Lancaster Bomber: 2018


I know nothing about aeroplanes.  I don’t have any real interest in planes.  But I love this tea towel.  I bought it in Oakham, yesterday; it was the last one in the shop and felt lucky to get it.

This tea towel is part of the official merchandise to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the Royal Air Force; a great way to celebrate.  The last couple of weeks has been an emotional journey for many people, with the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War and the founding of the Royal Air Force.  There will be few families that have not been affected in some way.

The trouble is that I know nothing about the Lancaster Bombers except that they flew in the Dam Busters Raid (great film) and were flown by Leonard Cheshire.  So if you want to know more, look it up on Wikipedia and you will find one of the longest, and detailed, entries that I have read, on anything.  By the end of it, I still didn’t understand anything about the plane.  What I do know is that the Lancaster Bomber played a significant role in the Second World War, for which we need to be grateful.

I also know that there are 17 left in the world, four can taxi yet only two can fly.  But as I use this tea towel I will always think of the sacrifice that so many in the RAF have made over the years.

NB: Countdown to Christmas, this is number 41, only 40 to go!



Cornwall: 2018


This is one of Emma Ball’s ‘County Collection’.  I do seem to be gathering quite a number of these; maybe, soon, I’ll have enough for a ‘Special Collection’ in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum!  I really like her paintings, simple and capture the essence of places that can bring back memories.  Her picture of Bedruthan Steps is very evocative; it somehow fills me with sadness because I know I would never manage the steps down to the beach these days but I can remember if clearly.  Padstow was always one of my favourite places.  Port Isaac is one of those places that should have had a tea towel when I was there, but didn’t.

I’ve written a number of Tea Towel Blogs about my visits to Cornwall, as a child and then in 1980s.  This tea towel was bought, as a birthday present, for me by my friends Gwyn and Pete.  It is really nice to have a more modern ‘take’ on Cornwall.  Gwyn had never been to Cornwall (can you believe that?); this year she and Pete were offered the opportunity to spend a week in St Ives in the property of someone she knows.  Let’s face it, with a summer like we have just had, who would want to go abroad?  Cornwall was an ideal place.

St Ives is not somewhere I have ‘properly’ visited; when I was going to Cornwall, St Ives did not have the high-profile, artisicy reputation that it does now but I do remember a lovely little tea room that sold wonderful ice cream.  Emma’s picture of St Ives makes it a very tempting proposition for visiting.  Gwyn and Pete had a great time exploring new places.  They sent me a jigsaw puzzle postcard of St Michael’s Mount and brought me back Cornish biscuits.

I’m glad that they had such a good time on their first visit to Cornwall and brought back some great memories for me.  Thank you, Gwyn and Pete; I’ll work on a ‘Emma Ball Special Collection’!

NB: In terms of my personal challenge of Countdown to Christmas (50 Tea Towel Blogs before Christmas Day, this is number 42, only 41 to go!).

Operation Overlord: 1994


This tea towel was designed for the 50th anniversary of Operation Overlord which started on 6 June 1944 and was the beginning of the end of the Second World War.  I acquired it in a charity shop in 2017; pristine, never been used.  I’d love to know the story of the person who bought it because I assume it was someone with links to, or memories of, World War Two.

The last few days have been poignant: the centenary of the end of the First World War, the centenary of the founding of the RAF, Armistice Day remembering all who died in all wars, the debates about whether white poppies are appropriate to wear, how to celebrate the lives of animals that played a significant part in war, the lives of conscientious objectors and much more.

I went to Kedleston Hall last Sunday to hear a reading of the winners of a poetry competition, the theme of which was to include the words ‘peace’, ‘hope’ and ‘light’ in the text.  Read in Caesar’s Hall, there was a great atmosphere with people having to stand outside because the audience was too big.  The interpretation of the three chosen words was so different.  Star of the show was the prize winner in the Under-7 category.  Brilliant.  This was followed by the lighting of the beacon, at the highest point in the Kedleston Estate; one of 1000 beacons being lit across Britain.  There was much discussion amongst people attending about the roaring bonfires lit for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee as compared with a gas flame for this occasion.  Times change, technology changes and we need to move on.

Which brings me to today where the Cabinet are discussing the Brexit deal that has been negotiated, in order that Britain can leave the European Union.  I never want to be involved in politics, discuss politics but today is a crucial day.  No matter how many flaws there are in the European Union, the fact is that it was set up, and has expanded, after the Second World War as a way of bringing together European nations, seeing more in what we share than our differences.  When you look at the sheer devastation of the first and second world wars, the volume of lives lost then for me it is more important to try and improve the European Union than to exit it.  Since it has been formed, initially as the Common Market there hasn’t been another world war and for me that is what we need to learn from our history.  If you don’t learn from the past, where will we be in the future?  It is a dangerous world.

While I believe that we should have voted to remain in the European Union, the fact is that I also have to believe in the process of democracy.  We can’t change the results of a referendum; we have to accept our responsibility in not campaigning hard enough for the principles we believe in.  For me, the referendum brought out the worst in some people; so much overt discrimination and hatred, so much division within communities. How did this happen?

I just hope that once the Brexit takes place there will be peace and harmony, rather than continued disharmony but also that in the wider world there will continue to be peace.  Looking at this tea towel reminds me of the seriousness of the decisions politicians are making today.  I hope they plan for the future, not just today.

NB: Countdown to Christmas number 43!


Shuttlewood Collection: 2017


Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.  While a Tea Towel Blog is a usually considered to be light-hearted, it would be good to mark the event with an appropriate tea towel.  My choice is limited, the nearest I’ve got is one commemorating Operation Overlord (Second World War) and one from the Shuttleworth Collection (in Bedfordshire) which is aeronautical and automotive museum.  Founded in 1928 by Richard Shuttleworth, an aviator, and holds five Edwardian planes of which one is the oldest British plane in flying condition.

The Collection draws an audience of aviation lovers who enjoy anything to do with old planes, including the many air shows that are held each year.  If you want to know about old aeroplanes, including ones that flew in the First World War, this is the place to go.

In the Countdown to Christmas this is number 44!


Aberdeen: 2018


Anyone who reads this Tea Towel Blog, on a regular basis, will know (a) I have several tea towels from Aberdeen (b) I am a regular visitor to Aberdeen and (c) I have a lot of connections with people in Aberdeen.

I have just arrived back from Aberdeen, the fifth visit this year, and certainly unplanned.  My friend Jean, who lives in a Nursing Home, broke her leg and was rushed into hospital.  At her age, a major operation is a serious business.  After the operation, she was sent to the High Dependency Unit because initially her blood pressure was too low, then her oxygen saturation levels were too low, then her hiatus hernia started playing up as a result of the anaesthetic………..  I spent hours each day, sitting with her; most of the time she was asleep, sometimes she was grumpy, hating to be in hospital.  They tried so hard to take blood but were never successful; those attempts frightened her, hurt her and just made it so she wanted to get out of hospital.

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary was probably one of the best hospitals that I have visited: free and easy parking, clear signage, open visiting hours, M&S plus several other shops on site, doctors and nurses willing to update you.  The staff managed to encourage Jean to eat and drink, always good if you are on the road to recovery.  Jean didn’t want, or need, us there all the time but she did need nightdresses, some ‘treats’ and a bit of peace.

Aberdeen with a wheelchair is very different from life without one.  While I am very familiar with Aberdeen, I hadn’t realised (a) how many cobblestones there were (b) what terrible lowered kerbstones there were (c) how short a time was allowed for pedestrians to cross at the lights (d) how many steep slopes there were in the town centre and (e) how helpful people were.  I soon learnt how to spot, and therefore avoid, a slope; how to walk the roundabout ways to avoid cobbles and which were the easiest lights to cross at. One day we were walking at the back of the Bon Accord Centre, negotiating the slopes, when I spotted the Aberdeen Journals shop.  “That looks interesting” I thought (probably because I spotted a tea towel) and zipped across to it.  And, yes, there were tea towels.  The Aberdeen Journals shop sells things related to the newspaper publishers, DS Thompson: The Broons, Our Willie, Beano and People’s Friend feature strongly.  This tea towel was in the window, one with the names of all the streets that I had been discovering with Liz’s wheelchair.

Right at the top is the Bon Accord Centre; Cults is where we used to go for a meal with Jean when she was fit and well; you fly into the airport at Dyce and His Majesty’s Theatre is where I bought tickets for Calendar Girls, the Musical.  Shame I bought them for the wrong year.  I look forward to seeing it in February 2019, rather than when I had planned to do so in 2018.  I know there is planning ahead but that is ridiculous!  The Gordon Highlanders Museum is always a favourite place to go but I would never do it with a wheelchair; there is a steep slope down to the museum grounds but then you face a steep gradient back up to the building.  Good cardiovascular exercise leaving you with aching legs!  Between hospital visits we went to the Beach Esplanade to watch the crashing waves and brave souls surfing and paddle boarding.  Aberdeen seems an unlikely place for a famous beach but there is no doubt about it’s magnificence, especially with the long lines of groynes, as good as any you will see.  Every day we passed the Music Hall, waiting for the renovation to be complete; there is a picture of Emeli Sande, who grew up in Aberdeenshire, on the front, supporting the work.

One of the most important roads is Queen’s Road because it was flat and offered good parking, near to where we were staying, avoiding Ship’s Row with a notorious steep cobbled hill (which doesn’t appear on this tea towel).  Aberdeen is famous as the Granite City and if you want an example of what that means then Marischal College epitomises it.  I love the name ‘Kittybrewster’, no idea where it came from, but my memory is of handing the keys to Jean’s flat back to some official, in the heart of Kittybrewster, at 7 o’clock at night.  A bit creepy.  A couple of years ago there was a Tea Towel Design competition for students at the Gray’s School of Art.  I wish I had known about it at the time because that would have been a great article in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum.

Pittodrie Stadium conjures up some memories: Liz’s Dad was a Don’s fan and each visit to Aberdeen would mean a visit to Pittodrie to see if there was some suitable souvenir for him, reminding him of days of his youth.

At the moment, I am reading the books of Stuart Macbride, which are all set in Aberdeen so places like ‘Torry’ are forever mentioned.  Hazelhead Park was always an easy walk from the place Jean now lives, with beautiful gardens and the memorial to those that died in the Pipa Alpha disaster about 30 years ago.  Liz has so many old, black and white photographs of her parents and aunts in Duthie Park, one of the favourite places that they liked to go.

No matter how long I look at this tea towel, more and more places emerge along with so many memories.  Now that’s what I call a tea towel!

In the Countdown to Christmas this is number 45!

Isle of Mull: 2018 (and back to 1985)


Here is a traditional tourist tea towel: a map of Mull with a lot of finer detail.  The background to this was a recent, long conversation we had over a game of Mah Jongg.  This was about the Isle of Mull narrow-gauge railway which ran from near Craignure Ferry Terminal, up a hillside and through woodlands, to Torosay Castle where they had a wonderful tea room.  The railway opened in 1983; the last train ran in 2011 because Torosay Castle was up for sale. It was 1.25 miles long and 10.25 inch gauge.  The railway carried 25,000 passengers annually.  Torosay Castle and Isle of Mull railway have pride of place on the tea towel.

I’d been on the Isle of Mull Railway in 2003.  I loved it and the tea room, purpose of my visit.  In 2013, I returned to Oban, went to Mull and discovered the railway had closed.  Back to the conversation over Mah Jongg, they told me that they had been for a trip on the Rudyard Lake Steam Railway and that some of the carriages came from Mull.  We then spent sometime on our ‘devices’ looking up all we could find out.  The result was that Gwyn and Pete gave me this tea towel for my birthday.

Mull brings back a lot of memories, going back to 1985: taking the ferry from Oban and visiting where the whisky was made; a visit to Tobermory where the children’s programme, Balamory, was filmed; a bus tour across the length of the island to visit the Isle of Iona; a trip to Duart Castle; the chance to watch for whales, dolphins, seabirds (other than gulls!).  It’s a great place.

I am still disappointed that the Isle of Mull Railway and Torosay Castle have closed but instead I might just visit Rudyard Lake Steam Railway.

In terms of the Countdown to Christmas, this is Tea Towel Blog number 46

Donkey Sanctuary: 2018


I’ve been to the Donkey Sanctuary near Sidmouth before, back in 2015.  I bought two tea towels and blogged about them.  This year I was back near Sidmouth and decided to visit again.  There certainly have been changes.  There is a much bigger Visitors Centre with a larger shop and a cafe.  They have changed their merchandise with the new ‘donkey’ in a variety of colours: there are tea towels but also socks, oven gloves, tote bags, coasters, mugs, pens and much more.  I love the new design.

However, this tea towel will always carry the memory that my ‘holiday’ in Devon in 2018 to visit Fee was not as anticipated.  It was lovely to see Fee, catch up on news and happenings.  It was shorter than planned because it was that special, and unique, time between a death and a funeral, a time you wish never has to happen.

NB: In my Tea Towel Blog countdown to Christmas this is Tea Towel Blog number 47.