One of the ‘joys’ of growing old is that one forgets so much, much of which is probably a good thing to forget. But the ageing mind also has a couple of good tricks up its sleeve.
One of these tricks is that suddenly, out of the blue, for no rhyme or reason, the brain pops up with a long forgotten, and frankly useless snippet of information. Useless?
Not exactly, because it can help piece together a few fragments of long-lost childhood memories. This happened to me the other day.
Completely out of context, kind of out of nowhere, into my consciousness, popped the word ‘mushroom’ followed a little later by the word ‘darning’. Slowly, out of the mists of time (circa 1950), drifted a picture that I could almost touch, smell and hear.
It is chilly. We (my mother, my sister and I) are sitting around a woodfire – it is smokey, crackly and smells of pine. What is being said is I think forever lost, but I can hear the sound of speaking voices.
My mother is darning, with a darning mushroom, darning needle, darning wool and she is darning socks. We are watching, intrigued.
This was before the days of throwaway socks. Holey socks just needed darning. As I recall, the socks, usually damaged at the toe or heel, accumulated in a darning basket and were dealt with in batches.
The process of darning involved threading a length of wool through the eye of a (large) needle, pushing the mushroom into the sock so that the hole was stretched over the top of the mushroom, and then the wool used in a way that sort of knitted and closed the hole. The result: good as new? Not quite, but usable all the same.
Anyone out there who still remembers darning mushrooms?
Clearly, they are no longer in use.
But there was a time (up until 60/70 or so years ago) when socks holed more frequently than they do nowadays, and such holey socks were not throwaway items, they needed to be mended. This is where the darning mushroom came in. I suspect that it started to go out of use around about the time of the arrival on the scene of those horrible, sweaty nylon socks.