Apparently I’m famous. You’d have thought someone would have mentioned this to me; perhaps an taught-faced agent or a cumbersome bodyguard, maybe even an aging mentor but no, I was left to discover my new-found fame alone, unprotected and unsupervised. In India, of all places.
I should point out that I spent most of my time there in and around Delhi, the country’s capital city, where there were far fewer Western tourists than I’d initially imagined. There the streets are filled with horns, bustling crowds and – on occasion – monkeys, all of which is a far cry from the sedate streets of London’s Crystal Palace on even the sunniest of Saturdays. Tall, curvy redheads are a site not often seen on those streets and as such are likely to be on the receiving end of more than a few stares. I can’t say I ever got to the stage of ignoring all of this unexpected attention but I learned to go about my way regardless for much of my time out there. There were a couple of occasions though where even that became impossible.
I could sort of understand why people asked me to pose for photographs with them. I have crazy red hair and pale skin. Not to mention the fact that I was almost entirely shiny owing to the fact it was 37 degrees in the shade. The aforementioned red hair and pale skin should give you an indication that this is an environment I was never built to deal with. Families of Indian tourists asked me to pose with them and their children for pictures outside some of the main tourist sites so I grinned and bared the surreal experiences as best I could, made particularly happy when some of the children started talking to me in near-flawless English. I’ve yet to work out exactly how they explained these pictures away to their friends and family back home though. “Sooo, Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Dilli Haat oh and here’s a random shiny lady with fire hair” sounds about right.
What I really couldn’t understand was why some of those groups asked me for my autograph. As far as I’m aware, I don’t look like anyone famous. One exceptionally drunken comparison has been made between my hair colour and that of Kate Winslet in Titanic, but that’s as far as it went. Oh and there was a less-than-favourable comment about me bearing a slight resemblance to Catherine Tate but the less said about that, the better. So I was at a bit of a loss as to why eight people asked me to sign random pieces of paper, ticket stubs and – in one case – a Delhi guide book. For the first two, I did try to point out that I worked in an office and therefore could not be in any way famous but they chose to ignore me, instead thanking me very kindly for the autograph and ambling off in a pleased manner.
For days, it baffled me. Was it some sort of elaborate identity fraud? Did I in fact have a secret identical twin sister who’d made a name for herself in Hindi soap operas? Had I been secretly filmed knitting 100% wool in my air-conditioned hotel room before becoming an overnight internet sensation for being a complete nutcase?
Only today did I discover the truth. On December 16th, my non-knitting alter ego captaincaz was named Qype‘s Qyper of the Week in their weekly newsletter. In the run up to Christmas, I’d missed that issue in my festive inbox and so didn’t realise my moment in the weak, wintry sun had finally arrived. Today though I received a note from Qype asking me for my real name and address so they could send out some goodies as part of the deal (about which I’m very excited by the way) and was initially skeptical before going back through the archived issues and seeing my awesome fame for myself. It was made even better by the fact that my photo and quote appear directly above a paragraph about London yarn stores Loop and All the Fun of the Fair. This was – of course – the reason for my fame amongst the Indian public. It’s so very obvious now and it’s all thanks to a sixty word review of a pub (and its sweeties) in central London.
Captaincaz: massive in India. Who’d have thought, eh?
It’s been a quiet few days knitting-wise so I don’t have too much to report other than wishing one and all a very Happy Valentine’s Day. While I’m usually a bit “bah humbug” about a day devoted to commercialisation, fluffy things and general lovey-dovey-tude, I will confess to being a little bit won over by a gorgeous bunch of flowers from my Boyfriend (whose scarf STILL remains unfinished – I know, I know!). Plus I’m in the process of knitting a tiny Henri bear for my friend’s almost-newborn and despite being rather short on the limbs front, he does look rather adorable already.
During the rather dull periods of my day when I’m not knitting (or writing about knitting, or thinking about writing about knitting, or – ahem – buying yarn to knit with), I have a full-time job. In marketing. Now I know that for many this marks me out as some sort of shallow, money-grabbing product pusher, intent on parting you from your hard-earned cash in return for something shiny and pointless. But I promise you I’m not like that. For starters, I’m not really involved in the advertising side of things. I write the leaflets, manuals and website content that tells you how to use your shiny pointless thing and my aim is to make it all as simple as possible. I do, however, work in the mobile phone industry, which has a particularly bad reputation for doing anything and everything to make you buy one product or service over another.
Which is why I was wholly unsurprised to see Vodafone Ireland hopping on the guerrilla knitting bandwagon in the hope of convincing people that they were kooky, young and ever-so-slightly daring. If you haven’t seen the advert already, feel free to click on the link below though I feel I should warn you that it is particularly nauseating in places (particularly the use of the eponymous Irishism “deadly”, suggesting that the whole script was written by someone whose only other experience of Ireland was the occasional episode of Father Ted). And if the advert sickens you, definitely don’t visit the Vodafone website…
Bad hair, machine knitting and dodgy word choice aside, it’s undeniable that this is a truly terrible ad. Not just because the overall message is unclear (though anyone in the know is welcome to explain to me what exactly is the consumer benefit in “cheering up your top-up”). In using guerrilla knitting to inspire their new campaign, Vodafone has attempted to associate itself with a movement based on rebellion, individuality and secrecy – the polar opposite of a commercial advertisement aired on national telly. It just doesn’t work for a big corporation. Particularly one that has nothing to do with knitting.
My guess would be that it was dreamed up by an edgy creative agency executive who confused guerrilla knitting with graffiti knitting, assuming it was nothing more that the yarny equivalent of a student with a free hugs sign. It’s just a bit of fun, it raises a smile or two; surely there’s nothing more to it than that? One or two angry yarnstomers might tell him otherwise.
So what to do? How to respond to this poisoned chalice of a challenge? The angry knitter in me wants to protest: to knit vivid swatches decrying the campaign and storm the company HQ, demanding they withdraw the ads and apologise (all yarn-based compensation welcome). But the marketer in me knows that publicly decrying the ad will only serve to draw yet more attention – and potentially revenue – to their ill-conceived campaign, to the extent that guerrilla knitting could become associated with the brand for the foreseeable future: a horrible thought. So however much I’d like to protest, there’s only really one option: if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Switch on Rage Against The Machine and jump about for a bit instead. It helps, I promise.
Much as I’d like to have chosen a less obvious and clichéd post title, it does sort of sum up where I am at the moment. I have started to knit. Literally in the last week.
After a weekend spent clearing up the spare room that we’ve somehow managed to turn into a chaotic lair of boxes in the two months that we’ve been here, I picked up my Stitch ‘n Bitch book (by Debbie Stoller – awesome) from under a pile of coats and started to flick through it. Then last week I stopped off at iKnit in Waterloo on my not-so-direct way home from work to buy some needles (uh, wood) and yarn (ummm, it’s blue?) before plonking myself down onto the sofa. According to my other half, I then spent the next three hours muttering to myself while flicking through various pages of my book and stabbing at the aforementioned blue wool with the aforementioned wooden needles. All while wearing what he likes to call my ‘angry-concentratey face’.
All very valid points. To my mind though, I was learning how to cast on and cope with some simple knit stitches, back and forth along the needles and slowly but surely creating a small blue swatch. All before buggering it up somewhat with a dodgy bind off, but that’s beside the point. I had created something; it was little and it was blue and decidedly lumpy in places, but it was an achievement.
Since then, I’ve become mildly obsessed. I now have five small, blue swatches, each in a different type of stitch: garter, stockinette, 2×2 rib, purl with a colour change (also blue, I’m afraid) and even an attempt at the heart patterned swatch from my book. It’s amazing (I mean The Knit; the swatches are far from amazing). I can make something from wool and sticks. Surely world domination is only a few more swatches away?