pulling the wool over

Like the rest of you out there, the Normal/Fixit household is busy trying to help Franny Armstrong redeem herself for having made the most fatalistic and depressing film yet on climate change, by signing up to the 10:10 challenge, and reducing our already cramped footprint by ten per cent next year. Readers in distant countries, or those who get all their environmental information from this site (and why not?) should know that 10:10 is an attempt to get us all to reduce our carbon footprints by ten per cent in 2010. Catchy, eh? A high concept can get you a long way. Of course, this will be the relatively easy bit; how we'll continue to reduce it by a further ten percent each year, after we've already abandoned mains electricity, gas heating and any form of petroleum by-product or animal protein, is less clear. But I'm trying to keep my eye on an achievable horizon for now, and not think of the torture impending when we're reduced to the size of a Chinese foot-binder's finest work. I say 'we', but some of you might have guessed that this rosy picture of household unanimity is, as always, not strictly accurate. None of the others actually knows as yet that we're doing 10:10, as I'm not allowed to display smug posters proclaiming it to the pizza menu goblins and vendors of cheap dishcloths and hard luck stories, who form the principal traffic past our front window. I'm not sure how inspired any of them would be to join us, but in any case they've no chance, because the aesthetic police forbid it, and the window panes are the wrong size. So there hasn't exactly been a formal family adoption of this goal, but I've started the ball rolling by creeping from room to room when they're all out, turning down the radiators. Luckily this has coincided with the first cold weather of the winter, so I can pretend innocence when they protest about the Arctic conditions indoors. 'We're saving the planet, remember!' I proclaim cheerily. 'Put on another jumper!' This last sentence, like many¬† so lightly thrown out by the purveyors of green wisdom, sounds innocent enough, until you subject it to the test of actual family life. Any other household would bless the useful fact that they have an aunt up the road in Scotland who's a wizard knitter, and immediately commission a matching suite for the four of us, to be replaced on an annual basis at Christmas time. Not ours. These are the times when I weep with envy of John Paul Flintoff who crochets his own underpants, yet manages it with such charm that he isn't even a bit divorced; or Sarah Nicholl of  Transition Belsize Park who runs family knitting workshops where mothers and daughters happily bond over welts and cables. Let's start with Mr Fixit, who would actually rather die than wear hand knit in any form, even if knitted from carbon fibres by the hands of Ross Brawn himself. He has an entire wardrobe of cashmere, in shades for every one of fashion's whims, which he wears from October to March in carefully calibrated layers. With Scotchgard and Mothax flowing through his veins in place of blood, he manages to keep them all looking as fresh as the day they were purchased. Which, when challenged, he always alleges to have been many decades back. (This variant on 'What, this old thing?' is all part of his Jesuitical argument that expensive clothes are, in fact, cheap, because they last so much longer 'if you look after them.') So I can entreat him to consider the plight of the Mongolian goat herders  whose grazing lands are being chewed up by climate change; I can leave shocking evidence under his nose of the further depredations wreaked by Chinese wholesalers funnelling low-grade yarn to Uniqlo. Nothing will get this man into a chunky knit. As for the children, jumper phobia seems to be one more of the many prejudices they've picked up at primary school. Dolly did once deign to wear one of her aunt's labours of love, but that was all of two years ago, when she was 'a little girl'. As a mondaine ten year old, she rejects anything without a designer label as 'scratchy', except for random accessories like pixie hats or phone cosies. (The pixie hat, for which my astonishing sibling actually worked out how to knit stars, would help quite a lot with the cold, if worn by anybody who didn't already have a thick pelt of hip-length hair. As it is, she only wears it because it's both functionally useless, and highly decorative). And Magnus only wears fleeces To be accurate, he wears one fleece, the same one every day, irrespective of the temperature, which he picks up along the trajectory hard-wired into his head, from bed, to play-station, to trousers and tee shirt, to tooth brush, to hook where fleece hangs. He then generally keeps it on all day, both indoors and out, with the result that when it gets colder in the house, there's nothing more to put on. To be fair, I could probably get him to wear a gorilla costume simply by hanging it on the same hook, but I doubt I'd get away with a jumper. He is - thank God - no fashion victim, but he does go to an inner city comprehensive where surveys have revealed that eighty per cent of his peers in Year 8 have played Modern Warfare 2: Call of Duty which carries an 18 certificate, and is certainly not played out by Colin Firth characters looking cosy in red and white snowflakes  But in any case, what about the embedded calories in all that shearing and carding and spinning and knitting? For how long might they outweigh the one degree saved on the thermostat? And how would we work it out?  So if anybody has an acceptable, low-carbon alternative to extra jumpers, please let me know. Meanwhile I guess I'll go on turning the thermostats down, and they'll go on turning them straight back up.

 
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