Liz’s Tea Towel

Virtual Tea Towel Museum

Liz is a longstanding friend of mine.  I have known her for more than 22 years, both as a work colleague and as on of my best friends.  We have shared many holidays, days out and experiences, both happy and sad.  We are a good team; our skills and deficiencies balance out.  She can drive (and manoeuvre a caravan) and I can’t; she can cook and I can’t.  I can load a washing machine, deal with the bins and deal with dead animals; Liz can’t.  That’s what friendship is all about.  I, sort of, knew that this Guest Tea Towel was coming up.  I wasn’t sure how it would happen but I knew it would be a ‘lump in the throat’ job.  I knew it would be long.  I knew I wouldn’t have to edit it in any way.  Here is Liz’s Guest Tea Towel, the unabridged version:

IMG_0418This might…

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Tentatively I reach for my pen …

It is, in fact, not a pen but a keyboard that I reach for; tentative is, most definitely, the word however. I have not planned what to write. I don’t know how it will come out. I don’t know if I will publish it or save it or delete it. Here goes.

Through a passing comment to a fellow Twitterer about how writing can, I think, help with expressing thoughts and feelings, I had a few gentle exchanges, culminating in my giving a link to “Meltdown and Botanics”. I then read I am that Girl 007’s Life, Strife & Muses piece entitled “Betty’s Granddaughter”. (I am that girl)

That got me thinking. Why am I not writing anything? Why the drought for nearly a year? If I’m claiming it’s so helpful, why am I not doing it? Questions, questions. If I go back to Meltdowns and Botanics my reasons become obvious to me, if not to anyone else who does not know what happened next. How could it be that I had ‘lost’ my words? I had a plan. I’m good with a plan; I need a plan. Sometimes, though, plans don’t happen because you can’t work out how to make one, or whatever you plan is dulled – like trying to cut bread with a plastic knife when you’re really hungry and you end up accepting defeat; you’re beaten. Was that how I felt? Is that how I feel? More questions.
Let’s go back a bit. My last post was a year ago. On that occasion it was inspired by a combination of the Brexit referendum result and a day out in Southend, ending up going through Shoeburyness. Prior to that I’d been with my plan; the Meltdown to Botanics plan, combining a love of photography and creative writing. There had been bumps in the road but, largely, it was going well. I had purpose amid the chaos of enforced change. I had a plan.
Then, January 2017 dawned (there was more before this but that’s another story). A new year; a new start? A new year; yes. Then death crawled in; it spread its tendrils where they were least expected and took my mum. There; I’ve written it. It’s said. I’m reminded now that I begun a poem in the three achingly long weeks between her death and funeral. Began is the word as I never quite finished it though I will try to now.
Death is so final …
Death is so final
And yet …
I hear her
In Wogan’s Floral Dance
Singing along to the
Twinkle-eyed prance.
Death is so final
And yet …
She’ll be at the oven
Baking her bread,
Time in her hand
If not in her head.
Death is so final
And yet ..
She’s remembered in
Apple pies, puddings and cake,
Dream them on empty nights
Before you must wake.
Death is so final
And yet …
She’ll be there
In the Autumn leaves,
All childhood innocence
Soft as a breeze.
Death is so final
And yet …
Is that really so?
Or are memories and mannerisms
Stored up in others
To touch when you go?
I’ve chosen these 2 photos of my mum because she looks content in both. The one on the left was from the early 1950s; the one on the right late Autumn 2016 – still crunching through the leaves even with a Zimmer frame, with her handbag (so proud of that Radley bag) over her arm and her ‘smart’ coat on.
There’s more of this story to come but I’ve made a start …

From Brexit to Bragg (Billy, that is)


Watch the news unfolding
Fireworks exploding
Smashing to the ground
Their spent out litter –
Now who’s a quitter
Today? It’s just not ok.
Where do we live?
The road to disarray.

Remains cry and wail
They’ve lost their sail
And leave just bitter
(And I don’t mean beer)
Today. It’s just not ok.
We’re en route
To unindependence day
(Please don’t cheer)

Heading off to Southend
Normalcy be my friend
1930s artists
Are surprisingly bewitching.
Community for unity
And even nice people
Today, so that’s ok.
In all this disarray.

Cliff lift abandoned
Pier train is cancelled
Desolation mocks
Solidarity’s hand
On which we depend
When in Southend
Yet, it’s ok, today
Come the end.

Driving rain, driving cars
Could I maybe be on Mars?
Shoeburyness is calling
As beach huts sit pretty
On shell sand
They are just grand.
So it’s ok,
To be here today.

Mind’s 80s memorabilia
Song and verse snatching
I’m sure it’s Shoeburyness
Could it really be so catching
To be here
On Bragg’s A13?
If you know the song
You’ll know what I mean.

So at risk of plagiarism
With apologies to Billy
I’m sure his verse was
Never quite so silly as mine.
Yet it was thrilling
And political (if not all the time)
And his A road, his okay road
Is sublime …..

© Liz Mackenzie


If you want to listen to Billy Bragg’s A13, Trunk Road to the Sea – here it is on YouTube

Birmingham Botanical Gardens: 6 June 2016

Downsized students snacking
On sublessed slopes.
Animated aviary echoes
Bounding, blending
A jolly melee.

Yet tranquility tumbles
Among lively leaves,
And jaunty flowers
Bend and sway;
A cheerful bunch.

A pricking of cacti
Tall beyond imagination
Promise softness.
Don’t be fooled
By this dangerous gang.

And so to Japan
Of bonsai and angles,
Order and statuesque
Stillness; calling
In whisper-thin note.


I bring the buddha
And chattering children
The spines and vibrancy.
Slip it in my pocket
And take it home …

© Liz Mackenzie


Oxford Botanical Gardens: 23 May 2016

Oxford Botanical Gardens is a snapshot photo album of memories; emails and texts cut through images of plants and trees, the walled garden, people, contentment.

  • Giant urn blocking spires
  • Respite on benches
  • Rhubarb pots (what was it I so loved about the rhubarb pots?)


  • Emails from mum’s carer; chest pains again (had 2 emergency hospital visits in last 3 days already – no heart or chest problems)
  • Punt lined river
  • L-plate punters wavering and flailing
  • More emails, more texts …
  • Put the phone to silent awhile
  • Bug hotel community gracing walled garden
  • Relief to chat with an elderly couple in the community * (you’ll understand this if you read Meltdowns and Botanics)
  • Wisteria dipping gracefully
  • Birds bobbing and students studying on lawns – enough space for all
    Gunnera giant
  • Poppies like burning sun
  • Arches and walkways and glasshouses
  • Colour in surround sound
  • Tropics and deserts; humidity, aridity
  • Soldier like lillies; the charge of the light brigade
  • Snappers and pineapple and gnarled knots
  • Strength to face the text, the emails, the worry, the ‘what next?’
  • * Feeling soothed by seeing the elderly couple emerging from a boat trip later in the day; happiness etches their faces

© Liz MacKenzie


Batsford Arboretum: 21 May 2016

A dove? A ghost? A handkerchief? What had I seen? Davidia Involucrata, her doves, her handkerchiefs draped gently along branches, timed to perfection for my visit. Davidia, my dad’s namesake? A derivation of, from Hebrew, meaning beloved, friend, darling, favourite. But here, a tree as yet unseen to me. A majesty, tall and brave; one to stand still among and watch – you may catch the fall, like fluttering snowflake, of one of her treasures.

A garden here of Buddhas and statues, houses tucked below stairs, pillar box red bridges, standing bold and bright, daring you to stay, to soak up ponds with their many jewels. To say there are trees is to say the sky is blue; here there is abundance of hue and size and shape, paths guiding yet freeing your step to wander, absorb.

And, yes, the calm implores me again; calls in its whisper to quiet the mind and still the soul. I observe myself there over, again; each time I return to Davidia with her handkerchiefs and doves. My symbol of peace.

© Liz Mackenzie


Bristol Botanic Gardens: 14 May 2016

IMG_0072You were a surprise to me; as much as I strolled into you, you stepped inside me with your gift of calm. Your glasshouses green upon green; a billion shades and more. Light winking unashamed, shade a temptress. My eyes darting, yet still, unhurried. My iPhone making its satisfactory real/ fake digitally engineered click-snap.


I am entranced, weaving through cacti, cocoa, banana, citrus, light captured lollies’ reflection; or is it real? Hard to say. Colours emerge more vibrant as if a mist in this steamy den has cleared from my eyes. Sunlight is a trickster, merrily dancing a jig; hop, skip and jump – you can’t catch me.


Shadows lengthen and stretch, their alter-ego heading skyward.


And everywhere is still; still as still, including inside me.


© Liz MacKenzie