Golden Oldies: 1997

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”Thank you, Sweetie” said the waitress in the restaurant yesterday.  Who would ever call me ‘Sweetie’?  Actually mother used to call me “Sweetie Pie’ up to the age of about 10, when I began to vigorously object it.  So for 50 odd years I have been able to avoid this manner of address.

”Don’t worry, Love, let me help you with that” says a stranger as I successfully open the doors to a shop with two bags of shopping.  I appreciate kindness but somehow, as I get older,  people feel able to call me all sorts of diminutive names, without my permission, taking liberties

”Don’t worry dear; I’ll not start the bus until you’ve sat down” says the bus driver, with a friendly disposition and a patronising manner.

”Do you need any help, Babe?”  comes from a shop assistant, who looks about 12, and has as much interest in helping me as I have in being called ‘Babe’.

I may look wrinkled and be a Grumpy Old Woman but I don’t feel the need for infantilisation.  I remember Ethel, in a residential home I used to visit, who complained that staff called her by her first name, or ‘love’, without her permission.  The staff called her grumpy.

But in today’s world, it is taken for granted that you can change anyone’s name: the sport’s presenter on East Midlands Today has the most infuriating habit of doing just that, John Smith becomes Smithy, Alan Birchinall becomes Birchy.  There are many different ways Barbara can be altered: Babs, Barbie, Barb yet from as early as I remember I would not respond to anything but ‘Barbara’.  This is the name I was given, this is the name I will be known by.  I remember Hugh calling me Babs and the outburst that came from my mouth.  Other staff members saying to Hugh “I wouldn’t use anything but ‘Barbara if I were you”.

Today, I was wiping up and noticed the ‘Golden Oldies’ tea towel, bought at the Royal Show in 1997; it seemed cute then.  Now it just seems like a tea towel for an old woman, Dearie, Babe or Love.

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Around Plymouth: 1987

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I am addicted to ‘Money for Nothing’; I’m not ashamed because, although it would imply that I am watching ‘day time TV’, I just record it to watch when the evening TV is so crappy.  Recycling, upcycling, repurposing, reusing, salvaging… all my favourite words.  Having seen how pieces of furniture can be transformed into the unusual or quirky, I have always wanted something like that in my home.  Don’t get me wrong, this is not a new talent I have developed; it would be criminal for me to attempt any kind of transformation and completely ruin something but, I thought, there must be a piece of furniture, that I already own, in need of upcycling (and then, of course, I have to find someone to be able to do it).

Moving house has so many potentials!  While downsizing had been a priority when moving, there were things that would never be ‘downsized’: tea towels (of course), jugs (and there are a lot), pictures (also a lot, but sadly no Picasso lurking there otherwise I might have changed my mind).  Several thousand books went but I do still have a lot, not novels (because I read on Kindle) but classics, poetry and travel, in the main.  My previous residence had massive shelves and therefore there was always a place for a new jug or two.  The downside was that these shelves were open thus all the jugs required dusting.  It had been an ambition of mine to find ‘storage’ for these ‘collectors of dust’, behind glass doors.  I just didn’t have such a piece of furniture; I didn’t even have shelves, without glass doors, in my new place.

As I sat watching ‘Money for Nothing’, I did wonder if that small, useless cupboard in the lounge could be converted into something.  To cut a long story short, I found Sarah, a ‘furniture artist’, near me; she located an old-fashioned, glass fronted display cabinet that would go on the top of that useless cupboard and the rest is history, as they say!  She asked me how I wanted it designed.  “Leave it to you, you’re the artist”.  She looked around at the pictures, asked me about my holidays and said she had some ideas.  It is at this point, I thought “OMG, what have I done?  Is it going to be something I could live with?”  Too late now.

While the cupboard itself was pretty useless, there was an open shelf at the bottom where I kept some old poetry books, things I had inherited, authors I enjoyed.  It meant that when the cupboard went to Sarah’s workshop, I had to pile these books on the floor. Better just check I still want them all.  It is when I found “Britain in Verse and Sketch”, compiled and illustrated by Lindley Searle.  In the front was an inscription, in blue ink, not biro, “A happy birthday Beatrice from Pamela and Sheila xxx. March 1946”.  My mother would have been 22; today this book is 73 years old, in perfection condition.

This book is dedicated to all country-lovers”, said the first page.  It was first published in 1945 with a ‘stamp’ saying “Book Production: War Economy Standard”.  During the Second World War there was a need to ration the use of paper.  In 1940,  publishers had their pre-war useage reduced by 60%.  In 1942, the Book Production War Economy Standard was introduced which defined the size of font, words per page, number of blank pages; this was a voluntary agreement but if publishers didn’t comply their rations were reduced once more.

On Page 17 is a poem called ‘Plymouth Harbour’ by H.D. Rawnsley; never heard of him.  I have to say that it is a dreadful thing to admit to never having heard of Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley because, beside his prolific production of poetry, he was one of the founders of the National Trust (I’m a member) and the first published writer that Beatrix Potter had met and who encouraged her to get her first book published.   Beatrix Potter being a heroine of mine, (even though I always disliked Peter Rabbit).

I have no idea if ‘Plymouth Harbour’ is considered to be ‘good’ writing; but it is one of many of his poems in this book, alongside Robert Burns, William Wordsworth and Lord Byron.  It is for readers to decide.  I am delighted that moving the cupboard revealed this book.  I can honestly say that I never opened a page; I wonder how many other books there are that I haven’t looked at and/or might be an inspiration for a Tea Towel Blog.

Back to the cupboard, I had a few glimpses of the upcycling, with photographs winging their way through the information highway.  Still couldn’t imagine it in its full glory.  Last Sunday, it returned home.  Totally amazing!  I wondered what would happen to the cupboard if jugs were put in it.  Would they detract from its beauty?  The answer is “No”. Sarah has designed and painted an amazing Scottish scene, purple of the mountains, heather and fern, light, flowers.  Perfect and fits in well with our paintings.

http://www.sarahjamesltd.co.uk

 

Yorkshire Rhubarb Crumble: 2019

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Mon 17 Dec, 12.07: “Hi Barbara.  I have an idea for Liz’s birthday present but before I book it would you be able to confirm if any of the available dates would be OK for you both.  It would require a drive to just north of Wakefield.  Dates available at the moment are…………(she provided me with a list of dates in February 2019). Lyn x

“All the dates up to 20th are free.  We have to go to Aberdeen for 23rd because it’s Calendar Girls. No giggling please (this will actually be the subject of a future Blog!!).  So to be safe nothing after 20th.  Is that helpful? Barbara”

”Yes that’s great thanks Barbara.  I will try and book one of them and let you know…”

Mon 17 Dec, 16.26: “Hi Barbara.  All booked for Friday 8 Feb at 2pm.  I have checked and they can accommodate Liz using the wheelchair.  Further details nearer the time but you (always supposing it is you Liz decides to take with her!) will be there for about 2 hours.  Lyn x”

You can’t take that away from Lyn, she works fast and considering Liz’s birthday is at the beginning of February she is also very well prepared.  I couldn’t discuss this with Liz so had to spend much time, on my own, pondering what this gift might be.  I looked on Google.  Nothing.  I put it to the back of my mind, prepared for a surprise, including whether or not I’d be sharing this present with Liz.  So exciting!!

At the birthday meal, Lyn gave Liz her the present – a trip to a talk and look around the forced rhubarb sheds, in the Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle, belonging to E Oldroyd and Sons.  What a great present.  A bit later, Lyn gave me an envelope:

”I’ll give you this” she said “I don’t want to give Liz this but it’s so you can have an Afternoon Tea or Brunch somewhere.  There are lots of places around but the Hepworth Gallery does loose leaf tea and some nice meals.  It’s up to you”

This was definitely exciting.  Of course, I could withhold the money and buy a tea towel because you just know there will be a tea towel about rhubarb in Wakefield.

So on 8 February, off we went to Wakefield.  I didn’t realise that Wakefield was so easy to get to.  We started at the Hepworth Gallery (to be the subject of another Blog at a later date) and then moved on to the farm.  I’m really glad GoogleMaps was there to help.  As we turned into the farmyard, I’m thinking “This is never going to be accessible”.  It might have been a bit muddy but was certainly accessible.  It’s good to be proved wrong.

The talk was fascinating, learnt a lot about the medicinal properties of rhubarb, had a cup of tea and moved on to the rhubarb sheds.  Just amazing by candlelight but looked so beautiful.  Afterwards we moved on to the Shop.  What a great range of jams: rhubarb and gin, rhubarb and ginger, rhubarb and blueberry.  We bought some fresh rhubarb to make some jam.  The disappointment would have been that they did not sell tea towels but I had already dealt with this issue by buying the Yorkshire Rhubarb Crumble tea towel from the Hepworth Gallery before we arrived.  This was a difficult decision: the Hepworth gallery had this tea towel.  Should I buy it or wait and see if they had any at the farm.  I have learnt my lesson: buy the tea towel when you see it.  Don’t miss the opportunity.  I love this one and Liz has promised to make the recipe next week!!  What a great reminder of a fabulous day out!

Spalding and Surroundings: 1987

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“There’s the Church Fair on Saturday, you’re very welcome”

Odd thing for Ian to say; he’s not invited me before

”We’re off to Spalding tomorrow to buy some plants to sell.  We always get them there, really cheap.  We stock the village out”

”What sort do you get?” I ask, interested.  Could save me a visit to the garden centre.

”Geraniums, Salvia, Begonias, Cyclamen……. Put a lot of colour in the garden.  If you’re coming, you need to get there early because the village storms in!”

”Sounds really interesting but I’m going to see Gwyn and Pete that day.  If there’s anything left over let me know”

On Sunday, Ian rang.  “There’s some plants left.  Do you want to come over and see if you want any of them?”

I was there in about half an hour.  What a wonderful selection.  “Sorry but the Salvia and Cyclamen have gone”

”Don’t care.  I only wanted the Geraniums and Begonias”.  Here were all the plants I needed for the patio pots, good size and in good condition.  I filled the boot of the car and had a cup of tea.  Ian always made a good cup of tea.

It did make me think that I ought to go to Spalding to stock the garden out.  May is a good time so perhaps this year I will go.

PS: Bought this tea towel when I was in Lincolnshire, back in 1987.  We were passing through and saw the tea towel but using it always reminds me of Ian and his plant foraging in Spalding.

Bath: 1987 and onwards

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It’s been a while since I’ve visited Chris and Pam.  They live in Wiltshire; not the place you necessarily drive through on the way to places like Cornwall or Devon.  They are fortunate that the development of motorways means that Wiltshire is not a through route so it is beautifully tranquil; it is rather the place you have to detour to.  Chris and Pam have lived there for more than 45 years so I have visited them on many occasions over this period of time.

This weekend I did visit them, to catch up with all their news: the new grandson, their daughter and son-in-law staying temporarily with them, Chris’s health scare and the challenges of trying to declutter but not necessarily agreeing on what needs to go!  I was able to offer my advice on the issue of decluttering; I’m quite sure they took no notice!  The funny thing about their decluttering is that they are faced with many of the dilemmas that I have faced because Chris is my mother’s brother so he has the same photographs as I have, the same sort of family memorabilia to dispose of.

For a while, Chris and Pam have been talking about downsizing, or maybe just moving nearer to some shops and public transport, but it is a decision that they find hard to fulfill because they love where they are living.  It will be interesting to see what happens because if they are going to move they will have to declutter.  I pointed out that their current house has a lot of wall space and they have some BIG pictures!

Visiting Chris always brings me back to Bath, only a short distance from where they live. I’ve been there on a number of occasions.  I have loads of pictures of John and I at the Roman Baths but, for me, Bath is the city of tea rooms.  It exudes tea rooms, tea rooms of all sorts, tea rooms of quality and fine dining.  Where does one start?

In 2013, Liz and I went to Bath’s Hospital of Rheumatology for a ‘second opinion’.  It was a long journey, difficult parking, numerous tests so we thought we deserved a nice cup of tea.  The Boston Tea Party was across the road so we popped in.  Loose leaf tea, great All Day Breakfast, lovely cakes and a welcoming atmosphere.  I loved it and, as it is a ‘chain’, I have been to other BTPs, in Central Birmingham, Salisbury and  Harbourne.  Great place!

In 2002, Liz and I went to Bath to visit Sally Lunn’s Tea Room; this is somewhere we had read about, the history, the bun, the museum and it lived up to our expectations.  The plaque on the outside of the building says it was built in 1482 and that Sally Lunn lived there in 1680.  It is a hugely popular tea house, often with a bit of a queue and when you get in the tables are near to each other but service is good.  But worth the wait.  And it has it’s own tea towel!!

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In 2004, we tried the Pump Rooms tea rooms with its silver service, tiered stands for Afternoon Tea, a beautiful room and very comfortable chairs.  It was definitely luxurious and their Afternoon Tea was imaginative; it’s the sort of place where you are not hassled to finish your meal and move on.

Move on to 2012, we found ourselves in the Jane Austen Tea Rooms which has to be my favourite.  If you asked me what my favourite book was then my answer would have to be “Pride and Prejudice” so this tea room was just up my street.  It is designed in a Georgian style and on the wall was a painting of Mr D’Arcy, with a likeness to Colin Firth.  What more could a girl ask for?  Actually, even better was their lunch, worth the journey.

The reality is that, for a while, Liz and I will not be visiting Bath, not while she is using a wheelchair.  Bath is hilly; because of its age it is also cobbled in many areas and parking is difficult.  It will be something to look forward to if she has a, successful, knee replacement but until that point I have some great memories of Bath (and two tea towels).

South Wales: 1972 and onwards

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Any regular readers of this Tea Towel Blog will know (a) that I went to university in Swansea, South Wales, many years ago (b) and that the three years I spent there were glorious, challenging and memorable.  I have blogged about the era of the Welsh Language campaigns, of road signs in English being painted over, of not being able to get the salt at a meal time unless I was able to ask for it in Welsh.

I loved the history, and geography, of South Wales.  I didn’t know anyone else who left Ealing for the depths of South Wales; Liverpool, Lancaster, London, Oxbridge, Sussex maybe, but never crossing Offa’s Dyke.  I was living in Halls of Residence, an all-female Halls of Residence, run by a scary dragon of a woman; this, of course, meant that we were not allowed to have male friends stay over-night.  People had to be keen to visit me if they were going to have to pay for accommodation!! After all, they would be poor students too!

Henry was a friend of mine who I had been to school with.  We shared an interest in history and English Literature; but he wasn’t interested in geography and I wasn’t interested in railways.  Henry was a fanatical railway fan; he had a map of all the railways in Britain (including the lines that Dr Beeching had closed) and had marked those that he had already travelled on.  His ambition was to travel on every railway line in Britain.  I discovered all this when I visited him at Oxford University and there was the map, huge, and on the wall of his room.

Henry was a kind and considerate man; he bought me a Ward Lock ‘Pictorial and Descriptive to South Wales’ (1906 Edition).  It is a fascinating book, full of photographs and adverts.  There are ten maps.  There are descriptions of all the Castles of South Wales, together with photographs.  Using the guidebook, we wandered round South Wales, travelling on some of the railways, visiting some of the highlights and enjoying the countryside.

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I had forgotten the little red book.  I had not parted with it during the down-sizing exercise.  When I unpacked all my books they were randomly put on bookshelves to be sorted at a later date.   Yesterday, I was reorganising all the bookshelves, dusting the books, and flicking through them, in order that they could be categorised.  During this process, I came across this little book.  The memories!  It all came flooding back.  I loved it, the photos that are more than 100 years old are amazing, the cars, the dresses and the wordy adverts.  A time even I can’t remember.  These two tea towels will act as a reminder of Henry and our travels and now, as well, I know where the little book is!

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Sydney Opera House: 2019

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Yo! Now this is a Tea Towel; it combines the touristy element with such vibrant colours.  The Sydney Opera House, such an iconic venue, with those beautiful blue skies and water that invites you in.  In traditional tourist style, it is like a picture.  In the good old days, I can imagine someone hanging this on their walls.  I love it.

Lynn and Helen were coming for fish and chips last Friday.  Hadn’t seen them since before Christmas so we had a lot to catch up on and Lynn brings me a tea towel!  No, she hadn’t just come back from an Australian holiday.  She had discovered a brilliant Charity Shop (name not to be revealed so other people don’t go scavenging there).  Last visit she brought me a ‘Knorr’ tea towel, today one of Sydney Opera House.  It had never been used, pristine and still had the cardboard covering in place.  Lynn, too, was excited by this bargain and left the price tag on so that I could see what a ‘find’ this was.  Only £1, that was amazing.  I like the idea that the tea towel wrapping comes with it’s exact size (although, for me, that wouldn’t be helpful because it takes me so long to convert centimetres and millimetres into ‘real’ measurements like feet and inches).

I am aware that both Australia and New Zealand are big into tea towels.  I follow several producers on Instagram but have not seen any like this.  “Take Australia home with you” is a good strap-line and if I ever went to Australia I would take a spare suitcase to carry all the tea towels that I would buy.  In the meantime, thanks to Lynn for such a great gift, and what a bargain!!

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