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  • Rebecca Jackson

Weekends with Aunt Mildred and Arthur the Cat

Hello my dears, it's Binky here. Percy asked me to pop by and introduce myself, give a bit of background, don't mention Argentina, banana daiquiri's blah blah, tell'em about knitting and don't say anything offensive or vulgar....as if I would dream of such a thing!


Well strangely enough just the other day I was reading about how a young gentleman I know remembered his first acquaintance with the art of knitting and this brought to mind very fond memories of my father's sister, Aunt Mildred. As a child I would be regularly hoofed off to the country to stay with cousins and let off steam. Aunt Mildred lived in the back of beyond in a ramshackled farmhouse with my cousins Daphne and Francis "Bingo" Bagshot. She was a fearsome looking woman with huge biceps and whiskers. She was never without a packet of Players in the pocket of her apron along with a half knitted sock and a bag of pear drops. Uncle Frank Snr had died in the war, he hadn't seen active service but sadly choked on an unyielding Brussels sprout in the mess hut and never returned from Catterick where he had been stationed. Since then Aunt Mildred had taken to farming and ran a side line in hand spun wool to the local village and beyond. Although shunned by the WI due to her frightening appearance and unusual demeanor, they were always quite keen to purchase her wool.


One January, just after Christmas, I was struck down with the chicken pox and sent off to Aunt Mildred's to recuperate. All the other children were at school so for a fortnight it was just the two of us and Arthur the very fat cat who, due to spending a lot of his time on Aunt Mildred's knee, smelt quite strongly of pilchards and Player's No. 6. As I sat cross and itchy at the kitchen table, her needles clicked and clacked rhythmically , broken only by her pausing to cough heroically then spit into the fire. Now as you are probably aware having the chicken pox is a most tedious state of affairs, and this was the days before television and mobile phones , I had no "Antiques Roadshow" to distract me , so Aunt Mildred decided she would teach me to knit.


With a pair of old wooden needles and a ball of thick pink wool that had been dyed with beetroot juice, she cast on and taught me how to knit and purl and make the little lumpy stitches that would magically become a sweater or in my case a long piece of knitted stuff:


"Under the fence

Catch the Sheep

Back We come and Off we Leap"


It was certainly not the neatest of scarves , full of holes and not entirely straight , but it kept me out of mischief and stopped me scratching so much. It was a wonderful fortnight , Aunt Mildred, Arthur the cat and I dined on pilchards on toast, knitted by the fire and I marveled at the wiry whiskers protruding from both Arthur and my Aunt. The rain pelted down and we just sat in the warm clickety clacking. Some evenings there'd be a hot steamed syrup pudding and one night Aunt Mildred taught me to pay gin rummy and when she'd fallen asleep I had a puff on one of her cigarettes and a tot of rum she kept in her knitting basket. It was all very splendid. Sadly all too soon the chicken pox faded and I was sent back to school with a new pair of needles and a ball of beetroot wool.


So that my dears is how I first learnt to knit, and to this day whenever I cast on I swear I can still catch the faint whiff of cigarette smoke and tinned pilchards!


Yours

Binky x


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