Borough Market, London: 2015 and 2017

If you had never heard of Borough Market, the oldest food market in London, before 2 June 2017, you will certainly have heard of it on 3 June 2017.  Borough Market was the scene of a terrorist attack where 7 people were killed and 48 seriously injured.  The shocking thing about the Borough Market attack was that it wasn’t centred on a political or religious target, it wasn’t focussed on an area that would completely disrupt the life of London.   Although Borough Market is a vibrant, lively, cosmopolitan area, it is an area frequented by people who want to earn a living during the day and who want to enjoy themselves by night.  The Market itself attracts tourists because of the range of foods and artefacts on sale.  This is the place to wander around and hear as many languages as there are nations in the world.

While Borough Market is 1000 years old, historically the source of great controversy because Londoners were forbade to cross the river to use Borough Market because it was in Southwark, not considered to be London.  It wasn’t until 1550 that a Charter sold Southwark to the City of London and made Borough Market part of London.  The changes that have taken place at Borough Market over the centuries are huge.  In 19th Century, it was a wholesale fruit and vegetable market.  1930s saw the introduction of the beautiful Art Deco entrance.  The development of New Covent Garden in Vauxhall, in 1970s, could have seen the demise of Borough Market but by 1990s the demand for artisan foods lead to Borough Market having a retail market once a month, then once a week and  rapidly changing to six day a week.  Borough Market is now run by a charitable trust and prides itself on its approach to recycling: all cardboard, paper, plastic, wood and glass is recycled; Borough Market works with Plan Zheroes who distribute any surplus foods to local charities; rain water is collected to water any plants and flowers on site; 8640 litres of waste, that cannot be redistributed, is taken to an anaerobic digestion plant for conversion into energy.

Having said that, although born in London, I had never heard of Borough Market until 2005, I am ashamed to say.  I only came across it because I was looking for Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum which was around that area.  I was seriously lost, once out of sight of London Bridge Station.  I found myself amidst the wonderful smell of fresh vegetables, breads, cheeses, meats and hams, quality coffee being ground, people sitting at small tables drinking coffee and eating amazing pies.  There was an air of bustle and trade.  Voices from all over the world but I was on a mission to find the Museum so didn’t have long to allow myself to be distracted.  I promised myself that I would return in the near future for a good look round.

My next visit was a couple of years later to find a quirky tea room in what was once the Ship Inn; I remember they had tea cups hanging from the ceiling, on string.  The food was great, especially the cakes.  Sadly, it is no longer there.  We spent so much times there, on a Tuesday which was not a full opening day for the Market, so yet again we missed our opportunity.

Then in 2015, at the Bovey Tracey Craft Fair, I met Penny Seume, a textile designer who uses digital photography to create some unique tea towels.  I fell in love with them; her work truly does justice to the ‘Blank Canvas’ that a tea towel can offer.  She had this tea towel on sale, a quiet corner of Borough Market.  I bought it, yet again resolving to properly visit Borough Market.  It wasn’t until a few months ago, about three weeks before the terrorist attack, that I got to Borough Market.  It certainly lived up to all my expectations, a vibrant place where you needn’t have a full meal because you could ‘stock up’ on ‘tastes’, cheeses from everywhere that makes a cheese, sausages from everywhere that makes a sausage…..

I wandered around for a couple of hours.  The fact is I can sense a tea towel being sold, from a mile off.  On this occasion I found the Richard Bramble stall.  Richard Bramble is a ceramic artist who creates all manner of china decorated with seafood, animals, vegetables and much more.  Alongside he produces table mats, aprons and tea towels to match.  There was a wide choice for me to browse through.  There was no competition, it had to be the picture of Borough Market, something to remember my eventual return to Borough Market.  What I didn’t realise was that this would also act as a reminder of those tragic, awful events of 3 June 2017 where people lost their lives.  I had originally intended to write this Blog several weeks ago but it seemed inappropriate.  Today feels better, knowing that Borough Market is open once again to custom, attracting people from all round the world, people who will not be deterred by the ignorance and arrogance of terrorists, people who want to see Borough Market playing the role it has done for more than 1000 years.

Glasshouse: 2017

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My last Tea Towel Blog was called Jenny Wren and told the story of Liz K’s birthday.  ‘Glasshouse’ is Stage Two of Liz K’s birthday celebrations, not something I want to forget. Liz K’s children wanted her to have a celebration party, something that would be ‘hers’, not just any old party.  There was just one problem (sound familiar?): agreeing a date (sound familiar?).  All her children wanted to be part of the celebrations but parenthood and work commitments meant the first date that could be agreed was in July.  Another opportunity to extend Liz K’s birthday celebrations across several months; better weather would mean people would be able to travel distances more easily.

Liz K lives in an amazing property which she shares with a friend.  They are surrounded by fields so that having the use of a field for parking, camping and a marquee seemed ideal.  Liz K has a lot of friends and family that she keeps in touch with, from across the country.  Although I have known Liz K for 20 years, I am a newcomer amongst her friends; she has friends from school, when she was a young mother, from her various forms of employment; people who share her interests in singing, walking, homeopathy, music and much more.

My friends Gwyn, Pete and Liz M and I had just discovered the excitement of decorating solar light bulbs from Poundland, which hang decoratively in the garden (at that price I am not sure how long they will last but what the heck!).  We decided that, collectively, we would buy, and decorate, ten light bulbs, to be strung up, with some images from her life: a narrow boat (because we had all shared two narrow boat trips with her), a camping scene, walking boots with a compass, musical notes, her birthday number and much more.  We thought she might appreciate this and get some use from it up to the end of summer.

The party started at 3 pm with some singing, followed by jamming, then a cream tea, more music, food…..  The field gave young (and old) children the space to play skittles, play with Frisbies and run around.  The atmosphere was of a traditional Summer Fete and Jamboree.  Very Liz K!  The invitations invited people to come for some, or all, of it; stay for the bits you wanted to.  There was an ever-changing mix of people at the party and especially good was the fact that there were chairs, so you didn’t have to stand, for hours on end, balancing a scone, jam, cream and a cup of tea.  It was delightful.  For me, the best bit was John walking, in the required slow march, across the field from his car, playing the bagpipes and ending with Happy Birthday.  Although her birthday was four months ago, the marquee was decorated with the Birthday cards she had already received.

Liz and I used the trip south of where we live to go and visit her Dad, in the Care Home; he enjoys seeing people in the morning best.  We visited Lyn and Rob to catch up on their holiday adventures in Scotland (and be surprised by the wonderful Arran Cheese, specialist honey and some oat cakes).  We went to Canons Ashby for lunch.  I’d been there before and knew they didn’t have a tea towel and then on to Liz K’s.  However, Canons Ashby DID have a tea towel, not one relating particularly to this property but one  designed by Dee Hardwicke, inspired by some of the best loved glasshouses looked after by the National Trust.  It is an excellent design for that purpose, light, bright, with climbing stems, clematis; you could feel as if you were in one of the NT glasshouses.  A perfect tea towel, to recall a lovely day and the culmination of Liz K’s birthday celebrations. As I look at it I will be thinking, ‘Can’t wait for Liz K’s next Big 0’.  Great Day Liz (K).

Jenny Wren: 2017

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There are a lot of Liz’s in my life.  Back in March my friend, Liz K, turned a significant age; one of those ‘Big 0’ birthdays.  Liz K isn’t ‘funny’ about her age; she doesn’t want to go ‘over the top’ in terms of celebrations, nor does she want to pretend that it hasn’t happened.  But there does come a time in our lives, when you don’t want presents just because it is your birthday.  There comes a time when you probably have all the ornaments, kitchen equipment, music, books……. that you need.  There is a point at which  you appreciate time spent with friends, doing what you want, not what you think other people want you to want.  I didn’t want to let a significant birthday pass by, after all, I have known Liz K for more than 20 years.

Liz K is a lover of good quality, loose leaf tea; she enjoys a visit to a really nice tea room.  I’d go as far to say that she has probably visited more tea rooms than most people have had hot dinners.  At work, she interviewed Lesley Wild (of Betty’s Cookery School) and uses her cook book on a regular basis.  Late last year, in a passing conversation, she admitted she had never had Afternoon Tea at a Bettys, in fact, she had never been to a Betty’s Tea Room.  Shock, horror, if you love a good tea room!  So Liz M and I decided a nice present might be to treat Liz K to a visit to Bettys.  We asked her about this and she was very enthusiastic.  There was only one problem, agreeing on a date.  What with the duties of impending ‘grandparenthood’, holidays and other commitments, the first date we could agree on was in May.  I think we all agreed that spreading out birthday celebrations was always a good idea.

After a short discussion, we agreed that we would set off for Betty’s in Harrogate at about 9am on a Sunday, arriving in time for an early Brunch.  We would then go to the RHS garden at Harlow Carr (also in Harrogate) followed by tea and a cake at the Betty’s at Harlow Carr (there are two Betty’s in Harrogate).   Planning so far ahead meant that we had to ‘gamble’ on the weather.  It wasn’t much of a gamble because it was beautiful weather, a bit cloudy, no rain, quite warm, the right weather for a walk round the garden.

We arrived on time.  Brunch was lovely: Kedgeree for Liz K, Swiss Rosti for Liz M and scramble eggs and bacon on a muffin for me.  We took our time, watching what other people were having, in case it looked better than ours (and it never did), catching up on the gossip, sharing news of grandchildren, talking about summer holiday plans and, inevitably, a brief discussion about tea towels.  I had just finished cataloging my tea towels; having identified a few duplicates, I decided I would give them to various friends.  One of my duplicates was ‘Betty’s Fancy Tray’, so who better to give it to than Liz K, as a souvenir from Bettys (without her having to buy it!).

After Brunch, we went on to RHS Harlow Carr.  The last time I’d been there was about 8 years ago, in the pouring rain.  Our visit on this day was so different; there had been so many changes.  The Kitchen Garden and the chickens were great but what none of us expected was just how beautiful the tulips would be.  There were huge tubs of tulips, all over the garden, with colours you would expect to clash but just looked stunning.  There were some imaginative uses of old garden equipment: wheelbarrows painted in rainbow colours holding bulbs, old shopping bags hanging on benches full of bedding plants, the BFG made of willow, a wire heron with its head in the stream….. Harlow Carr is one of those places where you can wander around and suddenly come across the unexpected.  The tiny ducklings on the pond was a delight, following their mother around.

Near the ice cream hut (which we didn’t go into) was a large wooden exhibition space.  The space was being used by artists from Yorkshire; paintings, embroidery, cards, pottery and, lo and behold, a few tea towels.  This Jenny Wren was on sale and I thought that it would be a beautiful reminder of a great day out.  I love the simplicity of the style, the wren in the centre and the tiny birds surrounding it, forming a frame.  Liz K fell in love with a painting of a post box which I am sure she would have bought if only she could think of a spare piece of wall at home to hang it on.  Instead, she bought a card for her friend John, a picture of the landscape they had recently walked.

After a long walk, we returned to Betty’s for a cup of tea and a cake.  We were absolute rubbish at choosing cakes, they all looked so beautiful.  Mine was a Rose Macaron, Liz M had Yorkshire Curd Tart and Liz K a Pecan slice.  Fabulous.

If there was a down-side to the day, it was the fact that we got lost on the way back home but Google Maps soon put us right.  Liz M made a photographic record of the day which is now on a memory-stick, as a slide show with music, bringing back some amazing memories.  When I look at this tea towel, two things spring to mind: firstly, there is an age, when spending time with friends is as good as expensive gifts, and secondly, that was a great way to celebrate a birthday and, perhaps even better, because it wasn’t on her birthday but planned to be convenient and under no pressure, a definite lesson to be learnt.

Cornish Pasties: 2017

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I may have bought this brand new, pristine tea towel two days ago, but it was from a Charity Shop and it must be at least thirty years aol, if not older.  It is a Clive Mayor design; he used to design a lot of tea towels in this style.  My Yorkshire Pudding tea towel is one of his.  Actually, the Charity Shop had two different Cornish Pasty recipe tea towels but I restricted myself to this one because of the designer.  I have been wanting to expand the Recipe Collection in the virtualteatowelmuseum.com so this was a good excuse, I could justify two withthe same recipe.

The Cornish Pasty has had Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, since 2011, from the European Union (I wonder what happens to this once we have Brexited).  The PGI status means that no pasty can call itself a Cornish Pasty unless it was prepared in Cornwall (it doesn’t have to have been baked in Cornwall, nor do the ingredients have to have come from Cornwall).  The ingredients have to be beef, cut in chunks, onion, swede (turnip as it is called in Cornwall), potato and light seasoning of salt and pepper.  PGI status determines that the pasty has to be shaped as a ‘D’, crimped on one side, not on the top.  This tea towel was designed long before PGI status and therefore does not conform to today’s standards of a Cornish Pasty.  Nice tea towel, though.

The Cornish Pasty today amounts to 6% of Cornwall’s food economy!

I have two memories, from the past, of a Cornish Pasty, long before PGI status.  Firstly, Mrs Atkins, who used to look after me when I was a child, while my mother was at work, could make a mean Cornish Pasty.  Many of her extended family members originated from Cornwall and passed on the family recipe to her.  We often used to have them for lunch, especially when we went out for the day.  My second memory is of having cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End, with Dave, in 15 days, arriving at Land’s End and the first thing we ate was a Cornish Pasty each.  I am not sure whether it was of the highest quality but I certainly know that it was one of the most welcome meals that I have had, signalling no more cycling for a few days.  The third memory, much more recent, was when I had bought this tea towel, Liz decided that she would try out the recipe on the tea towel to see if it worked.  I can vouch for the fact that it does, although Liz prefers Delia Smith’s recipe for pastry.

I love this tea towel and the memories it brings back but I am fascinated about what Brexit means for the PGI status on so many British foods.

Strawberry Basket: 2017

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I have got into a really bad habit of popping into the Sue Ryder Charity Shop; it’s a bad habit because it is the only charity shop that I know that sells vintage tea towels, both used and unused.  Today’s expedition found me wading my way through a large pile of tea towels and I only had two of them in my collection.  I had to restrain myself and only bought four!

Since my friend Jenny retired in 2013, we have met up for lunch once a month; one month we meet in Leicester and one in Oakham.  Instead of all that messing around with either cutting the bill in half or trying to work out how many cups of tea you had, we have a system.  Jenny pays one month and I pay the other.  It works out fair and you don’t waste time trying to split the bill.  The problem is that when we meet in Leicester then I have to walk past the Sue Ryder shop and something draws me in; I feel I am near tea towels, tea towels that I will like, tea towels that I will want, tea towels that will make me buy them.  I have no choice.

Today, I chose this one because it is an overflowing basket of strawberries, an abundance of fruit but there are still some flowers with a promise of more fruit to come.  This is what my garden is like at the moment.  I’ve always grown strawberries; the plants have always borne fruit.  I’ve always enjoyed eating them.  This year, I have been overwhelmed; day after day of bowls full of strawberries, and the end is not yet near.  Big ones, small ones, juicy ones, ones that almost fall off the plant but very few that have been attacked by insects although a mole has made it’s way into the raised bed where the strawberries grow.  In previous years, I have never had enough strawberries, at one time, to make jam.  I was a bit apprehensive about making strawberry jam because it does have a reputation for being difficult to set.  But no, the first eight jars were fine; a few days later, I tried strawberry and blackcurrant (because some had ripened early), another four were perfect and finally on Saturday another batch with strawberry, blackcurrant and raspberry.  Tomorrow, I am off to pick some more strawberries and blackcurrants for another batch.

So this tea towel will always remind me of the Summer of 2017 when I managed to make strawberry jam, from my own fruit.  When I move house, I will miss this but, in the meantime, I will make the best of it.

Wimbledon Championships: 2017

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Have you ever seen such a suave and sophisticated tea towel?  So simple a design, so corporate.  The little hook to hang it up by is purple, not just the usual white.  It is not overly large and in the bottom right hand corner is the Wimbledon Championship Badge, with the crossed tennis rackets.  This is a tea towel designed by Sophie Allport, very different from her usual designs.  It is an appropriate moment to write a Tea Towel Blog about this tea towel because today is the first day of the 2017 Wimbledon Championships.

Is there a story to this tea towel? Ask a silly question…… Today, a small plastic bag arrived through the letter box.  I hadn’t ordered anything.  I didn’t know what it was, so imagine my excitement, a new tea towel!  My friend, Liz, had ordered, and bought this for me, having organised that it would arrive today to coincide with the Wimbledon Championships starting.  She had wanted to  mark the opening of http://www.virtualteatowelmuseum.com on 1 July 2017.  She felt that the only appropriate form of celebration, for me, would be a tea towel.  It is important to have good friends who will support you during these wild and whacky adventures!  But Liz would definitely disapprove of all these exclamation marks in this Blog.

I love Wimbledon, it’s as simple as that, the oldest Tennis Tournament in the world and probably the most prestigious.  I have watched the Championships all my life, mainly on TV although I have been there a couple of times.  I have always liked the TV programme ‘Great British Menu’; this year the theme was celebrating 140 years of the Wimbledon Championships, with a Taste of Summer.  It was a good competition and, for the first time, there were two courses of the banquet cooked by women.  Seeing the guests at the banquet, all those British women who had won the Wimbledon Championship in the past: Angela Mortimer (I remember her), Virginia Wade in the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee (don’t have a tea towel to celebrate that Jubilee) and Ann Haydon-Jones.  But it is 134 years since the first woman won a Wimbledon Championship – Maud Watson.  But for me, the star will always be Roger Federer, my favourite; always a polite player, dressed immaculately for the actual finals in long trousers and a white jacket, a fantastic player who I hope can win one more Championship, to achieve the most Men’s Singles Titles.  The Great British Menu also introduced viewers (including me) to the story of Rufus the Hawk who is used to drive away pigeons from the courts before each day begins and the story of the pineapple on top of the Men’s Championship Cup, what the origins of  the Venus Rosewater Plate (Women’s Trophy) is, what sort of grass is used at Wimbledon, how tennis balls are made, the dress code for Wimbledon and much more….

But Wimbledon also  has other memories, buying two Wimbledon fine bone china mugs for David and Dorothy who both loved Wimbledon so much.  They would have their afternoon tea, watching Wimbledon, drinking from those mugs.  The Wimbledon App which took us all on a trip round the grounds of Wimbledon, behind the scenes, into the Trophy Room, up into the Royal Box.  The Wimbledon Exercise Ball to strengthen muscles that had begun to waste when Liz broke her arm.  The trip round the Wimbledon Museum when they only had a Museum tea towel, not a Championship one.  I really do love this tea towel and it will always remind me of that adventure that began in April 2015, with a simple blog, and has lead to a Virtual Tea Towel Museum.  Thank you Liz.

 

Then and Now: 1958 & 2017

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Tomorrow will be the opening of the Virtual Tea Towel Museum.  I wanted to carefully pick the blog that should herald the opening.  Was it to be an old one, a beautiful one, one about my favourite place, a gift from my best friend, one that I inherited???  Was it a difficult decision? No, because I wanted one that would demonstrate the ‘strap line’ to the Museum: Every tea towel tells a story.  It was an easy choice but a difficult blog to write.  I had to stop several times….

This isn’t the most beautiful tea towel that I own, but my most special.  In effect, I designed it by putting three photographs together, with the help of Bags of Love.

When someone close to you dies, you get loads of cards from people wanting to make things better for you;  they are sent out of kindness and with love.  Common phrases are ‘Time heals’ or ‘things will get better’.  If you have been through this process, you will know that this is just not true.  It may make other people feel better, but not you.  Life changes; it will never be the same; it will never return to how it was before that death. Think about it.  There is a big gaping hole where once that person was in your life.  As someone once said “It doesn’t get better, it gets different”.  This tea towel sums that up for me.

I was brought up in Ealing and lived there until I went away to university.  I used to go back, on a regular basis, to see my parents, spending weekends with them, celebrating Christmas, birthdays, Easter and a whole manner of other events.  My grandfather (my mother’s father) was an Alderman on Ealing Borough Council and in 1958 he became Mayor of Ealing. My grandfather’s wife had died many years previously and so he needed a ‘Mayoress’.  Something unusual happened, his predecessor died halfway through his tenure so my grandfather had to step in to be Mayor; he served a year and a half, rather than just a year.  My grandfather decided that his daughter, Eileen, should be Mayoress for the first six months and his eldest daughter, Beatrice, my mother, for the next year. My grandfather was always one to try and keep everyone happy; he didn’t always succeed.  This sharing of roles allowed Eileen time to plan her wedding and go to Italy to live after the wedding.  1958/9 was one of those weird periods for a young child, when I was dragged off to various functions, accompanying my mother: the opening of Christmas bazaars, playing bingo with older people, going in fancy dress to the Lord Mayor of London’s parade, attending Remembrance Day services.  I was always given a lot of attention by everyone because I was a very well-behaved child (well-behaved or actually incredibly shy).

My mother kept an amazing scrapbook, leather-bound, full of newspaper cuttings and photographs, which I have – the sort of thing that needs to be left to someone but there is probably no one that would want it.  In that scrapbook is the photograph on this tea towel.  It was the role of the Mayoress to plant the Mayoral Tree, an oak tree, in the Mayoral Walk in Walpole Park.  This was done in December 1958 and a little plaque was put at the base.  I always wanted to ask why the Mayor didn’t plant his own tree, especially in all that cold weather.  Look at my mother in her posh coat, hat, gloves and high-heeled shoes.  My mother had never planted a tree in her life, she’d never done any gardening because we had always lived in a flat.  However, I remember that coat, a dark fawn, almost mushroom, colour which was so thick and soft, made from wool with possibly some cashmere.  I loved sitting on my mother’s lap and stroking that coat.  I don’t think I thought a lot about what looks to be a dead animal around her neck.  I remember my mother having so many hat boxes to keep those stylish hats in, no woman would be seen without a hat in those days.  Her gardening skills were such that the tree in the picture died within a few months and had to be replaced.  After that, it survived and 59 years later it is still there.

My mother and I went to look at the tree every now and again, and had a walk in the park.  It always seemed difficult to find it, amongst so many trees.  On 5 June 1990, I went back to Walpole Park, with John, to look for the tree.  I found it; there was a bench by the tree; I sat down and cried.  My mother had died two hours before.  I wanted to be with ‘her’ tree.  I still have the photo that John took of me, sitting on the bench under the tree, wearing a pair of denim dungarees, with a ‘footballer’s perm’ and a pair of papier-mâché earrings (I thought I looked ‘cool’, probably no one else did).  John took the photo because I knew that, in reality, it was unlikely that I would return here.  That was the day  “when you realise nothing will ever be the same, time is divided into two parts, before and after this”.  I had no friends or relatives left in Ealing; her house would be sold.  It was the end of an era.  The pain was dire; I didn’t want to be at the top of the Family Tree.  That wasn’t my place.  A lot of things changed for me; no, that’s not right, I changed a lot of things for me.  I changed my name back to Howard, my family name; I changed my job; I got married; I converted the garage into another room so that I could accommodate so many things from my family home – the biggest, ugliest 1960s chair, her thousands of books, ornaments, jugs, china, paintings, scrapbooks, photos, cutlery, vases, tables.  I couldn’t get rid of any of them.  A lot were presents from the period in which she was Mayoress.  There were some tea towels, mostly came from me.  Life was different.

While I no longer cry for my mother, there are times when I think “I wish she was here”, “What would she say?”.  I always feel awkward talking about her because people must think “Good grief, she died 27 years ago, why is she still reminiscing about her mother” but it doesn’t stop me.  I suppose that is why she appears so often in my tea towel blogs.  There is something different about the loss of a mother, from any other loss, I can’t explain it – is it to do with that bloodline, those 9 months (or 10 months in my case) in the womb?

I have been lucky enough, over the years since my mother’s death, to spend time with the parents of my friends – Gwyn, Fee, Liz, to appreciate the importance they have in their lives.  In January this year, Liz’s mother died, suddenly, unexpectedly, in hospital.  I was there.  And it all came back, for one brief moment in time, that grief.  But this was someone else’s mother.  I know the importance of being able to do something, special to you, to help in the grieving process.  Liz and I decided to go on holiday to London in April, to pretend to be tourists, although we both originate from London.  We decided that during this period we would pay homage to our mothers, in our own ways.  Liz wanted to go to Edmonton, by bus, passing Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, seeing the area in which she grew up.  By goodness, it was a long bus journey, fascinating, passing through so many areas of London, a truly multicultural world.  My choice was to go in exactly the opposite direction, to Walpole Park in Ealing in search of the infamous tree.  Ealing is another multicultural world but made up of huge Victorian houses rather than blocks of flats.

Liz was worried, having described the Mayoral Walk to her, that I would not find the tree or that it would have blown down or died.  The bench had certainly gone but I found the tree immediately, together with its plaque (many other plaques had disappeared).  And the second picture on the tea towel is me standing under the tree, a huge tree today; I am a tiny dot because Liz had to stand so far back to get most of the tree in the picture.  My grandfather had been a carpenter, maybe he had used his skills to make the plaque!

The strange thing was that I thought that I might be sad, or melancholy, seeing the tree, walking around Walpole Park but no, the return to the Mayoral Walk and Walpole Park was a sheer delight.  It brought back happy memories and a deep sense of contentment.  Like things were as they should be.  Having had my photo taken under my mother’s tree, we wandered around the Park.  It was 27 years since I had been there but I could still remember it.  I remembered the 200 year old Cedar of Lebanon, propped up by whopping tree trunks; I remember the duck pond with the island in the middle.  I knew the aviary wouldn’t be there any longer but I remember where it was and saw some of the remains of the aviary.  But what about the Sunken Garden? I’d been describing this to Liz but it wasn’t there.  There was still a stream but no tiered pathways, no picket fences, no signs saying unaccompanied children were not allowed in, no ducks, no flowering bushes.  I began to think that I  had been making it up, when I saw an information plaque with a photo of the old Sunken Garden and a quote from a resident of Ealing.  It had been removed as part of the refurbishment of Walpole Park and this plaque was part of a historic trail.  Mrs Atkins and I used to go to the Sunken Garden so I am glad that there is a reminder.  I expect Health and Safety had played a part in its demise.

Having laid some ghosts to rest, I thought that I would make a tea towel of this journey, a tea towel of, what I like to call ‘Mum’s Tree’, the two photos – 1958 and 2017.  I have used Bags of Love before to do this process but this time they had an offer – three for the price of two. Inspiration.  I could have three done: one for Andrew (Eileen’s eldest son and my mother’s nephew who lives in Italy), one for Chris (my mother’s brother and grandfather’s son) and one for me.  So, as the blog ends, there are three photos with each of us holding our tea towels.

So that is why I think this tea towel is the most appropriate for the launch of the Virtual Tea Towel Museum.  I know most people think that collecting tea towels is quirky and idiosyncratic, possibly frivolous; I can see why they might think that, but, for me, while I can make fun of myself, the fact is that my collection is important to me for a number of reasons (a) they are a great source of social history; tea towels have changed in style over the years and you can see this in the Museum Collections.  You can date them by their style but today you can also make a one-off for yourself, something unique and special (b) they are a means of displaying different art forms: digital photography, traditional watercolours and painting, textile design, Infographics, typography, collage, all transformed into the humble tea towel (c) there is a move towards using tea towels as a means of getting your message across, promotional material and for political reflections (d) and for me they are a means of preserving memories and recording family history.  I know where all my tea towels come from and, in this process of blogging and setting up the Virtual Tea Towel Museum, I have been able to give away things that I don’t particularly want or even like but have kept to remind me of those that have died.  In the case of my mother, books would be a good example.  I can read them all on a Kindle rather than have a library.  Tea towels serve the same purpose and are less bulky.

When I jokingly said to Jai that I would write the story for each tea towel, so that when she inherits them she would know what they meant to me, and would find it harder to give to a charity shop, I didn’t realise that the journey would take me this far.  Every tea towel tells a story.  Welcome to my world.  Welcome to the Opening of the Virtual Tea Towel Museum on 1 July 2017.

The Curator