COLUMN: January 11, 2018

A carelessly discarded banana skin makes a delightful floor ornament

I HAVE two pairs of shoes. I don’t want you to think I am bragging when I say this. “Oh, here he comes, Billy Four Shoes.” If anything, I am Billy Ten Shoes, as I also have two pairs of boots and a pair of running shoes. I know, I know, my flat is almost indistinguishable from a branch of Clarks.

The point is that, unless I am running, I have a choice of shoes. I can literally fill my boots.

So I suppose that what happened that day was my fault. I did not have to choose the one pair of shoes I own which have a smooth sole.

But, on the other hand – or foot, the manufacturers were at fault for making a shoe with a smooth sole. What were they thinking?

These are people whose job it is to think about how shoes work and are used. Is there nobody in their R&D department who has pointed out that shoes would ideally grip the floor, rather than glide like Torvill and Dean on Teflon across it. Is there nobody saying, “People tend to stand up and walk when wearing our shoes. I don’t see the benefit of a sole that reduces friction on surfaces. Our customers tend not to fry eggs on the soles?”

Anyway, I first realised that this was an issue when I was on my way in to work. I had run out of the specific hair gel that I have to use – and a man with difficult-to-explain hair like mine has to use a specific hair gel – which is only available in the bigger branches of Britain’s Favourite Large-scale Retailer.

Hair gels and suchlike are situated on the first floor of this establishment, and accessed by a travelator on a steep slope, shopping trolleys being tricky to accommodate on conventional escalators, as anybody who has ever gone to town on a Saturday with a pushchair will tell you.

I stepped onto the steep travelator, and gripped the moving handrail, and all was fine until about halfway up, when I had to release the handrail to answer a text message about nothing.

The thing about gravity is that it is no respecter of texts about nothing, and I felt its pull immediately. I started to slide down the incline, my shoes giving me no traction, my legs thrashing about as if I were in a Japanese game show called Enormous Comedy Slippery Slope, until I could sheathe my phone without causing it damage and snatch the handrail again while falling to my knees.

This is why I have never been skiing, incidentally. Ice is slippery. I don’t see how making a virtue of that helps anybody.

Luckily only the 12 or so people behind me on the slope saw me, and, presumably, the security man watching on CCTV. And the members of staff he called over.

After picking up the gel, I went on the return journey. It was easier going down, because even if I slipped at least I was going in the right direction.

I walked gingerly to work after that, very much aware of the shortcomings of my sole, and got on with my job.

But I had a lunchtime meeting outside the office. A cold wind was whipping up as I went there, but there was nothing to concern me, because I was wearing Medium Coat.

However, the wind, as it turned out, was the beginnings of Storm Eleanor.
“Goodness me, it’s blowy,” I thought, as I returned to work, and I turned a corner, walking down the middle of the pavement. But Eleanor was now at my back, and the difficulty began.

You see, Medium Coat is a three-quarter length affair, and is flappy in even a light breeze. In these conditions, Medium Coat was effectively a sail.

Had I been wearing any other shoes, I might have got away with it. A gust slid me along the pavement, heading helplessly straight for a busy road.

I was too far from the railings on one side of me, but there were cars parked perpendicularly to the pavement…

I jumped, using Medium Sail to turn me into the path of a car, and grabbed the bonnet, preserving myself until the wind passed, my head down.

And then I looked up into the eyes of the driver, who was sitting behind the wheel, watching a man who had, inexplicably, leapt from the pavement to hug his car.


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