Sunday, 7 June 2009
Tea towels! There are usually a couple hanging off the oven door in our kitchen. When I was young the idea of tea towels for a present seemed so awfully boring. How I have changed! These days the only thing that stops me suggesting tea towels as a present is a cupboard full of them.
I started revising my views on tea towels when I shared house with an English guy whose parents would send him wonderful tourist tea towels from home. As I travelled I bought a few tea towels but my appreciation for a good tea towel was well and truly nurtured by my mother-in-law. She collects tea towels and has many but she uses them all (unlike my dad whom I once gave some tea towels - he hung them in his study on the wall).
She even once had a Beatles tea towel but used it until it fell apart. Imagine what it might be worth today but also what pleasure it gave my mother-in-law to use it. Luckily for me my tea towels are better preserved because I like to air dry dishes rather than using a tea towel (because I think it is more hygienic as well as less work).
Soon after I met E I went travelling in Spain and she asked me to buy her a tea towel there. Unlike some countries where tea towels pile high in the souvenir shops, there were no touristy tea towels to be found in Spain. Maybe they are into air drying in Spain too. Unlike the UK where every town seems to sell tea towels.
I now love my tea towels. While I don’t copy my mum in using tea towels to dry dishes, I have learnt from her to use them to line a wire cooling rack when I turn a cake out of the tin and to wrap scones in. Readers of my blog will have seen my tea towels appear in this way to cheer up photos quite often.
Last year I mentioned a dog collar museum tea towel I own but I couldn’t find it to post a photo. I came across it recently when sorting some old clothes. It seemed like a bit of fun to share a few of my favourite tea towels and the stories behind them.
Dog collar museum: This is from a quirky museum I came across at Leeds Castle in the UK. Hurrah for ephemera collections!
Winchelsea: I had a day trip to this little south east coast town with my sister Fran when I stayed with her in London many years ago. We wondered into the unattended church and played some of our childhood tunes on the grand piano there.
Belle and Sebastian: I went to lots of gigs with E when we lived in Edinburgh and this was one of my favourites. We saw Belle and Sebastian at Usher Hall and this was an unusual band souvenir which fitted their a kitchen sink songs. Incidentally, we have recently been watching the DVD of the 1960s French Belle and Sebastian series that the band was named after.
Tower of London: This was on my sightseeing list on my first visit to London as a naïve tourist. One of the ‘beefeaters’ surprised me by addressing me by name – until he pointed out I had written my name on my backpack!
New Zealand Maori tea towel: I visited a friend Julie in Christchurch a few years back when I needed pepping up. She was working and it was pleasurable to spend time wandering around shops, museums and gardens by myself. I found this tea towel with the Maori symbol, which appealed to me with its hopeful greenness.
Elgin: I visited a friend who had a student placement in this North East Scottish town. We went for a memorable drive along the coast in snow that was so thick at times we could hardly see.
Cake stall: I was pleased to find this tea towel because this was a poster in the house of my best friend at primary school and I always loved its sentiments.
Hadrian’s wall: We bought this on our most recent trip to the UK in 2006 when we visited Chris and Yavanna who were living in Durham and drove us out to see the Roman ruins at Homesteads Fort on Hadrian’s Wall. It was so misty we couldn’t see anything on the other side of the wall but it was very atmospheric.
Salamanca Place: When we were in Hobart last year, we bought this gorgeous tea towel at one of the art galleries. I have a soft spot for architectural drawing and green so this particularly appealed.
Celtic blessing: This is one of the many tea towels we have been sent by my mother-in-law from Scotland. I love this blessing and am sending it back to her in this post with love from Sylvia and all her toys. She hasn’t been well lately and is far from her son and little granddaughter.
So you see, these tea towels have stories and using them reminds me of places and people. Amazing how these prosaic household items can take on so much meaning.
See Teatowels of Scotland for more teatowels.