Where the Wind Comes From
People and Houses
Tell Me
Driving - the old and the young
Dandy Lion
Camp Fires
Knots in May
The Itch
A Genetically Modified Poem
Night closes in
The Rain
Mid Fifties in 2000
In the blink of an eye
The Criminal Mind

List of 2007 stories

Knots in May

One of the reasons for our trip to England last May was to attend the 25th anniversary meeting of the International Guild of Knot Tyers. It was to be held in Fareham, an old town in Hampshire, halfway between Portsmouth and Southampton. On the way, we had a stopover in Hong Kong for a couple of days where I had arranged to meet a local member of the guild, Glory Ling. He turned up at our hotel bang on time and we immediately started to talk about knots and ropes, exchanging little articles made from string. We did do other things that day, like visit and ancient walled village and brand new temple way out in the hills behind Kowloon and have lunch of fish balls and noodles in a café at a table with ten other customers. But there was a lot of chat about knots.

Then it was on to London and the mandatory visits to museums and galleries and pubs. Somehow I regularly found examples of good and bad ropework wherever we went. Then there were the bookshops, particularly Foyles in Charing Cross Road. I fossicked among the stacks looking for knot texts, but found none I did not already possess. Funnily enough, while wandering around Hampton Court we came across the Knot Garden. All the time Lynn patiently endured my small obsession. She just smiled when I pointed out some peculiarity in the rope rigging of a boat in an oil painting by some Dutch or Italian master. She has known me for quite a few years now, so it was not unexpected behavior.

Come the morning of the day for the trip south, we hauled our cases to the station and boarded the train. In a few hours we were in Fareham, booked into our hotel, and heading down the narrow road to The Red Lion, one of the forty pubs in the town. This was the knotter's conference centre and principle watering hole. We crossed the threshold and were confronted by a score of knotters chatting in a dozen accents. Cockney, Brum, Scouse, Taffy, Geordie, Yank, Swede, Gerry, Jap, Frog, and Clog. Each was grasping a length of string or cord or twine or braid or marlin and even some rope. Turk's Heads, Monkey Fists, Fobs, lanyards in various stages of completion dangled from fist and fingers. I was in heaven.

The next couple of days literally flew by at a rate of knots. I tied knots, talked knots, inspected knots, and learned knots. Lynn was kept busy drawing on an A5 sheet each member's pet knotted construction. The builder proudly signed beside the finished drawing, and the completed document was copied and presented to all as a memento. By the time the conference was over, my lady was super saturated with knots and knotters. But it was not the end of her exposure. Next stop after leaving Fareham was Bath, and a couple of days in the company of Richard. That's right, another knotter. He took us to the marvelous Black Country Museum in Dudley. This place is a collection of buildings and structures and articles from the start of the Industrial Revolution to mid 20th century. Naturally canal barges were well represented, with all their hawsers, lines, fenders, springs, and even some rope decoration. Fantastic!

Leaving Richard and Bath we headed for Cornwall where we had been invited to stay with a lady member of the guild. At least Janet was more involved with the gentle arts, so Lynn was actually quite happy to visit with a kindred spirit, albeit another bloody knotter.

Unfortunately, the totally reliable British weather caused a cancellation of the plan. Rain, fog and a forecast of more to come, forced a turnaround and we regretfully headed east.

So we drove through town and village and moor, stopping at Honiton on the one day the lace museum was closed. No knotting that day. Eventually we arrived at Chichester, swung north and headed for the Down and Weald Museum. This was truly a delightful place. A collection of houses and farm buildings from all over southeast England set up in a tree lined valley. A fully functioning mill was grinding wheat and selling bags of genuine stone ground flour, complete I would guess with ground stone. A bodger was turning a piece of beech wood on a pole lathe, not stopping as he answered questions and described his craft. I was slightly amused by his use of nylon line to drive his medieval machine.

A lady dressed in 17th century attire turned a great wheel and spun hand-carded wool, all the time chatting to the onlookers. Yes, she did know of Bothwell, and yes, she would love to go to the next spin-in there.

We wandered from house to barn to stable and then to a paddock, sorry, field, where an event involving draught horses was being staged. Feather-footed Clydesdales, bulky Pecherons and short-legged Suffolk Punches dragged and drew wagons and carts and drays across the green, green grass. A row of tents stood at the head of the field. Tea and scones in one, horse accoutrements in another. In the last tent a familiar figure stood weaving a length of cotton rope into a halter. It was one of the knotters from Fareham and of course we chatted. Lynn looked at me suspiciously. Pure chance I told her.

Leaving the site we headed further east into the wilds of West Sussex. Time to start looking for a cot for the night. I am not sure precisely where it was, but a pub with a sign advertising rooms with en-suite appeared. I parked and went in to see if they had room for us. Sorry, full up, I was told. Can you suggest anywhere else I asked? Try the Coach and Horses at Cowfold was the reply. A few miles along the road stood the hostelry, and yes they had a room for us. The landlady came from behind the bar and handed me a key. It was attached to a magnificent piece of knotwork. 2 mm nylon braid, three strand flat plait round the thimble, Diamond knot doubled, six part crown sinnet to a tripled wall and crown knob knot. "Someone knows what they were doing" I commented. "Oh we have a heap of these made by a bunch of daft blokes who meet here every month. They belong to some sort of club that does stuff with rope or something". In a country with more pubs than the whole of Australia, we had stumbled on the local of the Sussex Branch of the Guild. Pure coincidence I assured Lynn. I don't think she believed me.

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