The Joy of Socks

I have, in recent times, become something of a ‘new’ man – or rather something of a ‘new sock’ man.

In years gone by the lowly sock was something to which I sacrificed little thought and no great consideration.

Until these past few months my entire sock drawer – I have one it is true, but not one of my own making – contained nothing but in-shoe footwear of a single hue.

I could choose, as Henry Ford never actually said, any colour I liked, as long as it was black.

The only sock-related thought that ever entered my head related to whether the aforementioned item had a hole, and, if so, how big was it and could I get away with wearing it without it being visible over my shoe.

I was, it must be said, ignorant of the ways of socks.

And then, I know not why, something changed.

That something may well seem small and insignificant to the outside world – and even to those who claim to know me best.

In reality however that something proved momentous and the change it set in motion redefined my very nature at a fundamental level.

Under instruction to replenish supplies by the one who must be obeyed or return home to find myself sockless in my forties, I bought – without conscious thought and as if driven by unseen forces – a pair of socks as blue as the pristine waters that lap Pacific island shores.

Later, I was stunned at my indiscretion. The one who must be obeyed was, by turns, hysterical, bemused and downright suspicious.

“What,” the repeated question came, “on earth was I thinking?”

In truth I do not know. In reality I had not been thinking at all. I picked up the first pair that came to hand, paid my money and left the purveyor of cotton footwear’s premises.

Within such unexpected moments of singularity whole worlds are shaken, existences overturned and personal philosophies redefined.

I became, by virtue of one simple absent-minded free-market exchange, a man with decisions to make. A man confronted by the eternal dilemma that has haunted humanity since the dawn of time. I had a choice to make.

No longer was the morning ritual of dressing a straightforward, empty action. Now a selection was to be made – an analysis of situation before even there was the crux of coffee to lean my confusion upon.

Where once there was a void of coherent thought, now there was consideration, assessment, a reading of the day ahead and an analysis of self.

I could no longer stumble and blunder my way through my day, my life, my very existence. All things became a question – a question that had to be answered before progress could be made.

An epiphany had struck me; a moment of clarity – much, I like to think, as occurred to Saul while he mooched along the road to Damascus.

We are the choices we make. They define us, shape us, create the we that each of us becomes.

Needless to say, my sock drawer is now a garden of rich hues; a cornucopia of colour; a rainbow in recognition of the socksmith’s art.

 I have at last discovered the joy of socks.

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What’s in a name?

I spend my Saturday mornings in church – a church with many aisles, fluorescent lighting, a thousand miles of shelving and a million shiny packages – none of which are necessary to prolong my 21st Century existence.

I spend my Saturday mornings in a cathedral to consumerism – an edge of town Mecca where my weekly pilgrimage brings not absolution or peace of mind but a seething, unrepentant hatred of all those feeble-minded devotees who tread this loathsome path.

There is however sanctuary within.

I seek the Holy Grail which perches on the deli counter deep inside the furthest reaches of this temple to Mammon.

My heavenly reward comes in the shape of a little plastic tray where samples of strange dairy produce I might never – will never – willingly purchase await only the hardiest, vainglorious of souls.

I spend my Saturday mornings in hope not of redemption but a little piece of cheese from some far-flung destination and a chopped up piece of cracker.

Buried in the heart of this cash-craved Armageddon on a disposable dish lies that which has no place here – something for nothing.

My most recent act of devotion began as any other.

I trudged through car park lanes awash with wayward trolleys, wayward children and wayward third-hand Vauxhalls with just a single thought in mind – rapture in a bovine lactic form.

But from the depths of Hell I am set upon by an acned army in uniformed t-shirts proclaiming that they alone know “the real thing” when they see it.

A modern-day Hitler Youth bedecked in red and white and blackheads.

These legions are intent on halting my progress towards fulfilment.

“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men,” said Ezekiel and Sam Jackson.

How right they were, how right.

It emerges that for all this time, all these long years, the globe’s leading purveyor of sweet brown fizzy water has been mistaken.

There is no secret formula to make the whole world sing in perfect harmony.

What the world needs now is not ice cold carbon bubbles on a sun-scorched July day, but a recycled paper label with each of our names printed on it.

“It tastes better with your name on,” says a solider of the Antichrist.

“How so?” I ask.

“It just does,” he says. “What’s your name?”

Words fail me.

“It tastes better with your name on.”

I fight the urge to tell him something…I’m not sure what, but it sure as fizzy water isn’t my name.

I force my way through the apostles and the ranks of the converted, pushing onwards.

I arrive in time to see the high priestess in a hairnet brush the final crumbs of cracker and exotic dairy produce into an otherwise empty plastic bin.

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Where there’s a will…

I have been asked to write an old man’s will.

An old soldier’s last testament, his dying wishes for what remains once he has shuffled of that mortal coil which Hitler, Thatcher and old age have thus far failed to wrench from him.

It seems both poignant honour and grave responsibility. I’m not sure I’m up to the job.

The assumption – his not mine – appears to be that as I write things for a living I can turn my hand, my pen, and in reality my keyboard, to any task reliant on the written word with equal dexterity, precision and, in this case, legal standing.

I have never before written a will, a testament or any other document likely to be subjected to intensive legal scrutiny. I’m not sure I’m up to the job.

He describes in no uncertain terms and without equivocation the division of his worldly goods and chattels; she will have this and he that. So it goes until every penny and any item likely to realise the most meagre monetary value is assessed, analysed, dissected and distributed.

An entire existence collated and carved up.

Clearly he has approached this moment of existential significance with great forethought and consideration. No half-baked plans or ill-judged proclamations here.

There is nothing here for me to do but take notes, nod solemnly every now and then as seems befitting of the occasion and wonder to myself whether there’s an app for this.

“You’ll also need to sort out what to do with my body,” he throws in, seemingly as an afterthought.

I raise an inquisitive eyebrow. Bank accounts, an heirloom here or there and D-Day medals were expected. This was not.

“I’m leaving it to medical science.”

I nod gravely as seems befitting of the occasion and wonder how precisely my literary skills will be of assistance.

I’m not sure I’m up for this job.

I consider the notes detailing the assignment of his earthly goods.

“Make sure that when their done there’s nothing left but ashes and they dump those in a landfill.”

I wonder whether there’s an app for this.

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