The Rabbit Warren: Acquired 2020

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“I read your Blog yesterday.  How do you remember all that stuff?  I’d completely forgotten about Gwyn and I looking after your mother.  When was it?” Pete said when he arrived for lunch “What prompted you to write that?”

That was easy.  “1989.  My friend Nick, who lives in Canada, described it as ‘following a rabbit warren’.  Something I often do on YouTube.  Trains of thought run into each other and you forget how you started.  You remember I wrote about looking after each other’s cats?  Follows from there, sprang to my mind.  Even I had forgotten it!”.

“I was following a Rabbit Warren the other day” said Pete.  “Gwyn and I had to have our wedding rings expanded a number of years ago, when our knuckles had expanded.  Gwyn was having to remove her ring so many times, with all the scans she had; we were afraid it would need cutting off one day.  The jeweller made a great job of it, you couldn’t see the join.  Having had it adjusted to fit, then Gwyn lost a lot of weight and it became too loose.  We both took them off and she said she would keep them safe”

“I don’t remember any of that story” I said.  “Can’t say that I’d noticed that neither of you wore wedding rings”

“That’s where my Rabbit Warren began.  It’s all very well keeping it safe but she didn’t tell me where that safe place might be.  Then I needed to find them, got completely distracted.  Where would she keep them?  After looking in all the obvious places I tried her handbag.  Not sure why.  In the end, I found it in a secret pocket, within the handbag.”

Liz says “You mean you have been carrying them around all that time you’ve had to carry her handbag, several years?”

“I suppose so”

“That’s one of the reasons her handbag was so heavy” Liz adds

For a long time, we talked about the weight of Gwyn’s handbag, one of the things I will always remember about her.  I decided that the Tea Towel of Today would be the ‘Red Rabbit’ that belonged to Jean, that I acquired in 2015.

And here’s another ‘Rabbit Warren’, I couldn’t find it amongst all my tea towel photographs (probably because the rabbit is so small).  In the process of this hunt, which eventually took more than an hour, I came across so many photos of Gwyn.  I nearly changed the Blog.  I must have a photo of Gwyn, at nearly every Christmas since 1980!!!  And every birthday, and playing Mah Jongg and at Bonfire Night, not that you could see much, because of all the smoke from the bonfire.  Photos on steam trains, photos at Afternoon Tea at Claridges, photos of Firework Displays, photos in Paris.  Over the years we ate a lot because I have so many pictures of meals!  The one thing I don’t have is any pictures on, or by, the beach.  I can’t remember going to the beach with Gwyn.  Did I go to the beach with her?  I can feel another Rabbit Warren coming on.

I can also feel many more Blogs coming on!

Memories of Gwyn: Acquired 2020

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While I know Gwyn had lived in Buckinghamshire and Leicestershire, I will always associate Gwyn with Wales.  It was where her soul belonged.  Her father was born in Anglesey; he was a nurse and worked at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.  He spoke Welsh.  Gwyn and her brother always spent family holidays in Anglesey as children.  Later on, Gwyn took her parents to Anglesey each year to see relatives.  When her mother died, she continued to take her father.  She loved Wales, and especially Anglesey.  I have many a Welsh tea towel from her holidays; she even wrote two Blogs about Cemaes Bay and Llanbadrig Church for me.  And she bought me a cassette tape of the Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch Ladies Choir singing ‘Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwryndrobwllllantysilogogogoch’, together with three tea towels.  I loved it all.

I was thinking about this and her family and suddenly remembered…… My last Blog about Gwyn was how we would care for each other’s cats, when we went on holiday.  What I had forgotten was how we cared for each other’s parents!

In 1989, my mother had been very ill, had been in hospital for months in Central Middlesex Hospital.  I had travelled down from Leicester, after work, on Tuesdays and Thursday to visit her and on Friday went down for the whole weekend.  Her recovery was slow but sure.  No one had talked about her being discharged from hospital.  Suddenly they were talking about her being discharged in two days time but needing to be cared for, couldn’t live on her own until she was fully recovered.  I told them she lived on her own.

“Can’t she live with you?” they said.

“Yes, that would be fine but can you delay her discharge until the following week because we are going on holiday for a week?”  I needed a holiday, I was tired.  They said it had to be that week.   John and I were only going on holiday for a week, to the Edinburgh Festival.  I begged that the discharge could be delayed a week, it wasn’t much to ask.  No, they said.  I pleaded.  No, they said but they could move her to a Dementia Ward For the week.  I was horrified.  She was 64, she didn’t have dementia.  It would be unfair.  She would have hated it.  John and I agreed to cancel the holiday and take her back to Leicester.

We were having dinner with Gwyn and Pete on the Wednesday.  They suggested that I should try and get a Carer to visit her every day: get her up, put her to bed, cook her a meal (microwaved) and they would visit every other day to see she was ok.  I couldn’t believe they would offer that.  I was a Social Worker, I ought to be able to arrange that.  Much to my surprise, I did.  Mum was very happy with the arrangements.  I can’t tell you how guilty I felt.  Gwyn said that they would ring me if anything went wrong but I shouldn’t ring them, just relax and have a good break.  No news would be good news.  Off we went to Edinburgh.  The arrangement worked ok, especially as Gwyn and Pete visited every evening after work, had their meal with her, watched TV, played Scrabble, above and beyond the ‘call of duty’.  I will always be grateful for that kindness, which gave me a week to recover from the tiredness of the previous months and get back to looking after Mum.

It was years later, after Gwyn’s mother died, that her father moved up from Buckinghamshire to a Sheltered Housing Complex in Leicester.  We often went for a meal out with Gwyn and Pete and her father.  They too were tired, worrying about him, doing his shopping etc.  They needed a holiday.  This was how I could thank them for their care of mother.  I offered to pop in and visit him every other day.  He already had an arrangement for his lunch and dinner in the complex.  It was really nice.  I liked Tom, he had a good sense of humour, was good company.  We watched Coronation Street together, we even watched Emmerdale Farm together and enjoyed a cup of tea and biscuits.  We met his friends, especially the women who fussed about him, and invited him for tea.  It was good fun.

I had forgotten the ‘Looking After Each Other’s Parents’.  The sign of true friendship!

Australian Animal Life: Acquired 2020

Any Readers of this Blog will know that I have never been to Australia, and I know I never will.  I have no tales to tell of Australia or Australian Wildlife.  So I decided to write a short, and very boring Blog, about three of my tea towels.  Of course, you may say that all the Blogs are boring, but hey ho.

‘Australian Fauna’ belonged to Vanessa’s mother, ‘Australian Birds’ was bought by Lynn, in her favourite Charity Shop and ‘Western Australia’ belonged to Con, Pete’s mother.  All three are linen, unused, colourful and I really don’t know what else to say except that I am glad to know some very generous people who are willing to contribute to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum.  They have brought a little joy to my heart.  Thank you!!

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Feline Advisory Board: Acquired 2019

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My friend, of 41 years, died last week.  While she had struggled with cancer for 17 years, had been in hospital three times since March, death always comes as a shock, and very painful.  Since I started this Tea Towel Blog, well read by Gwyn over the last five years, I have been able to use it to talk about both happy and painful memories from my life.  It has been cathartic.  I imagined that, because I have so many memories from the last 41 years, I would be able to write a Blog or two about Gwyn.  In my head, I had decided that I might write in ‘themes’: cats, National Trust, Mah Jongg, board games, meals out, Anglesey……. Start with cats I thought.  I wrote the first few lines and had what could be described as ‘Writer’s Block’, or perhaps ‘Blogger’s Block’ is a more accurate description.  I abandoned it and wrote a short piece on ‘Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady’.  I think Gwyn might be a too painful subject but here goes:

Who buys a tea towel from the Feline Advisory Bureau‽. What is the Feline Advisory Bureau anyway?  I’ve never even heard of it.  This tea towel belonged to Con (my friend Pete’s mother, and Gwyn’s mother-in-law).  Clearly, it has been well-used.  I had badgered Gwyn to get Con to be a ‘Guest Tea Towel’ in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum, partly because I’d given up badgering Gwyn to be a ‘Guest Tea Towel’ and I knew she was visiting Con at that point.  This is the tea towel Con chose, her favourite.  She must have been familiar with the Feline Advisory Bureau.  Con was definitely a ‘Cat Person’, an owner of many cats over the years, but couldn’t take her cat, or her tea towels, with her into Residential Care.  Pete and his sister Pauline passed all her tea towels on to me.

Throughout our friendship Gwyn and I have both had cats.  Which memories should I choose?  Should it be the way we each planned our holidays so that the other could feed and care for our respective cats‽   They would never have to spend a night in a cattery, away from home.  Should it be Cleo, 19 years old when she died.  Black, sleek, never very friendly towards me but who liked to sit on one of those sheep-skin beds that hung off a radiator‽    Isabel was mine, a small, scrawny, runt-of-the-litter who got pregnant at a very young age and was a terrible mother.  I can’t remember how old Isabel was when John, my husband, died.  I was moving into a flat and I couldn’t care for her; in fact, I didn’t want to care for her, too many memories; she had loved John too much.  Gwyn and Pete took over.  I remember driving over to their house, Isabel in cat box, crying all the way and trying to put on a brave face when I got there.  They loved her, spoiled her, nursed her and buried her.  They let me come and cuddle her, any time I wanted, but were happy to give her a good home until the end.

At this point, Gwyn and Pete said they would have no more cats, the loss was too painful. Years after Isabel died, Liz and I decided to become ‘Cat Fosterers’, what a joyous job.  Mainly looking after pregnant Mums, keep the kittens for 16 weeks then they moved on to a ‘Forever Home’.  Both Liz and I and Gwyn and Pete got a lot of pleasure from the fostered cats; they would look after them when we went on holiday.  You have all the pleasure of looking after cats and kittens but not suffer the loss if they died.  It was more than three years, and 72 cats/kittens later.  One day the RSPCA asked us to care for an older cat who had been abandoned, was very nervous and absolutely hated the cattery and the sound of the dogs barking, maybe explains what had happened to her.  We called her Forest, often shortened to Frost.  We gave the RSPCA many photos to be posted to attract an adopter; nothing.  She was an attractive cat but not warm and cuddly, except with Pete.  Liz and I tried to persuade them to adopt her but they stuck to their resolution, no more cats.  After 8 months, the RSPCA decided that Forest should go back to the cattery, maybe seeing her ‘in person’ would attract an adopter.  That was it.  Gwyn and Pete knew she would be nervous and unhappy in the cattery.  They decided to adopt her and for the last six years she lived with them.  Still a nervous cat, only really comfortable with the two of them, but in a forever home.

The generosity of Gwyn and Pete was demonstrated in December 2015.  We had agreed to foster two very young sisters who were both pregnant; they needed to be kept together.  They gave birth, within a day of each other, to 8 kittens in total.  We had no idea which kitten belonged to which mother, nor did they apparently but together they looked after the kittens well.  Ten cats was hard work.  In the midst of all this, Liz’s father became very seriously ill and we had to go to Hertfordshire.  Gwyn and Pete stepped in, feeding three times a day, cleaning the litter trays for 10 cats, dealing with diarrhoea, taking them for injections that were needed.  Gwyn called it ‘Cat Therapy’ while she was receiving chemo, providing emotional support to the cats, and Pete did the hard work.

The days of cats were good memories and this is a photo of Gwyn and Pete taking Forest home for the first time!

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The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady: Acquired 2020

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This was yet another tea towel from Vanessa’s mother’s collection.  Very unusual, never seen one like it.  It is in perfect condition with the original label stuck to the front of it.  This tea towel must have been one of many items associated with what was regarded as a publishing phenomenon.

‘The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady’ was first published in 1977.  It was a facsimile of Edith Holden’s naturalist diary from 1906.  It was a best seller for many years.  It was a ‘Coffee Table’ book.  At that time, there were few households that didn’t own a copy, very popular.  The muted colours were a delight.  It was a bit like an adult version of the Beatrix Potter stories.   I bought the book which I fell in love with.  It was so pretty, the drawings so refined and accurate and I loved the detail of the notes.  I could imagine Edith sitting down, making her notes and painting the pictures.  Reading it, you could imagine yourself in a cottage garden, in a canvas deck chair with a straw hat on.

But this publishing phenomenon resulted in other goods being produced.  Dorma produced a quality duvet set and, as you can see from the label, a tea towel as well.  Although I had the duvet set, I never came across a tea towel.  There were picture frames and paper napkins, tablecloths and table mats.  This was a bit like Disney, making as much money as possible from the original product.

I am very grateful to Vanessa for letting me have this tea towel and it is, possibly, the only one in my collection that I might not use; I don’t want to take the sticky label off.

Herdy Heroes: 2020

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Today, 28 July, is the anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birthday.  While I never read any Beatrix Potter stories, she is one of my heroines.  The work she did in the Lake District, with the monies she earned from writing, buying more than 4000 acres of land and 14 working farms.  She ensured that those farms continued and when she died, and left her property to the National Trust, it was on the understanding that they would continue to farm and breed Herdwick sheep.  She was president-elect of the Herdwick Sheepbreeders Association but died before she was able to take office, the first woman to hold such an office.  Her work is seen as the first steps towards the establishment of the Lake District National Park and made a significant contribution to the Lake District becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Driving round the Lake District, seeing fields of Herdwick sheep is a magnificent sight.  They are so distinctive, so fitting with the countryside, so sturdy-looking.  You can spot a Herdwick a mile off because of their unique colouring.

‘Herdy’ is the brand name, established in 2007, of goods associated with the Lake District and Herdwick sheep.  In 2013, on a trip to the Lake District, I bought my first ‘Herdy’ tea towel (and some for other people).  I bought a notebook which has been used to catalogue my tea towels.  In 2017, passing through Penrith I bought a ‘Herdy and Sheppy’ tea towel and two days ago ‘Herdy Heroes’ arrived.  Liz bought it for me.  It is a fundraising tea towel.  It recognises the ‘Heroes’ of the Coronavirus Pandemic, everyone from ambulance drivers to delivery drivers, from nurses to post people, from doctors to the mountain rescue and much more.  There is a wonderful picture of a Herdy carrying a van full of toilet rolls, an absolute necessity for me, at the beginning of Lockdown, when it was just not possible to buy a toilet roll.  Amazon delivered mine!

We clapped for our heroes on a Thursday for 10 weeks, a day has been arranged to clap once a year, we celebrated the 72nd birthday of the NHS but this tea towel recognises all Keyworkers, and I really like it.

When someone looks through my Tea Towel Collection in 50 years time, I hope they will be reminded of this time in our lives, which will have changed things forever, and maybe for the better.  But I hope Herdy will still be around.  Thank you Liz.

1990 Calendar Tea Towel

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Text: “I don’t suppose the Houseplant Calendar Tea Towel is still hanging on the back of your kitchen door.  If it is, do you think you could bring it so I can just take a picture of it?”  As soon as I pressed ‘Send’ I knew it was probably one of the most insensitive things I have done.  Pete was coming for lunch.  The tea towel belonged to Gwyn’s mother.  Gwyn had died two days previously.  That’s the trouble with things like texts; you can’t withdraw them.  But five minutes later a photo comes winging it’s way to me: 1990 Calendar Tea Towel hanging on something, not the back of the kitchen door.

“That’s the one” I replied “Looks very clean”.  Another insensitive remark!  It wasn’t ‘full frontal’ but I assumed that Pete didn’t want to bring it but was happy to take a photo.  I could now write the 1990 Calendar Tea Towel Blog that I had wanted to do several days ago.  I had been so frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t find the photo of this tea towel.  It had sort of become an obsession because it was associated with Gwyn.

I found this tea towel in 2015, when Gwyn was very poorly in hospital.  It was wrapping up the Charles Dickens Royal Doulton dinner service.  She had forgotten that she had both the tea towel and the dinner service.  Text 5 years ago:  “What’s the story behind the tea towel?” I asked

“It was my mother’s.  I think I bought it for her at Christmas.  She liked house plants” she replied.  I’m good at insensitive texts.  Gwyn was recovering from a big operation and I’m cross-questioning her about a tea towel she had forgotten she had.   Later she had said that texting had kept her spirits up while in hospital; I felt slightly relieved.

So, Pete came to lunch, appropriately socially distanced, although since neither he nor Liz and I had been out since lockdown we were not as ‘risky’ as many others.  After a couple of hours, he fetched his bag, pulled out the tea towel and gave it to me.

“Oh I thought the photo you sent was it.  You’ve brought it.  I’ll just go and take a full-frontal” and off I rushed up the garden.  I handed it back to Pete, thanking him profusely.

“Don’t you want it?” He said.

“I wasn’t asking for the tea towel, just a photo” thinking he must have thought I was even more insensitive, asking for a tea towel of Gwyn’s.

“No, you can keep it, add it to your collection”

“Really‽ That’s wonderful” I said still feeling a bit guilty but then added “You don’t use tea towels do you‽ I remember from back in 2015”

“Rarely.  We always use the dish washer.  The stuff dries so I only use one if I need to take something out, that isn’t quite dry, to put away immediately”

“Yep I do remember Gwyn saying.  That’s shocking but it explains why it looks so good 30 years after it was bought, why it was in that cardboard box and why it looks exactly the same as the day I found it.  Thank you” and I excitedly lay it on the back of the chair to admire.

The three of us had a long conversation about houseplants, especially those on the tea towel.  Liz’s Dad absolutely hated Spider Plants, Pete has several scrawny, trailing Tradescantia, Liz’s mum loved Poinsettia but which she was able to kill at least one every Christmas. We all had memories of Swiss Cheese Plants and Rubber Plants from 1970s, wiping the leaves with milk and water.

It looked as though it was about to rain so we returned indoors, patio doors wide open, sitting socially distanced by the doors and I looked at my phone to admire the photo.  Blank screen.  “Charge it” says Liz.

“I haven’t used it except for the photo.  It was 98% charged”.  So Pete and Liz played about with it, looked up Apple advice on Google, took the SIM card out, everything it said.  Absolutely nothing.   A thought crept into the back of my mind.  I went to my iPad and checked ‘photos’; the photos on my phone and iPad are linked.  There was Pete’s photo that he sent from home but not the one I had taken on the washing line.  Okay, there is something odd about this.  There are three possibilities: (1) Gwyn is saying ‘If I can’t use my phone, you won’t use yours!’ (2) Gwyn’s message is that I’m going to have to work hard, if I am to keep one of her tea towels, demonstrating exactly how much I want it and (3) this is a terrible co-incidence.  My experience from past bereavements would be (1).

So I have written the Blog but don’t have the photo of the tea towel.  I went to the nearest Apple phone dealership, they took it away to be sent for repair and left me with a seriously crappy ‘stand-by’ phone that doesn’t take photos and doesn’t charge (because the charger doesn’t fit the phone) and certainly has no access to Twitter and WhatsApp.  I’m just about to borrow Liz’s phone, when it stops raining, and whizz the photo through The Cloud (whatever that is) so I can use it.

In the midst of all this, reflecting on what had happened and what a generous gesture it was of Pete’s, I realised that this was a 1990 Calendar Tea Towel.  Under normal circumstances the tale of this tea towel would have been completely different.  There is another tale to tell but it isn’t appropriate for Gwyn’s mother’s tea towel.  I’m going to hope that someone else on Twitter has a 1990 Calendar Tea Towel and that they will send me a picture of it so I can write an alternative Blog.  This Blog celebrates the generosity, and tolerance, of Pete.

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The Hare: Acquired 2018

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Today’s Blog should have been about a Calendar Tea Towel from 1990; the theme was  ‘Caring for Houseplants’.  It belonged to my friend Gwyn, or more accurately my friend Gwyn’s mother.  It hangs on the back of her kitchen door.  On 11 March 2017, I wrote a Blog about how I discovered this tea towel and five others.  But I can’t find the photo of it.  I have searched and searched, looked in all my categories.  For some reason I never posted it in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum (probably because the Museum hadn’t come to life at that time and it went out of my head) and that is the reason why you should do things when you want to, when it’s important because sometimes it is just too late.

“Gwyn has died”.  Pete had rung me on the morning of 23 July.

“I am so sorry.  When did this happen?”  I asked, one of those vacuous questions that I should know better than asking.  It’s difficult to know what to say at a time like that.

“At 2.44 am, this morning.  I don’t know why I noted the exact time but in hospital dramas they always say ‘The time of death is…’ so I thought someone might ask.  No idea why” he replied.  I suddenly realised that he would have been on his own.  I want to say that I’m glad that she was able to die at home, with Pete, but it sounds wrong.  Because I’m not glad she died and I wouldn’t want to feel that Pete was on his own.  What I did mean was that from the start of ‘Lockdown’ Gwyn has been in hospital three times; Pete wasn’t allowed to see her and she hated it; her phone ran out of juice so she couldn’t contact people.  While Gwyn has been in hospital, over the last fifteen years, ‘more times than I’ve had hot dinners’, it has always been on the Oncology Ward and Pete has always been able to visit.  In this horrible world of Coronavirus, those choices aren’t available to you.

Any regular Readers of this Blog will know that Gwyn has featured in at least half of them, either because I bought the tea towel when we went on a trip out together or because she had bought it for me for a birthday/Christmas present or because she actually wrote two Blogs or because I was given her mother-in-law’s tea towels when she went into a Residential Home.  I never thought I’d be writing this one, but it won’t be the last, there are many tales to tell.  Gwyn has been a significant part of my life since 1 April 1979, the day she joined the Psychology Team at Glenfrith Hospital.  Things were different then, we both smoked and both drank alcohol and were both less wrinkly.

We both had birthdays in the same month, a week apart and I suspect there can only one one or two that we did not celebrate together.  We spent many a New Year’s Eve together, often sozzled, until we were too old to go through all that stuff about hangovers.  We organised conferences together, we went to Paris together, we supported each other through the death of our parents, we went out for meals together……….. We were friends and now she is no longer around.

This tea towel is of a hare, not one she gave me but one that Susan’s mother gave me.  Gwyn loved wildlife but especially hares.  She had the most beautiful picture of a hare, hanging over the chimney breast, in her front room.  It is fantastic.  She had cushions with pictures of hares on them.  When we designed some tea towels, hers was one of a hare (below) and The Bloat of Hippos.  I will miss you so much Gwyn.

1974 Calendar Tea Towel

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I’m loving writing about Calendar Tea Towels.  I am now reliant on other people providing me with pictures of their Calendar Tea Towels.  I have had a few photos but not as many as I had hoped.  I have now prepared a list of all the years from 1950 onwards, ticking those I already have a tea towel of, and dating them when I have Blogged about them.

This stunner is courtesy of @WhyMissJones via Twitter.  Given the date, this hasn’t been over-washed and has been lovingly looked after.  I understand @WhyMissJones inherited this when her Great Aunt died.  It is so colourful and cheerful!

1974 was, for me, one of those ‘what would have happened?’ years; those inevitable questions about how the future would have looked, if I’d done things differently.  In 1973, after I had finished my degree at Swansea University, I moved to Nottingham to start training to be a Social Worker; a two year, full-time course, on the advice of the Careers Centre.  I shared a house with 10 other people, in Long Eaton.  I hated the course; it was boring, much too academic, full of young earnest students who thought they knew everything, pompous.  I realised, when asked to visit an 80 year old man at his home and he said “what life experience have you got?”, that I was much too young and naive to start training to be a Social Worker.  On the first day of term, in January 1974, I made an appointment to see the Head of Department and handed in my notice.  Wow, was she angry‽  She ended her rant with

“Do you know how many people applied for your place?  800?  And you are leaving?”

“Yes” I replied

“You will never be accepted on another Social Work Course, ever.  There will be no second chance” was her parting shot.  She was wrong but you will have to wait for the 1983 Calendar Tea Towel for that story.

I walked out of the room.  I have often wondered what would have happened if I had stayed and qualified as a Social Worker in 1975.  Would I have begun to enjoy the course if I had stayed?  Would my confidence in my ability become stronger?  Would I have passed the course?  Would I eventually have become a Director of Social Services somewhere?  Who knows.

A week later, I got a job as a Dental Assistant in Nottingham.  Why would I do that since I have always hated the dentist.  That career lasted 4 days: I started on the Monday and was asked to leave at the end of the Thursday.  This was through no fault of mine.  I was shadowing the person who I was about to replace; as she trained me, she realised how much she loved the job and withdrew her resignation.  I was delighted.  The one thing that I got from the job was a set of dentures, those temporary sort for while a customer was waiting for the permanent pair.  All the staff were given the temporary ones to use as an ashtray.  For many years those teeth sat in my lounge as an ashtray.  A bargain.  If I hadn’t left would I have trained to be a dentist eventually?  I think we can safely say that the answer would be “NO”.

1974 was the year that I broke off my engagement.  Sad, but I was too young.  I wonder what would have happened if I had married Rory Conwell?  Would I have made a good businessman’s wife?  I know the answer to that: NO.

The following Monday, after my brief career in dentistry, I started working for the Nottingham Post.  I used to send letters to people, mainly firms, who did not pay their advertising bills.  That was as boring as studying to be a Social Worker.  I suppose I might have made my way up the journalism pole if I had stayed with the Nottingham Post.  Probably not.  But working for a newspaper was the best place to find a job because we had access to all the local and national papers.  I came across a job in Leicestershire County Council, working as an Instructor in an Adult Training Centre (working with people with learning difficulties).  This is what I had intended to do when I started on the Social Work course but had been given the wrong advice.  I applied.  I got an interview.  You have to remember these were not days of Equal Opportunities.  I was interviewed by two men who asked me if I was interested in sport.  I explained that I was rubbish at doing sport but was a fanatical Brentford Football Club, describing all the clubs I had visited to see Brentford in action.  We spent the whole interview discussing football and they offered me the job, there and then.  Would I have got the job if I hadn’t a passion for football?  I really don’t know.  I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t got that job‽   Because the 41 years of my working life (with the exception of my flurry with dentistry and the newspaper) were in Health and Social Care.

The rest of 1974 was exciting.  I had a job I loved, I went away for a week to Pontins in Pakefield, with 110 people with learning difficulties.  It was chaos but great fun.  I tried to learn to ride a bike and never achieved it solo; I eventually managed a tandem.  I wrote-off a Cortina Estate by driving into a bus but escaped unscathed.  I won’t ask what would have happened after the bus incident.

Thank you @WhyMiss Jones for ‘lending’ me your beautiful 1974 Calendar Tea Towel so I could travel down ‘Memory Lane’!

Queen of the Suburbs: 2020

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As many Readers may know, I was born and brought up in Ealing, London.  I consider myself a Londoner.  I left Ealing, to go to Swansea University, and never really returned, ending up in the Midlands.  While my parents were alive, I returned to visit them on a regular basis.  All that ended in 1990.  I now have no family living in Ealing, nor any friends.  I have never had a tea towel of Ealing, no matter how hard I tried.

In 2017, I stayed in my caravan at the Crystal Palace site.  I did lots of touristy things, saw all the changes that have taken place in London.  I loved it.  One day, I suggested to Liz that we visit Ealing.  I could show her where I lived, the schools I went to…… and maybe we could find a tea towel.  We did it all, except for finding a tea towel.  Couldn’t believe it so instead I created a tea towel from some photos I had (see picture below).

In 2018, we decided to ‘down-size’ and move to Nottingham.  This meant getting rid of, or maybe relocating is a better word, a lot of stuff.  There were two significant boxes of things: one was the big box of cups and medals that my Dad won, for a variety of different sports (bowls, darts, cricket, snooker, cribbage, football and even tennis).  What do you do with such things?  On the off chance, I asked Brentham Club (where he was a member) whether they would want them.  Nobody would remember him, since he had died 35 years previously.  In fact, they were delighted to accept them and, yes, they did remember him.  The second box was scrap books and memorabilia from my mother’s time as Mayoress, and then as a Councillor for 20 years.  If Brentham Club were going to accept Dad’s cups, why not try the Council for Mum’s stuff‽   And yes, they too remembered her and, yes, they wanted the stuff.  So in 2018, I went down to Ealing with a car-load of what other people might call ‘junk’.  I was welcomed like royalty.  There was a formal ceremony of ‘handing-over’ of mum’s memorabilia.  This was a very emotional day.  Unbeknown to me, Liz googled ‘Tea Towels of Ealing’ and up came Charlotte Berridge’s name and the address of where this might be bought.  I had bought my first tea towel of Ealing!!  I was so excited.  Obviously, I have already Blogged about it (04/05/2018).

I am a great fan of Charlotte’s work; she does prints and tea towels and mugs of areas in West London.  On 26 June 2020, at 1.46pm, I received a message from Charlotte “Hi Barbara, I’ve got a present for you! Yes it is a tea towel (but not of Walpole Park)….I’ll pop it in the post before revealing it on my Instagram next week!”  My response was very eloquent “Wow”.

While I have suggested many times that Walpole Park would make an excellent subject for a tea towel, actually ‘Queen of the Suburbs’ is a wonderful subject.  You can’t imagine the excitement, the day before yesterday, opening the package that just had to contain a tea towel.  In recognition of this wonderful present, the wind didn’t blow when I was trying to take the photograph.  Oh joy!!  This is a very different design from her previous Ealing one.  Now I have two.

I have always known Ealing as ‘Queen of the Suburbs’.  I remember my mother telling me it was because it was the greenest suburb of London, with the most trees and parks.  I have no idea if she knew this, as a fact, but what she didn’t know was that Ealing, is as it is, thanks to a man called Charles Jones, not a famous man, but Ealing’s first Borough architect and surveyor, who worked for the Borough between 1863 and his retirement in 1913.  He was responsible for the design of Ealing’s first Town Hall (which subsequently became the NatWest bank) and the second one, on this tea towel.  I’ve always thought it was a magnificent building from the outside, imposing and stately but not old and crabby.  It stands on Uxbridge Road, a bit further up from the repurposed first Town Hall, both of which are Grade II Listed.  It was built in 1888 in Gothic Revival style.  The reception for my wedding in 1976 was in the Queeen’s Hall at the top of the stairs.  My first interview for a job in social care, in 1969, was in the office of the Head of Social Services, in the Town Hall.  I have watched my mother from the balcony above the Council Chamber take up the Leadership of the Council, way back when.  The Town Hall sits on the corner of Longfield Road.  It was on Longfield Road that G. Ward Ltd was based, the building firm owned by my grandfather and where my mother worked.  Further along on Uxbridge Road, called New Broadway, towards the centre, on the left hand side was my grandmother’s School Outfitters Shop, charging exorbitant prices for school clothing.

Charles Jones did more than build the Town Halls; he acquired the land for Walpole Park and created a magnificent leisure park.  He also set aside the land for Ealing Common, planting horse chestnut trees, along the side and across the centre.  Ealing Common is ‘common land’.  In a book, that Charles Jones wrote in 1902, he described Ealing as ‘Queen of the Suburbs’, the best of all worlds, being near to London with excellent rail links and close to the countryside.  ‘A country town near London with houses of all sizes, prices to fit all pockets, good schools, sports clubs and facilities and no nuisances’ (asylums, prisons and Magistrate Courts).

Having acquired Walpole Gardens for Ealing (later to become Walpole Park), this tea towel shows Pitzhanger Manor.  Pitzhnager Manor is in Walpole Park and has been recently refurbished as a art gallery and venue.  All that time that I used to spend in Walpole Park and I never took any notice at all of Pitzhanger Manor, mainly because it wasn’t a place open to the public.  I would love to go back and see it now.  Walpole Park is dear to my heart because it is the place where the Mayoral Walk is, a line of oak trees planted by each Mayor with a plaque noting their year of service.  My Grandfather’s Tree (planted by the Mayoress, my mother.  I always ask myself  why should the woman plant the tree for the man’s name to be on it‽)  The tree still has it’s label of 1958/59.  I found it once again in 2017 (see tea towel at the bottom of the page created by me, the second photo is of me under the tree in 2018 holding my first Ealing tea towel).  I have no idea when this tradition stopped.  When I met Town Council officials in 2018, I asked them about the Mayoral Walk.  They knew nothing of it; they had no record of where each tree was, had no means of replacing some of the labels which had been destroyed and no idea when the this process stopped.  Such a shame.

The third building on the tea towel is the Ealing Studios; this is where the famous Ealing Comedies were filmed. The Lavender Hill Mob, the Ladykillers, Kind Hearts and Coronets, Whisky Galore! (one of my favourite films) and many more.  The White Lodge was bought in 1902 as a base for film making and is the oldest continuously working studio facility for film production in the world.  I’ve never been inside but between 1970 and 1973 I worked as a staff member in a local pub; I think it was called the Queen Victoria (but maybe not).  They were filming ‘Colditz’ there and David McCallum used to come in for a drink at lunchtime, in costume, together with actors dressed in full Nazi Officer uniform.  A bit creepy!

No matter how long I have lived in the Midlands, I will always regard Ealing as my roots. I feel privileged to have been born in a small flat on Hanger Lane, Hanger Lane being the road that leads from MI to the centre of London, probably the busiest road in London.  It was noisy then, it’s certainly noisy today.  Even in my childhood, before the MI was built, it was virtually impossible to cross the road because of the traffic.  But one of my great memories, when I was 4 years old, was my Dad crossing Hanger Lane, getting to the island in the middle of the road and waving to me.  I waved back.  He waved more frantically.  I waved back energetically.  It was then my mother joined me at the window and realised my Dad was in BIG trouble.  He had displaced his knee-cap and couldn’t move.  She called the ambulance.  To this day, I can still laugh at his 4 year old daughter waving enthusiastically, while he was in agony.  Sorry Dad.

So I want to thank Charles Jones for creating an Ealing I was privileged to grow up in and to Charlotte Berridge for designing a wonderful tea towel and for giving it to me.