A few rows with Mary Laurenson

Knitting was a compulsory subject when I was a child at school in Shetland. I was therefore a reluctant knitter. The teacher, Mrs Barclay, would shake her head when I pulled my knitting out of my school bag: crisp encrusted with bent needles, never any further on than the week before. However, my dad could see my potential. My tension was so tight I could turn wool into sheet metal.

I can get lost in the rhythm of someone knitting. I would sit for what may have been hours with our neighbour, Peerie Mary Laurenson, watching and listening as she brought together the different coloured wools to make a glove.

I remember the sound of her wires – the needles – and her fingernails clicking against each other. ‘Ein, twa, tree…’ she would count her stitches, in time to the weighted tuck tuck tuck of the clock, her reckoning sometimes thrown by the unhappy whine of her hearing aid.

And then there was her breathing. A short pull of breath as she freed more wool from the ball. A slow draw through her teeth as she worked out where she was in the pattern. Three sharper intakes at the end of each row.

I sat with her again last autumn. She hears little these days but she still clicks, she still counts, she still breathes with every stitch. And then, a hesitant smile, the apology of someone who, lost in her strands, fears she may have missed something you said.

© Shona Main 2010

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1 Response to A few rows with Mary Laurenson

  1. perwindows says:

    There was this guy wandrin aboot the Middle o the East turnin wattir intae wine: noo there’s doitit for ye! They’re nae let tae drink nithin alcoholic in the Middle o the East: the man wis a clean fule.

    But ane o ees apprentices wis a bit mair handy: he culd turn stanes intae dates, so he wis great at parties. An a second ane teeterit aboot turnin swords intae ploos, tho they were that thin, the ploos, ye’d tae gae up an doon the dreels till the middle o twa nichts eftir, afore ye got a hauf-day’s shift dune an culd get yir piece. An it wis only a suppie dry reid sand they were plooin.

    But the third apprentice wis a richt traitor: he widna try an change nithin intae nithin else avaa. He says tae them ae day,’Ye canna pu oo oot o ma ee, an ye can flamin stop caain yersels ma brithers.’ Ees name, if I mind it richt, wis Eye One, or I Won, or somethin. Watch oot for ees descendants tho: I think aboot a quarter o them moved tae Monofieth.

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