Good grief, as I wade my way through my tea towel collection, I come across tea towels that, looking back, I really wonder why I bought them. But I have to remember they were bought for a time and a place; they were bought, maybe when there were no others around or because they were so obscure that I was unlikely to find another like it again. I look at ‘Classic Tractors’ and think “why did I buy this?”. I have no understanding of tractors; I have no interest in tractors per se; I’ve never driven a tractor.
I remember buying Classic Tractors at the Royal Show in 1986. The Royal Show was always a highlight of my year. It was always the best agricultural show around, the ‘national’. Because it was held on the Royal Agricutural Showground, near Stoneleigh, a huge showground, there was always an enormous amount of things to do; something for everyone. I loved the combination of rural and country pursuits, the animals on show, ‘Best in Breed’, British food on sale, cookery demonstrations by the WI, craft demonstrations, clothes and footwear and much more. There was always an large area given over to farm machinery: tractors, trailers, balers, combine harvesters, machinery for drilling and spreading fertilisers. There were often displays of old farm machinery. As I was walking by the Massey Ferguson display, I saw a small table with tea towels on it; it seemed very unlikely to see tea towels selling at less than a fiver and a combine harvester at several tens of thousands of pounds, big men in wellington boots and waxed jackets with a pile of tea towels. I couldn’t resist this tea towel. This was 1986. I had finished my MA at Warwick University a year ago and this tea towel reminded me of the daily journey from Leicester, passing the Massey Ferguson factory with a huge tractor outside. I always needed to judge my journey to avoid the time the workers either arrived or left, otherwise you could be there for sometime in a huge traffic jam.
The Massey Ferguson plant is no longer there; the Royal Show closed about 10 years ago but my tea towel lives on. In the picture it looks a little faded but actually that was the colour it was when I bought it. As the world changes, my tea towels will always remind me of the good things of the past.
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