How do you get to ‘meet’ people when you are in Lockdown? Virtually, it’s obvious. For me, I’ve met a lot of people after I posted a random, maybe weird, Tweet, at the beginning of Lockdown Number 3 (England) asking people if they would like to post a picture, or pictures, of their tea towels (with the promise that the tea towels would appear in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum). Being furloughed, boredom, loneliness or just wanting to do something daft, meant there were loads of pictures. Stephen posted many. While you never get to fully know about someone’s life, and there are always questions you have at the back of your mind, or stories of their life you may want to invent, you do find out what people are happy for you to know. And that’s good enough for me.
From the start, I noted that Stephen had some very unusual, and stylish, tea towels and it crossed my mind that he would probably make an excellent Guest Tea Towel 2021. I had to put that idea on the ‘back burner’ for a week or so because of the quantity of tea towels that were coming in.
I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer when this ‘conversation’ happened:
“If you can get BBC Scotland on Catch-Up, you might like to watch Neil Oliver’s delightful programme on the ‘Hector’, which sailed from Lochbroom to Nova Scotia in 1773. Our museum @UllapoolMuseum has interesting material. When this is over…..”
Two things struck me: ‘our museum’ in Ullapool. Did Stephen live in Ullapool? Ullapool is one of my favourite places in the whole wide world so I replied. “I’ve got an Ullapool tea towel. From 1998”. Secondly, of course, was the burning question of whether or not Stephen had a tea towel of Ullapool. The answer came quickly:
“Yay. That’s more than I’ve got and I live here” (Two questions answered in one).
I replied with “You’re not looking hard enough”
“Tbh, I’m not looking at all. Very happy with my unused gorgeous Scandi ones”. I realised this could be a good Tea Towel Story, not about one particular one but about a style. So is Stephen’s love of Scandinavian tea towels to do with his heritage?
Someone on Twitter asked him how he saw himself:
“I’m English, European and would love it if the King of Sweden would grant me honorary nationality there too. I’m Northern when it suits. I’ve been a self-declared honorary Swede for almost half a century. Hoping to publish a book about it in 2022. Scandi design has massive appeal to me for clean lines, bold colours and natural references. Also if you are a poetry reader, check out my @nine_pens poems ‘out of…’ Sweden – ‘They Spoke No English’ – published later this year”.
So is there more to know about Stephen, other than his amazing tea towels? If you read the Scottish Poetry Library information, you will know he is an award-winning poet, widely published in magazines, journals and online and who received a Scottish Book Trust New Writing Award in 2015. Thank you to Stephen to being a Guest Tea Towel and for sharing his amazing, and well-ironed, tea towels.