Catherine’s Diary (50): 4 to 22 May 2021

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It’s been a really long time since Catherine has written a ‘Diary’. I know that she is well, nothing wrong with her, because we have had many a Textation so maybe this is the effect of emerging from Lockdown: not quite normal, a bit scary and boring, just plain boring. Isabella, the cat, has had more correspondence from Catherine than I have. Maybe Catherine has summed it all up, on the back of her envelope, “Life is in the slow lane in my house. I reckon Isabella has more exciting letters! Thank you Postal Workers”. I like the fact that Catherine has thanked the Postal Workers on the back of every envelope she has sent me.

On thinking about it, this is the 50th Diary, recording life through Lockdowns 1, 2 and 3 and those journeys in and out of Lockdown. Does she want to stop now? Or is this like a contribution to the Mass Observation Project of years ago. Personally, I think at some point, someone will draw together the views of different people about the effect of the Pandemic on life in UK, and this Diary could be part of it, so keep going!

The ‘Headliner’ today is another Hanging of Tea Towels; Catherine has specifically requested tea towels on a washing line. I am so proud of this one. I have always said that I do not buy tea towels online, for myself, unless there is a very specific reason.

A couple of years ago, on a trip to London to see my consultant, I visited the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road. A fascinating museum. Among the items on display were a couple of tea towels designed by the Electrical Association for Women: Which Fuse, Changing a Plug and Reading a Meter, from 1930s. Infographics at their best. The Wellcome Collection had a big Gift Shop and I really expected to see reproductions of these for sale, but no! I bought a tea towel of Body Parts instead. I had tried to track down the EAW, only to find it was defunct and then, in #thejoyofteatowelsharing, I came across some memorabilia of theirs, and reproductions of these tea towels. That was it, I sent off for them (because the Wellcome Gift Shop had declined to sell them. Bad move!). And here they are in all their glory, a set that every home should have.

And now for Catherine’s Diary:

4 May 2021

We are up early today. Club this morning. I was going to go by taxi as the weather has been horrendous, wet and very windy. All of a sudden the sun came out, felt a walk was in hand.

10 May 2021

I know, Barbara, a big jump but life in Harlow is not that exciting. Town today to pick pills up. Tilly is off her food so I bought some chicken and fish to tempt her to eat. On the way home, I went into Sue’s garden for a cup of tea. On the walk home, I met another friend whose daughter passed away a month ago. We had a chat for about half an hour. When we lose someone, it does some good to talk about it. When I got indoors, Tinker and Blackie were waiting, as usual, for lunch! I cooked Tilly her chicken and put some warm melted butter on it and she ate it all up. It’s a start.

This evening, I took the bread knife and cut some more bushes in the front garden. Makes a good ‘saw’. Wade’s putting a front fence up for me in July so I’ve to got to get weaving and do something. I was extra careful, can’t afford to cut myself! I know Bruce has a lot of ‘saws’, probably hidden deep in the front shed!! Pleased I had done well, filled my garden bin halfway.

11 May 2021

Up early, Club today. I met a couple of neighbours en route, had a chat with them. My mail today consisted of a coupon for Matalan with 20% off and a letter, with a leaflet, from Jehovah Witnesses asking me ‘what the future holds?’. No answer to that!

12 May 2021

Delivery Day, received my frozen fruit. I’m back on the ‘Bullet’ again. I had a rest from it but still had my 20 grapes and two easy-peelers a day. Got to keep the system going.

13 May 2021

I took Tilly to the vets, not looking too good, off her food. When she tried to lay down, it was a slow process. It turns out to be constipation. Tilly was given some jelly-like gel and Lactulose but it didn’t help.

14 May 2021

Tilly went back to the vets. This time she needed an anaesthetic to clear the bowel. The vet said she wouldn’t have cleared it herself. An overnight stay, on a drip to get fluids into her and blood test were done. I missed her presence. She has never been away from home before.

15 May 2021

Amanda collected Tilly on Saturday morning. Medication is Lactulose 2mls twice a day by syringe. I might add, a nightmare. A friend of mine, Michael, is helping me. It’s a job finding her mouth opening. I think it’s because she’s all black. Also I had to monitor her ‘poo’ when she performed. To my relief, she went on 16th for the first time since 8th May, so it was out with the magnifying glass to do an inspection. I know Barbara said “No details” but Tilly is part of ‘my team’. Anyway it was dark and sticky, due to the Lactulose and I’m happier. So far she has only missed one day.

21 May 2021

Due for my yearly Gas Clean, should have been March but this was the earliest they could do. On Wednesday, received a text from the Gas Board saying they were too busy with emergency jobs and they were postponing my appointment until 13 July. Can’t understand why such short notice.

22 May 2021

Took myself out with a friend to Bishops Stortford on Saturday afternoon. Normally, never go out on a Saturday. Went to M&S, bought some stockings and underwear, nice to buy something for me. Looked at the shoes. I have to buy some soon as Amanda is taking me for Afternoon Tea in July.

PS: I just realised I haven’t talked about a phone saga, best do one. When I text a message the cursor sometimes moves where it shouldn’t. Mary said just touch it and it goes where you want it to go. Clever ain’t it‽

Thank you Catherine for leaving out the gory details of cat constipation, makes it more readable.

Catherine’s Diary (49): 21 April to 3 May 2021

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Got a bit delayed in posting Catherine’s Diary this week because of my tea towels making an appearance on ‘Steph’s Packed Lunch’ on Channel 4 last Wednesday. Deciding on what tea towels to take was easy; sorting them out onto their correct hangers when I got back was so difficult. But here I am, ready to post Catherine’s Diary (49) and as an apology I will use the tea towel that I was given by Steph as the ‘Headliner’. I am so glad that the apostrophe is in the correct place.

As usual, there were two letters last week, one to me with a note on the back of the envelop “Keep forgetting to use Tipex so it’s the usual suspects, squashed in words, probably ‘dots’ and ‘commas’ in the wrong places. Thank you Postal Workers”. The second envelope was to Isabella, the cat, from Tilly, Tinker, Blackie, Rupert and Bertie, a new friend “Good luck Isabella, you genius” because this envelope had a quiz in it

21 April 2021

Postal vote arrived, filled it in ready to post this afternoon. Trying to make an effort to do more walking, so I texted Sue and asked if she fancied a walk to Staple Tye, haven’t been there for a very long time. She said yes. Posted letters, postal vote and a card to Wendy; she’s 80 next Monday (she is entitled to an extra 25p on her State Pension!!). We went to Lidl and were in there for nearly an hour. Not really a Lidl person, just bought some salad stuff and a paper which has gone up 10p, now 80p. Thinking back to pre-decimal times, 16 shillings for a paper? On our way home, I met three people I used to work with, so that was a nice surprise.

Flopped on the settee when I arrived home, my back really ached. Amanda said I’m out of condition. In June, she said, “The treadmill for you”. I said ‘will I remember how to use it?’. She said ‘there’s always someone around to show you!

22 April 2021

Rested my back today, still aching. In the afternoon, I did hand washing and cat trays

23 April 2021

St George’s Day though we don’t really celebrate it, do we? Sue and I went to Church Langley Tesco, had to queue, traffic light system there. Buses are now two an hour. Arrived home at 2pm

24 April 2021

Arranged to meet Mary at Staple Tye, soon spotted her striking cardigan and hair colour. Mary treated me to a coffee. It was nice to catch up with a friend in the flesh, not seen each other for ages. I bought a couple of white rolls, makes a change from brown bread and Eccles cakes, a treat for Saturday. Walked home, fell asleep in the afternoon, all this walking and fresh air!

25 April 2021

Visit from Amanda and Wade with MacDonalds in tow! Nice to see them both, plus she ordered me a new feather duster with a bendy handle to get round corners, so Amanda says! I photographed it, and sent the pictures to family. (She certainly did that)

26 April 2021

I rang Wendy and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. She said she would rather be 70 instead of 80 years. I phoned a couple of people and did some hand washing

27 April 2021

Re-opening of the Rainbow Club. I walked there, really happy to meet up with more friends. Only 15 people allowed, masks on till you sat down. Tea and coffee, biscuits and a quiz which I found hard. I sent a duplicate to Isabella. Did she complete it? (She found it hard too). Mary bought me a clown that she had knitted. I love clowns, as under all that ‘make-up’ you can be anybody and do what you like. A very long time ago, I had a tiger’s face painted painted on my face. I even went to the Diet Class with it on!. Mary also gave me a bottle of sloe gin (still not opened) and some chocolates. I’m having a sweet week, which is unusual for me.

28 April 2021

Delivery day. Can’t remember anything else that day. Ah yes, Diary Number 48 was published. Waiting for my print-off

29 April 2021

The road in Moorfield is being re-surfaced. It’s not like the old days when you had the steam roller and thick tar bits you breathed in the smell of it and it cleared your chest. Nowadays, it’s like paste and they brush it along the road. Won’t be long before the pot holes appear again. ‘H Day’: haircut at 4.30pm. Oh what joy to have short hair again. I sent a text to Amanda and Barbara. Barbara asked for a ‘Selfie’. Never done one. (I did do one once, by mistake, on the new phone, didn’t know what I was doing). Well, what do I do? I turned the back of my phone to my chest, thinking that would do it, then I turned the phone at different angles, nothing. Had to admit defeat and ask Barbara how to do it, which she duly did. I got a congratulations from Barbara and a well done from Amanda. Now I’m trying to work out how to do a selfie with Tinker and me. Another item of the phone, I found out if I make a mistake, I know now how to delete it. It’s better than sending the message then send ‘error’ afterwards.

30 April 2021

Up early, going to Specsavers to get some ‘cords’ for my glasses. Cords go on my glasses so when I take them off, they’re still round my neck. I was so in advance of my chores I then went and did my re-cycling. As I came in, I thought I would get my keys and put them in my handbag. Well I must have had a total blackout as I don’t remember taking the keys to the kitchen and putting them on the hook, that I keep for my back door key. I searched everywhere, several times, couldn’t even retrace my footsteps. I was about to empty the bin in the kitchen, looked up and found my keys. What a relief, it really shook me up and I had the shakes. I do have a spare key, but I need to have my usual ones. Too much going on in my brain, not concentrating.

1 May 2021

Had a spurt on and mowed the front and back lawns. For some reason, I seem to have loads of daisies and dandelions. As usual, I apologise to the daisies for mowing their heads off but then next day they pop up again. It’s as if they are lying in wait for me. Some weeds I have also have a distinctive smell. We don’t seem to see buttercups these days.

3 May 2021

I’ve been a bit neglectful of Rupert these days (the teddy bear). He still sits opposite me, guards my handbag, mask and feather duster. We pass a silent word between us every day. Today we pulled the ‘wishbone’ and wished for the same thing. It’s very windy and it’s nice to have some rain as the earth is bone dry, though I don’t want too much

All the cats fed for the night and I’m off to bed. Cheerio for now.

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Meet the new duster, clown and their friends!!

Catherine’s Diary (48): 14 to 21 April 2021

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I am going to start with a couple of comments people have sent in about Catherine’s Diary (47). @lizmac307 said “Good diary. Catherine is so positive and witty” followed by Hazel, referring to Catherine’s comments about the use of her middle name by Boots on her prescription texts, who said “I get a text from Boots once a month to say my prescription is ready. They changed one month to include my middle name as well and that’s continued every since”. I have to say my texts from Boots always have my middle name but never a surname. Bizarre.

Two envelopes as usual this week. The one for Isabella the Cat has two crossword puzzles this week. Liz will help Isabella again, in the hope of winning a cook book. The second one, for me, on the back of the envelope, said “Sorry, letters getting shorter. Tipex doing well. Thank you Postal Workers”. This week Catherine has specifically requested A Hanging of Tea Towels as the ‘Headliner’ because she was so taken with last week’s picture. This one is of Sue’s late mother-in-law’s tea towels that she gave to me last week. I love them.

14 April 2021

Chiropodist came. He ‘nicked’ my big toe. I thought it was going to bleed, which I don’t need. (Catherine is on ‘blood thinners’).

15 April 2021

To town to pick up medication from Boots. They still ask about my health and the pills I am taking. I wasn’t looking forward going into town, now they have lifted the restrictions. I was right, it’s madness up there, a free-for-all. No social distancing, walking where they like. Really happy to get home. There are also supposed to be marshals in the town but didn’t see any. Exhausted by the expedition. After lunch, me and Tinker went for a catnap. This evening I watched Kate Humble on her programme ‘Escape to the Farm’. Make a soup she suggested. I was not drawn to it; it was too green (onion, leek, spinach, kale, potatoes and nettles). Prepared my ‘L’ words for tomorrow’s Alphabet Challenge and went to bed.

16 April 2021

Sue and I took a trip to Sainsbury, bit of a walk from the bus stop but it’s not near the town. I bought something I’ve never bought, or cooked, before, a gammon joint, so many ‘firsts’. Will update later. I have had plenty of advice on how to cook it.

17 April 2021

I watched Prince Philip’s funeral, two favourite hymns of mine were played: ‘I vow to thee my country’ and ‘Jerusalem’. I always shed a tear.

18 April 2021

Update on the gammon: proud of myself, I cooked it in the oven in liquid (small amount) with onions and carrots. It was superb (another ‘first’ to do again). Next weekend, it’s Delia’s Kedgeree in my delivery. I received Smoked Haddock by mistake, much too salty for Tilly, Tinker and Blackie. They like Haddock cooked in the oven with a little bit of oil and butter. I used to poach it in milk. The Alphabet Challenge is ‘M’. Christopher had done his usual countries, all 22 plus flags! I texted Barbara asking ‘What sort of phone tells you what flag goes with what country?’. Barbara said that if I type in a country name then the Emoji of a flag comes up. And it did. So your phone, Christopher, isn’t as special as I thought it was! Also when someone sends a message the phone pings, then two minutes later it pings again. Is it telling me to hurry up and read the message or what? (No, it’s just being really, really annoying)

19 April 2021

Very lazy morning, though I have done my chores, not dressed until 12pm. I did get the lawn mower out, but it didn’t get motivated! In the afternoon, I had an unexpected call from Sue, inviting me for tea and cake in the back garden. I also took her half the leftover gammon. I know I could put some in the freezer but I wanted to share it with her.

20 April 2021

Sitting this morning having my tea, a bird banged on my window and flopped on the table. He stirred a bit then went on his side. I went outside and put an upturned bucket over him, just in case any cat came along. After a while, I also covered him with paper so he wouldn’t get sunstroke. By 12pm no movement so I guessed he had died. Three people gave me advice about what to do with him, went for the third option. I wrapped him in paper then put him in a white bag then put that bag in an M&S one, then gently lowered him into my bin. He or she was a pretty bird. I said “God bless”. I was worried in case he was out looking for food for his chicks, they would be dependent on him.

Motivated this afternoon and mowed the lawn and I did some weeding. Had also to do some emergency watering, flowers starting to droop. Got the bucket out and watered the plants, can’t lose my Peony that Wade dug up and moved.

21 April 2021

Up early. 6am to the melodic sounds of cat sick; as of 7.30am still not found it. I’ve kept the curtains shut so the birds don’t think it’s a route through. Don’t want another bird banging on my window. 9.30am came upon the cat sick, or my foot did, on a stair. I reckon it belonged to Tinker, dark and long. Tilly’s is normally spread out and light in colour. OMG, I’m getting to be an expert on cat sick.

Thank you Catherine for an entertaining Diary, although I think the description of cat sick, while probably accurate, was a bit too much as I typed this early in the morning!!

Catherine’s Diary (47): 2 to 14 April 2021

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It seems to be a regular pattern these days, receiving two separate envelopes from Catherine on the same day. The first is addressed to “Isabella (if they had a Mensa for cats, would it be called Pawensa?” On the back of the envelope is “No answers for you Isabella. One crossword you can win another cookery book. Good luck Isabella”. Isabella never won the previous competition so Liz has entered today. The second envelope, addressed to me, says “The Tipex is a boon, might have to buy another bottle soon! I have listened to your remarks about dates. Dates are good, getting there aren’t I? Thank you to the Postal Workers.

2 April 2021

Amanda and Wade came round. Wade put the shed door upright. Need a new door, though I’m not too bothered, nothing worth stealing. Wade also put my kitchen clock right. My wind-up ones have stopped at last so I am able to put them right. Amanda bought my joint of beef today. It was supposed to be for Easter Sunday but decided to cook it today. I tested my new knife sharpener. What a dream. The meat I sliced was beautifully done. Quiet Easter, mowed the back lawn. On Sunday, Sue invited me to sit in her garden, had tea and biscuits. It was a really warm day and it broke the afternoon up.

5 April 2021

I have gone ‘Emoji Mad’. Can’t stop using them. Amanda asked if I could do a sentence, that made sense, with Emojis. As yet I only do three-word sentences. Barbara, Amanda and Mary joined in with replies; I found myself curling up with laughter. I’ve found not all phones are compatible. Carole (Amanda’s friend), her Emojis come to my phone in question marks. (Personally, I never use Emojis but I would have to say that Catherine is extremely imaginative in her use of Emojis, not just a ‘Thumbs Up’)

6 April 2021

Amanda picked me up and took me for my second vaccination, not as busy today. I saw Pat, a friend who I used to work with, years ago. I hadn’t seen her for a long time. We used to meet on a Friday with another friend (Wendy) for coffee. Miss them days! This time I didn’t feel the injection going in. I actually asked the lady if she had done it. Then home, no side effects this time, like a sore arm or tiredness

8 April 2021

Phone call from the Tax Department, voice telling me I had a fraud claim under my name. I was asked to press a number and, if I didn’t, someone would come and arrest me shortly. Luckily I didn’t press anything but I understand how people would do it. I rang Amanda and Mary for reassurance that I did the right thing and turned the phone off. The second scare of the day was ‘the phone’ again. I plugged it into charge. The squares on the screen all started wobbling and on the square corners were circles with + and – on them and they were wobbling. Tried pressing the squares, nothing happened. I was thinking ‘How will Amanda get in touch with me and vice versa?’ Then I thought of Wade, in for a penny in for a pound, turned the phone off (as Wade said). After a couple of minutes, turned it back on and everything was back to normal. Thank goodness.

9 April 2021

Yes, I did have a cry over the Duke of Edinburgh’s passing, as I think it brought back memories of Bruce. I thought Bruce would like a change of scenery so I bought him downstairs and put him on the bookcase with his favourite Muppet, Elmo, who is at least two foot tall, but looks comfortable sitting there as well. Plus the bookcase had a good polish.

10 April 2021

Amanda and Wade came round and I treated us to a Chinese Takeaway. It was lovely, plus being together in this house.

11 April 2021

Quiet day but I received a surprise present from Amanda in the afternoon, via Amazon. A box of Coffee Cream Chocolates by Beech’s. They didn’t last long, I’m afraid. I love Coffee Cake, Coffee Icing, Coffee Ice Cream, Coffee Chocolates but I’m not a coffee drinker. I prefer tea.

12 April 2021

Today I did another chicken casserole, but put one of my homemade Leek and Potato Soups in. What a difference it made. I’ll do this again. Had a text from Boots to say my tablets were in. I like getting a text from them as they include my middle name. Isn’t it odd we get given a middle name but they are never used? (I had to Text Catherine to find out what her middle name was).

13 April 2021

Phoned the doctors to arrange a blood test for the blood thinners. Takes ages to get through as you have to listen to two automated voices about COVID-19, then what button you need to press to get to the Receptionist. Got there in the end. 5 May at 10.30am

14 April 2021

Up earlier to put the bins out, garden rubbish day as well, fed the Gang and myself, did some washing. Gave all my Wheelie Bin lids a wash because I believe my footpath is a flyover for birds, keeping dropping their poop. Well, I’m done. Cheerio! (Who would ever think of washing the Wheelie Bin lids. “Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom” as Shirley Conran said in 1975)

There is absolutely no reason why the picture at the top of the Diary is of a line of washing of tea towels from the Radical Tea Towel Company, except for the fact that I like it.

Catherine’s Diary (46): 19 to 31 March 2021

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It seems like a long time since I posted a ‘Diary’. There was a bit of a hitch, in that the Broadband stopped working and, once ignited by a new Router, my iPad decided to freeze (but only because I forgot to charge the keyboard. Sometimes I hate technology). Two envelopes from Catherine arrived on the same day. The first was addressed to Isabella “For your eyes only”. Isabella is the cat. On the back of the envelope was a message “Isabella, a completely different crossword. When you sit on your mother’s lap, I hope you take in what’s on the television and are not dozing off, though you could turn the crossword over and do the Number Crunchers. Are you good at Maths? Thank you Postal Workers”. Isabella tried the crossword and it was impossible because at present we are only watching ‘NCIS’ and ‘Criminal Minds’.

The message on the second envelope, addressed to me, said “No Brussel sprouts to report, into cabbage and carrots. Managed to use Tipex twice, forgot I’d bought it. Thank you Postal Workers”. What more can I say‽

19 March 2021

Boots to collect glasses and medication. The Pharmacist asked how I was getting on with the new pills. She said to make sure I have a blood test after three months and if I cut myself and I bleed for more than 10 minutes, I need to get to the hospital. I told her that she seemed to be more concerned about me than my doctor. I always thank her for her concern. Duct tape is holding the blanket; it’s doing it’s job. It’s 9.45pm and the cats are gathering for their last meal at 10pm. They know their times.

20 March 2021

Salted Caramel Brownies arrived, birthday treat from Amanda, very rich. Glitch on TV, sign came up ‘No signal, check your antenna’. Well I could hardly get a ladder and climb on the roof! Ah well, television is having a rest.

21 March 2021

Amanda phoned to do my census online, another glitch. When we said goodbye our phones wouldn’t part. What a panic I got in. Pressed a couple of buttons, nothing happened. I could hear Amanda saying “find a way, find a way”. I remember Wade saying once, if in doubt turn the phone right off. Well I tried it but the bloody phone wouldn’t switch off. I did notice a thin green line at the top of the screen. Not seen it before. Amanda said “Press it”. I did and the link broke, thank goodness. I almost wished I had my old phone back but then I couldn’t send the Emojis which I love, and am getting addicted to. Now I know how to take photos and send them, lots of Tinker and Tilly and receiving pictures of the family (though not of you Barbara and your wrinkles yet). I have Amanda’s seven cats, Lindy’s Ambrose whose face is not unlike Isabella’s. Perhaps they had the same ancestors, you never know. I’m happy to announce Amanda and Wade had their first vaccine and I’m having my second one on 6 April 2021

23 March 2021

Phone call from the doctor at 8.30am. Pill review and results of the blood tests which I already knew but the doctor still wanted to go through them again. Kidney function good, cholesterol and thyroid all fine. Nearly three months of not drinking and the enzyme count on my liver is coming down, all good news. Another shock surprise, Amanda texted me and said that last September I had done over 360 texts but this January I had done over 1600. I was flabbergasted. I think Amanda was too and I still only text with one hand, can’t use two. I thought at first it was because of our Alphabet Game, but we didn’t start till 24 January 2021.

24 March 2021

I had a lot of exposure to fresh air today. First, I went and posted two birthday cards before 9am, then a walk to the paper shop. Delivery arrived at 12.30pm. It was supposed to be all cat food but Amanda ordered extra bits. I ended up having a roast dinner which I enjoyed. Must have boosted my energy levels, out to the garden and mowed the back lawn and sent photos of grass cuttings to family and friends, makes a change from the LPs I’ve been sending. I had a rest then at 4.30pm, down the road again, for milk. I have to say on the field near the path, the Hawthorn Trees are in full blossom, pink and white flowers, absolutely beautiful. I should sleep well tonight with all this fresh air.

25 March 2021

Very late to bed last night, up at 6.30am to put food bin out again, not collected yesterday. Can’t leave it out as we have foxes visiting. Fed all the cats, made tea and took it upstairs. Did my messages and decided to go back to sleep, too early to stay up. I woke up again at 10.30am, must have needed the sleep. Puts you out though for the rest of the day.

Amanda’s cat, Rocky, had to go to the vets because he hasn’t been eating. He had two injections and a blood test. Should know the results by Friday. He has started eating again but not a lot. Our cats can’t tell us what’s wrong. I hope Rocky perks up soon. Had some good news. Our Club is opening up again on 27 April 2021. Looking forward to meeting friends again, especially Jenny who runs it, and of course Mary who is also one of our Alphabet Team.

Isabella, you can look forward also to more quizzes!!

26 March 2021

Town with Sue. (It certainly wasn’t a busy day today!!)

27 March 2021

A visit from Amanda and Wade. Amanda had ordered some Brownies but by mistake put my address on the order, hence the visit. Phone lesson, learnt to speak a message instead of using fingers, but how do you do an emoji? Do you describe what you want or leave it out? Put Amanda to use. She opened the bleach and buster tops. Should have asked her to change the time on the kitchen clock but I forgot to ask. Postman arrived with the Brownies, Amanda and Wade went home.

28 March 2021

Odd day. I felt I had been asleep all day, with this clock business, losing an hour, upsets my system. I kept looking at my wind-up clocks. They are still an hour behind, can’t wait for them to stop. It’s off-putting not knowing the proper time.

29 March 2021

Rocky was supposed to have his tooth operation today but it’s been changed to Tuesday instead. Let’s hope he will feel better. One of our Alphabet Team Members, Mary, it’s her birthday today. Happy Birthday Mary

30 March 2021

Last night retired to bed at 11.30pm, the moon was large and bright. According to the papers it’s a ‘Worm Moon’. Can’t remember what it does to the worms. Perhaps it gets them moving to the top of the grass, ready for the bird’s supper. Update on Rocky: two teeth removed and is now eating well.

31 March 2021

Just wanted to put the record straight. Barbara said it was bad manners of her not texting happy birthday to me. It wasn’t. We don’t do birthdays, only Christmas. Up and until last year I didn’t know when Barbara’s birthday was. I know it is August, date unknown. I thought it may be 12th, 18th, 27th or 28th and Barbara did text the next day. Well I’m off to bed and off to town tomorrow. Cheerio!

Thank you Catherine for an entertaining Diary. Look forward to the next one. Today’s ‘Headliner’ is a photograph of Catherine’s Italian nephew, drinking tea by his row of British tea towels.

Alan’s Tea Towel Story

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I ‘met’ Alan (@Spacexecadet) via Twitter, when I offered Twitterers the exciting opportunity of being part of #TheGreatTeaTowelSharing. On the first day of Lockdown Number 3, I was poorly, and flung out a Tweet asking people to send me pictures of their tea towels. And so #TheGreatTeaTowelSharing was born. This offer was accompanied by a promise that those photographed tea towels would find their way into the Virtual Tea Towel Museum. What I hadn’t expected was (a) there would be so many (b) they would virtually all be different, unique (c) some would have some great stories attached to them. Initially, I imagined they would be slotted into the existing ‘Collections’ in the Museum, but there were too many so I created #TheGreatTeaTowelSharing Collection. In addition, quite a number of people have been invited to be a Guest Tea Towel, as @Spacexecadet has. He submitted, amongst other tea towels, ‘Lifeboats Through the Ages’. Here is his story:

“This dates from around 1970, as the Arun Class, bottom right, has the prototype stern and hull. When I was in Orkney, during the period 1972-74, I met a lifeboat ‘Test Pilot’ who was putting the prototype in very challenging waters between Wick and Thurso at the top of Scotland and the Orkneys. This stretch is the roughest around the UK and is called the Pentland Firth.

The Arun Class, now retired from RNLI service, served very effectively and paved the way to the modern class of fast vessels. I had a trip lined up on my day off but the ‘Test Pilot’ bent the hull before our trip, and headed back south to Poole.”

It’s great story, but a sad end since you never got your trip. It’s good to hear from someone who knows about his tea towels. Thank you @Spacexecadet for sharing your tea towel.

Catherine’s Diary (45): 6 to 18 March 2021

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It seems a long time since I ‘typed’ a ‘Catherine’s Diary’. I wondered if she had ‘writer’s block’ or was just bored with doing it. On thinking about it, I am surprised that (a) she’s still ‘talking’ to me and (b) that she would ever write another Diary for the Virtual Tea Towel Museum. Why? I forgot her birthday. I didn’t send a card, not even a virtual one, I didn’t send a present, I didn’t even send a text. What sort of niece are you when, in no way, do you acknowledge your Aunt’s birthday, an Aunt you are in contact with every day. I have apologised but apologies don’t really ‘do it’. But I have now publicly admitted it. For me, birthdays are difficult; I never remember dates and if occasionally I do, I never get things planned well enough in time. In my family, on both sides, there were always people my parents weren’t talking to, at one time or another, so I never got into a routine of who was on the ‘Birthday List’ so I just got out of the habit. That’s my excuse but it doesn’t excuse bad manners.

Catherine’s note to me, on the back of the envelope was “My dates are all over the place” and she’s right. Today’s Diary is without dates because otherwise it really wouldn’t make sense.

“I got up too early, time is going slowly. It’s 12.30pm and I’ve had my dinner already. I think Tinker is feeling it as well. The last ‘F’ today (this is the Alphabet Challenge that Catherine has set for everyone. First text of the day should consist of words beginning with a particular letter of the Alphabet. This week was ‘F’, moving on to ‘G’. It’s all in Alphabetical order), no more felines and finches, probably it will be goats and gorillas. Mary and I are doing the crossword in the Mail Magazine, I’ve had FaceTime with Amanda, nice seeing her ‘live’. I’m going to see her on Mother’s Day for a roast dinner, looking forward to it.

I’ve gone into a long lapse with the Diary, looking in my other two diaries to see what I’ve been doing. I was in Boots to spend some money on my Boots Card (plus pick up my pills). I spotted a ‘Cake Cup’, the writing on it said “Come on Brucie, you can make it!” And seeing Bruce’s name is the only reason I bought it. It’s from the film ‘Matilda’. Amanda said I’d seen the film but I don’t recall it. I will have to watch it now.

Results of blood tests: I’m healthy. No further action. Prescription form says I should phone the GP for a review of pills so I have a Phone Appointment on 23 March 2021. I made a chicken casserole, never made one before. In this never-ending Lockdown, I’ve made a lot of ‘first timers’. And, yes, it was delicious and, yes, I will do it again.

Boots eye test at last. I was supposed to have it on 25 January but that was a Phone Appointment from the ‘Screening Nurse’ for my colonoscopy, so had to cancel eye test. The next available appointment was 8 march. Ended up with getting stronger reading glasses. The optician suggested I get distance glasses as well but I can’t see the point. I don’t drive and I can see the bus coming. Next Wednesday, I was due to go for a check up, at the Eye Unit in the hospital, for my glaucoma. Yesterday, I had a text telling me not to go to the hospital, then half an hour later I had a phone call. Nurse saying not to come in, I would receive a call from the Consultant. I asked her how can the Consultant test the pressures behind the eye over the phone. No answer.

Terrific winds, my front side fence really rocking. Went mad yesterday, dug up four yellow primroses, replanted them in the back garden. Wade is hopefully tomorrow going to dig up my Peony, also for the back garden. The mud out the front is hard and claggy. Because I only have half a fence on the front garden, people keep walking across it, to get to my front door, plus getting a lot of dog mess. Putting down onion and garlic bits.

Amanda and Wade came with two bags of litter; Wade dug up my peony. I had more lessons on taking photos with my phone. Amanda got a bit stressed. I have now got it! Taken nearly 200 photographs, really enjoying the experience, and, as Mary said, to think I was nervous of using the phone. Another thing I can do is delete messages. Still can’t text with two hands (nor can I, nor can any of my friends, must be an age thing).

More picture taking, cat ornaments to start with. Made a vegetable soup. washed cat trays and all had fresh litter. Really stumped tonight, thinking of ‘H’ words and putting them together. I’ve managed something but it’s a bit basic, off to bed.

Amanda picked me up at 12.30pm and I spent Mother’s Day with her and Wade. I had superb roast dinner, no cooking or washing up. Went around photographing Amanda’s cats. Liquorice, Rocky and Lyric are hard to distinguish. Also had another lesson on the phone. My problem with photographs is that I’m heavy-fingered, press too hard and I get ten pictures of the same photo. I deleted over 200, went mad. Now I’m sending pictures of old LPs, Bruce and I collected over the years.

Eye Consultant phoned, only on the phone 8 minutes. The outcome is ‘keep taking the drops’ (have been taking them for 21 years) and I should get an appointment in six to eight weeks to actually go to the Eye Unit. Good day today, I received cards, flowers, chocolates and birthday texts. I went to town this morning and I treated myself to some Duct tape. It’s to stick the blanket back on the glass door, to keep the cold out. I’m no good at hitting drawing pins into the door, through the the blanket. So far, so good, the Duct Tape hasn’t come off the door. And I got myself some Tippex for mistakes. Could have done with it when I started doing this. Diary is nearly one year old.

Amanda came this afternoon with a lovely card and flowers, stayed a couple of hours which was nice. Another lesson, this time ‘Doing Emojis’. I’m getting to be an expert, or aim to, jumping the gun. Getting praise from Barbara, Amanda and Christopher on how well I’m doing. Tomorrow, pick up new glasses and medication.

I’ve enjoyed doing ‘H’ this week. I think I will miss it when Saturday comes and it’s the last day.

I just have to say that Catherine is the only person I know, who I communicate by text with, that uses a wide variety of Emojis, rather than just one, two or three thumbs up (or down). She is creative and imaginative and it makes a text very beautiful. You should have seen the one describing soup, Emojis for every ingredient.

Choice of tea towel today is tricky. I’ve already used the ‘Text’ one so I decided a Calendar one would be appropriate since we will soon be celebrating the First Birthday of Catherine’s Diary. Must be 2020.

PS: Please date your Diary entries!!!

Catherine’s Diary (44): 24 February to 3 March 2021

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Two envelopes this week. The first is addressed to ‘Isabella (for your eyes only)’ and on the back is a message ‘If you look sharpish Isabella, you can go online and go in for the competition and win a cookery book’. Bearing in mind that Isabella is the cat and the competition is a crossword, this is an interesting idea. However, Liz has helped Isabella with the crossword and entered the competition. Neither are sure about the cookery book though. On the front of the envelope the word ‘Grove’ is circled with the question “Do olives grow there?”. I suspect the Postal Worker thinks we’re bonkers in this house.

The second envelope (with Diary) has on the back “Can you and Liz text with two hands? I tried but it’s so difficult. Thank you Postal People”. And so to the Diary:

24 February 2021

Last meal at 7pm, drinking plenty of water, that fills you up, ready for blood test tomorrow. I was struggling with the ‘E’ at the beginning of the week (first text of the day has to use as many words as possible beginning with ‘E’) but now I’m doing really well. I think I will miss them. This evening I had a text message from Pam. I thought it was my sister-in-law but it was a friend of Amanda’s. On my part it’s slow going, can’t text fast on this new phone, nor able to use two hands. Pam said I can text anytime, practice makes perfect.

25 February 2021

Amanda texted me at 5.30am, didn’t want to oversleep. Switched heating on, fed cats, drinking more water, curbs the hunger. Arrived at the hospital at 10am, new booking-in system, all computerised now. Luck was in, the nurse booked me in. On the wall is a screen, your name goes on it in orange. When it turns green, it’s your turn to have the blood test. All clever stuff you know! Even though I told them I was on a blood thinner, it still bled a bit. Taxi home, had my cereal plus tea by 11.30am. Very happy to be home, especially as I got myself in a tizz this morning about it. Silly me. Two friends texted and asked how I got on. Before it was dark I fed the birds and strolled round the garden. New life is emerging, daffodils, hellebore, cyclamen.

28 February 2021

Sue phoned for a chat. She mentioned a neighbour, who lived up the road, had passed away today. I thought I must tell Bruce and Christine but, of course, I can’t. I felt a ‘loss’ about it. We all knew John, he used to work at Hayters (they make lawn mowers). Bruce had an agency job there, as a cleaner. I phoned Amanda to tell her though she didn’t know John. Amanda said “you can tell Bruce and Christine in your mind” which is true but I wanted to tell someone ‘live’.

1 March 2021

I’ve been watching the Food Channel, Jamie Oliver, that’s why I sent Barbara some cooking questions! I did something today, that I’ve only done once in my life, it was nerve racking. I renewed my Garden Service Collection, had to give my card details over the phone. Luckily the gentleman had a calming voice. He said we will help you through it. Afterwards I thought, how easy was that! Amanda sent a “Well done x”, made me happy.

2 March 2021

Out of sync this morning. Should have kept to my system and stayed up. Instead, after cat feeding, I took my tea upstairs to drink. I put the heater on in the bathroom then laid on the bed. I didn’t sleep but I was reminiscing to myself about the things hanging on my bedroom walls. My memories. Pictures of my first dog Peppy, one of Tinker, Amanda in her wedding dress, two ‘Stargate’ prints. I love the series ‘Stargate’ si-fi. The ornament hanging was an angel from Christine with my name on it, a key ring with a cycle from Amanda. A long time ago, I did ‘spinning’. We had race days once a month. Amanda set me a target of 10.5km, took an hour but I got there. The camaraderie in Amanda’s classes is fantastic.

Amanda and I went by coach to Ireland one year. The crossing was horrific. A man told us to sit in the middle of the ship and suck Barley Sugar; that would help with the sea sickness. To cut a long story short, Amanda and I visited Waterford. I bought an angel and Amanda a sea horse. They live above my door. As long as her pictures and sea horse are here, I still feel Amanda is around. Off to bed, eyes are tired, written my ‘F’ text for tomorrow and back to my system.

3 March 2021

Up at 7am, back in my system, fed the cats and made tea for myself. I couldn’t understand why Tilly and Tinker weren’t tucking into their breakfast. I thought they were being picky again. It wasn’t until I opened the curtains I realised I had given them the wrong food. Let’s face it, in the dark, all cat food looks the same. I swopped them over and they tucked into their plates at top speed.

Texted my alphabet messages, wait in anticipation to see what the replies would be. Other people I text good morning to are Sue, Brian, Ambrose (Linda’s cat), Pam, Amanda’s friend and, of course, Amanda. It brings me happiness to hear the ‘ping’ of the phone.”

It seemed a somewhat abrupt end to the Diary so I don’t know if she forgot to put in the last page or whether that’s it‽ The tea towel today is from Ireland in reference to the story about Ireland (And it has Waterford on it).

Catherine’s Diary (43): 15 to 24 February 2021

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Two envelopes from Catherine arrived last Friday. The first made the Postman laugh. It was addressed to Isabella (for your eyes only). Isabella is the cat. Inside was a ‘Chinese New Year of the Ox’ quiz (Trivia Questions). On the back of the envelope was a message “No answers for you Isabella, you’re a genius” Isabella did very well without any help from humans. The second envelope had a message on the back “Whenever I write the word ‘Grove’, I think of romance. I can imagine a couple meeting for a tryst, in the not so distant past. Thank you to the Postal Workers, Wheelie and Food Bin people, doctors and nurses, for all your work that you do for us. And Sainsbury, Tesco, Wilko, Boots and Iceland”. Personally, I think Catherine has an amazing imagination if she sees a tryst going on in my street.

Week Beginning 15 February 2021

New system this week. Up at 6.30am, feed ‘The Gang’ priority, then tea, breakfast, pills, text messages to four people. Clean the cat trays, take recycling outside. Back to bed for two hours. Though the mist around my head is now clearing, the new pills still make me very tired.

Monday, walked to the post box and posted the Diary, nice sunny day. Monday night I had a surprise present from Amanda, a Sherpa blanket, purple and white, my favourite colours and so warm. I reckon the Sherpas must have used them, when they camped out on Everest. Well, it would have been cold there. I put it away every night; don’t want the cats clawing at it. Over the weekend I received a new Egg Slicer, three new Sieves and a Knife Sharpener (ready for my joint of beef, thin slices here I come) It’s only two days ago and I can’t remember what I did Tuesday, diary entry empty. The only thing I knew I must have done is think of ‘D’ words. It’s consuming my life, this Alphabet Game. Wednesday, Wheelie Bin day, also a walk to the local shop for a paper and some shopping.

Going mad, thought I would reset my pendulum clock, felt pleased with myself that I had done it, till I sat down and realised it’s an hour behind!! Ah well, it’s bound to stop again then I’ll have another go. Went to town with Sue today, visited Iceland (not the country)!, Savers and Boots, nice break from the house. Now back to thinking of my last ‘Ds’.

21 February 2021

A miracle happened, no one witnessed but me, a new potato rolled off an egg box, along the Formica and straight into the front pocket of my cardigan. Today, I had a Big Pensioner Moment. I had convinced myself it was Monday, thinking I had to charge my phone for the 3.40pm appointment with the GP. Jennie texted to see if she could pop round (outside) for a chat. Odd, I thought, she would be at work. I even told her she was wrong about the date, till I checked the phone. Jennie said I had gained a day, as it was Sunday. I was frightened I was going mad. I said to Amanda, should I go back to bed, and start again. Amanda did a quiz, asking me what I had done on certain days of the week, what items were in my delivery, what I watched on TV last night. I passed the test, not quite mad yet!

Part 2 of the Phone Saga: Saturday, I took some photos, mostly of soft toys and cat food, under Amanda’s tutelage, she managed to stay calm most of the time. Barbara texted and asked if there was a photo coming. I could feel her anticipation of something about to happen!! Amanda said I was to take more, when I was on my own, not confident yet. Wade said if anything goes wrong, turn the phone right off and it will be ok. Second thing that happened, I got up from my chair, holding my phone and it turned sideways. Panic. How was I going to turn it back? As I stood up straight, it turned back automatically, thank goodness. Getting on well with punctuation, and I now know how to do capital letters. Don’t know how to delete messages yet. I can do FaceTime, Barbara. Your face was a picture. When I did it to you, you looked shocked! Ha ha

23 February 2021

Last night no sleep between 2 and 5am. When I did manage some sleep, I dreamt I was being injected in the head! Today, down to the doctors to get blood test forms, bussed into town, bought a card and paper in Tescos. I miss the card shops, might have to resort to notelets, if I can find them. Home at 12pm, Tilly and Tinker waiting for lunch, then it’s upstairs for their afternoon siesta. My next hurdle was making my first phone call with code and numbers. I needed to book an appointment at the hospital for blood tests. Gingerly pressed the keypad sign, up the numbers came and I got through straight away. Thursday 10.25am. Happy I had done it alright, really nervous about doing it. Off to bed now, hope to get a better night’s sleep.

24 February 2021

At long last Christopher, you have got the gist of the Alphabet game. It’s about describing your day, the weather, good morning with one letter, which this week is ‘E’. No more fantasy (and, yes, I have been guilty of that in the past), I think we all have.

I’m following Amanda’s advice for a change, I’m drinking a lot more water to help my digestive system and it’s working brilliantly. Bruce used to call Amanda ‘Doctor W….’, as she knows a lot!

It’s a beautiful sunny day here, still a chilly wind. In the garden, the little cyclamen have gone mad, even stretching to the lawn.

I have had to resort to sticking a notice on the glass door, asking if I have locked the front door. It happened again last Tuesday, left it unlocked from 9am to 11pm, good job I checked it as I went up to bed. Tinker’s developed another habit, jumping on the toilet lid and on to the shelf above it. I hope one day she doesn’t do it, when the lid is up. There will be an almighty splash and a dishevelled looking cat!

Well, I’m off to post this Diary, a birthday card and a quiz for the genius cat Isabella. Home to think up some more ‘E’s. Bye for now.

Today’s tea towel reflects Catherine’s love of purple, in the form of a poem, my favourite poem.

Jane’s Tea Towel Story

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I met Jane at work in 2001. We worked for the same organisation, for 14 years, until I retired. I remember the day her son was born, the day I discovered she was a Paul Young fan (and remember thinking ‘who is Paul Young?’), I remember admiring her skills in sewing and craft work and giving her my friend Jean’s sewing box which just appeared to be full of buttons. On my retirement, she gave me a hand-embroidered acrostic R (relax), E (entertain), T (travel), I (indulge), R (read), E (enjoy) which has always hung from a cupboard door in my kitchen. I still have the plant she gave me, as a ‘Thank You’, after I had to tell her work team about the death of their manager. It sits on my window sill beneath the picture of a Rainbow, (drawn by Lyra, and celebrating the NHS) and adjacent to the Teddy Bear, wishing Michael Rosen best wishes for his recovery (We’re Going on a Bear Hunt). After retirement, we have kept in touch via email and text (and I have found out, and appreciated, who Paul Young is). She reads some of my Tea Towel Blogs.

These two tea towels are a present from Jane but it the story behind those tea towels that is amazing, and makes it Jane’s Tea Towel Story: she calls it ‘Helping the Planet’.

“Hi Barbara. A little background information for the two tea towels I sent you. Before Lockdown, one of my favourite things was to spend time, on my one day off in the week, with my very good friend Amanda. Amanda is someone who enjoys browsing Charity Shops for a good bargain. Browsing Charity Shops is something, I confess, I had not done a lot, prior to becoming friends with Amanda. I had been into Charity Shops but only ever for a brief visit and generally to donate or to buy packs of Christmas cards. My Mum having been a hoarder, I think the idea of buying more things from a Charity Shop had never appealed. My brain tells me ‘don’t get in bad habits’. However, what my friend taught me was a visit to a Charity Shop can actually be very rewarding in other ways.

As a hobby, I make fabric gift bags, mainly with a Christmas theme, and sell them on eBay. I like to line the gift bags with fabric, as I feel it gives them more stability. However, I soon realised, as it was a lining, then really any fabric could be used, so I started to use scraps from my own stash. In the Charity Shop, whilst my friend enjoyed browsing the clothes rails, I realised there was usually a corner full of second-hand curtains, some of which were very good quality fabric, and hardly used. So a large amount of fabric for very little money.

This then led me, in Lockdown with the Charity Shops closed, to start to look on eBay for remnants of fabric. It was whilst browsing for some tartan fabric, for main fabric for my gift bags, that I came across the seller also selling some ‘Make Your Own Tea Towels’. Well, what a bargain to be had and there was a whole bundle to be won. I liked the idea of using my sewing skills to assist these tea towels to become usable and to take a place in the @myteatowels Collection. So slowly, but surely, the tea towels are being sewn and sent to Barbara.

Another nice thing of note is my friend gave me a whole set of Sylko threads, in a rainbow of colours, that belonged to her late Mum. So it is lovely to be picking from these the right co-ordinating colour to match the tea towel. It is also very nice to think that my friend’s Mum’s threads are continuing to be put to use and going towards helping our planet. I think this makes me realise that not only are we helping the planet by donating to a Charity Shop , we are also helping when we purchase items from it and upcycle rather than buy something new”

Thank you to Jane for both the tea towels and the back-story. I love the Panasonic Panacruch one. It’s bonkers. A trip to a Charity Shop has often resulted in me finding a snappy little tea towel but considering how many tea towels there are in the world, I am always surprised at how few end up in a Charity Shop. My theory is that families who are clearing out the homes of relatives know what it is good to go to a Charity Shop like clothes, china, books, DVDs, pictures…. but they think that tea towels are not suitable, especially if they are old or used. If you, Dear Reader, are thinking like this STOP because I’ll take them!!

PS: Jane gave me one of her Christmas Bags about two or three years ago. She said that if I wanted to, she would be happy for me to pass it on to someone else. I kept it, hanging from my wardrobe cupboard, with some bits of jewellery in it. It was going to have to be someone very special to pass that bag on to. In December 2020, my First Cousin Once Removed (I know this because I have The Cousin Explainer tea towel) had a baby on the same day as her Grandma (my aunt) died. Now I had found the right person to pass the Christmas bag on to, with the present for Haydn. In the bag is the story of the Christmas bag.

Debbie’s Tea Towel Story

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#TheGreatTeaTowelSharing that I stated off on Twitter produced a magnificent range of tea towels. Sometimes I spot one and think “This has a story to tell”. It’s difficult to say what it is that sparks that train of thought. It’s a combination of (a) a very unusual tea towel (b) with a story to tell, because as this website boasts, ‘EveryTea Towel Tells a Story’ (c) having an owner who is willing to write a bit about the tea towel and (d) you can sense an emotional attachment because of memories…..

@BitThing has ‘offered’ many tea towels to #TheGreatTeaTowelSharing project, some really beautiful ones but it was this one that caught my eye. Before this Project, I’d never ‘met’ Debbie, nor did I ‘follow’ her but now she has introduced me to a whole new world. And that’s what this is all about. This is Debbie’s Tea Towel Story”

“I was delighted to find Barbara and her Virtual Tea Towel Museum, because up until now I thought I was alone in my enjoyment of the utilitarian tea towel. I’ve a boxful, unused, pristine and loved. It turns out there are lots of people just like me.

Pulling this bread cloth out of the cupboard at the weekend took me back to 1978, when I did a solo bus tour around the USA on Greyhound Buses, staying with some friends, and many strangers. I started in Washington, Virginia and went north to New York, Vermont and Chicago, and all the way across to Seattle. I saw Giant Redwoods on the West Coast, paddled in the Pacific and slept on a water bed in California. I had a twirl in a giant teacup in the original Disneyland and couldn’t see Mount Rushmore because it was engulfed in mist. I tried on Stetson hats in Texas and listened to jazz in New Orleans. 

San Francisco was hip, and cool, like nowhere I’d been before. The Fisherman’s Wharf area was becoming developed and I tasted Sourdough Bread from the Boudin Bakery for the first time. I’ve loved it ever since. I never dreamed then that it would be easy to get here now. I’ve never managed to make my own starter and bake my own.

In 2013, I returned to San Francisco and visited the now highly stylised bakery, but the bread still tasted as delicious as it was. I bought this tea towel and it will always remind me of a trip of a lifetime for me, a girl looking for adventure at the age of 22″.

She added, when I asked about the tea towel in more detail, and if it was a ‘Flour Sack’ one “The towel is big, so full size it doesn’t show much detail. I’ve attached three photos“. It’s square, so typically American. Querying the tea towel, I had pushed Debbie down the ‘Rabbit Warren’ of tea towels “I’ve just looked at their website. It’s just called a tea towel”. She sent me the link. I, too, went down that same ‘Rabbit Warren’. It says “Our signature Medallion kitchen flour tea towel with decorative fleur de lys pattern. 100% cotton, machine washable”. It’s a Flour Sack tea towel!!!

I loved this story. San Francisco (oh, and Seattle) is one of those places I’ve always wanted to go to, to see the bridge and the tramcars, to pretend I was in the world of Ironside, to remember the days of ‘Flower Power’. Debbie’s description is such that I could feel myself there, both in 1978 and 2013. Thank you Debbie for such an evocative story.

David’s Tea Towel Story

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Back on the first day of Lockdown Number 3, in Britain, I was feeling a bit poorly. Laying on my chair, with feet raised, I decided to send off a tweet, to the World of Twitter. I was asking for people to send pictures of their own tea towels, which could then be put in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum. It didn’t quite go as I expected. There were certainly more tea towels coming in than I expected, and those tea towels were, in the main, not the very traditional tea towels with scenes of small villages on them. Very few had recipes or were from Christmas. I think people went to great lengths to find ‘arty’ tea towels or maybe what could be more unusual ones. It didn’t make any difference to me, I can safely say, loudly, “I am a Tea Towel Lover”.

Early on David sent in a tea towel from the Falkland Islands. I knew the Falkland Islands were near Argentina (because i knew about the Falklands War). I knew when Margaret Thatcher decided to protect the Falkland Islands from invasion, it took the Royal Navy weeks to get there. I knew the Falkland Islands were described as an archipelago: West Falkland, East Falkland and 776 smaller islands. I knew not many people lived there and I never knew they had any tea towels. Who was visiting there collecting souvenirs? Well, let me tell you, in the early days of #TheGreatTeaTowelSharing, I received four Falkland island tea towels! Four!! That’s more than the collection of London, Edinburgh and Glasgow tea towels altogether. Here is David’s Tea Towel Story.

“As regards the Falkland Island tea towel – I have had it for years (a robust wee tea towel for sure). So, I’ll try to keep it brief. I acquired the tea towel from a trip down to the Falkland Islands way back in 1989 when I was serving on the ship HMS NEWCASTLE.  I’d joined her at a bit of a rush under less than celebrious conditions.  I had joined the Royal Navy in 1983, straight from school, and after basic training, and some sea time that took me to the Caribbean and the United States of America, I was sent to gain a degree from university.  Being a Scottish university, my BSc Hons was a 4 year course and, whilst I spent time at sea (heading off to Norway, Denmark, Bahrain, Oman, UAE, USA, Canada and Hong Kong), I did forget much of the detail from my basic training.  From summer 1988, I went back to the fleet to recover my training.  Being sent off to Hong Kong again (joining HMS STARLING, conducting counter-smuggling operations). I learned a huge amount about navigation, boarding operations, seamanship and ship handling – but I also had a great time enjoying the night life there.  After 4 months of fun, I was sent to my next ship on anti-submarine patrol in the North Atlantic.  HMS ARETHUSA was a grand old lady of the fleet and was on her last series of patrols, so between chasing Soviet submarines in the huge winter seas off Norway, I also spent time making sure that the ship didn’t pay off with lots of spare booze in the store.  So, at my Fleet Board exam, just before Easter in 1989, I managed to fail three subjects (out of about 12 subjects).  It didn’t matter that I was great at navigation, etc.., failing three subject was often a quick route to being chucked out of the Navy.  But after 6 years of time done, and some other good results, they decided I should have a second chance – or “go around the buoy” as they call it.

So late on a Sunday night, I turned up on the flight deck of HMS NEWCASTLE, with all my kit (after about 48 hours’ notice to join).  I thought that I would get a chance to settle in over the next few days – find out what the ship was up to, etc.. and then pass my exams by the summer.  It was a wee shock when I found out we were sailing at 8am on Monday 17 April, for the Falkland Islands, and that we wouldn’t return until late September the same year.  By way of Gibraltar, Dakar and Ascension Island, we arrived in Mare Harbour (the Naval base in the Falkland Islands) some time at the beginning of June – in mid-South Atlantic winter.

When I was there, the days were very short and the night dominated – and the weather was quite horrid, mostly.  That said, we saw an amazing amount of wildlife with whales, dolphins, killer whales, albatross, penguins, elephant seals and striated caracaras (a local scavenging bird of prey – akin to a large buzzard).  I recall amazing visits to Port Albemarle (where I bought a jumper made from local wool – which I still have to this day), Fox Bay Inlet, Port San Carlos (the site of the landings to recover the Falkland Islands some 7 years previously), Mount Tumbledown (where we toured the battlefield and picked carefully past the minefields that were still there) and Port Stanley (the capital).  The Falkland Islands reminded me a little of the wind-blasted Orkney Islands, blended with the moor-like landscape of Dartmoor.  I loved the place.

As to where I bought the tea towel – I had thought it was in Port Stanley but on checking I found it was actually in the NAAFI at RAF Mount Pleasant – the major airbase there.  I worked this out as I also bought some Falkland Island table mats (still use them today) and some quirky toy penguins (which ended up being played with by my children some 14 years later). One of the table mats still had the original NAAFI price tag on it (£3.95).  I bought a couple of tea towels – and gave them to my parents.  When I eventually moved into my own place, my folks gave me them back to start up my flat with.  Here I am some 32 years later and still use them.

I enjoyed one of my most memorable moments in my long Naval career there – a visit to the majestic island of South Georgia.  A marvellous trip and a place I would go back to like a shot if the chance came up.  I managed to visit the gravesite of Sir Ernest Shackleton and walk a little around the island (mainly from stops at Grytviken and Stromness).  It was quite an extraordinary place.  Visiting the old whaling stations was quite sobering and the wildlife was impressive (reindeer – brought there by Norwegian whalers – and elephant seals).  It was my first time amongst icebergs (not that they are common in a South Atlantic winter season).    

I may have travelled widely around the world since then, with the Royal Navy, but I didn’t get any other memorable tea towels from those visits.  We came back from the South Atlantic via the west coast of SouthAtlantic America and then through the Panama Canal.  I believe we arrived back in Portsmouth in late September 1989 and I then went off to complete my Officer of the Watch training (having passed my exams in the UK on a flying 3 day visit late July 1989).  Sadly, I’ve seen my share of conflict, though nothing like those folk in 1982 saw, having been part of Gulf Wars 1 and 2, Operation Veritas (supporting operations in Afghanistan – from sea) and then in post-revolution Libya in 2012-13 and then again 2018-2020.  Now that I know of your virtual museum, I will have to travel back to a few of my favourite places and gather tea towels from them.  Libya is a wonderful, if troubled, place.  Perhaps I’ll contribute a tea towel from there one day.”

David’s Story is a vivid description of his time in the Falkland Islands, really interesting and i look forward to receiving one from Libya, sometime in the future. Thank you David for taking the time to send me your story.

Margaret’s Tea Towel Story

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The project I started, on the first day of Lockdown Number 3, has confused people somewhat. I had asked for pictures of people’s own tea towels which I promised to put in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum. I never realised that I would get so many tea towels, or so many interesting tea towels. As we emerge out of Lockdown Number 3, I hope to have the time to just insert them all in the Museum; in the meantime, I have incorporated them into Tea Towel Blogs and have invited a few people to become Guest Tea Towels 2021, because of the uniqueness of their tea towels.

Let me introduce you to Margaret. Margaret listens to BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester, to the Malcolm Boyden Show. I know that because she heard the short interview I had with Malcolm and Nicky (who owns a tea towel from Feckenham School). Margaret was one of the people who responded to my request for pictures of tea towels. Margaret doesn’t use Twitter (where #TheGreatTeaTowelSharing project started) so sent her two tea towels in by email. I was astonished; these were two tea towels from the Falkland Islands. The Falkland Islands? Where Margaret Thatcher was involved in a war around some islands very few people had heard of? Hardly a tourist hotspot, not on everyone’s list of places to visit when Lockdown is over. The Falkland Islands (East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 other smaller islands) currently has a population of just over 3000, why did they have a tea towel (or two)? A print run would mean everyone needed to buy one. This is a great Guest Tea Towel 2021 Story, without a doubt. So here is Margaret’s Story:

“This is just a bit of information on the Falkland Islands tea towel. My son sailed out to the Falkland Islands in 1984, on HMS Southampton. It was after the conflict there. All he can say about it was that it was very barren, more like a farming environment. I think that the tea towels came on the scene after the conflict, as they were getting visitors to see the Islands, to see what it was like, as people didn’t really know they existed.

I have kept the tea towels as memories of my son while serving in the Royal Navy, and where he visited in the world. I’ve never used them!”

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Certainly, some very poignant memories. Thank you Margaret.

Rachel’s Tea Towel Story

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In a family where you have no siblings and no children, it is still possible to have a lot of cousins. I love the term ‘Cousin’ because it is the only gender-neutral relationship that there is around. So let me introduce you to Rachel, my cousin. The last time I saw her was on her father’s 70th birthday and before that she was about 10 years old (and I have the photos to prove it).

In December 2019, I had this great idea. When I sent out my Christmas cards I sent a ‘formal’, written invitation, offering people the opportunity to be a Guest Tea Towel 2020. I wasn’t expecting a big take-up from this exciting opportunity but it was much better than I thought, mainly friends, no relatives.

And then, on 7 February 2021, I had an email from my Cousin Rachel with her Tea Towel Story plus four photos. It may be a bit later than I had expected but I think the idea that she had kept that invitation for more than a year, with a belief that she would send her Tea Towel Story to me, is both amazing and touching. So here is her Tea Towel Story:


I am taking this opportunity to attach a couple of photos of my favourite tea towel… it’s been on my list to send you details for over a year. I still have the note you put in your Christmas card just over a year ago, but as you may be able to tell from this, I’m not my mother’s daughter, with regards to being organised! 

This is not my favourite tea towel because I particularly like the picture, or have any affinity to the place pictured, but because it used to belong to my Granny, so when I use it, I think of her.  My Granny was not a stereotypical grandmother; she didn’t spoil us, give us lots of treats or allow us to do whatever we wanted. There was always a list of jobs to do, especially for me. My brother always seemed to get the better deal, as he was allowed to go outside and “help” my Grandpa.  Helping Grandpa entailed playing in the woods, collecting branches and leaves for burning and tending the fire, which Grandpa had alight every day in the woods which formed part of their garden.  I had to help Granny in the kitchen and do fiddly jobs like peeling tomatoes before I was allowed to escape and join them!  But she was an incredible lady, so kind and generous, always doing things for other people. She was a real force of nature, full of energy and life, and so resourceful. She never wasted anything, and she loved all her grandchildren very much and was always so proud of all our achievements.  She died in 2003 from cancer and at the end of her life she was very weak and had to spent most of her time at home resting. I was fortunate that, at the time, I was living with my parents so my Mum and I would go and visit her and I got to spend some very special time with her as an adult, appreciating how amazing she was. I still had to do jobs, of course, but it was different and she would be telling us stories about her life and family and friends and as always be so interested in what all her family were doing in their lives.  After she died I inherited some of the contents of her kitchen, as I was the grandchild most in need of those things at the time, and I still have most of them, including this tea towel. I know how very happy it would make her that her things are still being used so many years later, and it makes me happy as it means she is often in my thoughts.

 
On a side note, the person who did spoil us was your mum, Aunty Bea. I have such happy memories of the times we spent at her house.  There was always a bowl of Quality Street, ready to be attacked, and we were allowed to race around on her footstools, repeatedly doing the circuit from her living room, through the dining room, into the kitchen, then through to the hall via the bead curtain and back into the living room!”

Now that is what I call a proper Tea Towel Story. Someone I know has referred to tea towels as a ‘Memory Bank’, a place where memories are stored on a thin piece of material, could be very personal family memories, memories of holidays or even just as a memory jogger to other things, in the case of Rachel being able to conjure up memories of my mother who died over 30 years ago. One of the things that I have always found sad is that after 30 years people do stop talking about people like my mother. I am touched that a tea towel of her Granny has brought those memories forward.

  
“Anyway apologies it has taken me so long to both thank you for the tea towel (The Cousin Explainer) and to send you a picture of one of mine.  I hope you are keeping well. I have read various posts on your Blog, some of the ones from Catherine and some of the other tea towel related ones. My favourite, that I often go back and read again, is the one you wrote about my Dad for his 70th birthday”.

I think a couple more photos of Rachel’s tea towel makes a fitting end. Thank you so much, Rachel, for your Tea Towel Story and I will send your son the pictures of you, on my Mum’s footstools, more than 30 years ago!!

PS: you’ve looked after that tea towel very carefully and I do believe your son will make a very good Tea Towel Model (I’ll remember that for the future)