Catherine’s Diary (21): 20 to 24 July 2020

The messages on the back of Catherine’s sealed envelope seem to get longer: “There is a saga about Brussel Sprouts, so your post-person doesn’t miss out.  I have eaten 28 and have 21 to go!  Would you believe it, Barbara, I’m using your ‘Horses’ tea towel. Also still talking faster than I write.  Thank you Postal Workers.  Off to catch the Thursday morning post”.  Soon she will be able to just write on the back of the envelope, rather than have to enclose a letter.  My tea towel of choice for today’s Diary has to be the Primark Horses tea towel, which I sent to Catherine last week.

“Two days ago a predicament occurred in the bathroom.  I thought I had a hole in the ceiling.  That’s all I need I thought.  Then I realised it was a big, dark moth!  Moths are the second on the list of insects I hate, ants being the first.  Amanda suggested I get the feather stick and try and get it towards the window but, as luck would have it, I looked up on the third day and it had disappeared.  Where to I wondered.  I looked towards the window and there he was.  Quickly, I opened it and gave him a big shove out.  What a relief.  I could use the bathroom in peace once more.

Good day, today I had a haircut.  I can see my ears and neck and it’s thinned out all over the head, otherwise light-headed!  I even look different, younger, boosts the morale up.

Hydrangea in the front garden is beautiful, considering I didn’t dead-head it properly in March but the Hibiscus in the back, not looking it’s normal vibrant self.  Cheese biscuits a semi-disaster.  Couldn’t get the mixture to stick together, added a bit more liquid; four came out ok, three were splattered to crumbs.  Should have used soft butter?  Lindy came yesterday, took the recipe and in an hour and a half came back with cooked cheese biscuits.  She said it took a while for it to come together.  They were delicious.  She also brought three items to use in ‘Bea’s Cakes’, so that’s next.  I will not give up; I will give cheese biscuits another bash.  (I had sent Catherine four recipes: Cheese Biscuits and Bea’s Cakes were two of them.  The cheese mixture comes together in the end but it always starts looking unpromising and takes a while.  Never give up)

Last week a letter came from the bank, with my new Bank Card but I couldn’t use ‘contactless’ until I’d done a ‘chip and pin’.  Panic set in.  I hadn’t done one for months.  Some key pads are so small and tight; so I opted to go to the bank.  Friday was my first day going into town.  Wade gave me a lift, met my friend Wendy for support.  Boots first for medication, mask on, forgot to look at the floor for the ‘arrows’, collected pills, turned round and spotted the big blue arrows with red circles on them saying ‘Exit’, got it right this time.  Forwarded to the bank.  It was one in only, I was eleventh in line, one metre apart.  The assistant came out and asked me what I needed.  She said I could use the card in the outside machine.  I said I needed help, I don’t do automated on my own.  After going through all this paraphernalia, I said I can now do ‘contactless’.  She said “No”.  I had to go in a shop and do the ‘chip and pin’ again.  She said “The shop need to know that the bank knows you’ve opened the card”.  This sounds all ‘double dutch’ to me.  I’ve probably got it all wrong.  I was getting ‘hot and bothered’ by now.  So I chose Primark and tea towels for ‘chip and pin’.  I saw some nice ones with elephants on them but they were micro ones.  I don’t like micro ones, seems to stick to your hands, a bit like Blue Wedgewood, a funny feel to them.  Settled for red ‘normal’ in the end.  After buying them, went to Superdrug and tested ‘contactless’ and it worked.  What a relief.  (Didn’t you use ‘contactless’ in Primark?).  I bought five boxes of Cherry and Cola Tic Tacs, on special offer.  I said to Wendy that I needed a sit down with coffee, need to relax!  Calm myself down.  I noticed people were not doing the ‘one-way’ system in shops and quite a few didn’t wear their masks.  I know some people can be exempt but it seemed an awful lot.

After coffee and a rest, Wendy went to Tescos and I ventured into Wilko.  I did enjoy looking around.  The assistant that I knew called me over to pay, unbeknown to me I had to serve myself.  Panic again.  He showed me how to ‘zap’ my shopping, pay by card, get a receipt.  It’s not something that I would like to do too often.  Glad to get that taxi and go home, I can tell you.  Not going to rush into town again for a while.

On Saturday, Amanda, Wade and I went to ‘The Fox’ for dinner, outside under canvas.  I wore my raincoat, as the weather was a bit wet.  I had Barbara’s favourite, Battered Halloumi with chips and 2000 peas (I didn’t eat all of them).  Barbara, the Halloumi was delicious!  You don’t know what you’re missing.  (Oh yes I do and I wouldn’t touch Halloumi if you paid me!!!).  While we sat there, Amanda brought up the subject of Brussel Sprouts, which I thought was a bit sinister, asking me how many I’d eaten lately.  I said in the last four weeks I’d eaten 21.  She said I needed to eat more or she would stop my broccoli delivery!  I have eaten another seven, which leaves 21 left to eat, Amanda!!!!  I said no more sprouts when they are finished.  49 is a lot to get through.

I did notice Amanda never mentioned my ‘long hair’ beard, very unusual.  Sunday I decided to use Bruce’s razor and shave it off myself, can’t be that hard, used the shaving brush/soap, glasses on, felt a ‘pull’ and there it was on the razor.  So Amanda your tweezers are redundant!!”  

There is no question that Catherine’s Diary is the tale, we probably could all tell, of the things we are all having to learn in this new world!

In Conversation With……Claire Maxwell

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I ‘met’ Claire (or rather windsweptgirlie) on Instagram.  I love Instagram; I have found so many tea towels and tea towel designers on there.  I saw one of Claire’s cushions and followed the link to her website, and there were the tea towels.  I wondered if she would be interested in being interviewed.  Fortunately, she said ‘yes’.

I’m always interested in the backgrounds of tea towel designers and the way they describe themselves:

“My earliest memories are of creating.  Sticking, sewing, painting.  I don’t think there was ever a moment that I thought ‘I want to be an Artist’.  It’s just what I do and I can’t imagine being anything else.  I have a degree in Ceramics, three glorious years of playing with clay.  Although totally different from the work I do today, my degree gave me the chance to explore my creativity without the need to be making a living from it.  I have always been an all-round creative person, eclectic, so have struggled to put a label on myself.  I dabble in many areas but if I had to choose one (label), I suppose I would currently say graphic designer……sort of!

And now about Claire’s business:

I am lucky to be based in beautiful Cornwall.  Six years ago, I had my first tea towel design printed (Cornish Mackerel).  It was a self-funded project which felt scary at the time.  I had no idea what I was doing but really wanted to get my designs out there.  I also design craft kits, illustrated gifts, homewares and greetings cards.  I have a wonderful network of independent shops that sell my work.  I also sell online, through my website and on Etsy.  I also do Christmas Markets, as most of my products are geared towards the gift market.

Obviously, I need to know about the tea towels that Claire designs and I am fascinated by the ‘Stitch and Sew’ range.  I’m not sure I could bring myself to cut up a tea towel but she, and others, seem to have no problems with it!!:

It’s quite difficult not to get carried away when designing tea towels.  They are a perfect canvas for design.  I have so many ideas but unfortunately not the cupboard space to keep them all.  Due to print-run numbers, I only have one or two new designs printed a year.  Usually they are designed for the Cornish tourist market, a girl’s gotta eat!

I had been screen printing my designs myself, in my bathroom, to sew into stuffed cushions, which was just impractical.  I designed the Mackerel tea towel to appeal to tourists wanting a souvenir, but really I wanted them so I could cut them up and make stuffed fish!!  The Mackerel was quickly followed by a dedicated ‘Make Your Own’ Mermaid tea towel and then by ‘Make Your Own’ Wilbur the Whale.  To be honest, they were a total leap of faith.  I had no idea if people would buy them.  I am happy to say I have sold 100s of Mermaids and Whales!  They really make people smile and I get wonderful feedback from customers.  They make the perfect ‘Posting Present’ and I have posted them all over the world.

At this time, I couldn’t avoid asking about the effect of Coronavirus on Claire’s business and her plans for the future:

My studio is at home so, in many ways, I have been lucky.  There was a sudden surge in Craft Kits being bought online, as people wanted to be distracted, which has helped.  Unfortunately, on the flip side, my lovely stockists had to close their doors at what would have been the start of the Tourist Season.  Obviously it is a worrying time.  I have tried to keep myself busy and motivated; I have launched two new Felt Craft Kits, which had been on the ‘to do list’ for ages.  I just had not had the time to develop them.  I also have three new tea towel designs in the pipeline.  I also grew a lot of veg!!

The future? To just keep making!”

Thank you Claire for a very positive interview, at what is obviously a very difficult time for everyone.

The one thing I have learnt, during Coronavirus Pandemic, is the importance of small independent designers who have been able to use this time for continuous creativity and the importance of small independent shops that keep the designers in business.  There is no question that it is the big businesses that are struggling.  Shop local, shop independent  has to be the motto for the future!

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Originally, Claire hadn’t sent me the picture of the Mermaid but I didn’t feel I could post this article without the great picture.  I never thought I would be admiring a tea towel of a Mermaid but it’s great!

http://www.windsweptgirlie.co.uk

 

Catherine’s Diary (20)

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“On the TV, I keep hearing this quote and I don’t know what film it is from.  Do you know?  It’s ‘Who’s the man; I’m the man’.  It’s driving me crazy not knowing”.  This was a note written on the back of the sealed envelope that Catherine’s Diary (20) arrived in.  Sorry Catherine, absolutely no idea.  Today’s Diary is showing the beginning of the loosening of ‘Lockdown’ and how careful, and scared, people are.

Because of Catherine’s reference to tea I have chosen my Yorkshire Tea tea towel .

“No dates, no times.  Are you pleased Barbara‽

Yes, I know, I go on a bit but this notepaper is irritating: wide lines on one side, no lines on the other side.  Recently, on one Saturday, I spent the day with my friend Wendy (we used to work together, years ago) and her beautiful Border Collie, Tess.  Amanda gave me a lift there, the furthest I’ve been , 3½ Miles.  It was great to go out and be with a friend ‘in the flesh’; though we talk on the phone regularly, we still had a lot to talk about.  I had Tess on the chair with me, I had my arm round her shoulders and she looked as if she was smiling at me.  I had a lovely day.  I came home in a Black Cab, a plastic screen behind the driver and I paid ‘contactless’.  I felt safe in there and will use them again.  Quite an achievement for me, pleased I did it.  When I left, Wendy gave me some home-grown rhubarb.  I cooked it in orange juice and lots of sugar; it was still tart, my cheeks seemed to get sucked in.  When I ate it I put salted caramel ice cram on it, much better.  It’s good for the constitution!

Monday was tea and cake with Vivienne and Michael, a regular Monday afternoon date now.  Vivienne and Michael are interested in history and have visited all the Heritage sites in UK; they have lots of books and photographs of them.  I remember my Dad taking me to some of these old houses, being young I didn’t find them all that interesting.  He used to take Christopher and I to the Tate Gallery, afterwards we’d go somewhere for tea.  I think that must have been the highlight; memories get vague these days.

Friday was ‘Waterboard Day’ to try and find my leak, as I was using enough water for 16 people.  The leak was in the front garden, new pipe put in.  They weren’t there very long; have to wait 10 days then someone comes and fills the hole in and they put grass seed down.  One of my plants had to be dug up but I didn’t mind as I didn’t care for it.  I stripped most of it and half-filled my lovely bin up.  I sawed two branches but then gave up, arm aching, try again tomorrow.

Of course, the best news is while the Waterboard was here, Amanda and Wade came to keep me company.  Amanda hasn’t been in my house for four months.  I was so happy to see her here and we played ‘Rummicub’, a numbers game.  I lost as usual, brain not fast with numbers but I enjoyed playing it.

Things are looking up on ‘The Jeremy Vine Show’, a live panel, but only two guests, well spaced out.   Is ‘Lockdown’ over?  People are being told to go back to work.  I asked Amanda if I could go to a ‘Marks’ in August and she said “we’ll see”.  I’d also like to go to a ‘Card Shop’.  This month I’ll be giving letters instead of cards.

Barbara sent me 4 recipes to make.  I tried the Corfe Castle Rock Cakes; they went in the oven as ‘rocks’, came out as flattish moulds!  Still delicious and even more tasty was the uncooked mixture.  Instead of doing 8 cakes I only managed 6.  Tuesday it is Cheesy Biscuits.

Delivery on Sunday.  I must own Sainsburys.  There were so many bags, admittedly they were small, not much in them.  I am stocking up on household items like kitchen and toilet rolls and spray cleaners etc.  You never know if another ‘spike’ comes.  I don’t want to be left behind.  I said to Amanda that it will take a couple of hours to sort them out.  I got plenty of cat food of course.  I have given PG Tips the boot; I’ve been with them for 30 years.  Now it’s Yorkshire Tea, nice strong colour and taste, something to get your teeth into.  I also like Twinnings Assam tea.

This is no good, it’s 11.15 am, must have my shower.  It’s Monday, tea at Sue’s today.  Also it’s Bruce’s birthday.  Me and Tilly sang to him.  Bruce is 77 today.  Still have Bruce’s phone and Amanda sent her Dad a birthday message which I thought was lovely.

Tomorrow is a Big Day.  I’m having my long locks shorn, so excited.

See you again soon.

 

 

Letter to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

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Dear Curator,

I need your help, desperately.  I am unhappy.  I am being mistreated.  Please help me.  I was a gift to my owner from her niece, Barbara.

I have a white background and lots of different cats on me.  Long-hair fuzzy ones with red hats on, short hair ones, ginger cats, grey ones, black spooky cats; some looking snooty and cheeky.  I have balls of wool to play with.  I’ve eaten the fish, only the bones are left.  Also on me it says ‘Best Friend’.  ‘Best Friend’ indeed‽  

I’m leading a miserable life.  I’ve been shoved in a drawer in the bedroom.  It’s only been opened twice since Christmas.  I am resting on a T-Shirt, next to a miniature tea service (my owner thought it was Wedgwood, but it’s made in China.  That wiped the smile off her face!).  The best bit to come is that on top of me is an electric blanket; it’s hard to breathe!  She says I’m too pretty to be used, and I agree, but I would like a more sociable lifestyle.

I know three possible friends come from Primark: there’s a dark and grotty looking one, a brown one sits on the spin dryer and another sits on the Grandfather chair (which is over 90 years old), underneath Tilly.  That one is full of red poinsettias on a white background.

Amanda is taking a picture of me.  I hope the creases won’t show.  When I come back home, I’m going to beg to be allowed to stay downstairs in the drawer with the ‘grotty’ ones.  It will be nice to have friends to talk to and I don’t mind what they look like.

Dear Curator, can you help me?

First, the creases do show on the photograph, or actually photographs.  I think Amanda must have been a bit anxious about taking your photograph which does show she cares.  Maybe she will be on your side when you go home and she can persuade your owner to allow you to stay downstairs.  Your owner needs to understand that tea towels are for using, for wiping up dishes, for hanging in the kitchen looking pretty (and it sounds as though you are very pretty).  Getting downstairs, into the kitchen, sounds like a good place to start.  If you are on hand, then she will see you every day.  You will have friends and, maybe when Lockdown is finally over, your owner will go back to Primark and buy some nice new friends for you.  I do have a couple from Primark, with horses on them; maybe I’ll send them to your owner!

Good Luck and I hope you make some ‘Best Friends’.

Catherine’s Diary (19): 24 to 27 June 2020

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“Gordon Ramsey says pomegranates have been around since Roman times and they have healing properties; best start eating them!”

That was Catherine’s message on the back of the sealed envelope that today’s Diary arrived in.  What the post workers make of her helpful, and informative, messages‽  (please note the use of the Interrobang!).  The choice of tea towel for today is easy, a tea towel made from a photo, that Liz took, of Catherine’s Big Birthday.  It includes a lot the family she has mentioned: Ferruccio, Andrew, Christopher, Pam, Amanda, Catherine, Bruce, Wade and me.  Great memories!

24 June 2020

“Last night Amanda bought my laundry back, having washed it for me (the items that mopped up the water from the flooded carpet).  They smelt delicious, now in the linen cupboard.  I keep opening the door for a big sniff!  Also she gave me three big boxes of cat food.  Received my Diary print off (Number 17), trying to work out if the second row, first cake on the tea towel is Battenburg, one of my favourites (it is).  Nice to see a picture of Amanda on the front.  Not being technically minded, I thought the first paragraph about Barbara’s problems with her ‘Blog’ was gobbledygook!  (But if Catherine got linked to the internet and bought a decent phone or iPad, she would understand.  Time to move with the times, Catherine).

Exciting day today: my lovely new garden bin was being emptied.  I thought at first they had missed me out but at 11.10 am they arrived.  Now I’m ready to fill it up again

26 June 2020

Last night, I covered the carpet by the front door with newspaper, towels, sheets just in case the rain came in again.  I thought afterwards, if I had had a fire, the firemen wouldn’t be able to get in: a Catch 22 situation.  Though it’s not quite as hot, thank goodness, my brain feels foggy today, don’t know why!

Half filled my bin with the Briar Rose.  It’s in the process of a good cutback, lucky thing.  I’ve pre-booked a haircut for the middle of July, if the plans for releasing Lockdown all go through; fed up with the straddley bits in the morning.  I look like I’ve got a ‘Mohican’.

O2UK texted today: my 90 days of free calls are over and the Chiropodist came today, feet comfortable again.

27 June 2020

Would have been Bruce and I’s 50th Wedding Anniversary, where have all the years gone?  I read my card to him, that I got through Amanda, a jokey card with his name on the front.  I’m sure Bruce appreciated it.  When I arrived at Amanda’s there was a gazebo up, two chairs and a table for our ‘tea’.  Inside Amanda gave me a card from Bruce (her Dad would have asked her to get him one for me).  Bruce’s card was all lovey-dovey and, of course, I had a good cry.

I sat down with Amanda’s computer and three friends Zoomed in, how exciting.  I didn’t realise they could see me as well.  There was Wendy, Jeanette and her mother, and Carole, all ‘fitness friends’, just my cup of tea!!!

Unbeknown to me, friends Lance, Jennie, Rob and Stephanie arrived in the garden which was a lovely surprise, especially as I thought it would just be the three of us.  Afternoon Tea was ready, all arrived in a box, champagne.  Have to say I imbibed most of it, Lindy had some with me.  Also Sarah (her anniversary as well) Zoomed in with her son and son-in-law, Tom and Gareth.  Gareth has gone a bit blond and has that horrible designer fluff on his face!  He will be glad to get back to work (he is a hairdresser!).

Amanda took me and the computer back indoors and she Zoomed Christopher and Pam, Barbara and Liz, Andrew and Ferruccio and Elena in.  I can’t believe it.  I was looking at the family ‘live’.  It was very emotional and it brings tears to my eyes, writing this Diary.  This Zooming is amazing, to be able to ‘go’ to Wiltshire, Nottingham, Florence and Rome at the same time.  Christopher thought I was nodding off (I was the only one drinking champagne) but I was just ‘in awe’ of it all.

The best background was Barbara and Liz’s.  I liked the plate rack and the mugs on hooks.  I would like Barbara and Liz to show me the plates: are they all different, I wonder (they are mostly in pairs, all very different, but there are some single ones).  The living room was homely looking.  I did notice, looking at myself, my neck looked scrawny!  I also spoke to Andrew’s wife, Elena.  She said she had met me once at Beatrice’s house, what a good memory she has, better than mine (and I have a photograph of that day in 1986).

I received flowers from Vivienne, Michael, Sue, Lindy and Lance, and Jennie.  When I thought on Saturday Morning how empty I felt, Amanda you have done Bruce and I proud.  It was a superb day and I think about it every single day.  Thank you Amanda xx

What an amazing daughter to have arranged all that as a surprise for her mother on what must have been an emotional day.  Bruce had died last October.

The New Normal in Austria: 6 July 2020

Many of you will remember, casting your mind back to 23 March 2020, that Liz wrote a piece about Lockdown in Southern Austria.  I invited her to write a second piece about the changes that have been happening in Austria: this is it.  However, I’m sure you have also been following her on Twitter (@Love_Austria007), seeing her photos of the changes in weather, her cooking, craft work, the walks in the forest, where she lives with her husband.

Finding a tea towel for this Blog has been a challenge.  Liz originates from Norfolk; should it be Norfolk? You don’t get tea towels about self-isolation or face masks!  It’s to be Norfolk then!

“For several weeks over here in Austria things have started getting back to some degree of normality.   Cafes and restaurants have been open for a few weeks with customers maintaining social distancing.  No need to wear masks though.  In fact it is no longer a requirement to wear a mask in the supermarket or other shops.  Masks are mandatory on public transport and in medical establishments.
For us here in the forest in a very quiet, rural area, life is not really much different than before COVID.  We go out less and only shop once a week, which I have found to be a good thing as it reduces waste and saves money.
We weren’t sure if we would get any guests coming to our holiday apartment this summer but we are more or less fully booked in July and August.   I’ve had to introduce advance check-in procedures and revamp the guest welcome pack to include as much information as possible as I no longer provide a personal introduction to the apartment.  The first post COVID guests arrived this morning from Germany for a week.
We do not intend to take a holiday this year, we will spend a week in September going out for day trips locally.  It’s just not worth crossing borders, even though there are no checks at the moment.  Plenty of lovely scenery on our doorstep.
I do wonder if the influx of visitors to Austria from other European countries might lead to an increase in COVID cases and I really hope there will be no further big lockdown.  Numbers have increased a little since the relaxation.  Today there are 850 cases in the country (population 8.9 million).  In our area there are just 14 (population 400,000).  No point getting anxious though so we just wait and see and hope for the best.
Despite England including Austria on their list of destinations from which travellers will not need to self isolate, Austria has not reciprocated.  The rules are quite clear that visitors from the UK must have either a clear COVID test or self isolate for 14 days.  We do not expect to see any of our friends from home anytime soon!”
Maybe I should add one from the Florence Nightingale Museum, after all COVID-19 has challenged all health authorities, across the world.  Thank you Liz for another perspective on the pandemic.

Barbara’s Tea Towel Story

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Any Reader to Barbara’s Tea Towel Story should not be fooled and think this is Barbara (@myteatowels)’s choice.  That would break all my ‘rules’ and show favouritism to one tea towel over my 1270 others.  This is Barbara (stranger_up_north on Instagram)’s story.  I have only ever actually met one other Barbara, as she said “we’ve got to stick together, not many of us left!”

I ‘met’ Barbara on Instagram.  I causally mentioned, when I posted a picture of a tea towel of Sydney Opera House, that I had never been there and that Charity Shops were a good source of tea towels.

Quick response from Barbara “So many of us buy souvenir tea towels and then don’t want to spoil them by actually using them”

My response was “No, no, no.  The joy of a souvenir tea towel, when you have actually been there, is to use it and recreate those memories”

Barbara came back immediately “But it’s always my special ones that get stained/burnt.  However, life is for living (not dying) and tea towels for giving (and drying).”  But she added that she wasn’t sure she could ever use her favourite, Brief Encounter, tea towel.  This sounded intriguing to me so I asked for a full frontal photo and the story behind the tea towel.  I wasn’t sure if she would take up the challenge.

“30 May 2018.  We were camping at Morecambe Bay which is only a few miles from Carnforth and it’s famous station, used in the David Lean film (1945) ‘Brief Encounter’.  The station is still working but has a Museum devoted to the film and it’s Director.  We had a cup of tea in the vintage-style Waiting Room Cafe and bought the tea towel as a special treat.  I do hope the Museum can survive ‘Lockdown'”

It must be memorable if Barbara can remember the actual date she bought the tea towel.  This is a truly great tea towel which could revive old memories.  Now this is a place I would like to go to.  Thank you Barbara for the story and the picture of the tea towel.

Catherine’s Diary (18): 15 to 20 June 2020

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At the beginning of Lockdown, back in mid-March 2020, the only thing that ever came through my letter box was either a flier for ‘Domino’s Pizza’ or a bunch of leaflets about driveways.  Personally, I consider this to be an insult as it isn’t long since the driveway was relaid.

All this changed once my Aunt Catherine started writing her ‘Coronavirus Diary’.  She doesn’t have the internet or a Smart phone or an iPad or anything else vaguely technical, including a typewriter.  So several times a week she writes to me, real letters, hand-written, put in an envelope and then she has taken the risk of going to the post box, coming back to scrub herself down.  All I can say is I’m glad her handwriting is neat and easy to read.  She lives alone, six months since her husband Bruce died.  Not only has she had to adjust to life without her husband of almost 50 years, but not seeing her daughter and to Lockdown.  Anyone who has read her diaries will wonder how she has coped.  Maybe addressing her problems to the wider world has helped; I hope so.

Each envelope that arrives has a note on the back of it, usually referring to the amount of mistakes she has made or a bit of news she has forgotten.  It always ends with a ‘Thank you to Postal Workers’, recognising their role in keeping me in touch with my aunt.  An envelope from Catherine brings great joy and happiness, and I bet the Postal Workers also get some joy: today’s forgotten news was “49 Brussel sprouts to eat”.  I wonder what my Postal Worker thought today!

15 June 2020

I have been to the post box to send my diary, nice warm evening for a walk.  I met a couple I know and had a bit of a chat.  I’ve decided to put the mower in the shed so I covered it in a black bag to keep it nice.  I want to clear the shed out, so much rubbish in there, and as Bruce would say “loads of good wood!”  But there is loads of cobwebs and dead insects; it makes me squeamish, especially if something small with four legs and a short tail should pop out near me!

Watching Breakfast TV, in Liverpool and Birmingham people are queueing for Primark, can’t believe it.

I went to Vivienne and Michael for the afternoon, Sue came as well.  We had tea and a chocolate eclair, lovely it was.  We discussed a wide range of subjects.  Sue enjoyed her weekend with her grandson, so it was nice to hear about that.  It was a very humid day, with some greenfly.  Two hours spent in good company.

The last few days I’ve had a glitch.  I’ve been missing company or a presence in the house.  I’m sure I’ll get over it.  A fragile few weeks: Father’s Day, 50th Wedding Anniversary and Bruce’s birthday still to come.

Opened the Black Magic tonight that was in my delivery.  Two chocolates equals one serving it says.  I had my favourite first (2 Coffee Crescents) and then two Caramel Hearts.  The caramel lingers in the mouth, delicious, roll on tomorrow!  I haven’t had a chocolate since Christmas; I can’t remember if I had any for my birthday.  I like a Fruit Pastille or a Cherry and Cola Tic Tac before bedtime.  Amanda says I can’t have any more chocolate until Wednesday; she says I had two servings in one go.  Ah well!

16 June 2020

What a morning.  Still in my dressing gown, donned my trainers and mowed the back lawn.  Got to have some grass to put in my Garden Wheelie Bin when it comes.  Daisies disappeared; new plant has arrived, loads of clover.  Still the lawn looks good from it’s cut and the edges look nice as well.

Changed my day for Stir Fry, in my new Wok: it’s today.  Already prepared vegetables, not a sprout to be seen!  Sauces and noodles, soy sauce all out of the cupboards.  Chicken defrosted.  Well, Brucie Boy, you will be proud of me.  Just made the perfect Stir Fry, just as we like it, and lots of flavour.

And, yes, I cheated Amanda, couldn’t wait til Wednesday for another chocolate.  Two orange ones, with tea, watching Countdown.

19 June 2020

When I woke up Thursday morning, I thought ‘Great I’ve slept through the storms’, came downstairs, tried to open the glass door to get to the front door but it wouldn’t move.  Pulled it again and as I opened it I found the carpet was full of water, which I can tell you was both a shock and upsetting.  I found small towels, travel blanket and sheets to help soak up the water.  I phoned Amanda who suggested I put the convector heater on to help dry it out.  Most of the day I was spinning and drying the items before putting them down again.  Wade came round and checked the door.  He could see where it came in.  The outcome is that I need a new front door.  Friends had said the rain had woken them but I slept through it all.  Today it’s dry but just smells musty.  Still feeling a bit down about it.

While I was having a chat with Jennie on the path, a lorry arrived which had my new, big, brown, shiny Garden Wheelie Bin, so excited seeing it.  Christened that day with the dead lilac flowers.  In the afternoon, Gary put the paper through the door.  Things were getting better.

20 June 2020

Amanda came and we went to get the paper and a couple of magazines.  She said I could go in with her ‘card’ and buy what I wanted, so exciting though I didn’t linger, I sped round.  I haven’t been in a shop since 20 March 2020.  Amanda went off for her walk with Jennie, taking with her a black sack of the stuff I had used to dry the water up.  Amanda had offered to wash and tumble dry it for me.

(I noticed that as I turned the sheet, there was a smaller sheet of paper with no lines.  Obviously, she had run out of her regular paper).

Smaller paper, no lines on the back, how am I going to cope?  More snipping for my new bin.  Nearly filled it up and only a fortnightly collection.

I’m giving up cake for a while, though not next Saturday, it’s Afternoon Tea and Champagne.  I nearly bought cake in the shop, but stopped myself.  I had to choose between cake or alcohol.  Alcohol seemed the better deal so Amanda put Salted Caramel ice cream in my delivery to tide me over.

I would like to say that last week’s treat (Black Magic) did last a whole week.  I was leaving the nutty ones for Christine but Saturday night the urge to eat them got the better of me.  I apologised to Christine.  She said “Good for you”, a real trooper.

Today’s Diary entry has proved to be challenging to find an appropriate tea towel.  I haven’t got one of a Wheelie Bin or Black Magic or a front door or storms.  So I chose ‘The Dictionary of Gardens’

Catherine’s Diary (17): 6 to 14 June 2020

I’ve had a lot of problems with the Blog.  I finished typing it and the laptop couldn’t, or maybe wouldn’t, save it.  As I searched for a photograph of a tea towel, it wouldn’t print it, kept telling me that it had failed and then wiped the lot.  I am sure if you’re one of those techie people you might be able to recover it; instead, I am retyping it!  It is also autocorrecting it, big time!!  Somewhat frustrating.

Had a bit of a problem about find a tea towel that is appropriate.  So now I have found two: one about cakes since Afternoon Tea is discussed and the second is of Amanda with a tea towel, since she plays a big part in this diary (she will hate me for this).

6 June 2020

I had Afternoon Tea with Amanda; she collected me at 11am, face masks on, my first time with one.  It felt OK but could have covered my eyes as well!!  It was great going for a car ride, looking at all them green fields.  When we got to Amanda’s house I went through the back gate into the back garden, straight to the bottom.  The view is amazing, they back onto a huge farm, all that greenery and you can see the M11 as well.  The next door neighbour had all his roses flowering, a lovely sight.  Had plenty of clothing on, a bit of a chill in the air.  Tea was a ‘takeaway’ : three finger sandwiches.  I had ham and tomato and an egg one, scones with jam and cream pots, sausage roll, three types of cake and a Gingerbread Man and a cup of tea.  It was a lovely thought from Amanda; it brought the emotions out as I normally only see Amanda for 20 minutes on a Saturday and today it was two hours.  Home just after 2 pm which was just as well as at 3.20 pm the rain and thunderstorms came.  I’m petrified of storms so I laid on the bed, next to Bruce, then along came Tilly and Tinker to keep me company.  Bruce was always there, to reassure me about problems, now Amanda is there for me.  We go through things step by step and I feel better, calmer.  She is like her Dad, sees things before they happen.  There is always an answer to everything.  I do miss him holding my hand, which was calming.  Amanda and I can’t touch hands yet, or hug.

14 June 2020

Back to the theme of honey and bananas.  I found the perfect solution: either toast or a sandwich, butter first, squish the banana on the bread then put honey on top of the banana.  It’s a wobbly job but don’t half taste delicious.

I don’t know if you know it but my daughter is frightened of SPIDERS (I am assuming this question is addressed to me because Catherine hasn’t mentioned spiders in any previous diary entries.  I am glad to know that Arachnophobia has passed down the family line through the cousins.  I absolutely hate spiders).  In a bag, by my front door, was a fruit box ready for Amanda to collect and take home.  Unbeknown to me, a SPIDER had crept into the box.  When Amanda took it out to wash, a scream resounded round the house, her cats took refuge (who can blame them?).  According to my daughter it was huge with a big body.  Wade had to let it go in the garden.  Of course, I got a phone call, as if I would put one in there!  It kept me laughing about it all day.

It reminded me, when Amanda was about 13 or 14, she said there  was a spider in her bedroom.  I hunted high and low for it, couldn’t find it, so I cupped my hands together and said I had it.  “Open the bathroom window” I said and out went the imaginary spider and that calmed her down.

Pancakes are going well.  The frying pan should last me until I’m 97 years old, so the warranty says (25 years).  My new Wok, for the stir frys, arrives tomorrow.  It’s amazing what you can buy online (an interesting comment since Catherine has no access to the internet but I imagine she might change her mind once Lockdown is over).  I’ve been trying out different frozen fruits for the ‘Bullet’.  I ran out of broccoli this week and had to resort to the dreaded Brussel sprouts.  I managed to find seven very small ones.  Amanda mentioned about needing another bag.  I asked her if she knew the word ‘NO’ and perhaps you could print a large ‘NO’, Barbara, just for her!.  Another item I’ve got coming is a wheelie bin for my garden waste, really excited about that, it gives me initiative to get the garden straightened out.

It’s amazing what you find out about your family when they write a diary!  Thank you Catherine!

Lockdown and Home Schooling: Umaynah (aged 11)

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Since the start of ‘Lockdown’, I have offered some children I know, who are doing ‘Home Schooling’, the chance to be part of ‘We’re all in this together’ in www.virtualteatowelmuseum.com, a journey a lot of people have shared.  Umaynah has already written a Diary for a week and researched Western Australia, ending up with a Tea Towel Blog, well researched and written.  I offered her another challenge, if she wanted it, and she accepted.

Any Reader needs to understand the background to this: I have known Umaynah’s mother, Zakira, for more than 20 years.  She worked for the organisation of disabled people that I worked for; she had a difficult job involving Direct Payments, necessitating home visits.  I knew that Zakira did not like dogs, quite tricky if you are visiting people in their own homes, and if you are working with visually impaired people.  I have a beautiful, old-fashioned tea towel from The Guide Dogs for the Blind.  Umaynah’s task was (a) to research Guide Dogs for the Blind in order to be able to include it in a Blog and (b) to devise some questions, and then interview her mother, about her dislike of dogs and how it affected her work.  The intention was the interview would be included in the article.  So, here we go:

“When I was asked to write an article about the organisation called ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’, I thought it must be a charity that only provides trained dogs for people with visual impairments.  As I started to research, I learnt that there is more to the charity than I thought.  The organisation was set up in 1931 by Muriel Crooke and Rosalind Bond, in a lock-up garage in Wallasey, Merseyside.  They trained the first four British Guide Dogs, called Judy, Flash, Folly and Meta.

Below are some important dates in the history of ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’:

1940: First Training Centre for Guide Dogs at Edmonscote Manor

1943: First edition of ‘Forward’ magazine published (still going strong)

1956: Recruitment of ‘Volunteer Puppy Walkers’ started

1960: Breeding programmes begin

1965: Blue Peter partnership made ‘Guide for the Blind’ a household name and ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’ expands to Scotland.

1972: ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’ started to offer allowances to help Guide Dog owners with the cost of feeding their dogs

1984-1986: New centres open in Belfast and Cardiff

1990: Opthalmic Research Grants were provided to research into health and new technologies

1991: The new central office was moved to Hillfields

2011: National Breeding Centre opens, creating capacity to breed 1500 puppies a year

2013: ‘My Guide’ service launched, providing volunteers to assist people with sight loss.

2017: ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’ merged with ‘Blind Children UK’ (BCUK)

‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’ provides many services:

Custom-Eye Books: large print books tailored to an individualised child’s need, subsidised by ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’.  It costs the same as Recommended Retail Price (RRP).

Family Events: family events are a service provided so that children with sight loss can build confidence in making lifelong friends.  There are events at a variety of venues like animal parks, theatres, playgrounds and theme parks (although not during ‘Lockdown’).

Assistive Technology and Grants: assistive technology, also called ‘access’ or ‘adaptive’ technology, helps children with sight loss play like everyone else.  It includes laptops, tablets and computers, Braille devices and much more.

Education Support: they also help you find the right school for your child, whether it is nursery or university

Mobility Training: this service helps children move around safely and confidently.  Some things that the Mobility Training sessions covers are how the body parts move, crawling and walking, identifying sounds like traffic and much more.

Family Support: this service offers practical and emotional support.  Some of the times when you can get in touch are when your child’s vision has recently changed, if you have moved to a new area, you attend a hospital frequently for eye tests and medical appointments.

Sensory Equipment: sensory equipment can help a child with a visual impairment with social, emotional and technological skills

Guide Dogs for Children and Young People: Guide Dogs used to be for adults only but by 2006 the progress made means that there is now no minimum age for Guide Dog ownership.

Buddy Dogs: Buddy Dogs bring a positive effect to a child’s life.  A Buddy Dog is a friendly, well-behaved pet dog which helps a child increase their physical activity, show a child responsibility of  looking after a dog.  It is owned by Guide Dogs for the Blind, and expenses are paid for, but looked after by the family.

In addition, Guide Dogs for the Blind, have National Breeding Centres, Guide Dog Training Schools, volunteering opportunities, organise an Award for Guide Dog of the Year, research and campaigning.  Guide Dogs for the Blind is a charity, funded by donations and they also have fundraising events.  You can help the Charity by helping to rehome retired dogs.  Although, due to the global pandemic, the rehousing service was shut down, it is now open again but there will be some restrictions.  If you would like to know more about the charity, and how you can help, the link follows: http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/

Guide Dogs for the Blind provide more than just training Guide Dogs.  They have been, and are, supporting those with visual impairments since 1931.

That was an amazing piece of research, Umaynah.  But, of course, there was the second part to your project.  You have demonstrated that Guide Dogs are well-trained, so why doesn’t your mother like dogs and how does she get on with people who have both ordinary dogs and Guide Dogs?

Interview with Zakira: Home Visits and Dogs

Question 1: I understand that you did not like to go on home visits to houses where there are dogs.  Why was this?

Answer 1: There are a few reasons as to why I do not like to go to houses where there are dogs.  The first reason is that I never grew up around pets.  I also have a fear of the unexpected nature of animals, through personal experience of watching a family member being attacked.  I also don’t like the fact that they come close, sniff and lick me.  The last reason is because I do not like to have dog hairs on me

Question 2: How would you feel about going to a house where the dog was kept in a separate room?

Answer 2: I am happy to visit houses where the owners agree to put their dogs in a separate room.  I do feel a bit guilty about it when dogs whimper or bark outside the room, but I do feel that I should be able to do my job without any fears or feeling uncomfortable.

Question 3: Have you ever had to go to a house where dogs live?  If so, how did you deal with it?

Answer 3: I have been to houses where there are dogs but most people put their dogs away when asked, or even automatically.  There have been some owners who have refused and I have had to visit houses where there are dogs in the same room.  Although, at mosaic, we have a practise to ask beforehand or we can offer appointments in the office if people do not want to move their dogs.

Question 4:  Have you ever been to a house where there is a Guide Dog in the same room?  If so, did you have the same feelings towards it?

Answer 4:  I do feel different towards Guide Dogs as they are more trained which means they are less likely to come over and lick or sniff me.  I also feel they are more relaxed because they are trained and so they will most likely stay with their owners.

That was a really interesting interview and shows how people do feel differently towards Guide Dogs.

Thank you Umaynah.  That was a very interesting article.  I hope you enjoyed doing it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catherine’s Diary (16): 2 to 5 June 2020

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My Aunt Catherine lives alone.  We had a long text exchange about ‘Support Bubbles’ in the time of COVID-19.  You really do have to make careful decisions about where you get that support from; you only have one go at it.  Is it better for it to be your daughter, who works full time, but to be able to have that closeness once again or maybe a friend who lives alone that you could see every day, twice a day?  I don’t know what Catherine has decided; that decision maybe revealed in Diary 17.  But today is Diary 16.

The choice of tea towel is Hedgehogs, since they have made an appearance in Catherine’s Diary!

2 June 2020

“I enjoyed my Afternoon Tea with Vivienne and Michael; Sue came as well.  We were well spaced out and I had my very first custard tart, very nice.  I only ever bought them for Bruce, so I might treat myself in the future.  Sounds daft but I was happy to return home and took it upon myself to wash my clothes.  Amanda said this was good.

Traumatic experience this morning: a Blue Tit and three babies are in my garden and one flew through a broken window in my greenhouse.  I started to panic for it.  Although Blackie was in there, he is OK with birds, normally he doesn’t touch them.  After what seemed like a lifetime the bird flew out; what a relief came over me.  Tonight, going out to feed Blackie, I was confronted by two hedgehogs.  What route do I take to the greenhouse?  I scooted past quickly.  When I got back to the house one had disappeared, they move very fast, I threw some meally worms to the other.  I couldn’t wait to get back indoors.  Two experiences in one day, you don’t expect that!

3 June 2020

Up very early this morning to get the bins out.  It’s a full recycling bin today.  Where does it all come from for just one person?

This morning, having got up early, I cleaned the bathroom, did the shower plug hole duty and mowed the front lawn, all before 9.30 am.  Madness!!  I have already replenished the front lawn with chopped onions; this seems to be working (unless someone has a better idea).  After all this, I am resting on the settee with a hot water bottle, tea, second breakfast and Jeremy Vine.

11.50 am:  Just had a text from the Thursday Club.  We were going on a trip to Felixstowe next week but, of course, it has had to be cancelled.  They are trying to go in September but it depends on how long we are ‘Social Distancing’.  Anyway, I have decided I don’t want to go.

4 June 2020

I have succumbed to putting the heating on today; can’t bear being cold.  No hedgehogs for two evenings.  Where are they?

I had a lovely dinner today.  Last weekend, Amanda bought me some steak so I had it with chips and mixed veg.  Two hours later I had my favourite ice cream, Haagen Daz salted caramel.  Delicious.  Two new programmes I have discovered, the Golden Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (though they are old now).

5 June 2020

Good news: I’ve had an abundance of Blue Tits this morning, eight today.  Chilly day, heating on again.

Just had a text from the Eye Unit at the local hospital, telling me I have an appointment on 12 June; this was previously cancelled a few weeks ago because of The Virus.  It will be by phone.  My appointment was for laser treatment, so I’m wondering how this works by phone!

It’s been a long day.  I was going to do washing and hoovering but it fell by the wayside.  Another day, tomorrow or Sunday.  Tomorrow I am going out to Amanda’s so looking forward to it.

I’ve been lucky today.  I’ve had Tinker next to me on the settee on and off.  I guess it’s the nearest thing to her sitting on my lap.  Can’t wait for that to happen!!

No hedgehogs again tonight.  Still, I put some measly worms out for them.” 

I now FaceTime some friends during ‘Lockdown’.  I am always surprised at how important food becomes these days, I talk to friends about what I am eating, sending photos.  Catherine uses her diary.  Will it still be like this when life returns to normal?

In Conversation With….. Alison Gardiner

During ‘Lockdown’, my cousin Amanda, a follower of my Tea Towel Blogs, wanted to give me a tea towel that would inspire an interesting, topical, and possibly controversial, Blog.  She sent me a tea towel from the Florence Nightingale Museum, designed by Alison Gardiner, about nurses; this was the time we were all ‘clapping for carers’.  My view was that if you ‘clapped for carers’ this should be something you remembered for a very long time; ten weeks on your door step wasn’t enough and, therefore, everyone should have one of these tea towels.  It was a windy day when I photographed this one!!

A friend of mine described my trips on YouTube as ‘following the rabbit warren’ and so it is with tea towels.  This was a great tea towel but the style was very similar to an Advent Calendar I had.  First I had to delve through my Christmas decorations, and yes it was by Alison Gardiner.  Then I was distracted by her website.  This was a woman who designed a lot of tea towels; this was a woman I’d like to interview in In Conversation With… And here we are……

I am always interested in how tea towel designers describe themselves and how they got started:

“I would describe myself as an illustrator.  I originally studied printed textile design at West Surrey College of Art and Design, however whilst still at college I started working for a greeting card publisher designing cards.  Having left college, I worked as a freelance designer of fabrics, magazine illustration, children’s books, cross stitch and tapestry kits.  I have also exhibited my paintings at a few one-man (or should I say woman!) shows.  Then, in 2000, the National Trust commissioned me to design and produce a range of mugs for them which led to over 50 designs.  That is the point of when I took control of producing my own work.

By 2010, I joined up with a partner to grow the business rather than being a sole trader.  This enabled me to take on more production and expanding my designs onto more products.  We have also taken on distribution of another companies products – German Advent Calendars and party masks – so this has expanded our business being a one stop shop for store buyers looking for Christmas products.

We now produce a whole range of products which are all made in UK: mugs, plates, teapots, tea towels, Advent Calendars, Advent candles, notebooks, coasters, bookmarks, fridge magnets, rulers, postcards and prints, tote bags and jigsaw puzzles”

So, do you have any favourite products?

“I don’t feel there is any one product that I have a preference for but the Suffragette/Votes for Women range is one of my favourites.  I went to a couple of talks during the 2018 Centenary (one given by the Great Granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, where I presented her with a mug!) And discovered more about the incredibly brave and inspiring women who were Suffragettes.  It has made the design take on a more poignant significance.  This year I have slightly adapted the design for the US market (changing colours and wording on placards) as they celebrated winning the right to vote in 1920.  During Lockdown we kept on our five members of staff and concentrated on boosting our online sales.  Fortunately we sell to a few online catalogues in the US, and Amazon.  Not surprisingly, we found our jigsaw puzzles very popular during the Lockdown and had a huge increase in sales.”

How do you see things in five years time?

“I don’t like to think that far ahead.  I suppose I’d like to keep building on the foundations, expanding sales in the US.  We used to have a shop but now only sell via Trade fairs, direct online sales and occasionally I take on personal commissions”.

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And your interest in tea towels?

“My mother used to hang a tea towel, with plastic rails on top and bottom, above our breakfast table.  She would change them as she bought new ones.  (This seems like a good idea, might try it myself).  I especially loved the Lucienne Day designs (I wish she had kept those) in 1960s.  (For anyone who knows me, the mention of Lucienne Day sent me off down the ‘rabbit warren of tea towels’ and I discovered ‘Night and Day’, designed in 1962.  That’s the sort of tea towel you should never throw away).  These were replaced by Pat Albeck’s designs for the National Trust in the 1970s.  I remember looking at the tea towels over breakfast around the age of 7 or 8 and being inspired, feeling that I wanted to be a tea towel designer when I grew up!!  There was a link with Pat Albeck in that she studied at Hull Art School at the same time as my father (who studied Exhibition and Interior Design).  So I grew up knowing and admiring her work.  As my father was a designer, we grew up with contemporary furnishings, including Jacqueline Groag and Lucienne Day curtains and clearly these designs had a strong influence on me which led me to study textiles.

 

The themes of my tea towel designs have come about to match the mug designs, apart from one or two.  Some of my main customers have been Cathedral shops hence the Clergy, Monks, Pilgrims and Chorister designs.  This originated from a commission by Portsmouth Cathedral for a mug to commemorate the installation of their new bishop…. Ten years later I supply most of the Cathedrals in England, either with bespoke designs or from our regular range.  Other bespoke tea towel designs have developed from Advent Calendars I designed for Blenheim Palace and Highgrove.

 This can be quite tricky to limit the colour palette to seven colours for a tea towel, whilst keeping to the original work.

 

Lastly, my favourite tea towel design again is Votes for Women…. often give them as gifts to male my male friends!”

 

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Thank you, Alison, for a really interesting story.  I’m left wondering which Pat Albeck tea towels were hung in your kitchen, maybe I’ll just imagine.  I’m going on your website to look for jigsaw puzzles because I am one of the people that have taken up jigsaw puzzles in ‘Lockdown’!

 

Catherine’s Diary (15): 28 May to 1 June 2020

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My aunt Catherine has been ‘at it’ once more: a diary with four dated days.  She is certainly challenging my ability to find a relevant tea towel.  The best I can do today is ‘Garden Birds’ because the birds in Catherine’s garden are one of the things that are keeping her spirits up (and I don’t have any tea towels about ‘cat sick’, ‘exercise’ and ‘food deliveries’).

28 May 2020

Last night I went up I for my shower, as I was putting my clothes in the wardrobe, my foot touched something really cold, and it squelched through my toes.  Cat sick, yuk!  This morning I had another lot on the window sill, carpet and blanket so I am nominating Tilly for ‘Cat Sick of the Week’.

Up early this morning; it’s Dustbin Day, had to get the wheelie bin, with the food bin, to the bottom of the path.  Cats fed, food for the starlings, then Weetabix and tea for me.  I got myself ready and decided to post my ‘Diary’.  I stopped halfway, to catch my breath, when a man asked me if I was alright.  Then he promptly told me “exercise is good for you”.  I told him my daughter would agree with him.

I’ve been saving the left-over dish water, and watering my plants with it.  With all the hot weather they might ban hosepipes, not that I can use one.

Finished the day with a slice of bread and honey and a gin and tonic.

29 May 2020

A day of not doing much.  I’ve taken up a bit of balancing exercise.  Amanda gave me a ‘foam roller’ a month ago.  It has a flat bottom and curved top; by putting my feet on it alternatively it is helping me with balancing.  I can stand on it for 20 seconds without falling off; hopefully it will help me with my walking.

Between 1 and 2 pm, I had a tearful hour.  I don’t know why, as I’m not ‘down’, still feel normal.  Do pensioners still get hormonal or is it to do with the phases of the moon?

Amanda was lucky tonight.  She saw a load of geese, in a ‘V’ formation fly over her back garden.  I’ve only seen that twice in my life.  On her walks she visits a pond with swans and cygnets, geese and goslings and feeds them with special foods.  My brood of starlings are on their last ‘fat square’ so I asked Amanda if she could order me some fat balls and fat square.  They are being delivered on Sunday, lucky birds.

In three weeks time, Amanda and Wade have asked me round for brunch in the garden.  I’m excited, but trying not to be, because it all depends on the weather.  I think there is rain on the horizon but one lives in hopes that it will be fine.

Jennie, Amanda’s friend, mentioned she liked bacon with maple syrup.  I gave it a go on a small piece of bacon.  Yuk, keep maple syrup for pancakes

30 May 2020

Highlight of the week.  Up at 6.30 am, shower, dress, feed all the cats.  Amanda’s coming for a walk.  Amanda brought with her: my Diary print-off, four bottles of liquid bathroom plug hole cleaner, four bottles of kitchen plug hole cleaner (because although I don’t put fat down the sink you still get residue from the pans), Weetabix, mince, two big boxes of Felix cat food and Tilly’s special food.  We went for a ‘tandem’ walk to the shop, a nice short walk, bought a paper; magazines, bread and chocolate for Christine.  She has an ‘addiction’ for chocolate.  I’ve still got half an Easter egg in my fridge.  When we came back from the shop, Amanda did a phone video of me singing ‘Happy Birthday’ for Bruce’s cousin’s husband, Gordon, who is 60 in June; he might need cotton wool in his ears.  I told Amanda she could keep a copy of me singing as a memento; she said “I don’t think so”.  Amanda then went for a walk with her friend Jennie, a two and a half hour walk.  They did 13,000 steps.  I’ve been offered the same walk but I said “on your bike, no way”

1 June 2020

Yesterday, deliveries arrived.  Really meaty thick suet squares and suet balls, a big tub.  I felt thrilled to see it all.  Amanda popped some treats in my food delivery: cakes (I can open a cake shop), steak, cider, tonic water, pizza, loads of cat food.  Nothing more glorious than opening a cupboard and seeing all this cat food.

It’s 10.15 am and I’m not dressed yet but I have been doing things: washed the cat trays and put new litter in, threw a bucket of water on my Briar Rose.  My ‘babies’ have arrived, 15 of them and two doves.  I’ve also been watching Jeremy Vine demonstrate how to do a barbecue.  In my opinion it’s not safe, too many things to remember to do.  By the time you get to eat the food it would be stone cold, so many rules to follow.  Anyway I won’t be doing one, probably blow myself up!

This afternoon, I am going to Vivienne and Michael’s for Afternoon Tea, in the garden, two metres apart, really looking forward to it.  I have even put on one of my ‘forever’ blouses (had it forever!).  Still M&S clothes don’t date.  Even the handbag is going on a jaunt, not much in it: tissues, phone, keys and sanitiser.

Amanda phoned this morning saying she had ordered a bottle of champagne for Bruce and I’s 50th Wedding Anniversary.  Amanda said we should still celebrate though I thought ‘let it pass’ but she’s right.  Amanda, you are very thoughtful”

It’s strange the things that become important, or exciting, in this time of Lockdown (and easing of Lockdown), animals, deliveries, meeting friends at a distance, keeping in contact, worrying about friends……..

As an explanation about Catherine’s 50th Wedding Anniversary, Bruce, her husband, died unexpectedly last October.

Keep safe.

 

 

Catherine’s Diary (14): 27 May 2020

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OK, sometimes Catherine dates her diary entries, sometimes she doesn’t; sometimes she puts the time on it, sometimes she doesn’t; sometimes she forgets to write something so adds it to the back of the sealed envelope, must be interesting for the post people but always she thanks the post people.  This diary wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for the Royal Mail service because Catherine’s missives are always hand-written, sent by First Class Mail.  The trip to the post box counts as her daily exercise.

The tea towel was a present given to me, by Wade, following him competing in the Nuclear Races in May 2019.  As you can see from the photos at the bottom, he must be mad!  At 8.30 am on 27 May 2020, this is what she said:

“A week ago, I couldn’t find Tilly’s hair comb.  As you, my Readers, know, I brush her hair everyday.  How can you lose a yellow plastic comb?  I was worried she would cough up the dreaded black fur ball, a devil to clean off the carpet!  I happened to move Bruce’s ‘Service Sheet’ and out it popped.  Amanda said “Dad must have put it there!”.

I thought it was about time I spoke about Wade (Amanda’s husband).  It’s his birthday this week.  I asked Barbara and Liz to write a poem about what he does for me: goes to the supermarket and gets my shopping, picks up my medication from Boots, changes my light bulbs and batteries in the smoke alarm, makes a brilliant roast chicken with a lovely crispy skin (and lovely roast potatoes and vegetables) which I am looking forward to after lockdown is over.  He put my lovely new lawn mower together (it came in bits) and, above all, supports and loves my daughter.  Happy birthday Wade.  I will be texting Wade at 12.05 tonight.

The plants in the garden are changing again.  The plant that has prickly branches, orange berries in winter, starts with a ‘p’, looks as if it’s got an avalanche of snow on it, so much flower.  The briar rose on the wall has started to develop red and white flowers and the peony which is white, with a touch of maroon, is blooming lovely.  That plant came from Fred’s garden in Greenford (my late father-in-law), over 31 years ago.  So Rupert (teddy bear) will be taking another ‘turn’ round the garden.  All this fresh air he is getting! 

Last Wednesday, a friend took me for a long walk, took me past the nature reserve, down a country lane.  It was hard coping with ‘social distancing’ and talking at the same time.  I’m not good at multi-tasking; I kept looking at the ground so I wouldn’t fall over.  Amanda took me on the same walk on Saturday, but in half the time, a shock to my system, fell asleep Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, I received a jigsaw from Barbara.  Afraid to say it, I am still stuck on the ‘outline’ but I’m managing to put a piece in nearly every time I walk past it.  Saturday I received my lovely, long-awaited frying pan and on Tuesday I had a go at pancakes, not quite the Delia Smith recipe but they came out superb and had three with maple syrup.  Really proud of myself adding them to my repertoire!

I don’t write much about Amanda.  She is always there and very supportive to me, organises my shopping lists and any problems that arise.  Amanda visits once a week, sometimes twice but always outside and always ‘Social distancing’.  She is always there at the end of a phone.  I’d like to thank O2 UK for giving me three months free phone calls, so I will be adding them to my Thursday ‘Clapping and Bell Ringing’.

P.S: I thought Rupert was very photogenic in my Diary print off 

P.P.S: Onions still doing well on the front lawn

P.P.P.S: The dreaded tweezers might be coming on Saturday, my one hair beard is getting longer!

Thank you, Catherine, for keeping me, and many others, entertained.

Catherine’s Diary (13)

 

8C6ED23C-F159-41D3-B590-262D88ED1C1FMy aunt, Catherine, has been writing a ‘Diary’ of her time in ‘Lockdown’.  This is her thirteenth entry, recording the day to day life of someone living on her own.  It has been a challenge to try and match today’s Diary with a tea towel, so I have chosen a Fortnum and Mason one, since she had Afternoon Tea there.

There have been themes throughout Catherine’s story:

“At last, I have my deluge of birds; they wake me up early, all Starlings, parents and youngsters.  I put the food out at night so it’s waiting for them in the morning.  They are going through the suet balls like a dose of salts.  The Starlings are so greedy, good job I have all the birdseed and mealy worms (dried).

Last week I started a new venture, attempting to make pancakes, not very successful, wrong sized pan to start with and too much filling (bananas and sultanas).  I made two large zig-zaggy, leathery pancakes.  I did eat them because I was hungry.  Amanda did order me the right sized pan and it’s coming on Friday.  I texted Barbara for a recipe.  Liz found one of Delia Smith’s.  Barbara texted the long recipe then I realised I had a Delia Smith cookery book too!  Ah well, it gave Barbara’s fingers a bit of exercise.  I will be practicing again at the weekend.

Tonight I have been in the garden, having a ‘chop’ around; gave the jasmine and rosemary a good cut, chopped brambles.  They never seem to die, they keep growing in all weathers and so prickly.  The maple sycamore that grows on council land next to our house is shedding it’s whirly-wings like mad; they have covered the back garden.  In the front garden I have a beautiful, half-tree half-bush, white lilac.  I see the blooms from my stair window and outside in the evening I can smell the scent of them.  I’d love some indoors, but as you know, it is unlucky.

Started to wear perfume even though I’m not going anywhere.  Two years ago, Amanda took me to a perfume shop.  I’ve always wanted to have some expensive perfume, trouble is when I did go out, it was only me that could smell it!  No one remarked how nice it was.  Still, I’m the important one.

Last year, also on my Bucket List, was to have my nails done.  Amanda treated me.  We were on our way to Fortnum and Mason for Afternoon Tea, when I fell over at Green Park and was more panicked that I had damaged my nail varnish!  Amanda, strong, bodily picked me up.  It’s all due to “exercising with weights” she said.

New TV programmes being tried out now are ‘Death in Paradise’, not mad on Kris Marshall but passable and this week started watching ‘Downton Abbey’.  I think I could like this one.  I know I loved ‘Upstairs Downstairs’.  Why don’t they bring that back for a re-run?

Well, I’m off to practice my lawn-mowing skills before the storms come.  I hope they miss Harlow.  The latest update is that onions and lemons are keeping the cats and dogs off my front lawn!” 

Thank you Catherine for another diary entry.  Will ‘Lockdown’ disappear soon and will we be able to meet up?  Who knows, but until that point in time i look forward to hearing about life in Harlow.