When Bert died suddenly in a freak gardening accident, Dorothy was inconsolable. Their large secluded garden had been a shared passion, common ground for two very different people. It was their place to be together, to make plans and nurture seedlings. In the garden they would play, fling snails over the hedge giggling conspiratorially and then sit chatting and drinking tea. The garden was not the same without Bert and that summer she put down her spade and retired back into the house.
She needed to be busy and started to knit. Baby booties, bonnets and cardigans, in pale pastels and soft wools. All were donated to the local hospital. The nurses were thankful, but supply exceeded demand and as the pile of knitted goods accumulated the matron asked her to stop. Dorothy diversified into cardigans, scarves and hats, and soon the whole village was kitted out.
As her knitting gained momentum, she moved onto competitions and trialled her own designs. Time to experiment, challenge knitting traditions and to explore the potential of wool as an artform. Her nativity scene won first place in the Wivenhoe WI knitting competition. Her beach scene, complete with beach huts, small figures playing on the sand and a frothing stormy sea, secured a win at the regional finals. And now here she was at the nationals.
They provided a table for her display. She asked if she could have a chair and after some discussion it was agreed that a chair was within the rules. As Dorothy finalised her display, she realised that she had forgotten the knitted snails which were still in a bag in the boot of the car. She hurried out to retrieve them.
When she returned, the hall was buzzing with excited chatter. Crowds milled around and the press photographer ordered people out of the way. Giggles and smirks….‘Oh My!”
“Well look at that!”
“Well, there’s a thing!”
Mrs Hebblethwaite, the head judge looked flustered and perplexed. She ushered Dorothy over to an ante-room.
“We need to talk about your work”
“Yes it is my Bert. Large as life”.
“Your Bert, does not appear to be wearing clothes”
“No, he’d never wear clothes in the garden…”
“He has a penis!”
“Yes, he had a penis…about that size and shape.”
Silence… exchanged glances… and then a response.
“We, at the Women’s Institute, cannot allow you to display a knitted penis. It is pornographic! We would like you to take him away immediately!”
As Dorothy crossed the hall everyone looked in her direction, someone shouted “Well-done! Can you knit me one?” Then applause.
Dorothy smiled as she approached Bert, who was sitting with a tea-towel draped across his lap. “Come on love” she whispered as she gently lifted him, balanced him over one shoulder and carried him back out to the car.