Air mail

Dearest gentle reader, as Lady Whistledown would say, most of you know I buy and sell books to give me something to do instead of dealing drugs or importuning passers-by as I patiently fill the time spent in God’s waiting room.

The books I acquire sometimes have items left in them as bookmarks; I have seen theatre and cinema tickets, boarding passes, receipts and other items left for my inspection often many years later.

Over the weekend I bought a history of Smiths Industries, a Cheltenham manufacturer of aircraft parts published in 1990 and which is still in brand new condition. It appears unopened and unread, but it does show signs of human contact by way of a letter hidden in it. It’s not an original because this copy has been typed, but it is a fascinating piece of social history. I thought I might share it with you.


264 Burges Rd, E. Ham E.6.

Dear Father

Many thanks for your long letter. I am glad Bishop Inskip has sent some help for Noel. He has asked me to lunch at his house on the 4th of July.

Yesterday I went to Hendon to see the air pageant, which went off very happily. I think the most impressive event was to see the wonderful patterns traced out by the “Skywriters” in orange and white tying intricate knots, weaving ropes across the aerodrome etc., all done to a huge scale at a height of 500 ft or so.

There were also weird new types of air machines to be seen, ‘autogyro’ semi-helicopters, aeroplanes of apparently normal design which can almost stand still in the air, a tail-less type etc. Then the shooting of the pre-historic monsters was very amusing, and the bringing down of the kite balloon, from a height of about 200ft. in flames was most spectacular. One could feel the heat of the flames 500 yds away or more.

The day was somewhat marred, however, by the intense difficulty experienced in getting away. The streets leading to the station were packed by a solid mass of humanity in all directions and it took an hour and a half to progress a mere quarter of a mile! Several women near me were overcome by the heat and crush and were taken into houses along the route. It was much worse than Whipsnade only with this difference, that there was less far to go, so that one wasn’t worried by the prospect of a fourteen mile walk before getting a conveyance!

In the evening I spent a couple of hours at the Strand Palace Hotel where an old shipmate of mine is now employed, as shift engineer at a wage of £4/13/- per week. On this he keeps his wife and home going pretty comfortably though the hours are a bit awkward – something like Mr Cattley’s job at Cardiff. He took me all round and I was surprised to find so much plant hidden in the bowels of the earth. They supply all their own lighting and heating and are quite independent of the main. We went out on the flat railed roof and from there had had a fine view of London putting on her evening dress.

You may rest assured that my insurance policy will be paid up as usual. I have given instructions to my bank and they will attend to it. I am nearing the end of my course at the school and will be going up for the exam in about a fortnight’s time. 

With love to Mamma and all at home

Ever your loving son


Interesting, huh?  The picture above is a recent one of 264 Burges Road.


Written by Derek Brandon



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *