created by Charlie Boyle
Charlie walks a mile in his own shoes and somehow finds a fresh perspective
Unless you are one of those unbearable smug media types who can saunter around your office – sorry, "workspace" – in trainers, any self-respecting Londoner knows there are four layers making up the sole of their work-shoe: Leather, Cork, Rubber and the last line of defence between you and the pavement, Sock. Different people will wear through the various levels at different rates before accepting the need to fork out for a new pair of shoes, or sacrificing their favoured footwear for two days to have them resoled.
Traditionally, I am a cork man; catching the sole before you break through the leather requires organisation and foresight I am not capable of, while allowing the hole to get through to rubber is utterly reckless. I learnt just how reckless this was while standing in the Clapham Grand nightclub at 1am as my foot slowly marinated in vodka absorbed from the carpet over two hours. If I am honest, I would be impressed by any shoe that could survive a trip across the boggy marshland that is the Grand on a Friday night. Now, you are probably wondering how my focus on shoes is going to segue into a meaningful comment about London. I admit the link coming up is tenuous at best, but it is coming.
It started when I noticed I was resoling my right shoe twice as often as my left. An obvious diagnosis would be that I step more heavily on one side, but none of my other shoes suffer the same disparity and I believe the right side of my body to be of similar weight to my left (despite a long-held suspicion I have a slightly longer right arm), so that can’t be it.
The only conclusion I could come to was that it was the result of my commute, a journey which has remained the same for three years without the slightest variation. I get on the same carriage in the morning at Clapham Junction at the same time every day; the repetition of the exact same route with the same amount of turns over the same surfaces must be causing this mysterious right shoe destruction.
What’s more I am not the only one doing the same trip. I recognise almost all the people who get on the carriage with me. There’s “Makeup Lady”, who applies her makeup wobbling on the train each morning before hopping off at Vauxhall. Hidden behind spreads of financial papers is the “Chairman”, who looks so important he could run a small country—he would never allow the hole to get past leather. In fact, I bet the pavement gives way before his sole would ever be tarnished. Another front carriage favourite is “Chatty”, who speaks on the phone every morning to her friends about the trials and tribulations of her life, challenges that include whether her brother will drop out of university, again, and more importantly, whether her new man is The One. Completing the pack is “Scruffy”, always in a rush but not always on the carriage (I’m guessing he regularly misses it). Scruffy will no doubt wear both his shoes through to sock before losing them and borrowing a pair from his flatmate.
We are quick to point out the new restaurants, bars and venues to hang out in London, but what about the things that don’t and won’t change? Like the commute.
My advice is to accept the fact that it doesn’t change and thrive on it. Get on the same carriage every day and soon enough, like me, you will have a silent army of friends. Once, a stranger boarded our usual cabin, strapped with a purple rucksack and clinging to her copy of Bridget Jones' Diary, she barged her way through, releasing a tirade against me when she thought I was in her way. Her fury was so disruptive that even Chatty paused midway through her daily monologue.
What Little Miss New Shoes didn’t realise was that I was not alone. I was surrounded by friendships built up silently over three years. The Chairman lowered his Telegraph half an inch and said, “perhaps if you weren’t reading your book at arms length with your rucksack on you wouldn’t find space such an issue." Chatty then pitched in helpfully. “Yeah, chill out.” and Scruffy, well he was still at Clapham Junction.
Returning to our flimsy shoe analogy, to survive London you should aim to have one shoe like the Chairman and another like Scruffy, etched by a flexible spirit in the evening and the rigid daily grind in the morning.
Enjoy the consistency of the commute rather than dreading the repetition. There is enough going on in our constantly changing city to worry about doing the same trip every morning. Plus, you may just develop a group of low maintenance friends who will back you in a fight.
Charlie Boyle says he doesn't understand Instagram or Twitter, so if you want more from him you'll have to wait for the next issue.
The featured image was taken by Richard Pope and is used here without modifications.