I have attempted on numerous occasions to try my hand at knitting – and my friends who can knit, will definitely tell you – despite my efforts – that I can’t!
Perhaps it was my first experience at the age of ten which prepared the way ahead.
In those days at St Patrick’s School in Consett we sat in rows facing the teacher and most of our lessons were taught by rote so it was a welcome change to be let loose to choose our own wool and needles to knit a scarf.
At first – enthusiastic about this new skill – I selected the two colours I was attracted to, royal blue and sunshine yellow and waited to find out the next step.
Standing at the teachers desk we learned how to cast on one at a time, while she clicked away and instructed us to watch. Stipulating it was one row of plain and one of purl to get the desired effect.
I was quite happy at the start – it was a welcome relief from long multiplication and comprehension – but then as I was half way down my first blue square, disaster struck.
I had a plain line on my purl side, rebelliously glaring at me. Standing in the queue at her desk, I felt the beads of sweat rising on my palms. Hurriedly wiping them on my knitting I was ready to admit my mistake. I watched crestfallen, as she undid row after row until she reached the offending odd line, then pulled it out and gave me back my knitting with a sigh!
Cautiously I began again, concentrating as best I could to get it right. But now all the wool was curled and it was more difficult to manipulate.
We were instructed to measure our squares and make them eight inches exactly but maths was never my strong point! As I watched my classmates clicking away and their squares growing in size I looked at my meagre effort. By now I had pulled the stitches so tight I could hardly fit the knitting needle in. A voice beside me said,
‘Your tensions all wrong, go and wait at my desk!’
Tension, I knew all about tension and with panic setting in, I started to pray to Saint Anthony to find me a hole to fall into, but he must have been busy as the teacher returned and scrutinised my work. Pulling out my knitting for the second time that lesson, she cast on for me and did the first four rows explaining how to hold the wool loosely between my fingers thus preventing the tightening. But by then my head was swimming with information so I was relieved to be saved from humiliation by the welcome sound of the bell for afternoon play time.
With one more week left at school before the Summer break, we were informed we could take our knitting home for the holidays and finish it off there. So Saint Anthony had been listening after all!
The thought of six weeks out playing, visiting the swings, park, baths then walking to Allensford to swim in the river after tearing around on my scooter was extremely inviting and outweighed the thought of finishing my scarf.
It was July 1966 and World Cup football fever had hit the nation. My Dad, brother and uncles were all excited and football seemed to be the only topic of conversation. So it was inevitable that I would pick up some information along the way. Although I didn’t have the same enthusiasm as them, even though they insisted on trying to explain the offside rule to me when I stayed in the room for more than five minutes.
In fact on one occasion I even picked up my knitting to avoid any more football questioning but I soon lost interest.
It was about this time I discovered Batman. It was featured on television just after the news and it was so different, I loved it. Adam West and Burt Ward were the infamous dynamic duo and I delighted in watching them trying to outwit the numerous villains. But with so much football coverage my watching options were restricted.
As the holidays progressed so did my interest in football as England were winning their games. World Cup Willie sung by Lonnie Donegan was on the airwaves and the whole country was on a high. My Mam however sat at her Singer sewing machine and made curtains for the living room. It was there she discovered my knitting stuffed down beside the treadle. Seeing my guilty forlorn face she asked if it would help if she did a few rows. My smile was her answer and leaving the curtains she clicked away effortlessly.
As the final approached we planned on preparing snacks and bringing in extra chairs to arrange around our black and white television. The streets of Consett were deserted as everyone was preparing for the 3 o’clock kick off.
At half time I noticed my Mam was still knitting away and it was looking good. But after 90 minutes and with the score at 2- 2 it was time for a toilet break and a cup of tea. With another 30 minutes of extra time on the cards I guessed my scarf would be almost complete before the final whistle.
When the roar went up at 3-2 to England and the excitement grew in our living room.
I shouted in to the kitchen,
‘Mam is it finished?’
Holding my scarf up to the light she replied,
It is now!’
And the rest is history!