Winnie the Pooh and New York? Is that right? Yes it is. When I visited New York in 1998 I naively thought that there would be loads of tea towels depicting the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and other tourist attractions. I imagined a suitcase full of touristy tea towels. Well, I was wrong. I tried tourist shops, big department stores but there weren’t any. I couldn’t leave without any tea towels (or dish towels as they say in America); tea towels are where I hang my memories. Those memories not only relate to New York itself but the circumstances surrounding how I ended up in New York.
To be fair Winnie the Pooh has stood the test of time. Although Terry towelling tea towels are not my material of choice – I much prefer linen or linen-mix – it has not lost any colour, it still dries all my pots and hasn’t shown the wear of time; I shouldn’t complain that it wasn’t fit for purpose and I do remember the great shopping spree in Bloomingdales (Winnie the Pooh plus an enormous jug and some quirky plates).
New York was everything I hoped it would be, and more. We did all the touristy things; went up the Empire State Building at night and watched the lights all over New York and beyond. It just sparkled and brought back memories of my favourite film of all time – An Affair to Remember. Took the boat to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The Ellis Island museum has to be one of the best museums in the world. Along with everyone else I cried listening to the stories of people arriving at Ellis Island to look for a new life. We walked in Central Park, watched the roller skating, saw where John Lennon was shot, had amazing breakfasts with eggs ‘sunny side up’, sat in bookshops for hours on end trying to choose what to buy. In the end I restricted myself to a biography of Kathleen Hepburn and a book of films (and a couple of novels). I loved shopping in Macy’s and seeing the ‘ladies that lunch’ in the restaurant; travelling by yellow cab was a bit scary with the crazy cab drivers.
New York was full of people telling me to ‘have a nice day’ and somehow it felt genuine. I liked being with people who were always smiling, people who wanted me to enjoy their home town. In 1998, I was surprised at how cheap everything was, especially food and that food outlets near the big tourist attractions hadn’t hiked their prices. I often wonder what it is like now and whether tourists are being exploited like they are elsewhere in the world.
Using Winnie the Pooh reminds me how much I would like to go back and do all the things I missed out on the first time – Metropolitan Museum of Art, seeing a show on Broadway, having a photo taken at the Grand Central Terminal……..and much more.
Drying my dishes with Winnie the Pooh also brings back memories of how the holiday came about. Holidays have always been very important to me. My reward for working hard has been my holidays. I’ve never been fussed about whether those holidays are in the UK or abroad but with the exception of Christmas I have never taken annual leave and stayed at home. For many years, my husband John and I travelled all over (and never had a bad holiday). In 1996, John died suddenly. My life changed beyond recognition and as I mourned I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be going on holiday again. You can get very maudling and self centred in grief. But I did know that I wasn’t a gregarious person, found mixing with strangers difficult. Anyway, early in 1998 I was having a meal in a fish restaurant (eating whitebait as I recall), boring my friend with my ‘sad’ lot when she asked where I would go on holiday if I had the choice. New York I said. Four weeks later we found ourselves driving to Birmingham Airport for five glorious days in New York. Winnie the Pooh reminds me that the New York holiday changed my life for the better; things can move on and I am very grateful for that conversation in the fish restaurant. Thank you
September 2016: Having bought my tea towel of Winnie the Pooh in Bloomingdales, it was still a bit of a disappointment. We moved on to Macy’s; I did’t find any touristy tea towels but I did find this rather elegant black tea towel with a jumble of kitchen equipment lined down the middle. I do like a black tea towel (and it certainly avoids the tea stains) so I bought it, and I’m glad I did. It is a real contrast to Winnie the Pooh in terms of material, colour and design; it is a strong cotton that has a good absorbancy. It has taken nearly 18 months for this to come to the top of the airing cupboard pile!
Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum