Gwyn’s Tea Towel Story


Celebrating the first anniversary of the Virtual Tea Towel Museum has taken a bit of planning.  I wanted it to be ‘special’; I wanted to be able to include people who had been significant in this ‘journey’ (as they say on Strictly Come Dancing).  Gwyn certainly falls into this category for a Guest Tea Towel.  Why?

She has bought quite a lot of tea towels for me because she knows how much I love them; tea towels that reflect our shared interests of cats and chickens but also some unusual ones from Anglesey, her family’s home.  Because I have known her for such a long time, nearly 40 years, then she features in quite a lot of my anecdotes.  Some of my poignant reflections are about her longstanding ill-health, the ups of treatment and progress, the downs of setbacks and hospitalisation.  But through it all she has maintained a positive spirit which I have nothing but admiration for.  When she organised a Strawberry Afternoon Tea in her back garden, in aid of Breast Cancer Care, I was fortunate enough to win a ‘Strawberry’ tea towel.  (To read the Tea Towel Blog go to dated 1 September 2016).

We met in 1979, when she was training to be a psychologist and I was a social worker, both based in a hospital for people with learning disabilities.  We’ve shared some interesting adventures, meals out, drinking sessions (before I gave up alcohol), New Years Eves, birthday celebrations, wedding anniversaries, Fire Work displays, trips to National Trust properties and much more.  We enjoy playing games together: everything from Pictionary to Scattergories, from Mah Jongg to Bananagrams; I love Cat Attack, I like the tactics and going for the kill.  Gwyn, Pete and Liz have a more gentle approach to games.  Racing Penguins and Racing Santas at Christmas is loved by all.  We used to play something most weeks but these days it is less frequent because of the commitments Gwyn has with the hospital.

I had asked her about being a Guest Tea Towel, previously, and while she agreed, she never got around to it, not surprisingly.  I tried once more for the First Anniversary celebrations and she readily agreed.  It can’t have been much longer than a week later that she was admitted to hospital with a very high temperature and she is still hospitalised.  I realised that she wasn’t going to be able to do this and I certainly wouldn’t ask.   ‘Maybe for the second anniversary’, I thought.

“Can I email you the story of my tea towel tomorrow?” She texted me from her hospital bed.

”Of course” I replied, excited

”I don’t have a picture though”

”Which tea towel is it?” I asked

”A Bloat of Hippos” she replied 

“Don’t worry, I’ve loads of photos from that day”

Because that was the day Gwyn, Pete, Liz and I sat down and designed a load of tea towels, on Gwyn’s dining table.  She didn’t feel well enough to concentrate on Mah Jongg but a bit of crafting would take her mind off how rubbish she felt.  It was great fun; I’m glad she chose that tea towel.


Let Gwyn tell her Tea Towel Story:

”I first became interested in Hippos at the beginning of 2017 when Fiona was born at Cincinnati Zoo and I heard about it on Facebook.  Not only was Fiona the first Nile Hippo to be born at the Zoo for 75 years but she was 6 weeks premature, weighed only half what a new-born Hippo should and wasn’t expected to survive.

But she did survive and was named after Princess Fiona in ‘Shrek’, because of her ears.  She was hand-reared by keepers who had to spend 24 hours a day with her and teach her how to be a Hippo.  Cincinnati Zoo posted frequent updates on how she was doing, which I avidly looked for every day – the pictures and videos were lovely.  When she was old enough, Fiona was reintroduced to her parents, Bibi and Henry, which was another exciting, though nerve-wracking, time.

I learned a lot about Hippos from Cincinnati Zoo including that the collective noun for Hippos is ‘A Bloat’ which struck me as both apt and amusing.  So when Barbara, Liz, Pete and I were having one of our Tea Towel Designing Sessions, I decided that this would make a great tea towel.  I had a stencil of a Hippo which I scattered around the tea towel along with the words ‘a bloat of hippos’ and loved the seeming randomness of the pattern.

I think this is my favourite of the tea towels I designed.  It makes me remember all I have learned about Hippos but also the lovely afternoon spent with friends, talking, drinking tea, planning and producing tea towels”.

”Oh, and if you want to see some pictures and videos of Fiona, try googling ‘Fiona hippo’.  Who ever knew Hippos could be so cute?”

Thank you Gwyn for your story, more special because you did it from your hospital bed.

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