Sense and suitabilityPosted: January 22, 2008
So. You have dry skin. Very dry skin. You are prone to eczema in the winter. You decide to make, of all things, a pair of knitted stockings. Out of wool, that fibre so well known for its not-soothing properties. You have the opportunity to choose something called “4 ply soft” which is, as its name implies, softly fluffsome. But no. You choose something called “4 ply tweed” which is as itchy, scratchy and close to barbed wire as its name might lead you to believe.
I believe that throughout history women have suffered for this and that thing (amongst them beauty) but voluntarily to construct, at great expense of time and effort, what amounts to a nether garment of ground glass seems a bizarre thing to do. But in life, as they say, one must take the rough with the smooth. It makes little sense, but is a suitable project (on the theme of “pairs”) to knit while listening to Emma.
I have made a start on sorting out the drifts of detritus with which the house is infested. Sorting out and culling the vast numbers of books, videos and cds for a start. Ruthlessly. In this process I came across handfuls of photographs from various lengths of time ago and distances away. Some I’m keeping in order to embarrass the children at a future date but many I’m chucking. However the ruthlessness faltered on discovering the ancient school exercise book, carefully covered in plastic, containing a detailed history of my first ever dog, Vicky.
The home-made height and weight chart is reminiscent of those one is obliged to keep for babies but I recall enormous levels of anxiety about the health, nutritional status and well-being of my new puppy and not batting an eyelid over those of either of the babies. Maybe the one had prepared me for the other. Certainly for the first few days of puppy care I went to bed in fear and terror that she’d die in the night, probably as the result of some mistake on my part.
It is extraordinary the overwhelming rush of physical sensation that picture provoked. I recalled, instantly and vividly, the exact feel of hugging Vicky while she sat in that attitude, the dimensions of her neck and the texture of her fur. The “rough” in rough collie (in contrast to the smooth collie) refers mostly to the abundance rather than texture of the fur. And indeed compared to Maizy’s her fur was smooth indeed, long overcoat over a dense undercoat of softest fleece. I loved to bury my face in her ruff. I loved brushing her from the tips of her ears to the tip of her tail. Which was fortunate really since the breed requires regular and thorough grooming. I remember lying on the grass on my stomach in the summer reading a book and the heft of her as she lay on the backs of my legs, the press of her as she lay next to me with her nose against my arm. Hers was the only physical contact I had and all the sweeter for it.
I love to watch the children building up their own sense-memories with the cat and the dog. Both boys were, for a long time, much more keen on doing so with the cat. Who can blame them. The appeal is obvious. Quiet, phlegmatic, soft as angora and manufacturer of delightful sounds of cuteness. Maizy, on the other hand, is a hyperactive small yappy-type dog of uncertain temper and, least forgivable of all, coated in fur akin to coconut matting.
However my wise words about beauty being more than fur deep appear to be bearing fruit and both Mario and Maizy are now appreciated for more than merely their surface charms. “One has,” I intone sagely and no doubt in a highly irritating fashion, “to make the best of both the rough and the smooth”. I point out the extraordinary utility of rough shaggy fur for a dog in an uncertain climate in which rain and cold predominate. And how this means she doesn’t have to wear a wussy knitted coat when out and about. Unless at some future date I choose to make one and force her to wear it for reasons entirely unconnected with protection from the elements.
Hmm. I wonder. Perhaps there is a way in which a pair of extra-long scratchy socks might be adapted… but no. I have a cunning plan with respect to the stockings-of-sandpaper. I have various pairs of sheer, brightly-coloured and, most important of all, smooth tights which I can wear beneath the unsuitably textured accessories and thus both protect the over-delicate skin and provide added visual interest as the under-colour will show through the (deliberate) holes in the pattern of the stockings. And I shall hold them up with a ribbon in a suitably toning/clashing shade. Always assuming, of course, that I actually finish them.