I made this piece of filet crochet in memory of my partner’s father, Rob Rogers, who has died after contracting the Covid-19 virus.
Following a particularly lovely tradition of my partner’s family, Rob enthusiastically embraced his rechristening by my daughter when she was a toddler, and has been known in our household as Mouscha ever since.
For the last couple of years of his life, Mouscha had been suffering from Dementia with Lewy Bodies, a particularly cruel form of the illness, which had impaired his ability to read, listen to music, and converse with his family and friends – all formerly sources of great joy to him.
I wanted to make something to remember him as he was before the dementia – a courteous, intelligent, decent man. The quotation embedded in this piece is one he was very familiar with, and it encapsulates the philosophical and political tradition he belonged to.
These words of John Ball, an English revolutionary preacher during the Peasants’ Revolt, fundamentally question the established order (while leaving a gendered division of labour unremarked). The slogan relies on the authority of scripture (or nature) to support the revolutionary upheaval of man-made social structures.
Mouscha was raised in the Methodist faith, and had a deep understanding of the tradition of English non-conformist Christian radicalism. He enjoyed nothing more than sitting in his book-lined summer house (the Mouscha hole), with his cat, reading about 17th century English history. He was a strong supporter of the Bennite strand of Labour Party thought, probably the most direct descendant of this radical religious tradition.
The cloth itself is delicate and light, but strong. Both the craft and the message have been handed down through generations. While making it, I appreciated the slow, steady nature of the work and the domesticity of the piece. Mouscha loved his home county of Sussex, and his home and garden. His enforced separation from home and (at the very end of his life) from his wife and family were among the most painful aspects of the way his illness and death unfolded.
I also enjoyed the tension between the revolutionary sentiment of the slogan and the orderly, tightly structured form of filet crochet. The grid structures of simple crosswords and sudoku puzzles helped Mouscha to temporarily tame his disordered thoughts in the nursing home, but I prefer to remember his companionship in the annual slow-motion discovery of the Guardian cryptic Christmas Crossword.
Mouscha’s life contained contradictions, as does everybody’s life. He was a polite insurrectionist, a romantic administrator, an atheist chorister. Over the years, at birthday gatherings, Christmas lunches and Sunday afternoon visits, he was a generous and considerate presence in my children’s lives – indulgent and yet reserved, playful and at the same time proper, private and also passionate, especially when considering the way governments had undone many of the accomplishments his generation had hoped to pass on to theirs.
We have all been missing the old Mouscha for many months already. Now, despite the deepening of that loss, we are relieved that he is no longer living in fear and pain. I thank him for his commitment to justice and his questioning spirit, which live on in our memories.
RIP Rob Rogers (Mouscha), 1938-2020