Sue’s Tea Towel Story

I haven’t known Sue long.  She is a new member of the Creative Writing Group that I attend.  Creative Writing is not just about writing prolifically; it is also about reading your work out loud and being receptive to constructive criticism, the suggestions and ideas of others.  This can be scary process when you undertake it initially.  Sometimes we do this as a whole group, up to 16 people, but every other week we break into small groups, of three or four members and share our work.  Sue is a member of the small group I belong to.

Last week, our homework, to be shared in our small group, was to write a poem about a musical instrument.  When Sue sent her poem to the small group she said “Mine is not about an instrument.  I spent ages trying to come up with a poem about a Bodrhan (an Irish frame drum covered in goat skin) but gave up”.   Instead, she chose to use the phrase “No one spoke of it” that our Tutor had given us, as her inspiration.   As she explains, her poem about Sheringham was inspired by two photographs she came across.

When I read Sue’s poem, my tea towel of Sheringham came to mind.  Never one to miss an opportunity, I suggested that she could become part of the Virtual Tea Towel Museum.  If she wanted to link her poem about Sheringham with my tea towel, it would make a wonderful Tea Towel Story.  She agreed but added “Have you got a tea towel of Cromer because I have another poem?”  Even better.  So let Sue tell her story:

These two places are linked together. The first holiday we had together and the last.

In 1971, Mick and I, both 19, went on a weekend away, by train to Sheringham.  Staying in a small bed and breakfast, we fell in love with each other and began our life’s journey together.  Our last holiday in 2015, between chemo treatments, was in Cromer.  We stayed in a small cottage, not far from the Rocket Café.

The two poems, were both written after Mick’s death in 2016.  The Sheringham poem was inspired by two photographs which were taken on our last visit in 2012.  The Cromer poem was inspired by sounds of the seaside at a Maggie’s Creative Writing Group”.


                                                      Two Photographs

Both taken by the other

on Sheringham beach one October.

I’m sat on the sea-wall

overlooking a grey-blue scape.

You’re atop a boulder

surrounded by the shingleshore.


I’m wearing my pumpkin coloured jeans.

You’re wearing black. No change there then.

Behind me, wooden groynes gradually

disappear into the sea.

Behind you, a glimpse of infinity.

We share the sound of the waves.


Six years have elapsed.

The photos surfaced today.

Time together was limited.

Our faces hide the pain and fear

that was to come.

And we didn’t speak of it


                                                            On Cromer Pier

Huddled together in the white-wood sea-shelter,

Eating fish and chips on the wind-battered pier.

Greedy-greasy fingers tearing apart succulent fish,

Drowned in salt and vinegar.


Listening to the sound of waves crashing below,

Breaking over the shingle-shore.

A squabble of seagulls interrupted,

Deftly, diving for the remains of our meal.


Eyes squint-dazzled by the shimmering sea,

Glimpsing seaside buildings, clifftop-clinging.

The February wind scorched our faces,

With scratchy starfish-fingers.


Two years ago, on Cromer pier,

We observed other faces,

Submerged in their crab-shell lives,

As our life, together, was dying.

Thank you Sue for two great poems, so personal, that match my tea towels so perfectly. They make a great Tea Towel Story.  And I do love a Groyne, such a beautiful construction.

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