June from Gog­gle­box

TV celebrity and avid knit­ter, June Ber­ni­coff, tells us about life with Leon

Simply Knitting - - Contents -

As found­ing cast mem­bers of BAFTA-win­ning TV show Gog­gle­box, Leon and June Ber­nico won the hearts of the na­tion with their warm hu­mour and their ob­vi­ous a ec­tion for each other. In trib­ute to her much-loved hus­band, June has penned a book, Leon and June: Our Story, which look back at their 60 years to­gether. Here, June tells us all about her won­der­ful mar­riage, her time on TV and her life­long love of knit­ting.

We all know and love you from Gog­gle­box – tell us about your ex­pe­ri­ence on TV

“Leon was a mem­ber of Liver­pool Bridge Club, which he went to twice a week and thor­oughly en­joyed. One day in 2012, a team of cast­ing re­searchers came into the club look­ing for vol­un­teers for a new Chan­nel 4 pro­gramme. Of course, Leon was the first and only one to vol­un­teer and he came home that day full of ex­cite­ment and said, ‘June, we’re go­ing to be on TV!’. I was some­what scep­ti­cal, but two days later, a team came to our home to chat to us, and be­fore we knew it, we were on a new show called Gog­gle­box. We found peo­ple re­ally re­lated to us – it showed the view­ers that life doesn’t end in your six­ties, seven­ties and eight­ies. It showed fam­i­lies and friends sit­ting down and watch­ing tele­vi­sion to­gether as a unit, which turned out to be very pop­u­lar with the view­ers, and what we thought was just go­ing to be a flir­ta­tion with tele­vi­sion be­came four years of ab­so­lute plea­sure.”

How did your won­der­ful re­la­tion­ship with Leon be­gin?

“Leon and I met at teacher train­ing col­lege in 1955. I was 18 and Leon was nearly 21. We al­ways had a great sense of fun and en­joyed each other’s com­pany. Leon was a very kind, gen­er­ous, lov­ing man. There were re­li­gious di er­ences in our fam­i­lies that brought its prob­lems, but we over­came them and the value we both shared was fam­ily first – al­ways. We had 63 won­der­ful years to­gether.”

Why did you de­cide to write a book about you and Leon, and what can we ex­pect from it?

“Writ­ing a book about our love story and life to­gether was some­thing Leon al­ways said he wanted to do so it seemed a very fit­ting trib­ute to him when I was asked to do it. From the book you’ll get an in­sight into our lives be­yond the tele­vi­sion screen, hope­fully some in­ter­est­ing facts about each of us, maybe our phi­los­o­phy of life, per­haps some laugh­ter, and joy and pos­si­bly some tears.”

We’ve heard that you are a big fan of knit­ting – when did you first start?

“I be­gan knit­ting when I was about five years old – I wanted to knit like my mother who was a fan­tas­tic knit­ter. She was never with­out a ball of wool and a pair of knit­ting nee­dles. In my wardrobe now, I still have a full length aran coat that she made for me – it’s navy blue and still in great con­di­tion. I wore it a lit­tle while ago and

every­body was amazed. My mother was still knit­ting when she was 87 and par­tially sighted – she knit­ted a sweater for me to take to my daugh­ter, Julie, who now lives in New Zealand.”

What do you love about knit­ting?

“Knit­ting is cre­ative and very sat­is­fy­ing. It’s skil­ful and can be as sim­plis­tic or as com­pli­cated as you wish. I find it very sat­is­fy­ing to knit some­thing from scratch – a ball of wool can be trans­formed into a gar­ment. I knit­ted clothes for both my daugh­ters and my three grand­chil­dren. Julie, my sec­ond daugh­ter, liked to knit and now, Frances, my 21-year-old grand­daugh­ter, has asked me to teach her to knit, so it’s a re­ally nice thing to pass through the gen­er­a­tions.”

Was knit­ting ther­a­peu­tic for you af­ter the pass­ing of your hus­band?

“Yes, I did find it ther­a­peu­tic. I did some­thing very sim­ple and knit­ted six-inch squares for baby blan­kets us­ing very sim­ple stitches.

My aim was to com­plete one or more square each evening, and grad­u­ally in­crease the amount over time. It’s for a char­ity that sends them to peo­ple in need.”

What’s your great­est knit­ting achieve­ment?

“I made a sweater for each of my daugh­ters when they were in their 20s that had a big black and white cat on the front, which looked like one of our fam­ily pets. The tail swirled round the back. The two sweaters took me about six weeks. I was very proud of them and Leon thought I was very clever. Leon didn’t nor­mally like the sound of the knit­ting nee­dles, but when I pro­duced these two jumpers he was so de­lighted. I never knit­ted for Leon, but my mother did – she used to knit him aran sweaters to play golf in, with match­ing hats.”

Do you think it’s im­por­tant that peo­ple still pick up nee­dles and learn to knit?

“I think it’s im­por­tant be­cause it can de­velop mo­tor skills in chil­dren, and for older peo­ple, it’s good to keep their fin­gers nim­ble. It’s cre­ative and gives a great sense of sat­is­fac­tion and achieve­ment.”

Are you cur­rently knit­ting any­thing?

“I’m still do­ing my baby blan­ket squares, but I plan to do some other knit­ting in the au­tumn. There’s a char­ity look­ing for baby hats and clothes to be knit­ted, so I plan to turn my nee­dles to good use.”

What ad­vice would you give oth­ers about help­ing to get through a time of griev­ing through knit­ting or an­other cre­ative pas­sion?

“I think the im­por­tant thing is that you go out and meet peo­ple

– I think so­cial­is­ing is im­por­tant. There are lots of knit­ting groups all over the coun­try. You can ususally find them by ask­ing at your lo­cal yarn shop or craft events . An im­por­tant fac­tor is keep­ing busy and not shut­ting your­self away. Aim­ing to do some­thing each day. Knit­ting is good for that, be­cause you can set your­self small, eas­ily achiev­able tar­gets to gain a sense of sat­is­fac­tion.”

Are you plan­ning on any more books or other knit­ting projects in the fu­ture?

“I tend not to plan too far ahead – often in life, op­por­tu­ni­ties present them­selves, like Gog­gle­box and the book, so you never know what’s around the cor­ner. Or I may de­cide to re­tire dis­grace­fully!”

a “We al­ways had fun” great sense of

Leon and June with the BAFTA they won for TV show, Gog­gle­box “Leon was a kind, gen­er­ous, lov­ing man – we en­joyed each other’s com­pany” The cou­ple spent a very happy 63 years to­gether

June and Leon al­ways put their fam­ily first

June knit­ted clothes for her chil­dren and grand­chil­dren

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