The Shoes and Where They Took Me

With the high instep and necessary low quarters, shoes became a problem. Painful ganglions and deformed toes also required a square front. We enter the shoe shop. “We would like shoes please”. “We have these”.

Brogues. Leather through and through. Brown. Dark brown. Laces. Gibson front. Size 7 and a half. Me? Thin and uncomfortable, fourteen and spotty. Home then where shoes are not placed on the table. By order. Cost some £5.99 or more. 1973.

At school these were rebellious shoes. Hard shoes. “Your actual Royals” said a class ‘mate’ as he stood on my feet trying to cripple me. He nearly succeeded. I didn’t move or wince. After that, they all gave up.

Half way through the term, the “actual royals” went to be repaired. “Do you want a steel?” they enquired. How could I say no? “Quarter steels then and come back next Thursday and don’t lose the ticket”.

Thursday. Ticket. Shoes. Noise. Tap Tap Tap. Only not Greta Garbo-style “at the bloody window” as re-told by Peter Cook to Dudley Moore – but on the pavement, the flags, the street and what a row. Now down here, now up there, now home, now out again. Shoes and noisy ones to boot.

In school down the tiled corridors past quiet classes. Tap tap t-tap tap tap… Metronoming my way to lessons, labs, practice, tick tocking everywhere like a relation of Captain Hook’s nemesis and remaining aloof. A Clogwork Orange.

A year goes, two years go, three years go, four years go, five years go, six years go. After many miles, tapping away on foot, by train, bus, tram, bicycle, motor bike and car including Sundays, to school, church and relatives, learning to drive, away on holidays and holiday jobs and most of the baroque and romantic organ repertory, school dead and gone, university over and done with, car not available, the shoes tap me out a route they knew so well. No buses today either on account of a strike.

A tell-tale cold spot in the left shoe turns out to be water, the ingress increasing as I scrape my steel-tipped heels further along the road.

During the examination that day, I write rubbish and muse on these shoes, having taken me very far more or less every day for over six years.

Home then and the shoes go in the wardrobe. I don’t see them again. Examination passed. That’s where they took me.


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