Ruby Senior was doubtful about my choice of footwear for London. The boots have a heel, and I don't do heels, as a rule. She was also alarmed by the fact that I was still trying to zip the boots up when she took me to the station in the car. I had to push the passenger seat back to the max, rest my feet on the front dashboard, then give each zip an almighty prolonged tug to get
"It's not like you'll just be able to slip them off if they're uncomfortable."
"I'll be fine!"
London is crazy, and big. My feet were fine. To begin with. I was a bit teetery with the heels when getting on and off trains, but it was all going well, until I stood up after being seated during the meeting ... and felt like I was standing on knives.
I hobbled out in the direction of the tube station, with the gait of an old lady. I should have been brandishing my umbrella at the crowds, saying; "London is for the young! Make way! I need to get home!" I passed a couple of shoe shops, and cursed myself for not buying a sensible flat pair instead of the ones I was wearing. Then I saw the entrance to Marble Arch tube, which involved stairs, so I hobbled on along Oxford Street instead. I would get a bus! But none of the buses were going in the direction I needed.
In my semi-incapacitated state, I was also a sitting target for the army of distributors of a free newspaper called London Lite. Avoiding eye contact was useless. It was thrust in my face at regular intervals along Oxford Street, but a loud, assertive "No thank you" seemed to make it disappear again.
Then suddenly, I needed to sit down. Immediately. But there was no-where. So I staggered across Oxford Street, and got on a bus to take me back in the direction I'd just come from. I didn't know what to do with my London travel card on bus - whether it needed swiping or what - so I held it up cheerily at the driver who glowered at me and growled "Just get on." Charming. Then I found all the seats in the bus were taken. Aaargh, I couldn't even sit down in here!
Trying to distract myself from the knife like pain in my feet, I stared through the bus window, and found myself looking at an irate fireman in a fire engine whose siren was blaring. He was yelling and gesticulating and trying to move the engine. My mind blotted out these superfluous facts, as I am rather partial to men in unform, especially where rescue scenarios are involved.
A daydream was imminent. Help me, handsome fireman! I am stuck on the top of a tall pair of shoes, with knives in my feet. Carry me to safety, and away from this godforsaken metropolis, back to my home town!
The fireman turned and looked at me. Eek, had I been thinking out loud?
Then I saw him mouth: "Tell the driver to move the bus." He probably wasn't talking to me. I looked away. Then I looked back at him. His face was angrier now and there was no mistaking his nasty glare was directed straight at me. "TELL the driver to MOVE THE F*ING BUS and TELL HIM NOW!"
Aaargh, what a nasty fireman! His scary order propelled me straight down the bus on my painful feet and I stood in front of the driver's cab. The driver turned and glowered at me. Up until this moment I think I had been considering yelling the words "Move the f*ing bus!" but one look at his face told me this was a very bad idea. What I actually said, was "Excuse me. The fireman driving the fire engine has told me I have to ask you to move the bus." The bus driver looked at me with a reptilian grin, indicated the gridlocked traffic around the bus and said. "Ask him, 'Where to?'"
I decided that I wouldn't bother.
Opposite Marble Arch tube, I flopped out of the bus and onto a low sill outside a shop. I let out a scream of relief as I took the weight off my feet. Within seconds, a London Lite newspaper was in my face
"Have a paper, please darling."
"No thank you."
"Why not? It's free."
"I don't want it."
"Please, have a paper."
"No thank you."
"Take a paper."
"Why you don't want take it? I am just doing my job."
"If I took a paper from everyone who offered me one, do you know how many I'd be carrying by now? About six."
"Sick? You are sick?"
"NO, I said six"
"Take a paper."
"I don't want one. PISS OFF!"
"OK darling, have a nice day."
Yes, I thought, I will have a nice day. So I went in the shoe shop next to Marble Arch tube, and bought a pair of padded slip-ons, a size too big, because my feet were too swollen for anything else. Wearing them was bliss, and probably the highlight of the day.
Ee, it's grand to be back in York.