The Big Issue : Edition 552
THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 26 DEC–11 JAN 2018 11 MY WORD I’VE NEVER BEEN a fan of shoes. I think my feet suffer from a kind of claustrophobia. Or perhaps it should be called Clarks-ophobia, for I’m sure it all started with having to wear those deadly uncomfortable school shoes. In shoes, my feet feel constrained and suffocated, and are prone to rebel with a case of athlete’s foot. When the school holidays used to come around, nothing signified the freedom of summer for me more than kicking off those shoes and setting my piggies free. Strange, then, that so many of the rituals of summer seemed to be designed solely (no pun intended) for the purpose of delivering maximum pain to those freedom-loving feet. To begin with, going barefoot was almost obligatory, a bizarre demonstration of your tough summer credentials. The theory, developed some time ago by your older brother’s mate’s older brother’s step-dad and passed down the generations, was that going barefoot somehow toughened up your soles, so that after a few weeks you could walk on anything, almost as if you were wearing...well, shoes. So, for the first few weeks of summer you’d hobble over sharp rocky outcrops at the beach, trudge the scorching tarmac roads and dance on bindy-covered grass, barefoot. Anthony Robbins had not yet appeared on the scene to teach us how to walk on hot coals, so we basically felt the pain of every step for the first few weeks of summer, all for the purpose of feeling slightly less pain for the last few. Frequent stops had to be made to perform complex yoga poses in order to tweeze out various spikes, splinters and shards of glass from our heels before the necessary leather soles had formed. Even these, however, were no defence against the occasional and completely inexplicable misstep that would result in what was understatedly referred to as a stubbed toe. For some reason your foot would suddenly just decide to kick the road, and a searing pain would shoot up from your big toe to your tongue, which would instantaneously communicate the feeling. Blood would ooze from the toenail, which was now bound to fall off, and there would usually be a nice chunk of skin removed from the fleshy front of the toe as well, ready-made to begin filling with sand and sweat for added discomfort, and to attract the flies when you sat down for a pine-lime Splice. Once in a while, dress codes would require some form of footwear, so out would come the cheap rubber thongs to separate the big toe from the second toe in a sort of prolonged foot-stretching torture, the result of which would make your bloody, leathery feet look even more deformed. A bandaid would be wrapped around the second toe to protect the blister that had formed by the time you’d walked from the front door to the car. Take note: it was a misguided beachgoer who thought that wearing thongs was any protection against the stubbed toe. Once in a while, when you were least expecting it, the thong would inexplicably flip under your foot, causing the wearer to kick the same bloody toe on a gutter, and reopen the festering wound that was now in danger of causing septicaemia. As if this wasn’t enough, we’d keep our thongs on while riding our Malvern Star bikes, guaranteeing that once in a while our feet would slip off the pedals and grate against a bolt strategically placed on all bicycles in the 70s to tear a coin-sized chunk of flesh from the side of your ankles. Who needed ankle tattoos? Everyone had a permanent bloody scab, a totem of summer, etched into the side of their anklebones. Any potential healing was prevented by absent-mindedly jumping on the bike for another ride and tearing the scab off again with a fresh, heightened level of pain. After all this, by the end of the long, hot summer, my feet would resemble an amateur surgeon’s first operation – bloodied and blistered, a toenail or two missing, worn out bandaids and a gap between my big and second toe you could pass a sausage through. On these feet, I’d dawdle to the shopping mall with Mum to get fitted for my new pair of Clarks. Despite the mandatory bandaids on the heels to prevent (ha!) blisters, after a day or two my feet would be killing me, and I’d swear the pain was worse than anything. And I’d start longing again for the barefoot days of summer. » Richard Castles edits Hearsay (p8). SUMMER’S HERE AND RICHARD CASTLES KNOWS THAT THE TIME IS RIGHT FOR DESTROYING YOUR FEET.