Farmers’ knitwear is a particularly important and engaging topic. I know this, because I spoke to a farmer about it. He was a big, florid fellow with a big, florid head, and he was leaning against a fence, waving a stick at some cows. I was lost in the countryside and when I saw him, from a distance, silhouetted against a breathtakingly gorgeous sunset, I decided to approach him at speed, before he vanished, so I could ask him where I was.
Mere seconds later, because I can move jolly fast when I have to, I tipped my hat to him in greeting. He was not wearing a hat, which I thought unusual for a farmer, but what do I know of farmers? Not much, as it turned out. For example, not only did I think all farmers wore hats, all the time, but I had no idea they were so interested in knitwear, and in discussing it with complete strangers lost in the countryside.
Before I had a chance to ask the farmer where I was, he started talking to me about his cardigan. It was, he explained, a farmers’ cardigan, knitted from wool. See how the length of the sleeves matches the length of my arms, he said. See how the buttons are fastened in a straight vertical line down the middle of the cardigan front. When I am done with my cows for the evening, he said, perhaps you would like to come back with me to my farmhouse, where I can show you the niddy noddy on which the wool for this cardigan was wound from the bobbin into a skein.
This was a lot for me to take in, and I am afraid my face must have betrayed a certain hesitancy. It’s all the same to me, said the farmer. And he turned back to his cows and waved the stick at them again. I assured him I would be more than happy to repair to the farmhouse. Already the thought had sparked in my brain that I might stay there, eating his food and sleeping on his sofa, for weeks or months. Then I would not need to find out where I was. I would no longer be lost, for I would have a haven at his hearth.
To expedite my plan, while we trudged across the fields towards the farmhouse, I expressed far more interest in his knitwear than I really felt. He told me about his swift as well as his niddy noddy. I thought he was suddenly talking about birds, but he corrected me after I mumbled something about linnets. At one point he hoicked up his trouser-cuffs and invited me to look at his socks. They were knit from the same batch of wool as the cardigan,
When we got to the farmhouse I fell a little behind him as he approached the door. I saw a spade leaning against the wall, picked it up, and bashed his head in while he was still in the doorway. Stepping over him, I went into the farmhouse kitchen and put the kettle on for a nice reviving cuppa. There was a woolly hat hanging from a nail on the back of the door. I knew I couldn’t be completely mistaken about farmers’ hats. I took off my own hat and removed the farmer’s woolly hat from the nail and put it on my head, a smaller and less florid head than the farmer’s, adjusting it to a rakish angle. Knowing what I now knew about farmers’ knitwear, I could tell it was knit from the same batch of wool as the cardigan and the socks.
When the tea was brewed I sat in the farmer’s chair drinking from the farmer’s teacup. The swift and the niddy noddy stood in the kitchen corner. The sun had set by now, and through the open doorway where the farmer’s body lay, I could hear the distant bellowing of his cows in the black and starless night.