I am a Knitter and I’m Not in a Closet!


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This is a radish



I know I am not well suited to certain aspects of modern life, but now I have discovered that, according to yesterday’s Daily Star, apart from growing grotesque and misshapen vegetables, I have two other embarrassing hobbies. Under ‘Interesting Headlines’ on the BBC news website I found this information.

Closet Knitters: Britons are keeping embarrassing hobbies such as bird watching and knitting secret “for fear of being ridiculed,’ reports the Daily Star.

I haven’t been able to check on what the Star is basing its outrageous claim and I certainly wasn’t going out to buy the Star to see exactly what it said. The BBC snippet is enough.

Who are they, these journalists who make such extraordinary statements? More interestingly, why do they do it? Moreover, why on earth would you believe anything so silly? In any case, how the blazes can you birdwatch in a closet. The editor should have told whoever wrote that tripe to stop being so silly. If this is the quality of its news why would anyone read the Daily Star?

Far from being embarrassed by bird watching and knitting I do both, at the same time, (as well as thinking about the next blog—that’s real multi-tasking). Everyone should take up either or both of these hobbies, or something similar. They offer enormous benefits for body, mind and spirit.

Through the window or in the garden, there are so many birds to watch and places to watch them from anyone can do it. It’s best to be quiet; it involves staying still and it requires close observation; perfect for contemplation. There’s the fun of watching fledglings wobbling around or a crowd of young blue tits behaving like typical teenagers. Then there’s the joy of spotting more unusual birds like brilliant coloured jays or the fabulous red kite. If you like a challenge try and sort out all the LBJs (little brown jobs) of which there are countless numbers. Warblers—sedge or reed or garden, or a dunnock or a siskin? Something I’ve never seen in my garden is a common and garden House Sparrow, although I installed a terrace of houses for them. You can watch anywhere, inside or out, in sunshine or in rain and it’s absolutely free, though a pair of binoculars helps. (Twitchers call them ‘bins’ but then twitchers do verge on the embarrassing.)

Knitting is not a cheap hobby because one no longer knits to save money; one knits to create wearable works of art made out of amazing yarns from all over the world, unknown to knitters even 30 years ago. As another form of contemplation and almost total relaxation it’s second to none. You can knit plain and purl and watch television, which can be a lifesaver when enduring wall-to-wall sport. You can knit plain and purl and patterns while listening to the radio or a story tape, which is how I got through Dickens’ ‘Our Mutual Friend.’ (What a soppy end that story has.) Or you can tackle a fiendishly complicated pattern of lace or cables, which will demand all your concentration, and at the end of a couple of hours of total absorption in what your hands have achieved, will leave you feeling liberated and refreshed. I don’t understand how that works but it does.

If you doubt me, type ‘knitting’ into Google and see what you come up with. It’s a truly global knitting world out there and provides a fascinating historical study of how people have clothed themselves through the ages, probably beginning with the Egyptians. The Chinese, who so often seem to have thought of almost every thing first, appear to have been taught knitting by Russian prisoners of war at the beginning of 20th century. And they began by knitting camel hair. (Camel hair when they could have knitted with silk!) I bet that’s something not many people know; not even knitters. I’ve also learned a lot of new techniques from knitting sites on the Internet; after fifty years I can finally finish garments so that you can’t see the join.

This is one of many reasons I love the Web. Some of the things I read about social media and trolls who spew out vitriolic hate sound revolting. But then one doesn’t have to read Twitter; to me it sounds a total waste of time.

I expect some men still knit, and I hope they are not in the closet if they do. Lighthouse men, for example, found it was a perfect hobby. Professional knitters were as often men as women in the days when it was a gender neutral activity. I knew a Master of a Cambridge college who was a knitter.

I’m afraid I think the Daily Star is telling lies. Bird watchers and knitters are well-grounded, well-rounded individuals who would never fear ridicule and would never hide in a closet with their worthwhile hobbies.

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