Let’s begin

I have been playing around with the idea of writing a blog for far too long. My resistance has taken many forms – denial, refusal, inadequacy, defeatism, IT confusion; but in the end the idea won’t go away and so here it is. My first blog on my very own website.

I am a letter-writer, in the old-fashioned sense. I love nothing better than to fill my fountain pen with ink, changing the colour frequently, find some lovely stationery, and compose a letter to someone I love. I even like sealing the envelope (especially if you have to lick it to make it stick), placing a stamp in the exact spot in the top right hand corner – although sadly stamps no longer have to be licked – and taking it to the lovely red post boxes still in existence throughout the UK. Are they still red in Scotland and Wales? Now I have doubts. Apologies to those concerned if they are necessary. Anyway, the point is made. Neat little packages all meant for one special person.

I realise that I am rather odd. The longer this life goes on the odder I seem to be becoming. While in the USA recently for an extended period I tried very hard to find paper to write letters on. Virtually impossible, especially if you want LARGE sheets. Clearly I am destined to become an extremely eccentric older person, should I live that long. Years ago some of my children did a USA West Coast music tour with their school band and I made sure there was a letter waiting for them at each port of call, thinking……actually not thinking about it at all, just doing it because it’s what came naturally. The kids and their friends still mention it occasionally and there’s a part of me that thinks it strange that other parents didn’t do the same.

So, having used every avoidance tactic known to man – I’m still doing it….so far today I’ve cut the lawn, been to the supermarket, even defrosted the freezer for God’s sake….I am finally, FINALLY writing my first post. And the bottom line of the resistance? What have I possibly got to say that would be of any interest to anyone else? And to take that thought further, what makes me so conceited as to think I should publish anything on the internet? And yet here I am doing it – and for this I blame a very lovely friend from, alas, the other side of the pond who writes one of the most entertaining blogs I have read. Queer Joe’s Knitting Blog. He says somewhere – and these are my words taken from his general thought – that he writes his blog because he wants to write it and if anyone at all reads it that’s a bonus. Such elegant simplicity of thought makes me want to spit. So thank you Joe for your unwitting encouragement..

Joe has, for the last few years, orchestrated a Men’s Knitting Retreat in upstate New York which I have had the pleasure of attending on two occasions….or is it 3? I can’t remember how old I am so numbers escape me. Whatever. This event enabled me to “come out” as a male knitter. This may be hard for people to understand but believe me when I say that being a man and enjoying knitting is a guilty secret of the highest order. When I first walked into a room filled with men quietly knitting I thought, “This is weird”. Closely followed by, “WTF am I doing here?” By the time the first sweat of anxiety had subsided – about 7 minutes – I was part of the family and the guilty secret was out, gone, forgotten. Now I knit everywhere. On the Tyne and Wear Metro. On planes and buses and in coffee shops. Any time and anywhere I have a few minutes to wait, I knit. I was sat outside a coffee shop in town just the other day and a woman at the next table said, “It’s not often you see a man knitting.” I was unsure how to respond. I think I said, “Oh, we’re everywhere,” which she clearly didn’t understand or believe. Now of course I have composed any number of replies ranging in tone from polite acceptance to downright abrasive. The truth is – and this has been documented over and over again – there is rarely a negative response. Occasionally there is a condescending one, but even this is usually well-meant. Most people simply let you get on with it. I have already rehearsed my response to a negative comment which, in my fantasy, comes from a younger male yet to come to terms with his sexuality……but it is, and I think this comes from a story told about the late British actress Irene Handl, “I think you’re mistaking me for someone who gives a F…” Sorry if that offends – am I allowed to use rude words on a blog? Joe does.

So there I am knitting all over the place, perhaps hoping in a tiny way that perhaps one little person might see me and think, “that’s cool – I think I’ll do that”. It helps that I knit socks. Not exclusively, but frequently. They are portable and fit nicely into a man bag. (I got over the guilty secret of wanting a man bag decades ago). They’re quick and small and you don’t HAVE to knit the second one straight away. Any tendency towards adult ADD is helped by the ability to have 10 pairs on the go at any one time. By the time you get around to the second sock in a pair you’ve forgotten all about the first one and so the colours and the textures are new all over again. And sock yarn comes in lovely colours that change all by themselves as you knit!

And the joy of turning a good heel!! Those little stitches just do exactly what you want them to and the engineering is such a wonder every time I do it. The tube turns a corner and the lines of decreases mirror one another in the most satisfying way. And then you’re on the home stretch aiming for the toe which finishes in the most glorious manner with a little row of Kitchener stitch that just vanishes into your knitting like a puff of fairy dust.

OK. Breathe. See how the passion takes over?

I rarely get to keep my socks. Someone along the way expresses an enthusiasm that I cannot ignore and so they all go to good homes, but the ones I have managed to sequester into my sock drawer are quite the most comfortable socks I have owned. Sometimes I purposely begin a pair in pink because, being my favourite colour (I told you I was a bit odd, but actually I think many men look good in pink if only they can get over the feminine thing), I find it easier to resist giving them away. My need overshadows that of anyone else is what I’m really saying.

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Also on the go is a sweater that needs to be partly unpicked and re-sized, being my first realistic attempt at designing a garment from scratch:

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a new foray into fair isle attempting two-handed colour knitting….that is with one colour “thrown” from the right hand and the other held in the left hand, continental style:

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not quite on the needles but on the computer grid is an attempt at a “comedy Christmas Sweater”….more on that in another post; and also not on the needles but very much in my head, more projects than you can poke a stick at.

Oh, and I’ve just ordered another 4 books on various knitting-related things. I think I need a new bookshelf now.

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