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!!!
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