Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Grit learns to knit on the A5

Shall we have our education structured? Or autonomous? This is an issue I struggle with.

Sunday, I am smug. At the end of the day I have something to show. There might have been no fights and I have read a book about crime and punishment in Ancient Greece. We may even have filled in a worksheet and found out what happened to Socrates without being overwhelmed by tears, drowned by screaming, or hijacked by unicorns. We are structured.

Monday, I am smug. I follow what the children are doing, timing myself with careful comments I reason might add up to a direction they're going in, and I run about fulfilling needs, answering questions and supplying pink tissue paper just at the moment it is wanted. We are autonomous.

Well I am not sure what education we do today. It could, of course, be manic and despairing.

The day does not start well. I feel harried, like miniature devils are running behind me at full pelt with pitchforks, when Tiger announces that she wants to knit a saddlecloth for her favourite toy horse, Moonbeam. Only we haven't any wool, thanks to mummy Grit becoming distracted last week by dummies at scrapstore, forgetting what she went in for, and coming out instead with a large sack of pot pourri. This is something you cannot knit with.

But Tiger must have wool. And I can get it, if I leave now. Scrapstore is five minutes away by car. So I tear along there and buy 12 balls of bright orange wool and hand it over. But oh dear. Now there is no time to knit a saddlecloth because it is time to go to French.

No problem, says Mummy Grit, brightly. Sit in the car and knit on the way to French.

What am I saying? Am I mad? Have I gone stark staring bonkers? Apart from the fact that I have just broken my absolute rule 'Never use knitting needles if there is another human within 500 yards', I clearly just assumed there that Tiger knows how to knit.

So off we go, and five minutes in, Tiger is wailing. It is all pointless! she howls. I cannot do it! Mummy Grit is confounded. How do you mean you cannot knit? Didn't Aunty Dee teach you last Christmas and you spent several days sitting close by her, knitting orange, yellow, blue, pink scarves for Dancyhorn and Blutina and Lem? I cannot remember how to begin! wails Tiger. And when I say wails, hear the howling cry of despair, of betrayal by her fingers and her memory, that would melt the heart of an ice queen.

Mummy Grit is heart broken. I am driving along the A5 and want to help my little girl in so much distress it is breaking me apart and crumbling my soul. And yet I cannot tell her what to do, because I cannot knit either! Why don't you drive the car, Tiger, and I will sit in the passenger seat and learn how to knit! For a second there, it's possible. I could shout out driving instructions to Tiger while I remember a knitting lesson my mother once attempted forty years ago, probably before she stuck her head in the gas oven in despair. And in the midst of Tiger's heart rending sobs, it actually seems like a perfectly reasonable and fair idea, one I will explain in a clear, loud voice to the police.

Then, while I am considering the practical problems, like her feet will not reach the pedals, and there might be wreckage, I say, Look, no problem! I will just pull into this layby here and I will try and remember what to do from forty years ago because you are so upset now in tears of betrayal and frustration, that anything is possible and logical, right?

And so Grit veers the car into a layby on the A5 and there learns to knit from first principles and a raining day lesson forty years ago. Even though there is groaning and sighing from Shark and Squirrel where I can shout It's nothing I wouldn't do for you! I can fetch that faraway motor memory in a second; it is probably only reached in times of maximum distress, where the pressure poundage per square inch is so great it creates a focused channel that allows me to pick that distant skill up as bright and shining as a new pearl. Clearly I can disregard the gas oven finale on the A5 where there is clear focus and no gas oven.

Within ten minutes I have delivered up this memory and shown Tiger how to start a knitting line and how to transfer the stitches from one needle to the other and we still are only five minutes late for French.

Now how shall we do our education today. Structured? Autonomous? Or manic and despairing.

1 comment:

sharon said...

Wouldn't this count as dangerous and exciting? Knitting lessons at the side of the A5 has to count for something surely!