Monday, November 21, 2011

Squeaky Shoes

I didn’t notice the squeak at first myself.  I tend to be oblivious to all but the most obvious of my surroundings (The cross-bars to prevent bikes using the pedestrian half of the riverside path apparently don’t count, because I ran headlong into them last night in the fog, and I walk fairly hurt!  Luckily all I said was “Gosh, that hurt!” because a lady with a little kid in a pram was just passing by).

But then I went into the cashier’s office (this is in August, mind you) to hand over some painfully large sum of money for room and board, and the woman behind the desk asked, “New shoes?”  Squeak!  They were, sort of, so I assumed the offending noise would just go away.

The next day I wandered over to the dining commons for dinner.  “New shoes?” asked the poor girl at the till who bears the brunt of my conversational efforts after I’ve been locked up with rabid lions and even more rabid big game hunters all day.  Squeak!

Then I didn’t notice it for a while. 

Until I was being shown around Nidaros Cathedral.  Very solemn, quiet, the calm, low-lit atmosphere broken only by the murmur of tour groups.  Squeak!  Well, and my shoes.  I was getting a personalised tour, so I was trying to be particularly attentive.  “The first structure on this site dates from...”  Squeak!  “If you’ll look closely at these stones, you’ll see that these markings indicate that they’re from the era of King...” Squeak!  “Sorry, didn’t quite catch that.  King who, did you say?”  Squeak!  “This is a particularly solemn area because it commemorates the dead from the Second World War”.  Squeak, squeak, squeak!

And walking around the university in its beautiful hill-side setting.  Squeak, squeak!  And along the riverside, pristine and peaceful.  Almost...  Squeak, squeak!  Through the airport.  Squeak!  By this stage, I've realised that I don't even have to take a step for them to squeak.  Shifting my weight is more than sufficient.  In fact, I can be standing stock still and they'll start up.  I swear they've got minds of their own!

But then I reverted to my sandals, only wearing my shoes for evening strolls down the river in Cambridge (the better to avoid the substantial cow deposits on the pathway).

But the squeak persisted, and in fact, seemed to be getting louder and more noticeable.  At the breakfast till: “Tea or coffee?” Squeak!  “It’s from outside”.  “Okay...noisy shoes, eh?”  Squeak!

The mist has been particularly thick along the river, where I go for a stroll each evening before eating dinner and plunging back into whatever I’m reading (tonight, Hailey’s African Survey, the biggest book on my shelf, overawing even George R R Martin’s A Dance With Dragons!), and it gets dark so early that for a couple of nights it’s been almost impossible to see anything in front of you.  But you can still hear.  Squeak, squeak, squeak!  “What’s that, Mummy?” came a child’s voice from the fog ahead of me.  “Someone with new shoes, dear”.  Squeak, squeak!

To get to the North Front in the University Library (Cambridge has the most bizarre, least helpful method imaginable for organising its library—devised, I’m convinced, by jealous librarians who don’t actually want researchers to find anything), I have to walk along a long corridor lined with reading desks, populated by very serious-looking, Cambridge-y scholars, immaculately dressed if they’re professors, stylishly so if students.  It was sufficiently cold that I had put on the shoes in lieu of sandals.  So down the corridor I came, running shoes, running shorts, Cal t-shirt, a pile of books in hand.  Squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak!  If looks could kill, I would have died a hundred deaths in violently painful paroxysm.  Every day I run that gauntlet.  I’m just waiting for the day that the looks give way to rotten vegetables...


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