Welsh Songs: 2013


I’ve given a lot of thought about which tea towel to write about today.  This is a ‘special one’.  This is Blog Number 200 (although I have written about considerably more than 200 tea towels).  But who would have thought I would have written 200 Blogs?  Actually, who would have thought, 18 months ago, that I would ever have written any Blog?  Certainly, most people would not have suspected I’d have so many tea towels to write about or that I could remember so much about them.

So on to ‘Welsh Songs’.  Why have I chosen this one as my 200th Blog?  It was a present from Gwyn and Pete from one of their many holidays in Anglesey.  With a name like ‘Gwyneth’, it is not surprising that her roots are firmly embedded in Wales.  Gwyn and Pete both love Anglesey, and everything about Anglesey.  As soon as I looked at the tea towel this morning, I thought “I used to sing all those songs at school” and there I was, back at St Augustine’s School, sitting in the school hall with Miss Foster.  I hadn’t thought about those days for years and years.

Miss Foster was certainly a ‘one-off’; there was nobody else like her.  She had to be over 60 when I knew her.  She had been around for as long as anyone could remember.  She was a small, thin woman with a stoop.  She had the most enormous bunions and consequently only wore flat sandals; her feet were not a pretty sight.  On thinking on it, her feet were probably extremely painful (and accounted for her frequent grumpy moods) and she did walk in a cumbersome way.  Her hair was her most remarkable feature.  It was wild.  It was bright red.  I assume that in her younger days she had the most amazing ginger coloured hair but as she became grey she started dying it, badly so that it looked unnatural and the grey roots still showed.  Miss Foster was not known for her satorial elegance but she could play the piano.

St Augustine’s School was a convent and most of the teachers were nuns; when I was first there only Miss Foster (singing) and Mrs Nurse (games) were lay teachers.  The school had a strange, but moral, philosophy about subjects taught.  We were not allowed to go swimming or do any sport that would expose the body; we weren’t allowed to do human biology (or any biology) because of exposure to reproductive activities.  Latin was top priority (because of Latin used in Mass) but other languages were frowned on.  Religious Knowledge was compulsory, even if you weren’t Catholic, and we never learnt about any other religions or moral philosophy.  Singing was thought to be good for you, especially for any non-academics but it was compulsory for everyone.  However, there was no school choir.  We did not learn to read music.  There were no tuition for playing a musical instrument and obviously there was no school orchestra.  Singing lessons were just each class meeting in the school hall, twice a week, with a traditional song book, singing.  No one was ‘tested’ to see if they could sing in tune or what sort of vocal range they had.  We did not sing in harmony, just altogether, a ‘wall of sound’ as Russell Watson would say.  We never gave any performances; that would have been considered ‘showing off’.

I have to say I quite enjoyed singing lessons; it was good fun and non-judgemental (good for me who is totally tuneless).  I am not sure what the point of it all was except that I learnt two things (a) a lot of traditional British songs and hymns, the words of which I can still remember and (b) I love listening to choirs, male voice choirs, gospel choirs,  Gareth Malone, Only Men Aloud, doesn’t matter just the full bodied sound.  I remember singing ‘Men of Harlech’ and ‘Land of My Fathers’ but also ‘Men of Trelawny’, ‘Loch Lomond’, ‘Strawberry Fair’, ‘Skye Boat Song’, ‘Danny Boy’ and many others.  ‘All Through the Night’ and ‘Ash Grove’ were part of our repetoire but probably weren’t as good because of the slower pace, exposing those of us without the ability to hold a tune.

The tea towel may be called ‘Welsh Songs’ but it is, in fact, all things Welsh; there is a Welsh Harpist in full national costume, a Love Spoon, a rugby player in the red Weish kit, lots of daffodils, leeks, the Snowden train together with images of places like Harlech Castle, Tintern Abbey, Caernavon Castle and a Coracle of the River Teifi.  What more could you want than a tea towel to remind you not only of great holidays in Wales, but songs from your childhood plus Miss Foster, and the fact that it was a present from good friends.

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Oxford Botanic Gardens: 2016


I was having lunch with Liz K, talking about the joys of Bristol Botanical Gardens when she said “If you want to see a great botanical garden, go to Oxford” and that’s just what I did.  It was a magnificent day, beautiful sunshine, hot, just the sort of day to walk in a garden.  And they had a tea towel. I love this tea towel; it is based on a 1675 engraving by David Loggan of the Physick Garden (now known as the Botanic Gardens).  The original engraving, together with others of views of the city and Oxford Colleges, is held in one of the college libraries.  It is a really unusual tea towel and a great reminder of a day out which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Oxford Botanic Gardens offers free entrance to all Oxford University students and lecturers.  I cannot think of a better ‘perk’ in Oxford than to be able to spend a few quiet hours each week wandering around the gardens, reading a book, eating my sandwiches or just watching the world go by.  While the Oxford Botanic Gardens are on a main road into the centre of Oxford, you cannot hear traffic, there are no crowds and there is just an air of tranquillity.  When I visited, it was clearly exam time because students were wandering around in their academic gowns, loitering outside the Examination Centre and others were in the gardens with their heads buried in books, presumably doing last minute revision.

Around the edge of the Botanic Gardens runs the River Cherwell (pronounced Charwell), a tributary of the River Thames (or Isis as it is sometimes known in Oxford).  Rowing takes place on the River Thames and punting on the River Cherwell.  There are benches along the footpath that runs alongside the Cherwell; places to sit and watch punting (For those unfamiliar, a punt is a long flat boat that is propelled by means of a pole pushed against the river bed).  This can be just relaxing or hilarious where inexperienced punters struggle, making the classic mistake of holding on to the pole too long before removing it from the river bottom and nearly being dragged off the punt into the river.  Another mistake is punting in an uneven manner and thereby losing direction, swivelling and swerving in the water.  I watched at least three punts collide with each other, with passengers forever apologising.

As I watched this, I was unexpectedly taken back to 1971 and my first visit to Oxford.  I had forgotten all about that visit.  45 years ago; it’s strange with memories how one can spring into your mind and then others rapidly come flooding back.  I was at school with Henry Cleary.  He was a good friend of mine but unlike most of the other boys, in that he didn’t play sport – no rugby, no cricket, he didn’t even watch sport but he did have one particular passion in life which was railways.  He was fanatical about them; had hundreds of books about them, knew more facts about them than I’ve had hot dinners.  I learned never to talk about ‘gauges’ because that would be the end of any further conversation, just a lecture.  He wasn’t a ‘trainspotter’ as such; it was an all round interest which included the ambition to travel on every railway line in Britain.  He loved stations, railway memorabilia and much more.  Dr Beeching, who closed many railway lines in the early 1960s, was his nemesis.  The growth of road travel, and with many railway lines unprofitable, Dr Beeching was asked to produce a report with recommendations on the restructuring of the railway system; in 1960 there were 18,000 miles of railway track and he recommended cutting 6000 miles along with closing 2363 stations.  There was a lot of protest and some lines were saved.  The poet John Betjemin was a leading campaigner.  I think I’d always imagined that Henry would end up working on a Heritage Railway Line in his spare time; I wonder if he did.

Henry read history at Christ Chuch College in Oxford and at the end of his exams in his first year he invited me to visit him in Oxford.  Oxford University was steeped in tradition at that time; he lived in shared accommodation within in the college.  Shared accommodation at Swansea University, where I studied, meant sharing a bedroom; in Christ Church it meant an ‘apartment’ with two single rooms and a shared lounge with large leather sofas and a small kitchenette.  I remember the large poster on the lounge wall with all the railway lines in Britain, including those closed by Dr Beeching.  It was covered in red lines, indicating the railway lines Henry had already travelled on.  He had done some fair mileage; I imagine after 45 years he has probably completed that odyssey.

Meals were taken in the Dining Hall with all the students in full university gowns.  I was invited as a guest to take sherry (I hate sherry) and then dine.  The meal was good and to think tax payers subsidised all that!!  Henry had booked me into a Guest House that college students used for their guests (no guests stayed in the college rooms!).  It was immaculately clean.  However…….I had never slept on nylon sheets before, and I can honestly say that I never have again (and never will).  This was a very hot June, at the height of the hay fever season; I was a very bad hay fever sufferer.  I was already starting to show symptoms and had been taking my Piriton but one night on nylon sheets and I’d thought I was going to die.  Coughing, sore throat, difficulty breathing, runny nose.  It was awful and in the morning I looked as though I had stuck my fingers in an electric plug; my hair was alive with electricity and my eyes were so swollen I could hardly see out of them.  On the second night I slept on a bare mattress and covered myself in just a yellow candlewick bedcover (no duvets in those days).  It certainly reduced the electricity charging through my body.

On the second day, Henry wanted to take me out on a punt; I thought this was a great idea since I had no idea what a punt was or what it would mean.  What I didn’t take into consideration was that the River Cherwell flowed through the grassy meadows of Oxford, overhung with trees (and tree blossom). You could almost feel the weight of the pollen. By this time, the sneezing had started and my eyes were becoming very sore and swollen.  Sneezing in a punt is not the safest of activities and is certainly uncomfortable.  Henry was very skilled at punting, much better than some of the people I’d seen from the bench in the Botanic Gardens; if it hadn’t been for the pollen it would have been thoroughly enjoyable.  We then went for a walk around Christ Church Meadows – more sun, more pollen and breathing was becoming painful.  So why did I go along with it? Why didn’t I ‘come clean’?  Why didn’t I say I had hay fever and ask if we could sit in a cool, dark room?  Because at 19 I wanted to appear ‘cool’, sophisicated; I was slightly intimidated by this more sophisticated lifestyle, more sophisticated than I experienced at Swansea University.  I didn’t want him to think I was a wimp but, at one point, I did think I was going to have to go to hospital.  Fortunately, as the day clouded over, the pollen count dropped dramatically.  On thinking about this, there is no way he couldn’t have realised I was suffering because I must have looked awful.  Why didn’t he suggest going indoors?

The strange thing is that I don’t remember meeting up with Henry again; for a while we kept in touch by letter and the odd postcard (remember those days before email? Ah those were the days).  I often wonder what happened to Henry; I have often thought that I might see him one day, on one of the many journeys I take on a steam train (see Blog dated 13/4/16).  After 45 years would I recognise him? Almost certainly not, but I can still remember a tall, slim man with jet black hair and stout shoes in an Oxford gown who showed me around Oxford.

I had sat long enough reminiscing about my trip to Oxford and continued on the tour of the Oxford Botanic Garden.  There was a lovely pale pink climbing rose on one of the old walls and a very full wisteria hanging above a bench which had a memorial plate enscribed ‘To Charlotte…..who was just learning the names of the plants’ – a little girl aged 3, sad but a nice memorial.  There were huge urns, manicured lawns, great glasshouses, some ‘forced’ rhubarb under terracotta pots and much more.  It was a lovely day out bringing forth some good memories and every time I use this tea towel I will remember them.

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Batsford Arboretum, Cotswolds: 2016


An arboretum “in a narrow sense is a collection of trees only”; Batsford Arboretum prides itself on having a lot more than just trees.  It uses a much wider definition of being a Botantical Garden with living collections of plants for scientific study; for example, it holds the National Collection of Japanese Flowering Cherry.  There is so much to do in the Cotswolds, so many gardens to see, that it is easy to overlook places.  Batsford Arboretum has been ‘on my radar’ for sometime but I just haven’t got around to visiting it.  Today that changed, and I am really pleased I went.  Batsford Arboretum is a great place and it has a tea towel!!  A simple cotton tea towel, a brilliant white background with green sketches of different parts of the Arboretum; it is that white, that is crying out for a tea stain.

Batsford Arboretum is 55 acres of botanical gardens near Moreton-in-the-Marsh, owned and run by the Batsford Foundation, a registered charity.  There are 2900 trees, a very large collection of Japanese Maple, magnolias and pines, not to mention those Japanese Flowering Cherry.  What makes this garden different is that (a) it’s design is based on what the founder, Algernon Freeman-Mitford, had observed in Japanese and Chinese gardens – a passion of his and (b) as you walk round you come across statues, large and small, buildings, carvings…….There is a bronze Buddha which Algernon described as “High up in the wildest part of the wild garden, under the shade of a spreading oak, there stands, or rather sits, turned towards the east, as is fitting, a bronze statue of Buddha of heroic size.  His hand is raised in the attitude of preaching…..”.  Buddha’s palm is held flat and visitors occasionally lay coins there (although there is not a sign requesting that you should).  When I was there a family were discussing whether they should lay coins in the palm, what happened to the money and if everyone was leaving coins why was there not more.  In the end they decided against leaving any money!

The Japanese Rest House is nearby where the surround of the front door is covered in Japanese script about the role, and importance, of bamboo in life.  Inside the Rest House is a table made from elm; the table top being a slice of the trunk.  On it is added a ‘time line’ showing the age of the tree and world events at the different stages of growth.  As you wander around, the Japanese theme continues with the bronze deer grazing on the open grass, a Foo Dog with a globe.  It is really nice following the paths and coming across various pieces of art work.  At one point there is a simple sign saying ‘Daphne’ but not indicating what it is referring to.  The people I was standing with could not decide what it meant – a plant? a tree? and then turning the corner Daphne came into view – a large carving of a full length Daphne with her hair blowing in the wind.  She is beautiful, blending into the landscape.  While the Buddha, the Foo Dog, the Rest House and the Japanese Stone Lantern are all on the tea towel, I do think Daphne should also claim her place.  The Mansion on the tea towel is not open to the public.

The Arboretum is crossed by many streams and the Rockery  Bridge is just one of many bridges.  When I was there an artist, with his canvas and easel, was painting the Rockery Brdige.  It is certainly a garden to inspire an artist.  In May, the Handkerchief Tree is in full bloom with white translucent leaves and a black seed pod hanging down.  It is stunning and reminded me of the Wishing Tree at Christmas where you hang messages for those that have died.

Because the Mansion isn’t open to the public there is an interesting history of the estate – being owned, at one point, by the father of the Mitford sisters – which isn’t explored.  I’d like to know more about the time the Mitford sisters stayed there during the First World War.  This tea towel will always remind me of a delightful day out, bright and sunny, with a wonderful garden to explore where they actually had a tea towel!!

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Witney Festival of Food and Drink: 2016


Go away on holiday for a few days and I come back with a whole range of tea towels!  Someone should stop me; it is just too irresistible. So here I am with my first Cotswolds Holiday Tea Towel. It is a very clever one from the Witney Festival of Food and Drink; clever because although this is an annual, one day event, the tea towel is undated so they can use it year after year until they run out.  It allows for buying in greater bulk and therefore cheaper prices.  You can’t do that if you put a date and a venue on it.  It’s nice and bright, catches the eye, is good for wiping up and will always remind me of that day in Witney.

I always think of Witney and those honeycombed, woollen blankets but obviously there is much more to it; Witney is a cute market town with quite a lot of old buildings, a big market, lots of shops, both independent and national, together with some great places to eat and drink.  The Festival was held in, and around, the church of St Mary.  There were stalls all around the perimeter of the church and throughout the interior – everything from cup cakes to beer, from pork pies and pasties (delicious) to chilli spices, from macarons (delicious) to jam, from eggs to fudge.  Throw in cheese, yoghurt, biscuits and ice cream then you have a great day out, with plenty of chance to sample foods (as well as buy).  In front of the church, on the green, were larger tents selling hot food and drink with somewhere to sit down.  While enjoying your lunch, the women’s Morris Dancing were there to entertain you.  There were three melodium players which made for a great sound plus a man with a long stick full of bells with a boot on the end of it (I am sure that Gwyn would be able to tell me what that was called).  In the background was live music.

The Cotswolds are renown for their local food produce and this was a great event to show it off.  I am slightly uncomfortable about having a show which sells goods within a church; Christ throwing out the merchants from the temple springs to mind, especially as we were walking amongst old gravestones around the perimeter stalls.  I suppose it is a good way to raise funds for the upkeep of the church, needs must.

One of the things that shocked, and pleasantly surprised, me was the fact that all parking in Witney was free, including the multi-storey car park.  This probably accounts for why Witney is a busy and thriving market town.  Why don’t other towns see the sense in this?  It must make a big difference to the footfall of shoppers.  Congratulations to Witney on a bright idea.  Looking at this tea towel will always remind me of a great day out but if I go back next year (which I probably will) I must remember I already have the tea towel from Witney Festival of Food and Drink and they probably won’t have a different one; nothing for me to buy except great food.

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National Federation of Women’s Institutes: 1990


“You are a very powerful force for good in our country…from domestic violence to women’s pay, from venereal disease in 1920s to AIDS in 1980s.  That is a great tribute to the depth of your compassion, your fearlessness in tackling hard issues and the energy with which you further the cause of, not just women but, British society” (Tony Blair 2000).

I didn’t think I’d be quoting Tony Blair in a Tea Towel Blog.  I include the quote because I wonder if it is this essence that my mother felt about the Women’s Institute, in the latter days of her life.  I remember very clearly, as we chatted on the Renal Unit at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, knowing that her condition was terminal but not knowing exactly how long she had left, probably about two years, when she talked about the things that she felt she had missed out on.  She promised herself that she would remedy this when she got out of hospital.  She felt that she had forgone things that she really wanted to do for herself – like join a W.I. Group.  She felt she would have liked to belong to a group of women doing things they enjoyed like flower arranging, baking, listening to talks, relaxing.  She felt that she had given too much time to the things people expected of her – work and local politics, things that did not give her personal satisfaction and relaxation.  It was bizarre because I’d never heard her talk about the W.I., never heard her say that she wanted to join a W.I. Group.  But she was adamant.  Bit like her wanting to go to Guernsey.  She’d obviously spent a lot of time reflecting on her life.  She was very cheerful about this, very positive; but she had promised herself that she would make up for lost time and missed opportunities.

The W.I. is an amazing institution.  Although originating in Stoney Creek, Canada in 1897, it didn’t start in Britain until 1915 with the intention of ‘encouraging countrywomen to get involved in growing and preserving food to help increase the food supply during the First World War’. The first group in Britain was set up in Llanfair PG in Anglesey; the first in England was in Singleton in Sussex.  By 1918, there were 199 groups; by 1919, that had risen to 1405.  The 2015 Centenary saw 6500 W.I. groups and 215,000 members.  The W.I. have tackled many campaigns – climate change, equal pay, the decline of the honey bee, the gap in midwifery.  Maybe that is the sort of thing that my mother would have been interested in.

This, however, is a pure linen tea towel, designed to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the National Federation of Women’s Institute.  It has their coat of arms in the centre with their motto “For home and country”.  I can remember exactly when, where and why I bought this tea towel; I can picture the precise building and the stall that it was on.  When?: the first Wednesday in July 1990.  Where?: the Royal Show which was held at the National Agricultural Society headquarters at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire. Why?: It was two and a half weeks after my mother’s funeral.  The two years she had been ‘promised’ lasted less than three weeks.  Because of all the discussions we had had about the W.I. in hospital I just wanted to go and see the W.I. stand.  The W.I. were based in a building away from the centre of the show, it was the first place I wanted to go.  I didn’t know anything about the W.I. but was very excited to see the tea towel and just had to have it.

I was with John who was totally interested in cooking; the W.I.  were doing a programme of cookery demonstrations throughout the day.  We watched two; one about a pork casserole and the other with chicken pieces.  If I had any interest at all in cooking I would be able to remember the names of the dishes.  Although I don’t cook, I quite like watching a demonstration.  Besides the cookery demonstration, the W.I. had a lot going on – books on jam-making, preserves and chutneys which John loved and bought a couple of different books, which I still have.  There were more jams on sale than I have had hot dinners; there was a competition for all branches to enter – to represent 75 years of the W.I.  There were some amazing tapestries and quilts. All jam and Jerusalem.  I loved it.

Personally, the day with the W.I. didn’t entice me to join a group but it will always remind me never to put off things until later, because you never know if there will be a ‘later’, you never know if you will achieve it.  My mother was determined that she would join a Leicester Branch of the W.I.  She had been promised that she had time.  Sadly, she never left hospital, never made it to Leicester, never joined the W.I.  This tea towel will always remind me of the potential member of the W.I. who never quite made it.

The Botanical Gardens, Bristol: 2016


I debated whether to use these two tea towels for two separate Blogs because they both deserve specific recognition but eventually decided against it because of the title, the Botanical Gardens.  Don’t just read the first paragraph, make sure you look at the photograph at the bottom of the Blog.  This isn’t a dilemma that I often have to deal with.

I have been to Bristol on a number of occasions but have never been to the Botanical Gardens, until last weekend.  However, it isn’t surprising that I haven’t been because, as you are driving through Bristol, even with a map of directions, there are very few signposts for the Botanical Gardens.  I expected to see loads of big brown signs but they just weren’t there.  I had heard about BS9 Arts Trail, where over two days, in 18 different venues, 75 different local artists were displaying their work.  It sounded really intriguing, especially when I discovered one of the artists exhibiting work was Penny Seume, one of my favourite tea towel designers.  Some artists were exhibiting from their own studios and some from interesting shared venues like Community Centres or a Scout Hut.  Penny was at the Botantical Gardens.

There were 5 artists based in the Botanical Garens.  As soon as I walked into the building where they were exhibiting, I saw Penny’s tea towels.  Her work is unmistakeable.  She had designed 8 tea towels for this exhibition, inspired by the Botanical Gardens.  Penny used her digital camera to photograph plants from the Botanical Gardens which are then printed onto a linen/cotton mix and then hemmed.  There are no borders, the image goes to the edge of the material.  Now my friend Fee would be inspired by this.  Penny hung four tea towels from a cane, pinned on with clothes pegs; a second line hung below.  The impact was tremendous.  Seeing them hanging there makes me realise why I love her work so much.  I was stunned; I knew I had to have at least one.  But which one?

If you look at the top photograph of the cacti, it almost invites you in, to draw closer, to touch the spines.  The detail of the photography means that you can sense the different sorts of pots – plastic, pottery.  You can see the steamy, misty window panes with the bright light streaming through.  The fact there are no borders to the tea towel means that no barriers are created, you are there, in amongst it all.  If this tea towel was based on the cacti at the Botanical Gardens, I was determined to find them in the glasshouses.  And I did.  I was with Liz who took loads and loads of photographs, including one from virtually the same position as Penny must have been in.  The good thing about cacti is that they grow very slowly so they time difference between Penny’s photo and Liz’s made little difference to the composition.

The tea towel at the bottom of the Blog, taken in another glasshouse, is brilliant.  Just look at the way the strong light reflects through the plastic pot at the front of the composition, you can see the way the stems of the plant disappear into the soil.  The different shades of green of the different plant leaves gives the tea towel ‘texture’; there is a translucence to this picture.  The white flowers trailing down the plant are tantalising, you want to touch them and sense they must have a strong scent.  As I look at this tea towel, I can feel the atmosphere of the greenhouse, the steam, the warmth.  The photograph clearly defines all the plants on the bench, the layers and my frustration is that I cannot see the label on the plant pot at the front so I don’t know what they are and I want to know.  When I walked around the greenhouses the plants were not in exactly the same place so I didn’t spot the labels.  This is what a good tea towel does for you; it sets your mind working.

Last year, when I went to Bovey Tracey, I described the possibility of a tea towel as a ‘Blank Canvas’ and as I look at these two tea towels that phrase comes to mind again.  I am not one for hanging a tea towel on a wall; for me they are functional objects.  For the first time, I did think about it because they are both so beautiful.  I won’t but it was tempting.  I am not sure how I resisted buying all 8 tea towels that were on display.  I hold on to the fact that I will see Penny’s work displayed elsewhere and I will buy others that have a different inspiration.  I do love the fact that Penny signs her tea towels, it adds a touch of quality and ownership, something she is proud of.  As I use the tea towels, I can admire them for their beauty but I will also remember what a great day out the BS9 Art Trail was and how many other great artists I met, although no others were producing tea towels.


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Drayton Manor Park: 1989


If the Margate and Cliftonville tea towel (see Blog dated 30/3/16) was the first tea towel John ever bought for me, as a present, then Drayton Manor Park was the second; only 9 years later.  He should have realised, by the excitement with which I received the first tea towel, that he could ‘get away’ with showering me with (cheap) presents that I would appreciate.  He missed his chance.  When I first started to write this Blog I thought the date of the tea towel was probably 1982, if not 1981, but after some research I realised that I was way out.  You see, that’s what’s good about a tea towel.  As I looked at the tea towel, another classic tourist tea towel with a location map in the centre, I was able to pinpoint the date more accurately because there are the names, and 11 pictures, of some of the rides.  While Drayton Manor Park was originally opened in 1949 as a low key amusement park with traditional carousels, and then under the direction of Molly Badham (always associated with Twycross Zoo) opened a zoo in 1954, Drayton Manor Park has changed and evolved over the years.  The rides and attractions have changed over time; someone who is as ‘sad’ as me has actually listed all the rides and attractions, from 1949 to 2016, with the dates that they both opened and closed down, and what they did!  Whatever floats your boat!  Hence I can pinpoint this tea towel to 1989; my original time frame was completely wrong.

I clearly remember that John bought me this tea towel when he took a group of people with learning difficulties, from Mountsorrel Hospital where he worked, to Drayton Manor Park on a day trip.  The challenge of that day was always going to be that Drayton Manor Park was “160 acres of parkland, lakes, zoo and entertainment” together with the fact that the average age of his group was 75.  When people have lived in hospital most of their lives then a day out is something to relish; they wanted to make the most of the day (and they did).  But the speed at which things happened was somewhat slower than anticipated because of the age of group members.  It may not have been the Theme Park it is today but there were certainly a lot of rides.  The group wanted to go on everything – no fear, no churning stomachs, no fear of heights, which is more than could be said of the staff.  I remember John describing the cruise on the lake where ‘hippos’ rose out of the water without warning, catching people by surprise.  However, 1989 was not the time when accessibility and health and safety were high on the agenda.  John and the staff lifted people from their wheelchairs into the boat.  Today it would need a hoist and two staff; probably very sensible since I remember the mishap where Josie nearly slid into the water between the shore and the boat.  Everyone, including Josie but excluding John, thought this was highly amusing.  The cruise was very popular with people having three or four trips.  I remember John saying that at least it was a chance to sit down for a while.  The miniature railway was very popular.  No one did the Parachute Jump, for which John was very grateful but most had at least one ride on the Rollercoaster and the Octopus.  Everyone loved the zoo area, being able to ‘pet’ some animals and just the chance to see animals they had never seen, or heard of, before.  There was a chance to go on the Nature Walk.  Lunch out was always an event, with everyone having fish and chips.

By the time everyone had had their ice cream and had been in the shop, this was a very long day out, especially since they stopped at the pub on the way back and did not get back until 9.30 pm.  In the midst of all this, John bought me a tea towel.  The following day, when I went on the ward, all the patients wanted to eagerly tell me about the day trip and how much they enjoyed it, especially when Josie nearly fell in the water!

It just goes to show how a tea towel can help (with the aid of an obscure website) to locate accurately memories within time and place.  I have done most of the hard work for Jai when she inherits all my tea towels!

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