Jai’s Tea Towel Story


I wanted to publish a ‘special’ Guest Tea Towel on 1 July 2018, the first birthday of the Virtual Tea Towel Museum.  Who better to ask than Jai, the future ‘inheritor’ of my Tea Towel Collection, Tea Towel Blog and the Virtual Tea Towel Museum?  I had asked her before but she shrugged and I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

This time I was more direct, setting a timescale, and rather than speaking face to face I used WhatsApp which always produces a better response.

“As you are a published author, I am in a position to offer you the opportunity of a lifetime!!  1 July 2018 is the first anniversary of the opening of the Virtual Tea Towel Museum.  I want to do a couple of ‘special’ things to celebrate.  One is a Special Collection of tea towels to celebrate the centenary of Women’s Suffrage, another would be a ‘special’ Guest Tea Towel and since you have had many ‘mentions in dispatches’ as the ‘inheritor’ of my Tea Towel Collection, I wondered if you would be it.  I have to have it before 1 July together with a photo” I said.

Then a bit of bribery “I’ll give your book a mention, all publicity is good publicity”.  Now  I’d better keep to my side of the bargain.

Jai is a linguist, did a PhD in language on the internet, lectures at Birmingham University (in the Midlands, not USA).  She has just had a book published, by Routledge, entitled “Language, Gender and Parenthood Online: Negoitiating Motherhood in Mumsnet Talk”, available for pre-ordering.  This adds a bit of class to the Guest Tea Towels.

If I am being honest, I read ‘On Tea Towels and Family’ and shed a tear; that’s the first time Jai has dragged a tear from my eye.

I have known Jai since she was 15 (and that is a lot of years ago).  I was there when Floyd (the blind dog) set fire to himself, unknowingly, and both mother and daughter put out the flames with a tea towel, while I shouted “Don’t use a tea towel”.  No one listened to me.  I saw school concerts, her performances at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and her role as one of the three little maids in ‘The Mikado’.  I coached her in geography and, to this day, we are both surprised at her amazing result!  I attended her wedding, seen her become a fantastic mother with a successful career.  She has seen me go from a quiet middle aged woman to a grumpy older woman.  I probably had the better deal.

On Tea Towels and Family by Jai Mackenzie

“I don’t much care for tea towels. 

But I haven’t had much choice in the matter since Barbara came in to my life. 

A grumpy middle-aged woman and a moody teenage girl who’d both already had their fair share of upheaval is not exactly a match made in heaven, and when Barbara and I were first acquainted we generally stayed out of each other’s way. Our most verbose exchanges went something like this:

B. It’s your turn to do the washing up Jai.

J. *stomps to the sink*

B. Use a fresh tea towel! Make sure you dry them properly!

J. *seethes*

Of course, we got used to each other over the years. For me that has included getting used to Barbara’s ‘collections’, the largest and most prominent of which is obviously her tea towels. 

There aren’t many visits that go by without Barbara reminding me that one day I’m going to inherit this vast assortment of drying-up regalia. I don’t know what on earth I will do with them when that day comes, but this assurance makes me feel strangely happy. 

One thing Barbara and I have in common is that we’re not especially good at telling people what they mean to us. Yet this tea-towel inheritance says it all. Barbara’s insistence that her most prized and irreplaceable possessions will one day be mine, and my acceptance that yes, I will take them gladly, and treasure them, says this: we are family. No matter what.

So yes, I don’t much care for tea towels. But if Barbara wants me to inherit the tea towel museum, that’s ok with me.”

Thank you Jai, a great article and as you get older you, too, will grow to love tea towels.  But that is quite an interesting pile of tea towels in the photograph.  I like the Wedding Anniversaries one!!  Oh yes, I bought it for you!! And if you want to read the Tea Towel Blog, go to http://www.myteatowels.wordpress.com dated 24 July 2015.

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