Would anyone care to relieve me of a myriad quantity of socks, some in absolutely new unworn condition, available in a range of bright or dull colours, patterned or plain? The bulk of them are paired but I have preserved a few odd ones for winter wear in the house, where fashion is not a sartorial issue. A few have been darned but are offered as outstanding examples of the craft workers’ art, seldom practised in our modern throw away society. Having survived the rigours and penury of the last great war I have a lifelong reluctance to discard anything that might be of the slightest use. My National Service army woollen socks, which shrunk on their very first trip to the Royal Norfolk’s laundry, have not been preserved, although I still have the boots. I have short socks for utility wear, long ones for climbing Alpine slopes and even some with keeping toes separated. The greatest tragedy will be to part with the sporty white cycling socks that cock a snoot at the black fashion introduced by Lance Armstrong, and look what’s happened to him.
The reason for this sorry day in my otherwise largely carefree life has arisen from a small blemish on my right lower leg. As already described in an earlier account a South African doctor at Kettering hospital diagnosed poor circulation and prescribed stockings. About a week ago I went to the hospital for a fitting. I bet not too many people know of the NHS sock fitting service. Just as well, it could bankrupt the organisation. I turned up as requested at lunch time between official appointments and was the only person still waiting when the nurse checked.
“Oh, it’s a man,” she said, surprised that this should be so and causing me to think that maybe other men with leg skin problems keep the knowledge to themselves. Ironically it was only last year that I was threatened with these compression stockings when I developed an ulcer on the same leg. I then thought I had evaded this drastic life-changing situation. It does make things seem rather more bearable in that the manufacturers do now describe this leg-wear as unisex socks. The fitting session went reasonably smoothly and, satisfied that I could manage them on my own, the nurse released me with my lower legs encased in tight knee length black socks. It was a relief to be told that I needn’t wear them in bed. I could have had a shade of brown, presumably to simulate a tan, but that struck me as being far too old-lady and last of the summer winish.
I now have another delaying ritual to add to my morning ablutions. Already there’s the ointment for back irritation, easing of, which I apply back-handed with contortional difficulty. With a skin covering of moles, warts and other features akin to a relief map there’s no surprise that I often experience an itching. There is something undignified about a man in select company scratching his back on a door jamb, rather like an old ram with scrapey. Although a ram would end up as scrag-end or dog food once his usefulness as a procreator had expired this does not fortunately apply to humans. I would have been down the abattoir twenty years ago. Then there’s the foot ointment to prevent dry cracked heels, probably developed in Australia to ease the problems of kangaroos jumping over jagged rocks. Now I have the double base moisturiser to apply to the legs before squeezing into the special socks. An hour in the bathroom is not unusual. Indeed, if one introduces after-shave, deodorants and whatever, that room is steadily taking on the air of a courtesan’s boudoir.
There are other pleasures I must give up for ever it seems. I shall no longer be able to clench my bare toes around a pair of comfortable flip-flops for summer wear. Despite their potential for causing serious trip-ups in the garden these economical items of casual footwear have given me a romantic feeling of the bronzed athletic poolside lifeguard I might have become, on Bondi Beach perhaps, going Australian again. I shall probably have to discard other stuff too, but the thought is just too depressing. Cue for violin backing.....