Nightwatch: London's no mean feet
Feet. The very mention of the word should be -- is -- enough to make one shudder and gag. Why? Because feet -- yours, mine, hell even Brad flippin' Pitt's -- are, to put it mildly, ugly with a capital 'Ewwwwww'. As the warranties that came with each and every one of us explicitly state, we are all different and special in our own little ways, but I can assure you that the one area in which we are all exactly alike is when it comes to our hooves. And they're all uniformly gicky.
In case you can't tell, human paws have been on my mind a lot of late, and here's why. I recently upped sticks to the quaint little hamlet known as London town, and it's a tad overwhelming in many ways.
But, in all my preparation for moving here, I never once considered that the biggest decision I'd have to make is whether or not to perpetually bare my legs and feet. In public. Like, with lots of people around.
Them English do things differently in these here parts, so they do.
For one thing -- and not to rub it in too much (ok, maybe just a little) -- the weather is infinitely better in London. So far, these summer months have been hot, humid and sticky, like living in a giant armpit.
When I left Dublin, it was so wet that the plane didn't so much fly, as ride upon the crest of a giant wave that had engulfed the runway before take-off.
Suffice to say, I didn't think to pack shorts, and all my summer rigouts were either sent home to mommy or chucked in the clothes bank (and no smartass, I didn't think of checking what the weather would be like beforehand. If only there was some kind of electronic means by which such information could be conveniently gleaned...).
Consequently, my first few weekend nights out here were real eye-openers.
Whereas I stuck with my conservative jeans, T-shirt and toe-cramping Converse look, all those around me were parading in shorts of varying length, not to mention -- oh my days -- flip-flops.
I'm talking about in pubs and clubs at night too, not just in parks during the day.
How sheltered an existence I had been living.
Like a prude, I clutched the pearls around my neck in horror, glowering at everyone. "This isn't Gran Canaria," I fulminated. "We're in a major urban centre. Cover your shame, you hussies."
Oh, but how quick I changed my tune. I don't know if it was some kind of subliminal peer-pressure or the unbearable, chickens-are-transported-in-more-humane-conditions heat on the Tube, but within days I had become the hero in a jauntily soundtracked, romcom-worthy shopping montage whereby I flitted between several stores, going in and out of changing rooms modelling an array of shorts, flip-flops and, gulp, wife-beaters, all while my sassy best friend adjudicated on my sartorial choices with a catalogue of grimaces and/or thumbs-up signs.
And in open defiance of my gender, I even managed to avoid succumbing to the Only Acceptable Way for Men to Wear Shorts™ rule by opting for more than just below-the-knee, combat-style khaki shorts only. Oh that's right. There might even now be denim cut-offs and colourful check-patterned shorts in my collection. Ye gods, is nothing sacred?
As for the flip-flop situation, I still cling to my irrational dislike of the Hobbit-esque monstrosities that are feet.
But, unlike many other male species in my midst, I at least possess the requisite degree of body-shame to make sure my toenails are cut and cleaned, and that any unsightly foot hair is removed before I dare venture outdoors.
What's more, I don't even care when I come home with feet all black and filthy after a night out, because to my mind it isn't possible for them to get any more disgusting than they naturally are already.
Wait, I tell a lie: it just might be possible.
I do recall on the day of London Pride seeing a guy queueing in the men's Portaloo area in just his bare feet, his flip-flops either lost or discarded.
I'm all for adopting the casual summer style, but whatever way you look at it, that's just nasty.