Gwyneth’s Tea Towel Story


I’ve known Gwyneth since 1975; sometimes it seems longer and at other times it feels ridiculous that it is so long ago.  I met her on a course at Stockport College of Technology.  We both loved the course and we both found some of our fellow ‘travellers’ a bit weird.  Gwyneth was the youngest member; I wasn’t much far behind.  Those were the days!  We have kept in touch, and met up, ever since, sharing experiences of her motherhood, both our divorces, many bereavements, family difficulties, ill-health of various kind, moving houses, animals both alive and dead, jobs of many kinds, some weird and wonderful interests and much more…….

Gwyneth has shown an interest in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum but always has an excuse as to why she couldn’t be a Guest Tea Towel; there is a choice of good reasons.  She said her tea towels were in a box in the lobby (How, on earth, did she do the wiping up?) or they needed ironing (everyone says that)!  So I gave Gwyneth a challenge; I asked about her thoughts on this tea towel and, yes, she told me, at length.  I thought it made a good Tea Towel Story.   This was a tea towel that Gwyneth reacted to, in ways very different to the many other people that I asked!  That’s Gwyneth for you; always original, always creative, always thoughtful, always wacky!  Here is her Tea Towel Story:

”Well, my dear friend, you’ve done it again.  Only you can provoke gentle thought in the way you do – and from such a beautiful tea towel.  My immediate thoughts were – Wisdom, Retrospect, Knowing, Believing and …. it shouldn’t take so flippin’ long, should it?  If only I’d known all along that I was just the same as everyone else, I wouldn’t have felt such an ‘outsider’ all my life.  And why didn’t I have the longing to be a Princess?

Age 3: I was living in a field; I had dirty knees, loved the trees, birds, squirrels, foxes, bluebells and didn’t really know what a Princess was.

Aged 8:  The year before (aged 7) I was chosen to be the Angel Gabriel in the village nativity play – a very important role apparently.  Aged 8, I was chosen to be Mary. Dressed in the treasured school garb, I took my steps forward with Ian Crisp, as Joseph; we had a local donkey with us as we trod the isle in the village church.  My goodness, I felt awkward….. if only I knew I’d been chosen because I was simply a nice little girl (and probably fitted the outfit!).

Aged 15:  It has to be said “I was a rebel”.  Though aware of my developing sexuality (and believed I was the next Suzi Quatro), I was more aware of my political interest, led by my Dad and becoming more aware that my Dad and I had little time left; he was dying.  I enjoyed being different (I wasn’t afraid to wear hats), I wanted to learn, I wanted to shout; I was angry.  My Dad died; I was left with lots of anger, uncertainty, seeking safety, confused; didn’t know which hat to wear.

Aged 20:  I was out of a difficult time.  Doing different things, yet restrained by acting in a way that everyone around me seemed to expect.  A more confusing time; however, I met my good friend Barbara.  (She got her dates wrong here!).  She knew which hat I should wear!  How I looked didn’t really seem to matter; what did matter was my own achievement  and how I was working with others.

Aged 30:  Yup, I was ‘post baby’ fat, working hard, feeling useless/confused as a woman, a daughter, a wife.  But, as a mother, and part of a family, I felt good.  I loved that time, developing as an individual and working professionally, enabling other’s futures.  Using all of my senses, my creativity, exploration….. so exciting.  I was in love with everyone around me, I trusted in everything.  I probably wore hats, and certainly went out and ‘did it anyway’.  Music was a driving force in many ways, and continues to be so.

Aged 40:  Still ‘fat’.  I’ll never be model-worthy but not too bothered by that.  Still mucky, still working on the land, looking after a herd of sheep and the allotment, bringing up the children, bringing in an income, playing guitar, singing……. I had a million things to do and loved them all.  Probably wore hats to cover up the ‘bad hair’ days!  Though loving all my work and loving my daughters, there was a gap in my life.  I felt lonely as a woman.  Which hat does one wear for that?

Aged 50:  Been busy, been mucky, been criticised, been thoughtful, been hurt.  It’s ‘G’ time: Growing into another time of my life.  Grieving for people lost to me.  Giving to others in a different way.  Getting to know myself differently.  Becoming a Grandparent; a new Generation.  Growth and wearing a different hat.  Grounding, a time of loss and Getting to know the real me?

Aged 60:  Phew.  A quieter time.  I’m truly thankful and value the good friends around me, along with the time I have to rediscover the person who was always there.  I’m quieter now and so are my hats.  Having no specific professional role means I have time to continue to love the birds, squirrels, bluebells and still have dirty knees (though I don’t reach them as easily now).  I have no illusions of a Princess (whatever that is).  I am just who I have been forever.  Now that I am sixty, I don’t have to make apologies!  My daughters are amazing women and mothers; I know (even without me!) that they will survive to make the world a better place with their knowledge, and love for those around them.  I feel more complete and welcome wearing whichever hat I choose, on any particular day!!

Aged 70:  I am looking forward to being 70.  My grandsons laugh at our antics now; who knows what we will get up to in the future.  There’s more to see, more to discover….I do worry that I won’t be there with them; but they will live on without me.  I feel strong in the memories and strength we have created so far.

Aged 80:  A friend told me that he wouldn’t want to venture further than 70 because he says “it’s grim”.  I believe the people I now know, and have known during their 80s and beyond, are wonderful folk, they teach me much.  I hope to be as vibrant as they are, and look forward to sharing hats with the people I know and love…… there’s always something to learn and a new hat to wear.

Thank you, Gwyneth, for an interesting ‘take’ on this unusual tea towel.

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