A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Two women are knitting in two different eras separated by a great deal of human life...


I know you might not be able to hear me, Bernie,” said Pauline quietly, “but the doctors say it’s possible that you can. They say it helps, sometimes, to bring a man round when he’s like you are, fast asleep for ages, in a coma…”

What’s fast asleep? And what’s a coma? Is that bad? Is there something wrong with me? Have I always been like this or was there a time when the pictures in my head were real? When the little boy pissing his pants when he moved house really lived and breathed and was me? Did I really do that, run up and down the new road where our new house was in the hope that my shorts would dry out in the wind and the sun? Is this the real life…?

So I’ll sit here with you for a while. That’s what I’ll do, and to help me concentrate I’ve brought my knitting. I thought I’d knit you a woolly jumper for when you’re better so that you and I can go to the seaside and not be bothered by the cold winds that sometimes blow off the sea...”

What’s knitting? And what are cold winds? Are they just fantasy?

And suddenly he heard the click-clacking of knitting needles, click clack, click clack, knit and pearl…

And that mysterious point of light appeared inside his head, a point that grew and shone onto an inner stage, waiting for the actors to appear.

Click clack, click clack…

Mummy was sitting in her chair facing the wireless. That’s what the big wooden thing was, the wireless, and Kenneth Horne was making her laugh out loud.

Kenneth Horne often did that.

And mummy was knitting. Click clack, went her needles in between chuckles at what the funny man on the wireless was saying.

Click clack, click clack…

What are you doing, mummy?

That was him asking. He remembered that moment as if it was a mere instant ago, and he remembered the room just as it appeared on the stage inside his head, a drama being re-enacted for him to soak up and then, when it was over, maybe applaud.

I’m knitting, Bernie, a pair of swimming trunks for you to wear at the seaside. We’re going in a week or two, remember? Mummy’s booked a caravan on a caravan park near the sea, and you can wear these swimming trunks on the beach, I’ll be finished really quite soon, and you can paddle in the sea and it won’t matter if you get them wet…

He remembered those swimming trunks and the memory left a sort of bitter taste in his mouth. What had he done? Had he chewed them, tried to eat them, made himself sick by doing something silly like that?

I like that shade of blue, mummy, he heard himself say, made his puppet lips mouth.

It suits you, Bernie, my own little boy blue, smiled the knitting woman, and just then Barry came in from a game outside with the girl next door, Jane, the gangly girl who lived next door, the girl with the matchstick legs and hair so long that she sat on it when she sat down.

What about me, mummy, am I going to have some swimming trunks? asked Barry, and mummy smiled at him,

You can have Bernie’s from last year, Barry, he’s outgrown them and I haven’t really got enough wool to knit two pairs … they’re nearly new, he’s barely worn them at all and you said how much you liked them…

Then Bernie protested like he was bound to because those trunks were his and nobody else’s even if they were too small for him by now. He’d grown a lot recently, he knew he had, his grey school shorts were tight round his middle and he no longer needed the braces to hold them up, and he hated those braces, the way they pulled into his shoulders and yanked his school shorts high up until they rubbed his groin. But those swimming trunks were his, so why should Barry have them?

It’s not fair, mummy, he said, I like those trunks and you said how they looked good on me…

Mummy sighed. She had been expecting him to throw a wobbly because that was the kind of boy Bernie was.

They’re too small for you and you’ll never be able to wear them again, she said. So don’t be so selfish. You’re having new ones and Barry can have your old ones and that’s the way it’s going to be…

He stamped a foot churlishly.

But it’s not fair…

Click clack, click clack, click clack…

Old Mrs Templeman passed away last week, Bernie,” observed the click-clacking Pauline, though Bernie didn’t really know it was she who was speaking and anyway, who was old Mrs Templeman? And what did it mean, passed away?

Is that what he was doing, lying there in his mushy darkness with only the odd glimmer of light illuminating the puppets in his dreams?

Like now.

In the very early morning, waiting at the station in town for the train that would take them to the seaside. It was still almost dark! And in the distance, along the railway line, he could hear the noises of the train roaring towards them.

There was whistling and hissing and clanking and men shouting, and there it was.

Searing red and orange and yellow light flashed and flickered as coal was added to its fire by a sweating, dusty, grinning fireman.

It was exciting. More exciting than anything else anywhere in the world.

Wait until the train stops, boys, said mummy quite firmly.

And they did. They had to. The whole scene, as the mighty engine with its fire and its steam slowly trundled to a standstill was the scariest and the loveliest thing he had ever seen. He pulled closer to his mother even though all he wanted to do was jump up and down and scream his wonder at such fierce power to the dark heavens. But he didn’t do that. Instead he clung to the precious woman and then, with Barry holding his own hand, little Barry, scared Barry, he climbed onto the carriage nearest them whilst mother heaved two suitcases, old suitcases that had seen many better days, into the compartment, and they sat down and smelt the smoke and the steam and the might of human creation.

You can look out of the window when we’re on the move, but don’t open it or black smuts of soot will come in and make us all filthy…

The train was rattling along, da-da-da-dah, da-da-da-dah as it roared on its rails over points and into the great unknown. Unknown to the boys, anyway. Unknown to Bernie.

I’ll be going in a moment, Bernie,” said Pauline, putting her knitting away, “I’m getting well on with your woolly jumper and I should have it finished by the time you come round … you will come round, won’t you? There are lots of things for us to do, places to go to, miracles for us to see...”

Who are you and why are you talking to me? What things are we going to see? What miracles?

And what’s a woolly jumper?

I’ll be back tomorrow, same time, same place… try and wake up, Bernie, try and come back to us...”

Someone said kangaroo … that’s funny. Isn’t it? A woolly jumper…?

Nurse! Nurse! He smiled… I’m sure he smiled!” Pauline rushed to the door, and a pretty nurse almost ran in.

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy …?

We’ve seen that before … like a real smile … maybe more like a baby with wind, you know, a windy smile ...”

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy…?

It looked so real, so like him! Please God that he wakes up soon.”

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy…?

Just fantasy…?


And the stage is bare at last, monochrome mush dominates all of creation, the light fades, maybe until tomorrow.

© Peter Rogerson 27.04.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on April 27, 2018
Last Updated on April 27, 2018
Tags: Bertie, Pauline, mother, knitting, seaside, swimming trunks, woolly jumper, is this just fantasy


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 79 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..