»  Letter: Monday, June 20, 1977

    J.R. Derbyshire to John Derbyshire

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J R Derbyshire
62 Friars Avenue
Northampton  NNP P4X
England   U.K.

John Derbyshire
126 Stevens Avenue
New York 10595

62 Friars     6 — 76

Dear John,

Very nice to hear from you again & I am replying on a lovely cold, dark, wet June evening, watching Australia make us look like learners at cricket & U S A the same with Tennis & everywhere under water, it looks as if we are in for a nice summer. ST Leonard Road was closed, under water, so just give us a thought when you are basking in the Sun. Yes that quote from Vergil was the watch word for salesmen in the days of the hard sell.

Boiled ham & spuds does'nt sound very glamours for a birthday feast, still tasts differ & as Florrie Ford used to sing, "a little of what you fancy etc:"  (Oh yes there is some Irish in us, way back on my Mother's Side  her name was Daniels I think they came over early 1800s but I dont know the details)  it sounds as if it finished up with a flourish & was worth while  To improve your Tennis you must watch the top players & you will learn more from watching & practise doing it like they do, its better than lessons  Tutors put every one a set way to play, thus killing all natural strokes, which make the difference between winning loseing. there are several rules which all players must follow & its how good you play them that wins  For instance a cross court drive at an acute angle (that is from right & hit the opposite side line going away from the court one must go out of court to return it & he can only return it the way it went so that is the time to go up to the net & just stand there & he will put it right back to you. Service wants a lot of practice. backhand is only forehand on the other foot but you must have your shoulder at right angles to the net & you should always start learning about 10 yrs old  never mind its a good game to keep you fit  when I was your age I was 15 stone & as fit as a fiddle so dont worry about 13 stone, only the Women like men lean & hungry looking. It is a mistake to think because you dont inhale smoking does'nt hurt you so dont start again  I gave it up 5 years ago & I lost over 3 stone & enjoy my food but I dont think it makes you fat if you dont eat the wrong things  I am now 14½ stone. It is taking a long time getting your permit & when the lawers get hold of it they take thier time which is money to them  they do a thorough check on you  It sounds as if you spend a lot of time at Lou's home  I hope you remember the "Spider & the fly"  If she likes dirty tales tell her the one about the 4 astronauts 2 men & two women who landed on a planet which was inhabited & when they landed some people took them to a hatchery full of large eggs & they asked what bird laid them & they where told babies came out of them. they wanted to know how children were born on Earth & it was explained to them & they didnt quite grasp it so they asked example. so one of the men & a woman astronaut got on the job & when they had finished the natives said "well where is the Baby"  When told they had to wait 9 months for it they asked "Well why all the hurry at the end?   now I mus'nt start or all the letter will be is a string of dirty stories, (very Drawing Room of course) but not a subject for a letter

It is Sunday & Mum went over to Judith's last night & I expect her back some time to day, if she can tear herself away from her Grandchildren, I dont blame her they are both lovely & I have fallen for them & I think when I look round I think my time on this earth has not been wasted. As I look back I find I have taken more than I have given since I have been here & done lots of thing I should'nt have done but I have always managed to come up on top & when I look round & see the suffering of others it makes me feel very small & then I look at my children & feel proud  I think I may have given something back because you have all done me credit. (See how you think when you are 78)  Noel & me are going to Shropshire all being well in 2 weeks time to see my sister (82) & a few old friends (if there is any left)  Its a visit in the past which is never satisfactory but which reminds me of many happy years  People can say what they like, but it was a much better place then  I know there was a lot not to be desired but not as much as the present day. for a start we did'nt have weather like this in June & £1 was worth $4-75  those were the days  no adulterated food  all good & wholesum  I am afraid that was what spoiled me, I never wanted for anything & that is bad, because you waste so many years before you find out the only things worthwhile are those you earn & work for. Are'nt I in a mood that is the fault of having too much time to think. If the education position is bad in U S A you should see it here  75% of school leavers are only good for sweeping the roads or emptying dust bins & 75% of Varsity inmates are no better  they are failing after first year or are reading some subject which will be of no use to any one & they end up on the Dole. they have had to lower the standard for O & A levels or no one would pass them  School leavers cant take Apprenticeships because they either cant Read or understand figures so what it will be like next generation, & on top of that over 4,000 teachers qualified from Training colleges this year with no jobs for them.

Aunt Cis & Fred are down at Janets for a week  the had a row with Mike & dont speak they are in Debt up to their eyeballs £3,000 & he is changing his job again, going to teach Maths: down South at a new Town Sec: Mod:[1]  school. I think he has gone round the bend

You wont know the old Town when you see it, if I get out of the Town Centre I get lost, & the cost ov everything I think we will have a dictator in the next 10 yrs as the country is in chaos & no one to show us the way out but I suppose we will come through we generally do.

Well this is about the lot for now & I hope you remember us & let us know you are getting on & hope to see you soon & not too much Boiled Ham & spuds its not good for you & I hope you will notice my only advice is Tennis & I hope you will follow it as it will make you a better player as my previous advice would make you a wiser man.

            All the Best




  1. Dad is thinking of the old "tripartite" system established by the 1944 Education Act, the system in force during my school days. After an IQ test at age 11 or 12, children were assigned to either "grammar" schools (top tranche by IQ), or "technical" schools (middle tranche), or "secondary modern" schools (lower tranche). Beginning in the late 1960s, the system was changed to one of all-ability "comprehensive" schools. The change met a lot of resistance, though, and I think was never altogether completed.