Time Out’s Executive Editor Michael Hodges has been dallying with danger so you don’t have to. This week’s thing not to do in London – No 82: take your shoes and socks off in public.
You stop where the puddle usually is on the pavement outside work. Strange: it’s gone. Something else is wrong.What’s that warm sensation on your skin? Why is the street suffused with golden light? How did that large yellow orb get stuck in the sky above the London Eye?
It can’t be, can it? You edge further out of the doorway and turn your face to the sky. Yes, it can be. There is a definite excess of warmth and light. Either North Korea’s one working nuclear warhead has successfully travelled 5,500 miles to make an unlikely strike on Camden High Street and you are now caught in the blast, or the sun has finally come out in the capital. You have good reason to be doubtful. Earlier this month, you believed a confident prediction on ‘London Tonight’ that Saturday would be mainly bright an interspersed with only occasional showers, so you set off to walk through ‘historic Deptford and Greenwich’. You had planned a springtime journey of discovery; what you underwent was an arctic endurance test ending with you sheltering from a blizzard under the hull of the Cutty Sark.
It was there, beneath its graceful keel, that you encountered London’s last particle of flu virus, which up to that point had been planning to jump on a tourist in the hope of being introduced into the air circulation system of an Airbus A320 carrying 494 passengers. The ten shivering and sweating days in bed that followed lowered your immune defences just enough to allow entry of the winter vomiting bug the moment you felt well enough to venture out again. Though why, you wondered bitterly as you spent a further 48 hours squatting painfully in the smallest room, is it only called the ‘vomiting bug’?
But now the sun really is out. It’s not the beginning of summer – you are not insane – but perhaps it is the end of winter? So you go to the park. Not a proper park, just that little bit of green around the corner from work. Already an icecream van has pulled up at its entrance. You buy a Magnum and sit down.
Around you, women whose feet have been in tights, leggings, two pairs of socks, and boots since September are casting off their footwear, stretching out on the grass and letting the breeze play between their pedicured toes. This seems like a very good idea and you go to take off your own shoes, smiling at the nearest woman as you reach for your laces. She does not smile back, but frowns and inclines her head just enough to suggest a shake.
She’s battled through six months of misery to finally be able to have her lunchtime sandwich outside the office, and she doesn’t want to encounter the unpleasantness of a strange man’s feet: the paving-cracked heels, the gnarled and cramped little toes and, perhaps worst, the sinister and unsettling sprouts of wiry hair on the big ones. And she has a point. So you turn your attention to the Magnum. Rapidly you lose yourself n the dark top notes of the outer coat and the sweet milky ice cream inside. It’s quite possible you make some grunting and snorting noises as you do this.
And then you see him. A man in a suit is striding across the grass, straight for the space next to you. He sits down, takes off his shoes and socks and lies back with his feet in the air. You stop slurping and stare aghast at the toe-henge that has arrived around your face, a ball of sweaty black sock fluff clinging to each malformed digit.
The Magnum falls off its stick and into your lap. Relax: deep breaths, now. Only four months till winter…
Read more about Michael Hodges’ adventures.