“It’s a bit like that Fifty Shades of Red thing, isn’t it? I mean, Fifty Shades of Blue, er – black? Fifty Shades of um…” The young woman frowned as she gestured to her neighbour’s knitting.
“Grey.” The neighbour, a woman who looked as if she was in her mid-forties but was actually a good decade older, lifted the blanket proudly so we could all see the colours as they blended in gentle waves. Murmurs of approval wafted around the room.
The first speaker laughed, “I knew it was a colour!”
“I like using this wool because it makes patterns all on its own. I don’t have to follow any instructions! Have any of you read Fifty Shades of Grey?” The older woman looked around conspiratorially.
“Ooh, yes!” The large lady to my left said with glee.
“I found it in an airport and I thought I’d give it a go, see what the fuss was all about, but I put it down after three pages; it was so poorly written.” A lady with a mop of grey hair and a kindly face interjected.
I tried not to squirm and stayed focused on my yarn. This was, after all, an afternoon knitting group. I hoped someone would change the subject. I had not been along on a Tuesday afternoon before. The Thursday morning ladies were full of banter but not quite like this. I told myself ‘this is my reward for getting through all my tasks this morning.’ Still…
“I don’t care how it’s written!” The large lady bellowed. “A few commas and full stops aren’t going to put me off!”
“Me neither! I’m no prude! Hey, Liz, have you seen that new show on the BBC – The Guardroom?” The large lady’s other neighbour smirked. “Oh, damn, I’ve dropped a stitch.”
“Oh yes, I really like that. It’s got that Desmond feller in it.” Liz replied.
“I know. The arse on that one, eh? He turned around and I thought, ‘Ooh, just a bit higher, Des!”
“Have you seen The Guardroom, Maggie?” A*se Lady turned to the lady who runs the wool-craft sessions (I don’t know her real name – not that I ever use real names on my blog – but in my mind she is now indelibly the A*se Lady).
“I haven’t, no…” Maggie gave a short giggle, as if unsure what to say.
“You should!” A*se Lady said.
“Perhaps I’ll take a look.” Maggie agreed, pleasantly, her eyes fixed firmly on her yarn.
I offered up a silent prayer. This was not an enjoyable experience… I found myself longing for the conversation of Christian ladies and simultaneously reminding myself that one has to accept people as they are and how do you ‘do Jesus’ if you don’t interact? I briefly wondered if I should make a comment on the portrayal of women as passive victims of sexual violence but decided it probably wouldn’t go down too well. I admit these kinds of things spark off bad memories in me, so I’m never sure if my reaction is justified or not. I concentrated on my task, as if those rows of double crochet were in need of my hard-focused attention.
The conversation turned to the merits of cigarettes versus roll-ups, why rottweilers are such nice dogs and the best way to drink rum. Not having much to say on any of these subjects either, I kept mum (I don’t drink because I hate the taste, I’ve never smoked and I was too unsettled to offer my opinion on dogs). I learned that A*se Lady smokes but doesn’t drink, and that Liz had a very nice rottweiler, but he died after being bitten by a Jack Russell. There’s an irony in there somewhere.
The only thing I actually said throughout the session were words admiring one lady’s baby blanket and a ‘yes, please’ to Maggie’s offering of a cup of tea. I admit I breathed a sigh of relief when I came to the end of my cushion cover and genuinely couldn’t continue. I gathered my wool and hook into my bag and stood to leave.
As I smiled and said goodbye, Maggie got up to follow me. I opened the door and stepped out into the bitter air. Maggie closed the door behind her.
“It’s usually a bit quieter on a Tuesday.” she said, almost apologetically. “The Monday session didn’t happen so lots of them came today instead. It’s not usually as racy on a Tuesday. These lot are a bit too racy, even for me!” Maggie smiled.
“I’ll come again.” I said. “Thanks, Maggie. See you!”
Once, when studying the patterns of conversation in English Language A-Level (my first love was linguistics), my tutor said he’d be fascinated to know what a conversation was like when it was just women. I recalled this today because the way the women were talking actually reminded me of the way that (some) men talk. Usually there’s a very female-group-thing going on. We discuss our children and our families and the weather and, well, various things, but it’s always cosy and warm, slightly gossipy but not ill-natured. Just not today.