Muckspout: 2019


English Heritage have developed a range of goods, for sale in their shops, called ‘Unpleasantries’.  It includes mugs, key rings, coasters, greetings cards and, of course, tea towels.  ‘Unpleasantries’ is based on a book, written in 1909 by Andrew Forrester, called “Passing English of the Victorian Era, a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase”.  It lists some words and phrases used in the Victorian era.

I spotted ‘Muckspout’ and immediately thought of my friend Fee.  Seems harsh but Fee is someone who can swear with confidence, adding some colour to her phraseology.  She doesn’t swear at people, or about people, and always knows in whose company she can swear.  She is never offensive.

When I spotted this in Belsay House, I bought the greetings card to send to Fee and the tea towel for myself (I knew she wouldn’t want a tea towel).  I love this tea towel and am determined to collect the rest of the set.  In the meantime, I will just enjoy this one and I think I need to plan a holiday to see Fee, its been too long.


Clan Gordon Tartan: Acquired 2015 (but much older)


‘Jute, Jam and Journalism’ is what I remember from my geography lesson, aged 7.  This was about identifying what the main industries were for each major seaport.  This is the only one I can remember; it had a nice ring to it.  If you haven’t guessed, it is Dundee (Scotland).

For over 25 years, I have driven up to Aberdeen, several times a year, to see friends and relatives.  I always pass the signpost to Dundee, I always drive around it, I always announce ‘Jute, Jam and Journalism’.  I see the mural of ‘Desperate Dan’, one of the printing successes of DC Thompson; I buy a jar of Dundee Marmalade and wonder what they use Jute for these days.  And everytime I cross the Tay Bridge I think “Must go to Dundee, visit it properly”.

Back in 2004, I did discover the Parrot Cafe, a lovely, unique tea room serving loose leaf tea.  I have no idea if it is still there.  But it wasn’t in the centre of Dundee, more the outskirts.  In 2014, with the caravan, on the way to Stonehaven, we stopped in the car park of the most enormous Tescos I have ever seen and had a cup of tea in Dobbie’s cafe; not really my sort of tea room but its difficult to find places to stop with a caravan.  Surprisingly they served loose leaf tea.

When I heard that in 2018 the V&A had a new museum in Dundee I thought, once more, that I must go there and this was a reason.  So in May 2019, journeying to Aberdeen, we stayed overnight in the centre of Dundee in order to visit the V&A; in fact, we stayed immediately opposite the V&A so we wouldn’t miss visiting it.

You don’t need the brown road signs to find the V&A, it is such an unusual building, reminiscent of the silhouette of a ship, you couldn’t miss it.  The size of the exterior is such that it belies the fact that the interior is much smaller than you would expect.  The ground floor is the cafe and shop.  First stop, the shop in search of the ever-illusive tea towel, but I was hopeful.  This was Scotland and Scotland is absolutely brimming over with tea towels.  I would have settled for any old tea towel that I bought within the museum; I could create a tale around that.  In the end, I had to ask the shop assistant if they had any tea towels.  “Don’t know” was the helpful answer.  She turned to the woman next to her “Do we have any tea towels?” .  “Ran out of them ages ago” she replied as she turned her back on me.  She turned back and said “There’s lots of other stuff on sale”.  Well, that was helpful.

We went up to the first floor where the the Scottish Design Galleries were. Free, interesting but rather squashed.  Not a lot of room to manoeuvre in a wheelchair but well worth the visit.  It celebrated all things designed and/or made in Scotland with a particular emphasis on Dundee (Jute, Jam and Journalism).  If you didn’t look carefully it would be easy to miss some of the artefacts on display.

There was a section on the Clan Gordon Tartan and the Black Watch.  The Clan Gordon Tartan is based on the Black Watch with the added yellow stripe.  Then I remembered Jean’s Gordon Tartan tea towel that she gave to me when she moved into a Nursing Home.  This tea towel was made by Ettrick Valley and went out of print many years ago, to be replaced by a Stewart Tartan tea towel (useless piece of information discovered when I was researching this tea towel in 2015).  Because of its connection with the V&A, I would have to use it for my trip to Dundee.  The museum has missed a trick not having its own tea towel since Scotland is prolific in its production of tea towels; it makes the V&A Dundee seem very English, not native Scottish.

In Search of the Osprey: 2019

I lived in Leicestershire for more than 40 years.  I was there when Rutland Water, man-made reservoir, was planned, objected to and built back in the 70s; when Rutland was part of Leicestershire before it became an independent county once more.  I watched the way Rutland Water was developed, as a wildlife area, as an arena for leisure sports, as a great place for walking .  I watched how Ospreys were very gradually helped to find a home on Rutland Water.

I listened to Jenny, who lives in Rutland, telling me all about it and to Gwyn who had tried using an electric bike there.  My mate Ian, who died a couple of years ago, helped set up Rutland Sailability on the reservoir.  But I had never been there and I have no idea why.

A few months ago, Liz discovered the Rutland Belle Osprey Boat Trips, and that they were wheelchair accessible.  Always on the look-out for places to meet up with her sister Lyn, an Osprey Trip seemed like a good idea.  Lyn and Rob like the outdoors, photography, birds and a nice meal.  Lyn wanted to hear the talk about the Osprey, Liz wanted to try anything that was wheelchair accessible.  This could be a good day out, even better if there was a tea towel.

We started with a meal, recommended by Jenny, went onto the talk, bought the tea towel, walked to the hides, cup of tea before embarking on the boat trip at 5.30pm.  It was fascinating watching the Osprey chicks being fed, via the nest webcam.  Mesmerising.  From the hide you could see the nest, the Osprey flying around and fishing, as well as another webcam view of the nest.  The boat was accessible, although not helped by the man who said “these wheelchair people always get to the head of the queue and have good parking spaces”.  I thought Liz was very polite, smiling while almost certainly thinking “You can have the car parking space but you will need to take the disability”.  The boat trip was good with a couple of sitings of Osprey flying, perching on branches and returning to the nest.  It was a good day out and nice to be able to share the early days of Rob’s retirement with him.

It was only a few days later that we travelled to Aberdeen and spent four nights, on the return journey, in Northumberland.  We hadn’t done much research about what was available to do in the vicinity.  We spent one day at Kielder Water, walking from Tower Knowe Visitor Centre to the dam and back.  A lovely accessible walk, along the water’s edge, through trees and open ground, surrounded by a multitude of birds.  We stopped to have a look around when Liz said “Isn’t that an Osprey?”.  We weren’t aware that this was an Osprey spotting area.  We stood mesmerised, not sure what we had seen but then we saw one diving for fish, later flying over the water and resting in the trees.  This was a wonderful surprise.  “Do you think they have a tea towel?” I ask Liz.  She doesn’t reply.  On our return to Tower Knowe, we go into the shop and there is a Kielder Water tea towel with an Osprey at the centre.  I’ve got to have this.  I take it to the counter.  “£2.50” the assistant says.  “How much?” I respond, stunned at the price.  “We reduced them because we had such a lot”.  I’m not going to question this because I have a bargain.

Kielder Water was another great day out, with more Osprey and a great tea towel.  I’m keen now to seek out other areas in the British Isles where Osprey fly free.  Maybe the first stop should be another trip to Rutland Water.

The Railway Enthusiast: 2019


Last week I was staying in Bellingham, Northumberland.  I had been there before but never bought a tea towel.  Bellingham has a Heritage Centre so I thought “That’ll be the place for a tea towel”.  Sadly, there were tote bags, fridge magnets, pencils and even a cuddly toy with ‘Bellingham’ emblazoned on them but no tea towels.  The woman behind the counter, desperate to please, said “There is this one, don’t know what it is”.  And it was The Railway Enthusiast.  It may have nothing to do with Bellingham, per se, but I did think of @MrTimDunn.  I had to buy it and I knew I would dedicate this Blog to him (and include a couple more Railway Tea Towels).

I joined Twitter in 2015, as part of writing this Tea Towel Blog; in that process, I started to ‘follow’ various people and @MrTimDunn was one of the first.  I am fascinated by people with quirky interests, people who are passionate about the out-of-the-ordinary, people who rarely discuss politics on Twitter.  @MrTimDunn is certainly one of those people.  I look forward to his daily photographs and tales: trains (mainline, steam, diesel, narrow gauge, heritage), the Underground, roundels, moquette patterning, Model Villages, broadcasting, talks and model railways on his desk at work (or even round his lounge), which number 73,000+.  I loved the pictures of his moquette socks, scarves and cushions.

Over the last four years, @MrTimDunn’s selfies have become much improved and his interests have broadened, moving towards gardening and topiary.  For me, this is what I want from Twitter, ideas, suggestions, interests not politics and slagging people off.   It was at his suggestion that I visited Bekonscot Model Village or have looked more carefully at the London Transport roundels.  I have relooked at Hanger Lane Underground Station and revisited Ealing Broadway Station.  I have travelled on Heritage Railways and met some Railway Enthusiasts.  @MrTimDunn has added to my enjoyment of Twitter for which I am very grateful.

I have always hoped that I would persuade @MrTimDunn to become a Guest Tea Towel in but have never managed it.  Thanks, anyway, to @MrTimDunn for a great deal of enjoyment and I look forward to many more Tweets.

Cactus,USA: 2019


Time changes everything.  It used to be that you would go on holiday, send a postcard to your nearest and dearest, take a whole load of photographs, get them printed and then show everyone your holiday snaps.  It was a long drawn out process and there could be a long time between receiving the postcard and seeing the photographs, and then having to relive someone’s holiday.  I have always liked seeing other people’s holiday photographs but it was always the time lag that made things difficult.

An iPad changes things and amongst my friends and family this is certainly true.  When David had a major stroke, lost his mobility and speech, Lyn and Liz bought him an iPad.  The idea was that we could all send photos to ‘Dad Album’, a shared album amongst the family, and on visits could show them to him.  He could keep up with what his sister Jean, 400 miles away, was doing; he could see what his grandchildren and great grandchildren were doing; he could follow their holidays, their first day at nursery, and school; he could see their Sports Days, Liz and Lyn’s trips to the theatre and how everyone celebrated their birthdays and Christmas.  David was able to keep in close touch with his family without needing to move or speak.  The iPad enabled conversation with visitors and even via FaceTime with his sister.

Because the whole family could access ‘Dad Album’ it meant we could all keep in touch with each other, wherever we were.  If anyone was on holiday, they could ‘post’ holiday photos and you were there, with them, enjoying the beautiful, unusual, comical and relaxing times; you understood what they were doing.  You could be inspired to do a similar thing, go to the same places in a way that a hard copy photograph, months after it was taken, could engender.  The iPad was a brilliant medium for a family that lived miles apart.

In my experience, it is often difficult to keep in touch with cousins if you don’t live near each other.  This way the cousins knew exactly what their relatives were doing.  When David died last year, a new album was created: ‘Family Album’.  So many photos have been added to this album.  It may only have been a few from each holiday, but you get a close connection with family, knowing what they are doing, almost enjoying it with them although they maybe thousands of miles away.

Lyn and Rob have recently been on holiday to USA, Palm Springs and the Grand Canyon. Each day there were a few photos, cacti galore, large, giant, flowering, scary, beautiful.  Each morning I’d look forward to seeing what they had seen, thinking it would be nice to visit there.  They obviously had a great time, and I had a great time watching them have a great time!  The iPad has become a new sort of photo album, one that is much more easily accessed.

And as a present from their holiday, they bought a Cactus Tea Towel!  What better present and what a great reminder of their holiday photos and experiences.  Thank you Lyn and Rob!

PS: It is a beautiful soft cotton material, making you want to stroke it, and absorbent as well.

Dig for Victory: 2019


Over the last few days, I have been watching the news stories about 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings: original news stories, oral histories of men who took part, tales of those who never came home, the political manoeuvres that allowed it to happen, the weather forecasts, the role of Bletchley Park, the story of Alan Turing and much more.  I watched men in their 90s make the trip to Normandy, back to the beaches they arrived on, for the 75th anniversary and noted how many of the veterans said that this would be the last time they will visit the Normandy Beaches.  It is the realisation that there are so few veterans left, and those few recognise that age may well prevent a similar journey next year.  They are the remaining few to whom we should be grateful, for saving Britain from being invaded.  So many veterans talk about the evil of Brexit, wanting to maintain our relations with Europe, avoiding any more wars.  It is difficult to believe that the Second World War will soon be just a history lesson rather than a personal memory.

When I was in Northumberland, I found the Dig for Victory tea towel.  I thought it was cute but it also reminded me that one of the Creative Writing sessions  was built around the word ‘Dig’.  We all were able to offer our own interpretation of that word: everything from digging the garden, to places to live, from a 60s term for liking something to delving into history.  To me, the phrase ‘Dig for Victory’ sprang to mind.  I managed to create four Triolets abound that phrase.  A Triolet is an eight line poem, very structured with one line repeated three times and one twice; there is a rhyming rhythm.  I am not a poet but, through Creative Writing, I have discovered the Triolet, something most people dislike.  So here are my four Triolets on the theme of ‘Dig for Victory’ with references to some advertising slogans about vitamins, Goodnight Mr Tom, growing your own veg, the use of metal garden railings to build planes, Anderson shelters……..

Dig for Victory (1)

Dig for Victory posters say,

As Spitfires fly above.

Self sufficiency is the way,

Dig for Victory posters say.

Will planting veg save the day?

Spuds and bullets work hand in glove.

Dig for Victory posters say,

As Spitfires fly above.

Dig for Victory (2)

“Dig for Victory” I hear them say,

Mr Tom springs to mind.

Self sufficiency is the way.

“Dig for Victory” I hear them say

Will scrap drives save the day?

Anderson shelter well designed.

“Dig for Victory” I hear them say,

Mr Tom springs to mind

Dig for Victory (3)

Garden was a war zone,

Scrap drives wrote history.

While spuds and carrots were grown,

Garden was a war zone.

Morrison’s shelter in our home,

Fate of railings a mystery.

Garden was a war zone,

Scrap drives wrote history.

Dig for Victory (4)

Grow vitamins at the kitchen door,

Make rations go farther.

Unrecruited army corp

Grow vitamins at the garden door.

Help fight a bloody war

Plant or bomb? I know I’d rather

Grow vitamins at the kitchen door

Make rations go farther.

In keeping with the ‘Dig for Victory’ tea towel, the two ‘Help for Heroes’ tea towels go with this blog.  I bought them in the unlikely place of Cotton Traders.  I hadn’t realised they sold these tea towels.  I am not complaining.  I am delighted to have these three tea towels added to my collection.



Doric: 2018


The first ‘45’ I bought, more years ago than I care to remember, was “Three Stars Will Shine Tonight”, sung by Richard Chamberlain, the theme tune to ‘Dr Kildare’.  Richard Chamberlain was an unlikely singer but I loved it; however, it was not something I boasted about.  On the other hand, the first LP I bought was ‘Kenneth McKellar’ on the Decca record label.  Another record that I didn’t boast about.  (Let’s face it, my peers were buying The Beatles and the Rolling Stones).   I’m not sure if it was this record that had the song about the midges.  You know how you can listen to a song and not necessarily hear, and understand, every word.  For years I thought in ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ that Christ the Royal Master ‘leaned against the phone’ (and I pictured a red telephone box) rather than ‘lead against the foe’, changes the meaning somewhat.  In Kenneth McKellar’s song about midges, the chorus refers to ‘yer simmit’ and for years I have tried to decipher what ‘simmit’ might be.  Of course, when I first heard this song there was no such thing as the internet; you couldn’t ask Google what ‘simmit’ meant.  It had never occurred to me that it might be a Doric word.  So over 40 years later, when listening to KM, I thought to look it up on Google and discovered that it meant ‘vest’.  It was obvious really, once you know.

Last October, we spent a lot of time with Jean in Aberdeen because she had broken her hip, not a good thing to happen at the age of 92.  We sat by her bed for hours on end, afraid to leave in case something happened but for the most time she was either asleep, or confused, as a reaction to the anaesthetic.  There was no friendly chat about the weather.  This is where the iPhone comes into its own: things to read, Google to inform you, email and text to keep in touch with the outside world.

Looking at books about Aberdeen, Liz found “Doric for Beginners”.  She was really interested and decided to order a copy.  “Do they do a tea towel?” I ask

”It’s a book.  Why would they?” she retorts.

”Because tea towels with Doric, about Doric, translating Doric, are very popular” I reply knowledgeably.

”Of course not” she replies and I get back to blogging.

Once home, “Doric for Beginners” arrives.  Liz is very excited by this illustrated guide to the Doric dialect, spoken in the north-east of Scotland.

”Look what I found” she says, holding up a tea towel with Doric expressions.  Now I am excited too.  It’s from the same website and in the same style and there under the chapter heading ‘Wardrobe’ is the word ‘simmit’.  If only I’d had “Doric for Beginners” when I first started listening to Kenneth McKellar, he might have been more understandable!

One of the things that I have learnt is that if you speak Doric words, as they appear on the page (or tea towel), you can often work out what it means.  I’m not sure that is quite true of “Foos yer doos?”.  It has taken me a while, with the aid of ‘Doric for Beginners’, to work out that it means “How are you?”.

I have just got back from Aberdeen, visiting Jean.  In the nursing home, where she lives, there are residents from all over north-east Scotland.  I should have brought the book with me because there is a lot of Doric there.  Would you know that “loons and quines” meant boys and girls? Or “Fit a gype” means what an idiot?

I do think Doric is a great dialect, great to try and fathom out and I am really grateful to Liz for ordering this tea towel when she bought “Doric for Beginners”.  Thank you Liz.