THIS weekend, Young Farmers' Club members from across the North are gathering in Scarborough for a whole weekend of competitive sports, skills and entertainments.

Well thank goodness. At least there's something to account for the apparent outbreak of unisex petal-fettling in the club reports in recent weeks.

I do have to admit that, when I commented on that, I was firmly told off for sexism. Yes, even I, a fully-paid-up member of the "stick 'em in a vase and let the natural beauty shine through" school, ought to have remembered that some of the top names in flower arranging are men, never mind that one of the offspring's erstwhile escorts, six-foot-several and handy with a hockey stick, had won prizes for said skill.


But the really trendy skill at the moment, for both sexes, is knitting, as practised by Madonna, Liz Hurley and Russell Crowe in their spare moments. Sales of yarn are soaring, it seems.

After last year's thankfully short-lived poncho revival, maybe it will soon be edgy to be seen in the street in a woolly pully, just the sort teenagers' mums have been telling them to wear this last several winters. From the passer-by's point of view, I'd find it a relief from the sight of the low-slung jeans and cropped tops which must have demanded the constitution of an ox in the chill winds earlier this month.

Knitting in the 21st century is, however, going way beyond woolly pullies and ponchos. The current exhibition at the Crafts Council Gallery in London includes, I understand, a knitted false ceiling and there's also a group, called Cast Off, which takes over whole carriages on the Tube to stage its knit-ins.

Neither of those, though, can compete with the residents of an old people's home in Tasmania, who decided to knit a 1950s room instead of just sitting around.

Yes, seriously. And beautifully done it is, too, judging by the photos. Their artefacts include a valve radio set, a sink, a window plus the rural view through it, a gooey chocolate cake, delicate cups and saucers, the sleeve of an Elvis LP, and even a jar of Vegemite (I reckon that can't taste any worse than the genuine article, which is Australia's answer to our great Marmite).

If questions like: "Why?" and: "What's the point?" arise here, the answer appears to be that the residents enjoy it; one person's idea sparks off another; it's a social occupation and visitors come along to join in.

Come on, it's a lot better to knit a fairy cake and chat to someone about it than to sit staring into space and wondering about the next meal.

I've just checked the knitting bag I haven't opened in years. It contains a half-finished dishcloth still on the needles, the sort of project the boys in our village school were given to ensure that they, too, learned to knit, if not to purl. Finishing that dishcloth would be a start. Extreme knitting, here I come