Since I became a fully fledged layabout... I mean, self-employed writer and proofreader (reasonable rates! Quality work! Hardly any crying!), I have developed some terrible habits, including playing Bejeweled Blitz till I have a cramp in my arm and watching Eggheads.
In order to rid myself of at least one of these habits, I started knitting. Well, technically I restarted knitting, because obviously, like all Irish women my age, I actually learned to knit when I was a child. I just didn't keep it up because it was girly and a thing nuns liked you to do, and because my mother was so very good at it, there seemed little point.
What amazes me, though, having been drawn into this world of selvage stitches and thumb casting, is how other people (so far only women, but you never know. After all, there was a boy in my ballet class for a while) are able to tell you exactly what you need. I want to knit a hat for a man, I say. You will need this much wool, they say. Start with this much for the rib, then switch to this and knit this stitch. Start to decrease it after this many rows. What do you mean, you need a row counting app to help you count your rows? Can't you just eyeball it?
Well no, I can't. I was complaining about just this thing to my mother the other day, over my knitting. Other people have special skills, where they can use their years of experience to eyeball things and know what's right and wrong. When we were kids, my older brother could do this with the BASIC computer programs in magazines. If there was a line wrong, he could find it and correct it. My mam can do it with knitting and sewing (and linear accelerators as well, for what that's worth). I watched Mary Berry do it time after time on the Great British Bake Off: "I knew that cake would be huge when you said you were putting six eggs in," or "yes, this is too dense because you overworked the pastry."
"I don't have any of these skills," I said to Mam. "I am nearly 43 and I have no useful skills."
"Yes you do," my aunt said, "you have skills with words. You can look at things and see if they're written well or spelled correctly."
"Oh great," I said. "So everyone else gets things like 'you need to put more flour in if you want that to turn out right' or 'here's how you fix a dropped stitch'. I get 'it's fewer not less' and everyone tells me to fuck off."
Well, I can knit a bobble hat now, so it is you who can fuck off.