SADLY I’ve got a couple of funerals coming up next week. One is of the mum of an
old friend. During her terminal illness she wrote some notes to him including the
‘And at the funeral, make sure you wear your black shoes.’
My dad, a sergeant (or was it sergeant major?) during his wartime service, always
instilled in me the importance of shiny shoes. It’s probably due to this that I invariably
wear trainers or lightweight hiking boots that can’t be polished. While I admit cleaning
shoes is therapeutic, I have plenty of other therapeutic activities such as writing,
walking and drawing that I much prefer when I’ve got a couple of hours to spare.
My dad used to like to have a Saturday morning session shining up his various pairs
of black, tan and light tan shoes. He then arranged them in a row with shoes trees
(to keep the leather stretched) inside them. In my teenage years, he passed on the
task of shoe cleaner to me but when I forgot to do it I remember getting into serious
One Monday morning, angry at finding himself without shiny shoes, he made feel truly
ashamed of my omission by postulating a scenario of his arrival at Grimethorpe Colliery
“If there are a couple of miners walking past the office when I arrive they’ll say
to each other; ‘Bloody Area Chief Accountant - and look at the bloody shoes he comes
to work in!’”
The Captain’s Tale
The man collecting for the poppy appeal in the Yorkshire Mill was wearing a World
War I captain’s uniform. He had a military background and - unlike me when I was
trying jackets on this morning - he has the military bearing to wear period uniforms
convincingly. He appeared as an extra in the Judy Dench/Cleo Lane movie The Last
of the Blonde Bombshells and earlier this year he had a part in a reconstruction
of a story about the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic in the Inside Out series (that I also
made a brief appearance in).
He’s so convincing in a military costume that he regularly gets saluted by servicemen.
At one film shoot he overheard a man saying:
‘No, you can tell he’s not one of the extras; he’s the real thing.’
My dad used to say that a spell in the guards would do me a lot of good. Perhaps
I’d have developed a more confident and upright posture. And shinier shoes.
‘To well comb the hair, to well brush the shoe, And pay every debt when it falls due.’
Robert Graves, Lollocks
At the Yorkshire Mill this morning I liked the first black jacket I tried on. But
I didn’t look at home in it!
I went for this Stone Bay jacket. OK, it’s not ideal for a funeral but it’s better
than the anorak I use when I’m out drawing or walking. And hopefully I won’t be going
to too many funerals.
And how could I resist this drab sweat shirt with the denim collar.