Lovely friend is 60. A group of us bunched together, as we have for each other over the last 30 years, to buy her a present. A bench. With a smart green cushion.
Two of us take responsibility for this, and are chuffed to bits that the bench is ordered, to be delivered on the day of the birthday. We've even ordered a plaque with all our names on it. Result!
I think we ought to knit her a blanket, says one friend.
No, no, I think.
With lots of squares of different colours, says the friend.
Oh, sweet Lord, I think.
We could all do about 4 each, says the friend.
Over my dead body, I think.
Great! say all the other friends.
Bollocks, I think.
Friend sends each of us a ball of wool, a pair of knitting needles, and some instructions of what to knit.
I read it.
Cast on 28 stitches.
Cast on? Isn't that what you do in sailing? (Perhaps I should mention here that I have not knitted since I was 11 years old, when in the Spring Term of each year we were required to knit bootees, cardigans or some other such article for Babies in Africa).
My offering each time was always grey and holey. The nuns (convent school) would sigh with exaggerated frustration at my poor efforts. And then finish it off for me. Every time!
But would someone finish off this offering? Would they heck.
And so I started. I found a YouTube video of someone casting on. I watched it avidly. I cast on one, two, three, four stitches.
I'm knitting! I bellowed, to whoever wanted to hear me in the house.
Daughter came and inspected.
Well done, Mum, she said kindly.
28 stitches. All cast on.
I read the instruction. Knit four rows.
How incredibly unhelpful, I thought. How do I 'knit 4 rows'? And so back I went to YouTube and watched a kind lady knitting.
I knitted 4 rows.
Only to find I hadn't read the full instructions. Knit 4 rows making sure you purl 4 at the beginning and end of each line.
I looked at the 4 rows I had done. Could I get away with it?
With a sigh, I pulled the 4 rows off the knitting needle and started again.
Cast on 28 stitches.
28 stitches cast on! I'm getting so good at knitting!
Knit 4 rows making sure you purl 4 at the beginning and end of each line.
Right, I thought. This will be a doddle.
Only it wasn't. Because every time I got to the end of a row, my knitting seemed to get longer and longer. I counted the stitches. 32! What the heck?!
I rang the friend.
Explained the problem.
Don't worry! she said. And after all, it's the fact that you're TRYING. That is more important than what it looks like.
I very much doubted that. My 4 rows looked like a triangle.
Righto! I said. I'll get going with the next bit then!
And so I did.
The triangle bit did not improve, and what was even worse, holes started appearing either side of the knitting.
I pulled it all out and started again.
9 times I started again. 9 times it went triangular and got holes.
Bollocky BOLLOCKS, I said, rather a lot. And maybe some worse things than that.
My children found it very amusing.
So did my Husband.
Har har har har har, he said. Needless to say, I didn't find it in the least amusing.
Until I worked out the holes situation.
I wasn't putting the wool forwards (or backwards) after changing from knit to purl.
Oh, the joy.
Oh, the satisfaction of knitting 4 rows and it looking just like a square!
Oh, the joy of not having any holes!
I love knitting!
And so I continued on, completing 2 whole squares, even managing the casting off with the aid of yet another YouTube lady coming to the rescue.
I took my squares proudly up to London where we had a 'gathering to sew all the squares together' evening.
I think I'd rather sew my fingers together.
Friend looks at my squares. I look at hers. They are literally twice as big as mine. Mine are small and tight. Hers are big and generous.
LOVELY, she says. Look, it's NO PROBLEM. I'll just knit some more around the edge. LOVELY.
Another friend, usually very chatty and smiley, is sitting in a chair in the corner of the room muttering to herself as she knits a square. Bollocks. Bloody, bloody hell. Sort of thing. Apparently she hadn't 'had time' to do one before. Aha, I thought. Another rebel against this knitting lark.
Around the room a selection of friends are knitting. All with enormous glasses of Prosecco. That's more like it, I think.
I sit in a chair. And knit furiously. The glass of Prosecco makes it much more pleasant and in no time at all I show my finished square to all and sundry.
Brilliant! they say.
And it is. It's the right size, shape and colour. No holes.
What AM I? Knitting queen?
And I proudly chuck my square to join the other squares waiting to be sewn together. And grab another glass of Prosecco before offering to sew some squares together.
Flipping heck. I've become a domestic goddess.
That will wipe the smile off Husband's face.