I have to confess that I was rather nervous about my Dublin trip beforehand. It was the first time I’ve been away on my own since my stroke and, though I feel embarrassed to admit it, this was the source of some trepidation. While I am perfectly happy pottering about alone in my locale, every time I am in an unfamiliar public space, I am produced all over again as a person with a brain injury. In public spaces, one becomes hyper-conscious of the annoying slowness and awkwardness of one’s body, and the difficulty of one’s brain in coping with a confusing range of stimuli. There is an awful lot to do (manage bags, negotiate doorways, steps, and other people’s bodies) and there is an awful lot to take in (lighting, background noise, different voices, spoken and written information). Before my stroke I was a person with an able body and brain, and, though I didn’t think of myself as such, I was intrepid, fearless, energetic. Now I am a person whose brain is quickly exhausted by auditory/ visual stimuli, and who also has a few minor disabilities. All these things accrue into a feeling of intense vulnerability in public spaces. One of the worst things about a stroke, it seems to me, is the way in which it can undermine one’s confidence and sense of independence. But I value my independence immensely, and, 18 months after my stroke, it was time to give things a go in Dublin. Was I going to be OK?

Of course I was. I travelled on planes, trams, buses, and taxis. I got myself to and from a hotel. I walked about the streets of an unfamiliar city. I pottered around the sights and shops just like I used to.

(I am still becoming accustomed to this camera, which is lighter and much easier to carry than my heavy canon).

I am not saying it was all a breeze, because it wasn’t. But things were made infinitely more breezy because of the lovely folk at This is Knit. I immediately felt not just welcome, but completely at home.

After you walk through the door and meet Jacqui and Lisa, it doesn’t take very long to spot that This is Knit is the very best kind of yarn store – one that acts as the supportive focus of a whole knitterly community. I got to meet that community at a special event – their annual yarn tasting!

This is the loft before:

and after:

Everyone settled down to enjoy some tasty yarn

I had a great evening, and even managed to say a few words to the assembled throng (this was another significant first for me, since I’ve not spoken in public since my stroke). It felt important that I was able to thank the knitters who made my blanket. It was amazing to spend time with them – they really are a lovely bunch of women.

Another highlight of the evening was getting to meet Carol Feller, whose designs I’ve long admired. Carol was launching her new book — Contemporary Irish Knits (of which more another time).

(With a little help from Eimar, Carol demonstrates Kilorglin’s neat and ingenious construction)

I am sure everyone who was at the yarn tasting enjoyed themselves in their own way, but for me it was an incredibly affirming occasion. Not only was I taking a significant step towards regaining my independence, but it was the first time I’d attended an ‘event’ of any kind as the designing, writing, post-stroke me. It felt quite momentous and was, at times very moving to meet people who read my words and knit my sweaters. It also means a lot that I was able to do this among a group of people that I really like, and know that I will see again. So a massive, affirming THANKYOU to Lisa, Jacqui, Siobhán, Elana, Roseanne, Karen, Keiko, Eimar . . .

. . . and, of course, José.