Wednesday, March 7, 2018

My greatest fear is to be buried in uncomfortable shoes

Leye - Every other Wednesday

By Birgit Brånvall, CC BY 3.0 no, 

Don’t die, don’t die
But the earth reclaims its dust
Man, from nothing came
And to nothing shall return

Those are the only lines I remember from a poem I wrote a little over two decades ago. I open with it today as proof that my focus on death has nothing to do with me getting older. Or perhaps I’m in denial.

I recently went over my collection of unpublished short stories and I realised that three of them are about old men contemplating death. An early draft of one of the stories starts with the line, I have long played host to death sitting cross-legged in the easy chair at the foot of my bed.

It seems death has been on my mind for a while.

Lately, I’ve once again been thinking of the debt we all owe - as the Yoruba people in proverb say. And from all that thinking I have come to be afraid of being buried in uncomfortable shoes. You know those looked-good-felt-good-in-the-shop but later hurt-like-hell kind of shoes? I’m not sure if it’s the current agony of owning a pair of one such shoe that has created this phobia. A beautiful black number I picked up on sale. They look oh so good, and they felt ‘aite’ in the store.

Why don’t I just take them back? Well, for one, I’ve worn them outside the shop after wearing them in the shop and feeling them, pacing in them, checking them out in the foot level mirror, looking up at the shop attendant and getting the nod, smiling to self over the thought of doing a moonwalk in them, stumping on the rug, checking them out again and thinking, ‘Yeah. These feel good. They look good and they feel good. Yeah.’

It is for this reason that I own several pairs of shoes that are too tight for my too-broad feet. Too tight and too painful to wear for long. Six, at the last census. I have a thing for shoes, you see. Shoes and bags. Close to thirty pairs of shoes and at least ten bags. I even have a bag of bags – but that is another unresolved issue altogether. 

I’ve had varying success getting the shoes professionally stretched. There’s this pair of suede ankle boots with zippers on both sides. Sexy shoes, if ever there was one. ‘Took them to my shoe guy’s shop near Liverpool Street station. As I was bringing them out of one of my office bags he goes, ‘I can’t do anything with those, guv.’ He went on to explain that being suede, they would rip down the middle if he put them in his shoe stretching machine. They are now one of the other pairs set aside to be donated to charity when I get round to taking all the other charity-shop-destined stuff to the charity shop.

I’ve given out too tight shoes in the past. Brand new. Worn just once to realise I’d made the same mistake again. They might feel good in the shop, but I have to have them on for a length of time before I can tell if they’re good ones or torture devices in disguise.

Now I’m afraid to be buried in one such pair of shoes. I told this to twitter and a twat pointed out that I’d be dead. It’s not like they’ve been dead before and know for certain that the dead don’t feel pain. I would have, if I could be bothered to, explain to them that it’s just a thing. You know, like, a thing. Anyway.

There’s another Yoruba proverb that goes ‘Each person knows where his or her shoes hurt.’ I guess it’s about us all having our private issues that we’re dealing with, but to think that shoes that hurt the feet are so accepted as a fact of life that they even feature in a peoples’ proverbs? Like, really? Comeon!

When they choose what to bury you in, I imagine they go through your stuff looking for the best outfit to dress your dead ass in. I imagine when they’re picking the shoes, they overlook the well worn, wrinkled as shit, fits-like-heaven, pair of old moccasins and go for the, ‘Hey, look at these; they look like they’ve never been worn before,’ pair of feet-killer dress shoes.

And that is why I’m going to make the trip to the charity shop this weekend. With the sole mission of giving away all my too tight shoes. I cannot take the risk of forgetting about them till one day, a grand offspring upon whom the task falls, discovers them in the back of a closet and thinks, ‘Papa will look good in these.’


  1. I'm with you, Leye, although I have an even greater dread. To be buried wearing a tie...

  2. Very well said, Leye. I, too, have closets filled with shoes, boots, sandals, and their offspring, yet I rarely play footsy with more than two or three pairs. I'll use your wise thoughts as motivation for "kicking" my acquisitive addiction.

  3. Sole mission of giving away your shoes? Fab. Meanwhile have you read the bestseller The Gentle Art Of Tidying. I read it then added it to the piles of books that litter my house. It has a whole chapter on shoes....but you already have it sussed.