117. How to Choose Which Shoes to Wear in the Apocalypse

Photo by Philippe Jausions on Unsplash

My wardrobe, floordrobe, was supposed to be a curated collection of neutral basics plus a smattering of thrifty vintage pieces mixed with designer splurges. There was that pair of leather strappy sandals bought in Greece that I could never wear for more than half an hour before they rubbed my feet raw to ribbons. After every hangover, I vowed to give up my late nights. I was going to reinvent myself and spend my Sundays outdoors, just as soon as I’d broken in the hiking boots that pinched so much that I lost all feeling in my toes. I knew they were supposed to be tight but once they’d moulded to my feet, they would be the most comfortable footwear in the world. I thought I looked the business in those silver leather brogues until I saw three other women wearing the same shoes at the same event as me. Embarrassing wasn’t the word.

I know now to never buy this year’s colour in a leather handbag. It’s a waste of money because it only lasts one season and I’d have to keep it for 12-15 years before I could use it again. Chain store coats are also a mistake unless I wanted to look like everyone else.

Marie said to put all of my clothes onto the bed so I knew what I’d got. Passers-by could see right into this basement flat, but I didn’t care. They also didn’t seem bothered because it was still raining, so they were hurrying by, just wanting to get where they were going. 

I was down to my bra and knickers, trying on everything I owned, chucking my clothes into piles –  keep, bin, donate, sell – whilst dancing around to an 80s pop mix. Between songs I could hear a burglar alarm wailing like an old-fashioned air raid signal so I just cranked up the music a bit louder to drown it out. Then someone startled me by banging on my window and shouting “get out!”. I quickly put on a pair of comfy cord jeans and an old baggy t shirt and ran to the front door to yell right back at them. Before I could open it, I heard water trickling down the steps and saw it creeping under the door towards me. For a moment, I stood there, watching my slippers get soaked.

“This is the police helicopter. The river has breached its bank. You are in imminent danger. Please evacuate your property immediately and make your way to higher ground.”

In less than thirty seconds, I was out of there. I grabbed my phone, purse, glasses, a pair of trainers, socks, knickers, a jumper, that book I was reading and (weirdly) a pillow. I put on the first coat I saw hanging up and snatched another. Then, swinging a black bin bag containing all my worldly goods, I pelted up the street, splashing through the ankle high water in my sodden slippers, as if I had seen the last bus coming.

Photo by Gabriele Diwald on Unsplash

62. To Absent Friends

Sometimes, no, quite often in Winter, I am the first person to walk in virgin snow down my street. I leave the house for work before most people’s alarms go off. The quiet hush of morning. Getting up and about at 4am is very different from still being up at 4am. It feels safer to walk in the dark that early/late than it does at midnight. Too soon for food; maybe not coffee though. Polite nods to the regulars. I can’t imagine chatting to anyone on my commute, or I will have to talk to them every single day for the rest of my life. Life before earbuds and mobile phones? I guess people read a book or the newspaper.

I’m not sure if acquaintances, colleagues, and family count as friends. People who are there through habit, obligation or payment, rather than choice. I do try and find some common ground with the people I spend the most time with, even if they don’t like me. I know I’m not for everyone, and that’s fine. If I know people for long enough, then we are bound to find something we dis/like something about each other. We all move between the levels of circles of trust in each other’s lives over the years. If you asked me about someone I’ve worked with for five years, I might answer, “I knew them quite well a couple of years ago, but not really so much now.” I’ll never understand how a person can be on their best behaviour at the beginning of a relationship, and expect someone else to feel ok that they’ve got to know a person who only exists in very rare circumstances.

Detective Lieutenant William Somerset in Se7en could have been talking about me when he said, “anyone who spends a significant amount of time with me finds me disagreeable.”

Those popular people who get invited to everything, go with the flow, know when to shut up and agree with the consensus, regardless of their own viewpoint. I can’t even do group socialising unless there’s an activity or it’s structured. (Craft class, theatre or meal.)

Occasionally, I bump into someone from my past and am surprised at how enthusiastically I am greeted. At the time when we knew each other, I was unaware that we were such good friends. I have no idea if I’m doing this friendship thing all wrong. I suppose the surprise of meeting again after years doesn’t give anyone the time to prepare their reaction, so it’s one way of knowing. I wonder why people don’t tell each other how much they mean to each other at the time. Kindness is free.

A little bit of rose-tinted nostalgia is nice now and then, but I like to live in the present. FB doesn’t appeal to me although I know it must work because it’s massive. The constant reminders of forgotten times. If I was feeling low, the comparison between the edited highlights of someone’s life and my mundane would be unhelpful, at the exact time when I would need friendly support the most. It would be impossible to leave, and keep that easy network of contacts. There’s only a handful of people that I like enough to make the extra effort with, so even though I might have fewer than 20 numbers in my phone, I’ve always got someone to go to the cinema with.

50. Pants on Fire

“No, sorry.” I said, wearily. “They told me they’re fully booked but could maybe squeeze us in at 9:30.”

This was the first day of the family holiday and the boyfriend and I thought we’d try our luck at the posh, white napkin, seafood restaurant for tomorrow, which was Saturday night. A very long shot I know.

About an hour or so later, the boyfriend’s Mum says,

“I just phoned that fish place on the harbour and booked a table for all twelve of us for tomorrow night at 7 o’clock.”

“The lying bastards,” mutters the boyfriend under his breath.

“Brilliant. Thanks.” I say.