When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man…But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
I was very pleased with myself in November on a trawl through Camden markets – distracted from helping search out a vintage mac for Alun – I found myself instead wrapped up in course wool and brown buttons. In the mirror I was sporting a highly intricate Arran Cardigan – those chunky, biscuit coloured ones with buttons that look like half chewed toffees? – but in my head I was 4 years old and standing with my sister in our matching arran cardies, and matching dungarees underneath. It was the 80’s, don’t judge.
‘Look! This is just like one I had when I was wee. These are like 90 pounds in Topshop. I couldn’t even knit it cheaper’.
To his credit, not even an eyebrow was raised in my direction at my claim to being some kind of home maker and to my credit I do own both knitting needles and a sewing kit with 72 shades of thread; owning being different to using. It’s difficult for me, a through and through bibliophile to say so but in this, books let me down. Trying to knit from a 2D illustration makes quantum physics look simple and I was forced to turn to craft clips on YouTube in my attempt to recapture my enthusiasm for knitting. I knitted in the lounge, I knitted in the pub, I lamented the 911 ruling that meant I couldn’t take knitting needles on a plane. I was heard to utter with distain when looking at anything woollen, ‘I could knit that!’. I have yet to actually knit anything to completion.
One undertaking with more longevity was breadmaking. I’ve filled our kitchen with the aroma of fresh bread, eaten doorstop wedges of the stuff smothered in butter and marmalade, shared proud pictures of my endeavours on social media for the sole purpose of being asked about it. I’ve even had conversations with a family friend about why my bread wasn’t rising, how long to proof the dough, how much kneading is too much kneading? Never fear, my own fair hands remained barely soiled thanks to the modern convenience afforded me by Lakeland Limited best recommended bread making machine. There are even flavoured bread mixes – just add water and wait!
You can pretty much cheat at anything these days. Detailed cookbooks for any and all types of making and baking, instructional videos online, someone is probably blogging about whatever you need to know anyway so you can even live the experience vicariously and avoid trying it for yourself. None of these recent pockets of interest however do justice to the fact that these are all things your Mum and Gran can do already, and have been doing for generations. The fact that we have a cheat sheet for everything doesn’t mean that modern is really any better. Owning an appliance or the aforementioned knitting needles has not made me a baker, or a home maker…although I have a kit that for one brief afternoon made me a candlestick maker!
In reality I like the convenience of throwing together a loaf in 4 and a half weighed and measured minutes and the sense of achievement from learning to create the perfect Victory Roll from YouTube. The times when I’ve had the most fun when undertaking make and bake projects was learning to knit with my Mum, or to crochet with my Gran. Cooking gingerbread men with my sister and cousins after school in primary or fixing my bike with Dad on hand. The connection gained while passing something on is unmeasurable compared to convenience. In the same way that Hollywood seems unable to conjure up an original movie idea, or much like reading the glossies for relationship advice when Mum can probably advise you better, perhaps we take for granted the fact that most knowledge exists before we do and that it’s all been done before. The past is home to traditions and building relationships, making connections. Generation whatever loves a gadget, but take a little time looking back and you may just gain a new appreciation as well as a new skill.