When I was at university, round about the time Queen Victoria was celebrating her diamond jubilee, I went out for a time with a girl who was a devout Christian. One evening at her flat, when the question arose as to what two young people of mixed gender without a television set might profitably do to pass the time, she proposed we try the sortes Biblicae, the exercise of opening the Bible at random to seek divine guidance. Now, this was not exactly what I’d had in mind, especially as I knew the chances of striking one of the riper passages in the Song of Solomon were fairly remote; but her mind was made up and she went first.
I can’t remember exactly which passage she hit upon: one of St Paul’s, I think, about it being a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Then she pushed the book over to me. ‘Your turn,’ she said. I didn’t give it a lot of thought, but opened it about halfway through at Isaiah chapter 13, verse 15, and to my horror read aloud: ‘Whoever is found will be thrust through, and whoever is caught will fall by the sword.’
Unsurprisingly the relationship didn’t last. And ever since I’ve taken the message to heart, determined not to be found, moving from place to place like a latter-day Job (but profiting by his example and staying on dry land; though I did have some anxious moments at Seaworld a few years back). But always secretly hoping for a sign of forgiveness.
Well, I’m delighted to say that last week it finally arrived. We were in the Milton Keynes shopping mall—as good a place as any to receive a missive from the Other Side, it being a near-death experience in itself—and I bought a couple of greetings cards. I didn’t think any more about it, and used the receipt as a bookmark. Happening to glance at it a few days later I received a sudden shock: for on the receipt were printed the words: Stay Positive. We Need You To Do Stuff.
Now, a cynic might suggest that all this means is that the receipt showed an abbreviated version of the text on the cards; but I absolutely reject this: I think it’s a sign. It may have taken almost 40 years, but I think my celestial amnesty has finally come through.
I expect some of the stuff they need me to do is to knit ganseys, and another one has just rolled off the production line, gleaming with polish and ready to be taken for a test drive. (I did take it with me to my parents’ after all, and got a whole sleeve done.) Seeing it whole, blocked out to size, it really is a splendid pattern, one of the very best, and the deep colour of the yarn sets off the pattern beautifully. By the way, I made the cuffs 6 inches long, instead of the usual 3, so that the recipient can roll up and adjust the cuffs to achieve his desired sleeve length. I have, inevitably, already started my next gansey, but I’ll say more about that next week.
In the meantime I am, of course, staying positive: well, it would be flying in the face of providence not to.