Let me introduce you to Liz, known as Liz K, because I know too many Liz’s. I have known Liz K for about 25 years, yet it seems like I’ve known her all my life. Initially, I knew Liz K through work, a colleague in the ‘cut and thrust’ of the voluntary sector; she ran a mental health organisation and I a disability advocacy organisation. It can feel lonely, and unsupported, running a voluntary sector organisation; you have to seek out your peers from other organisations, people who can offer advice, support and be a shoulder to cry on. Hence my friendship with Liz K. We supported each other through the early stages of the awful tendering process for contracts. When Liz K changed jobs, and worked in partnership with another Liz, she became known as one half of The Two Liz’s. We worked on a wide variety of projects together and when she retired we became friends, sharing a love of loose leaf tea, great gardens and eating. There is many a Tea Towel Blog where Liz K gets mention but I am truly flattered that Liz K has read every single Tea Towel Blog that I have written. You can quiz her about any number of tea towels and she will know the answer. That has to be true friendship!! I have three abiding, and amazing, memories of my friendship with Liz K: the first was of her ‘significant’ birthday, earlier this year, when we went to Bettys and Harlow Carr RHS Gardens, in Harrogate, to celebrate. It was a delightful day. A couple of months later she gave a splendid birthday party, in her garden, for friends and family. It was definitely a ‘Liz Do’, her style, her informality, surrounded by many, many longstanding friends, with singing and music and, yes, food. Fantastic. The second memory was having a meal at her house, in Leicester, with a piece of furniture, a sideboard, sitting in the middle of the room. I asked her what it was and she said that she had put it there to remind herself to get rid of it; she had no room for it. I said I loved it and she gave it to me. I couldn’t just take it. Come for a meal and take away a piece of furniture, seemed a bit rude. I did know she wanted some storage jars, and I had about 20 that I was going to take to a charity shop. We swapped; we both still own our swapped items, lovingly cared for. I can’t believe how lucky I was. My third memory is of being invited to Liz K’s home for a delicious Sunday Lunch with Gwyn and Pete; we took the wrong turning, ended up on a very narrow, flooded bridleway which was also a cul-de-sac. We could see her house from the car but couldn’t get to it. It was in the days of mobile phones so we were able to ring her and say we would be late, while Pete worked out how he was going to reverse out. By the time we got there, we were very hungry and appreciated the wonderful meal and also had a story to be recounted on many occasions!
You can see why Liz K was the right person to ask to be a Guest Tea Towel but she kept prevaricating. Last night, I met up with Liz K for our Annual Christmas Buffet; she guiltily confessed that she knew which tea towel she would write about but didn’t know how to do the technology to get it on the website. “Email it to me and I do the rest” I said. She promised that it would be with me before Christmas; this morning, less than 15 hours after her promise, it arrived.
“This is my favourite tea towel. I do not know how long I have had it, but it seems always to have been in my dresser drawer, and as you can see, I use it whenever it is clean because it is so good at the drying up.
Both my mother’s and my father’s family have long associations with Australia. This tea towel is from my father’s side. His sister, my beloved Aunt Joyce, made many visits to her first cousins in New South Wales, and she and her favourite cousin, Richard, made journeys all around New South Wales, and beyond, to satisfy her (actually insatiable) appetite to see places and understand things. I think this tea towel dates from a visit which took place soon after I set up my own home, and my own dresser drawer, which must have been in the early 1970s.
I think Broken Hill has some association with Ned Kelly (I might be making that up) (and according to Google and Wikipedia, you are making it up!!!), but it is a symbol of the kind of life none of my family ever led in Australia. Joyce’s grandfather was one of the many sons of a Warwickshire farmer, with no money and not much sense. He took his young wife and baby daughter (my grandmother) to New South Wales and set up a grocer’s shop in Sydney. After several years they came home broke, but with several more children. Then, some time later, they tried again. Other cousins and brothers and sisters joined them, and a general to-ing and fro-ing went on for a whole generation, leaving my father and Joyce with cousins in both countries.
At Joyce’s funeral in 2005, my son Jo said this:
“I remember her house in Oxford as being particularly interesting to me, sprinkled with magic objects from far flung corners of the globe, mostly plates and tea towels, but she would always go out of her way to tell me about these things and where they came from, who gave them to her and why. She’d remind me of my connection to them, through her and our mutual family, and it made me feel exotic and well travelled, even though I was only six.”
Joyce would definitely have understood a tea towel blog”. If you have ever seen Tea Cup Travels on CBeebies, Liz K’s Aunt Joyce sounds as if she would have fitted in. I would love to have met Joyce, she’d have had a whole collection of tea towels for me to ‘wander through’!
Thank you Liz K for a wonderful tea towel (with a recipe) and a great story! Have a Happy Christmas.