Lesson Twelve: Knitting in the Hood.

I walked into Grandma’s house this week to a big cuddle and the usual apology about tonight’s dinner, in advance. When I told Grandma that she tells me the dinner is going to be terrible every week, she looked genuinely surprised. “Do I??”

She then went on to say, “Darling, you can’t stuff up mashed potato! You just can’t! It’s not possible, right? Well I tell you what, I bloody well managed it!!”

On the contrary, the mash was delicious, like everything else. Here’s a little Grandma hint for you though, don’t just pile the mash on to the plate with your average spoon, no sir. Grab yourself an icecream scoop, for perfect little dollops of mash. Genius.




It was getting a bit chilly so it’s lucky that Holly the dog had her little jumper on…


Too good for handmade…

So me and Grandma tucked into our dinner, and somehow got talking about the suburb Grandma has lived in for years and years and where I grew up; Willagee.

Now you may not have heard of our humble suburb, even if you did live right next to it… unless you’ve heard about us in the papers… a quick search for ‘Willagee’ in the ABC news website will find you headlines like, “Family Threatened in Willagee Home Invasion”, “Street Cordoned Off in Violent Dispute”, “Cold Showers For a Year as Repairs go Begging” and last but not least, “Would Be Robbers Pelted with Food”.

We got off pretty lightly I suppose, in the 30 years my family have lived there we only experienced one break-in (teenagers, so unfortunately my huge collection of plastic jewellery did not go un-noticed…), the odd Peeping Tom, and an unusual circumstance of finding all the knickers on our clotheslines had been un-pegged and carefully placed on the ground below. Hmm. Actually, I just realised I’m not sure if I asked my Mum at the time if that had warranted a second wash? Shuddder…

But these headlines aren’t too bad I suppose, compared to the one Grandma mentioned finding, when opening up the Sunday paper one morning; the giant headlines on the front page reading “SLUMS OF WILLAGEE.”

That’s our hood, I thank you very much.

Grandma explained that Willagee had been almost split in two in those days; one half consisting of the mass building of cheap fibro houses for ‘State Housing’ as it was called then, and the other was the “Campbell Estate” side, where Grandma and my Dad and family were nestled. Although they had rented before, this was the first house the family owned, the land purchased for 750 pounds. And that was before it got it’s ‘slums’ status.

I had heard the “Campbell Estate” name before; there have been various attempts over the years to rename Willagee this, to make us sound a bit posh and fancy. Nothing screams “Please stop making fun of our criminal suburb” like a good old name change. What I didn’t know is that this area was so called because it was once one very large chicken farm, belonging to the Campbell family. I asked Grandma if the house on the corner had been the Campbell’s house, and she said yes.


Campbell Estate homestead


I took these pictures when I first got back from Europe a few years ago. This house was entirely concealed during my entire lifetime of living in Willagee; behind enormous trees and fences. But then suddenly all that was torn away and here was this huge old house! I heard there were various petitions to restore it, but then one day it was just gone, no one seemed to have seen it’s destruction. Now there are about four ugly square houses in its place. I never actually thought to ask Grandma if she knew the history behind it, so I was pretty happy to find this out.

All in all, I’m proud of where I grew up and I love being in Willagee, or “The Gee”, as it is now affectionately called (Grandma gets a real kick out of this). Although I always like to brag that I ‘grew up in the Bronx’ to gain some street cred (sometimes needed after disclosures of fondness for knitting and high tea), it was overall a pretty humdrum suburban existence. Plus, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Willagee has changed, man. We’re prime real estate now. Yes, you may purse your lips at me and judge me as being a little too proud and defensive, but it’s the truth, dammit. Prime real estate.

Back to the knitting and I had to harass Grandma a little bit to help me start out the beanie, after our dinner finished quite late again, given all the natter. But I did get one row done, and have done a few more rows at home. Problem is, the pattern we are following is about 5 cms smaller than the circumference of big fella’s head, so Grandma took a bit of a guess at the number of cast on stitches needed. Four rows in and I’ve noticed that the rib-stitch is misaligned… so we’ll probably have to start again to make sure the number of stitches is going to work with the pattern. Oh well. It’s a start?

No knitting needles seem large enough…