Monsieur “Chopper” Guillotin

french knitting

My Nan introduced me to French Knitting whilst growing up in her Balham flat in the 60s; she did this for two reasons: one, to stop me playing outside the confines of my block of flats and two, in case they ever reintroduced capital punishment via La Guillotine on Balham High Road, she would have a ringside seat.  Because, if you see paintings of any execution during Le Terreur in late 18th Century France, you’ll see depictions, aside from the poor, cake-offering toffs about to have the severest of all haircuts, old crones with no teeth, smoking clay pipes and knitting!

If public executions were to return to the UK, my Nan wanted to be in the thick of it and I would be her vehicle – who is going to stop a ten-year old kid brandishing an old cotton reel, four nails and two-foot of something which wouldn’t even work as a draft-excluded, even for The Borrowers, moving, with his Nan, to the front?

Being introduced to handicrafts such as French Knitting (I wasn’t allowed a crochet needle as I’d have taken my eye out – apparently) in retrospect was possibly a mistake as, strangely enough, we didn’t have use for things like this at an all-boys school – the ability to create some very long piece of intertwined wool didn’t stand me in good stead on the rugby field! I was expected to conjugate Latin verbs as an eleven-year-old, not provide the entire class with matching hat and scarf!  Plus I needed to know the exact dates of Gladstone’s periods as PM – crocheted coasters were never ever needed for that!


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