Made in Stirchley: 2013

P5070047

Location: Stirchley is a district of Birmingham, England.  Not necessarily a well-known part of Birmingham but it does have a long history, and a distinct role in the Industrial Revolution.  The Worcester and Birmingham Canal, together with the River Rea, running through Stirchley has played a significant part in the development of this part of Birmingham.  In my opinion, this is a great tea towel.  It looks as though it is part of a firm’s advertising campaign but it is more than that; it is part of the rejuvenation of an area of Birmingham.  This was a birthday present from Jai and her family.  I hope she didn’t buy one for herself because she will be inheriting this one.  There is a simple black and white sketch of a caravan, with that streak of red which says ‘Made in Stirchley’, ‘Eccles Caravan’ and the marking on the window of the caravan door also has a bit of red.  The date on the tea towel is 1927-1959.  Seeing that, you know there is a story behind it all.

Jai and Roger have lived in Stirchley since 2006; they have taken an active part in their local community.  They have an allotment; their children go to school in Stirchley but they also have been part of the push to revitalise the centre of Stirchley: the opening of Stirchley Market, the setting up of the Community Hub around the swimming baths, revitalising the High Street with an artisan bakery, a cafe selling loose leaf tea, an active website and a campaign against the opening of a huge Tesco’s.  The latter was successful and the community has also had to battle against Lidl wanting to buy the Bowling Alley and local gym.  You can see how communities can lose their ‘soul’ if members of the community do not fight for what they want, not be overpowered by the big supermarkets.  The decision about a potential Tesco’s store took several years, they had bought up quite a lot of land which had not been developed and it did put a halt on future plans for the area, for a long time.

So what is Eccles Caravans and where are they based? I love a bit of history. In 1919, a Mr Riley bought a firm called Eccles Motor Transport; he was fascinated by motorhomes and designed and built a basic motorhome on a truck chassis.  He was looking at the touring caravan industry , based on horse-drawn caravans, and taking it into the motor vehicle age.  In 1920’s the development of the Eccles firm was such that it needed a much larger base. Mr Riley bought a 4 acre site in Stirchley (hence the 1927 date).  The Stirchley site was the first purpose-built caravan factory in the world. Eccles Caravans led the way in pre-built furniture in caravans (no more loose furniture  flying around) but more importantly Eccles Caravans designed and installed the ‘overrun brake system’ which is used in every caravan to this day.  This revolutionised caravanning; no more did caravans fly off the back of their towing vehicle which always made caravanning a dangerous hobby!!  The Stirchley site allowed for the equipping of caravans with paraffin stoves and lighting.  Eccles Caravans designed the Special Eccles Caravan for Showpeople: a 4 wheeled type wagon towed behind a trailer and lavishly decorated.

In 1959, Mr Riley retired (hence the second date of 1959) and sold Eccles Caravans to what is now called Swifts (a leading caravan manufacturer) and the base moved to Newmarket; Eccles Caravans are still being made.  Eccles Caravans have been such a leader in the field of caravans that there is a Eccles Caravans Owners Club, the oldest single-brand Owners Club in the world and if you look at their website, detailing the history of the caravans, you can see that the shape and design of caravans has not changed that much over the years.

There is no question that Eccles Caravans led the field in caravan development and that Stirchley should be proud of the fact that their first base was in Stirchley.  When Jai bought me this tea towel, she had no idea that caravanning would become a big part of my retirement and that I would be the proud owner of my own caravan, though not an Eccles.  Looking at this tea towel, I love the fact that it links my interests – tea towels, caravans and a bit of history.  A lovely birthday present.

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

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

Welsh Rabbit: 2013

P5080017

This is a classic Simon Drew tea towel.  Simon is a prolific illustrator and cartoonist, with a gallery in Dartmouth, noted for his quirky punning captions, often featuring animals, drawn in fine pen and ink.  Simon also describes himself as a ‘humourist’ – the phrase he has used is “half artist, half wit” (ever the keen punster).  It would appear that Simon likes to create incongruous images without resorting to caricatures.  Simon trained as a zoologist which is probably why he can be so technically accurate in his drawings of animals.

Welsh Rabbit is not the only Simon Drew tea towel that I have in my collection; the Drying Up Game is another of his (See Tea Towel Blog dated  11 January 2016, available from http://www.all-tea-towels.co.uk). They all have a quirkiness.  I saw the Welsh Rabbit in a shop in Sidmouth which sold a lot of Simon’s tea towels and other works; it really made me laugh and I thought that I would really like to have it, just for the fun of it.  I like the way the cricket bat, representing England, has ‘Drew’ inscribed on it; I like the simple use of the Tarten and four leaf clover to represent Scotland and Ireland; I like the way the tea towel speaks for itself, without any additional wording.

I have to say that I also like Simon Drew’s T-Shirts; I know if I bought one then I’d be buying quite a lot.  I have to get that under control.  I also like the fact that Simon Drew stood as an independent candidate in 2010 General Election, in response to the MP’s expenses scandal.  When I use this tea towel, a tea towel in good quality cotton, I chuckle at the sketch, admire the penmanship but also respect someone that wants to challenge the ‘system’ by standing as an Independent Parliamentary candidate, even if unsuccessful.

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

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

The Shipping Forecast Areas: 2010

P5070051.jpg

North Utsire, South Utsire.  I always remember listening to those names on the Shipping Forecast and thinking ‘What on earth do they mean? What is Utsire?’.  Ask any friends and they have no idea either.  This is a tea towel from which there must be a lot of answers to Pub Quiz questions.

Don’t you just love this tea towel? The word to describe it is definitely ‘iconic’.  There is big business in memorabilia concerning the Shipping Forecast areas – mugs, fridge magnets, t-shirts, posters, jigsaw puzzles and the inevitable tea towels (and there are quite a lot of different ones about).  I saw this tea towel, pinned on the wall of a gift shop in Dartmouth,  and knew that I wanted it, just for itself, not to remember any particular place.  So what is the Shipping Forecast?  “To the non-nautical, it is a nightly litany of the sea.  It reinforces a sense of being islanders with a proud seafaring past.  Whilst the listener is safely tucked up in their bed they can imagine small fishing boats bobbing about at Plymouth or 170 foot waves crashing against Rockall” (Zeb Soanes, reader of the BBC Shipping Forecast). But what is special about this ‘institution’?  I have listened to the BBC Shipping Forecast for as long as I can remember.  I am not a sailor; I don’t particularly like sailing.  But along with many other people, the BBC Shipping Forecast was the last thing that I listened to, as I dropped off to sleep.  I felt comforted by the smooth and mellifluous voice of the  Shipping Forecast reader, knowing that someone had the welfare of those people at sea, in the dark, each night; people who earned their living in tough circumstances.  I had that thought of men putting on the radio to listen to what the weather was going to do, jotting notes.  As I got older, my sleep pattern changed; I no longer went to bed late but became an early riser, so I was able to listen to the Shipping Forecast first thing in the morning. It is strange how the same information can feel different when you hear it at different times of the day.  At night, the Shipping Forecast addresses those sailing in pitch darkness, with light only from the moon (if it is visible); in the early morning, it is about what a sailor might expect as the dawn breaks and the sun rises.

In 1859, a steam clipper, the Royal Charter, was wrecked, in a strong storm, off the coast of Anglesey with the loss of 450 lives. Vice Admiral Fitzroy decided that it was necessary to introduce a warning service for shipping.  When that happened, in 1861, information was passed by telegraph but was the forerunner of the BBC Shipping Forecast, which was first broadcast by radio transmission in 1911.  Today there are four broadcasts a day on BBC Radio 4; “hypnotic listening” is how the Shipping Forecast has been described.  What I hadn’t realised was that there is a strict regime to the Shipping Forecast that shouldn’t be deviated from.  It has to be read at a slow, measured pace which enables sailors to write down any salient information, information that might be the difference between life and death.  The Shipping Forecast cannot exceed 370 words.  It always starts with “And now the Shipping Forecast, issued by the Met Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency at (time) today”; the date is not used.  This is followed by any Gale Warnings (winds of Force 8 or more, 9 is Severe Gale, 10 is Storm, 11 Violent Storm and 12 is Hurricane Force). Next is the General Synopsis giving the position, pressure (in millibars) and track of pressure areas. Visibility will be Good, Moderate,   Poor and Fog.  Wind direction is followed by strength then precipitation and wind direction.  Any change in wind direction is described as “veering” (clockwise) or “backing” (anti-clockwise).  Bearing in mind the word limit, when this is all strung together it can sound like gibberish: “Rockall, Malin, Hebrides. Southwest Gale 8 to Storm 10, veering west, Severe Gale 9 to Violent Storm 11.  Rain then squally showers. Poor, becoming moderate”. Did it make sense to you?

There are 31 Shipping Areas around Britain, which are clearly outlined on this tea towel.  Each Shipping Forecast details the weather for each area, starting with Viking and going clockwise. So how did the names of the Shipping Areas come about? The names of the Shipping Areas have rarely changed; in 1995 Finnistere was changed to Fitzroy, named after the founder of the Met Office. Viking, Forties, Dogger, Fisher, Sole, and Bailey are named after sandbanks; Wight, Lundy, Fair Isle, Faeroes, Portland, Hebrides, South East Iceland and North and South Utsire are named after islands; Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Humber, Thames and Shannon are named after estuaries; Dover and Plymouth are towns; Rockall and Fastnet are islets; Malin is Malin Head, the northernmost point of Ireland; Biscay is obviously the Bay of Biscay; and Trafalgar, the Cape of Trafalgar.  For someone with a background in geography, the Shipping Areas are a challenge to locate but, the fact is, the Shipping Forecast has a much greater audience than sailors out at sea, or those interested in maritime conditions; it has a fascination that is difficult to describe.  The Master Singers released a record, in 1966, of the Shipping Forecast in Anglican Chant.  There are many parodies of the Shipping Forecast, or lines from it, in songs by groups like Blur. The Shipping Forecast was even read out during the Opening Ceremony of 2012 London Olympics. I have a beautiful book of photographs, “Rain Later, Good” by Patrick Collyer,  a challenge he set himself to travel through each of the Shipping Areas to photograph and describe them; it is mesmerising, as well as “Attention All Shipping” by Charlie Connolly, which I loved.

When I hold this tea towel, it takes me to a different world, a world of mystery.  The memories this tea towel of the Shipping Forecast Areas bring up are not about where I bought it, but why. The Shipping Forecast “scans poetically. It’s got a rhythm of its own. It’s eccentric, it’s unique, it’s English.  It’s slightly mysterious because nobody really knows where these places are. It takes you into a faraway place that you can’t really comprehend unless you are one of those people bobbing up and down in the Channel” (Mark Damazar – Controller of BBC Radio 4). I don’t want to be bobbing up and down in the Channel but I do want to continue with my fascination of the Shipping Forecast and the Shipping Forecast Areas.

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

https://virtualteatowelmuseum.com/2017/05/14/the-england-wales-and-northern-ireland-collection/

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: 2015

P5070038

On 1 September 2015, I wrote a Tea Towel Blog about my Edinburgh Festival tea towel from 1976, with my memories of Arthur Smith.  It has always been a regret that, however many times I returned to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, there was never a new tea towel – always postcards, posters, fridge magnets, pens, t-shirts but never a tea towel (maybe they were so popular they always sold out before I got there!).  When I was in Edinburgh in September 2015, long after the Fringe was over, I saw on Twitter that there was a new Fringe Festival tea towel.  I rushed over to the Fringe Office and became the proud owner of a new Fringe Festival Tea Towel.  It didn’t matter that I hadn’t visited the Fringe in 2015, it represented all those years that I visited and couldn’t find a tea towel.  As I use this tea towel today, my memories are of all those years gone by.  I’ve always loved the street performers on the square in front of the museum on Princes Street (where they filmed ‘500 Miles’ being sung in the film ‘Sunshine on Leith’) or seeing some preview snippets on the Royal Mile to tempt you to buy a ticket to their show.  I loved the fact that the Edinburgh Tattoo plays out high above the Royal Mile or the Book Festival is in Charlotte Square.  I saw some great performances in St Andrew’s Church on George Street; I always enjoyed the performances from the American High School productions.  There are usually some really good exhibitions.  If you want big name comedy then the Assembly Rooms were always the place to go.

When I first used this tea towel, the memories were so vivid, the yearning to go back, and absorb the atmosphere, so strong that I definitely decided that I wanted to return in 2016.  I persuaded Liz that this was something she wanted to do.  We booked the caravan onto the Edinburgh site early, because it is always booked up at Festival time.  The day the Fringe Programme was published I put in my order.  I remember the excitement of 432 pages to flick through, divided into categories: Cabaret and Variety, Children’s Shows, Dance Physical Theatre and Circus, Events, Exhibitions, Music, Musicals and Opera, Spoken Word, Theatre.  I have a system for getting to grips with this hugely extensive programme.  First I flick through the pages, without reading it in any detail; I eliminate any categories that I don’t want to see e.g. Children’s Shows, Dance Physical Theatre and Circus. Then I start the serious looking; it is easy to eliminate, at this stage, all the shows that are not on when you are there.  The Fringe is on for 4 weeks and very few performers are there for the four weeks.  By the time you have done this, the programme is in much more manageable proportions.

I was delighted to see that the programme is in almost the same format as it was in 1976, just a lot bigger; this meant that I didn’t have to worry about all the symbols and small print.  Liz and I decided that we would plan a full programme of Fringe events but also set aside a few days for other things – visits to Incholme, the Isle of May and Aberdeen.  I like a plan; I like to book things in advance because I know that you can be overwhelmed when you are there and can miss some great shows.  The problem with the Fringe is that with so many different, unusual and ad hoc venues there is no way to guarantee the quality of access at all the venues, especially since very few seats are reserved.  Then I saw in the programme that there was an Access Line.  And, boy, were they helpful!! They had all the details about the access at each venue, whether seating was tiered, how many steps there might be and they could even reserve some seats.  Brilliant.

The first thing I looked for was anything that might involve Arthur Smith.  His show was on in the weeks before we were going, which was disappointing, but there was The Arthurart Museum of Socks, a free “unique exhibition telling the little known but inspirational story of socks”, by Arthur Smith.  That sounded good to me.  Second choice was Rachel Fairburn (who gave me the tea towel of The Royal Wedding 1981 – tea towel blog dated 30/7/16) who has a show called Skulduggery.  She was appearing the week we would be there.  Third choice was Caroline Ryan with her show ‘The Anatomy of Dating’. Caroline was a Senior Manager in Social Services, before I retired, and who managed some of my contracts.  While I didn’t like the decisions the City Council took with regard to austerity cuts and cuts to Social Care, I had a lot of time for Caroline and the principles and fairness which she operated by.  The story goes that when Caroline turned 50, she set herself a challenge by taking up Stand Up Comedy.  There’s a show I wanted to see.  I always love a musical so the combination of the Proclaimers and a musical meant that “Sunshine on Leith” was a must.  I felt the need to see some Shakespeare since it is his 400th birthday so an open-air version of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in the Botanical Gardens sounded good; the Botanical Gardens are a favourite of mine and would make a great setting.  I remember seeing the Red Hot Chilli Pipers at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 so that was another must and Music to Inspire a Nation sounded rousing enough for anyone.  The Craft Scotland Summer Show also sounded good.  That left enough space in the programme for at least one accappello group and for a Gilbert and Sullivan production if I found one.  I booked the tickets with the help of the Access Line and within a couple of days the tickets arrived through the post.  Ever since, I have looked through the programme every day to check there is nothing interesting that I have missed; sometimes in the build up to the Fringe, on TV, there might be some production that I had not originally thought of seeing, that has been showcased.

Planning holidays is always really exciting for me; it is part of the holiday process but experience from the past has taught me that the ‘best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglee’.  I don’t know why I don’t learn.  The Edinburgh Fringe 2016 has certainly reminded me to learn by my mistakes. It is 12 August 2016 that will now be memorable; it certainly will not be regarded as the Glorious Twelfth in my book. This was the day that Liz dramatically fell and and broke her upper arm.  As everyone will tell you, if you break your arm it is always better to break the lower arm because you won’t need a full cast.  And it certainly isn’t a good idea to have a displaced fracture.  So no driving. Moving, walking, bending, standing are all very painful.  Some things are just I mpossible.  It is, without doubt, disabling.  It is awful to see someone in so much pain; awful to watch someone desperately trying to do things one handed, trying to do what you have always done.  Liz still doesn’t know the future for her arm, whether it will need an operation in a few weeks; that depends on whether it is healing, in the position that it is in, how long it will all take, how much physio she will need but what we do know is that Edinburgh is not possible at all, no matter how much we tried to ‘problem solve’ it.  The Fringe Festival Box Office have been incredibly helpful in the cancellation process.  It is disappointing not to be going, but it can’t be helped.  This tea towel will always remind of the exciting prospect of the Fringe Festival in 2016; the fact is that 2017 is the 70th anniversary of the Fringe Festival so we are geared up to go next year.  Stuff Rabbie Burns, despite setbacks, I will always get excited about planing for the future and take my chances.  Incholme and the Isle of May will still be there; the burning question is whether Rachel Fairburn and Caroline Ryan will be there.  I hope so. Next year,  maybe, I’ll get a chance  to see Arthur Smith.

My thanks goes to Louise and Beth from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Access Line to whom this Tea Towel Blog is dedicated.

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

https://virtualteatowelmuseum.com/2017/05/12/the-scottish-collection/

Sgoil Bhagh a’ Chaisteil: 2014

P5080008

Fundraising tea towels for schools is big business these days. I know a number of firms that specialise in this work. When I wrote about my tea towel from Dovelands Upper Junior School on 7/6/16, I was mindful of the fact that, for some children, school may not be a time they want to remember, it may have been a time of abuse, as it was for some children at Dovelands.  However, I was also reminded by a firm specialising in school fundraising tea towels, that such comments might adversely affect their business.  As a former social worker, I would not want to undermine the bad experiences of school for some children, however few and far between they might be; but I do like seeing those tea towels and hope that things are improving in schools.

This is one of the fundraising tea towels where children do self portraits and write their own name.  For a while I looked at the title ‘Sgoil Bhagh a’ Chaisteil’ and wondered where it had come from; there was no translation.  I knew it was written in Gaelic and therefore probably came from the West Coast of Scotland; then I noticed the two circles with a silhouette of Kisimul Castle, the iconic castle that lies on a rock in the bay off Castlebay in the Isle of Barra.  62% of the population of Barra is Gaelic-speaking so it is little wonder that there was no translation.

In 2013, we spent two weeks in South Uist, often travelling the man-made link between South Uist and Eriskay.  Standing on the beach where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed, we often watched the CalMac ferry sail in from Ardmore on the Isle of Barra.  So, one day we decided to leave the car behind and take the ferry to Barra for a day trip.  It was a beautiful day; the 40 minute journey passes many uninhabited islands, the water looked so blue, almost tropical.  We watched the seabirds follow the trail of the ferry.  On arrival, we caught the bus to Castlebay, the main centre of population. The bus took us through the length of the island; a few tourists caught the bus but, in the main, locals seem to come from nowhere to catch the bus to Castlebay.  The bus stops at the airport; Barra Airport is actually an airstrip on the sand at Northbay; it is an amazing sight to watch the small planes land in front of the sea.  The timetable for planes is variable because the airport is only accessible at low tide.

Private Frazer, in ‘Dad’s Army’, described Barra as “a wild and lonely place”; while that is probably true, it is also a stunningly beautiful place.  Travelling by bus, you can see that it is an island of contrasts – white sandy beaches, banked by shell-sand and machair on the west and rocky inlets in the east.  The bus takes you by isolated cottages, small inland lochs; the highest point is Heaval, at 1200 feet and half-way up is the majestic statue of Madonna and Child.  You can see by the way the population is distributed that Barra suffered badly during the Highland Clearances in 1840s when most of the population was expelled to make way for sheep farming.  Today, the population of Barra is gradually growing, thanks to tourism.

We spent most of the day in Castlebay, the main settlement.  We walked around the shoreline and saw the former foundations of the fish factories which used to be a thriving industry; we found the Hebridean Toffee Factory, sampled their wares and bought some presents for family.  We found the local indoor market which sold both provisions and crafts; we bought some Christmas decorations and a tea towel from the local Nursey Department!  Don’t you love the drawing by Emily, which has a look of Usain Bolt’s iconic pose after he wins a race; Ewan has a look of having speed but Anna definitely has a dramatic pose.  All those drawings are so cute.  We had a toasted sandwich in the community centre.  We walked up the hill behind Castlebay to look at the views across to Kisimul Castle.  The day on Barra was certainly memorable and we both felt, as we arrived back on Eriskay, that we would like to return to Barra for a longer time.  While I use this tea towel I can hold on to those memories and wonder when we will return.

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

https://virtualteatowelmuseum.com/2017/05/12/the-scottish-collection/

Styal Country Park and Quarry Bank Mill: 1987

IMG_0022.JPG

It is a bit weird when I write about a tea towel that I bought nearly 30 years ago, when I know that things have changed; this is especially true of National Trust properties.  Finances will always determine how quickly developments take place; this is true of Styal Country Park and Quarry Bank Mill.  I am aware that the Country Park has developed hugely since I bought this tea towel but I haven’t experienced those things. Readers may be saying “She didn’t mention……” or “Why didn’t she look at….”; it’s because they weren’t there when I visited.  I wouldn’t dream of cheating by just writing from the National Trust website!

This tea towel was designed by Pat Albeck, one of my all-time favourite tea towel designers.  Pat is in her 80s now and has been designing tea towels since the 1950s.  Describing how she came to be a tea towel designer, she said in 1950s “tea towels were plain or they had Glass Cloth woven in primary colours down the middle.  There were all these products waiting to be decorated”.  Pat has designed more than 250 tea towels for the National Trust, including a Calender Tea Towel each year, for more years than I care to remember.  Her style is very distinctive; it was her tea towels for the National Trust that made me want to seriously collect tea towels.  Pat’s tea towels that relate to a particular National Trust property, like this one of Styal Country Park and Quarry Bank Mill, are highly detailed images of the property, images that are instantly recognisable and familiar; I look at it and I just remember the day I was there.  If you look at this tea towel, it is beautiful, full of shades of colour giving it depth; there is not a spot of fabric without colour.  The detail of the trees invites you in, to walk around the Country Park and, exactly as if you were there, you ‘come across’ the Mill in the same way as you do when examining the tea towel; it is so clever.

Even back in 1987, Styal Country Park and Quarry Bank Mill was the sort of place that you needed a full day to get around, to discover all the different aspects, to wander around the Country Park, to have a scone and still there would be things that you missed, that would need another visit.  Styal Country Park and Quarry Bank Mill was somewhere John and I decided to visit on the spur of the moment and we didn’t regret it.  It was a nice day for a trip out.  Quarry Bank Mill was a cotton spinning mill, built in 1784, powered by Europe’s most powerful working waterwheel; it is located in the valley of the River Bollin.   Samuel Greg was a British entrepreneur and pioneer of the factory system at Quarry Bank Mill.  He built up a model village on the Styal Estate, not for philanthropic reasons but as an essential element in his vision of the efficient factory system; this included housing, schooling and community facilities and by the time of his death, Quarry Bank Mill had become the largest spinning  and weaving business in Great Britain.

I remember walking into the mill, feeling the ghosts of the past, those workers who were at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution and were part of the transition from the rural economy to the industrial economy of the factories.  I love a bit a history and I love the way National Trust has preserved this piece of history and, finally, I love the tea towel Pat Albeck designed to remember it by.

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

https://virtualteatowelmuseum.com/2017/05/12/the-national-trust-collection/

Dawlish, Devon: 2006

image

I can’t believe that it is 10 years since Fee moved from Leicester back to Devon; that is what this tea towel of Dawlish means to me, the memories that it brings back.  It is a classic tourist tea towel, white background with a blue sketch, on cotton.  The picture is of Dawlish Water, also known as The Brook, which runs down through the centre of Dawlish, surrounded by the Central Public Park.  The Brook is home to some Black Swans, introduced from Dawlish Water, in Western Australia, where there are a native breed.

One of the charms of Dawlish is that there is nothing ‘flashy’ about it; since the 18th Century, it has grown from a small fishing port to a seaside resort, as a result of George III popularising the South Coast by making Weymouth his summer holiday residence.  Jane Austen, who stayed in Dawlish for a period, thought Dawlish had “a particularly pitiful and wretched library”.  Not a problem for Fee, a great reader but who owns her own books.  Dawlish is a very much understated town which came to fame recently when it’s famous coastal railway line, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was washed away in the storms of 2014.  There was a classic image of the railway lines hanging in mid-air while the foundations had been washed away.

I first met Fee in 1993 when she was doing her social work qualification; we worked together as trainers, as colleagues and on management committees in the voluntary sector and became good friends.  I always knew that she had wanted to return to Devon eventually, to be near her family and the sea, but perhaps it took longer than she had originally thought. I was surprised that she chose to move to Dawlish.  Fee didn’t seem to be a ‘Dawlish sort of person’. But when I visited her in 2006, and saw the house she had bought on the top of the hills surrounding Dawlish, with a balcony that overlooked the sea, I could understand why she chose Dawlish.  I remember sitting on the balcony, at dusk, watching the sun go down, when there was a marvellous sense of peace and quiet (although I would hate the climb up the hill if I didn’t have a car!).  I remember going out for some fabulous fish meals, in local restaurants.  I remember Fee saying, in 2006, that she was disappointed that a house she had wanted, on the coast, separated from the beach by the railway line, had been bought by someone else; I suspect in 2014 she was pleased she chose to live up the hill rather than on the coast.

Fee no longer lives in Dawlish and has more recently moved to Exeter.  When I use this tea towel I remember being very sad that Fee was moving away from Leicester but had faith in the fact that a solid relationship can be maintained over distance. Things change and that is ok. You don’t have to see someone every week to maintain a friendship.  It is about how much you want to remain in contact.  That contact for me is very important and this tea towel reminds me of that.

PS: Sorry Fee, the tea towel is very crooked!!!

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

https://virtualteatowelmuseum.com/2017/05/14/the-england-wales-and-northern-ireland-collection/