This tea towel was a lovely surprise; I didn’t buy it myself. It was a gift from Joy and Howard, which is a story in itself. This is one of those happenings where the intricacies of life come together, someone has joined up the dots. Any reader of this Blog will know that my Uncle Chris celebrated his 70th birthday in September. He chose to have a lunch party for family and close friends. Joy is Pam’s (his wife) sister; Joy and I were both (adult) bridesmaids at their wedding. I would have to say that Joy was considerably more elegant that I ever was, and suited the dark green, full length, satin dress with puffed sleeves (height of fashion 43 years ago) much more than I did. I have met up with Joy and Howard on a number of celebratory occasions over the last 43 years.
Having set the scene, I was talking to Howard and Joy at Chris’s birthday party and they asked me if I was still working. It was with great excitement that I could say that I had retired three weeks previously. The next question had to be: “What are you going to do with yourself?”. It is at this point I described my Tea Towel Blog and the sheer pleasure that I am getting from it. I had to explain the number of tea towels I have, the purpose of the Blog and what I write about. I am aware that most people think it is an odd obsession, but then all obsessions are odd. “Have you got a tea towel from Jersey?”, they ask (Joy and Howard live in Jersey). “No” I said, “Just one from Guernsey”. That probably isn’t what you say to people who live in Jersey. “Well, we’ll have to see about that” they said. I didn’t think anymore about it. I went away on holiday to Scotland and when I returned two weeks later, lying on the door mat, was a small package from Jersey. I couldn’t think what it could be; to my absolute delight they had remembered the conversation and had sent me a tea towel of Jersey. With the tea towel was a note: “To complete the main Channel Isles set”. It is difficult to describe the pleasure I get from a kind thought like that. It is about the fact that someone has remembered the conversation, taken the effort to go out and buy the tea towel and then post it. Every time I use this tea towel I will remember Chris’s birthday party, meeting up with Joy and Howard again and it does prompt me to think that Jersey is somewhere I’d like to visit in the near future.
The tea towel is a very traditional tourist tea towel, always the best, called Traditional Jersey Recipes. It is brightly coloured cotton and has good absorbancy. I am not sure, but I suspect, there was an irony in this choice of tea towel; Pam and Joy are very close and I’m sure that at some point in the last 43 years Pam has mentioned the fact that I do not cook, cannot cook, have no inclination to learn to cook. I have to say that the thought of Conger Eel pie wouldn’t inspire me to take up cooking at this point in my life. Tea towels are about learning things and it is interesting learning about traditional recipes of Jersey.
Looking carefully at the tea towel, however, I saw the sketch of Mont Orgueil Castle and it triggered memories. Where had I heard that name? For some reason it drove me to look at the old family photo albums. There, in one of my mother’s albums, were a number of photos from 1949, of a holiday that she took with a group of friends, before she was married. They are those small black and white photos about 2″ square where they tried to cram as many people into a small photo that they could, so small that you can hardly recognise anyone. What is clear is that (a) it was sunny and (b) they were all having a good time. In those days my mother was very organised; each photo has the date and place it was taken and usually who was in it. There were photos with Gorey Castle (now called Mont Orgueil) in the background and photos outside the Jersey Underground Hospital. It made me think. This was 1949; it was only 4 years after the end of the Second World War, Jersey had been occupied by the Germans throughout the war and the Underground Hospital had had a significant role. If I think about the occupation of Jersey, it is history but when my mother was in Jersey, she would have had a completely different perspective. I think she must have been quite adventurous to be going there at that time; I only wished I had asked her about it, what it was like, because Jersey must have been a completely different place in 1949.
That’s not the end of the memories that are brought back when I look at this tea towel. Once I started looking at the old albums, I got engrossed. I came across the photos of the holiday I went on to Jersey in 1961. I had completely forgotten about this holiday. There were loads of photos; this time they were in colour, if somewhat faded. We flew there, very bold; I know that because there was a picture of my mother, father and me getting off the plane. We rented a car; another photo. We spent a lot of time on the beach (photos again but then it all started coming back to me); the reason we spent time on the beach was because it was Test Match season and my dad wanted to listen to the Test Match on his transitor radio (and, in my opinion, there is nothing more boring than listening to a Test Match on the radio!!). I think this is one of the reasons I never have been on a ‘Beach Holiday’ as an adult because I remember those long days on the beach, with my father telling us all to keep quiet because otherwise he would miss the action . There were no One Day Test Matches in those days.
I also have lots of photos of the Jersey Battle of the Flowers. This is an amazing event, first staged in 1902 to celebrate the coronation of Edward VII, and is now one of the largest floral carnivals in Europe. My photos showed bright sunny days (is it always sunny in Jersey?) and a very chubby, 10 year old with a horrendous hair cut, wearing a bright yellow dress. It is no wonder that my colour of preferance today is black – at least I learned that yellow doesn’t suit me. I do remember what seemed like hundreds of amazingly beautiful floats, covered with thousands of flowers, driving along the main street of St Helier. It was like something I had never seen before, or have seen since. I remember going to the Jersey Underground Hospital and being ‘freaked out’ by it; it seemed so creepy. I do remember also going to Gorey Castle and the Jersey Pottery.
This is what, for me, is so good about tea towels: one small gift can prompt so many memories; it challenged me to look through all my photo albums and make the links across 50 years (and I haven’t even dared to look at the 35mm cine films I have in a case, stored on top of my bookshelves; I am sure there will be reels on the Battle of the Flowers!). The more I think about the tea towel, and its memories, I think that I would like to go back to Jersey, to explore Jersey’s history, to visit the Underground Hospital. I am not sure that Joy and Howard would have sent that tea towel if they thought I might turn up on their door step one day demanding a Conger Eel Pie. Thank you to Joy and Howard for the generous thought and the trip down memory lane.
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