100 Years on…..and still knitting.

by Author on October 9, 2013

A lot happened in 1913 – 100 years ago.

- Charlie Chaplin made his first movie.
- Stainless Steel was invented, in Sheffield.
- The Post Office started its parcel service.
- The first drive up petrol station was opened in the USA, and Henry Ford introduced his first production line.
- The USA introduced income tax for the first time.

Some great people were born – Rosa Parks, Jessie Owens, Bill Shankly; Richard Nixon was born in that year too…..
All of them are no longer with us, but still going strong after 100 years is The Knitter herself, my mother. She was born on September 18th 1913 “down the Faskine”, only a couple of miles from where she still lives in the village of Calderbank in central Scotland. Family and friends gathered to celebrate at a special mass at the Church in Calderbank she has been a huge part of for most of her life, and after that it was round to the Church Hall for tea and cakes and lots of chatting and reminiscing.

Since it had been a fair chunk of those 100 years since many in the extended family had seen each other, the first hour or so was a fairly tentative game of “spot the relation”. Whispered exchanges at the top table as we compared our answers….

“That must be one of Uncle Dan’s”
“My God, she hasn’t changed a bit”
“It might be a Mallaghan – but it could be a McKenna or even a Shaw”.

Some of the pictures of the day can be found here.

Historically Scots don’t have a great health record, although that seems to be improving. From what I can see though, Scottish women of a certain type seem to live forever!. Being 100 anywhere in Britain is still relatively rare. There were less than 13,000 in 2012, and less than 900 in Scotland. The number is increasing almost as fast as the transfer fees paid for very average footballers. By 2056 it is estimated there will be more than 300,000 centenarians – and the average life expectancy will be around 97/98 for women – and almost 95 for men! Maybe the most surprising number of all is that with the current rates of improvement in medicine, 17% of people alive today could see 100. I hope we can agree how best to look after them all….but that’s for another discussion.

I think my mum and some of those other 800 Scottish centenarians represent something that may unfortunately die out with them. She has seen so much in her lifetime, and a level of change we are unlikely to ever see again. Two insane world wars; growing up in a world with no cars, no telephones let alone smartphones; she was already a pensioner when the first PC was sold; she has seen the role of women evolve from not having the vote, the suffragettes to real equality and power dressing in the city.
Through it all she has always been a rock, an inspiration, a calming influence, and holding a simple but wise philosophy over a long life we can all learn from. She has seen the world over the last 100 years from the same vantage point – in or near that little village of Calderbank. And she has seen all of those events and changes from the perspective of her own family. With the unquestioned assumption that families – and communities – take care of each other through the ups and downs, and especially when people can’t easily take care of themselves; when they get older. I don’t think we will ever return to those times, nor should we want to turn the clock back to a rose tinted view of how things were. But we have to learn from my mum and her like if we are ever to create a world over the next 100 years that is able to handle the great opportunities – and the demographic time bomb – that living longer offers us.

And as readers of the book or this blog will know, The Knitter represents to me all that my mum stood for. I am convinced my dad had a whole range of thoughts as he jotted down the poem watching her knit that cold winter night. A profound philosophy of life that touches on evolution, the randomness of events, the importance of memories and last and certainly not least the importance of others, especially family, in helping us all make sense of our lives. That powerful notion of using knitting as a metaphor of families, and life – that all knitted things start off as something very simple, with no way of knowing what will eventually be produced, but in the right hands that can be something beautiful – with a bit of patience, and following a long series of very simple steps. That was what my Mum was born to be; that Knitter who was the bond, the fulcrum of our family that helped to pull us all together and develop us into the best we could be.

So Happy Birthday to The Knitter, and lets hope there are many more years to come. She has already left her mark though, and has touched enough people to ensure the world is a wee bit better place for her having been on it.

It’s up to the rest of us to take things forward, and keep on knitting……….

“Lo! she, with some infernal magic rife,
Entwined her needles with my passing life.”

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John Freel October 30, 2013 at 7:10 am

Hi John
Day after funeral of your mum
Just noticed your article about her 100th birthday.
Your love of the family shines through in your words .
Job done to your Mum and Dad.
Regards
John

Author October 31, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Thanks for the kind words John. Lets make sure we have those few beers we keep promising to share…..

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