Motoring Memories (of the 50s and 60s): 2017

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I bought this tea towel, earlier this year, from a vintage linens ‘shop’.  I saw it, and immediately thought of Steve.  Steve was about to move house and I thought this might make a good ‘house warming’ present; even though it wasn’t unused, it was in reasonable condition.  I thought it might be ‘Steve’s cup of tea’.  In reality, this tea towel no longer belongs to me but, before I could hand it on, there had to be a photograph and a Tea Towel Blog!

Prior to his move, I helped Steve tidy his cupboards with a view to doing a bit of ‘decluttering’.  There’s no point in paying Pickfords to move stuff that you no longer want, may not have room for or is just things that you have put in a cupboard, meaning to tidy, but never getting around to it.  Quite often, it is stuff that you had forgotten you had.  All the books on decluttering say things like ‘if you haven’t looked at something for a year, get rid of it’.  I am not sure I could go along with that but sometimes you do have to get rid of things.  Steve is a Collector, not Hoarder; Steve knows what his interests are and has lovingly cared for a lot of things to do with cars.  He has shelves and cabinets with models of cars on display; he has boxes (and boxes and boxes) of smaller cars that he has nowhere to display at present, going back to his childhood, all things that he was never going to part with.  The items that I found absolutely fascinating were the brochures, for different models of cars, all neatly preserved in ring-bound files, going back to the early 70s.  He says that he used to go to car showrooms and exhibitions/shows with his father, as a child, looking at the flash cars and always took a brochure with all the specifications in them.  He continued with this as an adult, appreciating the detail even more.  He wasn’t getting rid of these either.  I do think the process of decluttering should be enjoyable and it was fascinating to look through these, reminiscing about the past.  This is why I thought the tea towel might suit Steve, even though the cars on it are not as flashy as those in there brochures.  I liked the border to the tea towel with the road markings, but as I looked closer, I saw the Morris Traveller at the top.  I have many happy memories of a green Morris Traveller and holidays in the Outer Hebrides in the 1970s; less happy memories of stripping down the woodwork and revarnishing it.  But there is also the Hillman Imp and the Triumph Herald.  Those were the days.

We did manage to decamp quite a lot of things to the Charity Shops and even more to the recycling centre – mainly old holiday brochures, leaflets, a few books about American cars which he wasn’t really interested in.  Not a single car, truck, lorry, ambulance, fire engine, big or small, in good condition or not, left his house.  Now there’s a man who knows what he likes.  I hoped he liked his tea towel!!

North Walsham: 2017 (remembering 1939)

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Liz bought this tea towel in North Walsham.  She hasn’t bought a tea towel for about 20 years so it was a bit of a surprise.  She then wrote a Guest Tea Towel, based on North Walsham, for the Virtual Tea Towel Museum; when she had read the article to me, before it was published, she gave me the tea towel for my collection.  Liz had obviously had this all planned out in her head but she just hadn’t shared those thoughts.

North Walsham is a traditional Norfolk small town; a quiet town, nothing brash and the tea towel reflects that.  It is a traditional tourist tea towel, name at the top and two large sketches of buildings in the town – the Church of St Nicholas and the Market Cross with an appropriate rural border.  I really like the tea towel; you don’t get many like that anymore.

The trip to North Walsham started  in a funny old way.  We were sitting in the caravan and Liz says “I’d like to go to North Walsham today”.  We’d been to North Walsham about 18 months ago, when Liz’s mother was still alive; we had been to see the place her mother was evacuated to, in 1939 with her sister, which was largely unchanged.  Her mother had loved hearing about North Walsham and it brought back a lot of happy memories for her.  But North Walsham wasn’t necessarily the sort of place you would go back to as a tourist.  We hadn’t found a tea towel on our last visit.  So off we went; this time we approached the town from a different direction and it certainly looked different.  We parked in the Main Street and the first thing I saw was a shop selling tea towels.  It was at this point Liz said she was going to buy a tea towel and she did.  This time we went into the church and saw details of the Heritage Trail and the project that they were carrying out.  The church is very old, and huge for such an unpresupposing town.  There are some magnificent stained glass windows.  There is a time-line for the church and we noted that in 1939 the church tower was being stabilised; that was when her mother was there.

As we wandered round, we saw the signpost for the Cat Pottery, which we had visited the last time we were there.  “I don’t want to go in there” says Liz; I was slightly surprised but then she reminded me that the last time we were in there she had received a phone call from the carer; things had gone wrong and she hoped Liz could sort it out.  She remembered this as a difficult moment.  We walked past the Cat Pottery.

We found the town sign, erected to celebrate the Millennium.  We went in a couple of charity shops and found loads of DVDs that we had not seen and bought them for 50p each – a bargain.  I sensed a sadness in Liz, that her mother had not been able to return to North Walsham at the time when her memory of the place was so much clearer, yet remembering what she had for lunch was so difficult.  She definitely would have loved to have followed the Heritage Trail.

We left North Walsham, Liz with her tea towel and me with the promise of a Guest Tea Towel, which I knew would be long and detailed, probably something that was good for her to write about, and that may have required a hankie when listening to the story.  It was a poignant visit yet with a happy ending in that the Heritage Project were delighted to receive a copy of Liz’s tale and it will be included in the project and they are going to look into whether anyone remembers two young girls from Edmonton who were evacuated to North Walsham, a place that one of them held fondly in their memory until the day she died.

Love Your National Parks: 2014

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This was a tea towel that Jai and Roger gave me for my birthday three years ago, following their holiday near Kielder Water in Northumberland.  It is a beautiful tea towel with the National Parks of England, named, with a picture representing each.   The pictures are striking, with such vibrant colours.  The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949 lay the foundations for the setting up of the National Park idea.  National Parks were set up for two purposes: firstly, to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area and secondly, to promote understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Parks by the public.  You will always hear on the news the dilemmas facing National Parks.  Recreation and tourism, in reality, fund the upkeep of the National Parks but tourism will bring traffic congestion and erosion.  For me, National Parks are special places, precious places, beautiful, glorious, wild, isolated and many other adjectives which can describe them but they also have to be living landscapes for the people who live there.

The strange thing about this tea towel is that there are sixteen National Parks in the United Kingdom, designated at different times, from the earliest in 1951 to the latest in 2010 (South Downs) and one is still being discussed for Northern Ireland, yet on this tea towel there are only eleven; the eleven for England.  This tea towel isn’t called Love Your English National Parks.  So the ones that are not included are the Brecon Beacons, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Pembrokeshire Coast, Snowdonia and the Cairngorms.  I wonder why that is.  It includes the Broads, one of the sixteen but not strictly a National Park because it is managed in a different manner from all the rest.  Somehow this doesn’t feel right but hey ho!

The idea of a tea towel about the National Parks brings back so many memories for me, memories of at least 45 years ago.  I did a degree in Geography at Swansea University.  Geography is a huge and vast field, even for an undergraduate.  There are so many options; it’s certainly not about a big map of the world and knowing what the capital cities of each country are.  One of my options was Rural Social Geography;  it included Nomads of Sudan and the National Parks of Great Britain.  It is hard to imagine two more diverse topics.  Both were fascinating.  I was the only one of my friends that understood the politics of the Sudan Civil War but I also had a fascination for National Parks.  Of course, when I was at university there were only ten National Parks.  Brecon Beacons was on our doorstep and we spent a lot of time walking in that area.

But my earliest memories of the National Parks are of the Lake District, where we spent a number of holidays because my mother had family in Millom, on the edge of the Lake District.  The Lake District for me will always be associated with Beatrix Potter, not Beatrix Potter the author but Beatrix Potter the farmer, the breeder of Herdwick sheep, the woman who wanted to save the Lake District from development, rather preserving it for working farmers.  As I got older, the Lake District continued to have a draw for me; we used to camp at Patterdale near Lake Ullswater, usually in the pouring rain.  Alfred Wainwright sums up the Lake District for me; I have all his books and I have spent many a happy hour following the paths he trekked, knowing I was never going to be able to physically follow in his footsteps but I can read about his journeys.

The Peak District is, for me, the start of the Pennine Way, the walk I always wished I had been able to complete.  It held a mystery for me; I probably know the route as well as anyone, having read about it, looked at pictures of it, knowing I wouldn’t manage it.  I have always said that you should never keep looking back, regretting things you haven’t done; in the main, I don’t have such regrets except I would truly have loved to have walked the Pennine Way.

The Pembrokeshire Coast was an area that I explored while I was living in Swansea, an area that is certainly underrated, such beauty.  If you look at my tea towel collection, you will know that I have holidayed in the North York Moors, the Yorkshire Dales, Snowdonia, the Broads, Dartmoor and Exmoor and Northumberland;  but I have never been to the New Forest and probably have only skirted through the South Downs.  There are plenty more places for me to go (and some will have tea towels, of that I am sure).

Use Water Wisely: 2014

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When I worked as a Social Worker, people would ask me what I did for a living and when I said I was a Social Worker, one of two things happened: dead silence, it was a conversation stopper or people would appear to blame me for every child that was wrongly taken into care (even though I worked with disabled adults).  I think it is because people rarely take the time to understand the intricacies of other people’s jobs; their knowledge functions at a superficial level.  I fall into the same trap; I can make the same wild generalisations through lack of knowledge.  Pete used to ‘work with computers’.  My assumption has always been that Pete knows everything about computers: everything from a Mac to a Dell, from programming to setting up a website, from fixing a computer meltdown to how to retrieve material that you have lost.  I didn’t really know what he did so I just assume.  Don’t get me wrong, I never thought he would know anything about hacking.

Roger is in the same position’ Roger is ‘in water’.  It conjures up a picture of a very tall man (Roger is very tall) in olive green waders and a lumber jacket, striding up a river, or maybe a man with a sink plunger in his hand.  Roger worked for a while on a project in Gambia ‘to do with water’.  Roger has a PhD ‘in water’.  If you ask his wife what he does for a living she will say “Roger works in water”, sounds even worse.  For me, water comes out of a tap; it can be on a meter; water is something to be saved in water butts; water is something not to be wasted.  For a number of years, Roger worked for a consultancy firm on ‘water solutions’; I’ve no idea what it was he was trying to find a solution for – too much water and floods, too little water and droughts?  Does sewage have anything to do with water?  I always felt sorry for Roger, knowing that no one could explain his job beyond ‘Roger’s in water’.  He might have made some technological breakthrough, breaking boundaries and none of us would know.  In January this year, Roger changed his job; he works for Severn Trent.  Now none of us have to say that ‘Roger is in water’ but that ‘Roger works for Severn Trent’.  It doesn’t mean any of us know any better about what he does but everyone has heard of Severn Trent so that’s OK.  We come back to the problem of when I was a Social Worker.  If there is a flood, water shortage, burst pipes, the roads being dug up for new drains then we all assume that Roger knows the answer or, of course, he will take the blame.

This tea towel came as a pair; I gave the other one to Roger because ‘he’s in water’.  It was produced by Southern Water, to give advice, in a simple way, on a useful object.  Katie Chilman of Brunswick House Primary Class Bodiam (4B) won the competition for the design of the tea towel.  It is a very clever design with ‘raindrops’ offering pieces of advice about how to use water wisely: ‘showering is better than bathing’ or “fix dripping taps’ or ‘collect rainwater by using a water butt’.  Roger does all this; he takes a shower, has water butts and mends a dripping tap.  He now has a job that he loves, doing what he loves; I still don’t know what that is but, with confidence, I can say ‘Roger works for Severn Trent’.  A happy ending.

 

Blickling Hall: 2017

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The few days I spent in Norfolk, recently, meant that I had plenty of time to do things, not in a rush, just wandering around, not travelling vast distances.  I loved it.  The purpose of the trip was to go to Blickling Hall for their Proms Concert.  I’d never been to Blickling Hall, yet another place I had always promised myself that I would go.

The first thing that grabbed my attention was the secondhand book shop.  In several National Trust properties, I have seen the odd bookshelf with a few books on sale.  This was something different; this was a proper secondhand bookshop, books in categories, everything from Alexander McCall Smith to Michael Connolly, from the history of the First World War to biographies, books on trains, stamps, gardening, cooking and much more.  It was so well organised; the sort of place that you just want to wander around.  There are some very old books, as well as those that hardly look as though they’ve been read.  Twenty years ago, I would have spent all day in there and come out with a pile, taller than myself.  These days, I only really read on a Kindle but I still love the feel of a bookshop, especially when the people behind the counter know exactly what stock they have and where to find it.  The exciting thing for me is that I am trying to find good homes for the books that I do have; I like the idea that if people I know don’t want them, the National Trust might be able to make the odd pound from them.  My next target is to deal with my books.

Having moved from the bookshop, I found the ordinary shop and there it was – a Blickling Hall tea towel in a choice of three colours: blue, black or green.  Can’t be bad.  I chose the black one because I liked the stark contrast of the colours which I think sets Blickling Hall off very well.  Moving on to the Walled Garden; this is the first year of a five year Walled Garden Project.  Blickling Hall has always had a Walled Garden (until it fell into disrepair in 1930s) so this project is about restoring it, on a slightly smaller scale, and making it into a productive Walled Garden.  It’s really interesting to see the start of the project where the 60 different varieties of apple tree and 20 varieties of pear tree are at the beginning of their life but are already bearing some fruit.  The borders are filled with blocks of colour of dahlias, gladioli, roses; flowers that are used in the house.  The vegetables are grown in such an ordered manner, as in times of old.  What a wide variety of vegetables too.  There are benches scattered at the ends of pathways.  This is a lovely Walled Garden that would certainly be worth coming back to next year to see how it has developed.

I went to the concert because Only Men Aloud were performing; the Blickling Estate is a good place for such an event since it covers 950 acres.  It was the best Open Air concert that I have ever been to, not only because the weather was fine, the picnic was tasty and we had got there early in order to get a good view but because the programme was excellent, the sound system good and of course the fireworks.  It was certainly the end of an amazing day and yet another place I would always want to return to.

Felbrigg Hall: 2017

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I have often been to Norfolk, for the day, for a few days, for a week; I love Norfolk.  I love the gentle nature of life round there; I love the beautiful scenery and coast, the houses with pebble decorations and I love the fact there are a lot of National Trust properties.  Felbrigg Hall is one of those places that I’ve always said I would like to go but, you know how it is, there was always a reason why I never quite made it; usually because there wasn’t enough time.  I was in Norfolk for three days last week, staying near Felbrigg Hall so there wasn’t any reason why I could not visit.  When I got there, the only thing I could think to say was “Why didn’t I go here before?  I really missed an opportunity”.  I have learnt, as I grow older, that you should never put off things you want to do because you don’t know what the future holds.  My first visit was glorious, especially since the weather was a delight and I had plenty of time.

There was an irony that I visited at this time.  I love Twitter, in the main, and as long as you don’t take it too seriously because there is only a limited amount you can say in 140 characters.  Having said that, Twitter does have a lot to answer for.  Recently, I have noticed a lot of Tweets about the National Trust making volunteers wear ‘Rainbow’ lanyards and badges.  There have been pictures posted of volunteers refusing to do this or older volunteers looking very grumpy about it.  It has given people the opportunity to make a lot of homophobic comments.  But, of course, Twitter doesn’t give you the space to tell the whole story.  My visit to Felbrigg Hall was my first visit to a National Trust property since this outburst on Twitter.  Yes, all the volunteers were wearing the ‘Rainbow’ ribbons to hold their identity badges; no one looked grumpy, no one was making a fuss about it.  Around the property were some postcards entitled ‘Prejudice and Pride’, explaining one of the National Trust’s latest projects.  The strap line for this project is ‘For ever, for everyone’.

The card explains that many National Trust properties were home to, and shaped by, people who challenged conventional ideas of gender and sexuality.  ‘Prejudice and Pride’ is recognising the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality and is the reason that the National Trust is exploring it’s LGBTQ heritage and the generosity and creativity of some of people who have bequeathed their properties to the nation.  That much fuller explanation, not possible in 140 characters, makes a lot of sense and explains the importance of the ‘Rainbow’ lanyards for all volunteers.  I’d be asking why anyone would refuse to wear a ‘Rainbow’ lanyard; this is about the diverse heritage of our historical properties.

Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, the last Squire of Felbrigg, was known as a ‘shy, gentle, unmarried man’; he was responsible for the restoration of this amazing property and bequeathed it to the nation.  Until ‘Prejudice and Pride’, Robert’s life was only partially documented, and neglected to acknowledge what most people around him always knew and accepted, that he was gay.  He is more frequently described as “the bachelor squire” or “one not for the ladies”.  There is a short film, narrated by Stephen Fry, about the fascinating life of Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer.  The National Trust have a new podcast series about Robert’s story and that of many other LGBTQ people who have contributed to the National Trust.  ‘Prejudice and Pride’ is much more interesting than the, sometimes offensive, comments posted on Twitter.  “I found myself able to live at Felbrigg and lead the life I have ever since, amongst my books and my trees……”  I can understand that; it is such an amazing place of peace and tranquillity.

What I really loved about Felbrigg Hall was the beautiful Walled Garden, carefully tended, and the Orangery, once the home of more exotic fruits but now a pleasant place to contemplate while you admire the gardens.  The tea room in the courtyard was a delightful place to share a cheese and black pepper scone followed by a fruit scone with a nice pot of tea, served in some lovely china!!

Life isn’t worth wasting time, regretting all those things that you haven’t done but Felbrigg Hall was certainly a place that I should have visited before.  But I’ve done it now and it was good and certainly worth a return visit.  And, of course, there was a tea towel; the “cherry on the cake”.

Swimming Pool Open: 2017 (original date unknown)

This is a smallish, fluffy, terry-towelling, tea towel with a very cute picture.  It is unlike most of the other tea towels that I own.  But I love it and it now has some very special memories; I suspect some people may be shocked by the manner in which I acquired this tea towel.  I am not ashamed; I can hold my head up high (or can I?).

Today I was visiting Alan and Christine.  Alan and Christine were my next door neighbours for about 12 years, until they moved to Norfolk about two years ago.  We have kept in touch through email, by some fleeting visits when they have returned to Leicester  briefly and when we have been able to call and see them in Norfolk and spend the day with them.  Keeping in touch has not been easy because of the personal traumas that we all have been through in the last couple of years.  But we have succeeded in maintaining contact because Alan and Christine are the sort of people that we may not have seen for over a year but we can pick up where we left off, with no false pretence of friendship, just a real interest in exchanging news of family, holidays, illnesses, friends, gardens, animals, cars, moving and much more.  I like that, that is exactly what friendship is about, going with the flow.

Alan and Christine were just the sort of neighbours we all should have: not interfering or grumpy, always helpful; the sort of people you could ask advice from about everything from disposing of dead mice to building a garden gate; they were the sort of people who would look after the cats and chickens when we went on holiday, and we would feed their fish and garden birds and water their plants in return; Liz and Christine would exchange advice on growing vegetables and swop plants; Alan built me some flower troughs from some spare decking, in exchange for using up the remains.  One of the most poignant moments was the four of us digging a grave for Charlie the Cat, in the pouring rain, all shedding the odd tear.

So, today, we visited Alan and Christine and, needless to say, at some point, the subject of tea towels came up.  I merely asked Christine if she had a favourite tea towel (always on  the look-out for a potential Guest Tea Towel for the Virtual Tea Towel Museum); she said she didn’t, in fact, couldn’t remember what she had.  She disappeared into the kitchen only to return with 6 or 7 tea towels.  I asked if I could take a photo of her holding some; she was agreeable.  Of course, I got excited about seeing tea towels I had never seen before; she offered me this one and, I am ashamed to say, I accepted, with no hesitation.  She then offered me three more and I accepted those as well.  I have to ask myself, was that a polite thing to do?  Do you expect guests to come to your house and go away with four of your tea towels?  Well, I certainly wouldn’t; I wouldn’t let one out of my sight but what about other people who are not so obsessive about tea towels?  The answer is that it is, possibly, an extraordinary thing to do but, however, I am so grateful to Christine because these are some lovely tea towels.  They will be integrated into my collection and the subject of further Blogs. I have promised to send Christine a couple of my ‘duplicate’ tea towels, that I haven’t rehomed yet, in exchange for her gift to me.  I’m not sure she was so excited about this as I was to get her four tea towels!!

Today was a delightful way to spend a warm sunny Friday, chatting, drinking loose leaf tea in the garden, going out for a meal and finishing off with a piece of home-made cake. Thank you, Alan and Christine and I bet you are excited about guessing which tea towels you are going to get!!

PS: Explanation of the photographs – there is a picture of Christine with her tea towel before she handed it over.  Izzy was very excited about this and wanted to get in the picture so you don’t get the full beauty of it and then one of me holding it so you can see the full detail.  I’d like to reassure my friend Fee that when it appears in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum it will be photographed in the ‘standardised’ manner!