The Single Malt Whisky Flavour Map: 2017

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For someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, and hasn’t since 2000, and for someone who has never liked the taste of whisky, I am absolutely fascinated by Malt Whisky, especially Single Malts.  It started in the early 1980s when I first visited a distillery, Glenturret.  I loved everything about it: it’s remote location, it’s history and the links with the illegal stills, the beauty of the copper pot stills, immaculately polished, the ceremony of tasting and drinking whisky, special elliptical glasses designed for drinking whisky, the debates about whether water or ice should be added, the amount of distilleries that there are, the different flavours of the Malts depending where the distilleries are and the source of their water, the smell of the grain, the sound of the burn that provides the water………  I like the fact that there are so many books written as ‘guides’ to the Whiskys, with stunning colour photographs.  I love the fact that Scotland has developed the Malt Whisky Trail, taking you from distillery to distillery, better to be done by coach since they are usually in remote locations, with no public transport, yet part of the tour is about tasting the different whiskys.

Since my visit to Glenturret, which I have revisited on many occasions, I have been to many other distilleries.  Distilleries that have some kind of Visitor Centre, always have shops full of related items from crystal glasses to water jugs, decanters to silver quaiches and often tea towels.  I have many a tea towel from a distillery but also some about the process of making Whisky but I haven’t seen the Flavour Map before.  Jenny bought this for me last Christmas; it is just the sort of Tea Towel that I like, lots of information,  presented in an unusual manner, it’s stylish.

The centre of the tea towel is a grid with ‘Smoky’ at the top and ‘Delicate’ at the bottom, with ‘Light’ to the left and ‘rich’ to the right: a number of Malt Whiskys are placed within the grid, in relation to their taste.  I am a bit shocked at how many of those whiskeys I have seen made!   The fact is that there is a whole industry set up around ‘Whisky Tasting’.  I remember, one year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, going to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for an evening of Gaelic music, lectures on Malt Whisky tasting and then sampling a few varieties; it was unusual event because, on this one occasion, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society was open to non-members.  No opening a bottle and having a quick drink; the ceremony of drinking Malt Whisky is more complicated than that of a Japanese Tea Ceremony, sniffing it, trying to identify the aromas, swirling it around in the glass, warmed at the base by your hands, another sniff, a taste and repeat the process.  The key to the Whisky Tasting Ceremony is the aroma.  There are four primary tastes but thirty-two primary aromas.  Every sample of Malt Whisky presents a bouquet of aromas – in some cases 20-30 identifiable scents.  Wittgenstein’s belief that “the limits of my language mean the limits of my world” possibly sums up the whole Whisky Tasting Ceremony: you have to have the language to describe the flavours.  This is why the grid in the centre of the tea towel is surrounded by bowers of hedgerows, leaves, fruits, all of which contribute to the language of the aromas of Malt Whisky.  Aromas fall into groups of ‘woody’ (possibly cigar boxes or aniseed), ‘winey’ (maybe bitter chocolate or Chardonnay), ‘cereal’ (could be hen’s mash or boiled pork), ‘fruity’ (might be oranges or acid drops), ‘floral’ (might be fabric softener or fir trees), ‘peaty’ (possibly TCP or anchovies), ‘fenty’ ( could be plastic mac or tea pots) and finally ‘sulphury’ (Match box or pencil eraser) and much more.

My interest in Scotch Malt Whisky included the collection of miniature bottles of Malt Whisky.  John built four sets of matching shelves, six shelves in each, each shelf would hold between 6 and 8 bottles each; that’s a lot of bottles.  They did make a wonderful display but were a devil to dust.  After John died, they were a significant reminder of his love of distilleries; but after a while, actually after about 15 years, I realised that the miniature Whiskys were not mine and I had lots of other reminders (like tea towels) and decided to give them away.  Lynn and Helen really like good Malt Whisky so I wrapped each up, individually, with a note saying when and where they were bought, and encouraged them to try them, in the crystal glasses that belonged to my mother.  They had fun trying the different whiskeys, sharing some with friends and I had good fun imagining them doing this.

I love the memories this tea towel has created, taking me down memory lane and looking at how beautiful it is.  I especially like the line at the bottom because it does sum up my approach to wiping up

”If drying up becomes a chore, Here’s a wealth of flavours to explore”

 

 

 

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Ready, Steady, Cook: 1991

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My last Tea Towel Blog (Georgian House: 2004) told the story of my inability to cook which has not affected my love of food and appreciation of others that cook.  Today, I remembered my Ready, Steady, Cook tea towel which I bought at the Good Food Show in 1991.

John was a brilliant cook (with the exception of his attempt at cooking whiting which we both knew was disgusting and which we declined to eat).  He wanted to go to the Good Food Show; I was all for it because you always got free samples of some of the most delicious food.  We decided to go to the Cooking Theatre Show to see Ready Steady Cook, based on the TV show.  It was great fun; I learnt nothing but it was good to be able to watch cooks as equally incompetent as me.  Best of all, there were FREE tea towels, and I got one.  You can’t beat a free tea towel to bring back good memories!

The Georgian House: 2004

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I have learnt, over the years, that we do not all have the same skills or talents; that is what makes life, and people, so interesting.  Wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same?  I have known, since the age of 5, that I couldn’t, and would never be able to, ride a bike.  It might have frustrated me when I was young but, in the scheme of things, it’s no big deal.  I cannot sing in tune, although personally I can deceive myself, in the privacy of the bathroom, to thinking that I have a lovely, mellifluous voice (although I do think my understanding of a ‘tune’ was probably damaged, from a young age, when my mother, who had a truly terrible voice, used to sing the ‘Skye Boat Song’ to me as a lullaby; I would pretend to be asleep so she would stop singing).  I am not a sportsperson, could never run fast; my hand-eye co-ordination is as rubbish as it gets so I wasn’t going to be a Sue Barker or Virginia Wade.  The fact is, do these things matter?  Friends do not tend to nag you about these things; they accept you for who you are.

I think one of my skills is multi-tasking.  All through my working life, I have been able to multi-task, whether it is actually doing more than one thing at a time, like writing a letter while on the telephone, or whether it is the bigger picture of writing a funding bid, preparing for an annual general meeting, supervising staff, ordering new furniture and so forth.  I was never someone who said “Can’t do that at the moment, you will have to wait”.  Being able to multi-task is a useful skill and I achieve it by being an effective ‘List Person’.  I know how to use a list to good purpose; it keeps me in order and on target.  In fact, keeping on target is another skill of mine, being focussed, not getting distracted; all useful skills.

But when it comes to cooking, it is a completely different story.   I don’t cook, can’t cook and don’t want to learn to cook.  It’s not that I don’t love food, good food, home-cooked food, a variety of food.  I like trying new things.  I enjoy the whole ceremony of eating.  I am excellent at washing up, very thorough and, needless to say, am superb at wiping up.  However, I get extremely frustrated by the fact that most people, friends, family, strangers, think I should be able to cook, cannot imagine I am telling the truth when I say I can’t cook, always want to give me handy hints on the quick way of preparing food.  If I say I can’t play table tennis, no one tries to give me handy hints on how to play or has any expectation that I will learn to play or will even want to.  What is different about cooking?  Is it because I am a woman and therefore it is expected that I should cook?  Is it because cooking is regarded as a universal skill, that we should all have, so that not being able to cook is somewhat ‘unnatural’?

To be fair, I do have a ‘cooking repetoire’: it consists of making jam and marmalade, pickling onions (and I am looking to extend my skills to pickling homegrown gherkins), making potato salad (from a recipe of my mother’s), making a peach cheesecake from scratch, as taught by my friend Ann, and which I last did in 1972.  I can put toast in the toaster (although I am known to frequently get the bread jammed and set the smoke alarm off)

I know what my problem is, and it doesn’t fit in with being a good multi-tasker.  The problem is that I do like good food, so I don’t want to hone my skills so I can put a ‘ready-meal’ in a microwave.  I would much rather eat cold food; a tin of smoked oysters and salad has always been my speciality.  I cannot co-ordinate the timings of the various elements of a meal: how long do sausages take to grill in relation to boiling potatoes or steaming cabbage.  I have never been able to do this (and I have tried).  Overcooked spaghetti is horrible, undercooked potatoes are worse; I can rubberise an omelette or leatherise a steak.  In all my efforts at cooking, I have never cooked a meal with all elements satisfactory.  People have accused me of being lazy, letting other people do all the work.  However, I am a willing, and helpful, sou chef as long as I am told exactly what to prepare, and how to do it, and as long as I take no responsibility for a finished item.  For me, cooking, recipes, timings are like the nemesis of an IKEA flat pack, some people can assemble them, some cannot.  The difference between IKEA flat packs and cooking is that cooking is supposed to be a daily task, an IKEA flat pack a once in 20 years event.  The stress of cooking is too much; it takes any enjoyment out of eating, and I would end up not eating.  Eating cold foods, uncooked foods, still means I have a healthy diet, if somewhat different from everyone else’s.

However, whether by luck or good judgement, and I like to think that it is good judgement, all the people I have ever shared a house with, my husbands, all my close friends have, not only been excellent cooks but, also loved cooking.  Cooking for someone like me has four advantages (a) I will never be able to say ‘I could have done that better myself’ (b) I am always an appreciative audience who truly enjoys food, and appreciates the effort that has gone into preparing a meal (c) I never expect anyone to cook for me and (d) I am good at washing up, drying up and putting away.

It isn’t that I haven’t taken an interest in cooking.  After all, I went with John on a five day cookery course in Brittany; you could either watch or take part, I watched, John took part.  I went with Liz on a basic bread-making course at Betty’s in Harrogate; I took part, made five loaves, and have photographic evidence of this together with the Betty’s Cookery School apron but I have never been anywhere near flour since.  I really enjoyed it but there was someone by my side, measuring out the ingredients and telling me exactly what to do (as well as rescuing the loaf that did not rise).

So why am I discussing cooking and my cookery skills?  The picture of the Cook in the Georgian House kitchen, surrounded by all her artefacts, reminded me of the discussion I had with Jenny a couple of weeks ago.  I don’t know how long I have known Jenny, maybe 15 years; she was a ‘peer’ of mine from work, managing another charity, we planned our retirements together.  While we were at work, and ever since, we have met for lunch once a month; one month in Leicester, one in Oakham.  We have a simplified system for payment: Jenny pays in Oakham, I pay in Leicester so we don’t have to spend hours trying to sort out the exact details of our bill.  I don’t know how it came up in conversation, but I casually mentioned the fact that I don’t cook.  Jenny was aghast.  Why would someone keep chickens and not cook? Why would someone make jam and not cook?  I think, for her, cooking is a real pleasure from which she gets a lot of enjoyment and, therefore, finds it hard to understand why everyone doesn’t.  The thing is that conversation made me question why I can’t/don’t cook, where does that stem from?  Did I want to do anything about it?  I know the answer to that last question is definitely ‘no’.

I bought this tea towel at the Georgian House, in Edinburgh, in 2004.  I was going on a National Trust cruise around Scotland, starting at Greenock and ending up at Leith.  It was my first opportunity to land on St Kilda, and spend the day there, the history of which I studied at university, and have always been fascinated by.  It was my first visit to Canna, one of the most beautiful islands I have ever visited and an island I have returned to on several occasions, staying for a week at a time.  We went to Inverewe gardens and got eaten alive by midges.

Because the Georgian House is a National Trust for Scotland property, that is where we were to meet up before being taken by coach to Greenock for the start of the holiday.  I took the opportunity to have a look round the house, which I loved, but I loved even more the tea room on the other side of Charlotte Square, which sadly is no longer there.  I spotted this tea towel, designed by Pat Albeck and knew I had to have it.  I simply love the artistry of Pat Albeck and looking at this tea towel brings forth so many memories: of Canna and St Kilda, of the Georgian House tea room, of my conversation with Jenny, of my friends who tolerate my lack of cooking skills and of my desire to learn to pickle home-grown gherkins this year.  This is why the wiping up takes so long, so many memories!

Des Chats: 1987

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I am now into the second term of the Creative Writing Class.  We have moved on from ‘Writing and Art’ to ‘Character and Voice’.  If I thought ‘Writing and Art’ was a challenge, it was a doddle compared with ‘Character and Voice’.  Let’s face it, I write Blogs about tea towels; I’m not into creating character.  I have no ambition to write a novel or play.  However, we have been put into groups of three, in order that we may critique each other’s work.  This is getting worse, I thought.  At least when you write a Blog, you don’t come face to face with your audience.  The first group was yesterday.  Two things happened:  it is possible to create ‘character’ from a tea towel (stick to what you know, is my philosophy) because as it says in the Museum “Every tea towel tells a story” and secondly, being challenged to confront my terror of people looking at my writing was really helpful; the other two came up with some excellent ‘tweeks’ and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  So the highlighted version, with tweeks, is what I presented to the group.  Bobbie said it would be good to have a picture of Benjamin, so he appears at the bottom of this Blog: with the Ocado shopping, lazily stretched out, under the shade of a tea towel and, lastly, with Isabella .

“A vet once told me that there are two kinds of cats: the “bright, sassy” ones and those that are “pleasantly dim”. Benjamin definitely belongs to the latter group. His unnaturally short tail bears witness to this, having got into a scrape with a squirrel who bit the end off. He is now disproportionate in size, a very large cat with a ridiculously short tail. If truth be told, I like to think of him as a slim, sleek, elegant cat with a big fluffy coat. The vet’s scales belie this notion at 5.9kg; we can all fool ourselves about weight.

Benjamin’s routine is to sit on the patio, looking in through the glass doors, at about 7pm every evening. It is a woeful look, targeting me; “What are you waiting for? Open up the door, it’s time for dinner”. I ask myself whether he just doesn’t realise that his dinner is in his bowl, in the lobby, or perhaps he just enjoys watching me gesticulate, pointing to where the cat flap is, miming that I have already opened the tin. It would be nice to think that this is Benjamin winding me up but, in reality, I think that this is Benjamin being ‘not very bright’, but at his best. Most days I give in and open the door. Why? In case he forgets the route in, of course.

Benjamin is a ‘mouser’; he’s good at stalking under the bushes, speedy at that final pounce but he is so easily distracted. He brings a mouse through the cat flap, sees a bowl of food, drops the mouse so that I now have a very scared critter on the run. Benjamin doesn’t care if I have to move the washing machine, or lift a bookcase, and if, in this process, we find a mouse, he doesn’t care; he has moved on to better things, possibly sleeping. Benjamin isn’t a discerning ‘mouser’; if it moves, he will catch it but can’t tell the difference between the tasty and the indigestible, so rarely is he rewarded for his efforts. Some days the lobby looks like a scene from ‘Silent Witness’; it isn’t just live creatures I am tackling but the innards of some poor animal whose life was needlessly cut short.

Benjamin’s favourite day is the Ocado Day. He doesn’t mind if it is Shaun in the Onion Van or Kelly in the Raspberry Van, he instinctively knows one of them will call. He sits by the back door, a pile of empty bags at the ready, waiting. When the door opens he makes no attempt to escape. As the filled grey bags are piled up, he sniffs each one, checking to see if dinner has arrived, before sitting amongst them, until I have put the shopping away. Benjamin has a reputation amongst the Ocado drivers; each week he appears on Ocado’s Twitter account, playing with some aspect of the shopping.

Benjamin moved in 4 years ago with his, maybe, sister, Isabella, notoriously known, in the Woodside Animal Centre, as ‘The Class of 87’; one of 87 cats that were found in a shed in someone’s garden. They were well fed but flea-ridden, sort of cared for, in a strange way. From an unnatural start in life, Benjamin became loving but not needy, independent but always a ‘home bird’.

Besides his distinguished tail, he has a beautiful colouring, black and white, as if in full evening dress, with his bib and tucker. His colouring doesn’t lend itself to successful photography but it has never stopped me taking far too many photographs of a black blob, his dress shirt all covered up. Those photographs have now become essential, a lifeline because it is eight days since Benjamin went walkabout; he may not be the ‘bright and sassy’ cat but he is a cat of routine and this is not part of his routine. In the meantime, Isabella sits on my knee, looking out through the patio windows, hoping to see his face, imploring to be let in. There is a yawning well of sadness that Isabella and I share, a sense of a part of our lives that has gone forever.

Life has to go on and today is the day for using ‘Des Chats’ for the wiping up; usually Steinlen’s cats would put a smile on my face but today there is merely a sense of emptiness.  While I bought this tea towel, in the V&A, in 1987, it will always now remind me of Benjamin, rather than a day out in London”

 

Tattershall Castle: 1987

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It’s Pete’s birthday today.  I always feel sorry for people who share their birthday with another event.  With Pete it is Valentine’s Day, other people it might be New Year’s Eve or Christmas Day.  Does he celebrate his birthday, be treated to a big birthday cake and lots of presents or does he spend his money celebrating St Valentine’s Day with Gwyn, his wife of 42 years?  Every year it is a dilemma.  So this year, I dedicate this Blog to Pete and his birthday.

So the question I ask Pete, is whether or not he remembers Tattershall Castle?  Does he remember getting up on 1 January 1987, with a hangover, having celebrated the coming of the New Year with several bottles of Lambrusco with John, Gwyn and me?  Does he remember blowing up the air bed, very drunk, with the hoover, the night before?  Does he remember rolling around my lounge floor, laughing, till tears flowed, because we couldn’t get the hoover connected to the air bed?  Does he remember the scrambled eggs and smoked salmon  on toast, with strong coffee, for breakfast?  Does he remember when we woke up we all decided that it would be a great idea to go out for a walk?  Does he remember looking through the National Trust Handbook to find any properties that would be open on New Years Day and within driving distance of Leicester?  Does he remember us driving to Tattershall Castle, on a bright, freezing cold day, when none of us had ever heard of it before?  Does he remember me finding the shop open and there being a tea towel?

You see I can remember all these details but I don’t remember the actual castle which is slightly embarrassing.  Perhaps Pete can fill in those details!  The tea towel, as you can see, is in a poor state of repairs.  It is a lovely pure linen tea towel but was caught up in a tangle, with some washing, in the washing machine and got damaged.  I think it is a lovely tea towel which is still in regular usage but obviously it doesn’t have many more years left.

Tattershall Castle has a very long history stemming back to the 1200s; a brick built castle was not as common as stone and was a sign of wealth and someone wanting to ‘show off’.  It was a great place to go on New Years Day and possibly somewhere I should return so that I can fully recall Tattershall Castle.

City of Liverpool: 1997

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There are some mornings, when it is drizzling outside and chilly inside, that it is possible to get distracted by YouTube or Twitter; you find yourself down an unexpected path, leading to new discoveries and a world you didn’t know existed.  Today was that day.  No YouTube today because I was listening to the ‘gloom’ of Leonard Cohen and being surprised at the fact that I knew all the words to all his songs.  Today it was Twitter.  I was about to blog about my tea towel from the City of Liverpool, bought in 1997 on one of my visits, as part of the Visiting Member Team of the Mental Health Act Commission, to a psychiatric hospital in Liverpool.  This was the only time I visited Liverpool as a member of the Commission and any visit to a new city meant, of course, a tea towel.  You don’t know how difficult that was!  Psychiatric hospitals are not located in a shopping precinct or near a row of shops selling tea towels.  The hours we worked meant that the shops were usually closed by the time I was finished.  On this occasion, it was a two day visit so I was staying overnight and had time to pop out to the shops, first thing in the morning.  This didn’t leave time for me to be ‘picky’ about the sort of tea towel I bought; first one I saw I bought.  It isn’t exciting, it isn’t colourful, it isn’t dramatic but it is a tea towel and a traditional tourist tea towel at that.  Don’t worry about the pale nature of it, that is how it came; it hasn’t faded.

Anyway, back to the story, just before I started blogging I found @Liverpool1207, loads of Tweets about all things Liverpool, really interesting but then, as with most things, I was distracted by the Blog: Liverpool1207blog.wordpress.com.  If you are reading about a tea towel from the City of Liverpool, you should have a look at Liverpool1207.  At the top of the Home Page for Twitter there is a quote from Felicien de Myrbach “If Liverpool did not exist, it would have to be invented”.  This then took me to Wikipedia to find out about Felicien.  By the time I had done this, it was time to go to bed.

Waking up the next morning, I remembered I was meeting Jenny for lunch; she had just been to Liverpool for a short break and came back enthused by seeing the Museum of Slavery and the tour of the caves beneath the roads.  We spent most of lunch talking about the ‘sins of our fathers’ with regard to slavery; we may not have used slaves on mainland Britain but we did in the colonies, we are not blameless.

I have to say that I have always loved Liverpool, a city of two cathedrals, the red brick buildings, the Liver Bird, a big insurance company and all the memorabilia to do with the 60s and the Beatles.  I remember standing on the steps of the Town Hall in 1997, thinking of the Cavern and being frustrated that I did not have enough time to go and have a look.  This is a tea towel that shows all, your personal guide to Liverpool: The Albert Dock, the Museum, the Waterfront, Croxteth Hall, Speke Hall, the Walker Art Gallery, the Bluecoat Chambers and much more.  Several visits following, I have been able to see most of those places, taking the Hop-on, Hop-off tour bus.  But I still haven’t seen Anthony Gormley’s Another Place at Crosby; it is something I have always wanted to see since it’s original installation.  Jenny tells me that it is amazing, makes me want to see it even more. Maybe this year but, of course, there will need to be another tea towel because Another Place was sculpted after this tea towel was produced!

PS: Sorry, this tea towel looks a bit stained.

North Norfolk: 2015 (going back to 1974)

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When I retired from work, in 2015, I was given this tea towel by one of the people who used mosaic’s services.  Mosaic is an organisation working with, and providing services for, disabled people.  The organisation had two, fully accessible bungalows catering for six people in each.  They were built in 1981, the Year of the Disabled, with money raised for this purpose.  This was about enabling disabled people to be able to have the same sort of holiday as non-disabled people, with their families, by the seaside but without having to worry about access.  The Overstrand Bungalows, as they were known, were (and still are) one of the most popular services that mosaic provided.  I always enjoyed travelling down to Overstand to see Jean, the caretaker, and take a look around.  I loved Cromer and all the surrounding districts.

But looking at this tea towel reminds me of the heady days of 1974, when I went on my first holiday to Norfolk, Pontins at Pakefield to be precise.  I was working in what was known as an Adult Training Centre, as an Instructor with people with learning difficulties.  It was ‘compulsory’ (part of our contract) to go on the annual holiday for a week.  Each of us had a group of between five and six people; we shared a chalet with our group and were responsible for them for the whole week.  There were no breaks or time off during that week.  It was exhausting but great fun.  This was my first job and it certainly seemed like a lot of responsibility for someone with little experience.

When I was sorting out all my old photos and memorabilia, I came across this article that my boss, Ted Harris (only known to us as Mr Harris) had written.  The world of disabled people has certainly changed since 1974 but I think I was quite surprised to see (and realise) that Mr Harris was quite a radical in his time and that we were leading the way at Mountsorrel A.T.C.  His article brings back some amazing memories.

”Until last year, the Trainees and Staff at this centre had gone on holiday to the Derbyshire Miners Holiday Home at Skegness and generally the treatment we received from the Staff there, and the entertainment and facilities, were really first class.  But always we felt that spending a holiday with 1500 other handicaps was not so good, either for the Staff or Trainees.

Early in 1974, I wrote to twenty holiday camps asking if we could book a group of 100, preferably in the middle of the season.  Eighteen of these camps replied that they were sorry but they had no special facilities for dealing with the mentally handicapped (what facilities did they think we required?).  The other two camps did offer to accommodate us but only at the end of the season.  So we booked at Pontin’s at Pakefield near Lowestoft.

At the end of September we duly arrived at Pontin’s, feeling a little nervous as to the reception we should get from Staff and other campers.  I gathered that the Camp Staff were equally nervous as this was by way of an ‘experiment’ as far as they were concerned.  To cut a long story short, we finished the week completely accepted by both staff and campers and knew that we had broken down any barriers which may have existed, and the Camp Staff even said that they hoped we would come again in 1975!

Staff and Trainees all voted that we should go again in 1975.  We started a Holiday Savings Fund, held money-making events during the year to lessen the financial burden on families.  27th September was the Big Day this year.  We had arranged for an early pick-up by the buses so we should arrive at the Camp in time for dinner.  We were held up at the centre and didn’t get away until 9.45am consequently only one bus arrived in time for dinner.  The passengers on the other buses had to make do with a sandwich and a cuppa.

The weather was very mixed during the week, ranging from bright, sunny and hot to gales, rain and storms but the weather does not stop activities at Pakefield.  We played table tennis, billiards and snooker, putting and crazy golf.  We joined in the rounders game outside, and the volleyball and P.T in the ballroom, had swimming sessions in the covered-in, heated pool, hired four wheel, two seated pedal cars and all had rides.  The whole party went on a wild life safari to Kessingland Game Park one morning and in the evening we drank our shandies and lemonades and watched the stage shows and joined in dancing sessions.  Thursday night was the Big Night, when Instructors helped eleven of the Trainees to dress up for the Fancy Dress and Topsy Turvey competitions.  The previous year, Graham, the Chief Blue-coat, had tended to put our Trainees into a special group and give them all a prize.  This year I had previously told him that we would prefer that all our entries should take their chance with everyone else in the judging and be prepared to accept a losing situation.  Graham passed this on to the independent judges and much to our delight the first three places in the Fancy Dress Competition and the first place in the Topsy Turvey Competition were awarded to our Trainees.

Stephen and Stuart who had won first prize in the Fancy Dress Competition went on stage and gave their version of “One Finger, One Thumb” and brought the house down.  Six of our Trainees went in for the Dancing Competition (Quick Step, Waltz etc) and although they didn’t win we were very proud of them.  To complete the evening one of our Instructors entered the Talent Competition and was awarded first prize for his singing of “Some Enchanted Evening”.  This song echoes my own feelings.

On the Friday Evening all the campers gathered in the ballroom for the ‘Farewell Everyone’ session.  The first item was the prize-giving and, of course, our prize winners went up to receive their awards.  Those Trainees who hadn’t won were called out to join me in receiving, from the Pontin’s Area Manager, an electric clock which was to be placed in our centre as an appreciation of the entertainment we had given, and the interest we had created, with 1400 ‘normal’ campers.  In addition we received a receipt for £94, collected by the other campers, to be placed as a deposit for our holiday next year, when they hoped we would be back.

No doubt that the holiday this year was out most successful yet, and I can only pay tribute to my Staff  who really made the holiday for our Trainees”.

Reading this made me look back and think what a great time was had by all but also how welcoming Pontins was since they had never had a group of disabled people stay with them.  I had forgotten how much I had learnt from those holidays and when I use this tea towel I will always remember those great times and the friends I made.