You might have seen the film ‘My Left Foot’, if you haven’t, it tells the harrowing and heroic story of Christy Brown, born with cerebral palsy, who learns to paint with his left foot. If you have seen it, then a key piece of trivia for you is that many of the scenes with Daniel Day-Lewis playing the lead role, were shot using a mirror, as DD-L was unable to manipulate his left foot adequately enough for the part. Which sounds, given the context, that he wasn’t really trying hard enough on the old acting front, but I may being overly critical.
But, with apologies to the throngs of Daniel Day-Lewis fans who flick to this blog on a regular basis (ahem), what follows is solely thoughts on my left foot, rather than the more accomplished work of Christy Brown’s one.
Because, if you really want to know something about someone, take a look at their feet. Alright, I just made that bit up, but in the unlikely event that you really wanted to know something about me, that’s where to look. And if you don’t, or if you’re of a particularly nervous disposition, you might want to stop reading now.
Still with me? Still not got anything else to do with your time? Then I’m snuggling up to you with a virtual embrace that’s warmer than Sir Terry Wogan, but stops just shy of the Hairy Cornflake. Apologies to the many international subscribers to the Emu who are shaking their heads at this point.
In an ideal world, I might show you a picture of my left foot as illustration. However, I’ve been strongly advised against this by my wife, who has been unfortunate enough to share most of her life and marital bed in the company of this foot and considers it something that really ought to be covered up at all times. Which is fair enough I suppose. After all, if I’m to be her trophy husband, I may as well cover up the ugly bits. (And that’s why I’m currently modelling the UK’s first male burqa, tee hee.)
Do let me know if I start rambling, won’t you. Anyway, back to the foot, and reading left to right…
We’ll start with the little toe. The one that bizarrley turns in on itself like it’s pointing to the right. That’s Joe Strummer’s fault. Just as my sister’s chums had to align themselves to either David Cassidy or the Osmonds, so my choices were either the Clash or the Jam. And, although I only really properly appreciated how wonderful London Calling was as an album years later, the style of the Clash would always win out. Paul Weller had some brilliant things to say, but Joe Strummer, who’d been around a bit longer, and probably long enough to realise that punks were really just hippies with attitude and short hair, was talking about the exotic worlds of Brigade Rosse and the Sandinistas. He also said what, to young teenage ears, were impossibly cool and meaningful things, like ‘The future is unwritten’ and ‘Being honest with yourself, that’s much tougher than beating someone up. That’s what I call tough.’
But, just as important was Strummer replying to a reporter asking him why he wore pointed shoes.
“You’ve got to wear pointy shoes to know which way you’re going”
Which is amongst the most meaningless quotes in rock and roll history, but because he meant something to me I made it my business to wear pointy shoes (and, wherever possible, George Cox flats with the DM sole and the teddy boy uppers seeing that you’re asking) for as long as I could get away with it. Which turned out to be as long as it took to point my little toe in the wrong direction.
Next one along, and the toenail is missing. That’s as a direct result of a hockey ball hitting it head on during an indoor game some time in the 1980s. After the toe went an unpleasant black colour for several months, I went to the doctor, who gravely announced that he would have to operate. And as far as operations were concerned, the removal of a second toenail was pretty minor, they even let me watch as they cut the toe back and then went about hacking away at the nail to get rid of it. A couple of days later I went on holiday with my student nurse girlfriend to America, where she dutifully dressed the toe every day and exercised far more than I deserved in the tender loving care department. I can’t help feeling that if the nail had come off the other side of four childbirths then she might have delivered a bit less TLC, but our love, as Joe Strummer never said, was blind to the future.
Third one along, and you can see the start of a really horrible blister. This is because I’ve just gone for a long run in new running shoes that I bought recently which are almost certainly the wrong size. But I’ll keep wearing them because I can’t abide waste, or because I’m tight. Or both. Which means that I’ll probably have that, or a similar reminder blister, for years to come.
Fourth one along, and a very unpleasant black toenail indeed. This one is going to fall off very soon, and as it does so, I’ll be quite rightly chastised by my own family for letting something so gross happen in the same room as them. This toe (and no other one) will always go black straight after a marathon. A few weeks later it will fall off, then a new one will start growing back. This, for me, is a bit like one of those weather machines where the woman comes out with the umbrella when it’s about to start raining. So when my toenail grows back with a normal colour, it’s time to do another marathon.
And so to the big toe, which, because I’m a runner, is almost always down with some sort of infection which turns it yellow. Again, this is a bit of a signal, and if it’s horribly yellow and infected then it’s time to have a rest from the running lark. Looking at it now, it looks relatively healthy, which can only mean one thing…it’s time to go for a run.
Hunter S Thompson, a man who managed to be impossibly cool not just during his life but at his own funeral, once wrote that:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
Too bloody right. Just ask my left foot.