Zoom (other videoconferencing products are available) is all very well, but it’s no substitute for seeing people in the flesh. Yes there are advantages, I can wear my scruffy old gardening kecks and multi-coloured paint-spattered Crocs with my Reiss blouse and jacket. And I only need bother to re-colour the front of my hair, hey, no-ones’s going to see the back, not unless I flounce out of a meeting in disgust – and that’s not happened before, well not very often anyway.
But when it comes to knitting and nattering, only the real thing will do. The clicking of needles and clinking of china cups on saucers, the gentle chatter and of course the scoffing of cake. Usually this happens in our village library, but nothing’s been going on there for months. Leeds City Council abolished fines for late book returns late last year, so at least the books we all borrowed before lockdown won’t be costing us, but we are desperate for the doors to be opened again, not least because there’s a stockpile of wool in the store room. It’s not just a library, you know.
With an average age of about 80, the Knitwits knitters have been confined to home, and I’ve missed their company and the stories they tell about our village and the people in it. For me, the fortnightly get-togethers have always been an entertainment. Not gossip or scandal, heaven knows social media can spit that out 24/7, but good old-fashioned stories. I’d take my knitting needles along and give them a right good listening to. Sometimes I’d be the youngest there, but only sometimes as young Violet would often join us after school, bringing her knitting bag and a keen ear to hear stories from what to her must seem like another world.
It had been too long since those days in the library. Chief Knitwit Bev had kept an eye on them all, especially those living alone. But while solo knitting had been going on, there was no nattering. Bev and I agreed, nattering was needed.
Fortunately, as manager at the allotments stores, I have keys, which means we could put the kettle on and set out a socially-distanced tea party outside. Bev insisted on adding a touch of class and bringing a tablecloth and the best china, she even brought a milk jug and cake forks. All we needed was good weather, a few cushions to pad out the wooden benches and cake, knitters would bring their own wool.
It was the best afternoon I’ve spent for some time, just sitting around and chatting (or in my case listening). Betty, our oldest member and best baker, brought two cakes, orange and lemon polenta and chocolate raspberry meringue. We wanted to photograph them for the virtual village show, but she wouldn’t let us, saying they weren’t up to standard. I had to have three slices of each to test them out, I’d have given them first prize, Betty’s cakes are the best. It beat Zoom hands down for company, content and cakiness though I couldn’t hide my half-coloured hair.