Excerpt from the June 2012 Stirling Gazette edition
Neil Oliver superfan, Fenella Morven, Founder of S.N.O.G.M.E.
Crafty Fenella Morven waxes enthusiastic over her devotion to Neil Oliver
by Isabel Forneri
Fenella Morven sits quietly knitting a replica of William Wallace’s Claymore sword using Silver Ice Paillette yarn. In the front yard, sits an astonishingly detailed 16 metre Viking longship, based on the Gokstad, (complete with a quilted sail, and a menacing macraméd Eric the Red). It attracts curious stares from residents, and – according to a local entomologist - a species of rare moth.
She sips her tea demurely as she explains the knitted longship, while treated with a waterproofing chemical, had not been deemed seaworthy by the HSE. This project has taken her 3 years and over 15,000 skeins of wool. It was a true labour of love. Or at the very least, an obsessive-compulsive yearning, according to bemused council members.
“It all started with that lovely man,” she explains, pausing in her woolly endeavors to ruffle the thick fur of an attentive Border Collie. “And those marvelous shows he hosts.” She speaks of her muse, TV presenter Neil Oliver. Fenella is founder and president of the Society of Neil Oliver’s Gregarious, Matronly Enthusiasts, based out of Bannockburn, Scotland. I query about the suggestive acronym, but she stares at me in complete confusion, so I decide to let it drop.
A white board dominates her kitchen, detailing the requirements of her next endeavor. A 1/1000th scale model of Hadrian’s wall, which she intends to meticulously spin and crochet from 17 metric tonnes of dryer lint.
A tiny grey-haired spinster, Fenella’s sinewy hands are quite formidable, a by-product of her years of her intensive manual labour. “I used to do yearly jumpers for the RFC team, but after 2004 I could never find the proper shade of burgundy yarn.
Fenella’s craft-fuelled crush on one of Scotland’s best known archaelogists started after the second season of BBC’s Coast. Enthralled by Oliver’s passionate storytelling skills, she found herself crocheting the entire Monkwearmouth seaside. Her meticulous patterns and projects are the stuff of legend on ukknitters.com where she has a devoted following.
I gently ask if she has ever made an effort to meet the object of her inspiration, since Mr. Oliver only lives a few kilometres up the road in Stirling. She blushes deeply. “Oh no. I could never-!” Fenella takes a bracing sip of her hot tea. “Though, I admit I named one of the blue budgies after him after a wild night of mixed curling and Pimms #1 two summers ago.”
The saucy minx!
So what it is about Neil Oliver that appeals to “ladies of a certain age.” Is it the rugged outdoor fashion sensibilities? The thick, flowing hair? The mellifluous brogue? Fenella sighs, clutching the skein of yarn to her ample breast with a faraway gaze. “No, not really. It’s just that he’s always got something interesting to say, doesn’t he? I mean, most men blather about sport, or banter about page three or groan about the weather. It’s just so refreshing to listen to a man talk intelligently about – well... anything really.”
Her parlour bookshelves are crammed with BBC DVDs and copies of Neil’s books. I also note the presence of Professor Iain Stewart’s ‘How to Build a Planet’ and ‘Making Scotland’s Landscape’ along with Billy Connelly’s ‘Journey to the Edge of the World” tucked neatly beside. I begin to note a pattern.
When asked if she travels far from her cottage in Bannockburn, Fenella shrugs. “I used to get about in my younger days, but since I sprained my collar bone subduing soccer thugs after that Rangers/Hampden riot a few decades ago, so I’ve been advised to take things a bit slower by the doctor.”
One can only imagine the pace she set in her youth.