Mildred and Mavis Ride Again

A Satisfactory Afternoon

Most people that give knitting any thought at all think that it is simply about elderly ladies sitting in front of their televisions knitting bootees for babies or jumpers for favourite neices and nephews.  No doubt there are many that do those things; but competitive knitters operate on a much grander level.  Like all sportsmen they need to finely hone their skills through solid and frequent practice.  There is nothing ike the Wednesday afternoon practice session run under the gimlet eye of Lady Dorothy Dent-Uhre, our Club President, to inspire just the right mix of competence and panic in our stalwart ladies.  If you have read me before you will know that my function in the club is that of pastry chef - baker extraordinaire!  Whilst Mildred's needles flash, I spread thick cream and jam on our afternoon scones; cut dainty sandwiches (when allowed) and slice my famous Victoria sponge cakes.  This repast has to be ready by 4.00pm or the atmosphere will turn decidedly sour and tempers, like the hem of Mildred's knitting skirt, become frayed!  Today though I had also procured the wool for the practice session.

This afternoon there were only five ladies at the practice session.  Lady Dorothy was not amused and made it clear that she would be telephoning the absentees this evening - after 6pm as the calls are free for her then.  "Today we are going to knit sleeves", she cried out as the ladies chatted to each other about family visits, the costs of everything and their favourite subject, husbands and partners!  Although in our part of the world partners are not common save above the door of the local solicitor - Whatneaux Partners.  Men seem to fall into one of about three categories:  "Oh he's lovely".  "Doesn't ever listen to her" and "I don't even want to think of THAT man".   Not having ever been married I do not really feel qualified to comment.  I recall Lady D once saying "Better off without a man I think", she has never married herself.  Then she said "I expect you miss not having children though".  I have never missed that particular joy.  I hear about all the problems that my friends have with their children and am quietly satisfied that I have not ever had to deal with screaming infants.  Screaming children and then screaming teenagers that think they are the first to have discovered... well everything!  However, baack to the matter in hand.  The groan that greeted the news that the afternoon was to be devoted to sleeves was testament to the fiddliest competitive job apart from perhaps the turtle neck.  Get the sleeve right and you have an almost guaranteed place in the top three.  But get it wrong and you simply have a pile of unpicked wool!  Janet Carstairs was here today.  First time back since her unfortunate accident.  We don't talk about it.  But she is one of those people that loves a drama and it is extremely difficult to ignore her.  She has a voice tempered on the parade ground.  She was a Serjeant in the Signals I think.  Janet has a daughter, Cassiopeia.  She was named after the constellation of the same name.  Janet's husband, Ben, is an enthusiastic amateur astronomer - Mildred once asked him to read her stars and he had to explain that he studied the night sky.  He said that she needed an astrologer - "same thing" said Mildred and trundelled off to find a copy of the Daily Mail and the entry under Capricorn.  Cassie has a horse that she keeps in a field adjacent to the church where Janet is the organist.  About two months ago, on a very cold and snowy Sunday morning there were even fewer than normal in the congregation and the Vicar left the door open in an attempt to demonstrate his idea that the church should be open to all.  Apart from nearly causing pneumonia in his elderly congregation the open door also caught the attention of Cassie's horse who instantly recognised Janet - like most parents of pet owners she is the one that really cares for the animal - and promptly jumped the perimeter fence of his field and wandered into the church.  Janet was just banging out a particularly vigorous rendition of "Onward Christian Soldiers" when she found an uninvited assistant trying to share the organist's bench with her!  The horse had pottered up the aisle causing several attacks of the vapours and was now demolishing Beryl Pettigrew's carefully arranged vase of winter flowers.  Michelmas daisies I think - God alone knows where she found them in winter.  Janet reached out to grasp the horse's halter.  She missed and fell flat on her face at the equine feet of the intruder.  But that wasn't the problem.  A heavyweight ceramic Victorian vase falling tho feet onto her head was what caused her to spend the rest of the day in hospital and then a week at home with a rather fetching bandage perched atop her head like the top knot of a cottage loaf.  "Concussion!  That's what I had.  Couldn't remember a thing for days afterwards."  "How could she tell?" I whispered to Mildred who promptly announced to the room "Mavis says..." ever want the floor to swallow you up?  Why does Mildred do these things to me?  How we have remained friends all these years completely baffles me at times.  I coloured up and busied myself with the tea things pretending that I wasn't even there.  I looked out of the corner of my eye and spotted Janet glaring at me as she started to produce what turned out to be a complete failure of a sleeve.  I smiled and immediately felt so mean.  I blushed again and concentrated on placing the scones on the somewhat utilitarian china that seem to be the standard issue to church halls throughout the land.  

By the time that 4 o'clock arrived Jane was almost in tears.  Four perfect sleeves lay in front of their proud creators and one ragged offering lay scrunched on Janet's knee.  Lady D adjusted her pince nez and peered imperiously down at the wretched mess.  A finely manicured hand reached down and lifted the shapeless object.  She held it aloft scrutinising it in an unpleasantly disdainful manner.  "What IS this?" she enquired.  Janet wasn't given time to answer.  The tension was as tight as a hawser seconds before it breaks.  "We are a winning club" hissed our president.  "There is no room for this type of tomfoolery".  Janet was by now alternately bushing bright red with humiliation and purple with anger.  I have no idea what came over me.  I always feel so embarrassed in such situations and found  myself blurting out that it was all my fault!  The ladies all turned and looked at me in astonishment.  "How could that be Mavis?" Lady D enquired.  Fixing me with a particularly withering sneer.  I explained that when I went to buy the wool the shop only had four high quality skeins and one that was quite inferior.  "I think that Janet must have got that one".  I knew that it was all bunkum because there was no difference in the wool at all.  Before Lady D had a chance to say anything, and to my great relief, the other ladies all said that it could happen to anybody;  "there but for the grace of God.." etc etc.  and began heading in a purposeful fashion towards the tea table.  The tension was broken and I was quickly involved in passing out tea cups and plates of sandwiches.  Janet came up to me and gave me a little kiss on the cheek.  "Thank you" she whispered.  I smiled back.  A most satisfactory end to the afternoon.