Catherine’s Diary (29)


Nothing on the back of the envelope, what will the Postal People think? What do I think? But still using the larger writing paper with, lines on both sides and very neat hand-writing. Text: “Apparently, we (Essex) are moving to Tier 2 at the weekend”. I expect there will be more about this in the next Diary.

“Re: the back of my last envelope, I have decided that I will eat spinach. I did two lumps with cabbage, carrots and a stock cube, really nice with the chicken and roast potatoes. I counted the ‘lumps’, I have 18 left. I divided them into two bags, hoping they didn’t look too many. Ha Ha, who was I kidding?

When people go shopping, do they look where their food comes from? Most of our chicken comes from Poland. Do we not have English chickens? You can’t beat our strawberries and asparagus, and Scottish raspberries. I like fruit from South Africa and Italian tomatoes. I could go on, but best not.

At long last, I have an appointment for eye laser treatment on 15 October, fingers crossed. In Epping I bought a fat ball feeder so the birds are set up for winter now (forgot to tell you that in my last Diary). Watching the news, in Italy Police go on the buses and check people are wearing a face mask, if not they are fined. People here don’t always wear a mask on the buses or in the shopping centre, large signs telling you which way to walk but they are mostly ignored. Last ‘feeds’ done. Must pick up the saucers as I have discovered Tinker finishes Tilly’s food up and Tilly leaves bits on her saucer.

Bed early as I have to be up early. Flu injection day. I asked Amanda to give me a ‘wake up’ call. Booked taxi for 8.45am, can’t rely on the buses that time of the morning, also have to wear a face mask in the vehicle now. Arrived at Boots early, filled in the form. I was asked if I was allergic to chicken or eggs (which I’m not), injection done, given a four-page leaflet about the vaccine and the side effects, five minute sit down to check I’m ok. After meeting Wendy for coffee, went home and as expected my arm became really painful, especially in the night. It woke me up!

Saturday, Amanda and Wade came round bringing a bag of litter, two more big boxes of cat food, it’s taking over my living room!! Amanda liked the socks and would like another pair. Re our text message: I actually brought ‘Mr Sheen’ halfway down the stairs and polished my ‘Whatnots’ shelves and Bruces Clay Pigeon medals, shock to the system. His brother (Mr Sheen’s brother) is still in my bedroom, waiting in anticipation to be used. Would also like to say that I have three WD40s. Bruce was a great believer in the stuff. In the shed are two bottles of Meths. No idea what he wanted that for!!

Shock, horror, when Lindy came for a cup of tea yesterday, she was greeted with a really flattened mouse on top of my wheelie bin and a dead bird in the front garden. Though squeamish herself, she volunteered to dispose of them for me. So it was spade and dustpan requested. Never seen such a flat mouse and it was greyish. Are they that colour as well? Also yesterday I had two doves in the garden, eating out of the same bowl, along with Robins. I think of them as my mystical birds. For the last three days I have had a Robin singing outside my windows. I believe Bruce is close by. It is a year today that Bruce passed away and it doesn’t feel real.

I had a second letter, within two days, from the eye unit. Still have an appointment on the same day but the time has changed from 3pm to 1.30pm. Seems a waste of postage. Why not ring up?

Stay safe”

Today’s choice of a tea towel is the Robin since Catherine has referred to the Robin as her mystical bird, around for the anniversary of Bruce’s death. Catherine, I hope you like this tea towel, designed by Clare Baird.

Catherine’s Diary (28): Received 8 October 2020


It seems like a long time since I received the last ‘Catherine’s Diary’. It’s funny how you get a weird sense of time during this Coronavirus Pandemic; time passes slowly, times passes very quickly, you have no idea how long it is to Christmas. Catherine has had a bit of a difficult time recently but today it arrived, with the message on the back of the envelope:

“I was thinking I don’t need to do a ‘Round Robin’ letter this year, as I’m already doing one but look forward to your one, Barbara.  Also spinach going the same way as Brussels.  Don’t like frozen spinach, can’t waste it, got to try and eat it.  Thinking I will have some today, but knowing full well I won’t.  Thank you Postal People for collecting my letter and sending it to Nottingham.”  (These messages seem to get longer, soon they will be longer than the Diary.  I do think that Catherine is right, she’s done her bit for keeping in touch with family).  I am delighted that Catherine has got some new writing paper; new paper has inspired very neat hand-writing.  But no dates today!  So to the story:

“This is the third draft, can’t seem to get into writing but after texting Barbara this morning, have a bit more oomph!

I got up at the unearthly time of 6.30am, dustbin day, had to get the bins to the front of the path, then fed breakfast to my three ‘priorities’.  I didn’t want to stay up as it makes the day extra long, so went back to bed and as I laid there I thought of P.E. at school.  I’ve got a vivid imagination (it’s got me through life) and I thought I could never be a World Champion Gymnast.  Like Barbara I didn’t like our P.E. teacher, or P.E., especially as she made me go first, doing handstands and somersaults.  I hate being upside down!  I think this all came about because I am watching so much tennis, and the players are so athletic.  I don’t normally watch so much tennis but it’s been excellent and I cam always say that ‘I’m watching it for Christine’ who is in hospital again.  She loves her tennis and has been known to watch it to the wee small hours of the day.  I’ve kept your pronouncing of the French equivalent of the tennis scores as I hear a tinge of Beatrice’s voice in your voice, Barbara.  (Strangers reading this will have no idea what Catherine meant by this reference to the French Open.  Catherine texted me and asked what the French for 15, 30, 40 and deuce was.  I replied.  A couple of days later she texts me and asks me to ring her and leave a voicemail.  She promised not to answer the phone.  She wanted me to say 15, 30, 40 and deuce in French.  I am the last person to ask this of because I have a terrible French, and any other foreign, accent and I hate speaking in foreign languages because I am so self-conscious.  Anyway, for my Aunt, I did this.  It felt really weird.  Little did I know I would sound like my mother, Beatrice.  Hope that explains things).  The male umpires are much clearer than the female ones.

It is a bright sunny day here today, and dry!  The dark evenings are drawing in fast.  I’ve still loads of ‘snipping’ to do.  I want to keep mowing the grass, got to keep my garden bin full.  Blackie and I are in training, as I want him to have his last meal indoors.  I still don’t like going to the greenhouse and also it should stop the foxes popping by for food, and the fireworks will be around soon.

Last week was ‘Vet Day’ for Tilly and Tinker.  Amanda was taking me there.  What a trial getting them in the carriers.  I blocked the room off but they were packed tightly in the cat stand.  It was a waiting game to see who moved first.  Tilly started to move first, I went to get her but she escaped my clutches and hid behind the settee so I pulled it out.  Then she wedged herself between the wall and the cabinet, my chance was here, got hold of her stomach and managed to to pick her up, shoved her in the cat basket.  Relief.  One to go, rest for 5 minutes.  Tinker was a bit easier but her nails were stuck in the carpet, got my hands on her bulge and somehow managed to dislodge her nails, up in the air, legs out wide, got her in the carrier.  Silence reigned.

Arrived at the vets.  My favourite vet, Mrs Parrish, is on duty.  She says that Tilly has a wonky tooth.  It should fall out when she eats her food.  Tinker, on the other hand, who has been on a ‘no biscuit and less food’ regime has put on 70gms so the vet said to put her down to one and a half sachets.  It’s going to be hard.  This cat adores her food, she even eats old dried bits of food, if she can find them!  Amanda said start the new diet from November, do it gradual, won’t be such a shock to her system.  Overall check was fine, their nails cut, flea capsule on their necks, plus yearly injections, all ship-shape.  Home, out of the cages and they escaped upstairs, didn’t see them all day!

Monday was out to Epping with Wendy, a ride on the bus, not many people on them now.  Amanda wanted some warm socks.  There is a shop called ‘Fatface’ (Never heard of it before).  I bought a couple of pairs.  If they are ok I can get some more.  Popped into ‘Marks’ (M&S); it only does a small amount of clothes, the rest is food.  I bought salad items and ham, just fancied something light for a change.

At 3pm, tea and Victoria Sponge at Vivienne and Michael’s, passed a couple of hours.  When I leave, they always say if I need them, day or night, please ring, which I find comforting.  Tuesday afternoon is ‘Club Day’.  I actually walked again, 25 minutes it took.  The only thing I don’t like is that I have to go through an underpass which is quite dark, even in day light.  This may sound silly but I took my purse and keys out of my handbag and put them in my pockets and clipped the pockets shut.  I remember years ago, Bruce’s Mum had the straps of her handbag cut with scissors while she walked home, and they got away with her bag.  Arrived at the Club.  We are now down to six.  It was 12, two weeks ago.  We had refreshments and did a ‘Cake Quiz’.  I only got 15 questions right but it was fun.  I have sent Liz the quiz, the world’s greatest cake maker.  Managed to walk home again but did have an afternoon nap.  I was tired from all that walking.  Amanda texted ‘Excellent’ when I told her!  Off now to post this letter.  Thank you Barbara for our Text Talk this morning, you got me motivated to write again.  Cheerio for now!”

Another challenge.  Which tea towel to choose for this Diary entry?  I thought to myself “which is my newest tea towel?” And then remembered that Amanda, my cousin and Catherine’s daughter, had recently sent me a present, a new tea towel from the National Gallery which hadn’t had an outing yet.  Catherine probably hasn’t seen it so this is the one that I will use.  Thank you Amanda!

Beth’s Guest Tea Towel


The combination of the World of Tea Towels and the World of Social Media can introduce you to some interesting, and fascinating, people across the world. I love it. Beth often reads my Tea Towel Blogs. She read Rocky the Robin on 28 September 2020 and told me about her Puffin Tea Towel. I don’t know how I have the cheek but I asked Beth to send me a photo because I hadn’t seen that one. She sent me one, then another because she thought it was a better photo. This is a great tea towel and I asked Beth if she would like to be a Guest Tea Towel. She accepted the challenge and then sent a third photo. This is her story:

“Tea towels aren’t terribly common in the US. That’s not to say that you can’t find them here, but not as easily as you can in the UK. We seem to gravitate toward the more utilitarian dish towel. Not very pretty, but certainly functional. Some years back, I discovered Scotland-themed tea towels for sale on [my love of all things Scottish is legendary amongst my friends] and decided they would make great throw pillows. What a super way to display these wonderful pictures! I didn’t really think that plan through though. I managed to make six or eight pillows before I realized that they were overrunning my home. As much as I loved my vintage piper-turned-pillow-tea-towel, or my map of Scotland made entirely of town and village names [also now a pillow], I just didn’t have any more room for them. Sigh. So, I began buying them with a view toward actually using them every day in my kitchen. Now I certainly don’t have even a fraction of the number of towels in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum, but I can’t seem to pass up a striking or pretty towel of a Scottish nature.

I love Scotland so much, I save my vacation time for two years at a stretch, and use that time for a month-long vacation there. That may sound extravagant, but it doesn’t make much sense to take a shorter vacation there when you are traveling from California. My older body is no longer tolerant of long stretches on an airplane, and it takes me longer each trip to recover. My most recent trip there was scheduled for this past May. I normally like to vacation there in September, but it has been a long-time dream of mine to see puffins. After doing a bit of research, I found that puffins have left their nesting grounds each year by sometime in August, so I was never able to see them during past visits. This year’s vacation was planned especially to see the puffins. And then life proved that all my plans meant nothing in the grand scheme of things when COVID-19 came along.

I think I was Googling puffins when I came across the picture of Clare Baird’s colorful puffin. I fell in love immediately, not only with the puffin artwork, but Clare’s work in general. Her style is at once both realistic and whimsical. It wasn’t a difficult decision at all to add this beautiful towel to my expanding collection. Every time I look at it, I am reminded that with any luck, I will be able to see a puffin in real life, hopefully in May of 2021. Until then, the towel will have to suffice.”

What a great story. I have found that there are many places I would like to revisit but don’t have the time or energy to do so and a tea towel suffices. Thank you Beth for sharing the story and I do hope you get there in time for the puffins. Try Isle of May, Lunga, Orkney or if you go just south of the border to the Farne Islands. I’m off to see if the Puffin is on Clare’s website!!

Catherine’s Diary (27): 15 to 22 September 2020


Oh no, Catherine has reverted to writing paper that is lined on one side and unlined on the back. I hate that, and it’s smaller than the double sided lined paper. I know it’s good not to waste things but I find it very annoying. I hope that is the last of it! But it is good to still get the diary, mustn’t put her off. Today’s message on the back of the envelope says “The usual suspects, crossings out, inserted words, not much to say on the envelope, unusual for me. Must be getting boring in my old age! Thank you Postal Workers and Wheelie Bin Men who always say ‘Good Morning’ to me and ask how I am”

15 September 2020

It’s really hot outside today. Took a walk around the block, passing the post box to post the Diary, then down to the shop and treated myself to a paper. I was sweltering by the time I got home. I did manage to do some cutting of the clematis. It’s a slow job, still lots to do. For lunch, I tried Linda McCartney sausage rolls, quite nice, though making your own tastes a lot nicer. I used to make them years ago, along with mince pies and lots of jars of pickled onions! (Must run in the family; pickling onions is one of the few things that I learnt to do in relation to food. Mum taught me).

16 September 2020

On a roll today. Made some Rock Cakes in my newly repaired oven and they came out looking like rocks instead of flat moulds. Quiet day though I did washing, hoovering and the usual conveyor belt of cat feeding. Mowed the lawn yesterday and now the leaves are falling and some are changing to a lovely dark red colour. Autumn is coming.

18 September 2020

Amanda was taking me to Felixstowe today but we hit a major traffic jam on A12, and even the diverted traffic was slow. The cause of the traffic standstill was, at 5am, an oil spillage and possibly an accident. I was looking forward to going knee-deep in the sea to revitalise the body and mind; sea water is good for the soul, perhaps it was not to be. We stopped off on the way home at Freeport, a Designer Clothes Village that happened to have a ‘Pets at Home’ shop. I bought liquid cat treats for Blackie, fat balls for the birds and for Tilly and Tinker, two luminescent catnip fish. So far they are enjoying playing with them, how long for, I don’t know. We went to Costa and had a coffee. While we were sitting there, Amanda mentioned that my favourite saying was “How lovely”. I didn’t realise I said it so much, I must be addicted to it. Ah well, it gives Amanda and Wade a laugh! I texted Barbara and checked that ‘lovely’ was an adjective and then asked for other adjectives that mean ‘lovely’, though it is hard to change to another word. Still it turned out to be a nice day, weather was good and I enjoyed the ride. (My over-used word in Blogging is ‘clearly’ and in speech is ‘absolutely’. We all have these quirks! I did wonder why you wanted to know other adjectives that meant ‘lovely’. Now I know.)

19 September 2020

Up early, had a lift to town. I was determined to buy some cards; three birthday cards and I also wanted to buy some Christmas cards. I have to make more of an effort this year. I bought one box and the Assistant said that you get the second half price. I thought “That’s a good bargain”. On the way home, I thought to myself ‘do I know 40 people‽’. Checked my address book and there isn’t 40 people in the book. Amanda said they will keep to next year.

20 September 2020

Sunday, lucky day, the cats let me lay in until 9am. Quiet day, no food delivery, freezer full up, stores of bleach, kitchen roll and cleaning stuff etc. I’m well in advance. This afternoon, I watched the film ‘Downton Abbey’. Though the series won’t be back, I’m already missing the repeats. I enjoyed the film and will watch it again. I also charged my torch which takes a good ten hours and also did Bruce’s phone. Though it’s not used, it seems to need charging fortnightly. I wonder if it is because it’s an old phone‽

Made a mistake today and cooked cod in milk for Blackie and Tinker too early. I told Tinker she’d had her lunch and wasn’t due for another meal until 5pm. She kept walking backwards and forwards into the kitchen with her nose in the air; it was unbearable to watch. Blackie turned up at 3.30pm. I gave in and fed them their cod. Didn’t see Tinker for the rest of the day; she must have been ‘fit to burst’.

21 September 2020

They are doing a ‘trial run’ of opening one of the clubs I go to, today. I took a taxi there, sanitiser on the wall inside, mask must be kept on till we sit down, well apart, of course. Mary came; she had befriended me when I first came to the club after Bruce passed away. It was great seeing her again. Also I gave her a Christmas card in case I didn’t see her again! 39 to go!! Only 12 people turned up; perhaps people are still scared to come out. I enjoyed the morning, and the coffeee and biscuits. I walked home via Poundland and bought four ‘Simple’ shampoos and Mr Kipling apple pies. Just found out from Amanda that the mileage I did was 3 to 4 miles.

22 September 2020

Last year, in October, I reported to the Council that the street lamp outside my house had so much foliage around it that it made my footpath very dark. Yesterday afternoon, the Council Men arrived to cut all the foliage away from the lamp. I was so excited, it made my day. I said to them afterwards “Alleluia, I see the light!”. Last night, my footpath was lit up. But I still will not be opening the front door at night!

I’ve no idea which tea towel to match with this Diary; basically, I can’t remember which ones I used already. I will have to go into the archives of cats: this is Amber the cat that lived at the Glenturret Distillery in Scotland. Catherine, do you think you could write about a Robin or the Underground because I’ve got some great new tea towels?

Catherine’s Diary (26): 10 to 15 September 2020

“I once got ticked off by a friend for not dotting the ‘i’s.  When I read back my letter, to see if it makes sense, for the 100th time, I miss out quite a few.  Thank you Postal People” says the note on the back of the envelope.  I wonder what I will find.  Catherine is on her 26th Diary: where are we at‽ 

10 September 2020

Woken up at 7am by Tilly and Tinker, marching up and down the carpet and making strange noises (probably saying ‘Get up Lazy Bones, we’re hungry’!!).  I went mad today.  I have all day to do things, but for some reason I felt I had to do it all at once.  Change the black sack food caddy bag, do recycling, feed and water the birds, clean cat trays and brushing the stairs down and then have breakfast.  In between, Amanda phoned.  She had had a bad dream; she dreamt she had a house party for a thousand people and couldn’t get rid of them, so resorted to pouring the alcohol down the sink.  Gosh, what a waste!  I’m now relaxing with Jeremy Vine; all that work is very tiring.

11 September 2020

Up early again.  Cooker Repair Man coming.  The slot I was given is 8.40am to 12.40pm.  Panic this morning.  I was snipping plants in the front garden, though I keep the front door open I always take the front door keys with me.  I didn’t realise till I sat on the settee, after finishing the snipping, that I couldn’t find the keys.  Flew outside and I found them on the lawn, heart was pounding with relief, obviously I hadn’t put them in my pocket properly.

11.40am: Repair Man arrived.  New element required, tested the oven out and it heated up beautifully.  When I opened the oven door, it heated the whole kitchen up.  I’ve decided to just use it for baking cakes, as I can’t seem to get it right in my portable oven, and just use the portable one for day to day items.

12 September 2020

I must have been having a bad dream.  I woke up at 1.45am and I thought I had a stone in my mouth, went to the bathroom and dropped it straight into the bin, went back to the bedroom and I realised I had no teeth in my mouth; the stone turned out to be my teeth!  So I fished them out of the bin, cleaned them and restuck them with thick adhesive.  Don’t know what I was dreaming about, bit nervous of going to sleep tonight.

On a more cheery note, Amanda, her friend Jennette, with Jennette’s mother and I went to ‘The Fox’ for lunch.  All the tables were well apart, not many people there.  We had a lovely meal and good company.  It was great to go out.  Now I am watching ‘The Last Night of The Proms’.  It was brilliant and I didn’t miss the audience.  I sang at the top of my voice, especially ‘Jerusalem’, and did stand up for ‘God Save The Queen’.  Though I would have liked some company, when I started singing Tinker did a hasty retreat!!!  All the London landmarks were lit up in red, white and blue.  A sight to behold.

13 September 2020

Late afternoon, I decided to get the bucket out of the cupboard under the sink, ready for watering the garden, hot weather for two days.  What greeted me was another leak, lots of water.  It was dripping from the pipe which goes into the washing machine I don’t use.  Mopped it up, as best I could.  I got the ice bucket under it; it’s just the right height.  I judged four hours before it needing changing again.  I phoned Amanda and told her.  Wade phoned back and asked about the speed of the drip.  I said “not too bad, it can wait till tomorrow, see you then”.  I went to bed at 11pm.

14 September 2020

Woke up at 3.10am, went and checked the water level.  Got there just in time; water in ice bucket about to overflow.  It filled my bucket halfway and the drips were getting faster.  I did go back to bed but couldn’t sleep properly, kept getting up to check water levels.  Wade and Amanda came around just after 8am.  Wade did a ‘screwdriver job’ on the pipe and stopped the drip, hooray.  Wade also repaired my light socket on the landing.  Now I have a bright light.  Looking forward to a good night’s sleep tonight.  At some point, I have a plumber coming.

On a more cheery note, Amanda bought with her four boxes of cat food, 44 sachets in each box.  To accommodate all this cat food, Tinker and I decided we should change some furniture around and the living room looks tidier.

On an extra cheery note, the hedgehogs are back in the garden.  Good night.

15 September 2020

A water drip-free night!!  Tip for the week: to get any tannin out of mugs, cups and tea spoons, Steradent Tablets in water work a treat.

Tea Towel of Choice today is ‘Use Water Wisely’ since Catherine’s Diary has been about leaks and drips.

In Conversation With……KimberleyART


1FE6998C-F13B-400A-965F-03A2B0CC10CFOne day, in December 2019, while doing Christmas shopping in Aberdeen, I wandered into The Aberdeen Whisky Shop on Union Street.  When I say “wandered in” that is a bit of an exaggeration because The Aberdeen Whisky Shop is tiny and, especially at Christmas, is stocked to the rafters with whiskies of all kinds (with some gin added in for good measure).  I was buying some miniature whiskies for a friend.  I wasn’t looking for a tea towel but I did ask the Assistant (because I always do) “I don’t suppose you have any tea towels?”  The young man gestured to a shelf behind where I was standing.  “There’s a pile behind you but they are only of distilleries” he replied.  “That’s just what I want” I said.  I was excited.  And there they were; it will come as no surprise to anyone that I bought one.  When I looked at the tea towel, in closer detail, when I got home, I realised that these images of distilleries were eight beautiful paintings, the sort of images that take you back to those distilleries (and I have been to most of them), you can smell the fermenting barley, see the copper stills and the white painted buildings, remember the distillery tours and regret the fact that you don’t like whisky.

At that moment, I wandered down another Rabbit Warren: does KimberleyART do other tea towels‽   This is someone I would like to interview for In Conversation With….. One email later, Kimberley Smith agreed to an interview and then Coronavirus reared it’s ugly head.  I thought that was the end of it until an email I received on 7 September 2020, which was a nice surprise, asking me if I still wanted to do the interview and here we are.

Kimberley’s website has the strap-line of “Scotland’s heritage in your home” and you can see exactly why that is so.  I wanted to know how Kimberley would describe herself  “I would probably call myself a watercolour artist and designer” and her website goes on to talk about “a small family business that creates products and gifts featuring art work of traditional Scottish architecture including castles, distilleries and lighthouses”.

“When I left school, I went on to study architecture at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.  This is where I discovered my love of learning about, and painting, historical architecture.  I loved finding out about a place and the capturing it in my work.  I have always loved painting and I picked up some Photoshop editing skills at school and then at university.  Apart from that, it is all self-taught and I am just learning as I go.


I started out my business four years ago when I thought I would try and sell prints of some of the places I had painted.  It slowly grew and I started to transfer my paintings onto coasters, placemats and then tea towels.  Up until recently I have been a sole trader but have now become a limited company as my business has grown substantially in the last two years”.

BBAB879C-F0DC-44FC-84A7-6A6AB34CC4E3I wondered what the favourite part of Kimberley’s work was: “My favourite part of my work will always be the painting.  I love the process of painting, from the initial sketch to the tiny fine details in watercolours.  Although it also gives me a huge feeling of pride every time someone places an order”. I also wondered how her work was sold:  “My work is for sale online on the Etsy Marketplace and I also supply a number of gift shops in Scotland including the National Trust for Scotland.  I occasionally also attend craft fairs at Christmas and the Highland Games in summer.”  

I will always want to know about the tea towels she designs and how she sees the future for her business: “I would love to see it continue to grow and make it a full time job.  There are so many places I want to explore and paint, so I’m not short of ideas for painting.  Currently, I have three tea towels designed – Distilleries of Scotland, Castles of Aberdeenshire and Castles and Country Houses of the North East (National Trust exclusive).  As I paint more places, I will be looking to expand the range.  I have plans for an Islay Distillery Tea Towel next.  I don’t think I could choose a favourite tea towel.  Each one is special and I could tell a story about each place that is featured on the tea towels”  

Thank you Kimberley for that interview, and I can’t wait to see the Islay Distillery Tea Towel.  For anyone that wants to look at Kimberley’s work, her social media links are:

Facebook: @kimberleyartetsy

Instagram: @kimberley118



Catherine’s Diary (25): 30 August to 8 September 2020


I am so glad that Catherine is continuing with her ‘Coronavirus Diary’.  It is still clear that ‘Life With Coronavirus’ is very different from ‘Life Without Coronavirus’.  Do Readers remember February 2020‽ or even Christmas 2020‽ when life was what we called ‘normal’.  First of all, Catherine is still writing the prelude to her Diary on the back of her envelope; I like that.

“How unusual, no comment today, nothing for the Post People to read (that’s the comment for today).  But I can say ‘Thank You’ to them.  Took this letter with me to post up town, forgot to, brought it home again.  I should stick to my normal post box on Paringdon Road, near me”

So what has life been like in Harlow?  The best bit is that Catherine has come to the end of the writing paper which is lined on one side and plain on the other and extremely small.  It looks as though she has bought some more, lined on both sides this time!! And I have to say it improves her handwriting greatly!

30 August 2020

New day, new week, Sue came round for tea and a chat.  I’ve been apprehensive of people coming in, as my house is not pristine but Amanda says that if they are true friends, they won’t notice, which is right.  Sue said my house was homely which is nice.  In the living room, at the moment, I am storing over 200 sachets of cat food, loads of ping pong balls, Cats Play Pawball (the cat’s version of football).  It’s funny that you buy new catnip toys but they stick to the old grubby ones.  Tilly and Tinker constantly checking each other’s scent on them.

31 August 2020

Leisure morning, forgot to put the bathroom heater on to warm the towels and clothes, hence didn’t get ready till 12 noon.  Earlier on Amanda had come by with more cat food, butter puff crackers for my Port Salut cheese.  She looked really nice in her bright, multi-coloured leggings.  Out for tea in the afternoon then Lindy came round in the evening.  Considering I had done nothing all day, I was really tired.  At 10pm, I opened the curtains ready to take Blackie’s late meal and I had a shock.  A fox in the garden; I tapped on the glass window and out he ran.  The gap under the fence is small, shows you how pliable their bodies are.

1 September 2020

Forgot to say, last night the moon was very bright.  Really nice morning, went for a walk, bought a paper and a magazine.  I also managed to get through to the Eye Clinic.  At last, on Friday, I’m having laser treatment on my left eye.

2 September 2020

I watched the weather forecast and he said rain was coming so I scooted outdoors and mowed the lawn; garden bin gets emptied tomorrow.  Tonight no TV on (that makes a change!).  Wind-up clocks have stopped, silence was deafening, I was missing the chimes.  I shouldn’t have done it but I turned the hands round on one of them, wound it up just to hear the chimes sound.

4 September 2020

Eye laser day.  Amanda was picking me up at 2.30pm for my appointment at 3.10pm.  Update: phone call from the  Eye Clinic at 1.45pm.  Consultant is ill!!  Appointment cancelled!!  Feeling really let down.

5 September 2020

My friend and I went to the Brookfield Centre at Chestnut.  They have a much bigger Marks (M&S) there.  Still loads of summer clothes; I reckon they are trying to get rid of them.  Did manage to spend my voucher.  I bought a ‘midi skirt’, black with an elastic waistband, very happy with my purchase.  We stopped for tea and a buttered tea cake.  As I took the tray to pick up the teas, I momentarily started to get too near to the man in front.  He turned and shouted loudly to get back.  I know it was my fault but it was  daunting.  The Assistant said the man shouldn’t have shouted so loud, and, yes, he was an OAP like me!

6 September 2020

Treated myself to two Sunday papers, three crossword to do, loads of money to win.  Barbara had the two Sunday Mail questions, she’s quite clever!  Christopher had the Sunday Express, keeps his brain ticking as on Friday 11 September he approaches 75 I believe.  Mind you he did I make two spelling mistakes which I had to tell him to correct!  One of the crosswords is numbered ‘1973’, the year Amanda was born, a sure sign that we will win!  (I hope so, Catherine has promised that we will share the winnings!!)

8 September 2020

Today, I refreshed Bruce’s shirt, dressing gown and cardigan.  Amanda is having a ‘Teddy Bear’ made out of his clothes, his ‘smell’ is still in the clothes and Amanda will have her ‘Dad’ close by.

A tip from a friend to keep spiders at bay: position conkers around the house.  At long last, after four attempts at being kept waiting on the phone (over half an hour each time) I managed to actually speak to a human being.  On Friday, my oven is being repaired.  It’s six months since it went wrong, the small oven that Amanda got me has been a ‘Godsend’

PS: Have you noticed, Barbara, I’m back to my normal lined front and back paper?

Today’s tea towel is a Chinlon one, with the same pattern at either end; it feels very strange to touch, useless to dry up with but as Catherine is devoted to her cats, I thought she might think it was cute!

Lockdown and Home Schooling: Umaynah (aged 11)


This is Umaynah’s third ‘Lockdown Challenge’, completed as she was about to return to school. She has put a lot of effort into this. I thought I knew a lot about Dorset but clearly not as much as Umaynah. The challenge was set around a tea towel I was given by Vanessa; it belonged to her late mother and it is of Dorset. I have enjoyed Umaynah’s ‘Lockdown Challenges’ and am quite sad that, with her return to school, they will probably be over (although I am happy to accept any more in the future). Here is her story:

“My latest Lockdown Challenge came in three parts: the first part of the Challenge was to make some Corfe Rock cakes. The second part of the Challenge was to write 15 facts about Dorset, where the Corfe Rock Cakes originated from. The third part of the Challenge was to write about the first two parts.

I am not a fan of fruit cakes but I was happy to make the cakes for the Challenge, and my family did like them. I have taken a picture of each step throughout the process of making the cakes. This was a very simple recipe to follow. I did not need lots of equipment or fancy baking trays which means there was not a lot of cleaning and washing up to do!

These are the ingredients to make the Corfe Rock cake

This is after all the dry ingredients were mixed together

This is after the wet ingredients were mixed in with the dry ingredients and rolled into balls

Cooked Corfe Rock Cakes (and I would have to say that they are perfectly formed, neatly rounded Corfe Rock Cakes, better than I have seen before)

The next thing I did was to find out 15 facts about Dorset, which are listed below:

  • Dorset is a county in south-west England
  • Some of the tourist attractions in Dorset are: Poole, Corfe Castle, Weymouth and the Jurassic Coast
  • Dorset is famous for lots of different things: Britain’s first Fossil Shop, the oldest Post Box in England and one of the world’s hottest chillies called the Dorset Naga chillies!!
  • Some of Dorset’s traditional food is Dorset Blue Vinney Cheese, Dorset Apple Cake, Dorset Knob and seafood
  • In Dorset there is a castle called Corfe Castle. The first stone was laid 1000 years ago. Since the castle was built, there have been many battles. The Keep was built in the early 12th century for King Henry I, William the Conqueror’s son.
  • Dorset’s flag has a yellow background and a white cross which has a red outline
  • The bendiest road in England is in Dorset!
  • The tongue-twister “She sells sea-shells on the seashore. The shells she sells are sea-shells, I’m sure. For if she sells sea-shells on the seashore then I’m sure she sells seashore shells” was inspired by the fossil lover, and founder of the first Fossil Shop, Mary Anning.
  • Over 2000 ice creams are sold in Dorset every day
  • Some events that happen in Dorset are: Castaway Survival Challenge, Weymouth Ironman 70.3 and the Dorset Dirt Dash. Most of these events will be cancelled this year because of the pandemic.
  • The population of Dorset is around 426,500
  • The area of Dorset is 2653 km square
  • The first Unidentified Flying Object ever seen in the sky of Britain was recorded on 8 December 1733 in Fleet, Dorset
  • In 1997, a 12 mile diameter crater on Mars was named after Swanage in Dorset
  • The questions for the game of Trivial Pursuit were researched in the public library of Weymouth, Dorset.

By doing this challenge I found some very interesting things about Dorset, and England in general. These facts are not the sort of things I would come across on a normal day.”


This is a great piece of writing. Umaynah definitely has good research skills and certainly has found a wide range of facts. Thank you Umaynah for taking part in the Lockdown Challenge and I hope you have enjoyed it.

Catherine’s Diary (24): 23 to 29 August 2020


I love getting letters from Catherine with her additional bits of information on the back of the envelope so that the Postal Workers can keep up with her diet!

“Run out of First Class Stamps so don’t know when it will arrive.  To Postal Workers: thank you and I am now on Spinach (frozen), only when it cooks it splatters into ‘mush’ and needs at least half an hour to drain!.  Will not be getting it again!”

23 August 2020

I thought I’d best start using one of my 39 biros.  It’s delivery day and the young driver said I wasn’t in his SatNav as he knew exactly where I lived.  What a lovely compliment.  I’ve decided to try frozen spinach for a change.  I need ‘building up’ but don’t know how much I have to eat to it to take effect.  I thought they had sent the other ‘dreaded veg’ because the spinach was shaped into balls

24 August 2020

Update: I have 44 biros.  My sore eye is a lot better, I have more oomph in me.  I mowed the lawn this morning.  All this rain has meant the grass has really grown.  Mind you, I missed a clump so I took the scissors and cut the grass as it will only irritate me when I look out of the bedroom window.

Tilly is a lot happier.  She is now out of hiding.  She and Tinker are washing their faces profusely which means a ‘weather change’.  Amanda has bought me a new face mask with a filter and on the front are sailing boats.  She said I will know which way it goes on.

Saturday, Lindy came for a cup of tea and has partaken of two Corfe Rock Buns.  I’m getting to be an expert now.  Also Lindy brought with her some black treacle for me to make Bea’s Buns, as she has an overflow of it at home.  (Bea’s Buns are cakes my mother, Catherine’s sister, used to make every week.  It was her speciality.  They are small, fruit buns with a lot of fruit and often alcohol).

I’m really afraid tonight of these strong winds.  It doesn’t help being an end house and all those trees next to it.  Tinker’s arrived and she’s on the settee with me, a bit of company for me, or does she just like Inspector Morse!

28 August 2020

Off to ‘Marks’ (M&S) to spend my voucher tomorrow and I might indulge in some Christmas cards, make an effort this year.  It’s Friday night and normally I would watch the Edinburgh Tattoo.  I love the pipe band music so I changed to BBC2 and watched the First Night of the Proms.  It’s eerie, no audience, the orchestra sitting a metre away from each other and the BBC singers were standing four seats apart where the audience would be.  I’m not a classical music person but I felt compelled to watch them perform.

29 August 2020

Today has come to visit Bishops Stortford, up very early, fed three cats and informed them they were getting extras as I wouldn’t be home in time to give them their lunch.  I don’t think they took it in.  Before I went out, I did a lot of checking, taps, doors, cooker, fridge door shut.  I’m a ‘checkerholic’.  Amanda phoned as I was locking the front door saying “now walk away from it”.  I eventually did.  I was nervous about three things: locking the front door, rain coming in (though I had plenty of paper and towels on the floor, and the worse one was getting on the bus on my own with the mask.  All silly things really, as everything was fine.

‘Marks’ was disappointing, didn’t see any clothes that looked comfortable, so voucher remains unused.  Instead I bought Port Salut cheese and a sultana cake; you can’t go out empty-handed.  I got three T-Shirts from Sports Direct and a card in Clintons.  Though very chilly it was a lovely day out.  Glad to be home in the warm.  The ‘Gang’ were there to meet me, all hungry!

Catherine, Amanda, Liz and I watched ‘Britain’s Favourite Detective’, texting each other as each show was announced from 25 to first place.  Catherine’s idea was that we should each guess who would win and if you got it wrong you would eat food you hate.  She knew that if I lost it would be halloumi and pomegranate.  Liz said she wasn’t eating anything she didn’t like but if her guess was wrong she would make a cake for us all.  I chose ‘Vera’ to win, Amanda ‘Morse’ and Liz ‘Frost’.

I guess when we next meet we’ll be eating food we don’t like!!  It was a good competition.  Sherlock Holmes never entered my mind as a series that would win.  I thought it would be ‘Morse’ or ‘Frost’.  I voted for ‘Poirot’.  I was flabbergasted that ‘Columbo’ was number 6.  I don’t like programmes that tell you ‘who dun it’ At the beginning then you have to watch the detective work it out.  Cheerio”

Amanda, Catherine’s daughter, sent me a photo of Catherine holding her ‘Poinsettia’ tea towel so that seems like an appropriate one for this edition of Catherine’s Diary!!

Catherine’s Diary (23): 4 to 21 August 2020


Someone lent me this picture of a tea towel.  It’s the best I can do for Catherine’s Diary today.  It is ages since I have had a Diary Entry from Catherine.  I’ve missed them. “This is a hickle pickle letter.  If you can make sense of it, you are a better person, Barbara, than me.  To the Postal Person, I have ate my last Brussel Sprout this month.  Can’t tell you what day it was, but the time was 6.51 pm”.   I just love the notes on the back of the envelope.  I never alter anything about what Catherine writes but today I am making an exception.  I have put it in ‘date order’ because it was all over the place, maybe because it is such a long time since she’s written anything (and you will see why later).

4 August 2020

“Amanda and I went to Sainsbury today.  Sanitiser as you go in the door for your hands.  Inside, huge white partitions by the tills and self-paying area.  I treated myself to two towels and a nice saucepan.  I also bought a couple of food bargains and I couldn’t leave without buying a box of cat food.  I enjoyed the outing, especially the car ride, but I’m in no hurry to go back to food shopping; Amanda does it perfectly online.  Though I would still like a visit to ‘Marks’.

5 August 2020

Managed to catch one of the Wheelie Bin Men, to open two bleach bottles.  The lids are so tight, not only ‘Child-proof’ but also ‘Pensioner-proof’.

6 August 2020

I don’t know what happened in my garden during the night.  A potted plant, wedged in another pot, found it’s way up the top of the garden.  The plant had come out of the pot, couldn’t be revived.  Plus a dustpan also managed to get to the top of the garden.  I’m hoping it’s not a fox.

7 August 2020

I went to Amanda and Wade and had my first roast dinner (since Lockdown).  It was lovely.  Wade does an excellent roast.  The week of the very hot weather.  With a friend, we went to town on a bus, my first time.  We were all spaced out (no, not drugged).  Couldn’t wait to get off and remove the mask.  Went to ‘Iceland’, no restrictions, free for all, wanted to check the price out for Yorkshire Tea.  Yes, Barbara said they were a bargain at £4.50 for 210 bags.  We went to MacDonalds; we had a sit down meal.  I was gasping for a drink.  The assistant helped us with the computer to order the meal.  No queueing at the counter, meal is brought to you in a bag and, when you leave, the paper bag stays on the table for the assistants to clear and sanitise the table.  No hurry to go back again but nice to have a ‘half-price’ meal.  Glad to get on the bus back home.  I miss the zig-zagging from shop to shop.  I know one-way systems are to keep us safe.

16 August 2020

I was sitting on the settee, torrential rain coming down, heard an odd noise, turned to look to the front door and water was gushing towards the living room.  Phoned Amanda for help, grabbed a blanket and towels to help soak up the water.  When Amanda and Wade arrived (sigh of relief) they removed the wet carpet so if it flooded again it will be easier to mop up.  And also managed to get the Wheelie Bin Men to take the carpet with them.  We don’t know why the water came in but Amanda knows someone who can help.  Then the extractor fan in the bathroom started to leak and now it doesn’t work so it’s opening windows after showers.  Hopefully will be mended soon.

On a more cheery note, I had a lovely present from Pam and Christopher.  Pam had quilted a book cover with cats on it and inside was a writing book.  Inside I wrote ‘This August Amanda let me kiss her for the first time in 6 months and on 15th she came round for a meal because Wade was working.  Macaroni Cheese, Amanda says I make the best”

20 August 2020

Amanda gave me a lift to my friend Wendy’s and we went to town again by bus.  No pushchairs accepted, unless folded.  The young girl at the bus stop had to walk to town.  I picked up my eye drop prescription then headed to Tescos.  Again no restrictions, life back to normal.  I needed some more biros.  I had run really low, checked the price in Tescos and there was a sale on so I bought a pack of blue and black ones, 10 in each pack.  On Saturday, I straightened my quilt cover on the settee, lo and behold, tucked down behind the cushions I found another 15 biros, 2 biros upstairs in a drawer, 2 in the kitchen drawer.  Will I use 39 biros in my lifetime‽   Amanda and I had a laugh over it, brought tears to our eyes.

21 August 2020

I don’t know where to start.  (But this is why Catherine hasn’t been writing in the last couple of weeks).  Within the last two weeks I have had a very sore eye.  I thought I would cure it myself by bathing it with boiled water but in desperation I ended up phoning the doctor, managed to get through in an hour.  We both came to the same conclusion: it was conjunctivitis so he issued antibiotic eye drops.  Four drops in the eye for five to seven days.  Fingers crossed that they work or it is back to the doctor.  I went to bed really early, 9.45 pm, my eyes felt really tired but for the Life of Riley, I couldn’t get to sleep and the smell of cat food wafting up from the bottom of the bed didn’t help.  Tilly had had an ‘off week’, so had been hiding.  So I pandered to her needs and fed her under the bed.  It got to 1 in the morning and I’m deciding whether to go downstairs and do egg and chips or pancakes, cream and maple syrup.  While deciding I fell into a deep sleep to 4am.

I would like to tell everyone, one day this month, at 6.51 pm, I ate my last sprout!!”

Catherine’s Diary has adapted nicely to the changes we are all having to make as Lockdown eases but we are still all very scared.


Catherine’s Diary (22): 1 to 3 August 2020


Message on the back of the envelope: “It seems to me, we have forgotten the people who help us.  So thank you NHS, Postal People, Wheelie Bin and Food Bin Collectors, Shop Staff, Amanda and Wade, Barbara for printing my ramblings, my co-stars Tilly, Tinker and Blackie, and Rupert.  What would we do without them all?”

I quite like the preview I get by reading the back of Catherine’s envelope, giving me a sense of what is to come in the Diary.

1 August 2020

No wonder my eyes are bleary, had the wrong glasses on!  Weather extremely hot, saving washing up water for the garden later.  New front door coming tomorrow so clearing the mess I’ve accumulated in the foyer: four screwdrivers, shoe horn, half a stool, table, large bell, two elephant bookends (that were my Dad’s).  The elephants have to face the front door, don’t know the whole story, something to with stampeding.  Does anyone out there know?

I’ve told Wade, and the gentleman who’s doing my new door, that they can’t leave till I know how to get ‘in’ and ‘out’.  New system.  I hate change.  I will write the instructions down on a bit of paper.  Three copies.

Wade did a fantastic shearing job on my clematis bush, and no, I can’t get it all in my bin.  Wednesday is ’empty-out’ day, ready for the next lot.

Last Sunday, in my delivery was a ‘mix-up’.  Instead of scampi and frozen fruit I got Quorn Nuggets and a pack of ice lollies, water melon and apple with bits of chocolate on them in the shape of a triangle.  I think I got the better deal.  Amanda has ordered more ice lollies for tomorrow.

Last night, they forecast storms, got panicky, wasn’t sure whether to get dressed for bed.  I did in the end but took my trainers upstairs so if there was lightening I would put them on, as they had rubber soles, should keep me safe in bed.  I was lucky, no storms yet.  Checked the front door three times to make sure its secure, wondering whether to take the golf club with me for security.  It’s just getting used to new locks on the front door

2 August 2020

Delivery day; scampi arrived, salted caramel ice cream, wine to celebrate the new front door.  They were my ‘extras’ this week.

Wonderful news tonight: on the way to feed Blackie, I spotted a hedgehog in the garden, smallish.  I put some beef cat food for him/her.  I thought they had gone for good.  Good job hedgehogs don’t climb fences because my neighbour has put strips of pins along the top of the fence to keep the pigeons away.  We only get about four in the garden, we’re not living in Trafalgar Square.  It’s barbaric.  Next year, who will tell the baby starlings not to go on there.

My eye has been sore for a week now.  I have a pimple on the eyelid and a dryness near the eye, making it red.  Amanda said to keep wiping it with boiled water; it’s helping a bit.

Yesterday treated myself to some double cream, as I had run out of Weetabix, to go on my porridge with Maple Syrup, delicious.  My mind is boggling as I’m thinking pancakes, cream and syrup.  Got to use the cream up somehow!!

3 August 2020

The end is nearly here!  Yesterday, I had a small chicken crown roast.  Today it was a cold meal but with bubble and squeak.  Seven Brussel Sprouts with a carrot and two halves of potatoes.  Of course, this means I have only 14 (Brussel Sprouts) to go!  Hooray.

Two bits of good news tonight.  The hedgehog is back and Amanda is taking me to Sainsburys tomorrow, not that I need shopping but Amanda said it will be nice to look around.  I wouldn’t mind buying a new saucepan and a water filter jug.  I best make a list!  I am so excited, I have already packed my handbag!  Little things please little minds (No, that’s not right.  In this weird time of Coronavirus we all have learned to appreciate the small things in life, going back to basics.  Don’t put yourself down).

Forgot to say, Rupert and I pulled the wishbone together from the chicken.  He has a strong hand and we wished for the same thing.

Today’s tea towel is Herdy Heroes, which I bought for Catherine recently.

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


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!


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!


Catherine’s Diary (20)


“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


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’.