Hilary Fannin: Give me back my Aran jumper, Gwyneth
Who knew my lumpy old sweater would end up on Goop?
Gwyneth Paltrow looking good in an Aran sweater
I had an Aran jumper when I was child. I wasn’t alone; everyone in my suburban universe had an Aran jumper. People with cloudy midriffs and glasses perched on the ends of their powdery noses, usually great-aunts or grandmothers, knitted these jumpers with multiple knitting needles. Nesting in high-backed chairs in front of The Late Late Show, they knitted and knitted, fast and furious as sweat-drenched gunslingers.
Once knit, an Aran jumper could not be unknit. It would be indestructible. Passed from child to child like an unwanted bout of measles or a persistent verruca, it was damn hard to get rid of. My Aran jumper was a hand-me-down, having cut its twisting teeth on some other child’s back. By the time I took possession, it was a bit hard and lumpy, a tad scratchy, and the neck was kind of tight and the arms were a little bit short and things adhered to the uneven surface of the wool: dried-up Rice Krispies, a bit of Heinz Sandwich Spread, a little corner of an easy-cheese slice, a nearly completely sucked glucose sweet.
I didn’t like my Aran jumper one little bit. But who did like jumpers in the 1960s anyway? Jumpers were things you wore so you didn’t get pneumonia. All of wintering life was predicated on covering up your fragile kidneys and the incipient threat of pneumonia. Pneumonia was a corner boy, hanging around with his hands in his flimsy pockets, whistling under his frosty breath, just waiting to kiss you with his frozen lips if you dared venture forth without your hat and coat and gloves and boots and winter vest and thick-ribbed winter tights and, of course, your jumper, your enduring, doggedly tenacious, anorak-stuffing, throat-choking, armpit-strangling jumper.
Meaning of life
Once, while searching for the meaning of life underneath my girlhood bed (oh no, hang on, it was my Bunty Annual that I was looking for), I accidentally leaned against the two-bar electric fire, a coveted possession that moved between the upstairs bedrooms depending on who screamed the loudest or could best display signs of frostbite or, better still, hypothermia in our winter-chilled, unradiated house. I had unwittingly pressed my Aran-clad arm against the electric fire. I smelt the scorch before I saw it, then turned to observe the arm of my jumper yellow and harden, fizz and simmer, but doggedly refuse to burn even when I held my arm tight to the heater’s laddered cage.
I’d like to think I buried that sweater, or stuffed it in a hedge. I don’t remember what happened to it, although I do have a distant memory of neighbouring kittens in a cardboard box blindly mewling at it for milk.
I should have hung on to the damn thing.
I was recently perusing Goop, an online lifestyle publication “curated” by actress and tall blonde person Gwyneth Paltrow. For the uninitiated, Goop – how can I explain this? – shows us how to live, earnestly and luxuriously, beautifully and mindfully, exclusively and non-toxically.
The Goop site tends to feature people in awfully nice clothes, eating awfully nice food, on tasteful terraces with wondrous views, presented in a way that immediately ignites the question: “Ah yeah, but who cleans the toilets?”? I like Goop. It could be a dead useful resource if you were ever in a corner, wondering about the benefits of coconut water or, indeed, how to discover the secrets of herbal vaginal steaming (nope, I’m not making that up).
Anyway, there was I trying to concentrate on an article about balancing one’s intellectual and emotional sides by eating puy lentils, or something equally esoteric, when I saw, advertised on the fashion pages, a shrunken long-sleeved Aran sweater – for $700. I recognised it instantly. My jumper! My scorched, cheesy, prodigal jumper.
So that’s where it got to! The fashionistas at Goop had teamed it with a pair of spray-on leather leggings and $1,000-worth of shiny cream-coloured ankle boots, and accessorised it with expensive . . . stuff, which was obviously a cut above the way I used to wear it, with my Crimplene shorts in summer and my Crimplene trousers in winter – but hey, it was looking pretty bloody fantastic!
If only we’d all hung on to our mangy old scratch jackets, we too could run with Gwyneth. I can see it, me ’n’ Gwynnie, skipping through the pasture to hand-feed the freckled ponies, me and deep- cleansed, herbally-steamed Gwynnie, blowing kisses at her organic zucchinis.
Maybe I should send her my Crimplene shorts.