Do you remember the Nit Nurse who used to come round school and give everyone the once-over to see if you had any “visitors” as they euphemistically put it? Known to all children as “Nitty Nora, the biddy explorer” Anyway, that has nothing to do with this which is actually about my revived interest in (and untapped skill at) the gentle art of knitting.
At my place of work, there are hundreds of pregnant women. No, I don’t work on a Labour Ward, that’s just a wild exaggeration.
But there are a few and, as it turns out, there is a risky tradition that anyone who would like to can join in with making a blanket for a first baby. The idea is to knit loads of squares (well, diamond shapes really) that will be sewn together.
Now, I learned to knit as a child – it seemed to be the thing that you did back then. I was never much cop at it (another disappointment for my mother) but I recall making a few nice scarves for dolls and teddies. I also learned how to do “French Knitting” which involved wrapping wool round 4 small nails which my dad had tapped into an empty cotton reel or, if you were really unlucky, some well-meaning aunt or grandmother would give you a French Knitting set for your birthday. WOW! You would cry – thanks! (For nothing). These sets inevitably tried to out-posh the homemade variety with an evil-looking wooden doll with bits of Medusa metal poking out of its head in place of the small nails. Actually, this was a damn sight more frustrating than a good old cotton reel because it took twice as long for your knitted cord to emerge from the innards of said doll. Anyway, all this incessant winding and looping produced a long cord of stocking stitch which was completely and utterly useless for anything other than a pyjama cord. Or to top yourself with through the total boredom of it's production.
But back to babies. “The pattern’s really easy,” says Alice who is organising this and is clearly a veteran knitter, bringing various hand-crafted, hugely complicated-looking items into the office to show us. My heart begins to sink a little.
So I take home a good-sized ball of soft white wool and (huzzah!) manage to find my mother’s ancient knitting needles which she passed on to me years ago and which, for some reason I have never thrown out - even though I can’t have knitted anything since I was under 11. But it’s amazing how things come back to you – like swimming breaststroke or schoolgirl French – even when you haven’t tried them for aeons.
So I manage to cast on – result! Alice has already told me that she can’t knit at home any more because her husband can’t stand the sound of the needles clicking. The Shah doesn’t object to the needles (probably because progress is so slow there is minimal clicking) but he gets a bit crabby at having a constant, whispered soundtrack to his evening which goes, “knit two, purl six, knit two together, yarn forward – whaat? Fuckit!” as I find I am completely unable to knit without talking myself through the whole snail-like process.
Unfortunately, the next thing that happens is that Paddy (ever keen to sit on me and make bread with his paws and express his great love with 100 decibel purring) sees the wool and (despite being a knitting virgin) immediately turns into a ravening beast, overcome by wool lust. Quite apart from not wanting the whole lot to end up as some sort of spaghetti mess, it strikes me that it’s not exactly hygienic to have a large ginger tom trying to shag the wool you are turning into a blanket for a newborn.
So, after several such episodes, I resort to loud screeching at Paddy (more irritation for the Shah) and follow up with poking him hard with the blunt end of the needles whenever he comes near. Bizarrely, this does nothing to assuage his infatuation – it seems only to inflame him further. The only way to get anything done in peace and with some sort of nod to basic hygiene standards is to shut myself into a room alone (thus providing peace for the Shah as well) and try to concentrate whilst porky boy scratches at the carpet outside, and headbutts the closed door, howling piteously.
But friends.....look what I made
< glow of pride> < Further glow of disbelief>