New Zealand: Unknown


It was with fear and dread that I saw this tea towel arise to the top of the pile in the airing cupboard.  My initial reaction was to secretly bury it further down the pile to avoid facing yet another tea towel that I could not identify.  How many more, I ask myself.  But that would have been cheating.  OK. So what do I know about this tea towel?  (a) it is a traditional tourist tea towel – the sort with a map and key places.  It has a small table, down the side, with words and their Maori origin.   (b) it is a good quality cotton/linen mix and there is no date on it.  From the threadbare nature of it in parts, it has to be quite old, probably from the 1980s.  (c) it has been well used, frequently washed from the way that it has faded; it has been well-loved because there are no stains on it (d) I didn’t buy it because I have never been to New Zealand.

The next question I have to ask is: where the hell did the tea towel come from?  There are a number of possibilities: (a) Jai? She has actually been to New Zealand. This isn’t the sort of tea towel she would buy but anyway, I sent her a photograph and she denies all knowledge of it; worryingly, she denies all knowledge of most of the tea towels I know for certain that she gave me (b) Gwyneth? She has also been to New Zealand because her daughter and grandchild live there. But she has never given me a tea towel, ever. (c) David Allen? He gave me his aunt’s tea towels when she died about 10 years ago. David knew I loved tea towels. I was really pleased to accept them, give them a good home but I didn’t look in too much detail at them all. I know his aunt had several from Australia, and elsewhere abroad, but I don’t remember any from New Zealand. I can’t ask David because he died about 6 years ago.  The tea towel would be the right age because David’s aunt was in her 80s when she died. It does make me realise the importance of recording ‘inherited’ tea towels (d) Janice French? Liz reminds me that a colleague I used to work with gave me some tea towels; she can’t remember why. I can’t remember the incident at all, so Janice might be a remote possibility. Unfortunately, I have lost touch with Janice so I can’t check up with her.

The tea towel will remain a mystery to me. I do, however, have relatives in New Zealand who definitely didn’t give me this tea towel. Maurice is the son of my great aunt Gladys, on my father’s side. I have never met Maurice (or his wife Brenda and son Paul). When my mother died I went through her address book and wrote to all the people in it, telling them that she had died. Maurice was a name; I had no idea who he was at the time but we have written ever since (for 26 years); I have kept all his letters in the hope they gradually build up a picture of the family that I do not know. All I really know of them is that Maurice’s mother (Gladys) brought my father up as her own child for the first two and a half years of his life, while my grandmother worked. There was shame in having a child born outside of wedlock in 1920. My grandmother eventually married and raised my father herself. I have never seen a photo of Maurice and his family.  Maurice lives near Auckland on the North Island.  When I use this tea towel it will remind me of Maurice, Brenda and Paul, family I have never met and it will also remind me of the importance of writing this ‘Blob’ as a record of my tea towels for the future (and for Jai when she inherits them!!!)

So there we are! I can even ‘Blob’ about a tea towel I have no knowledge of but I have learnt the importance of keeping better records.

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum


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