For me, the hand-knitted sweater soon stirred memories of my 1960s childhood.
I was always inordinately fond of my pullovers’ sheepiness, the Scottish origin of their knit, and the lovely sweet reek of my father’s St Bruno Flake pipe tobacco which kippered them (and me) on the car journeys to school.
My jumpers – new, stretched, holed, darned and finally outgrown – were intimately linked with my personal smell, my sweat, my sense of self, family, strength and vulnerability within the wool.
Those Highland-flecked cocoons suggested something special to the boy who wore them in Hertfordshire for the rest of the year. They gave comfort. They set me apart, if only in my own eyes. At a distance, I began to observe.
And one thing I noticed was that the Britain out there, beyond my jumpers, was troubled. That with each new, larger pullover acquired in August, its Empire was steadily contracting.
Woolly jumpers even now – their symphonies of scent – fill me with a sense of warmth, nostalgia and mortal foreboding.
Things fall apart. The elbows cannot hold. Mere woolliness is loosed upon the world.
A J McIntosh