I opened the shop on Monday morning to a smell that seemed to come from a time before this one.
The source was in the back room – a not-washed-up preserving pan sticky with the dregs of mulled wine made to keep Saturday’s patiently queueing customers, warm. The smell was sweet, a bit orangey and slightly clovey. The last time the shop smelled that way was on a Wednesday evening in mid December last year.
It was the Knit Night before Christmas and knitters wrapped up in scarves, smiles and beautiful sweaters arrived loaded with bottles of red wine for mulling. The bottles were passed to me in the back where I was uncorking and sloshing the wine into the preserving pan with bobbing muslin sacks of spices, sliced-up orange and shovels of sugar. As soon as it was hot enough, I dunked a jug into the pan to fill it up and came out front to pass it around.
The regular early-arrivers (you know who you are!!) were all in their favourite spots on the dot of 8 o’clock, but now ten minutes later every seat in the shop was taken. Still the door kept swinging open for more knitters to come through. With all the chairs occupied, 4 enterprising knitters had found a cosy pew sitting together in the shop window. 2 were squeezed in the little bench made for 1 by the doorway, and the stairs were working nicely as improvised extra seating. The third time I came out of the kitchen with a refilled jug, a new group was sitting cross-legged at my feet on the shop floor.
By this time the windows were completely steamed up, and faces around the room were glowing rosily. I stood in the doorway at the back and wondered at just how much knitwear and jolliness was squeezed into such a small space, and how in spite of the squeeze, people were still able to delight in the tiny details of each other’s knitting – with shawls being unwrapped from jealous shoulders to get passed around for admiring.
It was only a year ago. Now seems like a lost and long-ago time, from a previous age when we were doing that thing we do best – keeping each other warm – in every sense.
Or maybe better to say almost lost but not quite :o) . Afterall we still have the preserving pan and the mulling spices. So I’m going to endevour to de-mist my clove-scented specs, and suggest we look ahead to brighter times, and make a plan to meet up this time next year when we’ll surely be able to go back to cheek rosying, heart warming, and knitting together.