What My Shoes Say About Me

I am inclined to write a little about my shoes today but there’s a small difficulty.

The way I write these weekly posts there is often the appearance of openness and candour and that is correct… to a certain extent. As with most people there are levels of information that I do not necessarily wish to impart, places where I do not wish to go. 

If I am to write a little about my shoes, I fear that line must be crossed.

I don’t think I can write about my shoes without revealing a little too much about myself.

Regardless of this, when the urge to write arises, it must be obeyed so here goes nothing.

I only ever own one pair of shoes. If there’s a posh occasion, I polish them up to a gleam. On the other hand, if a field is wet and muddy, my shoes must suffer those consequences too. When my pair of shoes are done, I buy a new, identical, pair and I leave the old ones behind me in the bin. I’ve worn the exact same style of shoe for about the last thirty years. Dr. Marten 1461 PW Smooth in Black.

Since roughly the end of November 2016, I have had a hole in my right shoe. The type of shoes I wear are not repairable by a cobbler so a hole is a hole. As I write this, at the close of January 2017, I am still wearing those shoes – the pair with the hole in them. 

(See what I mean? It’s almost too much to be sharing.)

I deal with my leaking shoe in a number of ways. Firstly, I always carry a spare sock in my coat pocket. If my foot gets wet while walking into work, I take the shoe off and replace the wet sock. By the time it’s time to go home, the shoe is relatively dry again. I have also developed a curious wet weather gait wherein I keep the inside of my right foot slightly elevated as I walk to keep the hole off the pavement and minimise the water ingress. 

I’m certainly not rich but neither am I so substantially hard-pressed that I cannot afford to walk in to the shoe shop tomorrow and buy my next pair of shoes. So why, then, have I been walking around for two months with a hole in my shoe?

Am I a wretched twisted skinflint? Well, no, I don’t think so. It’s not as simple as that. 

It’s a bit like this.

If anybody needs anything, they get it. That’s the way it is in my family. Mostly, even if somebody just wants something a lot, they get that too. I just tend to put myself last-in-line a lot of the time. It’s my natural inclination. If I really need something, I’ll get it, just like everybody else around here… just not necessarily today or tomorrow. There are always more important things to do than to go and get myself things that I may need. 

These current pair of shoes. They didn’t last long enough. I usually get a year out of a pair, these ones hardly lasted six months. I think I have developed a new habit of sitting in work with my toes bent over on the floor. It puts more pressure on the soles and the uppers and, as a result, the shoes have failed more quickly. It’s a bummer, I’ll have to try to stop doing it, I guess.

So I need a pair of new shoes but I’ve just been holding out a bit. It hasn’t been all that wet and the spare sock works pretty well. That’s my way. If my wife or either of my sons needed new shoes, their feet wouldn’t touch the ground until they had them. Make no mistake about that.

I think I’ve simply become accustomed to not taking too much of anything, of living quietly. I tend to eat the last dusty contents of the Cornflakes box. I don’t make dinner if I’m ever here by myself. The computer I’m writing on now is over ten years old. I seem to have come to feel a responsibility to not ever have any more than my share and less if I can get away with that. 

I have come to feel that it’s okay that I’m not number one in any particular equation. That there is a good grace in living quietly and not making too large an imprint anywhere. Sometimes I feel this is a kind of resignation. Once, I remember, I felt I might one day make a crater-sized impression on something or other. Now I don’t. Maybe we just modify our desires as we get older and learn more. 

There are still things that I want and I hope for and sometimes I get some of those. At those moments, I feel somewhat undeserving, almost as if some kind of cosmic error might have been made. I had quite enough before, I think, I didn’t really need this new thing no matter how much I might have wanted it. 

I wanted to write about this in particular today because it strikes me that this odd self-effacing tendency of mine is in total contrast to a certain world leader who now dominates our collective consciousness with his ruthless businessman approach to humanity. He already has a lot and he wants more… and more and more.

Today, I feel like I am his diametric opposite in the world.

Perhaps, in the nature of superhero comic everywhere, I am therefore one of those people best equipped to oppose him. 

It’s a thought worth considering.

Although perhaps I’d better get some new shoes first. 

Ain’t Got No Spit

You know the scene. It’s from one of my favourite films ever.

Hooper is going down in his cage, as a crazy last resort, to try to poison the Great White Shark. Just before Brody and Quint finally lower him into the depths, he tries to clear his diving mask. 

“I got no spit,” he says. 

That’s how I feel now. That’s just how I feel.

I feel like there’s a Great White Shark loose in the water and I reckon I may have to face up to him in my own stupid little way. I’m ready, I guess. I know what it is that should be done. 

I just ain’t got no spit.

The metaphor is sound enough, I think. The ocean is Social Media in general, the cage is my own meagre presence there and the shark… well, you know what the shark is. 

Over the past weeks, I have vacillated about going down in the cage, even to just watch the shark as he stalked around, never mind to rail against him. It’s tough down there, the air is very stale and tinny and the pressure pinches hard on my nose and temples.

These past weeks, I’ve tried just hiding in the wheelhouse and hoping that the shark will just go away. But it isn’t going to go away, is it? 

It’s been fed now and it’s emboldened and the taste of blood is on its tongue. 

I guess I just have to go down in the cage. I know that I can’t possibly hope to stop it or even to slow it down in any way. All I can do is present myself before it and say, “Hey, Shark, I’m over here! You can eat me if you want but you’ll have to do so knowing that I am against you.”

Maybe I’m actually wrong. That would be nothing new if it were the case. Maybe this is all just another in a long line of over-dramatised political games. Maybe the hype and the constant battering of awful news and opinion has finally got into my head. That’s what I tended to think, until yesterday. I almost seemed to be thinking of it all as just another storm, something to shelter from until it simply blew over. I had pretty much resolved to hang out in the fruit cellar with a lantern and a good book until the whole stupid hurricane has passed. Then I was planning to climb out and tidy things up as best I could.

But, this weekend, I think I feel differently. All that talk of ‘Enemies’ and ‘Tombstones’ and ‘Carnage’. And today too. The orchestrated dissembling about how many people were at an event. The never-ending aggressive campaigning when the campaign is over and apparently won. 

It’s not a storm, I now reckon. It’s a shark. And it’s not going away. Not anytime soon at least. 

Until today, I had sealed my cage tight shut. Any mention of certain people and certain events had been blocked and filtered as much as I could. Today, I feel I have to stop all that. I have to open my eyes wide and try to see what is going on. It’s not always easy because many of the people who are allegedly against the shark can fight pretty dirty too and everything they say cannot necessarily be trusted as being the truth.

So that’s it. I’ll go down in my cage as much as I can and when I see the shark do its thing I’ll shout ‘Shark!’ even though I won’t be heard much through all the murk and the turbulence. I won’t make much difference.

Maybe, though, if we all go down in our cages and if we all shout at the shark when he comes, teeth bared, maybe that will make some kind of difference. 

Who the hell even knows?

Time to descend. I’m ready, I think.

I just ain’t got no spit.

A King for an Hour and a Half

On Wednesday evening, I finished work at five thirty. As I was packing up my bag, an alien thought occurred to me.

Patricia is away for a few nights, working. Sam is on a school trip to Dublin. There is nobody at home. For at least the next two hours, I am on my own and nobody needs anything from me. I could… I could do whatever I want. 

I got on the phone and ordered a chicken curry and rice from the local Chinese restaurant. It would be ready to collect as I drove past the door. I picked it up and then I high-tailed it home. With the dinner cooling pleasantly in the kitchen, I laid the quickest fire I ever put on, punched the couch into reluctant shape, poured a long soft-drink, unleashed the curry and settled in.

There was a film on Netflix I’d wanted to see. One that nobody else in the house would ever care about. I fired up the telly and put the movie on then I sat back and tucked into the curry as the fire blazed to life.

I have to tell you, I felt like an Absolute King.

That sounds silly, I know. I’m on my slightly tatty couch with a cheap curry watching a second rate streamed movie and that makes me feel like a king? Get real, Ken. Get yourself to a posh holiday resort or, bugger that, just get yourself up to the top of some windswept hill. There are times and places to feel like a king and they are not slouched on your couch on a rainy Wednesday evening.

I hear you. I know what you mean. But I reckon that peace and contentment tend to lie where we find them and not where we think they will be. 

Plus I never really do this kind of thing. Something just for me. Even when there’s an opportunity, I never really think about doing it. I’m not sure what was different on Wednesday last. Maybe my soul was telling me I needed it. I don’t know. 

This is not to say that I don’t have ‘Me’ time to work with. I do. I actually manage to find my share of ‘Me’ time. The trouble is that I tend to use it in familiar, well-worn, ways. In my ‘Me’ time, I read, I go for walks, I try to write, I peruse Social Media or, if I stop doing anything at all, I tend to quickly fall asleep. 

So the fault doesn’t lie at the feet of Time or Opportunity. None of that. It solely lies within my imagination and my willingness to step out of my flowerpot and just, really, be especially nice to myself now and again. 

I must try and do it a little more of that kind of thing but, truth be told, I probably won’t. 

I’ve never been the most important thing in my life and I don’t think I ever will be. As a matter of fact, I hope I never will be. Family comes first and, as long as they need anything, I won’t really need anything myself. On Wednesday evening, it seemed like they were all taken care of so I guess I became momentarily important.

It was a nice feeling, being a king for an hour and a half. Whenever I get another chance, I’m going to try to do it again.

But I won’t be sitting around mournfully pining for my regal moment to come around again. I’ve got lots of things to get done, people to take care of. 

And that’s quite all right too. 

If Ever I Would Leave You

The title of this post refers to that song from ‘Camelot’ by Lerner and Loewe. If memory serves, it’s Lancelot thinking about which season of the year he might best leave his true love. 

“If ever I would leave you,"  he muses, "it wouldn't be in springtime.”

I’ve been doing this blog thing for quite a number of years now and, if ever I were to leave it, it would definitely be at this time of year. 

The start of the New Year. 

The very easiest time to go.

Christmas time creates a small hiatus in the whole blogging game.  At Least it does for me. Maybe there’s a post missed. Maybe that’s doubled up with a rather lazy post that is nothing more than a summary of posts from the year past. Whatever the reason, some natural momentum is lost. New Year then lands and it stretches ahead, momentum-less and long. 

A post a week comes to about 48 posts a year, given the inevitable couple of weeks which will be lost along the way. At this moment, and same as always, I have not one single solitary clue as to what any of these posts will be about. Not one. 

There’s always that tiny voice in here somewhere. 

“Why bother?” It simply says. 

This time of year it’s a little louder than at any other time of the year.

“Why bother? Who gives a shit anyway? Wouldn’t you be better using this valuable time to progress that ‘thing’. You know, that ‘thing’ that might actually lead somewhere if you could get it wrapped up tight. Come on, dude. Give it up. Just slip away. Let it go.”

I suppose people who stack up posts have an easier time of it. When there’s a lull, an instance of self-doubt, that little nest egg of thoughts and dreams could carry you through. That wouldn’t be my way, though. If the blog has any value at all, it is that it is fresh and ‘of its moment’. Every week, I try to identify some single thing that is sitting up prominently in my mind and I give it eight hundred words, or so, to see where it might lead. It’s often a useful exercise, for me at least. 

As for the posts themselves, I find they tend to circle around a smallish hillock of recurring concerns and themes. Out of a year’s worth of posts, I might look back and see four or five that might be of some limited value. If I’m lucky, there might be one or two with lasting interest. Last year, there was one. 

There’s also the consideration that I don’t really care all that much about it. I really don’t. I used to care if people came and read it. I used to watch the numbers and the statistics to see if the trends were up or down. These days, what was a stream is now a trickle. But I don’t care. Perversely, if someone is coming every week to read this stuff, I tend to think they’re not doing themselves any favours. There will be repetition, of subject matter and certainly of tone. There won’t often be anything earth-shattering or new. Don’t get me wrong, I like it when people come by. A comment or a tick is still a warming thing. But it would be foolish to hang around wishing for them and I certainly don’t. 

So… I’m going to stop, right?


But not today.

That’s the thought that has gotten me started in practically every New Year that I’ve been doing this, at that moment when I could so easily leave you. I may very well stop, I tell myself. The reasons for doing so are all sound. Just not today. Today I will spit some half-arsed piece out and get it done. Perhaps it will be unusually self-pitying and indulgent. Never mind that, it will be done. 

And then I will plough on and I will start once again to see the benefits of my little regime. How much pleasure I get from assembling a single thought into a coherent piece. How much the collective years of posts build up a mosaic of my mind and my preoccupations like no other thing that exists. 

How very good it is for me to be writing. 

So, there, week one is done, practically in the can. 

And as for next week and all the weeks after that. Well, they will take care of themselves… or they won’t… we’ll just see how it goes. It’s like the man in the song finally concluded:

If ever I would leave you, how could it be in springtime
Knowing how in spring I'm bewitched by you so
Oh, no, not in springtime, summer, winter, or fall
No never could I leave you at all.

Happy New Year.