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September 25, 2011

My Scarf – An ironic short story

by Val Reynolds

This story, written by Val Fief, a contributing author, has echoes of the kind of irony Roald Dahl included in many of his stories. 

I love my scarf. It is 72 years. I knitted it when I was 8. Those were very cold years and my mum gave me a woolly jumper to unravel so that I could have some wool to knit with. She taught me how to knit plain stitch, then purl stitch and how to pick up stitches that I had dropped.

I cut open all of the seams and set to work pulling out the curly wool and stretching it round the back of a chair. It was hard work undoing someone else’s carefully knitted work. I did this for a long time and when I had these big skeins of wool, I washed them hoping to straighten the wool out as they hung out on the line and I made balls of wool with them. At last I had something to knit with although the wool was still curly. We didn’t have washing machines and spin driers then – it was 1939 and the outbreak of war.

My mum taught me to cast on both with my thumb and with two needles. Metal knitting needles number 10s. I came home from school and knitted while listening to the wireless. I had finished by the end of November and was very thrilled to wear it to school. It was as tall as I am. I felt cosy and warm on the way to school. When it was very cold, I wore it over my nose.

As I wasn’t evacuated because we lived in Suffolk, we had other children come to live with us. We stayed friends with some of them throughout our lives. I was an early reader and read voraciously. In 1949 I went to University to study English. When I was a student I met another student, James. He was studying Maths. I was always baling him out with money. With the excitement of past war freedom, we got married. We had 7 children including twin girls. James studied and became a bank manager eventually but this made us move house often. Each time I had to find new schools and friends and houses. It was hard work but we managed with lots of challenges and laughter. We moved 14 times. I grew a garden everywhere we went. We managed it all and my scarf went with me to every location. It was like a baby’s comforter to me. A reminder of base. My original safe home.

The children grew up and had careers and interests. And we had a safe and permanent home and we would never have to move again. It was a lovely home in the middle of Cambridge with room for the children to come home. Until one day, James came home looking very serious. He said that it was time to leave home to be with a woman who always made him the most important person in her life. I was stunned. I blurted out “I suppose she has no children?”. “As a matter of fact, no”. He replied. “I will return tomorrow for my things” he said. “We will sell this house and you can have something small”. “You haven’t worked so you don’t deserve such a big house”.

Wow! He would simply return for his things, abandon me, and throw me out! I was shocked and unhappy and held tightly on to my scarf. Confused and frightened. I was distraught. Work? What does having seven children and moving 14 times to do with work? The next evening I took the bulbs out of the hall lights and left my scarf on the stairs and as he stormed out in great anger, he fell down the stairs and broke his neck. I retrieved my scarf, put the bulbs back in the sockets, and called 999 sobbing profusely.

That was all 20 years ago. My children come and see me in the house I love so much. My grandchildren too. There was accident insurance. I have had a wonderful life and I love my scarf.

Val Fieth, Contributing author

Knitting is becoming a more popular past time. John Lewis have kits for beginners on their website and a good range of funky wools to choose from. One of our favourite wools is Sirdar Squiggle Super Chunky Yarn, Pale Blue Mix at £3.80 per ball.

On the same website we noticed some cushion covers to knit, hmm with winter evenings coming up would be good to curl up in front of the fire and knit …

I welcome features to appear on the website. Do get in touch with me with your ideas.

Val Reynolds Brown Editor

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