A one-way ticket to knit

I once took a train from a tiny station on the north coast of Brittany where I’d arrived by sailing boat from Jersey. It was a small wooden hall with a short shrub pitted platform outside. There were no waiting passengers and the interior was completely empty save for two glass fronted counters on opposite sides of the station hall: One for information and one for tickets. I started at the information window. A friendly uniformed man with a blue peaked SNCF cap explained what my options were for travelling to Paris, and I said I’d like to go ahead to buy a ticket. He pointed to the booth on the other side which sold tickets. There was no one there but I did as I was told and walked across to the other window. The same man then reappeared in that window. He removed his blue hat, and picked up a black peaked hat from the counter behind the glass and placed it carefully on his head, and greeted me afresh. The train information officer had just become the station ticket master. He duly sold me a single ticket to Paris without any reference to our previous conversation, and after a short wait on the little platform, I boarded the branch line train which finally connected with an intercity and got me to Paris.

I was about 17 at the time so my encounter with the friendly hat-switching information-purveying-ticket-selling man is about 35 years old now, which slightly begs the question of why he continues to lurk in my already overcluttered head. We don’t wear hats for work in the shop (not peaked ones anyway) and the closest we come to being uniformed is a sense that we dress in hand knits as much as the weather and laundry will allow. But I sometimes feel like the shop day has me channeling that absurd French ticket information man as I swivel into different metaphorical costumes each time I turn to face different customers through the day, seeing to the knitter who needs another ball of wool because regardless of the scarf being twice her height already, the thought of no longer knitting it is too unbearable; or the knitter who’s after wool for a test knit he’s just been accepted for, which holds the prospect of finally having an inner circle seat with his designer crush; or the knitter who wants a hand with adding some new colours to the left-overs they’ve assembled for a stash-busting fairisle vest; or the knitter who needs something for a bolero for a wedding because they can’t find anything suitable ready-made in the shops; this list goes on and on. In fact in the wool-shop-as-railway-station version of my day, I see counters all around the hall where you can go to for therapy, for thriftiness, for belonging, for creativity, for artfulness, for craftiness, for skill, and so on..

Or perhaps the truth is that the reasons we knit and decide to walk into a wool shop are rarely as clear cut as a one way ticket to Paris. So we’ll just have to stick to our woolly headed ways of serving you all.

And thank goodness for that!

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