Thursday, 24 May 2012

More sartorial missteps and the joy of knitting

I worked in the city this week, standing up under bright lights in front of a conference-room full of people, sharing the fruits of my long experience as a writer. It’s a pity that the fruits of my long experience as an appalling dresser accompanied me to Cape Town too.

I discovered, on undressing for bed last night, that I’d been wearing my shirt inside-out all day. And it’s not a shirt you can wear inside-out and get away with it – it’s got obvious seams and bits of thread and spare buttons and labels and things. I imagined the delegates thinking, ‘Well, maybe she can write, but she sure can’t dress herself.’

This happened partly because I got dressed in the dark, but also because I seldom put much thought into what I wear, as long as it’s clean and doesn’t have too many holes in it. I suppose it doesn’t help that I’m a huge fan of bright colours and patterns.

Once, many years ago, when I was a teenager and only just embarking on a long career as an appalling dresser, I was waiting in line at a fastfood joint when a gang of older boys (probably university students) suddenly materialised around me and enthusiastically invited me to a Bad Taste Party. I thanked them and declined politely. When I got home and told my sister what had happened, she gently led me to a full-length mirror and asked me to have a close look at what I was wearing. I can’t (of course) recall the exact garments, but I do remember realising that the joke was on me. (As my daughter often points out, I live in an irony-free zone.)

Another time, when I was travelling overseas, somebody in a pub asked me if I was a struggling art student. When I said no, he asked, ‘Why are you dressed like that, then?’

A more recent sartorial misstep resulted in a bergie in Malmesbury declining to beg from me on the grounds that I quite evidently couldn’t afford to give him anything.

And now I’m moving into even more sartorially fabulous territory: I’ve taken up knitting again for the first time in over 20 years and I’m enjoying it immensely. It’s actually an incredibly boring and repetitive pastime but by the same token really hard to think of anything to do that’s more Zen.

When I last knitted, it was during the years I caught the train from Lansdowne to the city for work, and I gainfully employed myself during the 20-minute journey by knitting obsessively. I mainly made jerseys and tanks for my then-husband who, fortuitously, was colour-blind. He loved them, and it’s fair to say that they did turn heads.

My late sainted mother was an inveterate knitter, and made many darling jerseys for her large band of grandchildren. They adored them, of course, but they would almost inevitably unravel after a couple of washes, and I always wondered how she managed to drop so many stitches.

Now I know. She knitted while she watched TV at night. While this may be perceived as an exercise in multitasking, it clearly wasn’t a successful one. And, since beginning knitting myself at night in front of the TV, I’ve discovered that it’s actually a lose-lose situation: not only do you drop stitches like Zuma drops his pants, you quickly lose the plot of the programme you’re supposedly watching. Which, for me, isn’t actually a problem at all, thanks to DStv’s habit of endlessly repeating everything it ever flights – I know I’ll finally work out what’s going on in CSI:Miami after I’ve seen it four times.

I’ve just finished knitting the world’s most hideous gilet, a garishly multicoloured gem that I know is going to invite caustic comment for years to come. And I’ve started on another one, which I’m making out of a curiously fluffy wool, the texture of which makes it difficult to see the individual stitches. But I’m knitting it while I watch TV at night, so that doesn’t matter.

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