Banchory: 2012 (and 2015)

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Banchory is a small town, 18 miles west of Aberdeen, near where the River Feugh meets the River Dee.  Banchory is known as the ‘Gateway to Deeside’; it is surrounded by beautiful countryside and rolling hills.  The castles of Crathes and Drum are nearby; there are numerous stone circles and archeological sites everywhere you go.  It is a truly delightful area of the country, the sort of area where the new and unexpected come into view, around every corner.  Perhaps Banchory is most famous for the nearby Falls of Feugh, where the waters pound over the rocks, spraying the foam high and wide.  There is a narrow road bridge over the river but, fortunately, also a narrow concrete, fenced with wire netting, footbridge so that tourists can stop and look in wonderment at the Falls.  This is the place that people come from miles around to watch salmon climb the natural leap as they make their way up the Falls during the spawning season.  The best months to spot the salmon leap are September to November and February to March.  The footbridge is also considered to be a romantic spot where couples come, engrave their names on a padlock which they attach to the metal fencing of the footbridge and then throw the keys to the padlock into the water – a gesture of eternal love.  This is where Health and Safety comes into play!!  Aberdeenshire County Council, however, are concerned about the amount of padlocks attached to the fencing and fear the weight of them may damage the protective fencing and may cause structural damage to the footbridge.  The Council started a campaign to remove the padlocks.  To help in this process, they have installed a beautiful, carved, wooden heart, engraved with two entwined leaping salmon.  Their hope was that couples would take a ‘selfie’ in front of the heart instead of attaching padlocks.  Now they do both.  So that is the tourist information!!

I was given this tea towel by David and Dorothy following their holiday in Aberdeenshire with Jean (David’s sister and my friend), in 2012.  David knew of my love of tea towels.  I remember David giving it to me and telling me about their visit to Banchory.  They had gone to the Falls of Feugh, stood on the footbridge and were lucky enough to see the salmon leaping.  He described the thrill of the salmon leaping, not quite believing what he saw.  He said it was the most amazing sight he’d ever seen, mesmerising.  They all stood on the footbridge and just didn’t want to leave.  He talked about reading about salmon leaping but never realised what it would be like in real life.  For David, it was the highlight of his holiday.

I went to Banchory in 2015 and stood on the footbridge at the Falls of Feugh.  I remembered his words and was sad that we were not there at the right time of the year for salmon leaping.  I do remember the power of the water, the white foam, the water coloured brown by the peat, the sound of the water tumbling and could imagine it must have been a magnificent sight.  When I was in Banchory the only tea towel they had was exactly the same as this one, the one that David had given me.  This unbleached cotton tea towel, with a scene of the Bridge over the Falls of Feugh, I felt was a lovely gift which would also act as a reminder of my visit three years later.

As I write this, I think about how things change over a relatively short period of time – the salmon may still leap but my friend Jean became very ill in late 2014, was ill for nearly a year and is now on the slow road to recovery.  However, her illness took it’s toll, she had to give up her own flat and recently celebrated her 90th birthday in a residential home.  She is very happy and has a very full life, with great care, but it would not be as she would have forseen for herself back in 2012.   David, a fit, slim and healthy man, very active with a love of life, had a massive stroke in 2015.  While he is making good progress, through his own determination, things will never be the same for him, his wife and family, as when he gave me this tea towel.  A sobering thought, as I dry the dishes and think about the importance of doing what it is you want to do now, not put it off for another day, another month, another year.  No one knows what is round the corner.

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Machynlleth: 2012

“Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish caught will we realise that we cannot eat money” so says the writing on this organic, Fairtrade, cotton tea towel  which I bought at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Machynlleth.  The sobering words reflect the ethos of CAT which has moved from just being a Centre for Alternative Technology to becoming a research centre dedicated to the development of sustainable technologies.  CAT was built in 1973 in the disused Llwyngwern slate quarry and provides information on all forms of sustainable living including sustainable architecture, organic farming and ecological friendly living.  I’d known about CAT for many years; friends of mine had been but I wasn’t sure that this was something that would be my cup of tea.  However, all my fears were dispelled from the moment we parked the car and travelled to the site from the car park in a water-powered funicular railway, to the many educational displays, to the vegetarian cafe with home made dishes, to the largest green bookshop in Britain, to the straw bale and rammed earth buildings, to the displays and information on organic gardening, to the solar, hydropower and wind power exhibits, to the quirky shop selling this tea towel and a lot of goods made out of recycled materials.  I bought some glasses made from recycled glass which are really nice.  The site opens itself to small courtyards and cosy seating areas; the weather was beautiful, the day I was there and it was lovely to sit in the sun drinking tea.

The fact is that Machynlleth is more than just CAT; it is a small market town in the Dyfi Valley that was the ‘ancient capital of Wales’ where Owain Glyndwr’s Welsh Parliament was set up in 1404.  Over 700 years ago, Parliament declared that Wednesday would be a weekly Market Day and that has continued ever since.  Bizarrely, Machynlleth’s other claim to fame is that Laura Ashley set up her first shop here in 1961.

No matter how good the day I visited CAT was, and how much I enjoyed it, how important CAT’s research and information is,  I can’t help thinking that several months after I visited Machynlleth it was the place that 5 year old April Jones was abducted and murdered in October 2012.  It is difficult to erase the memory of the pink balloons that residents released around the town to celebrate what would have been her sixth birthday. Her body has never been found although Mark Bridger was found guilty of murder.

CAT was definitely the place for tea towels and I do enjoy both of mine which are made from 100% organic cotton; they are an unusual shape, almost square. I like that difference

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Corsets: 2013

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When I first started working in Coalville in 1985 it was the same year that the Snibston Colliery was closing down.  The iconic pit head wheel stood near the top of the main street through Coalville.  The colliery originally opened 1833 and was created by George and Robert Stephenson; it was the reason for the Swannington Railway line which ran into Leicester.  The ‘turntable’, which turned the engines for their return journey, in Leicester, was located outside a building I worked in from 2002 to 2010. I love it when pieces of my life all link up, surprisingly and unexpectedly.

While I was working  in Coalville, plans were put in place to convert the colliery site into an interactive technology, science and design museum plus the colliery railway and country park.  It opened in 1992 as Snibston Discovery Park.  Snibston Discovery Park also held some of the archives of Leicestershire Museums Service, items which could not currently be displayed.  I know this because when mosaic: shaping disability services (the organisation for which I worked) sold the building in 2000, that it had owned since 1909, Leicestershire Museum Service took some of our historical artefacts and stored them for posterity: things like old callipers, a fabric wheelchair from 1920s, glass drinking cups for disabled people from 1910s, large pen and ink sketches of disabled people, a significant number of photographs and some old  games and rug-making tools.  It was a relief to know they were housed safely, valued for posterity.

I bought this tea towel in Snibston Discovery Park’s gift shop; I wanted a tea towel from Snibston  because I enjoyed my many visits to the museum but, unfortunately, they didn’t have one.  I picked this one, as a second best, because Snibston did have quite a big clothing exhibition, including corsets.  Snibston Discovery Park was an amazing museum, an interactive museum for all ages.  They also had a lot of events during the school holidays to encourage more children to enjoy their local museum.  There were two exhibits that I remember distinctly: there was a car lifting exhibition whereby you could raise a mini using the principle of leverage; there was another exhibition where you could sit on a static bicycle and pedal; the bicycle was connected to another bicycle with a skeleton on it;  you could therefore see the way a body worked when riding a bike.  Children, and adults, loved this exhibit, it was something that was talked about widely.  There was the lightening conductor and the ‘black hole’, the amazing fashion exhibition.  There was a mining-themed children’s playground.    One of the temporary exhibitions I went to was old transport. ‘Lightening McQueen’ came to entertain children.

I refer to Snibston Discovery Park in the past tense because Leicestershire County Council have taken the short-sighted, ridiculous and thoughtless decision to close the museum, despite a huge public outrage, a campaign launched by the Friends of……..which, unfortunately, resulted in an unsuccessful Judicial Review.  It eventually closed on 31 July 2015.  I appreciate the fact that all councils are having to make financial savings but the closure of something like Snibston Discovery Park means the loss of a key element of our social history.  Future generations will no longer have access to the wonders of the exhibitions, will no longer have the chance to understand the historical fabric of the Industrial Revolution and how it affected the North West Leicestershire coal mining area.  What are we doing?  It’s just another example of where history is thought to be irrelevant to the present day.  But, the fact is, History Matters and my memories of Snibston Discovery Park rest now in a tea towel about corsets. And I do not know what has happened to those historical artefacts that I thought were safe for posterity.

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Guernsey: 1999

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When you are asked what you first memory is, one of mine is of being sick on the hall carpet aged about 3; the next thing that happened what that my mother threw up on top of it and cried.  A bizarre incident but summed up the fact that my mother found it difficult to deal with sickness and illness.  You could psychoanalyse this, probably linking the fact that her own mother died when she was under three, followed by her step-mother when she was 18.  She did not cope well with the death of her father or my Dad.  But what really surprised me was how she coped with her own ill health.  When I wrote the notice, for the Middlesex Gazette, of my mother’s death I remember writing that she died ‘following a long illness bourne with courage’. ‘Courage’ was the word I wanted to use.  She had a period of about 5 years of cumulative ill health: diverticulitis resulting in a burst bowel, peritonitis and septacemia which then resulted in a period in intensive care and ultimately a colostomy.  She had heart failure when fluid gathered around her heart which had to be dramatically drained off. TB and resulting isolation in hospital.  She had ongoing fluid retention as her kidneys failed.  In the last 15 months she had two long periods in hospital.  What was amazing was that all through this lot, she stayed positive and upbeat.  All the people who cared for her, loved her dearly; she kept them laughing, she didn’t complain about her ‘lot’; she didn’t ask ‘why me’ but just ‘so what happens next?’  There is no question she got as much out of life as she could.  For any of us who visited, this was not a difficult or unpleasant task.  She wanted to play Scrabble or Gin Rummy; she wanted to do crossword puzzles together.  She didn’t want grapes or fruit but rather a M&S sandwich or a decent cup of tea.  Because she was in the Renal Unit of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, there was a kitchen that relatives could use so I could make her a pot of tea or bring food to be heated up.

She knew her kidneys were in a bad way but she wasn’t on dialysis.  She wanted to talk to the doctors about what could happen in the future.  She wanted to leave hospital but also to be safe.  She had given this a lot of thought and wanted to leave London, sell her house and move to Leicester.  She did not want to live with me but to live nearby in a bungalow.  She did not want me to be her carer but to be her daughter.  We both knew that if we lived together we would kill each other.  We talked about the fact that there was a bungalow in the next street.  She talked to the doctors about the reality of this.  They were very positive because the Leicester General Hospital had one of the best Renal Units in the country, to which she could be referred.  I got the brochures for the bungalow; she was very excited.  I got her house valued.  It was an exciting time.

Then one day, a Wednesday, my mother rang me from the hospital, very bright and cheerful and said she was putting the doctor on the phone.  I will never forget the poor young, junior doctor saying to me “I’m really sorry.  I would never normally have this conversation over the phone but your mother insisted and you know how she can be when she sets her mind on something”.  We laughed and I told him not to worry.  He said the latest medical tests showed that she had secondary cancer; they could not find the primary source but these results showed clearly where she was at with her health.  She probably had two years to live.  I asked if these results would stop her plans to move to Leicester.  He said we could go ahead with her plans and he would make an immediate referral to Leicester General Hospital for any further treatment.  I visited as planned at the weekend.  The first thing she said was “OK. So I have cancer.  I’ve done my crying. They say that I have at least two years to live.  I don’t want to talk about it any more.  I want to get on with life and make the most of what I have got left”.  She said there were only two things she wanted to happen: firstly, move to the bungalow in Leicester and secondly, for me to take her on holiday to Guernsey.  The doctor had said that a trip to Guernsey would be fine.  I have no idea why she wanted to go to Guernsey.  To my knowledge, she hadn’t talked about this before. I went to all the local travel agents to get as many brochures on Guernsey as possible (there were no internet bookings for holidays in 1990).  That weekend we made a lot of plans, looked at hotels in Guernsey, thought about what would be a good time of the year to go.  It was weird; I hadn’t seen her looking so well for ages; she felt she had a future that was exciting.  Two and a half weeks later she was dead.  They had found the primary  site of the cancer.  She had advanced cancer of both kidneys; two weeks later she went into a coma and died two days after that.

I’d never been to Guernsey.  It wasn’t until 1999 that I felt able to go to see if I could find out what had intrigued her about Guernsey.  To this day I have no idea but I do know she would have loved it.  The history, the scenery, the weather, the greenhouses, the coastline, the boat trips, the peace, the quiet way of life, the food.  As I use this tea towel, my sorrow is that I didn’t know she wanted to go to Guernsey until near the end of her life and that I didn’t have the two years we were told was possible in order to fulfill her dream. But I do believe the planning of her future life had made her happy.  Perhaps that is good enough.

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Ocado: 2014

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When I started cat-fostering in 2012, for the local branch of the RSPCA (Woodside Animal Centre), I had no idea what an exciting opportunity this would be, what a change it would bring into my life, how it would be a factor in my wanting to retire.  When Jasper died in 2013, at a good age (but I would have expected her to live a few more years), I thought I didn’t want another cat of my own; I couldn’t face the idea that I might ‘lose’ another cat.  But the house was very quiet without a cat around.  Then I saw an article in the local paper, about the Woodside Animal Centre looking for cat fosterers; that could be a good compromise, I thought.  I could get my head around the fact that I could look after cats but they would always move on to a ‘forever home’; I would never become completely attached to another cat but could have the pleasure of looking after cats at the same time.  Foster cats come for a set period of time; either because they are waiting for their injection regime to be completed before being rehomed or because they have been poorly or because it is a pregnant mother who has to give birth and needs to wean her kittens before they can be rehomed.  For the period they are in a foster home, fostered cats cannot go outside so you have to have the appropriate accommodation.  Once approved by the RSPCA inspector, the cats came rolling in.  To date, more than 70 cats and kittens have passed through the front door. I have had single cats, pregnant mothers who have given birth before my very eyes, two sisters who were both pregnant and had 8 kittens between them and many other combinations.  Mothers with their kittens stay for between 12 and 16 weeks.

What I hadn’t taken into account was how much cat litter, cat food and cat biscuits they can get through.  If you think a pregnant/ feeding mother may eat up to 6 packets of cat food a day; when kittens are on solids they will eat two or more packets of food a day each and a mother and 5 kittens may be using up to 4 litter trays at any point in time.  Plus biscuits. Shopping was horrendous: cat food, kitten food, cat biscuits, kitten biscuits, cat litter AND jumbo rolls of kitchen towels; it’s all heavy stuff.  Pushing a trolley around a supermarket, or Pets at Home, was a nightmare.  Don’t get me wrong, Woodside Animal Centre do provide cat and kitten food and cat litter.  However, because I was in paid employment I was in a position to feed the cats myself,  instead of making a direct donation.

IDEA!! What about on-line shopping? I was a bit reluctant.  I am one of those people who say that they like to see the things ‘in real life’ before buying.  Ridiculous.  What difference did it make whether I saw a packet of cat food on a supermarket shelf or saw a picture on-line.  Whiskas is Whiskas wherever it is.  The same applies to cat litter.  Who to buy from? Easy.  Look at the best deals on cat litter and cat food.  So Ocado it was.  And it changed my life.   No more lugging big bags of cat litter off the supermarket shelf into a trolley, from the trolley to the cash till, from the cash till back into the trolley, from the trolley into the car and from the car into the house.  A nice Ocado person carries it into the kitchen.  So if it is ok for Ocado to deliver your cat litter, why not tins of baked beans, bags of flour, bottles of washing up liquid, jars of mustard?  Why not make life easier for yourself?  To quote Shirley Conran yet again, “life’s too short to stuff a mushroom” (and certainly too short to drag bags of cat litter around a supermarket).

So why am I Blogging about Ocado? Do they pay me to do this? No is the answer to the question about payment. But when I placed my first Ocado order, I got a free gift.  No choice about what it might be but it was like they knew my passion for tea towels! I got a free Ocado tea towel; a bright, cheerful, good quality cotton tea towel.  Once I received a tea towel, I knew Ocado was the shopping experience for me.

I’d seen the Ocado vans around for sometime and often wondered what the name meant.  It sort of sounds exotic.  Actually, it doesn’t mean anything.  It was a made-up name, designed to sound like a fruit.  So I was right about the exotic bit.  Ocado is the only on-line supermarket with no shops.  Often people think Ocado is the on-line shop for Waitrose.  But no, you can buy Waitrose goods from Ocado because they have a partnership with them but Ocado is independent of them.

There are four really good things about Ocado: (a) I got a free Ocado tea towel with my first shopping order (and you don’t get better than that), (b) I don’t have to carry bags of cat litter around anymore (and you don’t get better than that)  (c) you get a nice text telling you the name of the driver you are expecting and the van they are coming in e.g. Jason in the Courgette van or Zoe in the Lemon van.  So cute.  (d) All the Ocado drivers I have met appear to love cats, have cats of their own, are fascinated by the amount of cat litter and cat food I get through and always wave to the little foster cats sitting on the window sill, almost as if they are waiting for the Ocado order to arrive.

Each time I use the Ocado tea towel, I think ‘why did I continue to go through the hell of supermarket shopping for the foster cats for so long when Alex in the Onion van could bring it to my door’.

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Dictionary of Gardens: 2014

 

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I like gardens, always have, probably always will.  Whether it is my back garden or Kew Gardens, Thomas Hardy’s Cottage Garden or Edinburgh Botanical Gardens; whether it is the gardens in a public park, like Walpole Park in Ealing where I grew up, or a landscaped park by Capability Brown; whether it is going round a village ‘Open Gardens’ or seeing the White Garden created by Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst Castle, I like them all.  A bit like my admiration for tea towels, what I like about gardens is the creativity of the designer, no two gardens are the same.  If you take me to a National Trust property and ask me to choose between seeing the house/castle or the  gardens, it will always be the gardens.  Gardens carry with them as much history as castles. I like to imagine what the designer was trying to create, what scene would take shape at each season of the year.  I like gardens that have different elements to them: formal gardens alongside rockeries, box edged borders alongside herbaceous flower beds, steps, secret corners for the odd bench or statue; trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials and those that flower and flower for ever.  I like garden ornaments (tasteful of course) and the use of recycled artefacts to give feature to the garden.

My love of gardens does not, however, make me a good gardener. I may have a vision but I do not have the wherewithal to create something; I need help with that.  So when Al from http://www.all-tea-towels.co.uk gave me this tea towel just before Christmas, I fell in love with it.  For me, it combines (a) my love of gardens in a not very serious way; never take yourself too seriously (b) good quality, linen-mix, tea towel material that I can enjoy using while wiping up (c) the artistry of Helen L. Smith who is a great tea towel artist and designer with a good sense of humour, the sort of humour that makes you laugh out loud (d) the play on words, the wittiness and finally (e) some great colourful drawings that add to the humour and make the process of wiping up so much slower while I am looking at the pictures but hey! that’s what tea towels are all about, engaging you.

Taking advice from my own Tea Towel Blog (Things To Do With A Tea Towel dated 4/1/16), this tea towel is the perfect wrapping for a gift for a gardener or someone who loves gardens.  Looking at the tea towel, who can resist ‘Rock Garden’ (three Garden Gnomes playing guitars and singing; I love a Garden Gnome) or ‘Garden Hose’ (an Elizabethan gentleman in flowery stockings – it could just be Malvolio from Twelfth Night).  I really like ‘Garden Centre’ (red spot in the middle of a garden with an arrow pointing to it) but what about ‘Kew Gardens’ (topiary in the shape of a Q).  I could go on but you could read the tea towel yourself.

One of the joys of having a large number of tea towels is that they are all so different (unless I buy the same one twice by accident).  The Dictionary of Gardens versus Eirisgeidh; Tunnocks Tea Cakes versus Escomb and Witton Park.  What more could I ask for?  They make wiping up such a pleasure and give me some great memories. I loved the Dictionary of Gardens and it makes such a nice ‘matching pair’ with the Dictionary of Tea.

Eirisgeidh (Eriskay): 2014

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I can remember, with clarity, every minute of the time that I spent on Eriskay. I remember Eriskay on warm, sunny days with a sky so blue that it looked unreal; no clouds, the sort of skies you only see in holiday brochures. I remember Eriskay when it was pouring with rain, the wind driving hard and the waves rising high, smashing against the pier; the boat to Barra wasn’t able to sail because of the storm. I remember Eriskay when it began to get dark, the stars were beginning to come out, the skies not polluted by street lamps and the shadows of the ponies moved silently across the fields.  I remember Eriskay after the most terrific storm which cut the electricity on South Uist and the winds had blown at 90mph; the beaches looked different somehow, the sand reconfigured.  I remember thinking that I had found the most perfect island, such beauty and then getting very excited when we drove past the community shop and saw this tea towel pinned in the window.  I knew that I wanted it; I wanted some kind of talisman that would ensure that I did not forget and that would bring the memories back.  But I haven’t forgotten and I don’t think I will.

I have been to the Maldives and the Galápagos Islands and they do not hold a candle to Eirisgeidh, nor do they have a tea towel!  Eirisgeidh is derived from the Norse for Eric’s Isle and anglicised into Eriskay.  It is a very small island, no longer than 3 miles and no wider than 1.5 miles.  It is at the bottom of South Uist and since 2001 they have been linked by a 1650 metre causeway; the causeway is an essential link between the two islands, preventing Eriskay being cut off during wild weather and winter storms which can defeat the ferries.  It has been an attempt to stop the depopulation of Eriskay; this seems to be working since the population of Eriskay has increased by 7.5% between 2001 and 2011.

Eriskay is well known for a number of things: (a) how about the Eriskay jumper? This is a hand-knitted, navy jumper made of very fine wool with intricate designs and…. no seams.  Legend has it that every family had a different pattern so that if there was an accident, especially at sea, someone could be identified by their jumper. (b) the Eriskay Love Lilt is a traditional Scottish ballard, partly in Gaelic, partly English.  While the Eriskay Love Lilt has been sung by everyone from Kenneth McKellar to Nana Mouskouri, from the Seekers to Rod Stewart, I’d like to think that there is some historical background to such a beautiful song, that I have loved for so long.  There isn’t. It’s basically a song saying ‘I miss you’.  A bit disappointing but a great song.  As I have listened to it over the years it didn’t occur to me where it was written about until I actually visited the island.  I suppose I had hoped then that it might have been associated with Bonnie Prince Charlie.  But no.  (c) Eriskay: A Poem of Remote Lives was a film made by the German film maker Werner Kissling in the early 1930s. It’s success enabled the islanders to build their first road in 1935.  (d) Then there are the Eriskay Ponies.  These are grey horses with extra thick hair to keep out the wind and the rain.  They run all across the island.  There are less than 400 pure bred horses left in the world. They are on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust list of endangered species.  Seeing them run free, with their manes blowing in the wind, is a magnificent sight; although we did not see any until the last day of the holiday, when about 10 appeared out of nowhere galloping up the road, rather ghostly with their colouring.  (e) Eriskay was the island where the Du Teillay landed, after it’s journey from France, bringing Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 to start the Jacobite Rising (which ended the following year with the Battle of Culloden). There is a monument to Flora MacDonald, on nearby South Uist, to commemorate the fact that she helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape, following his defeat at Culloden.  The beach Bonnie Prince Charlie landed on is now known as Coilleag a’ Phrionnsa, the Prince’s Cockleshell Strand.  The white striped sea pink that is on this beach is not native to the Outer Hebrides.  Legend has it that the seeds for this sea pink were scattered when Bonnie Prince Charlie pulled his handkerchief from his trouser pockets.  (f) In 2006, Eriskay was the subject of a community buyout when the landlord, a business consortium, decided to sell the island together with South Uist and Benbecula.  It is now owned by Storas Uibhist to manage the land in perpetuity.  (g) and finally, Compton Mackenzie’s book, Whiskey Galore, was based on the incident that happened in 1941 when the SS Politician was carrying 264,000 bottles of whiskey from the Edradour Distillery in Pitlochry, destined for New York.  The SS Politician went aground on the rocks, the bottles of whiskey broke loose and many were secretly rescued by the islanders and stored in hiding all over the island with the help of Eriskay ponies pulling carts.  There is a pub, SS Politician, overlooking the  bay which commemorates this event.  I have to say that Whiskey Galore is in my favourite top 10 films; John Gregson was a great actor.

Such a small isle and all that going for it; it should be enough for a Tea Towel Blog alone. But no. I was staying in a cottage on South Uist, about 5 minutes from Eriskay.  We went to Eriskay nearly everyday because I fell in love with Eriskay, especially the Prince’s Cockleshell Strand; it is my favourite beach in the whole world.  Above the beach is a grassy bank on which there is a small monument commemorating the landing of Bonnie Prince Charlie.  It was nice to wander up there, amongst the sea pink, and look out over the bay.  We knew the time the ferry from Barra was due in and waited for it to come round the pier; the Calmac ferry makes an iconic picture.  We did actually take the ferry to Barra for a day trip.  Each day, we walked to the far end of the beach; the rocks at the end provided a good vantage point for watching seabirds and seals.  The bay was good for beach combing after any storm.  The beach was full of unbroken shells, of all shapes, colours and sizes.

We walked up Ben Sciathan, the highest point of Eriskay at 185 feet above sea level from where you get an amazing view across all the islands.  We loved the community shop; they did a mean line in beanie hats which were very useful in the windy weather.  Eriskay is such a great place, so beautiful, so peaceful, so full of history.  It is my dream place and one of those places that I would always want to return to.

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