The Kingfisher: 2016

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It is New Years Eve 2016; this is my last Tea Towel Blog of the year.  I wanted to make this a special Blog, one that reflects some of the really great times I’ve had in 2016, because, let’s face it, 2016 hasn’t been the best of years for me.  Two of my closest, and fondest, work colleagues have died, Liz broke her arm very badly, hospital visiting has been a regular occurrence, theatre dates and holidays have been cancelled and Leonard Cohen died (besides a lot of other great artists).  But out of all this, there have been some memorable moments.

In June this year, we went with Gwyn and Pete on the Nene Valley Railway; not the biggest, nor longest, steam railway line, not even the most well known (although known to @MrTimDunn, I am absolutely positive) but certainly one of the cutest.  It was also one of the last lines to be closed during the Beeching closures. We started at Wainsford, travelled the whole line (7.5 miles long), both ways; there is a choice of five stations so we got off at Ferry Meadows station.  Ferry Meadows station was originally the Goods Office for the line.  Ferry Meadows, itself, (or Nene Park)  was not something any of us had heard about but it looked interesting; opened in 1978, the River Nene runs through it, there are 3 lakes, a miniature railway (also must be known to @MrTimDunn), two cafes, loads of well-signposted walks and a boat ride.  Having had a cup of tea in the cafe, we saw the boat ride advertised and thought we’d give it a go, probably naff but something different.  Well, naff it wasn’t.  There is a small twelve-seater boat, navigated by someone who is so familiar with the bird life that he was a joy to listen to; there were just 6 of us on this trip.  The boatman knew where to see the herons in profusion, the moorhens with their young, swans a-plenty and much more.  The trip lasted 45 minutes and was a ridiculously low price.  We wandered back to Ferry Meadows station, took tea sitting on a patio set on the station platform, watching the world go by.  Needless to say, there was not a tea towel in sight but I bought a key ring, with a picture of a train, to remember the day by.  We finished the day by going to the Loch Fyne Restaurant nearby.  The Jambalaya was exceptional.  We all agreed that this was a truly memorable day.

On the way back to Ferry Meadows station we passed a Caravan Club site.  We all thought that it might be good to go back to Ferry Meadows for a bit longer.  We discovered that you can book a longer, private boat trip.  In July, we stayed on the Caravan Site for three nights, one of the best sites we have stayed on; Gwyn and Pete stayed in a local hotel.  We booked a two hour boat trip starting at 4pm.  It was beautiful; we travelled around the lake and up the River Nene.  We saw so much bird life.  We were told that there were kingfishers around but warned that they are difficult to spot because they are so quick and almost impossible to photograph.  The latter was true but we saw four kingfishers, sitting in the trees, diving for fish, just darting about.  It was so amazing.  I am not a bird-watcher, as such, but the sight of the birds was mesmerising. The boatman had stopped the boat so we could watch for about 15 minutes.  I will never forget that boat ride, the peace and tranquillity, the sound of the birds, watching just in case there was a glimpse of an otter.  This was followed by another meal at Loch Fyne, Jambalaya again.

The third trip to Ferry Meadows was with Liz’s grandchildren at the end of July; we just went for a day. This time we didn’t go on the steam railway or the boat trip but on the miniature railway and made use of the picnic facilities and the sand children’s play area.  How I wished we had known about the sand area in advance and thus avoided the devastation, inside the car, of water and sand but it was a fantastic day out.

We made all sorts of plans about going back to the steam railway, the boat trip, the miniature railway, the walks, later in the year but of course that didn’t happen because of the events of the rest of the year, but we have plans for 2017.

So where does this tea towel fit in to this story?  This tea towel was a Christmas present from Gwyn and Pete and really captures the essence of summer 2016, a highlight of my year.  The fact is that Nene Valley Railway, Ferry Meadows or anything nearby does not have a tea towel; while that may have been a disappointment at the time, this tea towel makes up for that, big time.  The artist is Paul Dyson, a water-colour artist who does a lot of work for the RSPB.  This tea towel is very unusual, because it is based on a watercolour painting, and thus has such fine detailing, of the feathering, of the colours.  I like the way that it is ‘framed’ by the white border.  As I use it, it will certainly bring back good memories of 2016, which I need, so I don’t focus on the negatives.

Do you want a few facts about Kingfishers? No? Tough! There are 90 different species of Kingfisher but the common ingredient is that they all have large heads, long sharp pointed bills, short legs and stubby tails; a Kingfisher has a dumpy body.  Kingfisher legs and feet are bright red.  Kingfishers have a short lifespan; few live longer than one breeding season, less than a quarter survive from one breeding season to the next.  The mating ritual is interesting: the male will catch a fish and approach a female with the fish in its beak; the head of the fish is facing outwards and he attempts to feed it to the female.  If he is unsuccessful, he just eats it himself. Typical!

But actually one other highlight of 2016 has been my new interest in Venery Nouns, started by that great tea towel Fee gave me for my birthday (Blog dated 3/9/16); this year ended with me winning a Perkins and Morley Collective Noun Calendar for 2017.  What a great end to the year.  February is about Kingfishers: the collective (or Venery) noun for Kingfishers is ‘clique’, ‘concentration’, ‘crown’, ‘rattle’  or ‘realm’. What a way to end 2016.  Thank you.

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

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

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The Shard: December 2016

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(This building will be…) “a shard of glass through the heart of historic London”, so said English Heritage, when planning permission for this building was granted about 15 years ago.  This is how it’s common name came about, rather than the original name of London Bridge Tower.  And, if you are using the name The Shard, don’t forget to use a capital ‘T’ for ‘The’; that is how it is supposed to be written, no common, lower case ‘T’.

I can see why English Heritage might have used that very dramatic description of the building; personally, I am big into historic buildings but in reality, I think it is an absolutely stunning structure.  As you walk around the Southwark area of London, you can capture glimpses of The Shard through jittys, over the tops of buildings, reflected in glass windows and from other London tourist attractions.  It is unmistakeable; that is probably because it is the tallest building in London at 309.6 metres and 95 storeys high; it is the 4th tallest building in Europe and the 105th tallest building in the world.  Do you remember John Prescott MP? Well, it was his job, as a Governemet minister, to approve the building on skyscrapers in Britain; I didn’t realise that just one person had this responsibility.  Clearly, Governement had learnt some mistakes of the past, about the building of tall buildings. “Prescott would only approve skyscrapers of exceptional design. For a building of this size to be acceptable, the quality of design is critical.  He is satisfied that the proposed tower is of the highest architectural quality”: this was the justification of the building of The Shard, to English Heritage; an alternative way of looking at it is that it is a piece of ‘neo-futurism’.

Lyn and Rob bought this tea towel for me, as a Christmas present this year.  Lyn and Rob go out to meals in some amazing places; this year I have been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of tea towels from some fantastic adventures (e.g. Bluebell Railway, Blog dated 7/9/16).  The tea towel of The Shard is absolutely stunning for many reasons: it is much larger, longer than most of my tea towels which makes it stand out; it is of a very strong and durable cotton; the colours are staggering for a tea towel, shades of blue, from deep navy to pale sunshine blue, very similar colour scheme to that of the London Sights tea towel designed for 2012 London Olympics (which I own but haven’t yet blogged about); and finally, the design is so dramatic, so stark, so understated, a bit like a shard of glass.

Of course, you can eat at The Shard but you can also take a ‘View from The Shard’ experience, travelling to either Floor 69 or 72 for the most spectacular, uninterrupted view over London.  “I foresee the tower as a vertical city for thousands of people to work in, and enjoy” (Renzo Piano, architect) and I certainly want to be one of those people who will achieve that enjoyment in 2017.  In the meantime, my wiping up tasks in 2017 will be made considerably more interesting by using this stunning tea towel, planning my trip to The Shard and, once achieved, reflecting on it with happy memories. In the meantime, thank you to Lyn and Rob.

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

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

Cluckingham Palace: 2016

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I don’t buy a national daily paper, never have done, so I don’t remember the story of Cluckingham Palace.  It certainly didn’t appear in the Leicester Mercury.  Apparently, Crispin Odey, a Hedge Fund Manager, made an absolute fortune in 2008 by speculating on the Credit Crunch and what shares would be affected.  He already lived in a big ‘pad’ in Gloucestershire, Grade II listed and all that.  He decided to spend £150,000 on building “a temple to 20 prize hens”.  The chicken house was taller than a bungalow, had Palladian arches at the front and was the size of a two-bedroomed house.  The application for planning permission described it as ‘a small temple in the trees’.  Crispin Odey is Rupert Murdoch’s former son-in-law, so presumably the ‘world is his oyster’.  The newsworthiness of this story, and all the headlines, certainly launched a business of all things ‘Cluckingham’.  The Planning Officer’s decision said Cluckingham Palace was “rather grandiose” but that it would replace a concrete-block building that was “not an attractive feature in an area of outstanding natural beauty”.

This tea towel was a Christmas present, this year, from Ann; Ann who is a regular customer of my chickens’ eggs; Ann who has had to listen to me, boring her to death, about the latest outbreak of Avian Flu and the DEFRA edict that means I have had to lock my chickens in a covered area, for 30 days from 6 December.  This is all about birds, already suffering from Avian Flu, from the Netherlands, flying over my chicken coop, which only houses 6 chickens, dropping their chicken droppings in the coop, to spread Avian Flu.  Chickens definitely do not like being enclosed in a small area; but they haven’t stopped laying, which is all to the good.  This has enabled Ann to maintain her Christmas baking with organic, fresh eggs.  The only way I have found to keep the chickens happy, however, is to forego having Brussels Sprouts on Christmas Day and giving them those whole stalks of Brussels Sprouts.  This is a time when my chickens, and probably those belonging to lots of other people, would definitely benefit from their own Cluckingham Palace, rather than a small enclosure.

This is a delightful, brightly coloured tea towel by another artist who captured the quirkiness of hens (and chickens).  As I use it, I will remember the hens chomping on Brussels Sprout stalks and just hoping the 6 January 2017 will see the release of the chickens, otherwise it will cost me a fortune in Brussels Sprouts!!

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

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

New Years Resolutions: 2017

Every year I make resolutions at the end of the year.  I like the feeling of getting the new year on track, having something to aim for, being organised.  I like a bit of planning but one thing I know for sure is that unless I say them out loud, nothing will happen.

I went to a Catholic school where we all had to ‘give something up for Lent’.  If I didn’t pronounce loudly, to all and sundry, what I intended to give up, then I would never succeed.  It’s about the pressure of peers and the pressure from peers.  I don’t want to embarrass myself; I don’t want to appear like a bag of hot air.  My most successful resolution, that I pronounced loudly, was giving up smoking and saving the money in order to go on holiday to China.  This was successful, back in the day of October 1985 ending up in China in March 1987.

In 2000, Liz and I started a new tradition; she had been given a very pretty notebook which was tied up with beautiful, pale purple ribbon.  We decided we would categorise our aspirations for the year, with a page for each category.  We would write these on the first of January; about half way through the following year we would review the lists, cross off successfully achieved targets, then repeat the process just before setting the next targets.  Headings like gardening, work, holidays, friends, leisure cover every aspect of one’s life.  Once the lists have been compiled, it is like saying them out loud because you have done it in front of someone else.

With a Tea Towel Blog, that is nearly two years old, I thought I ought to set myself some targets for 2017, to motivate myself.  If I blog about this, I am going to have to try and achieve some of the targets because there is the odd reader who will be asking questions about my success.  Fee springs to mind; that’s scary.

  • My aim is to have written 300 blogs about different tea towels by the end of 2016.  I have had this in my mind for some time and maybe I can achieve this.  To achieve this, would give me a good start for 2017; it would also mean that I had written about well over 300 tea towels, probably nearer 400 because a number of the blogs are about more than one tea towel

PS: I set this target for myself at the beginning of December, and scarily have achieved this by Boxing Day – 301 Tea Towel Blogs, writing about 376 tea towels.  When I started this Blog I estimated that I had about 300 tea towels, which I thought was a huge number. I am definitely not finished yet; I don’t know how far I have to go.  On Christmas Day I got another 6 tea towels, none of which were repeats. I love tea towels!!

  • During 2017, I will have written 400 tea towel blogs and about 550 tea towels, whichever comes first.  I think that would mean that I will have nearly written about all the tea towels from the airing cupboard.
  • 2017 is the year I need to try and increase the number of followers I have on my Twitter account.  I hope by the end of 2017 there will be 750 plus. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to do anything ghastly to increase the numbers.
  • I need to review the manner in which I take photographs of my tea towels.  This is something that Fee has begged me to do; she hated any photographs taken with a tea towel draped over the back of an armchair, cropped or not.  Fee also hated any photos where someone is holding a tea towel.  She thinks, and she is probably right, that having someone in the photo distracts from the essence of the tea towel.  Fee has liked the introduction of tea towels hanging on the washing line, in the garden.  There is a problem with this approach in that it is dependent on good weather; will 2017 bring fine, sunny weather?

PS: Note to Fee –  the exception to your thoughts about people holding a tea towel has to be the really beautiful photo of Jai and Roger holding the tea towel of Venezia; that photo adds to the blog, not distracts from it.

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  • Before I started the Tea Towel Blog, when certain people knew roughly how many tea towels I owned, friends said, laughingly, that I ought to open a Tea Towel Museum.  Well, friends, 2017 will see the opening of my Tea Towel Museum, a bit later in the year.  Wait and see what happens.  I can hear Fee crying, at the moment she reads this, “Oh no. Anything but that” and my response is “But your Christmas present to me, this year, will be in it!!”

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  • I need to find a different way to store my tea towels.  The reason for this is that my collection has grown considerably over the last 18 months.

 

My friend, Lynn, is looking into a variety of whacky ways to do this.  It might earn her a fortune or maybe I will just find another cupboard to put them in.

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  • I am going to introduce a new piece on my blog later in the year which will involve interviews with some of my favourite tea towel designers and hopefully, I am going to start some interviews with tea towel companies, to give some background to the blog
  • I definitely have to work out how to include the tea towels I have inherited, over the last 18 months, into my Blog because at the moment they are sitting in separate piles on the spare bed, not in the airing cupboard.

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This includes tea towels from Jean, David and Dorothy and Nicky’s Aunt and a write-up of Gwyn’s mothers tea towels which I discovered and photographed but she is still using.

  • This Christmas I have been introduced to Whatsapp; I am still struggling with it but I have been told that what is lacking on my use of Twitter, linked to my Tea Towel Blog, is my use of ‘hashtag’. So I need to use ‘hashtag’ Tea Towel (except I cant find the hashtag symbol on my keyboard. I have a few days to find it before New Years Eve!!

PS: Just found it next to Number 3 ##########

These nine tasks should keep me busy during 2017.  I wonder how many I will achieve!

Venezia, Italy: 2016 (going back to 1976)5

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Just imagine wanting to celebrate your tenth wedding anniversary in a very special way; imagine wanting to go somewhere special, romantic; imagine persuading your mother that she really wanted to look after her grandchildren a couple of days before Christmas (actually, not a difficult task) so you could take this very special break; imagine booking three days in Venice, just five days before Christmas; imagine the excitement of getting your Guidebook and planning all the places that you wanted to visit.  But then imagine going out of your way to buy a Tea Towel from Venice for a crazy Tea Towel Collector!!  I think that is a truly selfless act, especially as it has just added another tea towel to the ever-growing tea towel collection, that you will evetually inherit.  It brings joy to my heart, knowing that my tea towel collection is safe for all time, knowing Jai and Roger really appreciate it (I don’t think!!).

My Ulster Weavers ‘Wedding Anniversary’ tea towel (See Tea Towel Blog dated 24/7/15) tells me that the tenth Wedding Anniversary should be celebrated with a gift made from tin so I bought Jai and Roger a pizza tray, probably not quite tin, but in the theme of Venice.

There are four very exciting things about this tea towel: (a) it becomes part of a growing collection of Italian tea towels, all the same size – huge; all the same style – brilliant white background, with a border around the edge, a very full and busy tea towel, lots of sketches; all the same material – 100% cotton.  I have Italian tea towels of places like Lake Maggiore (Blog dated 12/6/15) and Sicily (Blog dated 5/10/16) and of Italian things like Pasta (Blog dated 12/6/15.  I love the style and long to add to the collection by a trip back to Italy in 2017. (b) what I especially love about this tea towel is just the thought behind it, being bought for me; it was kind and generous and (c) it is a good memory jogger for Jai and Roger’s amazing wedding in 2006 in Devon where the sun was bright (although there is no pretending that it was hot in December) and after the ceremony the ‘photo shoot’ took place on the beach opposite Burgh Island; it was a small, simple wedding, and that is how weddings should be, the people that you want are there and no fights amongst family members about who should be there and who shouldn’t, a wedding that Jai and Roger planned and that reflected their personalities (d) and finally, it reminds me of a really great holiday I had in 1976.

I first went to Venice in 1976, with Dave.  I went in July to initially to see my Aunty Eileen and Uncle Ferruccio; while they lived in Rome the family spent a couple of months, during the summer, in the Dolomites; in fact, many Roman families did that in order to escape the heat of Rome.  In my job, I had to take the first two weeks in July as my holiday (otherwise no one, in their right mind, would go to Italy at that time of the year).  We travelled by train from Leicester to Milan and then changed trains (always travel by train in 1976 if your husband works for British Rail – you get free travel!).  We bought framed rucksacks to make travelling easier.  It was at this point I discovered that I could never carry a rucksack on my back (because of the shape of my spine) and spent the holiday with my spine covered in plasters!.  The days in the Dolomites were wonderful; it was good to see my aunt and uncle and somehow my cousins (Andrew, Laurence and John) appeared while we were there.  Our holiday photos in the Dolomites were like something out of ‘The Sound of Music’, hills covered in bright green grass full of mountain flowers, cloudless, brilliant blue skies and overwhelming sense of peace.  My memories are of just sitting around, talking, laughing and taking all those photos.

A few days later, we took the trip down the mountain to catch the train to Verona for a couple of days; Verona was just beautiful.  We found Juliet’s balcony, visited many churches, walked by the River and absorbed the history.  The final stage of the holiday was by train from Verona to Venice where we spent seven days.  Venice to me was magical, certainly nothing like the film ‘Don’t Look Back’, with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, which was really scary.  You only have to look at my tea towel  to see all the things that are associated with Venice, although some of it is of dubious origin.  Marco Polo is there but history debates whether he was born in Venice, Constantinople or on the Dalmatian Coast.  What we do know is that although he wasn’t the first European to reach China, he was the first to chronicle his travels in ‘The Book of Marvels of the World’.  We all know there is such a lot to Venice but to me it all centres around St Marks’ Square – the church, the square surrounded by cafes, and probably one of the most expensive places to drink coffee in the world, back in 1976.  Venice oozes Renaissance art and architecture; history seeps out of the pores of the buildings.  There is nothing like a Gondola ride or taking the water bus to one of the 117 islands in the Venetian Lagoon.  A trip to the glass works at Murano is well worth a ride. I certainly couldn’t afford to buy any glass but my grandparents, who loved going on cruises, bought some amazing pieces of glass from Murano and I still have the most fantastic ashtray, probably not very practical as an ashtray, in green and blue glass intertwined.  It is certainly a fashion accessory in the house.  The tea towel shows the Old Clock Tower on St Mark’s Square, the four horses of St Mark which are the symbols of pride and power of Venice.  But the thing I love most about Venice is the small roads and bridges that line the canals, where you can wander along, peering into people’s houses, imagining the world of 600 years ago. Steep bridges and cobblestones do not make Venice a particularly accessible place but they certainly make it beautiful.  Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for ‘urban structure and architecture’, and it certainly deserves to be.  I thought Venice was magical and mystical and I do hope that Jai and Roger thought the same.

When I use this tea towel, it will conjure up a world of memories from 2016, and taking their children to trampolining, to that glorious holiday in 1976 when I met up with my family. Tea towels can really transport you into another world.

God Save the Queen (Buckingham Palace): 2016 (going back to 1979)

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Happy Christmas to Everyone!  This Blog is a homage to my mother; my mother who died 26 years ago; my mother who truly loved Christmas.  She wasn’t so much interested in receiving presents and the commercialisation of Christmas.  She loved the build-up to Christmas: the decorations and decorating the house, buying a real Christmas tree, buying and wrapping presents for other people, writing cards, going up to London to see the lights in Oxford Street and driving to see the lights outside the Hoover factory in Perivale.

When I was young, we always spent Christmas Day at the houses of other relatives – grandparents, aunts and uncles.  When I was older (and my parents fell out with all their relatives), we always spent Christmas Day at home, sometimes with Chris but usually just ourselves.  Mum and Dad loved spending the day at home.  She started planning Christmas dinner at the end of November, thinking up something different; she never wanted to have turkey.  My favourite Christmas dinner was definitely the lobster; I can remember the beautiful lobster flesh in the shell, surrounded by salad and chips.  I would have chips on everything.  Not having turkey on Christmas Day is something I definitely inherited from my parents.  I love to try something a bit different: pheasant, grouse, pigeon, guinea fowl, ostrich, buffalo… 2014 was a great Christmas Day – kangaroo burgers on a BBQ in Beacon Hill Park, with a cup of tea made on a camping stove, with mince pies and Christmas crackers.

After 26 years, I have adjusted to Christmas without my mum; I don’t feel it is a sad occasion but there is always a sense of something missing.  In the spirit of Tea Towel Blogging, I decided to write about the tea towel I bought at Buckingham Palace in May 2016; this was the day I had Afternoon Tea at the Ritz, the day after Leicester City won the Premier League Championship (at 5000-1 odds) and Mark Selby won the Snooker Championship.  I bought the tea towel after walking through Green Park, visiting the Royal Mews and circling Buckingham Palace, remembering  October 1979 when I went to Buckingham Palace with my parents in order that my mum could be presented with the Order of the Britsh Empire (OBE) by the Queen.  As the huge certificate says, which is framed and hanging in my spare room, in the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Elizabeth II.

So many memories! (A) I remember my Mum getting a letter on 16 June 1979, confirming that she had been awarded the OBE.  I don’t remember the letter in May asking if she would accept the OBE, if she was granted one, because she wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about that letter.  (B) We travelled to Buckingham Palace in the mayoral car of the London Borough of Ealing.  I remember driving through the wrought iron gates of Buckingham Palace, feeling very grand, and special.  It certainly saved travelling by Tube and walking a long distance. (C) my mother received her OBE at the same ceremony as Cleo Laine.  I remember mum telling me how they were instructed how to curtesy, and walk backwards, by the attendants.  After that, my mother and Cleo Laine practised curtseying to each other.  Both were precariously balanced on heels that were too high for curtseying which made it a dangerous activity.  It added to my mother’s day, having those memories of practising curtseying with Cleo Laine.  (D) recipients were taken to a back room to wait to be called to be presented to the Queen; my dad and I sat on tiered seating in what must have been the yellowist room in the world – yellow carpet, yellow seating, yellow wallpaper, amongst all the other proud relatives.  (E) I remember that sense of anticipation, waiting for my mum’s name to be called, holding my breath in case she tripped, and that sense of pride that her work in the public sector had been recognised.  (F) I remember telling people about that day, showing them the photos yet being slightly reluctant to talk about how she got her OBE.  She was awarded the OBE, by Margaret Thatcher, in her first Honour’s List after winning the General Election in May 1979, for services to politics (or rather being the first woman leader of a council in England and Wales).  My politics did not always coincide with my mother’s, hence the slight embarrassment .  (G) the big lesson I learnt was when my mother died; people wrote to me about how she had helped them, how she treated people, how she supported her constituents, how apolitical she was for a leader of a political party.  This is a side of my mother that I never knew at that time.  I felt ashamed that I was embarrassed about Margaret Thatcher nominating her for an OBE; it was how she treated her constituents that mattered and, in reality, she didn’t even like Margaret Thatcher.  (H) I remember that her award made the headlines of the Middlesex Gazette; I remember all the letters of congratulations that she received, which I still have.  (I) because she was limited as to who she could take as guests to Buckingham Palace, we planned for a few people to celebrate back at home – Chris and Pam, Dave.  It was nice to share this occasion with close family.

Every time I see Buckingham Palace I remember that day, that glorious day when she was so full of pride, as were the rest of the family.  I still have her medal, and the miniature version she could wear on her lapel, on special occasions.  I often wonder what will happen to it when I am no longer around but actually, maybe it’s like my tea towel collection, something for me not to worry about.

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

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

Fun with Dogs: 2016

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I love this tea towel, for two reasons: firstly, I love the work of Helen L Smith; she has a great sense of humour and can use ordinary, everyday things like gardening to create distinctive cartoon images and a ‘play on words’.  Secondly, her work, for me, has always conjured up great memories (because of the circumstances in which I have acquired her tea towels).  ‘Fun with Dogs’ is one of a series of tea towels by Helen L Smith; I have already blogged about ‘Dictionary of Gardens’ and ‘Dictionary of Tea’ and one about caravans.  If you look at http://www.helen-l-smith.co.uk, on the About Me page, there is a splendid picture of Helen holding up her tea towel, ‘Dictionary of Tea’, something that Fee would probably question; Fe doesn’t approve of people holding up tea towels, as the way to display a tea towel. I think it is great; Helen has a way of holding a tea towel, by its corners, in a manner similar to my own! Must be ok!!

I don’t have a dog; I’ve never had a dog; I don’t want a dog; I couldn’t cope with all those Poop Bags and Pooper-Scoopers.  I do have a great memory of a dog and a tea towel, however.  It involved Floyd wearing a paper hat around his neck at Christmas 2002; somehow he ventured too near a lighted candle and set fire to the hat.  There was a smell of singed hair; we all cried out loud “Floyd’s on fire”.  Liz to the rescue put the fire out with a damp tea towel. Yes, you read that correctly, a tea towel.  I am stood there, shouting out “You can’t use a tea towel to put out a fire”; it is too precious and, blithely, suggested using articles of expensive clothing as a fire extinguisher.  Fortunately, Floyd was unscathed and unperturbed; the tea towel was definitely worse for wear (it is still in use but has not risen to the top of the airing cupboard pile yet).  Floyd never wore a paper hat again; Liz never attempted to put out a fire with a tea towel again.

However, a couple of weeks ago I went to a Quiz Evening, as a guest of Gwyn and Pete, in aid of Canine Partners.  Gwyn and Pete don’t have a dog (and never had had, as far as I know).  There was some long, complicated reason why they were supporting Canine Partners, which I did not fully understand, but I believe it had something to do with a member of the Morris Dancing Group, that Gwyn belongs to, being involved with Canine Partners.  It’s years since I had been to a good ‘Pub Quiz’ (although it wasn’t in a Pub).  Pub Quizzes feature strongly in the life of a tea towel collector; tea towels are often the source of a lot of random knowledge, the sort of knowledge that is useful in a Pub Quiz.  Many of my Blogs have featured such information: the country that drinks most tea per capita (29/7/16 Blog), when to plant a strawberry (20/7/16 Blog), what is the appropriate gift for a fifth wedding anniversary (24/7/15 Blog), what was the date of the marriage of Charles and Diana (30/7/16 Blog), name three Shakespearean Tragedies (8/7/15 Blog), how many points does the letter K score in Scrabble (15/2/16 Blog), name 5 varieties of British potato (5/4/16 Blog), Kings and Queens of England (2/6/16 Blog) and much more. And some of the information gleaned from these, and other, tea towels was useful with Canine Partners and helped Gwyn’s team win third place.

What was great about the event at Canine Partners was that it was so well organised.  There were 10 rounds with 12 questions in each round: topics ranged from music to words, from facial recognition to sport.  Before the start, each team could opt for one category as a ‘joker’, thus potentially doubling the points on that round, the round your team considered to be their strongest topic.  We chose Words, which actually wasn’t our strongest topic.  In addition, there was a Quiz on Christmas songs, with 50 questions where you had to identify a song from the initial letters of the title; not as easy as you think. There was a team competition to make the longest paperchain from a copy of the Ashby Times, without the aid of any artificial means of sticking the pieces together.  Then there was the buffet and the raffle; when I saw the raffle the first thing I said was that the only prize I wanted to win was the (this) tea towel.  And, much to my surprise, that is what I did.  Gwyn’s team also won the prize for the longest Christmas paper chain.  What an evening! What a team! What memories this tea towel holds!

But actually, you need to look at the tea towel; there are some wonderful cartoons with a ‘play on words’. What about ‘Chilli Dog’ with that great Dachshund wrapped up in scarves? Or the ‘Boxers’, in underwear? Such simple ideas.  ‘Napoleon Boney-Parte’ is slightly more subtle, with a dog with a very disdainful look.  My favourite has to be the ‘Hound of the Basketballs’.  This tea towel is a joyous delight; it will give me great pleasure while working my way through the Christmas wiping-up.  However, I noted on Helen’s website that there is a Catalogue of Cats, which I would love to add to my collection, but in the meantime I will content myself with ‘Fun with Dogs’.

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