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How I ended the blame game

by
James McIntosh
November 13, 2019
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How I ended the blame game

The Bank House, Whitehead, Northern Ireland, 2nd August 2019 as the pre-event show at the Yarnfolk Wool Festival.


Medical Disclaimer

Participation in Knititation® and Mindfulness based interventions is entirely voluntary.

Neither McIntosh Publishing, the authors or Dr Thomas Ernst can be held responsible or liable for any wanted or unwanted effects through participation in Knititation® or Mindfulness or the content of this talk.If you have any concerns, please discuss with your Doctor first.

So there you have it, check with your Doctor before knitting…


Ladies, gentlemen, and those of other gender identities, without prejudice, please welcome James McIntosh and Dr Thomas Ernst...


Well hello there.


It’s great to be home.

And to have been invited to come back home.

Back to the place that says “keep ‘er lit”, ‘ “that’s us now” - back to my home country. ‘You know what I mean, like’.


I’m James, I grew up on a small farm in the middle of nowhere between Tandragee and Portadown, in the town-land of Ballylisk.


I may be the co-author with Dr Thomas Ernst of Knit and Nibble®, but before we get to that, one must deal with the niggle before the nibble.


Hands up who knows of someone who has suffered from depression, anxiety, panic attacks or what I just call ‘the fear’ - when you wake up and shudder?

Statistics from the charity MIND state 1 in every 4 people in the UK will suffer at one point in any given year.

And I am not ashamed that I suffered.

And I stand here proud to talk about it.


Blame, is one of the things that has lead Northern Ireland to it’s present day situation. I’m sure we can all agree with that and accept that it’s not a new concept.


Blame, from my journey with mental health does not fix things, blame needs revenge. No one wants to listen to blame stories. And revenge never helped anyone.


Those’nes and them’ens is only a defence of personal insecurity, and from my global experience of travelling to over 40 countries, I’ve learnt one thing: Blame is nothing more than not being able to stand in the other persons shoes, and feel the weight of their burdens in life.


I am past blame, it wastes energy, you don’t want to hear it and it makes me feel heavy in my soul.


Rather, I’ve turned it all around, as I had to do so for my own mental health.

And I did it all through hand knitting.


But blame is different to the story of the process, forgiving is not the same as forgetting, only a fool forgets.

But, love wins.

It really does.

Don’t fight, and the whole thing changes”.

That’s what Thomas would say to me when I had my mental breakdown. I did not what to hear it, but I trusted my partner of nearly 8 years and love did win.


I was born in Craigavon Area Hospital on the 16th May 1978. The same day as Y.M.C.A. was released into the charts as it happens. I was 3 years in of age in 1983 when homosexuality was decriminalised in Northern Ireland, it was 1967 in England and Wales, that left Northern Ireland 16 years behind what the Crown had signed into law. Therefore, I was born criminal, immoral, sinful and mentally ill according to society.


At the age of 16 I won the award for the youngest ploughman in the Mullahead and District Ploughing match. I was never one for the farm life, and ploughing was no different, you see my late father was a dab hand at anything around the farm, where as I wanted to stay indoors to read books and learn. Dad did everything he could to encourage me into, shall we say, the more arable ways of life, but it was just not me. I was built differently. Ploughing was just not my thing, although, I was surprising good at it - winning a barrel of oil at the prize giving in Tandragee Golf Club for my endeavours.


Mum was a home economics teacher and the food cycle was in my blood. From plough to plate. After my A-level’s at Portadown College I moved to what was then the Catering College in Portrush to study for an HND in Food, Consumer and Marketing Management as I did not get the A-Levels’s to study at the University of Ulster in Jordanstown.


I was training to be a Methodist local preacher throughout my spare time while at the Catering College in Portrush. I spent all of my summers somewhere or other in the world as a Christian missionary, ending up in the the middle of Siberia above all places.


From the age of 16, from time to time, I gave the sermon in our home church of Tandragee Methodist.

My faith was real.


I summonsed up all the bravity inside of me and told my Mum and Dad I was gay at the age of 18 - this was 1997 - they were the first people I ever told, my Mum cried, my Dad put his arms around me and said “your my James, you will always be my James, when we have not known what to do in this family we have prayed, so let’s talk to God together”.


My parents realised that you have not failed as parents if your child is gay, rather you fail if you disown your child, and you praise your child for their honesty rather than them live a lie.


I told our Minister of the time I was gay, his response was less than welcoming, somehow forgetting my dignity or humanity in the process.


From that day on, I have never understood how Jesus who lives in my heart privately, who talked about every social issue and who’s best friend was a prostitute never said anything about LGBTQ+ people. Yet, for something that I could not change, that I was being completely honest about, that I was castigated like we read about the lepers in the Bible.


But I do know the Bible tells us things, but those that say ‘Ulster Against Sodomy’, do they eat pork or shellfish, sell their daughters as slaves, have many concubines or wear clothes of mixed fibre? Knitters love mixed fibres! Mention these points and people go very quiet, one is not allowed to discuss. It seems the gay issue for many is used as a control mechanism against others.


Shame started to creep into my life, I was classed as a second class human in my own country, not equal to my peers. I was told they do not agree with my lifestyle? What’s not to agree with love?


But I’m NOT a disgrace, I was made in God’s image, and he made me perfectly as I was taught in Sunday school and as Lady Gaga sings; ‘God does NOT make mistakes’.


Next stop on the journey for me was the University of Dundee, after all, it’s Northern Irelands 3rd University… to complete my Masters in Food and Welfare studies.


Life was good.


Apart from that niggle inside me, you see, I was built differently to everyone I knew from home.

And, I knew that I was not able to return home to my beloved Northern Ireland after completing my Masters because of this niggle.


I was not welcome in Northern Irish society unless I kept my niggle hidden from sight.


Pray the gay away’ was the most damaging psychological construct and the most humiliating process I have ever had to endure.


My parents were very adamant my brother and I would not grow up in a sectarian culture, yet, the schooling system of Northern Ireland never allowed for that.


People are people to me, if you’re polite and pleasant to me, I will return it to you and if I’m introducing myself to you I will be polite and pleasant to you. I was brought up with manners, to respect everyone and not judge, with Mum always saying ‘there but for the grace of God go you’.


There was anticipation in the air, a magical time in our land. I was just about old enough to vote, and I was lucky enough to be able to vote to change our world. It was Good Friday and we as a Northern Irish people had our ‘Berlin Wall moment’.


I’m sure you all remember the hope we had that year, we as a country forgave.


WE could have a future, but words in local dialect like ‘fruit, poof, queer’ all hurt, and I knew, even with the new hope of the Good Friday Agreement, I still had to leave.


I did not want to leave Northern Ireland.

I made my home in London, longing to return to live in Northern Ireland.


They say they are ‘not homophobic’, but like a white person saying to a black person that ‘they are not racist’, what right does a non LGBTQ+ person have to define homophobia?


I was asked to write an article for the Ulster Gazette over the Asher’s Supreme Court Case. As a Christian who is gay I wrote a very balanced view, with the title of the article being ‘it’s easier to be a Christian in the gay community, than gay in a Christian community’.


I know from experience this to be so very true.

The LGBTQ+ community can be so kind, while the church community, which is supposed to be based on love and forgiveness, can be very condemnatory.


42 letters arrived from teenagers in faith communities in County Armagh thanking me for speaking up as they wanted to commit suicide as ‘God did not want them’ and by taking the time I had written an article about being a Christian who is gay gave them hope.


I phoned each one, we talked, they are alive.


I had been very successful in life, I was the only Westerner to present food TV in China. At the height of my career I was getting about 100 million viewers a week on my TV shows and was awarded with the equivalent of a BAFTA in China, the only Westerner to ever obtain this in a Communist controlled country.


I was also the Global Ambassador for AGA cookers with whom I had a very long relationship. I had the privilege of launching AGA all over the world, and was the man who brought AGA and Rangemaster to China. For years I presented in the AGA Shop Belfast. Farmers’ Weekly magazine presented me with the title of Britain’s food ambassador of the year.


I brought a lot of business home from China to Northern Ireland, heaven knows Northern Ireland needs the business. I was on TV, and in the press with it all, the food producers of Northern Ireland were united in the efforts.


Then the games started in politics.


My international success brought me in contact with major Northern Irish institutions. It became very difficult with lies, manipulations and prejudice. I was only trying to help business, exports and tourism.


My head got faster and faster trying to understand why I was thrown under the preverbal Ulsterbus and not them.


Why were their lies, cover-ups and actions acceptable?

Honours were presented to them, the knife in my heart went deeper and started to twist. “For I have plans for you said the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you”…


Letters arrived from a senior elected member on department headed paper with their signature that was not true, meetings they were in attendance at redacted, the lies started, my head became faster, I could not move my leg down the bed.


Don’t stoop to their level” is all I could hear my late father say in my head, “pay no notice of them, today’s news is tomorrows chip wrapper”.


They hurt me so deep that my little inner candle flame that is my soul was oxidising in the naked air like the domes on the top of the buildings in Belfast.


My self respect, self worth and my want to live was removed from me.


The mocked me, sullied my name, I only ever came in love so people had a better future than I had a beginning.


They said I was ‘too gay’ to represent Northern Ireland on the world stage. Ironically I had been representing Northern Ireland for years and they never had. Is being gay a bad thing? And what is ‘too gay’?


Why did my sexuality come into this?


I was told by officials not to come home on an occasion.


I did not come home for many years, I tried once, the panic attacks at Heathrow were crippling, wondering if the person who said I was ‘too gay to represent Northern Ireland in food’ would be there.


We were very good and close friends once, I was betrayed.


They condemned me and followed their Bible so literally that they tore down their boilers and buileth bigger ones.


The sheep in Animal Farm continued to chant ‘4 legs good, 2 legs bad’.


You can’t pray for your leaders when you don’t have a government.


We were all let down and asked to donate toilet rolls to our local schools.


Thomas continued to love me closer than a brother.


I was diagnosed with a moderately severe depressive episode.


What?

Life loving me?


At the time, I was 35, I woke up and could not move - could not get out of bed. I was not lazy, I just could not move.

This did not make any sense. Things had bottled up, one thing after another and then the final snap came. I had been publicly betrayed in my native Northern Ireland.


It was too much to bear.


Fear, anxiety, a catatonic physical state, panic, black. Very black.


If you have not been through a mid-life crisis, take note, make it spectacular, because when you fall, it needs to be memorable. Mine was, like me, fabulous. So much so some of it even played out on Prime Time TV.


Meanwhile, while I was breaking, I was also breaking the mould. I have never done things normally, and this was no different. I lost the sports car and opted for the older model in the form of Dr. Thomas: who may not look so good in a bikini, but does look great in a raglan!


My head was the deepest black, I had no energy, the depth of sadness in my head was too much to bear.


I could not sleep. I could not eat. I could not function. I had lost ‘me’.

All I could do every day to calm my anxiety was to stay in bed and watch TV. I spent a whole year in bed, I could not get out, Thomas loved me through it and as a Dr himself, he was aware I was acutely ill.


I was conscious I was wasting my life. I felt deep shame from this. I was a distant shadow of myself, my life was wasting away and I did not know what to do, or have the energy to do it. I felt no reward, at least if we lived in Dr Thomas’ native Germany I would be rewarded with the title of ‘Frau Dr.’


Instead I was lumbered with the title of ‘Dr’s wife’.


The old boys club is an inherent cruelty of the UK and more business is carried out at the dinner table than in the board room. I was thankful I studied for an MA in Home Economics and used to work in the Good Housekeeping Institute - ‘menopausal monthly’ as we called it, the non-defined gender roles of today’s London society saved the day.


Dr Thomas is a senior Consultant Physician in a large teaching hospital in London.


Thomas meditates for 3 hours a day, every day. I assure you ‘There are 3 of us in this marriage, and it’s a little bit crowded’! But his dedication to the practice of mindfulness, is a blessing and shows its fruits in our lives, both together and separate.


He’s the only NHS consultant that we know of that operates a mindfulness clinic to treat chronic illness and pain. His in-patients are geriatrics, out-patients are related to autonomics - that’s faints and blackouts to you and me. His hours are so long and demanding. Through my illness Thomas would literally carry me into the bathroom to help me with the most simple of tasks, I felt ashamed. I could not function. I honestly don’t know how Thomas managed his career and being my carer.


Thomas, thank you for loving me in sickness and in health.

In my illness Thomas sent his Ward Sister, Suzanne to see me at home after her shift on the ward. In her Southern Irish brogue she taught me to knit with that Irish ward-Sister no-nonsense approach:

stick the right one into the loop on the left, wrap the yarn over, then pull it off. There you go, do it again”.


Sister knows about knitting and wellness, handing a ball of yarn to a demented patient can stop the screams of anguish as they are hospitalised while re-living their fears. Dr Thomas says that we all must confront our fears to move on, either to the next stage of our life, or when leaving this world - and this is understandably daunting. People like Sister make the NHS what it is, a treasure we must protect in the UK and encourage therapeutic knitting into treatments and using ‘social prescribing’ in conjunction with medications.


I don’t remember why I started to knit, but I found 2 chopsticks and a piece of string, watched the YouTube to learn how to cast on. Before I knew it I had created a knitted something or other.


I showed it to Thomas and he said “let’s get ze wool ja”.


I started to knit a jumper on 12mm needles in beige Alpaca - itchy bloody thing.


The resulting product is somewhat shapeless, but will live as a trophy to my health for many years, albeit at the back of my wardrobe.


Why do moths never eat the ugly items?


I remember putting that misshapen article of clothing on my body, looking in the mirror and for the first time, in so long feeling proud of me again. Albeit looking like a grown up Von-Trap child with knitted curtains for my new clothing.


I thirsted for colour in so many ways. Colour is healing. Colour is life.


At this point in my life that beige alpaca was as daring as I could deal with.


My first knitted garment allowed me to love myself again, I felt human. A deeply precious and intimate feeling that Northern Ireland had stripped from me years ago.


I phoned my Mum one day saying my head was like a metal box, and the hammers inside the box won’t stop. You see, one’s silence when suffering from depression is the loudest noise. Northern Irish Mum’s are great ladies, within a few hours Mum was in Peckham - the posh part - where Dr Thomas and I live.

We started to talk, I started to get better.

We went to John Lewis.

Mum knit the ribs, I did the stocking stitch, Dr Thomas put it in a boil wash.

I had to start again, both with that boiled washed item and my career.


You see, the tablets were kicking in.


I was getting better, A ‘Dr’s wife’ on antidepressants, stereo-types are harsh. I brought my knitting to the annual society club summer drinks party. I assure you, knitting in a tuxedo makes one rather popular - it avoids the pointless small talk these events are famous for.


Through all of this my mind was racing, it would not stop. Cold sweats were a constant reality. The tender little flame that is my soul seemed to be oxidising in the naked air and it was deeply painful as it was kicked by Northern Irish homophobia and stereotypes in society.


My little inner candle flame that was my soul, that was all I was and held dear was nearly blown out.


That one stitch, and then another allowed a sense of calm.


A creation growing that I had made, a reason for me to be proud, to find my circadian rhythm with my knitting needles.


Each stitch became a breath, each breath a feeling, each feeling acknowledged and understood. Each stitch a tangible product that my feelings were worth something. That I was worth something.


The tablets were not a quick fix or happy pills, thoroughly boring pharmaceuticals that gave a base line, a middle c, the lattice to stand on. Side effects too. Dreams so vivid yet cathartic, metallic tastes, nausea, enlarged tummy.


Slowly, as the knitted items grew from my needles, my confidence was growing too. The tatters of my mind were being knitted back together one stitch at a time. I was able to leave our home again, I was able to have a life. Like the snowdrops in February, I was starting to emerge again, a living functional creature. I learnt to talk about my feelings.


To realise that they were valid, they were mine and they needed to be understood.


A stitch in time, saved my mind.


I call it Knititation: a mindfulness practice that brought joy back to my life through hand knitting.


I could see in colour again.


Thomas came home one evening and noticed I was able to have washed the laundry. Me doing laundry was a miracle in itself!


I was not exactly better at this point, I was starting to regain a little bit of my normal function.


But I was getting better. And the stitches were growing on my needles.

I’m proud to say, I’m better - whatever that is, and I wake up at 6am every day and have a purpose again.


How did I get better?


Hand knitting.

Holding 2 knitting needles in-front of me gave me support, it allowed a barrier between myself and someone else - a safety net - to get better.


The anxiety had stopped when I was knitting. My head was clam.


I realised that a stitch was became a breath. The next stitch became a feeling and that stitch was a tangible aspect of my feelings, yet an intricate part of the garment I was making. If just one stitch was broken, the whole thing would unravel. Soto was the reality that my feelings were part of me. That as the stitch was worth something, so was I. As the stitches grew on my needles my self confidence was coming back. I realised that I was worth something.


I was never any good at traditional mindfulness or meditation. You see, I’m a fidgeter. Sitting still and feeling the present did not work for me.


“Embrace the negatives” Dr Thomas would say to me. “Don’t hide them, learn to love them”.


I did not want to do this, it was too painful and daunting.

Moreover, I did not understand what the Dr was on about. I mean, negatives are not nice things unless you’re into mental sadomasochism.


I had enough of the mental pain, so I spent many arguments shunning the advice of the Dr. You know how it is with couples at home? I gave in as I wanted some peace and quiet from the yakking in my ears and asked Thomas how to embrace the negatives while thinking negatives about embracing the negatives.


Thomas explained mindfulness, my head was not able to concentrate on the present, so Thomas suggested ‘mindful movements’.


Picture the scene…


We are both standing in our living room, in Peckham, the posh part listening to a CD whilst being aware of the present, moving as per instructed to the voice of a monotone man who is telling me to move in a particular fashion.

One leg in the air looking like a flamingo in full Ninja mode.


I continued…


Next thing I was lying on my belly on the rug being instructed by said monotone voice to form the position entitled ‘the lower cobra’.


I was thinking of the Indian Cobra beer at this point. Dr Thomas next to me taking all very seriously and my inner core strength while thinking of the Cobra beer weakened.

My nose hit the rug, I stated to laugh.

Dr was not impressed.


I asked if the Dyson was broken as there was rather a bit of dust on the rug. It’s safe to say that mindful movements were not for me.


But my body envied the Dyson to be mentally sucking up life with all 12 cyclones, instead it was like the Nilflisk that had NOT been serviced since the year 2000!


But when was the last time you moved mindfully?

Thought about the actions and sensations of your body when carrying out a task like brushing your teeth, walking along the pavement, doing the dishes? When you actively feel the sensations of your body while doing these things - it’s just healing.


Just being in the present and accepting your feelings and sensations is what they call mindfulness, and it does not involve sniffing carpets, just feeling and acknowledging what is in the present and embracing it, and if that involved the negatives, letting your body feel these helps you to deal with them.


Panic subsides, anxiety subdues, worry is dealt with by your body.


I learnt the body actually has the answers, it’s about spending time with the body. Hand knitting is the same, feeling the yarn and needles as a stitch forms allows thoughts to run through your mind as you are aware of them and feel the bodily sensations of stitch creation and that of your bum on the seat and your feet on the floor. This is knititation.


I attended a year of psychodynamic psychotherapy and found it very painful.

I had to accept that how I grew up in Northern Irish society was not ok. But yet, it was done with love.


I lost all my pride and self respect being a day patient of the Maudsley hospital.


My Therapist introduced the concept of what people sweep under the carpet. You know the stuff you can’t talk about at Northern Irish family events, the elephant in the room, the so called ‘disgrace factors’, like, I’m gay.


The stuff that Northern Irish families insist can’t be talked about, it has to be hidden for their shame and their disgrace from the neighbours and extended family.


Well, they have a bloody big carpet factory in my home town of Portadown” I barked back to my therapist in anger.


It was all too real to me the metaphor of the Ulster Carpet factory in close proximity to where I grew up. When you try to talk about things, show your inner beauty they just make more carpet in Portadown to sweep it under.


They say ‘the truth will set you free’? And then you bump into class mates from Portadown College in gay clubs in London. Always greeted by “James don’t tell anyone at home I’m gay”.


What shame has our land put on human worth in the name of God?

It’s wrong.


But I needed a knitting pattern as I detest baggy jumpers on men, and only baggy jumpers I could find patterns for. That’s so 1990’s and it’s now 2019 and 1690 was so so long ago!


I decided to write a knitting book, to allow men to be proud of themselves and to find worth within themselves.


I had a problem. Well, a series of them:

• I needed to learn to knit correctly

• I had to learn to read a knitting pattern

• I needed to find a wool company to work with

• I needed a photographer

• I needed an editor

• I needed to design jumpers

• I needed sponsorship

• I needed to raise £19,000 to print the book

• I needed a marketing plan

• And, I needed to be brave enough to knit in public …


This was all to find a knitting pattern that I wanted to wear. To allow myself self worth again.


Whoever said overcoming depression was easy?


The market was barren for men knitting.


Many knitting patterns were distinctly sexist in their marketing “knit for your man”.


All this to find a jumper in colour, that was not baggy, that fitted and that was fashionable and did not look like the front cover of an LP with Val Doonican in a cardigan.


So I raised the money, learnt to knit, found the winner of the best food photographer in the world 2 years running to photograph the book, found an editor, got the sponsorship, located models, wrote the marketing plan.


I knit on planes, tubes, trains, in night clubs on the N36 night bus and taught the Chinese army to knit as well. I designed the jumpers and can now write knitting patterns. Not to mention opening my own publishing company - McIntosh Publishing, and finding distribution for my book and products.


I made a video about my depression and my plan for Knit and Nibble, uploaded it to Kickstarter to crowdfund.


Remember, I had lost my business through my illness. I was left with nothing. Thank you to all of you who helped me raise more than the £19,000 I needed, it went viral. In total £21,000 was raised through your pledges on Kickstarter.


Messages arrived, hand written letters, your stories of your anxiety and depression thanking me for being honest about mine.


Thomas and I thank you for sharing and for encouraging us. It’s humbling to know that my honesty has saved lives in this subject that is not easy to talk about. That many call shame. Depression is a cancer of the mind from my experience as it does not discriminate and devours what health it finds.


I had to turn this into something good.


Knit and Nibble was made in Northern Ireland; printed by W&G Baird in Muckamore, the printers of The Good Friday Agreement, and sewn and bound by Robinson Mornin on the Shankill Road in Belfast.


I had to forgive, I was hurting, but I had to use the money I had raised in crowdfunding, that was given to me, to bless the people of the land who persecuted me.


Love flows through knitting needles.


I produced a book in colour, developed knitting accessories that are not feminine, yet gender neutral, jumpers that were fitted and not baggy, recipes to nibble at knitting club with games to play with yarn.

Surely gender is the biggest lie in life? All it says is ‘you can’t’.


Knit and Nibble is a book of joy, intro by Dr Thomas about how knitting is a form of mindfulness that we call knititation and the visuals are stunning.

The title of the most innovative book in the world at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards was bestowed upon my work. I cried with tears full of colour for the first time in years. It’s now been shortlisted for the best knitting book at the UK Knitting and Crochet Awards this year.


So Knit and Nibble - well, it’s a book and brand full of joy aimed at male knitters.


Why men? Well, there is a gap in the market.

A huge one. And the outcomes of men with mental health matters are not so good. Heaven knows, too many I grew up with have committed suicide.


My knitting group that I started in Peckham - the posh part -  two years ago has about 140 members, 50% male when we meet on alternate Tuesday nights. The status quo of knitting patterns and the different stitches is present in my group, but does the industry leave people behind? Pattern images are inherently heterosexual 2.4 children, Anglo-saxon when 1 in 4 school children according to the BBC in England are of Black and other ethnic origins.


It’s not easy for a depressed man or even a man for that matter to walk into a yarn shop.


He’s sadly confronted by everything he’s not.


But I am no longer depressed. However, Thomas and I have had some very tragic situations in our extended family recently and as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the knitting and my mood has not fallen.


Knit and Nibble is my come back. It’s gone global with international imprints, never mind the listings in the UK and North America.


Every day I give my thanks.


I was invited to speak at the British Knitting and Crochet Awards last year, the Oscars of the knitting and crochet world. The reception of the industry to the work of Dr Thomas and myself has been amazing. I told my story, a lot of people started to cry as they could identify with my pain. I’ve been flown all over Europe to give talks, other books have been commissioned. My events sell out rather quickly. I’m deeply humbled.


The press have been so supportive to us, articles in The Telegraph (not the Belfast Telegraph, well, yes that too, but THE TELEGRAPH) have called the book Purls of Wisdom, magazines talk about the joy and colours of my designs and the book, Let’s Knit magazine have said ‘we cant get enough of James McIntosh’, Knitting Magazine have said ‘Knit one breathe out’, Simply Knitting say ‘don’t count sheep, count stitches’, Time Out London says ‘it will be wool worth it’ and Thomas and I have appeared on Sky News with the story.


What have I learnt?

Perhaps the role of a Dr’s wife is the same as a Vicar’s wife, perhaps that’s why knitting is so femininely orientated as the ‘wife’ has more to carry than society appreciates and the inner strength required to carry the other half who deals with life and death and every cut and bruise in-between comes from those knitted stitches?


The biggest negative I found about dealing with the negative is not talking about the negative, or recognising the negative. Remember, 2 negatives make a positive.


Embracing the negatives is not a scary process, after all, they are in the past and as I knit new stitches, the future is literally in my hands.


What have I found?

I found my best friend through knititation, and you know what? He is worth getting to know.

I’ve become very close to him.

I like him and have learnt to love him and spend time with him.

I found my best friend was me.

Whitney Houston was right, ‘learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all’.


And when you learn this, NO ONE can ever take away your dignity.


PSSO - the moral of the story

Or, for those of you who don’t knit, PSSO is an abbreviation meaning Pass the Slipped Stitch Over. I liken it to a lot of things in life due to societal pressures where issues are pushed under the carpet and left there decreasing the visibility of an issue like the shaping on a garment edge but it’s still there, trying to be hidden.


Feelings and reality can not be passed over, they need discussed and allowed to be visible like a stunning crisp raglan edge resulting from PSSO rather than the bump provided using the alternative of K2tog.


My dreams, I can have them again, my hopes, are becoming reality.


Life is good.


Dr Thomas has now learnt not to put knitting items into a boil wash.


I am James McIntosh, I am well, I am back and it is because of hand knitting, that I am here, and I am alive.


Stitches are life, knitting patterns the manual.


Knitters are fabulous, knitters know true love. Knitters produce a hug.


A stitch in time, saved my mind.


We call it Knititation.


I’m going to leave you with a private confession:

I don’t know how to crochet!


I AM JAMES MCINTOSH and I Knit and Nibble celebrating life’s patterns, recipes and games.


Don’t stop loving, keep telling the truth.

Forgive, forget blame.


Northern Ireland, I forgive you. And I pray for blessings upon you.

Legal and copyright information

Copyright 2019 all rights reserved McIntosh® Publishing.

Knit and Nibble® by James McIntosh and Dr Thomas A. Ernst FRCP is published by McIntosh® Publishing ISBN 978-0-9934196-2-1

McIntosh® Publishing is a trading name of James McIntosh Omnimedia Limited.

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Knit and Nibble by James McIntosh MA and Dr Thomas Ernst FRCP

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