What my plimsolls taught me

Tuesday 26 Jan 10

When I was four years old, on my first day of primary school, I left my spanking new, shiny leather shoes in the classroom and came home wearing my gym shoes. We called them plimsolls in those days. (They were rubber-soled, black slip-on canvas shoes with a little black elastic band on the instep to keep them strapped to our frolicky feet.)

Just as I had forgotten my shoes, my Mum had forgotten to take my photograph as I left home for my first day of school, and so I am wearing those plimsolls in my first day at school photo, which was actually my second day.
I suppose I am thinking about that photo and those plimsolls because they remind me that when things don't go according to plan, they not only give us a better story to tell in the future, they also remind us of what is really important: Neither my forgetting my shoes or my Mum forgetting to take my picture is important. What's important is that 40 or so years later I am still thinking of how fortuitous those incidents were, and what harbingers of my future.

Things have never really gone according to plan for me, partly because there has been no plan.  And pretty early on I stopped desiring one.  I often say that I have tumbled through life.  Tumbled is maybe too strong a word, it suggests a sense of being out of control, and not always pleasant.  So let me say I have floated through life. I have actively tried to wear my plimsolls, metaphorically and literally, and I always like a photo that isn't posed. I have continued to forget things but never the important things I hope, and when things don't work out I am spurred by the knowledge that they will again soon, just maybe in a different way to how I imagined.Today I am very happy, and no-one in my life cares if I am wearing my plimsolls or when a photo is taken, least of all me or my Mum. And that makes me very happy that we have both come so far.
Happy birthday for yesterday, Mary Darling, and happy birthday for tomorrow Alan Cumming.

Incidentally, I have always thought that plimsolls could make a fashion comeback.  And I hate smiling for a photo when I don't feel like it.



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