My friend Gwyn asked me a couple of months ago what I would do when I came to a tea towel that I couldn’t remember anything about. Dilemma maybe. I said I would deal with that if it ever happened. Yesterday, I reminded her of that conversation when Lady Godiva of Coventry came to the top of the pile in the airing cupboard. Initially, I couldn’t remember anything about this tea towel except I knew it had absolutely nothing to do with my time at Warwick University, my graduation or Coventry Cathedral. Gwyn and I were with Pete and Liz while I was pondering Lady Godiva. Then suddenly all was clear. Liz said that she had bought it for me while she was in Coventry, on her own, with time to kill, but couldn’t remember why she was there. This is why I should have started this blog about 20 years ago, when all our memories were sharper. We all went through the process of ‘retracing our steps’.
Then it all came flooding back. I was a member of the Mental Health Act Commission for 8 years, between 1995 and 2003. I was what was termed a ‘Visiting Member’. My role was to visit psychiatric hospital wards where there were any patients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983; I had to check that the rights of detained patients were upheld, and not being infringed, by interviewing them, checking their notes, talking to staff etc. It was something I did in addition to my main job as the Director of a charity. By 2002, I had had my driving licence taken away from me because I had developed epilepsy; it was not particularly well controlled, so travelling on my own on public transport wasn’t very easy (never knew where I would end up) so relied on friends to take me to various places, if they were some distance away. On this occasion, Liz drove me to Coventry for the day.
Reflecting on her trip to Coventry in 2002, her view was that Coventry was a boring, not very interesting place. At the Tourist Information Centre she found this tea towel and bought it for me, saying that if I had another visit to Coventry with the Mental Health Act Commission could I find someone else to take me.
This is a classic cotton tea towel with green writing and sketches, it depicts Lady Godiva naked with long flowing hair, riding on a horse. The tea towel tells the tale: ‘Godiva was the wife of Leofric, an 11th Century Earl of Mercia. When the people of Coventry complained of the high taxes he imposed, Lady Godiva pleaded with her husband to reduce them. Leofric’s reply was that she could ride naked through the town before he would do so. She accepted the challenge and in 1949 a statue was unveiled to commemorate this famous ride’.
When I use this tea towel I will always remember those friendships where someone has given up their time to take me to some place, often boring, that I needed to go to; no longer being able to drive is very frustrating and I am lucky to have such good friends. Friendship is a valuable commodity. Thank you, Lady Godiva, for reminding me.