Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

How a little bit of woolly thinking can make us all feel happier

Some yarn: the colourful knitted pieces on display

What did YOU do in the (post) war (not totally peace), Mammy?" Well dear, I took to the streets of my home city one damp June morning to decorate lamp posts with colourful knitting.

"Wha'??"

It's called "yarnbombing".

"You're a bomber??"

Well, only with wool. Sometimes a piece of fabric too. But never anything more dangerous than the odd clash of colour.

"Oh Ma, you're not one of those middle-class, middle-aged, wishy washy, coffee-drinking, water bottle- clutching, running to the loo every half hour, do-gooders, are you?"

Well, when you put it like that, perhaps I am. But here's the thing, dear, every single person who passed by our small band of big-hearted women and men putting up the colourful woolly street art, smiled and laughed. Some asked what it was for. Most gave it the thumbs up. Even the foreigners who don't speak English gave it the thumbs up.

"So, what are y'sayin' Ma, you're gonna beat sectarianism with a bit of wool and a few smiles from people who don't even live here?"

What I'm saying dear is, that there are two big boxes, or bags if you prefer. In one there are negative thoughts and feelings and actions. In the other, positive thoughts, feelings and actions.

"So now you're making boxes? What?"

No, I've moved on to talking figuratively now. Try and keep up.

"Right."

So in life, we can choose either to go to the box of negative things or to the box of positive things. Going to the box of positive choices doesn't mean the negative box goes away necessarily. It just means you're giving your attention to the positive, not the negative.

"And?"

Well, this means that you don't have to concern yourself with sorting out and solving and fixing and getting rid of the box of negative stuff first. You don't have to fix all the problems of the world before you do something good. You can choose to do the positive thing, even while the negative things are still happening all around you.

"Oh, right. So, putting loud knitting on lamposts ... that's positive?"

Yes! It's not hurting anyone. It's not offending anyone. It's not making a statement that excludes anyone. It's fun, it's bright, it's creative (have you any idea how much work and skill goes into knitting the pieces?) and it's involving.

Those who create the pieces, those who put them up, those who stop and interact with the people putting them up and those who see them now on the Ormeau Road and wonder about them.

Somewhere in all those heads and hearts and bodies, colour and fun is registering. And questions. Questions are good too. Questions sure beat certainties and being right.

"But what about the Garvaghy Road and the Equality Strategy and the marching season and victims? How does knitting help them? Are you going to yarnbomb them all into agreement?"

Art opens the heart to what connects us. Building up that connectedness, that's what will help those big issues.

Public places belong to the public. Displaying one's allegiance in public places through flying flags, emblems, banners, posters – all these things we see day in, day out, they stimulate parts of our brains.

We have emotional reactions to them. They contribute to our sense of wellbeing, all the time, whether we notice it or not.

Putting some art for art's sake into that mix, shakes up the reactions, jolts us out of our sleepwalking. It's good to be woken up.

"Okay, just don't make me a hat for Christmas, they always come out like tea cosies."

The Queen and a funny old relic

Can’t wait to see the episode of the Antiques Roadshow with the Queen on it, showing off some of her old things.

“And what have we here, Elizabeth?”

“Well, Fiona, this is something I inherited from my father. It’s been in the family for centuries.”

“And do you know what it’s used for?”

“Not really, we often joke at home that it’s a funny old thing no-one knows quite WHAT to do with! Ha, ha, ha ...”

“Yes, if we can pull the camera back we can get a better look at it. Yes, there it is — Northern Ireland.”

Shop ’til you drop at hospital

Took a friend to a hospital appointment last week and nearly had to be admitted myself I got so angry when I saw what was on sale in the shop.

Apart from a tiny basket holding a couple of apples, one banana and one orange, everything else was processed and full of sugar and fat — crisps, salted nuts, fizzy drinks and chocolate.

And this is a hospital? Where people go to feel better? Have they never heard of the link between food and health? Why not just put the drugs out too and be done with it?

NHS — Not Helping, Sorry.

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