Bekonscot: 2017

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When I visited the model village at Bourton-on-the-Water, last year, I loved the village but was hugely disappointed that there was no tea towel.  A model village is an ideal setting for a tea towel.  I visited Bekonscot Model Village last week and I expected the same thing to happen.  But no, joy upon joy, there was a tea towel.  You come to the shop after you have finished your ‘tour’; this is good because it meant I wasn’t distracted by the tea towel while I explored the 6 towns that constitute Bekonscot Model Village.

Bekonscot Model Village was founded in 1929 by Roland R. Callingham, in his own garden, not as a commercial endeavour but for the amusement of family and visitors.  Based on England in 1930’s, in a ‘time warp’ they say, Bekonscot Model Village describes itself as “a little piece of history, that is forever England”.  It is the oldest, and original, Model Village in the world, covering one and a half acres, with 200 buildings, 3000 inhabitants and 1000 animals, a Gauge 1 miniature railway and a 7.25 inch Gauge, ride-on railway which wends it’s way around the outskirts of the Model Village, criss-crossing some gardens and takes a turn, twice, round the pond.  Bekonscot Model Village also has 3000 shrubs and trees, maintained bonsai-style but not genuine bonsai plants, employing two full-time gardeners all year round.  I’ve often wondered how Bekonscot got it’s name: Roland Callingham obviously lived in Beaconsfield and had moved there from Ascot – a combination of the names of the two places.  Bekonscot Model Village has been run by the Church Army since 1978, with large donations to charities both locally and nationally, after running costs are paid for.

What I like about Bekonscot Model Village is the attention to detail, the pristine state that the buildings and models are kept in, some of which are originals, the way that the site has been developed over the years, with new additions like the circus.  The six towns that make up Bekonscot are:

  • Bekonscot is the largest and where it first started
  • Hanton is a small hamlet where a recent addition of Enid Blyton’s house, Green Hedges, is located.  Here there is a wedding going as well as a house fire with smoke coming out of the thatched roof; there is also a steam roller moving up and down
  • Splashyng is where the hospital is based, modelled on Amersham Hospital; there is a canal basin with cable cars moving up and down and the fox hunt
  • Greenhaily is where Chessnade Zoo is located, with pens of different animals.  I loved the Penguin Pool but there are lions, tigers, camels, rhinos, elephants and much more.  Greenhaily also has a windmill, cricket on the green.  When Ramsgate Model Village closed down, some of the houses became part of Greenhaily
  • Southpool is a small fishing village and harbour where you can look through the roof of the pottery and see the potter at work; there is an oil refinery, dry docks and rock climbers
  • Evenlode New Town and Epwood which has mining cottages, an archaeological dig, a castle, retirement home and a game of polo.

I love (a) the comic humour of the names of shops and businesses, names that you can miss the first time round.  I like Sam and Ella’s Butchers Shop the best but there are hundreds but (b) the sheer detail of things happening in village life, often hid around a corner so that you have to look for it carefully.  There is Morris Dancing, all manner of sport from hockey to football, from rugby to golf, from netball to polo.  There is a funfair, a circus, a convent, an airfield, race course, various schools, churches and shops.  And finally (c) there are surprising pieces of animation, tiny bits that could easily be missed: the woman washing her windows, the man nearly falling off a ladder, the roundabout and see-saw in the children’s playground, the cable cars and the trapeze artists in the circus tent (and much more).  There is even a maze based on the one at Hampton Court, constructed with their advice.

In addition, is the amazing railway.  There are three lines and it is not possible for the trains to crash into each other.  The Gauge 1 railway has been there since Bekonscot opened nearly 90 years ago; scaled down there are the equivalent of 10 miles of railway track.  There is a sophisticated signal box system whose computer programme was designed by the man that did the signalling system for the Jubilee Line Extension.  The trains are programmed to travel different routes, stop at stations and go round the ‘loops’.

I vaguely remember going to Bekonscot Model Village with my mother when I was a young child.  I remember some of the buildings but not the detail.  But last week, I was fascinated to see children as young as 2 being mesmerised by the little trains, 92 year olds loving the detail and having memories brought back, teenagers wanting to track the trains and see where they go, families finding a day out at Bekonscot Model Village as a really great day out.  I couldn’t resist going on the railway; you have to straddle the seat and I thought “I can’t do that” but if people 20 years older than me can, I gave it a go and it was great.  Glad I didn’t miss it.

By the time I got to the shop, I had had a fabulous day but then to find a tea towel! Wow!  It is a tea towel designed by Phil Clements of Smart and Gifted; I have several of his.  It is a great tea towel because it has seven pictures of various parts of the Model Village: Bandstand on the end of the pier, Morris Dancing, the Windmill, the Airfield, a station, the Funfair and the children’s playground.  It must have been difficult to decide which images to put on the tea towel.  As I use it, it is a truly great reminder of Bekonscot Model Village, the day I spent there, my desire to go back again to see the bits that I might have missed and my desire to find some other Model Villages.  Must re-read @MrTimDunn’s Blog, that will tell me where would be good to go.  Thank you @MrTimDunn, who initially inspired me to go to Bekonscot Model Village.

Click below to return to Virtual Tea Towel Museum

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Calendar Tea Towel: 1959/2017

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On reflection, when I have bought tea towels in the past, I have thought Calendar Tea Towels were a bit boring, not because they were boring artistically but because they usually didn’t identify a particular place that I had been to.  So I avoided them, in preference for others.  Now I am into my third year of blogging about tea towels, Calendar Tea Towels have become a subject of fascination to me.  I am on the ‘look out’ for more but because I haven’t been a regular collector, over the years, I have to try and remember what I have got; they are not in numerical order in my mind.  I can see that Calendar Tea Towels are a great way to remember events of particular years; events that are important to me, to my family, to the world.  I am looking forward to my search for more.

Andrew, holder of the above tea towel, is my cousin, first-born son of my Aunty Eileen, on my mother’s side.  He was born and brought up in Italy.  As a child, I saw him a lot because I regularly stayed with my Aunt during my school holidays; as an adult, meetings have been few and far between.  His wedding many years ago and a visit to England last year have been about it.  As you become adults, and in my case old, there are always things that get in the way, work, other commitments ………  What I hadn’t realised, in all these years, was that Andrew enjoys tea towels.  I don’t know if he inherited his mother’s tea towels; I don’t know how many he has but I do know he has some bizarre ones.  Over the last few months we have been in frequent communication via Whatsapp; cheap way of sending photos.  He sent me this picture of a tea towel with the message “Happy Easter Monday”.  This was a test of my memory.  Was this a random Calendar Tea Towel or did 1959 have any significance? Maybe it was the year of his parents wedding? No, not that.  I can’t remember how old Andrew is; he isn’t likely to have gone out and bought a tea towel of the year of his birth or is he?  It is embarrassing to admit you don’t know how old your relatives are.  In the end, I had to ask him.  The response was “This was *my* calendar”.   I don’t know what that means; a tea towel blog requires accurate information but as Andrew replied “the 59 Calendar is *mine* it shouldn’t take too much to get the answer”.  Sarcasm doesn’t become him so I went to my mother’s address and birthday book, 25 years old, and discovered what *mine* meant.

So this is a vintage tea towel, nearly 60 years old.  Obviously, I do not own it; it is Andrew’s but I do love it.  It is not an Italian tea towel because the months are written in English.  I don’t remember Aunty Eileen coming to England in 1959; people rarely flew in those days when they were pregnant.  So how did Andrew get it? Did he buy it as a vintage tea towel? Did Aunty Eileen buy it at some point? Did my mother send it to her, or even give it to her, when she visited?  At some point, I hope Andrew fills in those details; I do like a full story!

So what happened in 1959?  My friend, Liz, was born in 1959 in London.  Buddy Holly died along with Richie Valens and the Big Bopper.  Their death, in a plane crash, was immortalised with the words “The day the music died” in Don Maclean’s song ‘American Pie’.  Emma Thompson, Gary Kemp, Simon Cowell, Morrissey, Charles Kennedy and Ben Elton were also born in 1959.  ‘Juke Box Jury’ was launched on TV with David Jacobs; I used to spend early Saturday evenings watching ‘Juke Box Jury’ and loved it.  United Kingdom came second in the Eurovision Song Contest with “Sing Little Birdie”, sung by Pearl Carr and Teddie Johnson.  It really is worth watching on YouTube!  And do you remember that great film called ‘The Man That Loved Funerals’?  1959 saw Fidel Castro come to power, the Dali Lama was forced to leave Tibet and ‘Barbie’ came into existence. I admire the role she plays in ‘Toy Story’ but have always refused to respond to anyone who wanted to shorten my name to Barbie or even Babs!

1959 saw a lot more happening.  The average house price in Britain was £2410.  The first section of the M1, from Watford to Rugby, was opened and I have an old postcard showing that momentous occasion.  ‘Ben Hur’ was premiered, Nottingham Forest won the FA Cup, the ‘Sound of Music’ opened on Broadway, Xerox launched the first commercial copier, Southend Pier Pavilion burnt down, ‘Mac the Knife’ was in the charts, sung by Bobby Darin (and I bought a copy),  ‘Ivor the Engine’ (drawn by Peter Firmin, father of Josie Firmin.  See Blog dated 7/3/2017) was launched.  Can you stand the excitement of knowing that the first postcodes were trialled in Norwich in 1959?

You see, this is why I have grown to love a Calendar Tea Towel, so many memories, so much useful information for a Pub Quiz and so many reasons to linger over the wiping up while I try and remember all those things that happened that year.  Thanks Andrew for sharing 1959 with me (of course, most of those events, mentioned above, relate to United Kingdom and you probably have no idea what I am talking about!!)

PS: I’ve just looked at the 1959 Calendar Tea Towel more closely.  I don’t understand what those dates are that are marked.  Some are English Bank Holidays but wasn’t there an August Bank Holiday in 1959? I know there was no May Day holiday back then but what about that early date in August?  I hope Andrew knows the answers!!

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

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A Garden Without Chickens… : 2003 and 2010

I bought this tea towel (Breeds of Chickens – right) at the Royal Show.  I had just moved into a bungalow with a very big garden, with the intention of keeping some chickens.  This was a longstanding ambition of mine.   At the Royal Show, I spent a long time wandering around the tents where chickens were on display, waiting to be ‘judged’ and even longer around the displays of hen houses, equipment essential for keeping chickens like feeders.  There was an opportunity to talk to people with a great deal of experience in keeping chickens, talking about the best breed of layers, the advantages of layers pellets over layers mash and generally tips on keeping happy hens.  I looked at a lot of hen houses, all different; was it better to have the nest box at the back or side of the house? how high should the ladder be up to the nesting box? was it important to have a run that I could stand up in? was it useful to have the house on wheels?  It was thoroughly enjoyable experience.  I found a local hen house dealer, where I could go and have another look at his stock, and also where ‘point of lay’ hens were sold locally.  I felt much better prepared to start keeping chickens.  That day at the Royal Show has given me nearly 14 years of thoroughly enjoyable, chicken-keeping.  And I was able to buy a tea towel to remind me of the advice I was given.  The original wooden hen house is still going strong but I have also progressed to having a bright red Eglu.  I have learnt that if you are attempting to keep about 6 to 8 hens that it is useful to be able to separate hens at times: if you need to expand your stock, if you have a poorly hen, if some hens have come to the end of their laying life and need to retire, if you have a bullying, or bullied, hen.  I have moved the hen houses and runs around the garden.  I now have patches of very fertile growing areas.  Chicken droppings combined with other garden waste makes a very rich compost.

However, I don’t like coincidences.  I was reading ‘A Taoist Guide to Practical Living’ by Lieh-tzu Liezi who said “When two things occur successively we call it cause and effect, if we believe one event made another happen.  If we think one event is the response to another we call it a reaction.  If we feel that two incidents are not related we call it a mere coincidence…..If we cannot find a reason for the two events occurring simultaneously, or in close proximity, we call it an accident……..Is everything connected so that events create resonances like ripples across a net? Or do things merely co-occur?”. Yesterday, this tea towel came to the top of the list for blogging about.  Yesterday, I woke up to a bright, sunny but chilly morning, put on my wellies, went down to feed the chickens and to my horror, and devastation, there were feathers everywhere; no bloodshed just feathers.  I only had one chicken left.  I could see where the (presumably) fox had jumped the fence and eaten five chickens, piles of feathers in five different places.  I was out the previous day but from the fact that one chicken was still alive and the amount of eggs laid, the ‘killer’ had come in during the day.  There was one chicken, now allied Houdini, who was trotting around happily.  It was an awful sight (and site).  I don’t know how Houdini escaped the ‘killer’ except that she was probably laying.  This is the first time I have seen any evidence of a fox, and certainly the first time any chickens have been killed.  This is devastating.  It’s not just the scene of destruction but the fact that these hens were in my care, they trusted me.  I tried to catch my Houdini, managed to pick her up but because I was so upset, I dropped her again.  I wanted to put her with my two ‘retired’ hens; chickens are sociable animals, they like to be with other hens and humans.  I left her for the time-being, locked in the inner sanctum of her hen house and will try again today.  Foxes always return to the scene of their crime and I don’t want it to have the last pickings.

It seems ironic to find an Emma Bridgewater tea towel with the first line “A garden without chickens………” on this day but it seems appropriate to include it.

I know a lot of people who have lost their chickens to foxes; it is the danger for having reasonably free range chickens.  They have managed to restock and carry on, maybe even have another visit from a fox at a later date.  My immediate reaction is that I can’t think about it.  I just need to protect the three that I have left and see what happens in the future.  As I use this tea towel, I will remember the joy that my chickens have given me already, the devastation of yesterday, the resilience of Houdini and plans for the future.

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

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Dogs with Falling Leaves by Gwyn: 2017

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My friend, Gwyn, doesn’t own a dog; I don’t know if she ever has, but certainly not for the last 40 years.  She has no desire to own a dog at the moment.  In fact, Gwyn is a ‘Cat Person’, a lover of cats, to my knowledge has always had a cat, usually very quirky cats.  So two interests of hers, Morris Dancing and craft work, brought her into contact with Canine Partners and their recent craft exhibition.

One of Gwyn’s Morris Dancing colleagues has a connection with Canine Partners.  Gwyn invited me to join her Quiz Night team for Canine Partners; I won a tea towel about dogs (Obviously a great organisation) – Blog dated 24/12/2016.  Canine Partners have some very imaginative approaches to small scale fundraising; it embraces different interests and creates an involvement with the wider community.  Their latest fundraising effort was a Craft Exhibition.  There was an entry price and they supplied entrants with 25 small pieces of cloth.  Entrants had to use at least a part of each piece of cloth to create a work of art.  At the end, there was an exhibition of all the pieces of work; a condition of entry was that all pieces of art work had to be available for sale.

In her retirement, Gwyn has developed a real interest in a range of craft work, but not sewing so her entry was never going to be a soft toy.  She decided to do a collage, using a self-created template for the dogs.  Gwyn had forgotten about this competition until she found the bits of material under some papers; her entry was created down to the deadline. Gwyn likes working to a deadline so it brings out her best.  I was round her house when she was putting the finishing touches to ‘Dogs with Falling Leaves’.  I couldn’t help it, I took one look and said “That would make a good tea towel”.  I convinced Pete to take a photo and email it to me.   I had great fun in choosing the border and red edging, deciding on the font and layout.  Having used Bags of Love before, I knew that they would make a good job and would be the right people to do this; I was right.  My plan was to just get one done as a gift for Gwyn but they had a ‘Three for the Price of Two’ offer on so I realised I could have one for myself and she could have an extra one for a gift for someone (probably her mother-in-law).

The collage has come out even better than I anticipated; it is a brilliant tea towel.  I love the way the colours are so distinctive, the fact that one of the dogs was a textured purple and it has possible to see this, it gives a depth to the collage, and therefore the tea towel.  As I use my tea towel, I will always remember Gwyn’s love of creativity, together with my ability to spot a good tea towel subject.  Gwyn and I have a great working partnership, stretching back nearly 40 years, and here is a physical manifestation of it!!

http://www.bagsoflove.co.uk

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“Dark bluebells drench’d with dews of summer eves”: 2017

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The words of this title, taken from Matthew Arnold’s poem ‘The Scholar Gypsy’, head this beautiful tea towel from Kew Gardens.  The tea towel reminds me of two people.  Firstly, @MrTimDunn who often posts photographs of vintage railway posters on Twitter.  I will often post a reply, along the lines of ‘That would make a good tea towel’.  @MrTimDunn’s usual response is that I should tell the London Transport Museum, or whoever holds that particular poster.  On this occasion I have no need to inform anyone about what a great tea towel this poster would make, because Kew Gardens have already done that.  It is a beautiful, gentle, somewhat romanticised view of railway travel to Kew Gardens but I love it.  I saw it in the shop at Kew Gardens and couldn’t resist it.  There is no question that vintage railway posters make a great subject for a tea towel.

That is not the only reason I bought it.  Whenever I see pictures of bluebells, I can only think of Lyn and her mother, Dorothy.  I’ve seen a lot of photos of the two of them walking amongst swathes of bluebells.  Dorothy always used to talk about her love of walking amongst the bluebells; this tea towel makes me smile at that memory.  The fact was that the bluebells had just started to come into bloom when I was at Kew Gardens a few days ago; it seems a couple of weeks early for bluebells, but maybe I have got that wrong.  They looked beautiful, underneath the trees, inviting you to stroll amongst them in their deep blue.  Dorothy loved flowers of all kinds but I will always remember her amongst the bluebells; for her, they were a sign that winter had passed and spring was really on its way.

It is probably nine years since I have been to Kew Gardens; when I last was there the Treetop Walkway had not been built, nor had The Hive.  What I love about Kew Gardens is the way that it is continually evolving, changing; it isn’t just that the trees grow bigger or get blown down or that the flowers change with the seasons and therefore the gardens look so different; it is that new elements can be introduced, new features can be blended in so that you almost do not notice.  This visit I wanted to see the Treetop Walkway and The Hive; I’ve heard so much about them.

The Treetop Walkway was designed by the creators of the London Eye; 18 metres above ground level, 200 metres in length, made from 400 tonnes of weathered steel, rusted so that the columns blend in with the surrounding environment.  The idea is that you can walk through the tree tops, see the environment from a different angle, take in views across London.  When I arrived at Kew Gardens I followed the signs for the Treetop Walkway.  The signs didn’t mention distance; I seemed to walk for sometime, looking around to see if I could spot it and I couldn’t.  Must be going in the wrong direction, I thought.  But that is what is so clever and so beautiful about the Treetop Walkway, it blends in amongst the trees, the rusting of the steel means the pillars look like trees.  Suddenly, it comes upon you, so high.  I had that sinking feeling in my stomach.  There are 118 steps up to the walkway and fortunately for me there is also a lift.  I happily get in the lift, I watch from the lift as the horizon changes.  The lift stops.  I am supposed to get out and I realise that I hadn’t thought this through.  I am not a keen fan of heights where you can see through the flooring that you are walking on.  The walkway is a metal mesh and a little wobbly.  I tell myself that I haven’t heard of anyone falling from, or through, the walkway; what is the worse that can happen?  Isn’t that what CBT therapists ask?  The worst that could happen is that I fall off, of course.  Am I going to make myself look like a prat? I don’t care.  I can’t move.  I want to scream “Get me down and get me down NOW”.  Then I see small children walking, even running, with confidence.  I can’t just hold on to the lift, trying to look cool, because it doesn’t work.  As long as I didn’t look through the mesh I was fine.  I managed to walk round the full length with aplomb.  The views were amazing, better than I expected.  There is a strange feeling of being somewhere like Kenya and the Treetop Hotel, where I have been.  High up you get such a different perpesective.  I am so glad I tried the walkway; I am so glad that I didn’t ‘chicken out’ and I even think I might try it again (but don’t hold me to that).  I think I would sum up my experience as loving and hating it, in equal measures, but a brilliant piece of construction.

I moved on to The Hive, designed by Wolfgang Buttress and inspired by scientific research.  The Hive invites you to explore the extraordinary life of bees in a multisensory, three dimensional way.  As a work of art it is beautiful, intricate and inspirational.  You can view it from the ground, looking up into it; you can walk around a slope that travels up the side of the Hive and you can walk inside it at the top, standing on a transparent floor and be able to look down.  Oh no, not another floor you can look through.  There are adults and children sitting on the floor, listening to the noises and watching the delicate flicker of lights and there was I, at the entrance, too scared to walk across the floor.  The reality is that you have to go inside to experience what Wolfgang Buttress was trying to achieve.  Eventually I did but it took a while; maybe it was that child saying “You’re not scared are you?” That made me go in.  Again I am glad I did.  It is an experience not to be missed.

Having bought this tea towel, promoting travel by Underground to Kew, I am ashamed to say that I have never travelled to Kew by Underground: by car, by bus, by bicycle and by boat but never by train.  This time I travelled by boat from Westminster Pier; it takes one and a half hours and it was delightful, seeing London from the river is a whole new world, walking past Strand on the Green (I have an oil painting of Strand on the Green, that was given to my mother in 1960, hanging on the hall wall and it looks no different) was great, being able to buy two lovely tea towels and returning by boat on a beautiful sunny day is a memory that I will cherish and as I use this tea towel a whole myriad of memories distract me from wiping up.

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

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Happy Second Birthday of Blogging: 18 April 2017

You may ask yourself what have these three tea towels got to do with the second birthday of my Blog.  The answer is that Fee gave me the Venery Nouns tea towel for my birthday and I have become absorbed with Venery Nouns ever since.  A new obsession.  The other two tea towels are Venery Nouns (two different ones) of puffins.  A good introduction since it is Fee’s birthday today.  So happy birthday Fee!!

Can it really be two years ago that I first sat down, put pen to paper and wrote my first (ever) Blog?  I remember outlining the “journey” I was embarking upon.  And, yes, I do write every Blog by hand, in a notebook, before committing it, in it’s final format, to the World Wide Web.  I think it can be quite exciting to think that people in Slovenia and China, Australia and Mexico, New Zealand and Thailand, and much more, are able to read my words that originated from my kitchen table.  I have a whole pile of filled notebooks; notebooks with draft Blogs, notebooks with research notes.  I haven’t thrown any away and it gives me a good excuse for the occasional excursion into Paperchase for a pretty notebook that is inspirational.  Never use ringbound ones because it is too easy to rip a page out by mistake.

When I started out, two years ago, I was convinced that by this date I would definitely have written about all the tea towels I owned.  Two years ago, I may have slightly underestimated the number of tea towels I owned.  I used to talk about 300 tea towels but even I don’t think I have increased the collection by 500 in two years.  This is definitely a ‘Forth Bridge’ task: my collection is always increasing, I buy tea towels, people give me tea towels as presents, I inherit tea towels.  But the good thing is that tea towels are not bulky; it’s not like collecting ornaments or tea pots.  So for the statistics:

  • In two years, including this one, I have written 361 tea towel Blogs and 12 pages.  Last birthday, I had written 180 Blogs so this means I am writing at the same pace.  That’s good, just about one every two days.
  • However, I have written about 487 tea towels; some Blogs have more than one tea towel in them.  Last year the figure was 228; this means that this year has seen more multiple tea towel Blogs
  • The Blog with the most tea towels was Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (posted 20/1/2017) with 14 tea towels.
  • The Page with the most tea towels, in fact the only Page that I have written this year, was Dorothy’s Tea Towels with 16 tea towels.
  • This year I have been fortunate enough to come across tea towel designers who have generously given me a tea towel.  I am amazed, and so excited.  Penny Seume gave me Teignmouth Groynes (Blog dated 2/7/2016); Stuart Gardiner gave me Classic Cheeses of the World (Blog dated 8/7/2016) and Love Menu Art gave me the menu for a dinner at Buckingham Palace in 1902 for the Jockey Club (blog dated 16/6/2016).  You couldn’t find three more different tea towels, produced in different ways, using different techniques and on different materials.  What they share is the ability to make an impact, all equally beautiful in their own way.  A reaction that goes “wow!!”.  I am so grateful.
  • This year has had it’s sad moments.  Two colleagues from work, people I liked and respected, people I got on well with, died.  Ian Harrison died in August 2016 and the tea towel about Skegness was dedicated to him (only if you read it will you understand why).  The Blog was dated 13/9/2016.  Haydn Paul died in September 2016 and the Blog about the Eden Project (dated 1/10/2016) was inspired by him.  Dorothy died in January 2017 and the Page called Dorothy’s Tea Towels was dedicated to her.  It also produced one of my favourite tea towels photographs of the year.
  • I have three favourite tea towel pictures of this year, and much to Fee’s chagrin, they all include people: Jai and Roger’s Venezia tea towel (Blog dated 27/12/2016), Sarah and Kush from ‘Dorothy’s Tea Towels’ and Helen with the William Wallace Tea Towel (Blog dated 20/11/2016).  Sarah and Kush’s Tea Towel ‘selfie’ is a classic.  Jai and Roger look so happy after celebrating their 10th Wedding Anniversary and Helen’s picture reminds me of a great holiday in Edinburgh after a very difficult year (you should see the photos I didn’t post!
  • This year I finished writing about all my Christmas Tea Towels, always posted in December, totalling 33.  I felt I had achieved something but then I was in the January sales and saw two Christmas tea towels, going cheap, so I bought them.  I will need something to write about in December 2017
  • The big development this year has been the new storage system for my tea towels, moving from the three piles in the airing cupboard and a few hanging behind the door to the ‘Trouser Hanger’ system; this is so neat and tidy and because the hangers are numbered, each with 10 on a hanger, then I can count them more accurately.  This system was inspired by my friend, Lynn’s, desire to solve the problem of the overcrowded airing cupboard.  The third picture was the first ‘draft’ of the new system
  • After much pressure from Fee about the quality of photographs hanging on the back of a chair, I have developed a system for photographing tea towels hanging from a pergola in the garden, surrounded by honeysuckle.  I do think it has improved the appearance but I’m going to have to be quick and retake all my photographs before I move house! A mammoth task!!
  • This year I received my first autographed tea towel.  Very exciting.  It was Hamish’s Chicken, signed by the artist (Blog dated 2/9/2016

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  • And finally, the ‘oddest’ tea towel of the year doesn’t even belong to me but to my cousin Andrew who lives in Italy and after 50 odd years I have just discovered he has a love of tea towels.  That is the beauty of this Blog: you learn something new everyday!

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Thank you to all the people who design, produce, sell and love tea towels and thanks to those who read this Blog.  It will not be very long before my tea towel museum opens its doors and welcomes visitors!!

 

 

2014 Calendar

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I am always surprised at how few Calendar tea towels I have.  They would seem to be the obvious, and easy, ones to collect.  I like the calendar tea towels because (a) they usually locate the year that I bought it in and (b) it encourages me to reflect on what happened in that year, to me, to family and friends, nationally and internationally.  A Calendar tea towel makes you think.

This tea towel was designed by one of my favourite tea towel designers, Pat Albeck.  For more years than I care to remember, Pat has designed a calendar tea towel for the National Trust, each year.  I bought this one when out Christmas shopping in Calke Abbey in December 2013; I just liked it.  So what happened in 2014? For me, 2014 was the year of two amazing holidays – one in Orkney in June 2014 and the second in South Uist in September 2014.  Both holidays involved renting cottages and they were two of the best cottages I have ever stayed in.

2014 was the year I bought a caravan.  The first time I had ever owned a caravan (although I have stayed in caravans before).  A caravan seemed like the way to have a great deal more flexibility about travelling around, having holidays with a difference.  This was important to me because 2014 was the year that I planned my retirement.  I had worked for 41 years in social care; most people who knew me thought that I would never retire.  For me, retiring was like everything else, it needed to be well planned, I needed to know what I was going to do; retirement for me was not the end of working but the start of a new and exciting time of my life.  There were things that I wanted to do, like visiting all the inhabited islands around the British Isles (and a caravan would help in this process).  I investigated my pension and retirement was a feasible possibility.

I had had this idea about doing something with my tea towels.  I wasn’t interested in social media, I had no idea about how a Blog works but I did feel that if I wanted my tea towel collection to remain in tact then I had to tell the story about my tea towels.  I discussed this with a friend who helped me set up this Blog.  It would be possible.  In my holiday on the Uists, I decided that I would hand in my notice at work before Christmas with a view to retiring on 31 March 2015.  Things didn’t go to plan exactly.  I remember sitting in my office, at 7.30am, thinking about my letter of resignation, when my colleague came in to my office, sat down and said he had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, with a prognosis of three months.  He said he had to leave that day because he had an appointment with a consultant to discuss his options.  He asked me a favour, not to tell anyone until after New Year so it did not spoil their holiday.  When he had gone, I shut the office door and just cried, cried and cried.  It wasn’t fair that a man who was so kind, hard working, with a great sense of humour, with a love of family, who had become a grandfather and was planning his retirement, should be struck down in this fashion.  So now I wouldn’t hand my notice in until the New Year.  But all the planning that I had done paid off, I did retire in 2015 just slightly later than anticipated.

What else happened in 2014? There was a huge storm across the country on 25 January which uprooted so many trees; on 5 February, the storms and floods destroyed the coastal railway line at Dawlish. My friend Fee, who lived in Dawlish, had to take a circuitous route to work in Exeter.  The Winter Olympics in Sochi were the most successful for Britain since 1924, winning one Gold, one Silver and two Bronze medals.  The first gay wedding in England was held on 29 March. On 22 April, David Moyes was sacked as manager of Manchester United, after only 10 months in post.  On 23 May, there was a major fire at the Glasgow School of Art, the iconic Charles Rennie MacIntosh designed building.  In June there was the World Cup in Brazil, disastrous for England, brilliant for Wales and successful for Germany.   The Commonwealth Games were held in Glasgow in July, very successful for the home nations.  On 24 August, Richard Attenborough died aged 90.  Prince Harry’s Invictus Games were held in London in September.   On 18 September, the Referendum on Scottish Independence took place where the electorate voted for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom. On 15 October, Nicola Sturgeon became Leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party and first woman leader of the Scottish parliament.  The iconic display of ceramic poppies, falling from the Tower of London was completed on 11 November, with the 888,245th poppy laid.  On 23 November, Lewis Hamilton wins the Formula 1 Drivers title.  On 10 December, the wind blew at 144mph.

2014 was a good, and a sad, year for me but then most years are like that; it will never be that everything goes right.  That’s life.  It’s OK!!

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