Experience: I’m Britain’s ‘dullest woman’


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I took up knitting when I was five, crafting little figures and learning to make clothes with yarn. In fact, my best friend still has a pixie, called Greeny, I made for her when we were six. When I had my three sons, I picked it up again, knitting booties, gloves and cardigans for them as babies, and during my 18 years as an officer with the North Wales police I knitted things for nearly everyone in the force.

After I retired in 2018, I feared life might become a bit boring, but I busied myself with knitting, going to airshows with my twin sister, Ruth, holidaying with friends and playing the piano.

Then, when lockdown started in March 2020, Mum and Ruth came to live with me in Rhyl. One day in April, we went to the chemist to get Mum’s prescription. Ruth joined the queue outside, all socially distanced, looking miserable, and I waited in the car.

I clocked the postbox nearby and said to Ruth: “I’m going to see if I can make a sparkly rainbow topper for that postbox, to cheer people up.” I don’t know where the idea sprang from, but I had the yarn in my stash and was thrilled to find a use for it.

Rachel Williamson with crocheted postbox breast cancer charity topper in Rhyl, Wales
Williamson with her breast cancer charity topper

Crocheting seemed the best approach, but I hadn’t done it before, so I watched a couple of tutorials online and I was off. Three hours later, I’d made my first postbox topper. We were allowed out only for exercise, so the next day Ruth and I cycled out at 6.30am and popped it on.

I wasn’t sure how it would be received, or if I’d get into trouble with the Post Office, but it became the talk of the town. The local paper made a Facebook post, asking who was behind it. I called to say it was me. It went crazy after that. I was in the papers and people messaged me, asking for more toppers across Rhyl. I made dozens.

As interest grew over the next 18 months, the mayor visited and TV crews, too. When the chairman of the Dull Men’s Club – an international group celebrating the ordinary – called me, it was a surprise. They welcome women, too, and had seen my yarn-bombing. He said they wanted to name me Anorak of the Year 2021, making me Britain’s dullest woman. Me, an anorak? I’m anything but. I didn’t know what to think, but proudly accepted. It was funny to me.

I was invited to a members’ meeting in a pub 50 miles away in Trevor. There was a guy from the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society and a young man fascinated by crazy golf. The fantastic thing was, these people weren’t dull at all. I admired their passion.

I received a certificate from the club, presented “for the colourful and creative postbox toppers she crocheted and put on postboxes throughout Rhyl that uplift people’s feelings while they are locked down”. I thought it was lovely. I sent them a picture of me standing beside a postbox with a topper I’d made of Tom Jones, which was used in the club’s 2022 annual calendar. I was Miss November.

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There are seven postboxes on Rhyl prom. I’ve covered them all, and have done more than 200 toppers now. I call my house Topper Headquarters. When I’m a Celebrity filmed at Gwrych Castle, 20 minutes away, I crocheted a topper of Ant and Dec on horseback. I’ve done a topper with a pair of crocheted boobs for a breast cancer charity, one for Rhyl FC featuring players on artificial turf, and made Christmas gatepost toppers for my entire close. One of my early ones, a seagull called Dave, was stolen but later recovered by the police. Then someone later ripped his head off, so I crocheted a new one. He’s in the Denbigh Museum now, alongside that first rainbow one.

I’ve sent toppers to Scotland, the Midlands and Liverpool. I’ve been to a Buckingham Palace garden party as a thank you for cheering people up.

I’m a grandmother and almost 60. I served in the police for nearly two decades and don’t think I made anybody as happy then as I have in these past three years.

I’m crocheting every minute I get, and when I go to bed I think of the next one. I still follow the Dull Men’s Club on Facebook. It’s the people without hobbies who are boring. As for being Britain’s dullest woman? Nobody else has that accolade. I wear it with pride.

As told to Deborah Linton

Do you have an experience to share? Email experience@theguardian.com



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