Today, not only did I break the law, I got completely out-folklored. It’s International Yarn Bombing Day, a day when knitters all over the world get frisky embellishing their environments with woollen and acrylic creations. It’s the kind of day where trees get bikinis, bollards get titfers, statues get leg warmers and lampposts get pom poms. If you have five minutes, I would really recommend you look up yarn bombing as there are some stunning examples out there. Some of it on tanks.
So the plan was to do some yarn bombing. The only problem was, I’d been hell for leather with Other Life the last couple of days, so hadn’t had any time to figure out the what and the where, which is pretty crucial. No one wants to see Queen Victoria in an ill-fitting boob tube. I did a little mental mapping of the various bollards, benches, railings and road signs near me, but nothing felt remotely inspiring or manageable. Then it came to me, a folklore twofer. I would yarn bomb a well-dressing.
The well-dressing season traditionally runs from May to August/September and involves decorating holy wells and springs in all manner of ways, from simple ribbons to more elaborate designs. However, the well I had in mind was neither holy nor moist. St Ann’s Well, a Hove landmark, was so named to cash in on the Victorian fancy for holy wells when the gardens reinvented itself in the 1880s. There was no saint or even Ann, no matter what the council plaque says. Where once was a natural chalybeate spring, there now sits a large, brutalist wishing well, one that wouldn’t look out of place at the bottom of a fish tank. And it’s not even a proper wishing well as there’s no water to lob a penny into, as the spring is actually in the undergrowth just off to the left. It’s really just a disappointment on a plinth. So no-one was going to get offended if I knitted it some bunting and gnome trying to fish. Surely.
Which is what I spent the day doing. In my typical refusal to acknowledge that I’m an unbearably slow knitter, it took me an age. But once I had a couple of meters of bunting and my gnome, I legged it over to the park, handily named St Ann’s Well Gardens. The installation took place in front of two gentlemen sat on a bench behind it, one of whom was an ardent knitter and showed me a beautiful baby blanket he’d knitted. A photo, it wasn’t covering his knees. I hadn’t time to knit enough bunting to go round the whole lid, so I just swagged it behind my fishing gnome, shoving the string into crevices to secure it. Undeterred by the whole dry well debacle, someone had wedged a penny between two beams. This made me happy. Then I legged it away. After all I had just committed a crime. Technically, yarn bombing is classed as graffiti and is therefore illegal. But I’m confident they’ll never catch me, it’s not as if they’ll know my name, or all the details, or have photographic evidence, or witnesses, or anything…
And then I got out-folklored. My awesome new neighbour from yesterday left me a gift as a thank you for their house warming blessing – a tobacco plant grown from Ecuadorian seeds blessed by a Shaman of the Shuar tribe. And Ecuadorian Shamans top trump envelopes full of salt any day. It’s said that the plant will bring me protection, which is just as well as today I finally knocked the last of the psychic self-defence onto the floor.
One last thing that happened today, I spread some turnip love to the nation via Zoe Ball and the Radio 2 Breakfast Show. They were talking about feet, and I couldn’t not share the best cracked heel remedy folklore has to offer.
So a busy day. Good job that the 11th was the old longest day then.
Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books
Simpson, J. and Roud, S. (2001) Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore, Oxford, Oxford University Press