Isle of Lismore: 2013

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“Each ruin, each knoll, carries some tale, some secret tradition, unique to that spot” so writes Donald Black about Lismore.  And he is right. The Isle of Lismore lies in Loch Linnhe, just north of Oban.  It is 10 miles long and one mile wide and is easily reached from either Oban or Port Appin by ferry.  Lismore means ‘Lios’=garden and ‘Mor’=great, reflecting the fact that Lismore is one of the most fertile islands in the Inner Hebrides.  Lismore has a population of just over 200; this is an increase of 30% between 2001 and 2011.  With more than half the population over 60 it makes Lismore  the Scottish island with the oldest population; one third of the population speak Gaelic.  Robert Stevenson built Lismore Lighthouse; there are ruins of two 13th Century castles, a Broch, 6th Century monastery and a beautiful parish church.  Facts and figures are all very well but I have been to Oban many, many times over the last 50 years and every time I go I always say that I must go to Lismore and each time I have never made it; there has always been something else to do.  I don’t know why something always got in the way, maybe because Lismore didn’t have a tea room or places to shelter from bad weather and it looks, gazing across from Oban, that it might be quite exposed.  Just excuses really.

With a complete set of waterproofs, bottle of water and chocolate (what more could you want), we set off to Lismore from Oban by ferry in 2013, on an early boat.  It was a beautiful day and the crossing was calm.  As the ferry draws up to the harbour you can see a number of houses but it isn’t clear which way you should go.  Following our instinct we walked past the school.  This feels like a very ‘alive’ community. It wasn’t what I expected.  We took the map out and were faced with a number of options.  Of course, what we hadn’t done was take the map out the night before and study Lismore and work out exactly what we were going to do.  We hadn’t banked on such good weather. We originally had an idea that we would wander around the ferry landing, have a bit of a paddle and go back on the next boat.  Quick rethink.

We had a maximum of 7 hours on Lismore; you can do quite a lot in 7 hours but we weren’t sure about the terrain.  It says that it is quite flat but you never know.  Actually, the highest point of Lismore is just 417 feet above sea level.  Not mountainous territory, which makes for easy walking.  With map in hand we decided to head for the Heritage Centre.  We had worked out at what point, in terms of time, that we had to turn around and head back for the ferry.  Lismore is very fertile, lots of trees and shrubs, especially sycamore and ash; there were sheep with youngish lambs and cattle; we passed lots of cottages which were obviously smallholdings.  There were two new houses being built and others being repaired.  As we walked along, the sound of birds was incredible.  Progress was slow because there were so many photo opportunities.  This was like another world. We kept asking ourselves why we hadn’t been there before.  Clearly in full waterproofs we were overdressed.  The water and chocolate were devoured quickly.  Then we passed, and stopped at, a shop that wasn’t on the map.  This was good because, keeping up with a healthy diet, we had some crisps.  Big disappointment because they didn’t have a tea towel but, let’s face it, there wasn’t going to be a tea towel on an island as small as this.

It was difficult to judge how far  we had walked but we continued following the sign for the Heritage Centre, although it did seem a little unlikely that there was going to be such a place.  Suddenly, on top of the hill, was a building.  It was difficult to see what it was and there was no indication that we had reached our destination.  As we grew closer, we saw a sign saying that the Heritage Centre cafe was open.  A cup of tea would be nice.  The Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre is a truly amazing place.  There is a information centre with the history of the settlement of the island as a Celtic Christain Centre, as well as about lime quarrying; there was a small craft shop and, lo and behold, a tea towel, this tea towel.  Before I did anything else, I bought it. I thought there might be a rush on them.  After I got over the excitement of the tea towel I found the tea room selling loose leaf tea, amazing cakes, a great savoury menu.  There was a veranda so if the weather was clement you could sit and look out over the amazing scenery.  This was bizarre; we were not expecting it. There were several people in the cafe that we had seen on the boat coming over (who could obviously walk faster than us) but also quite a few locals.  We had the most amazing soup, followed by some great fruit cake.  But loose leaf tea? Who would have expected it?

In the shop, buying the tea towel, the volunteer was very helpful, as we talked about the route we had come by and that we would just reverse the route back to the ferry.  He suggested that we should do a circular route, off the road, where we could walk along the coast.  The best way, he said, was to go up the road a little way, take the track on the right, at the bottom near the wooden gate cross the fields, over the stile, pass the chickens, pass the Celtic Memorial Cross to Waverley Arthur Cameron (inventor of the Waverley nib pen who drowned off the coast), through the back gardens of the cottages and back to the ferry.  Listening to him, this sounded really good and we knew we had a few hours to spare.  However, the success of this journey required remembering his instructions because the route wasn’t marked on the map.  Lovely day, we said.  Let’s give it a go, we said.  It’s shorter than retracing our steps, we said.  First of all, we took a wrong turn and ended up in a field high above the coast, in the middle of a field of cows.  We knew we had gone wrong; we retraced our steps and realised we turned too early; the rest of the way was fine, once we had escaped the cows and were back on track.  Whether we would have done it without the guideline of keeping the Celtic Cross on our left hand side, I don’t know but we did manage it and it was certainly worth while.  Walking by the sea, seeing seals offshore, was stunning.  Walking through Crofters’ gardens was a bit odd but it appeared to be an accepted route for walkers.  We were back in time to paddle in the sea, whilst waiting for the ferry.

This was one of those occasions when I was really pleased that there was a tea towel,  that would always remind me of a truly magical day on Lismore; even better was the fact that the tea towel is a map of the island reminding me of those beautiful places I have visited. Lismore would always be somewhere that I would yearn to return to.

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Yorkshire Pudding: 2001

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When I was on holiday in Yorkshire in 2001, I had a ‘lean’ time in trying to find a touristy tea towel as a souvenir to remind me of my holiday.  In the end, I was ‘forced’ to buy one which is associated with Yorkshire more generally, rather than with places I had actually visited; the one I chose was entitled Yorkshire Pudding.  Basically, it is a picture of a Victorian kitchen with a traditional kitchen range and kitchen utensils.  Two women are cooking, one of whom is beating the batter for a Yorkshire Pudding and in the centre of the tea towel is the complete recipe for a Yorkshire Pudding.  Frankly, as someone who does not cook, and who never has cooked, I have no idea whether the recipe is any good (But Blog Readers please try it out and let me know).  However, I do like the attention to detail on the design of the tea towel: the picture of Ilkley Moor on the chimney, a place I did visit; there is a dish with an inscription ‘Present from Scarborough’ standing on the shelves to the side of the range; there are two plates on the mantlepiece – one from Whitby and one from Hull.

Yorkshire Pudding is, of course, a traditional English recipe made from a batter of egg, flour and milk.  The earliest recorded recipe for Yorkshire Pudding is in 1747, written by Hannah Glasse and altered from a much older recipe using dripping.  While Yorkshire Pudding is now usually served with a roast dinner, it’s original use was as a starter that would fill up a diner so that they did not want to eat large portions of meat which was very expensive.  Everyone has their own ideas about what a great Yorkshire Pudding should look like.  However, in 2008, the Royal Society of Chemists determined that “Yorkshire Pudding isn’t a Yorkshire Pudding if it is less than 4 inches tall”.  Personally, I prefer my Yorkshire Pudding with sausage as Toad in the Hole.

As a tea towel, to create memories, this one fails in it’s goal but it is cute and I do like the attention to detail.

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St Agnes, Isles of Scilly: 1984

 

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I have a small watercolour painting, hanging on my wall, about 5″x5″, painted by Paul, a friend of John’s.  The painting is dated 1981 and is of the Post Office Cottage on St Agnes.  Paul was an amateur painter who had a fine eye for detail. The cottage is surrounded by a stone wall; you can almost feel the texture of the stone from his painting.  The wall is overgrown with ivy and encased by large trees giving the cottage a secluded feel.  Paul has painted the leaves of the trees in such fine detail, and in many and varying colours, that it has really come alive.  It is one of my favourite paintings.

John and I had helped Paul move home and, as a ‘thank you’, he suggested that I choose one of his paintings as a gift.  I fell in love with this painting; Paul had a great eye for framing which gives a real presence to the painting.  Paul used to go to the Isles of Scilly for at least two weeks a year, if not more, for his holidays, staying in the same Guest House on St Agnes; this was so that he could continue to paint in his favourite place.  He found the Scilly Isles inspirational; he found so many different things to paint.  Looking at his paintings, and hearing how he spoke about the Scilly Isles, made me want to go there.  So that is exactly what John and I did in 1984.

As a tourist, you cannot take a car to the Scilly Isles.  The journey needed to be planned.  We drove to Ealing to stay with my parents overnight.  From Ealing Broadway we travelled to Paddington Station and from Paddington to Penzance.  On arrival at Penzance we took the two and a half hour boat trip, on the Scillonian, to the Scilly Isles landing at Hugh Town, on St Mary’s.  I have no idea if, 31 years later, the journey by boat is quicker but what I do remember is beautiful weather, blue skies, a calm sea and being on deck the whole time.  Of course, in those days, there were no fancy suitcases on wheels, or even lightweight luggage; I remember lugging suitcases across London, up and down stairs and escalators, up and down the gangplank of the Scillonian and finally from the boat to the Atlantic Hotel.  I remember the hotel because there were so few hotels; I expect there still are only a few.  We stayed a week and it was a week of perfect weather when it was possible to be out all day long.  Hugh Town, on St Mary’s, was a very small ‘town’ and the choice of what to eat during the day was very limited.  Our staple diet at lunchtime was pork pie, crisps, an apple and some chocolate; not to be recommended for a healthy diet but delicious all the same.  The Scilly Isles are made up of 5 inhabited islands; these can all be accessed from Hugh Town by boat.

My priority on the Scilly Isles was always to go to St Agnes and find the Post Office Cottage in my painting. St Agnes was not the most popular of the Scilly Isles to visit because it is one of the smallest islands which, at that time, had a population of less than 50.  Birdwatching was a significant past time for visitors. It was great because the day that I went there were only four of us in the boat; we spent all day on the island and never saw another visitor.  The peace and tranquillity was indescribable. St Agnes is only a tiny island, about one mile across.  You can cover as much of the island as you want, in a day.  The curving white sandbar between St Agnes and Gugh or the granite cairns on Wingletang Downs offer not only fantastic photo opportunities but also the chance to sit in solitude, listening to the sound of the waves or the birds singing.  From St Agnes you can see Bishop Rock Lighthouse.  When I was there, there was no hotel and I understand that is still the case; that, in itself, limits the numbers of visitors which enhances the unspoilt nature of St Agnes.  St Agnes also doesn’t have a mains water supply so all the water is pumped from a scattering of wells and boreholes.  Residents are meticulous about collecting rainwater.

St Agnes is a viable working community with flower farming from November to March each year, harvesting early narcissus in the frost-free climate while the rest of the year is taken up with bulb sales, fishing and crafts.  Many farms cater for tourists.

I had wanted to see the St Agnes that Paul had painted; I was thrilled to find the cottage of my painting, to see it in real life and to see for my own eyes what a good artist he was.  I was ‘gobsmacked’ to find that the Post Office and General Stores actually sold tea towels.  This simple tea towel shows the Bishop Rock Lighthouse, the traditional stone walls of St Agnes, narcissi and puffins which sums up St Agnes.  St Agnes lived up to my expectations, if not actually exceeding them.  The blue skies, lapping sea water, small boats, sea thrift and tranquillity are all things I can clearly remember after all these years.  Using the tea towel, I can remember that feeling of wanting to return to the Scilly Isles because I knew there was that much more to see.  And I did that the following year.

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Scarborough: 1998

On 18 August 2016, I discovered that I had two tea towels from Scarborough, not identical, one blue one green; the pictures are similar, not in the same order, a variation on a theme, both by the same artist.  I felt they both belonged in the same blog.

Scarborough sells itself as a town of ‘firsts’. It is regarded as the first seaside resort in Britain, attracting people as far back as the 1600s to use the spa waters, developing into a fully fledged spa resort over time.  It was the first seaside resort in the world to use bathing machines.  Scarborough still boasts being able to offer accommodation in the first two purpose-built hotels in Britain, the Grand and the Swan.  This was possible because the development of the railways in the mid-1800s, enabling even more people to come to an already established resort.  The attractions of Scarborough are enhanced by the fact that it has two beaches – the North Bay and the South Bay – both of which have developed in a slightly different fashion, thereby offering a seaside holiday to a greater range of people, wanting different things from a holiday.  At its peak, Scarborough was able to boast having 5 cliff lifts to take people down to the beaches from the hotels at the top of the surrounding cliffs; today there are still three functioning cliff lifts.  Scarborough was one of the first resorts in Britain to offer free public access to WiFi along the whole of the marina and harbour; good for business since Scarborough is not only a holiday resort but a renown conference centre.  Finally, the Rotunda Museum was the first purpose-built museum in the world.

Scarborough offers a range of opportunities for visitors from sailing and boat trips to its historical past, from theatres and shows to traditional seaside activities but it also has some bizarre traditions: the Pancake Bell is rung on Shrove Tuesday; this was traditionally rung by the women of the town to alert the men in the fields that they were about to start cooking pancakes in preparation for the start of Lent. There is also Shrove Tuesday Skipping.  No one has any ideas about the origin of this custom or what the significance is.  I am disappointed that the conference I attended in Scarborough wasn’t on Shrove Tuesday because I feel I have missed out on something!

I actually went to Scarborough for a four day mental health conference in 1998; I was sent by my employer.  The conference was at the Spa Centre on South Bay. This didn’t have residential facilities so I stayed in a hotel booked by my employer on the top of the cliffs.  My memories of Scarborough are very mixed (1) The Spa Conference Centre was amazing; it was huge with a lot of conference rooms, tiled floors, very elegant, good catering facilities, very beautiful. (2) The actual conference was boring, tedious, disorganised, chaotic, lacked structure and could have been condensed into two days, if properly organised.  It was difficult to find out where you were supposed to be at any point in time.  There were more coffee breaks than was reasonable.  It certainly wasn’t value for money and in my opinion a waste of four days.  It was tempting to skip some of the sessions, which many people did, but I was determined to ‘stick it out’ because I wasn’t going to be accused of using the conference as some kind of short break. (3) To get to the Spa Conference Centre from where I was staying meant a daily journey up and down the South Cliff Lift.  Knowing that this lift was operational from 1875 gave the journey a timeless feel, almost like stepping back to the Victorian era.  Added to this, I was staying in a ‘traditional’ hotel, quite genteel, with possibly an older clientele, so it gave me the opportunity to mentally remove myself from the tedium of the conference and back to the hey-day of Scarborough as a Spa Town. (4) One evening I sat in a marina-front cafe eating the most amazing plate of haddock and chips, freshly cooked, white bread and butter and a pot of tea, looking over the water at the gulls and more generally people-watching.  It was one of those meals that you remember for ever – possibly as a way of blotting out the tedium of the conference. (5) Another evening, I walked along North Bay where I was able to buy sticks of rock, with Scarborough written all the way through, as gifts for my work colleagues who had the fortune to be staying at home but I also managed to find this traditional tea towel of Scarborough with a lot of things that I had seen.  If I ever forget Scarborough this tea towel will remind me!! (6) Once the conference had finished, and not a minute before, I went to see Scarborough Castle, majestically standing on the cliffs above Scarborough.  Scarborough Castle is the ruins of a 12th Century castle, standing on the site of a Roman Signal Station.  From wherever you stand on the seafront you can always manage to see Scarborough Castle; it is an iconic sight and after four days of seeing it every day, I certainly felt I couldn’t leave Scarborough without seeing it at close quarters.  It is a remarkable castle with the most stunning views.  You can understand why it was a good location for a Roman Signal Station with great visibility over the seas and hinterland. I was so glad that I visited the castle, to be able to say that I had been there.

Having this tea towel reminds me of that visit to the magnificent castle and the good things about Scarborough thus blotting out the memories of that awful conference. It also reminds me that I ran out of petrol on the way home which extended the length of my journey by several hours.

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Clipper Tea Towel (Whittards): 2003

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I used to love Whittards shops.  They were everywhere, in all the high streets. You could rely on them for selling loose leaf tea, great tea pots and other tea paraphenalia. Staff were knowledgable and helpful.  There was always something new.  Whittards was the first place I found to buy loose leaf Russian Caravan tea.  Founded in 1886, you expect this to be a firm with expertise. Those were the days.  I bought this tea towel in 2003, before Whittardds were sold to an Icelandic firm in 2005 and then went into administration in 2008 as a result of the Icelandic banking crisis.

The tea towel linked with a range of crockery that Whittards sold called the Cutty Sark range.  It was a blue and white range, different patterns, different shapes but all dark blue and white.  I bought my first tea pot with an internal strainer from this range – dark blue with white stars.

Clipper was the name for a type of sailing ship from the mid-1800s.  The term ‘clipper’ was derived from the word ‘clip’ which, in the 19th Century, meant to run or fly quickly; it was synomenous with speed.  Clippers would ‘clip’ over the waves rather than plough through them.  The need for the Clipper was as a result of the demand for the rapid delivery of tea from China.  There were three things which distinguished a Clipper (1) it was narrow, sharp-lined built for speed (2) it was tall, sparred, usually with three sails and a square rig and was able to carry the maximum spread of canvas (3) the sail was used day and night, fair weather and foul.  The need for Clippers diminished when the Suez Canal was opened in 1870 and thus reduced the distance between the sources of tea and the European market.  Clippers are always associated with tea (although opium was also a part of their trade).  Therefore it is appropriate that Whittards would name a range of crockery and have a tea towel dedicated to the Clipper.

Although Whittards Teas are still around it is quite difficult to find out what their full remit is.  In Aberdeen I actually found a Whittards Tea Bar in Union Square. I was quite excited about this but when I looked it up on their website, there is no mention of Aberdeen.  I look forward to finding out what their plans are for the future, in the meantime I will continue to use this tea towel.

The last day for voting in the UK Blog Awards is tomorrow, Monday 25 January 2016 at 9pm.  If you would like to vote for my tea towel blog please follow the link

http://blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2016/my-entry/myteatowels

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Henrietta: 2009

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This is  one of Ulster Weavers classic tea towels called Henrietta.  It has been around a long time and depicts Sussex Whites and Rhode Island Reds, all hens with their chicks with the central figure of the cockerel.  One of the lessons that my late husband John taught me was never to keep a cockerel because they make all the noise early in the morning, disturbing the neighbours.  At one point, when he was keeping chickens he had several cockerels and the neighbours complained to the Environment Department of the council who made him get rid of all his cockerels; he didn’t get on with the neighbours anyway but it was a warning I took heed of when I first started keeping chickens.

My friends Gwyn and Pete are always excellent at buying ‘themed’ presents for birthdays and Christmas.  In 2009, the theme for my birthday present was chickens.  Presumably because we have both have kept chickens in the past; today they no longer have any but are always willing to look after mine when I am away in exchange for all the eggs they can gather.  I have kept chickens for about 10 years, in my back garden. Not pedigree, pure breeds but ‘layers’.  There doesn’t seem much point in looking after chickens if you cannot reap the rewards of freshly laid eggs in abundance.  The reality is that pure breeds are rarely good layers and often have a shorter life expectancy than hybrids.  I think my favourite hens were always the ‘Speckledies’, largish with black and white speckles; they were my first hens and excellent layers.  In those days I gave them names: Myra, Jean, Betty, Beatrice, Floyd and Whitfield.  Chickens love the company of human beings; they run around your legs, try and grab attention for food; you find yourself tripping over them because they move so fast.  If you are in the garden and they are in their ‘run’ they just follow the direction you are walking in. But at the end of the day they are not bright.  They do not respond to, or recognise, names so it is a bit of a waste of time naming them.  After the first six, they tended to be known, and referred to, as ‘You Lot’; it was as effective as giving them names.

The life expectancy of chickens, for layers, is about three or four years but anyone who has kept chickens will tell you of those hens that have lived to more than 10 years old. When Gwyn and Pete decided to give up keeping chickens for a while they had one left, Rosie, who was 10 years old.  They asked me to take her because once she was on her own she had become lonely.  I agreed.  She was about twice the size of any of my other chickens, ate like a horse and one laid one egg during the eighteen months she was with me.  She was very friendly and got on with the rest of them.  One day I found her dead; she hadn’t been ill.  It was amazing how much less chicken food we were getting through once she had died.

The thing I love most about the chickens is the daily ritual of feeding, watering and collecting eggs and the weekly ritual of cleaning out the chicken house.  It gives a clock to the day; there are beautiful birds that are relying on me for their well being.  It is not so good in the winter, the dark mornings and when the temperature has frozen the water over and I have to trudge up the garden carrying the water container to defrost under the hot tap.  Nor is trying to move 20kg bags of chicken food on an icy path.  Actually, nor is trying to do the weekly clean in the pouring rain. There are a lot of downsides to chickens!!

I have tried a lot of different types of housing.  I have quite a large garden so a lot of space is given over to them. What I quickly learnt was that, unless you do not want anything else in your garden, chickens cannot have freedom over the whole garden.  I have tried the ‘free range’ approach and the vegetables that I was carefully growing were decimated within a couple of hours.  Chickens don’t actually fly but they will give it a good go jumping on a very high raised bed and then attacking at a ferocious rate of knots.  I have seen healthy cabbages, just waiting to be harvested, shredded; I’d rather let the Cabbage White butterfly attack the cabbages than put them in the hands (or rather beaks) of chickens.  The compromise I have is that they have a large house with a run that can be secured at night and during the day there is a larger area, that is fenced with loose netting under the fruit trees, where they can run to their hearts content.  They can’t escape; that’s not true they have actually escaped once or twice but they are generally happy with their lot.

The joy of chickens is the ‘recycling’ process.  You feed them; they produce eggs; you eat the eggs or give them to friends.  Because they eat a lot, they produce chicken manure which can go on the compost heap, break down along with vegetation and produce the most amazing fertiliser for the soil.  The soil produces great vegetables; the chickens can eat any green surpluses thus producing more ‘waste’ for the compost heap.  The Circle of Life.  In regulated amounts, chickens will eat bread crumbs, left over vegetables but never onions, leeks, spices, meat; they love a little pasta or plain rice, chips are a favourite but only in small quantities.

Each breed of hens has a ‘target’ amount of eggs they can be expected to lay in their first year – hybrids quite often can be expected to lay about 330 in a year.  With age the numbers decrease.  I accept that chickens will die and need to be disposed of; what I find most stressful is trying to integrate new hens into an existing flock.  It causes me so much anxiety I wonder why I do it.  The term ‘pecking order’ is the literal description of individual hens in a flock trying to work out who is boss.  That process is hard to watch because they can tend to attack each other. You can read all the stuff in chicken-keeping books about keeping new hens separate from an established group until they get used to each other and then integrate them.  Unfortunately the chickens haven’t read those books;  as soon as they are together, come what may, they try to establish the ‘pecking order’.  Usually everything is fine after a couple of days but those few days are horrible.

More recently, I have tried keeping what is euphemistically known as ‘ex-batts’; these are chickens that are being rehomed from a factory farm after the first year of their life.   The regulations about keeping chickens has changed but it still means that poultry keepers house thousands of birds together, with little room to move around and little light.  There is no point in being squeamish about this because if you are willing to buy eggs cheaply from big supermarkets, that is how the costs is kept down.  The RSPCA and other organisations will take these chickens after the first year of laying and get them rehomed.  There is no doubt that they are amazing layers and their animal health regime has been good but when you see them with half their feathers missing, looking scraggy you just hope no one sees them for fear you will be done for animal cruelty.  After four weeks, their feathers are usually fully grown back and they are beautiful creatures.

For this birthday, Gwyn and Pete not only bought me a tea towel, four egg cosies and egg cups but also a book by Patrick Merrill called Fowl Play which is a series of quizzes and crosswords about chickens which kept me amused for many a long day. I bet you didn’t know that Big Snow, an Australian chicken, held the world record for being the heaviest chicken, at 23lbs 3oz when she died.  That’s big.  Or that according to the Chinese zodiac, people born in the year of the Rooster are neat, observant, generous, brave, witty and loyal but also vain, bossy, self-absorbed, materialistic and resistant to advice.  This applies to you, if you were born in 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993 and 2005. I am glad that doesn’t apply to me (although I do some people to whom it does apply).

My Henrietta tea towel reminds me of all the chickens I have had and the pleasure that I have had from them.  It also reminds me that I am able to successfully grow my own vegetables due to the production of my own chicken manure.

The photo below is of my current chickens.  If you like chickens and tea towels perhaps you would like for vote for my tea towel blog in the UK Blog Awards

http://blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2016/my-entry/myteatowels

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Perth and Freemantle, Australia: 2006

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I have never been to Australia.  The length of the journey has put me off, somewhat.  Sitting in a plane for such a long time, eating those dreadful snacks does not make it a tempting prospect.  However, there is a part of me that does want to go, to see the land where my grandfather (my father’s father) was born and died.  As I get older, I have a growing desire to know where I ‘came from’.  I know little of my grandfather’s history and it was certainly not something that was talked about in my family.  I do know he was a soldier in the First World War; he came to England and met my grandmother.  I know from my great aunts that they were deeply in love, engaged to be married and at the end of the war he booked her a passage on what was known as the Bride’s Boat.  She was, however, pregnant (a bit of a scandal in those days).  No one was sure whether he knew she was pregnant. Not long before the boat was due to sail, my grandmother heard that he had died on his ship in Sydney harbour of Spanish Flu – one of over 50 million people who died across the world from Spanish Flu.  Because they were not married, her ticket was no longer valid because his family did not recognise her or her unborn child.  A sad tale, but not dissimilar from thousands of other women during both the First and Second World Wars.  This haunted her throughout her life.  She married and brought up my father alongside his half brother.  Some say, and I am one of them, that she handled the situation very badly; some, including my father, say she dealt with a difficult situation in the best way she could in the circumstances.  I know my Dad would have liked to known his roots; when he died I found some rough notes about some of the information that he found out.

David Allen was a Trustee of mosaic: shaping disability services, where I worked, and knew of my passion for a good tea towel.  When his aunt, who lived in Scotland, died (Aberdeen I think but can’t be sure) he gave me a few of her tea towels.  This was a lovely gesture from a very generous, if eccentric, man.  There was no need for him to do it but I did appreciate it.  This tea towel, from Perth and Freemantle, is one of them.  I have no idea what her connection with Australia was and I can’t ask him because he died more than 6 years ago.  However, I have been able to create my own association with this tea towel.

Using this tea towel reminds me of the importance of listening to other people’s stories and memories; those stories are easy to lose but are all part of life’s rich pattern.  I can understand why so many people are interested in Family History but what there is a danger of losing is the verbal accounts of the lives of our family rather than just relying on the Internet to track down lineage. I can almost see a project, set around the humble tea towel, of being able to record the memories of people with early stages of dementia.  Maybe it is something I will think about.

Isabella really likes to appear in photos of tea towels.  She has extremely good taste!!  Isabella is keen that anyone who likes the tea towel blog should vote for it in the up and coming awards.  The last day for voting is 25 January 2016 at 9pm

http://blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2016/my-entry/myteatowels

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

https://virtualteatowelmuseum.com/2017/05/14/the-international-collection/