Ian McMillan: Socks and the city

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This is the story of Daft Ian and The Lost Socks. Maybe it’s more than a story: it’s a fable, it’s a parable, it’s a myth. Anyway, it involves socks.

Those who know Daft Ian will know that he is a meticulous packer and preparer when he’s going away for work. If he’s leaving the house at 10am on a Wednesday he will pack his bag and prepare his stuff the night before. If the taxi to take him to the station is due at 10am, he’ll be standing with his coat on at 9.40am. Be Prepared: that’s Daft Ian’s motto. Maybe it should be Be Over Prepared.

Daft Ian was off to deepest Suffolk for a couple of days and the weather was going to be changeable so he’d packed clothes for all kinds of weathers and far too many books for a two-day jaunt. Daft Ian had to go to London then change stations and go up to Suffolk.

In the besuited throng of smart City types at Liverpool Street station Daft Ian suddenly had a vision. A vision of socks. To be more precise, Daft Ian had a vision of the two pairs of socks he’d prepared to pack for the journey still sitting on the bed next to the open case. He had no memory of putting the socks in the case! He scratched his head: he had a vivid recollection of packing the pants and the shirts and the jumper and the spare (in case of spillage) trousers. He knew he’d packed the books. He’d left the socks. Ian cursed himself so loudly that a number of suits moved nervously away and a security guard moved closer. Ian smiled and said: “Ah’ve left mi socks at ooam!” which seemed to frighten the security man and the suits away, or at least satisfy them that he was no threat.

Daft Ian’s train went to Suffolk very soon; he was staying somewhere in the wilds, far from any emporia that might sell him socks. He had to buy socks, and urgently. He had to buy socks against the clock, like a Daft Man trapped in a computer game. He looked around frantically but Liverpool Street is a big station and he soon saw a place that sold socks. He scuttled into it and perused the socks on offer. He thought there must have been some mistake: the socks appeared to cost as much as a semi-detached house in Darfield. He checked the socks to make sure they were not sports cars. That’s London for you! The streets are paved with gold socks!

Daft Ian’s train was being announced. He had to make a decision, and quickly. He had to buy the socks because wearing the same socks for more than one day would have done irreparable damage to the fragile ozone layer. He bought the socks, feeling his wallet empty rapidly. He stuffed the socks in his briefcase and ran for his train, just catching it. He sat in his seat, catching his breath and pleased with his purchase, although not happy with the price.

That night in his B&B Daft Ian was triumphant. He’d bought the socks with a few seconds to spare. He wasn’t really Daft Ian: he was Decisive Ian. He opened his case in triumph. And, of course, there they were. His socks. The socks he’d packed anyway.

Daft, daft, Ian. Does anybody want a few pairs of really expensive socks?