Catherine’s Diary (3): 30 March 2020

This is the letter from my Aunt Catherine, where she had written, on the back of the envelope “Thank you to the postmen and ladies for collecting, sorting and delivering my letter to my niece.  Be safe”.  One of the things I’ve noticed is that maybe we are all appreciating people around us, more.

“Thank goodness the weekend is over, very low I was, can’t go to the shops.  Sunday, no visiting Amanda; talking on the phone isn’t the same.  Amanda’s friend, Lindy, left some cat food  and my favourite paper, The Mail on Sunday, lots of crosswords, a big General Knowledge crossword.  I managed 21 answers, you, Barbara, about 18 answers.  (Catherine sends a number of texts to me on Sunday mornings, giving me a clue and expecting me to know the answer.  She doesn’t always give me the number of letters required.  They come like bullets from a shot gun.  As I send an answer to one question she is firing another.  It’s good fun, a challenge.  I hope she wins a prize and we get to share it at Afternoon Tea at the Ritz!). I was so pleased to get a paper and I enjoyed doing it.

Monday, life is back to normality.  More of a system, Monday to Friday.  Inspector Frost is back.  I actually got on my hands and knees and washed the skirting board, where my old TV was and now I can’t stop looking at it, being so clean!!  I will have to start wearing Marigolds; my hands are so sore from over-watering.

Amanda and Wade did a ‘Drive Through’ and left a goody bag on the doorstep plus a bottle of wine and more ‘Tilly’ cat food which is hard to get.  I don’t think she (Tilly) realises how lucky she is.  And I got to see Amanda ‘live’ from her car.

I’m feeling a lot happier today.  I had a phone call from Sue; she goes to the Thursday Club which is closed and a call from Christine.  She’s feeling a bit fed up so I said she should have two sherries tonight.  She said it’s not the same, unless I’m there.  Hopefully, it won’t be too long.

P.S:  I haven’t turned Bruce’s phone off yet and he got a text saying “You must stay at home” and he’s certainly doing that.

I think it is fascinating, reading the diaries of people under ‘Lockdown’.  It is easy to feel you know their friends and family, what are the important things in their lives.  Tweets will disappear into the mists of time but Blogs will last for time, something to look back over when we’ve come out of ‘Lockdown’.  Thank you Catherine.

PS: Three pictures of Isabella on a pile of tea towels!!

Lyn’s Tea Towel Story

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Liz and I were FaceTiming her sister, Lyn, the other day, catching up on all the news.  I was telling her about my cousin, Amanda, saying she’d had to give up teaching her exercise classes at the gym.  And then telling her that she had sent me a picture of her using a tea towel, instead of a band, for those people she was going to teach on line.  I asked Lyn what she was doing about her Pilates; she is continuing at home.  The following morning she sent me the following story, complete with photographs:

Hi Barbara.  OK here is the Tea Towel Pilates analogy.  This exercise is called ‘Swimming Arms and Legs’.  Lying on your tummy, you raise head, neck, right arm and left leg; then repeat with left arm and right leg.  The analogy is to imagine a tea towel on your back, with the diagonal corners of the tea towel stretching to mimic your stretching Fascia (https://.en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/.Fascia).  Lyn gives a good demonstration on her lounge floor and I’m glad to see that she has all the right gear on!

You may be wondering why I chose this particular tea towel.  Well, two reasons.  Firstly, because it does have some stretch (the soft honeycombe cotton which has a lot of ‘give’) and secondly, this is where we were four years ago.  As you know, we usually have a holiday to somewhere warm at this time of the year: Madeira, Canary Isles, for example, but fortunately hadn’t booked anything this year due to our impending house move.  So glad we didn’t get stranded abroad and, as for the house move, well, it will happen when the time is right”

And now, everyone should be trying this.  Thank you, Lyn, for a demonstration of yet another use for a tea towel.  And that is why I have introduced the Collective Noun of A Usefulness of Tea Towels.

Coronavirus in Italy: 29 March 2020

This is a continuation of Andrew’s experience of Coronavirus in Italy, supposedly only a couple of weeks ahead of us.  We need to learn from this:

“Quarantine Day Number……… I have lost track.  First day of daylight-saving time…..but who cares?

I love words, they travel throughout history and countries, their evolution allows you to trace the story of humanity; words change with people, foreign words slide under the carapace of the mother language, and morph in to the spoken language, and later into grammar.  During the last 500 years, at least, Latin, Italian, French and Spanish took turns to lend verbal expressions to the other nations: today it is English (American English most likely) to take its revenge.

I love wordplays, because they denote how brilliant the human brain can be, when it disregards the ordinary meaning of words, and plunges deeper under the surface, plays with the letters, the sounds and maybe more, with the visual aspect of words and phrases.  What I don’t appreciate, is when playing with words means an attempt to fool or mock you; can’t avoid thinking about how the media behave with words and emotions, in order to attract the attention of people (and sponsors).  In this period of Coronavirus, we see this: fake news happily travels through chain letters (“Coronavirus can be cured with vitamin C and D”), conspiracy theories claim to explain why this virus spread (“It’s China that wants to break the economy of the whole world”) and how things all began (“Virus developed in China in 2015, in a laboratory that eventually lost control of it”).  But we all know the origins of Coronavirus are natural.  Panic is induced on purpose; this is a crime, and too often, it causes police and health workers to have to waste their time, having to deal simply with the fear of people.

The three tea towels all have something to do with words.  The one with the hen plays with the verbal expression, notice the two ‘O’s depicted as eggs: it could be chosen as best representation of the current lockdown moment.  I bought the Scottish tea towel because I’m interested in languages and dialects, in the dialects of regions, districts, towns, hamlets and so on.  During my university period, I attended courses about the evolution of idioms.  Mind you….. I must admit a personal thought.  When I was in Liverpool (January 2020), the woman on the reception desk at my hotel spoke to me  in a very strong Scouse accent, and I was a foreigner with low-level knowledge of standard English.  I had to ask her more than once to repeat what she was saying.  I only hope she didn’t think I was being deliberately difficult.

Words are traditionally stored in books, the ‘Notice’ tea towel from Manchester Central Library, straightforward as it is, gives us a 19th century insight of respect and love for the items it preserved”.

Thank you, Andrew for cheering me up in a weird time.  ‘Weird’ seems to be a word I am using a lot, at the time of Coronavirus.

Catherine’s Diary (2): 24 March 2020

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My aunt Catherine lives on her own; her husband, Bruce, died last October.  They would have been married 50 years in this coming June.  She is a technophobe; doesn’t have a computer, iPad or Smart Phone.  It’s not that she wouldn’t be able to use one but she doesn’t have Broadband either.  This is not the time to start thinking about moving up in the field of technology: who’s going to come out and set up the Broadband and help you to use a devise?  But she writes a ‘mean’ letter and uses her ‘Government exercise period’ to walk to a nearby post box in order to post her contribution to ‘We’re all in this together’.  She will text me to say it’s coming (and then to tell me she left out one page and she thought I’d make sense of it anyway!).  Her problem with text is that her brain works considerably faster than her fingers, so words run into each other, but it’s OK.

The tea towel I have chosen is from the National Trust about their cats at various properties.  It was sent to me by a friend, recently, and designed by Pat Albeck, my favourite tea towel designer.  The topic of the tea towel is relevant to Catherine’s tale from lockdown!  Here’s her latest update from Harlow:

“Brother-in-law relayed to me, in a bulletin, that isolation is for 6 months; the shock shook me up.  It turns out that he was wrong.  The news was that the Government is to review its new ‘powers’ in 6 months.  (This is how rumours spread and frighten people, by not listening to reliable News Briefings).

Amanda (daughter) says we won’t have close contact for at least 3 weeks; she will drop the shopping off at the front door.  She says that we will get through this and then we will go on loads of day trips.  I hope one of them is to America!

More motivation today: cats feed, cat trays done, all rubbish got rid of, plenty of eggs now, scrambled on toast which was delicious so I felt entitled to watch Inspector Frost; turned on TV and an advert faced me for erectile dysfunction.  Who wants that at 10.35 a.m?  Closely followed by life insurance, funerals… such is life.  Earlier this morning (6.17 a.m), Amanda phoned: “just wanted to hear your voice, Mum, and know you are alright” which brought a lump to my throat, normally I get told off because I talk too much!!

I phoned Christine up, an 88 year old, housebound friend, all the ailments under the sun, strong Scottish lady, marvellous friend, calls me ‘Catherine the Great’.  Bruce used to call her ‘Nanook of the North’ because when she used to go out, she was dressed up, as if she was going to Siberia.  Normally, on my way home from shopping, I used to call in, have two sherries and we would put the world to rights.  All changed now!!  Anyway, last night, Christine fancied a sherry but couldn’t open the bottle (bad hands).  I suggested nut crackers, wonderful invention.  Then we discussed food, how to space out meals (don’t want to eat my stores too quickly).  I had a late breakfast today, yesterday I had two dinners.  I will end up obese but how I enjoyed them both.

Lots of people are out there on their own but I am finding it hard to cope.  Tonight I wanted to smash the pots and pans!  How stupid is that?   Why?  I watched a harrowing story on ‘Bake Off Stand Up for Cancer’ or perhaps the text I got from Gov.UK or Amanda saying she felt stressed.  “Stop stressing” I told her “I’m locked away so I’m one less person to stress about”.  More likely it is the cats, keep coming down ‘en masse’ for food; they seem to be eating for England!  I had a natter to Bruce after my shower but it didn’t help so I am resorting to gin and orange.  But my thoughts have also been with people, children and animals in lockdown who have suffered, or will suffer, domestic abuse, coupled up 24/7.  Doesn’t bear thinking about.

Another cat has appeared out of the woodwork and she’s picking up dried old food from her last meal.

Good Night.

 

Umaynah’s Diary from the Coronavirus (Leicester)

Umaynah is Zakira’s 11 year old daughter; before my retirement, I worked with Zakira for 16 years.  She was an Apprentice when I started, and clearly I was significantly older than her.

In the Coronavirus crisis I knew that Zakira was working from home; I wondered if either of her children wanted to take up the ‘7 Day Diary Challenge’ and Umaynah was my first volunteer.  The task was to write a diary, or journal, on seven consecutive days about ‘Life Under Lockdown’.  Each entry should be dated and have no less than 75 words.

Having already been under ‘Lockdown’ myself, I knew how quickly things changed, day by day, hour by hour.  I felt it was important to have an idea about how quickly things might change, from the point of view of young people.

Finally, as this is a Tea Towel Museum, I said I would pick an appropriate tea towel, from my Collection, for each diary entry.  For Umaynah, I chose the photograph’s from Turkey of two tea towels on a market.  When Zakira and her family were in Turkey last summer, her son had insisted she send me photos of some tea towels they saw on a market stall  (then bought the tea towels for me).  Sadly, they are not in my possession because someone stole the contents of the envelope, in the Royal Mail, and replaced the tea towels with a Royal Mail Ballot Paper for a strike they were planning.  But I still have the photos!!

Umaynah’s Diary

Day 1: Saturday 21st March 2020

Today I woke up to the good news that a new baby cousin had arrived in the family. Unfortunately, I didn’t think it would be a brilliant idea for us all to visit him due to the COVID-19 social distancing advice. It does make me feel a bit sad as I don’t know when I will be able to meet him but I think it is a sensible idea. The news and social media has been all about Coronavirus so we have been keeping updated. It has made me feel scared after finding out the amounts of people who are dying each day. Today I have been mostly at home and helping out with chores. It is making me feel a bit sombre that we will probably be restricted from leaving the house and doing usual activities.

Day 2: Sunday 22nd March 2020

Today I woke up to the thought of going to town as me and my brother had to collect our new glasses.  It was exciting and sad – we might not be able to go into town for a while. My mum also wanted to get a few things for our new baby cousin and his brothers for when we do get to see him. It was very quiet; I think a lot of people were taking the advice and staying at home. Dad treated us to some Awesome Chips which we had at home.  We all wanted to get home as quickly as possible.  When we arrived home, we were doing some housework, wrapped the presents and then we sat and chilled out for a bit which was quite relaxing.

Day 3: Monday 23rd March 2020

I woke up early in the morning and got my self ready to do some schoolwork. Working from home is a bit hard for me as I don’t have teachers around me to help the whole day and I can’t see my friends or socialise. After ‘school’ we did a religious tuition online using zoom cloud meeting.  It was very nice to speak to my friends after a long time – well actually it’s been 5 days. It was the first day that my mum was working from home, so we were all at home, but we didn’t spend time together – a bit odd.  My dad still must go to work as he is a key worker. Even though we are at home, we are working in separate rooms which does make me feel a bit lonely.

Day 4: Tuesday 24th March 2020

Today I woke up and followed the same routine as yesterday and started ‘school’. I did feel a bit isolated again but in my break time I sat with my mum, just for some company. We did have plans to go out for a walk during lunch break, but we decided not to because my mum felt a bit unwell. After ‘school’ I sat for a bit then I went on a call with my religious tutoring class on zoom cloud meeting. After that, I went and helped my mum make dinner. We then sat and relaxed for a bit before going to bed.

Day 5: Wednesday 25th March 2020

As usual I woke up and followed the same routine as the last 2 days and I started my schoolwork. Again, I felt a bit lonely, but I had my 2 breaks which I got to spend with my mum and brother. We are trying to make the effort to spend time together and socialise together during our breaks as we can’t go out and socialise. After that I chilled for a bit before I went on a call with my religious tuition group. Unfortunately, the call was getting cut off because of an on-call timer. Maybe the internet is having a bit of a meltdown, with so many people working from home. We then sat and chilled out for a little while then ate. We then found out that there was a boiler leaking, so we had to call British Gas. We also played charades after dinner as a family which was really funny – especially when Dad joined in.

Day 6: Thursday 26th March 2020

Today I woke up and followed my routine and started my schoolwork. Unfortunately, I started my work a bit late, but it was fine, and I caught up with the work. It does feel good when working from home as I don’t have to rush around and get ready and sorted to go out, I can use that time to chill. After, I finished ‘school’ I chilled then I went on a call with my religious tuition group.  Usually the time between school and religious tuition lesson is a mad rush to have a snack, change and get out the house again. After dinner we discovered that boiler has completely broken down.  So now were stuck at home and its going to be cold and no hot water!! Although, I did get my hair cut but my mum got it shorter than even she wanted

Day 7: Friday 27th March 2020

Today I woke up, got ready and started my schoolwork. For my schoolwork I did some science, math, history and geography. It was hard to get ready with cold water. Later, I found out that Boris Johnson had been tested positive for Coronavirus so the conference was lead by someone else. After schoolwork I watched TV for a little while before going on a call with my religious tuition class. After that we had a snack and got our dinner delivered to our house for the second time in 2 days because of the boiler and we wouldn’t be able to wash up the dishes. After dinner we played pool which was very fun. It has been a long week of being at home doing schoolwork. It has been different experience and has also been difficult at the same time.

Umaynah

Thank you Umaynah.  I have to say, I think it is really bad luck to have a broken boiler on top of everything else.  Hope it’s mended soon.  If you want to write another 7 Day Diary, please do and I will publish it.  There will be lots of children, reading this and knowing just how you feel.

Tales of the Coronavirus (Italy): 26 March 2020

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Another Tale from Italy.  For me, this is a real link with family and we are probably all using different methods to make contact with people.  The news has been telling us that we were four weeks behind Italy, then it became three, now 2½ weeks yet the figures of deaths in Italy are still rising.  It is scary but, in a strange way, interesting to know if Italy and UK are doing the same things, experiencing the same things.  Here is Andrew’s Story:

“Quarantine Day Number 16:  I bought this tea towel in January 2020, in the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester.  I was charmed by it’s hypnotic, visual effect.  I thought my wife, Elena, would appreciate it.  When I got home, she definitely did and placed it on the fridge door, held by magnets: top corner, on the left, is a wall tile displayed in Whitworth Art Gallery.

The Whitworth Art Gallery boasts 55,000 items, in its collections: water colours, sculptures, wallpapers and textiles.  The tea towel is a reproduction of a wallpaper motif.  The Art Gallery didn’t warm up my heart.  The first two halls display 19th and early 20th century wallpapers and textiles that were attractive.  But the temporary exhibitions, on display in the following rooms, either I didn’t quite understand or I wasn’t interested in them.  My fault, I guess.

This tea towel bids me welcome every day, but today when I went to the fridge to prepare my breakfast, it appeared different, no psychedelic stimulations this time.  I just saw the depiction of the viruses in a lab-grade ‘soup’.  Yes, yes, I know, I am influenced by this period of general infection, like everybody else, I reckon.  It is a pandemic, isn’t it, after all?  

We are always afraid of seasonal illnesses; as if we ‘got it’, becoming paranoid at any coughing or sneezing, could we be touched by Coronavirus?  Could our neighbour think ‘we’ are plagued?  Or, the way round, could he/she be?   A few days ago, I went to my family doctor; for a month, I had been suffering from sore throat, and hacking cough.   I had to continuously tell myself, and my suspicious family, that a sore throat was not a sign of Coronavirus, that I had no fever or wheeze whatsoever, that we were talking about it for the whole month, not 5 days (when possible symptoms start to emerge), nor 10 days (when your illness could be confirmed.  It was only pharyngitis.  

After that, it was then I found, in the post box, a soft square padded envelope, just arrived from UK.  There was no mistaking, it could only be a tea towel from my cousin, Barbara.  I sent her a photo of me holding the tea towel, as a ‘thank you’; her response was “Now that’s what I like to see.  A happy man with a tea towel!!”   A nice thick towel, with a powder-blue border – a favourite colour of mine – and a display of my beloved owls, is what you need to make ‘your spirits bright’ in such a period of crisis.  Thank you Barbara!

Can’t wait for the next edition of your Tales of Coronavirus.

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Catherine’s Diary (1): 22 March 2020 at 9.45pm

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Catherine is my aunt, not many (in fact, very few) years older than me.  We went to the same school, spent holidays together in isolated places like Pevensey Bay, in grim weather.  We both suffered the indignity of having a parent (her father, my mother) involved in politics, where, as young children, we were dragged along to various events and no one spoke to us.  As we grew older, and the family became split, we still used to send each other Christmas cards but never met up.  That is, until 2018, when Catherine celebrated a special birthday and her daughter decided to organise a ‘Surprise Birthday Party’.  I thought she must be mad; how was she going to know if Catherine would want to see those family members she hadn’t seen for so many years?  But I went, so did my cousin and uncle who lived in Italy and her brother and his wife.  Her daughter knew what she was doing.  Great party, good to meet up.  We have kept in touch ever since, meeting ‘half way’ for a meal, via text and phone calls and as a ‘last resort’ when she gets stuck on a crossword clue.  In this time, Catherine’s husband, Bruce, died.

‘Lockdown’ is not a good place for the newly bereaved.  Because Catherine doesn’t have Broadband, doesn’t have a computer, she has heard of my Tea Towel Blog and the Virtual Tea Towel Museum but has never seen it.  Her daughter prints off some of the Blogs so she can read them.  I asked Catherine if she wanted to write a ‘diary’ for ‘We’re all in this together’; said she could write it by hand and post it to me.  Here is her first offering (I offered to find an appropriate tea towel) and I hope there will be more.

“Gathering my thoughts, while watching ‘Miss Marple’, with Joan Hickson: really old fashioned, sheets, bedspreads, eiderdowns, posh tea shops, Morris Minors etc.  A thought came into my head, will we live in our ‘Jim-Jams’ forever? Or make an effort to get dressed everyday?  I, personally, will get dressed; I can’t bear the thought of not having a shower.  Yes, I know, I am a ‘Water Obsessive’, twice a day.

The realisation of this ‘virus’ suddenly hit this morning; this is ‘for real’ now.  I was tearful, edgy. Though I think a lot of it, in my case, is having no Bruce to talk to, worried for Amanda and Wade (her daughter and son-in-law) and she is worried about me….. and so it goes on.  Amanda has said, for peace of mind, that I shouldn’t go out.  I can go to the post box, nearby, to post my letters but to give people a wide berth, don’t touch anything, wash my hands when I get home.  Should I go out with Marigolds on and a pillowcase over my head and face?

It is 11.15pm and here ends my first letter, cats to feed and reflect on my lovely day with Amanda.

23 March 2020: My first day of being indoors.  I’m drawn to the news on TV but trying to distance myself from it, as it makes me edgy and tearful and scared.  Bruce’s brother has a friend who is ‘high risk’.  I’ve told him to stay away from her but his reply was “Let’s not panic yet”.  I am so cross about it, I can’t text him back.

Yesterday was a superb day with Amanda.  we had a lovely roast dinner and a glass of wine (me, not Amanda), aptly named ‘Bruce Jack’.  So a toast to my Bruce and Barbara’s dad.  

Did a little birdie tell my daughter I need exercise!?!  Amanda took me on a 1½ mile walk round the country lanes, nearly got knocked over by a Tesco’s vehicle.  I’m sure he only saw us at the last minute.  We passed some beautiful houses and gardens, primroses, hyacinths on the grass verges, donkeys and horses in the fields, enjoying the sunshine, and noshing at the same time.  One garden had alpacas in it, a day to remember.  When we got back, (after 2 hours!), I indulged in a cold lager and a long, long sit down.

10.30am: Now off for a shower break, must get dressed because Inspector Frost is on, am watching so much TV, I’m getting square eyes.

Just phoned the doctors about getting medication.  They have said that if I’m well, I can go to the surgery and put the prescription in myself.  

Just taking a ‘turn’ around the garden, for a bit of fresh air”

Thank you, Catherine.  I think the importance of recording people’s experiences is that you can see how quickly things are changing.  Everyone I know talks about the draw to watching the news but also not wanting to watch it.  I hope you are going to write again.

PS: The tea towel was my birthday present to her at ‘that’ party.

 

Tales of Coronavirus (Italy), Blog Number 6¾: 23 March 2020

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Lockdown Day 13

My cousin Andrew who lives in Florence, Italy, was born and brought up there.  He has been writing a series of Blogs on his experience of the Coronavirus in Italy, for the Virtual Tea Towel Museum.  I have had a lot of feedback about (a) how interesting they are (b) how they offer us a ‘wake-up’ call in UK about what is coming and (c) his observational humour is entertaining and honest.  He has always been able to link his Tales to a tea towel or two, bought in UK; it must be genetic.  But, for me, it is also a very serious way of keeping in contact with family, without just having telephone conversations which go “How are you?  Not got any symptoms?”  He tells me that he will end at Number 10; that will be a shame.

Extract from ‘The Children’s Encyclopaedia’ Volume 9, edited by Arthur Mee (no publishing date).   Andrew is an avid  reader, will read a huge miscellany of things, on many different topics, even if not in his first language.

“(…)… men, by working together, can do far more for themselves as individuals than by working against each other.  This principle of working together we call co-operation. (See the great tea towel that opens this section of the Virtual Tea Towel museum called ‘We’re all in this together’).

Co-operation, while it means combined effort, does not mean the loss of individual character, initiative, enterprise or effort.  If it did, it would be valueless, because it is necessary that the powers of every boy and girl, of every man and woman, should be developed…….

There is no better way of illustrating the true conception of co-operation than by a cricket team.  As every boy and girl knows, it consists of eleven players.  The eleven go into the field to play the game, as we say “It is ‘cricket’ to play for your side and not for yourself”.

We do not make the mistake of thinking that if someone in Scotland gets an order for business, it is bad for someone in England, or that if Wales makes progress it is bad for the county of Kent.  We know quite well that nothing could be better for England than that Scotland should be prosperous, and that London is not better off, but worse off, if Lancashire suffers in trade…… We see how interdependent men are, and how interdependent nations are.  A man trying to live for himself alone is like the boy ‘sent to Coventry’, as we say.  A nation seeking to be self-sufficing is really robbing itself of the advantage of belonging to a world which it can serve.

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In January 2020, I was taking a walk in London, admiring the two neighbouring Railway Stations of Kings Cross and St Pancras.  The latter needs no description, save the fact I was impressed by the efforts and care it must have required, much of it sculptured by hand; I suppose that was a genuine world-wide-empire-mindset, capable of such buildings.  I was, however, more attracted by the former, with its frontage of the 1930s, two large arches separated by a central slender clock tower, all made of (vintage coloured) bricks.  Loafing about in the Ticket Hall, I noticed a long queue in front of the sign ‘Platform 9¾’ (and may I say that it has taken me half an hour to work out how to put a fraction in a Blog), hanging just by the entrance to the Harry Potter Shop.  There were two employees, one with a camera and the other who supplied tourists with a wand and the Gryffindor scarf.  The tourists stood under the sign, pointed the wand towards it, posed with a silly smile and…and?  You would think ‘the clerk with the camera took the picture’.  No, not yet, the ridiculous part starts now.  The second employee then picked up the loose end of the scarf, launched it in the air and, in that moment, while the end of the scarf was still floating, the photo was taken: simulation of flight guaranteed!

I thought it was a ridiculous scene then, and even more today, when we have to queue up panicking for toilet paper, and with the whole economy will brought to it’s knees by the disappearing of tourists.  I named this Blog not Number 7 but playfully Number 6¾, as it continues the thoughts on Brexit in Blog Number 6: if “a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less” (John Donne).  (The Radical Tea Towel Company do a wonderful tea towel using this quote from John Donne).

These tea towels on London are all self-explanatory, two of them identical (red and blue versions).  They are fairly old and maybe a bit too common for my taste (Excuse me, Cousin, I have the blue one.  Did our mothers spend time in London and each buy a tea towel?)  I couldn’t resist buying the tea towel with the map of the Underground of London; its just an item for tourists.  You find it in the airports or in the ‘Cool Britannia’ chain but, what can I say, as an Italian I am fascinated by the huge network of the Tube.

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The Allan Drummond and Nicola Metcalfe’s portraits  of London are more sophisticated.   I always admire how artists manage to hoard lots of details without being messy.  Both humorously refer to the very British ‘local showers’, but only one displays the Underground of London.  I can see the Shard, I went there in July 2018, astonishing views from such a height.  The Walkie-Talkie, I visited in 2020, early in the morning, truly enjoying my breakfast on the top; no Big Ben, however, covered in scaffolding, but a wonderful visit of the House of Parliament.  I see the Gherkin (viewed under snow in March 2017) and Tower Bridge, which you can now climb; I visited in both 2017 and 2018: it can be frightening walking so high up, along  the elevated passage, from one tower to another.   The central part of the floor is glass, it seems you are suspended in air.  I didn’t waste my money to go on  the London Eye, neither I trusted a visit to the Tower of London; I was afraid it would be a sort of fake specially developed for tourists…

Neither of the tea towels show the Monument (October 2019), where I was entitled to buy my first ever Concessionary Ticket: don’t know if I must be proud of that or not.  The women in charge, in any case, were polite enough to say they thought I was younger.

My final thought for today is: co-operation in 1922, after the slaughter of the First World War; EU founded after the slaughter of the Second World War; shall we start thinking again in a more co-operative way, after the slaughter of the Coronavirus?”

I think there may be a lot of us today, in UK, thinking what was the point of driving a shaft between Britain and Europe with Brexit.  Leaving hasn’t stopped the spread of Coronavirus but we are watching what happens in Italy, Spain and France.  Working together to defeat the virus and then working together to rebuild our economy would be so much better together than apart.  Thank you Andrew.

 

Lockdown in Harlow: 23 March 2020

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The increasing level of ‘Lockdown’ in UK has been dramatic, has made us all think about the way we do things, what is important to us, how some people selfishly act when we all should be pulling together.  I am fascinated by how so many of us have been able to adapt, and adapt quickly, to the ever changing circumstances.

I have been asking people, like Milly, if she would like to be a Guest Tea Towel, and she has pooh-poohed the idea; she says she doesn’t have any interesting tea towels, the same old story.  Although I would add that she has probably sourced more tea towels for the Virtual Tea Towel Museum than anyone I know.  I don’t know what tactics she uses to extract them from her friends and family.  I am not complaining; I am very lucky.  It was Milly’s friend that donated 96 tea towels recently, which has given me a lot to play with.  BUT, yesterday, I received a WhatsApp message from her:

“I finally can add to your Blog so here goes.  I am not a collector of tea towels, nor do I think about them much – and I never thought I had enough to write anything about one (and you call yourself family!!).  

On Friday night the Government, rightly, closed all gyms which meant I no longer taught the 12 classes I usually do every week.  So, within 24 hours, I decided to do online classes using Facebook, so all my clients could still exercise safely.  Tonight, because I could not use a ‘band’, as most of those watching would not have one, I got them to ‘make do’ with a tea towel – to help them stretch and strengthen.  Who knew that the lowly tea towel could help so much for an exercise class?” (I would add that there is nothing lowly about a tea towel!)

Thank you, Milly, for the helpful suggestion, in fact, I tried it this morning, and it works.  There are ways to get round any obstacle, to keep fit and be happy.  If any of your class want to share a picture of their tea towels (especially if they were holding it) I would post them in the Museum Section called ‘Enjoying Your Tea Towels’.

Heather’s Tea Towel Story

Over the last few months, I have invited various people to take up the offer of being a Guest Tea Towel 2020.  A lot of people think they haven’t got interesting enough tea towels; some obviously don’t have enough time to sort through their tea towels.  Maybe Coronavirus Lockdown has given people the time to rummage through their drawers.

Heather contacted me by Twitter: “Good morning, Barbara.  Finally, have gone through these tea towels and found a few”

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“This tea towel was brought back from Norfolk by my late Auntie and Uncle.  I have only been to the coast in and around Blakeney.  It was lovely but a long drive from here” 

Abigail responded to the tea towel by saying: “Lovely to see Horning Mill on your tea towel, Heather, absolutely love Norfolk and the Broads.  Hired a boat last year on the Broads.  Scenery was amazing”.

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Heather has an amazing ‘wedding’ tea towel; I am very envious. “This was from a wedding in Orkney.  It was a lovely ‘favour’ gift and made a change from sugared almonds!”

“My third tea towel was part of a wedding gift from a neighbour”

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Thank you, Heather, for sharing your three tea towels with me, and the Museum’s visitors.  They don’t have to be fancy, extraordinary, expensive.  All our tea towels will have a story to them: ‘Every tea towel tells a story’

Lockdown in Southern Austria: Week 1

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I ‘met’ Liz after she had listened to me on Radio Norfolk, talking about tea towels.  Liz currently lives in Austria, but originates from Norfolk, so tunes in daily.  I convinced her that she and her husband might become a Guest Tea Towel 2020, which they did.  And now she has written something for ‘We’re all in this together’.  Here is her story:

“My husband, Rob, and I moved to Austria in 2016.  Our life is pretty secluded, at the best of times, as we live in a forest where there are only 5 full-time residents (including us).

Due to the Coronavirus the whole of Austria was put into a ‘Lockdown’ status from 16 March.  What does this mean?  We can only leave the house for the following reasons:

  • To go shopping – but only pharmacies, supermarkets and other food stores are open and we should avoid unnecessary trips.  We will limit our outing in the car, three kilometres down the mountain to the nearest town, to just once a week.
  • For medical reasons – we went to the Pharmacy this week to get Rob’s pills.  There were markings, one metre apart, on the floor, to show where we should queue.  However, there was only one other customer so we were seen immediately.  Staff are behind Perspex screens.  Got the pills with no need for a prescription (which we do usually need) and an agreement that we would return next month
  • We are currently allowed to go for walks.  This is not the case in some other countries where people are confined to their own properties.  We are very lucky as we live right on a forest path so we can walk several kilometres without seeing anyone!

So, how have we spent our first week?

  • I have walked every day and clocked up a total of 27 kilometres
  • We have filled our chest freezer with homemade bread, blanched vegetables and Rob’s homemade sausages

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  • I am an arts and crafts fanatic so it’s no problem for me to spend time making things.  In particular, I love knitting and have started making the ‘Innocent Smoothie’ hats for Age UK’s 2020 Big Knit.
  • As Easter is not far away, I took the opportunity of some rather nice, warm, sunny weather in the week to decorate the front of our house with Easter Egg Trees.  As the Garden Centres are closed we are unable to buy bedding plants.  Instead, I filled a planter with some knitted flowers and intend to knit more flowers to put elsewhere.  Our house now looks lovely and colourful.  Even if no one else sees it, it cheers me up. 

We feel safe here in Austria.  Things are very well organised.  We have had a letter from the Mayor telling us what services are available and where to get help if we need it.  The local government also provides several updates on its website daily on the virus and any changes to the rules and regulations.

So, as the UK now faces a similar situation to us over here, I would offer the following advice

  • Please restrict your social interactions. Only go to places when you really need to
  • Plan your meals weekly so you know what you need to buy
  • Make a list of jobs for the week or just things you intend to do to fill your time
  • Exercise – even if it’s just doing some indoor walking or an exercise class on YouTube
  • Read some cheerful books
  • Eat well – plenty of fruit and veg – hence my Tea Towel
  • Look after yourself and your loved ones – appreciate what you have

Stay safe!

Thank you Liz for some really good ideas.  It is reassuring to know other countries are taking strict measures to ensure, eventually, COVID 19 is eradicated.  This is exactly what I meant about ‘We’re all in this together

Blogs in the time of the Coronavirus (Italy): 21 March 2020

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Now that I have set up a new section in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum called ‘We’re all in this together’, any Blogs/Diaries/Journals will be in this section.  This is Andrew’s sixth blog, totalling seven.  This is a bit like counting the number of Coronavirus cases.  Here is Andrew’s Story:

“Saturday 21 March 2020, it’s Spring today: Lockdown Day 11.

637 people died as a consequence of Coronavirus between 19-20 March; 450 the day before, more than 1000 in 48 hours.  Thousands of doctors, nurses, family doctors are getting infected, in their daily struggle with the disease; convoys of army trucks, packed with coffins, leave the morgues of Lombardy, at night-time, heading towards other parts of Italy, since local crematoriums can’t make it, having no more space available.  People are not allowed to mourn their beloved ones, once they are gone into hospital, if things go wrong; the next thing you’ll see of them is the boxes with their ashes.  Highest death toll in the world, more than China.  Is it because China has been hiding the true numbers?  That would be a (too) easy explanation.  Or, in a sensible alternative, could it be that the infection is much more widespread than we think, since it’s honestly impossible to test everyone?  Thus, there’s a number of healthy carriers, typically youngsters, that pass the virus to the elderly?  Or, who knows, perhaps Italy is the country with one of the highest number of aged people in the world, and those are the ones who so easily succumb.  The average age of death, 80 years old, while the percentage of deaths directly caused by the infection alone, is only .8% (point 8%)

The European Union has acknowledged the disaster in Italy.  Ursula Von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, spoke to the people of Italy, in Italian, expressing the deepest sympathy of the European Nation, and European funds have been allocated to help this unfortunate country.

When it became glaringly clear, after the UK elections in December 2019, that UK would finally leave the EU, I thought about giving a private concert in my house, a ‘Farewell UK’ concert.  I was born to an English mother and brought up in Italy, but I kept my ties with the English side of my family, especially with my Uncle Chris and my Aunt Beatrice, and more recently with my cousins.  That’s why I knew that UK never genuinely fell in love with the EU, the metrics system, the freedom of crossing the borders and the Channel.  I remember an anecdote of the days when the basic digging of the EuroTunnel ended, commenting about the ‘smell of garlic’ passing through the tunnel from France.

My wife, Elena, and I are professional classical musicians, a mezzosoprano and a guitar player.  She is French on her mother’s side, so she does understand the beauty of belonging to two different nations, two cultures and she sees my…….annoyance for all this Brexit mess.  The concert was scheduled for the end of January, with music by John Dowland and the ‘English Folk Songs’ by Benjamin Britten, but we had to postpone it until 8 March.  After all the invitations were mailed, the increasing Coronavirus infection suggested to us to further postpone it, this time ‘sine die’, when general health will be restored.

This time I display three ‘very British’ tea towels.  I don’t know how the Union Jack arrived in my parent’s house in Rome; I only know that I grabbed it one day and I brought it to my house in Florence.  The Royal Tea Towel was bought during my visit in UK in 2018, in the Gift Shop at Buckingham Palace.  I also visited the Gift Shops in Kensington Palace and the Queen’s Gallery in Edinburgh.  They are lovely and colourful places to go, full of glamorous objects, cute tea caddies, candy boxes, jewels, shawls, pottery, books and so on.  I was bound to buy at least a tea towel; I chose the one with the Royal Coat of Arms, thinking about the Queen’s speech, when her majesty wore a blue hat with yellow buttons, closely resembling the European flag.  On that occasion, we all allowed ourselves to infer that her majesty wasn’t amused by the results of te referendum.  Good luck UK

The Piccadilly Circus, worn out, tea towel is the first that I decided to collect.  I am able to trace it in my memory, back to my earliest childhood, that would be, alas, more than half a century ago.  I was always fascinated by it; it gives a very effective ipresentation of the bustling life of the site, you perceive the speed of the cars and buses, and all those neon signs and shining lights, sparkling on the top of the towel, exactly how you see in a film of te Sixties.  When I realsied it was decaying beyond repair, I decided I had to rob it from my parent’s house and start to collect tea towels.

‘Every tea towel tells story’, somebody would say.

This account has affected me at so many levels but I feel privileged that Andrew has written these accounts so they can be kept forever, as a reminder about the lives lost to Coronavirus, of the sacrifices made and of the funny, amusing anecdotes that come out daily.  For me, I feel devastated for Andrew that he lives in Florence and his 91 year old father lives in Rome.  They can contact each other by email and Skype (or similar) but that is never the same as being able to make a cup of tea and have a piece of cake.  There is that sense of Italy being torn apart and it may well happen to use in the future and thirdly, the stupidity of us having voted to leave the EU: ‘We are all in this together’.  thank you Andrew and I hope there will be more ‘Tales from Abroad’.

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The Tale of Coronavirus (leafy Woodthorpe): 21 March 2020

Welcome to my first ‘stranger’ to take up the challenge of life under ‘lockdown’, although he is the husband of someone I know but the I’m never going to get to meet him, in these circumstances.  It’s going to be tricky to pick a Tea Towel for this one.  Here is Chris’s story, the first of many I hope:

“Tales from a Bunker: True Account of a Lockdown Lifestyle.  Volume 1.

Today started early.  Sainsbury’s had announced priority access for pensioners between 8 a.m and 9 a.m.  Foolishly (I’ve been practising/practicing that), I drove down in the general direction of the eponymous retailer.  Quelle horreur! (I guessed at the gender ascription) there were several roads-worth of queues, even distantly approaching the Orange Campus.  

8.20 a.m and almost all the parking spaces were full.  I looked on while one hapless driver removed a wing mirror in a restricted bay……. still easier to fit in, on the next visit.  Found a space but no trolley to pick up.  I engaged a spritely octogenarian in light banter.  I expect this will become established as the normal tariff for a trolley-handover.

In no time at all, I was speeding to the main door, and quality control.  There, like some Kafka throwback, was a bouncer, grading people by how old they looked.  Naturally, I had hoped for a query, and argument, but the myopic buffoon waved me through, despite my deliberate skipping action.

Inside was a revelation,  It was like a year’s worth of Post Office Thursday mornings, summoned in one space.  I shouldn’t think these folk had even seen each other since they were out of their heads at the first Isle of Wight Festival or playing Head Football on the beach during the Brighton Mod-Rocker riots.  Anyway, I reckon Sainsbury’s had underestimated the wrinkly slice of their customer demographics.

Judging by the grazing effect of geriatric Gnu wave, there was going to be tears at    9 a.m, when the youngsters got in.  Would there be ugly scenes as the 50-somethings tried mugging their seniors for the last few bottles of San Miguel?  It became apparent that certain patronising assumptions had been made about the early morning restocking of shelves.  Clearly, fresh fruit and easy-masticating tinned food were newly replenished but there was total absence of crates of lager, beer or similar bloke stuff.

Anyway, I found the queues for the tills literally impenetrable and had to go the scenic route, back via bacon, to reach the general debagging area.  It was there that I was able to play my Trump card (no, not a joker) and slipped seamlessly into the laser-zap pit area, where my youthful spouse had shown me that you can pay  online from a QR code and accelerate away, while the rest of the demographic were patiently ageing.  (And now I know what a QR Code is; had to look it up on Google.  As I said before, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t learn something from a Tea Towel Blog).

With an agreeable chat, in passing, to Sharon and Len…..long enough to complain about old people, and to start worrying that my blueberries were defrosting.  Homeward at last, driving past the school where they had already started shedding Six-Formers, like dandruff onto the pavement.  Home without incident and back, cramming the fridge.  A moment’s respite with porridge and the paper, only to read that Ursula Andress is 84 today…….how did that happen?”

Thank you Chris for a wonderful insight into Sainsbury’s near you, but I would have liked to have been a ‘fly on the wall’.  I do hope you will offer the Virtual Tea Towel Museum some more of your ‘pictures’ very soon.  They will definitely be accepted.

However, as Readers know, I have a large collection of tea towels and today this has grown by another 101 (that’s another story); 1250 and counting.  It was my challenge to choose a tea towel appropriate to the article.  As I don’t own a Sainsbury’s Tea Towel (although I have just acquired two Primark ones), I thought it had to be my newly acquired Isle of Wight one, in reference to Chris’s memory of the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival.  The wind wasn’t co-operative but never mind, the thought was there.  Maybe I saw you there!

Jan’s Tea Towel Story

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I first met Jan when I joined a Creative Writing Group in 2017.  Jan was an experienced writer, a poet and I was a Blogger, world’s apart.  What I liked about Jan was that her poetry was easy to relate to, not pretentious and she was very supportive.  Even better was the Welsh lilt to her voice which took me back so many years, to my time in Swansea.

I asked Jan if she would like to be a Guest Tea Towel and she agreed; I knew that the ‘problem’ with Jan is that she is a perfectionist, she always thinks that her work could be tweaked, and made better, so I knew it wouldn’t come speedily but I knew it would come eventually.

Our paths diverged last year, as we went to different groups but Social Media helps maintain contact.  It has been fascinating to watch, via Instagram, the way Jan is developing her garden. And it is from this love of gardening that her poem emerged.  I had always promised that I had a tea towel that would meet this brief.

I love Found Poetry, that is taking an existing piece of writing and repurposing the words to create a different piece of writing.  For some time, I have been writing Found Poetry from the words on the side of logistic lorries; Jan’s poem has repurposed the words from David Austin’s website descriptions (the rose grower) and I love it.

For All the Women that Flourish Unpruned

Gertrude Jekyll, perfectly balanced,

upright, fragrant, vigorous,

Emma Hamilton, rather unusual, useful

for a little fragrant excitement

flourishes in all soils.

Most wonderful,

Desdemona hints at almond blossom,

chalice white, blushes pink,

captivating, virtuous,

requires full sun.

Thank you, Jan for sharing your poem with Readers and I hope you approve of the Tea Towel I have chosen but sorry it doesn’t have Gertrude Jekyll.

Jo’s Tea Towel Story

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The world is in a bit of a weird place today.  Many of us confined to home, wondering what to do with ourselves.  At this point, Twitter is a great place to be: people posting cute pictures of animals or amazing photographs of flowers and/or sunsets.  It doesn’t get better than the ‘video’ posted by @thelizcarr and @thevjoiners; somehow you thought they might have had a better idea about which way to point the camera to get a video.  Maybe they were just showing the first signs of ‘lockdownitis’.  I can’t describe it, you just have to look it up, but by the end I had tears running down my face.  Then I thought: if they’re bored, maybe they like to do a Guest Tea Towel 2020 and within minutes         @thelizcarr said “oh oh oh this sounds like a lot of fun”.  Interesting to see that it was Jo’s Tea Towel Story that came first.  Thank you.

“This ones right up there #GoldenGirls” was Jo’s first comment, and I certainly agree with her there.  When I asked her the story behind it her reply was “Welp.  (Took me a while to work out what that meant).  My 40th birthday had quite a Golden Girls theme to it.  @thelizcarr got a load of our friends and family to make me a surprise video, singing along to the theme tune.  It was incredible.  We still get Golden Girls inspired presents.  This lil beauty is from our good friend @hubbellg”.

Great story, great tea towel and I remember the great shows (probably be repeated on TV now that a lot a filming has stopped).  Does Jo use this as a tea towel?  I am awaiting the answer.