Manfred Hall from Mannheim has found a new hobby in retirement: macramé. He has more than 55,000 followers on Instagram.

Portrait of Manfred Hall

Manfred Hall likes to walk along the Rhine Photo: Manuela Hall

wochentaz: Mr. Hall, you have spent most of your life working on a construction site or in a company; the last 33 years in the same company. Do you miss anything from that time?

Manfred Hall: No, nothing.

Seriously, nothing at all?

The human being

Manfred Hall, born in 1952, grew up in Mannheim and still lives there with his wife. After school, he actually wanted to be a cartoonist, but trained as a painter to earn money for the family. He worked at a paint manufacturing company for 33 years until his retirement.

The hobby

The word macramé derives from the Arabic “miqrama”, which means “knotted veil”. It is a knotting technique used to create ornaments, textiles, jewelry or works of art.

I'm glad to be this age now. But it also makes me sad to be so old. I just want to enjoy my later years, who knows for how long. I hope to live to be 120 years old.

When are you old?

You are always as old as you feel.

How old do you feel?

Around 40 or 45.

How old did you feel when you retired?

At that moment I felt as old as I was, 65 years old.

How did you imagine retirement back then?

I started waiting for it when I was 50 years old. It won't be long, I thought at the time: only 15 more years to go, I can do this. I dreamed of the free time you don't have when you work. You could go on vacation, no matter when.

So, were you expecting to retire?

Yes, also because I had a scooter accident three days before I retired. I almost didn't survive. This can't be true, I thought to myself. Three days before I can finally retire, I get shot down. I have worked my entire life only to not be able to enjoy my retirement. That would have been my nightmare.

How was your last day at work?

I drove to work at 6 in the morning, stood in front of the machine and filled paint cans, as always. My classmates said goodbye and I cleaned my locker. I gave my tools to my colleague. In the end, it was painful to leave the company.

Why painful?

I knew I wouldn't see my colleagues as often anymore. Although they were more like business friends, they didn't become really close friends. However, we always have a good time together. I already missed that.

You retired at the beginning of 2018. Was it everything you imagined?

The first few months were great. I was finally able to sleep in. In the summer she worked in the garden and did some housework. But then winter came. I couldn't work outside in the garden anymore, the blanket fell over my head.

They had too much time.

I missed my colleagues. He no longer had any contact with people. I fell into a hole. I fell asleep, I became sad, I no longer had the desire to live.

What did you do to pass the time?

I sat in my chair and looked out the window: who was passing, what cars were passing. I just thought: What else does this life offer me? What else can I do at this age? I found it difficult to do things that I used to like to do.

For example?

The hallway in our family home needed new wallpaper. I couldn't do what I loved to do anymore. I just didn't feel like it anymore. I do not know why.

He learned to wallpaper as a teenager and, after school, trained as a painter. Have you always wanted to be a painter?

I have always painted a lot. She drew cartoons at school.

But drawing caricatures and painting facades are two completely different things.

Manfred Hall is working on a macrame work.

Tying in the garden Photo: Manuela Hall

I wanted to do an apprenticeship first and then go to university to become a cartoonist. But that didn't work because my father died during that time.

Then why couldn't you study?

My mother went back to work, but it wasn't enough. I had five children, my two younger brothers were still in school and my two older brothers were already working. My parents had just built a house. It would have been very difficult if I had moved and lost my salary.

Later you were no longer able to realize this dream?

I wanted to do that, but it never worked out. I regret it to this day.

Today you have four children and five grandchildren. Did they help her get out of the hole she got into after retiring?

My daughter showed me macramé, it really saved my life. We connected together and watched videos about it. Then I tried different knots. If it didn't work, she would undo the knots and try again.

Didn't the failed nodes demotivate you?

No, quite the opposite. If anything, they motivated me to keep going. Today I do everything blind, I don't even need a pattern anymore. I just looked at a photo and I already know how to tie it.

What was the first piece of art you made yourself?

A ring with the ropes joined in the middle: one pulled to the left and one to the right and then knotted. My daughter's friend wanted the first one.

And what are the projects like today?

These days I do larger projects that last two to three weeks. I still feel joy when I complete a project. I feel very happy inside when I look at the macrame and can say: you made it yourself.

Was that what motivated you to do more macramé in the beginning?

Yes, sure. But macrame has also calmed me, my life has become more pleasant. My wife feels it too and she supports me whenever she can.

How did you meet your wife?

In 1973 we met at a nightclub, as was common at the time. We went dancing. Today we celebrate 50 years of marriage.

Now you have plenty of time. What are you doing with this time together?

We go for a lot of walks, often here along the Rhine. I always try to combine this with finding sticks for my macramé projects. Driftwood is beautiful, very smooth and clean. Then I dry it at home and sand it a little. If time permits, we also take a walk through the forest or through the countryside.

Still pressed for time?

Yes, but not only on my part, but also on my wife's part. Cleaning is a lot of work. She also helps me with macrame. She always cuts the threads to the length I need. Then they will be ready when she wants to braid.

What do you think about when you braid?

I always have an image in my head of how the piece should look in the end. Then I start tying knots and hope it stays that way. When I tie, I get lost in my thoughts. I always have to count and make sure I follow the correct order.

That almost sounds like meditation.

Yes a bit. I don't hear or see anything but my macramé. Something else may happen next to me, but that doesn't interest me at this moment.

What about negative thoughts?

I used to never be able to turn it off no matter what I did. Then I sat in my chair and was sad. Macramé makes it easier for me to detach myself from negative thoughts. I have become more positive and calm again.

As “Macrame Grandpa” you also have many followers on Instagram.

Reaching out to people on Instagram also cheered me up again. After retirement, contact with the outside world disappeared. I still think it's great that people write to me.

What do your followers write to you?

I receive between 40 and 100 messages a day on Instagram. They always write: “I would like to have a grandfather like that.” Or “you are our grandfather.”

Are you happy about that?

Of course I'm happy about that. But I can't be a grandfather to everyone. But I also received requests for love.

Whose?

A young woman wrote to me telling me that her mother is also retired and alone. I would be a good match for her, we should meet sometime. She probably hadn't read that I was happily married.

Are followers true social contacts?

Yes, I would say that. Others may not see it that way and say that emails and messages are not personal contacts. But I'm happy for everyone who follows me on the internet. This gives me social contact, perhaps not personal. They see my photographs and I see theirs. So we are already in contact with each other.

Can online friendships replace real friendships?

No, they can't do that. They are too superficial for that. But it's still good that they exist.

Do you have friends in Mannheim?

No. I wasn't a great friend keeper before. I had a best friend when I was young. But then I got married and he moved to Berlin. That was later dissolved. In the end there were no more friends.

Because in reality?

We had four children. Besides my job, I also worked in construction to earn enough money. For a few years I also worked Saturdays and Sundays to make ends meet. With a full-time job and a family, there isn't much time for friendships.

Do you miss friendships now that you have more time?

No. You can only miss what you lost. I haven't tried it in so long that I can't miss it.

Do you still have a close relationship with your children?

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My children help me a lot. I also think they took it from my wife. She has eleven siblings. She was always there for her siblings and parents.

Not all parents are lucky enough to have the support of their children.

Yes, but it doesn't always feel good. Sometimes I feel like I'm 100 years old, like I can't do anything on my own anymore. Children want to help and do everything. Although I could still cut down trees. That seems totally strange to me.

How do you deal with that?

It has worked. Now I sit there and give instructions and let the boss hang out. (laughs). But at first it was a struggle.

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