Northern Lights: 2017


I noted today that I had completed 455 separate Tea Towel Blogs since I began this ‘journey’ two and a half years ago.  That doesn’t include any Pages or anything to do with  Back on 28 December 2016, I set myself some New Years Resolutions, some targets to keep me going.  They were to complete 400 Tea Towel Blogs concerning at least 550 tea towels by 31 December 2017.  With 455 Tea Towel Blogs about 577 tea towels, I have well exceeded my targets and I still have two months to go.  So today, I have re-set those targets: to complete 500 separate Tea Towel Blogs concerning at least 625 tea towels by the end of the year.  It is actually pushing me to the limits because it means 45 Blogs in 62 days, that will mean speeding things up.

When I reorganised my tea towels, moving them from the airing cupboard to the built-in wardrobe, they got slightly muddled so I recorded all the tea towels that hadn’t been blogged about; I can look at the nine-paged list and see what exactly needs to be done and there still looks like an awful lot to do.  To help me in the latest target, I have identified the next 75 tea towels to be blogged about so I don’t have to be faffing about, pondering what to do.

No point in bleth’rin (courtesy of Robert Burns); let’s  get started on 456.  I have just come back from a week in Aberdeen, staying in the Girdleness Lighthouse Cottages.  I had been there in February and loved it.  This time I was there with Hamish, Liz’s grandson.   It was half-term and he wanted to see where his great grandad was born, and grew up; Hamish wanted to see the beach he played on, the church he went to, the roads he walked down and also wanted to see his great great aunt because he was only 3 the last time they met.  Hamish is a Lego Man, likes things technical, so absolutely loved the idea of the Lighthouse.  Every morning he went out with his grandma, to walk around the Lighthouse, down to the beach, over the golf course, taking photos of the emerging sunrise.  In the evening, they took photos of the most glorious sunsets.  A Lighthouse is one of the best places to do this, away from the neon lights of the city centre, overlooking the wide expanse of sea.

Hamish is aware of my love of tea towels, after all he created ‘Hamish’s Chicken’ (Blog dated 2 September 2016).  On the way up to Aberdeen in the car he said “I think that we have too many tea towels at home. Mummy thinks so too, so you could have some of ours”.  I was touched by this generous offer, even though Mummy wasn’t aware of it.  I also think he might be in for a shock because ‘Mummy’ will be inheriting the whole collection at some later date, then he will find out what ‘too many tea towels’ are!   For Hamish, in fact for all three of us, the Lighthouse Cottage was a unique and exciting place: thick walls, deep window sills, wooden floors, cast iron bath and a Belfast sink.  The kitchen was beautiful, completely fitted out with wooden cupboards and matching door.  On the door to the kitchen, neatly pinned, is a tea towel, this tea towel, the Northern Lights.  It is so appropriate because it shows every single Lighthouse that is around the Scottish coast, many of which I have seen.  This is a tea towel with information, always useful in a Pub Quiz.  Earlier this year I saw the Lighthouse on Bass Rock and on the Isle of May; in 1972 I saw Muckle Flugga; in 2013 I saw the Lismore Lighthouse…….. They all bring back such memories.  Hamish went into the kitchen and shouted “Barbara, come and look at this.  There is an awesome tea towel.  You’ll love it”.

I told Hamish the story of the last time I was at the Lighthouse, how I fell in love with the tea towel, how it had been made for the Scottish Lighthouse Museum, how in the middle of February we set off to Fraserburgh to go to the Museum to buy the tea towel and they no longer stocked them.  This had resulted in me (a) going mardy and (b) writing a Tea Towel Blog called ‘Address to the Haggis’ (dated 12 February 2017).  Hamish wondered if they would mind me taking this tea towel home (and don’t think that hadn’t occurred to me many times during that week in February) but I needed to set a good example so just took the photo and said I would write about it instead.

The fact is, Hamish is right, it is ‘awesome’ and I would really like a tea towel just like that but it isn’t to be.  What I do have is (a) the photo (b) memories, great memories of that week with Hamish exploring his ‘roots’ (c) fantastic photographs of Girdleness Lighthouse and its setting (d) the opportunity to go back again to the Lighthouse for another holiday (e) memories of the stories I read in the books about Lighthouses, in the cottage and (f) memories of those spectacular sunrises, sunsets and rainbows last week.  Perhaps, on this one occasion, I can do without the tea towel and just live with the memories.


Seaton Tramway: 2015


I have recently talked about my four sources of inspiration, from Twitter, for my Tea Towel Blogs.  This is my fourth, @MrTimDunn; there was a photo, a selfie, of him outside Seaton Tramway, in front of one of their trams.  Clearly, this photo wasn’t taken on the day that it appeared because he was wearing a striped vest, not even a T shirt, unless there was an isolated heat wave in South Devon last week.  I have followed @MrTimDunn for a couple of years and he takes interesting photos, often of things to do with transport but not often that coincides with one of my tea towels.  I’ve been lucky this week.

In 2015, I stayed in a cottage near Sidmouth.  It was an area that I was not familiar with.  For example, I visited the Donkey Sanctuary, having never heard of it before.  Seaton Tramway, with a strapline of ‘Its electric’, was another place I’d never heard of.  Not only was it a great place to visit but it had this amazing pink, almost ‘Barbie’ pink, tea towel, my first pink tea towel!  Unusually the pink is the sort of colour I have had a lot of problem with recently; selling my house, the estate agent took a photo of the kitchen and its cupboards which has turned out very pink (they are in fact Cranberry).  Everyone who comes round the house says “Oh I really like the kitchen cupboards.  In the picture they look a Barbie Pink”.  It sort of reminds me how misunderstood pink, as a colour, is. And now, why I chose this tea towel in the first place.   This is a very unusual colour, it often doesn’t show the images in clear detail but this one is different.  It shows 14 trams that are running, from different eras.  The tea towel was on sale in the little kiosk from which you bought your ticket to ride.  They had the same tea towel in several different colours but I couldn’t be tempted away from the pink.

Claude Lane was responsible for the development of Seaton Tramway; he was a man who owned a company manufacturing battery electric vehicles but who had a passion for trams, whose hobby was trams.  It is a 2 foot 9 inch narrow gauge electric tramway, three miles in length, running from Seaton to Colyton; it receives 80,000 visitors a year.  The tramcars are half scale replicas of classic British tramcars from various cities.  Number 19 is the only tram from the Exeter tram system which is still in service.

There are two options: you can go on the round trip to Colyton, just staying on the tram or you can get off at Colyton and catch a later tram back.  We decided on the latter option, having been to Colyton once before, at the height of the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001.  It was a bit bleak then, with people not wanting to travel around the countryside.  In 2015, on a sunny day in June, Colyton was much more lively.  The tiny tea room, in a gift shop, was still there, if not under the same ownership.  The journey to Colyton was delightful, certainly not along any roads, a journey that you would not see by car.

It was strange, I expected to see lots of children on the tramway but, in the main, it was older people, reminiscing about the days that they used to travel by tram or when they could remember the trams being around.  There was one party of school children who were obviously doing a history project.  I really enjoyed the day at Seaton Tramway and it was a good excuse to send everyone postcards from there.  This is another of those places that I would definitely recommend and would always want to go back to if I was in the area.


Canada in the Fall: 2009


Having been to New England in the Fall in 2007, we were determined to go back.  Not to the same places but in roughly the same area, perhaps this time we could do a bit of north-east Canada as well as Maine and Vermont.  We wanted to see the beautiful changing colours of the leaves, scenes that take your breath away; the clapper board houses, the decked front porches, small towns with one street but always in the background, the trees ‘on the turn’.  You have to get the weeks right, when the trees are ready to change colour; if you time it right they are collecting in the pumpkins ready for Halloween, standing them on the front porches in preparation for the carving.  Can’t carve too early or they will ‘go off’ before the celebrations.

I love autumn in England; the trees change colour but rarely in that slow process of the north Americas.  It all depends on the amount of rain and sun that has been around during the summer, and, of course, what trees are growing.  It’s the maple trees that go through the hole gamut of colours.  I have a single maple tree in my garden which is my prize and joy.   For two weeks in autumn, this tree glows in glory; it’s beauty is breath-taking, the leaves gradually ‘turning’.  It is the most spectacular tree in the garden.

In my last two Tea Towel Blogs, I have talked about  my flirtation with Twitter and it’s unexpected source of inspiration for a theme for a Blog.  Today’s inspiration, my third, is @RobGMacfarlane whose ‘Word for the Day’ was anthocyanins.  This is a word I have never come across, meaning ‘pigments responsible especially for the vivid red colours of autumn leaves, synthesised as chlorophyll degrades’: the reason for the changing colours of leaves in the Fall in Canada and New England.  I love a new word, possibly difficult to bring into conversation but always good for a Blog.

As soon as I read @RobGMacfarlane, I pictured the tea towel I bought in a small shop, just outside Halifax (Nova Scotia, not Yorkshire), in a shop full of linens, in all the colours of Fall.  I’d already bought several tea towels, and I wouldn’t have bought any more, except that it captured the reason why we went to Canada and what it was actually like being there, the vibrancy of those colours.  I find those long distance flights uncomfortable these days but to see the trees in the Fall once again would make that journey worthwhile.  Thanks @RobGMacfarlane for bringing it all back.

Bristol: 2013

I’ve just past Tea Towel Blog 450, and that doesn’t include anything that has been written on  Two and a half years of Tea Towel Blogging and I have enjoyed every minute.  Inevitably, occasionally, there comes a bit of ‘Writers Block’: how am I going to start this Blog? What will be the theme or thread?  Can I do anything new or a bit different?  As regular Readers will have noted, sometimes, or just very occasionally, I can’t actually remember anything about a particular tea towel (known as a U.T.T or Unidentified Tea Towel) but that is rare.  But you don’t want to just describe a tea towel in every Blog.

This week I have been very lucky; I have found four sources of inspiration, for four new Tea Towel Blogs, from Twitter.  Yesterday, it was the Robert Burns Museum that offered me the challenge of using the word ‘leal’.  Today, the inspiration comes from @Thrillist in an article entitled “11 Underrated World Cities You Have to Visit for Food”.  Alongside Vigo in Spain, Hanoi in Vietnam, Malmo in Sweden and Edmonton in Canada is Bristol in England.  Thrillist Travel asks the question “Why should a cup of coffee taste like angel tears just because you are drinking it on a hotel balcony in Florence?”.  While Birmingham and Manchester fight it out as to which should be officially regarded as the second city of England, Thrillist Travel says “Bristol does as Bristol does, ignores the fuss and forges its own path to glory”.

I visited Bristol in 2013, in search of a good tea room and found several.  My favourite, at that time, was the tea room in Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; my favourite for a number of reasons (a) it served nice food and loose leaf tea (b) it was an unexpected treasure, very unlike museum tea rooms (c) there were tea towels on sale in the museum and I bought two – one of the Balloon Fiesta over the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the other of a sketch of Bristol and (d) I bought a tea pot, deserving of a radical city – a tea pot, decorated with ‘Liberty, Equality and Community’; it is an unusual shape and a great pourer.  While I didn’t eat the sort of meal recommended by @Thrillist, I can see that Bristol is a real melting pot of food types and well worth visiting.  But it’s also worth visiting for other reasons: (a) it has a long history with relics and remains that are more than 300,000 years old (b) Banksy, the street artist was born there and there are murals of his still around (c) it was one of the hubs of the Slave Trade and therefore the museums are full of documentation about it (d) Isambard Kingdom Brunel will forever be  associated with Bristol, having built the Great Western Railway from Bristol to Paddington, the Clifton Suspension Bridge and two ocean-going steam ships, the SS Great Britain and SS Great Western (e) John Wesley founded his first Methodist Chapel in Bristol (f) half of the population died of the Black Death in 1348, also the subject of recordings (g) Concorde was developed, took its first flight and was built in Bristol (h) Samuel Plimsoll, called the ‘Sailors Friend’, after he developed the Plimsoll Line to prevent overloading of ships, was born and worked in Bristol (i) the Sunday Times declared Bristol the best place to live England in 2014 and then again in 2017 (j) Cary Grant was born in Bristol, as was Samuel Taylor Coleridge (k) Bristol was awarded the EU European Green Award in 2015 (l) there is an four day International Balloon Fiesta in Bristol every year.

With all that history, and excitement, Bristol is the place to visit, eat and perhaps even take a selfie with an original Banksy.  Thanks to @Thrillist for the inspiration!

Fortnum and Mason: 2009


Looking through the list of my tea towels that still need blogging about, I was wondering what the focus of this Fortnum and Mason one would be.  I’d put off doing it for a few weeks then………

Yesterday, the Robert Burns Museum (@RobertBurnsNTS) challenged Twitter followers as to the meaning of a word that Robert Burns used: ‘leal’.  I’d no idea what it meant so asked what the meaning was; apparently it means ‘loyal/faithful’.  They asked “Do you think you’ll use it?”.  I couldn’t resist saying that I would use it in a Tea Towel Blog.  Having committed myself to this, I realised that ‘loyal or faithful’ are not words that you use in relation to tea towels very often.

In 2009, I was in London, and when I’m in London I do like to visit Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly, and I usually like to buy something; sometimes a tin of tea, sometimes a tea towel.  On this occasion, I saw this tea towel, leal to the classic tea towel designs of the past, prior to the introduction of touristy or artistic tea towels.  Although not pure linen, it has no pattern but just Fortnum and Mason printed through the length of the tea towel.  I liked this tea towel for its simplicity and tradition so I bought it.  Occasionally, its good to go back to the basics.

The only question is: have I used leal in the correct manner? This Fortnum and Mason tea towel will always remind me of the Robert Burns Challenge that I set myself!  I think I’d like another Robert Burns Challenge!

Beautiful. The Carole King Musical: 2017

‘Happenchance’ is a wonderful word, it ‘does what it says on the tin’, the sort of word that I want to use but don’t often get the opportunity to.  Today, by happenchance, several things fell into place, bringing together tea towels, musicals, theatre programmes and T Shirts.

I love a musical, any musical, but my favourite are those with lots of different songs, where all the songs are well known.  If I was to choose my absolute favourites, they would have to be ‘My Fair Lady’ (which I first saw at the Drury Lane Theatre in London in 1960 with Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews and Stanley Holloway) and ‘We Will Rock You’ (which I saw more recently).  My mother bought a ‘progamme’ for ‘My Fair Lady’ which was a thin hard-backed book.  I still have it; I have never bought any programmes since for any shows that I have seen.  As an inveterate collector, it would be a mistake to buy programmes; they would become a collection.  I would have loads and they really aren’t of any use.  At least a tea towel has a practical use.  In all the times I have seen a musical, I have found very few celebratory tea towels amongst the merchandise: ‘Matilda’ was the first in 2016 and then ‘Crazy for You’ two weeks ago.  But as they say – “like buses, there’s not one around when you want it, then two come along together”.  This week, I saw ‘Beautiful. The Carole King Musical’ and they, too, had a tea towel.  Couldn’t believe it.

I was excited.  However, to photograph this tea towel, I had to make sure that it was taken on a dull day because, on a sunny day, you would not be able to see the writing.  This is a good example of why people very rarely use yellow writing on a tea towel.  It doesn’t stop me loving it;  it has memories; it does remind me of a wonderful evening at the theatre and, of course, I can safely say that all the songs are well known and great.  The whole audience knew all the songs.

Having gone through all this angst about never buying programmes at the theatre, which would be reminders, and rarely seeing a tea towel of a musical, I realised that every show, whether it is a musical or not, sells T Shirts.  I remember going to see Rod Stewart in concert last year in Sheffield.  At the interval, the queue at the Merchandise Store stretched for miles and suddenly half the audience were wearing the same T Shirt.   ‘Beautiful. The Carole King Musical’ had three T Shirts on sale, not in yellow but pink, blue and black (should have made the writing on the tea towels those colours).  The same day I saw ‘Beautiful’, I was at the Creative Writing Class and Robin told me about his son’s business called Too Many T Shirts or customisable T Shirt quilts (what a strapline!).  This is my sort of business; he recycles/upcycles old T Shirts into Memory Blankets and throws.  Suddenly, I am seriously regretting not buying T Shirts at all the shows that I have been to because they could have been made into a Memory Blanket.  What a thought, T Shirts from all my favourite musicals made into a Memory Blanket: Billy Elliott, Oklahoma, Phantom, Les Mis, Godspell, Joseph, Sound of Music, Mamma Mia, Hairspray, Mack and Mabel, Blood Brothers and ………………..; all those missed opportunities to make a Memory Blanket.  I will have to content myself with lovingly caressing my 900 tea towels, with all their memories, and wishing Simon all the best in his business.  You really must look at his website:  It is so creative.

Bibury: U.T.T.


William Morris once described Bibury as “the most beautiful village in England”; it is a ‘chocolate box’ village with some of the most photographed houses in England.  Bibury is home to Bibury Trout Farm, founded in 1902 and open to the public since 1965, which breeds and rears both Brown and Rainbow Trout – up to 10 million a year are spawned.  The site covers 15 acres.  The tea towel above is inscribed with ‘designed exclusively for Bibury Trout Farm’.

My Bibury tea towel is a classic U.T.T, an Unidentified Tea Towel.  I don’t recognise it; I don’t remember visiting the hamlet; I have certainly never been to the Trout Farm.  So was it a present?  I don’t know who would buy me a tea towel from a Trout Farm; it sounds unlikely.  Did I inherit it?  No, definitely not.  So where did it come from?  The simple answer is that I do not know.

The only thing that might be a clue is that Bibury is about 12 miles from Bourton-on-the-Water and I have another tea towel, Birdland, which is also a classic U.T.T and which I blogged about on 15 June 2016.  Is there a link?  I don’t know but Bibury looks like a nice place, perhaps I’ll go there one day.