Ian McMillan: Slippers should speak of evenings on the settee...

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The year is getting older but I’m pleased to say that my slippers, like policemen and politicians, are getting younger. I began 2014 in slipper-socks, literally. I wore them as the year turned and I danced a little jig in the kitchen to welcome the future. Slipper-socks, as you know, are good for dancing in because, in contrast to their name, they’re not slippery and so I didn’t end my jig by slipping and falling rhyme over stanza, which is how we poets fall. Those slipper socks served me well through the winter months but eventually they wore into holes until, as I pointed out to my wife, they were more hole than sock, so I flung them in the bin and when they landed in the rubbish they hardly made any noise at all. It was an almost silent goodbye.

In the spring I was going to buy some new slipper-socks but instead I went for a pair of stylish backless slippers. I enjoyed the feeling of slipping (that word again!) my feet into them in the morning but I didn’t enjoy the fact that, perhaps because they were slightly too big but I couldn’t be bothered to take them back to the shop, they kept almost falling off.

The first few times I wandered round the house in them they looked like clown’s shoes or flippers and often I’d find, halfway up the stairs, that I was only wearing one. I found that if I tensed my toes and curved them in a prehensile fashion I was able to keep them on but this caused me a modicum of personal discomfort. It must be like this wearing high-heels, I thought as I tensed my way around the room.

I normally fall in love with my slippers or slipper-socks but my relationship with these backless ones was fractious and tense, like my toes. I got used to them and we rubbed along together but I can’t say they were really my favourites. I was happy when I couldn’t find them and I had to walk about in ordinary socks.

I decided the constant tensing of the toes might mean I’d never be a great tap-dancer so I flung the backless slippers in the bin, noisily. My toes relaxed. I was tempted to go back to slipper-socks but, as Autumn approached, I decided I needed something sturdier. A good strong supportive slipper, so I got a pair, and that’s where a whole new set of troubles began as the year started to fray at the edges.

To be blunt, they felt like shoes. Slippers, for me, should be soft and malleable. They should speak of evenings on the settee dozing off in your dressing gown after a good hot bath. These felt like they wanted to go for a walk up a rugged mountain path. And that’s what happened. Well, apart from the rugged mountain bit.

I had to go down Darfield to get my hair cut. I walked from the house to the street, marvelling at how comfortable my shoes were. Except, as you’ll have guessed, they were my new slippers. I looked down in horror. I’d come out of the house in my slippers! A decline had begun! I ran back into the house and stood in the kitchen, gasping.

The next day I went out and bought some slipper socks. That’s better!

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