Woolly thinking

I was taught to knit as a child by my Grandmother. I must have been about five or six years old. It wasn’t terribly successful in that the result was just one grey scarf. I’m not clear if it started out being grey – five year old boys are not known for their cleanliness – and I don’t think anybody actually wore it on account of it being too short, too wide and a horrid colour. But the experience has stuck in my mind and, as a result, I’ve never knitted another thing.

My wife, when first discovering she was pregnant, decided to knit some item of clothing for her forthcoming offspring. However, it took time and what started out as a baby-grow ended up as a school jumper. And was still too small for her daughter to wear. She never knitted again

I remember my mother being roped in to knit something for charity. But my recollection is of discovering, in various cupboards, under coffee tables or pushed down the back of sofas, a tangled ball of wool, two needles and an unidentifiable shape made of knotted wool. She never finished whatever it was.

This is obviously a sad indictment of the Oldfield’s craft skills. But what the exercise taught each of us was that we didn’t know our weft from our warp, that knitting was not for us and we were never going to bother again. We were clear and unequivocal about this. Even at five I didn’t need persuading by somebody else and the world was saved from further wonky woollies.

Knitting always comes to my mind when clear thinking is absent because if the thinker doesn’t think it through they’re accused of woolly thinking. And of all the bodies that could do with avoiding such an accusation, of all the organisations that work hard to promote thoughtful back-to-basics methods for many good reasons (but not, I understand, knitting), after all the stick they’ve had to put up with, the Soil Association exactly fits the bill.

I’ve always rather liked the Soil Association. They’ve always seemed a well meaning bunch, have made us think about our food more, supported Prince Charles when he’s challenged the norm and they’ve given us big stickers to put up in our restaurants to tell people how considerate we are.

But some time ago they released some publicity asking whether people think that food grown organically abroad and then flown to the UK should be classed as organic. Which to some people seems logical but to me seems as clear thinking as asking if a cuckoo in another bird’s nest is no longer a cuckoo. Come on, it may be a parasite but it’s definitely still a cuckoo.

It may be that I’m missing it. Were they actually acting remarkably clever hoping to raise the debate to generate publicity rather than appearing to confuse the public and put back years of good work.

Let’s think clearly about this. Organic food is that grown or reared without conventional pesticides, artificial fertilisers, unnecessary antibiotics and so on. The case being based on the precept that there is always the potential for added chemicals to do us harm – via the soil, air, water or the food itself. Not necessarily definite proof but, using clear risk analysis, worth considering. And there’s the added bonus that some consider it tastes better.

The argument for avoiding produce flown in to the UK from abroad is that the planes use carbon-based fuels, the burning of which results in carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere and possibly contributing to global warming by enhancing the greenhouse effect.

There. Two different subjects; the former about the quality of our food and the latter about global warming. Let’s not undo years of well though-out argument by mixing the two and confusing us all with woolly thinking.

Organic may be good and carbon emissions from planes may be bad. However, there are those that argue that there’s less carbon dioxide emitted by those planes than that from heating greenhouses to grow fruit and vegetables out of season in the UK. So if that worries you, and you want organic food, you only have to make sure that you buy it from local sources and during its traditional season. Clear and concise argument that’s uninhibited by knitting. There’s no need for confused, woolly thinking.


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