Geoff Austin’s Shoes

This was a typical March day.  Yes, I know it’s not March, it’s June.  Struggling into the blustery wind, feeling the cold, and scanning the threatening skies, you would never know.  In fact the only week we’ve had so far this year deserving of June’s epithet, ‘flaming’, was in March.

Battling along, clutching her fascinator in a desperate attempt to keep it on her head, a possibly decorative, well dressed, young woman looked somewhat out of place among Mitcham’s less than elegant shops in London Road.  Obviously on her way to an event, her headgear matched her dress, so she wouldn’t have wanted to see it rolling down the road like tumbleweed.  She reminded me of my neighbour in Gracedale Road during the great storm (post of 2nd. June), clinging desperately to his home’s tarpaulin covering.

As I passed the police station I narrowly, nimbly, avoided being entangled in the leads of two sheepdogs on the end of a flustered woman they had just dragged over the zebra crossing.  Later, along the East side of the common, I was surrounded by no less than nine unleashed, excited dogs in the company of a solitary walker.  Had they been leashed I would probably have been well entangled.

Tacked to a tree by the lake on the common was a warning: DANGER THIN ICE.  I wondered if there was more severe weather on the way.  A heron stood on watch in the shallow water.

Setting off to Becky’s in jacket and buttoned up raincoat, yet stubbornly continuing to wear sandals instead of more sensible shoes and socks, I thought of the extremely hot summers of 1976/7 when I had walked everywhere with no footwear at all.  A very witty newsagent, whose shop, on the corner of the junction between Harrow Road and Ladbroke Grove, was next door to my workplace, once asked me what I did about dogshit.  I said: ‘I look out for it’.  Quick as a flash, he replied: ‘I try and avoid it myself’.

On one occasion, having forgotten my emergency brogues, I was called upon to chair an unexpected conference.  As I deemed it unseemly to attend, let alone chair, a formal meeting barefoot, I borrowed Geoff Austin’s shoes.  For saving my embarrassment, thank you Geoff.  Some years before, I had attempted to borrow something else from Geoff.  I had been called upon to drive the then manager, the delightful Muriel Trapp, to another meeting.  Muriel was only a couple of inches shorter than me, so she had almost as much difficulty getting into the passenger seat of Geoff’s two-seater MG Midget as I did the driving seat.  Having got in I could neither move my legs to operate the control pedals nor get out of the car.  My knees were in such close proximity to the steering wheel that I couldn’t turn it.  Having dragged me out Geoff did the driving.  For extracting me from that embarrassing situation, thank you Geoff.

When I arrived at Westmorland Way, Becky, who has been avidly following my posts, produced a fascinating album of creative writing she had kept from a course she had attended one summer some years ago.  This was very impressive and I think it a shame she hasn’t continued with it.

Late in the afternoon the heavy, prolonged, shower that exploded over Jackie and me when we took Becky’s heavy sofabed cover to the launderette was more like an April phenomenon than a June one.  We managed not to get the cover clean and to compound the problem by melting the fabric by putting it in a hot dryer.  It looked like a snake in the process of sloughing.  There was nothing for it but to cut the label off to identify a replacement only available in IKEA and make the trip to that emporium, which was the worst penalty I could have incurred.  It seemed to be rubbing it in when I received an e-mail on my Blackberry offering a 20% discount from Homebase.

Back in the abovementioned 1970s I had been sitting in my local Soho launderette watching my washing circulating when a film crew came in, ushered everyone else out, and asked me to remain to stay in shot for a scene featuring in a television drama the title of which I have forgotten.  On transmission evening we all sat in front of the telly eagerly awaiting my star performance.  In the launderette scene it was momentarily possible, unless you blinked, to see an elbow which could just possibly have been mine.  Michael & Piper 6.77Shortly afterwards, filling the screen, was my son Michael, with his dog Piper, striding down Dean Street with a huge grin on his face.  I think you’d say I had been upstaged.

A Sainsbury’s deli counter curry meal completed the day.  Becky’s minute portion was liquidised.

5 responses to “Geoff Austin’s Shoes”

  1. […] of Piper.  Piper was the dog who helped Michael upstage me in the launderette television scene (see post of 22nd. June).  Some thirty odd years ago, when my son was still a teenager, we lived in Soho where Michael did […]

  2. […] Each time I watch a dog walker, like the woman in this picture, struggling to scoop up poo I reflect on my Raynes Park childhood in the ’40s and ’50s. When I complimented one young woman on her action she was amazed to learn that in those days no-one did what she was doing, and we had to be very careful where we put our feet in order to avoid treading it into the house. She said she hated people not cleaning up after their pets. ‘It’s disgusting. I always pick it up and bin it. Always’. I am not sure when the law requiring this came in, but it was certainly after 1976 when I had the conversation with the newsagent recorded in my ‘Geoff Austin’s Shoes’ post. […]

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