot could be worth £100.000. I shall claim the farm house is unfit for habitation and get permission to build anew.

Under the circumstances it’s as well that the Andrew St land job failed. Could not have afforded both. This deal if successful could place me in the first division --- bottom of course but easy to climb up. All I want is to be back in the race.

I cannot recall this deal getting anywhere and in its ramifications it caused a rift between Cyril and Buckley and brought an end to their association. Around this time with Vi away and Phyllis on the scene he moved out of number 50 Andrew St and occupied the £450 house in upper Mossley. At some stage he must have bought next door as well as letter No 135 shows.

Broke through next door during the week and bricked up the front door and windows, a big room but not I think too big. The carpet will be a financial strain but it will be worth it when its down. Three wooden steps up into this new room and made before we broke through and a perfect fit. I shall have a Clematis ready for when the outside is pebble dashed.

Three  letters around 1976 show him with enough spare money to indulge in buying records albeit second hand.

Last Tuesday I was browsing a s/h record stall when I chanced on a box of three records which I think were a library set. They were the complete Mozart Violin Concerto for £2.25., turned out to be mint condition. They have given me indescribable joy and ousted my previous Beethoven Violin Concerto. I also noticed at the same time but felt unable to part with the necessary £4.50 for the Mozart Symphonies 10-56, but as I’m going there tomorrow I’ll try to get rid of the “mean mood” for I feel sure that it will be worthwhile eventually parting with the money.

The set of records I was after appear to have been bought by somebody but a complete set of Mozart’s Sonatas was going for £4.50. Six records in mint. These are now in my collection. A complete set of Beethoven violin concertos were just outside my pocket at nine records for £6.0, might get them next week if they are still there, if not, so be it.

When to the record shop again but unfortunately the set I wanted had gone. Reluctant to leave without something so I bought a Tchaikovsky set. I was sorry the Beethoven Violin Sonatas had gone. He says he will have more next week.

A little while later Cyril spotted a farm cottage plus a half acre of ground which took his fancy. The Upper Mossley house was up for sale at £16.500, having paid £450 plus what he paid for the one next door. He must have felt like getting a place in the country although it was a hair brained idea as Phyllis would have been completely isolated as it was down a long lane and miles from anywhere but that didn’t deter him.

My recent purchase gives us added interest in life. Attended the auction with a determination not to pay more than £22.000. Bidding started at £15.000, I shoved it up to £20.000. The next bid was £20.500 so I knocked it on to £22.000 and it was all over. As I went up to the Auctioneers table he said “I think you scared off the opposition”.

The property had belonged to a deceased couple and it would be some time before probate was granted so that gave Cyril extra time to juggle with monies although the deposit of £2.500 was covered from Phyllis’s account as she was over for good from Spain and the Villa was already sold. A portion of the latter letter is about his labour.

The weather has been a bit on the harsh side of late but we have plenty of work inside. I have a couple of chaps off work. Joe the electrician and odd job man had a couple of weeks off with his knee trouble till I told him to decide between his love of his knee or for myself and he decided to come to work. My other chap Kelly who is the bricky and most useful rang to say he had “shingles” but he thinks he will be in Monday. I do hope so as he is more than useful. The other two continue to man the ship in manly fashion for its important we see the end of it.

The couple next to the farm sell eggs, most if not all are bought in from an outside source, but that is farm dealing all over. The public will pay more for eggs if there is a bit of shit on them. They mix brown and white to make it look better. Never-the-less they are nice to me and will doubtless continue till they find I have a healthy pair of horns but this idyllic situation continues.

Letter 138 which I date at about October ‘81 shows a deterioration in his letter-writing both in the lay-out and poor spelling. The reason is partially explained in letter 142.

Dear Peggy and Philip,

Don’t know what’s happening to me nowadays for I don’t seem to write letters so easily has (sic) hitherto for it’s now a fortnight since I’ve returned from London.

Bought a lovely wall tapestry a couple of weeks ago, only cost eleven quid and it’s about six feet by four with the design woven right through, complete with rings sewn into the top portion. It gives Phyllis a lot of pleasure and me too.

Thank you both for a lovely couple of days which did me a lot of good, I am more than a little grateful.

In the next letter is mention of a stroke which may have been the cause of the poor writing as this letter is also badly laid out. Not only has he managed to knock the two houses into one but he has managed to get the lower half let off furnished. It is also on the market for a buyer.

Wrote to Mark last Sunday and included our Christmas Greetings. Phyllis posted it but due to her eyesight omitted the correct stamps. I was cross about this but nothing could be done once it was in the box and all the profanity in the world could have made little difference so my apologies to Mark if it caused any eye-brow raising.

The liquid section of my waste disposal system continues to give me trouble and I shall be pleased when the dispute with the heath workers is over and a chance given to those sufferers who need treatment. If the thing dries up completely, panic stations and then the knife but not yet although I fear it is not far off. I battle on confident that Father is looking after me.

Although I accept these small irritations I feel some time in the future I’ll make a journey from which there is no return, I’m reluctant to make that journey. I confess that I miss Violet although she was a miss in many things she had a simple loyalty which was very precious in retrospect. For instance, when I was in hospital with that damned stroke not one day passed that she didn’t visit me and on the Sunday when there were two visiting hours she would pass the time in the park. Fortunately, my stay was short enough not to make undue demands on her loyalty but for that which she did I shall be ever grateful Such is my nature that although conscious of these things I was unable to recompense her in the very things she wanted.

The stroke he wrote about I cannot recall and I think he must have kept it from me but the next one in the following year 1982 we were on the scene and Peg stayed up there to help Phyllis who by then had arrived permanently from Spain. He had a problem with his weight and made several attempts to reduce.

My weight is on the up and up once again. I have found out the reason for although I miss breakfast and the modicum of Lunch I will persist in munching biscuits whilst I lay recumbent watching the BOX. Shall have to take myself in hand and loose at least a stone.

The stress of his life style plus being overweight must have been the reason he succumbed to the stroke. A series were to follow over the next 10 years to his death in 1992 but he was fit enough to journey to Calpe on his own in 1986 at the beginning of the year and the end by a two-day coach journey and again with me in Jan 1988 and March 1990. All in the pursuit of selling the final flat in Ponderosa. It took the efforts of an English resident in the flats (Ann Percival) Thea’s Spanish language skills and myself and a pair of dopey solicitors in Exeter the first six months of 1989 to finally get a cheque for £13,099 over to U.K. The period covered by the letters is from 1969 to 1989 but very few letters were written in the last 7 years. The reason I feel was that he had Phyllis with him and the need to communicate with me had gone. Whilst the farm cottage was being made habitable he embarked on a sand-blasting job.

Section from letter 123.

The sand-blasting seems to be now getting under way. It really started before it should but the blokes were on their beam ends so a start was made sort of piece-meal. First week’s job was a loss of twenty quid but this last week we broke even. Future seems bright enough and I think it will be a useful addition. These compressors are dear things to hire. Twenty-five quid a week. Second hand come out at £800 and there must be a cheaper way of buying sand. A lot to learn and one must learn fast.

I think this lasted a year or two and somewhere there is a very nice photo of a large church that they made a nice job of. As well as this he also went into damp-course injection.

Letter 142.

The damp-course business is I feel a bit of a gimmick. I am far from satisfied that it does the job it’s supposed to do for I have a little experience (not a lot) and the subsequent covering of Fondu cement is more likely to do the trick. The silicon MUST do some good but its effect on what it’s supposed to do is doubtful.

The cottage needed damp-proofing and I guess that it how he got into that but it also didn’t last long. With the half acre at the cottage he had great fun in getting the hives sited and indulging in some growing.

Letter 136.

Bit of bad luck during the week. A couple of cows got through the fence and blundered over the garden. All the cauliflowers went and the runner beans. the only things unscathed were the turnips. The potato tops had been nibbled so we shall see what is left when the rain stops. I blame myself as I took down the stone wall to make room for the soft fruit. But that’s the price I had to pay.

A little more about his weight problem at this time.

Saw the dietician and I’m now down to ten and a half stone. It’s taken a lot of doing but I’m pleased it’s been achieved. ANY ROAD UP she doesn’t want to see me again as I’m down to my correct weight. I celebrated by having a glass of white port. The first for weeks.

By 1979 after 10 years of struggle he was feeling as though he had really got into the big time. In the main his wheeling and dealing had been successful. Letter 137 shows the size of dealings he was into.

Prices of property is rising all the time in the North. Not a property of any use below £10.000. One of mine in Andrew which I would have been pleased to sell at £8,000 I must sell at £10,000. Our own at number 50 sold at £10,000 a few weeks ago.

Amazing to think he bought the whole street 8 years previously for £3,600.

Went to the auction on the 19th for the enclosed property. Saw the vendor last week and offered him £30,000 of which £5,000 would be in cash but he turned it down. he said he had been offered £36,000. I see the Bank manager next Tuesday for a final interview before he can get clearance from head office for the loan. Our assets are close to £1,00,000, that is to say they will be if I can get this new property. I shall dispose of the farm and get left with the barn and the land which is all I want.

Is he doing a Walter Mitty or just counting chickens?

Since our last visit to you I have acquired a small Imperial Type beard as a result of not shaving (the chin that is). I mentioned my intention to Peg but she didn’t believe me. The result is quite “fetching”.

Glad to hear that Grace is quite reasonable, one cannot hope for more, I think of her constantly.

Mention of our sister Grace puts the date of this letter early in 1980 as she died in the June of that year. This must have been around the time he and Phyllis came back from a three-month trip to Australia. The following year ‘81 brought a further stroke and seemed to put an end to his prolific letter writing. The eighties decade found him making two visits solo to Calpe and a trip with me. The result of that trip brought about the sale of the flat in Ponderosa which took almost the first six months of ‘89 to complete. There are three letters written in July ‘89 thanking me for the money I lent him to clear a debt to the Inland Revenue for £3,500 and also for getting the flat sold. These were the last letters from him and his struggling to get thoughts correctly on to the paper and its sad to read them and to think how his powers of writing had left him due to the strokes.

My dear Philip,

Yesterday came the bombshell, letter from the solicitor you culled to deal with the Spanish deal. The letter which came with the cheque is enclosed.

I know not why the letter was sent to me instead of the party who had instructed them in the first place, but to me it came and now I send it to you. Perhaps you will deal with the amount I have to send to you. I can then make out a cheque and deal with it. I am of course at a loss to understand why it was sent to me instead of the person who instructed them in the first place., but there it is. Perhaps there is some part of which I am not a party to. But there it is.

I send the notes as I received them.

Greeting as usual.


This last letter as transcribed looks and reads much better than the original which is full of spelling errors and crossings out possibly due to his eyesight going too.

In closing this account of the last two decade of Cyril’s life I include the opinion on Pepe Artieda by Ann Percival a long-time resident at Ponderosa and who was a help in getting the final flat sold.

“My first impression was revulsion. He was short, fat and ugly. He visited us in our apartment in 1968 & made himself at home. As he talked and boasted about his various manipulations & how clever he was in his business dealings we were more “put off”. We could never see what attractions he had that made Cyril consider him “as a son” or that convinced another flat owner (a Polish Man) to go into business with him in the buying of foreign timber. Over the years we came into contact with many people who were swindled by him apart from Cyril and the Pole. He even swindled quite a few Spaniards. He got fatter, uglier and richer. The last time I saw him, about 16 years ago he looked like a walking cube with arms, legs and head. As Cyril was so closely associated with Artieda in the beginning, everyone but us thought Cyril was a swindler too. Luckily the builder of this block put us right about this as he knew Artieda. He (like us) felt sorry for Cyril.

There was a court case in Alicante a few years ago concerning our little fracas. No Artieda appeared. He must be still missing. The judge found him guilty.”

This was written 2nd Oct ‘94. Phyllis died two days later on the 4th. Cyril had died 6th June 1992. This was part of a condolence letter from Ann Percival.