‘This is killing me, Sorcha. I feel about as useful as a focking Orts degree’

Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: ‘Knitting. I mean, it’s not exactly me, is it?’

‘This is killing me, Sorcha. I feel about as useful as a focking Orts degree’

‘This is killing me, Sorcha. I feel about as useful as a focking Orts degree’

 

“God, I’m bored,” I go. “How far into this whole self-isolation thing are we now?”

Sorcha’s there, “We’re halfway-”

I’m like, “Halfway?”

She goes, “-halfway through day two.”

Yeah, no, Sorcha got a text to say that Honor might be a close contact of a close contact of a close contact of someone who is rumoured to have had a positive antigen test and now we’re living like prisoners in our own home.

January always feels about two months long to me, with nothing to fill that lonely gap between Leopardstown and the Six Nations. But it seriously, seriously drags when you’re stuck indoors with your family, listening to the constant rattle of your wife’s knitting needles and responding to your children’s every cough and sneeze as if someone has just rolled a live grenade into the room.

I’m there, “This is killing me, Sorcha. I feel about as useful as a focking Orts degree.”

Sorcha goes, “So why don’t you do something.”

“In terms of?”

“In terms of something. A hobby. Why don’t you take up knitting?”

I end up just laughing.

I’m there, “Knitting? Are you actually serious?”

She’s like, “Yes, I’m actually serious. It’s one of the few things that’s kept me sane since this whole, like, pandemic thing storted.”

“Knitting,” I go. “I mean, it’s not exactly me, is it?”

“Why do you always have to do that, Ross? Whenever I suggest doing something that’s outside your comfort zone – like dancing with me at a wedding, or pushing the trolley when we’re in the supermorket, or moisturising – you act like it’s some big threat to your masculinity.”

“But knitting, Sorcha?”

Ryan Gosling knits.”

“What?”

Russell Crowe knits.”

“You’re making that up.”

“I’m just saying, do you not find it – oh my God – exhausting having to keep up this, like, macho alpha male act?”

“That’s what you said when you bought me a man bag for my 40th. I think Ryan Gosling got a mench that day as well.”

“Come over here and sit beside me.”

“I’m not sure this is a good idea, Sorcha.”

“Jesus, is there ever a time when you’re not thinking, what would this Leinster player or that Ireland player say if he could see me now?”

There isn’t. The woman is like a mind-reader. But I also know that resistance – in the absence of me being allowed to leave the house and go to the pub – is futile. So I end up sitting down beside her and she puts the knitting needles in my hands.

“Okay,” she goes, “I’m going to show you how to do a basic stocking stitch. Oh my God, Ross, your hands are shaking.”

I’m there, “I wonder should I even be doing this without a few drinks on me?”

“Come on, just take a leap into the unknown. Okay, your needle goes from the front to the back like this, then you bring your wool over your right-hand needle, then take it off. Then to purl, you go from back to front, bring the wool over the right-hand needle again and then pull it off. Just like that. Now, you do it.”

So – yeah, no – I follow her instructions to the letter, while she goes, “That’s it! Knit one. Purl one. Again. Knit one. Purl one. Oh my God, you’re actually good at this!”

Something incredible happens then – as in, my hands stop shaking. I’ve always responded well to positive feedback and this ends up being very much a case of that.

“That’s it!” she goes. “Knit one. Purl one. Oh my God, you’re actually faster than me! Knit one. Purl one. Knit one-,” and within a few minutes I’m suddenly doing it by myself, the needles a blur of movement as I complete one row, then another, then another.

“Knit one,” I’m muttering to myself. “Purl one. Knit one. Purl one.”

My mind is suddenly cast back – as it often is – to my days as the best kicker of a rugby ball, certainly at schools level, in the entire country. I could walk on to a pitch with a bag of balls and spend an entire day kicking the same penalty over and over again without feeling the time pass. I’d look up and – yeah, no – it’d be suddenly night-time and I wouldn’t know where the hours had gone.

“Knit one,” I go, my mind totally in the zone, just like the old days. “Purl one.”

Sorcha leaves me to it, then comes back to check on me three hours later. “Oh! My God!” she goes when she sees what I’ve done in that time. “What have you knitted?”

I’m there, “Well, obviously Dricmas is coming up, so I thought I’d knit a scorf for Himself,” the needles still clicking away. “Then I decided to do one for Jamie Heaslip, because he always looks like he’s freezing when he’s doing the whole pitch-side commentary thing. Then I thought, I can’t knit a scorf for Jamie Heaslip without knitting one for Eddie O’Sullivan – that’d be a real d**khead move, even though Eddie and I have obviously had our differences in the past.”

“Are you coming to bed?” she goes.

But I’m like, “Yeah, no, I’m on a roll here, Sorcha. I’ll be up shortly.”

“Knit one,” I’m still muttering. “Purl one. Knit one. Purl one. Knit one. Purl one.”

The next time I happen to look up, Honor and Sorcha are just, like, staring at me from across the room and I realise – with a shock that’s only too familiar to me from my kicking days – that I’ve managed to work right through the night.

Honor goes, “Er, what the fock are you doing?”

And I go, “Suzanne’s staying in Toronto, Casey. The weddings are kinder with blue flowers.”

“He’s babbling,” Sorcha goes. “It’s sleep deprivation. He was like this when he played rugby.”

I’m there, “It’s a toucan, Sorcha! It’s in its nature to be pessimistic – cake or cake.”

Sorcha carefully takes the needles out of my hands.

I’m there, “What happened? Did I work through the night?”

And she goes, “No, Ross you worked through two nights. Come on – bed.”

“But I still haven’t knitted one for Stephen Ferris. And I haven’t forgotten that Garry Ringrose has a certain birthday coming up. Little Dricmas.”

“I know I’m letting down women everywhere when I say this,” Sorcha goes, leading me up the stairs, “but I definitely prefer the macho alpha male act.”

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