Thursday, November 04, 2004

Sock it to me

Yesterday my socks tried to kill me. No...really...I'm not just in post-vicariously-won-election-instability here, these bastards carried out a coordinated attack that has rendered me with one very, very sprained ankle.

They're no ordinary socks, though. They were purchased from a woman at a market in Poland. What she lacked in teeth she more than made up for in cackling zeal and determination. She was small, she was old, she had a back as curved as a sickle and a scarf tied around her head in a style last fashionable around the time of the October Revolution.

She was also determined that M's feet would fit into her inverted-sheep slippers. They were a little like the ubiquitous (and inexplicably fashionable) ugg boot, but smaller and more...rural. Yes, rural, I think that that's what those patterns were. Either that or just incredibly goddamned putrid. We weren't going for pretty, though, we were going for FUNCTIONAL which, as everyone knows, is only matched by pretty by companies like Apple...NOT by old women in Eastern European stalls.

Thing is, M is 6'5 and has feet to match. This woman, though, would simply not accept the fact that his feet came outside the statistical norm that was her universe. His feet WOULD fit into one of her slippers, even if she had to weld two of the wretched things together with a blowtorch to make it possible.

We tried reasoning with her - I in my fluent Polish, M in his fluent I-have-no-idea-what-you're-saying-but-if-you-think-my-feet-will-fit-into-those-pixie-slippers-you've-just-handed-me,-you've-got-another-fucking-thought-coming look.

She gestured to a chair with a gnarled hand in a manner so imperious for one of her dimunitive stature that M simply couldn't resist. He stooped into her little stall and folded himself into a tiny chair in the manner of a giraffe seating itself in a Mini. She handed him slipper after slipper, tutting and clicking her tongue. None, of course, fit. She said they would stretch. I translated. M gave me a pained look, saying his toes had already retracted into his foot in order to pull on the last pair, he was damned if he was going to try and STAND UP wearing them. I bit my lip to suppress a giggle and translated the pertinent parts back*.

*Note - professional interpreters only translate verbatim when they're doing a simultaneous translation. Otherwise they work hard at making both sides to a conversation look a jackload less silly. This requires a working knowledge of both cultures, both languages, understanding the point of the communication, having a firm grasp of who you're working for and the ability not to snort a suppressed giggle at a sensitive moment. I always had a problem with the last item on the laundry list, so preferred to switch my conscious mind off and just do simultaneous. Yes, I can be a lazy soddette.

She turned to me with a bit of a faraway look in her eyes. The kind that people who live in the middle of nowhere and are used to looking at distant mountains have. Not a bad thing to posess, overall - it can lend an air of mystery, you know? But I was looking for a little more *clarity* in the relationship at that point and adding mystery to what was already a grizzled, leathery question mark wearing a headscarf wasn't a good thing.

She decided that it was M's feet. Shoes simply WERE NOT MADE in his size. Period.

M, in the meantime had peeled the last slippers off using a crowbar and a bottle of baby oil. He was now buysing himself with tying up the laces of the shoes he had started out in, oblivious to the fact that she had just determined this act to be metaphysically impossible.

So we did what any self-respecting Westerners do when faced with a slightly mad old woman. We bought socks from her.

If uggs look like you've got inverted sheep on the end of your legs, then slipping these socks on is like strapping a pair of mathematicians to your feet. The kind that have beards, wander around in homemade sweaters, aren't afraid of socks and sandals being in immediate proximity to each-other and think about numbers...a lot.

The socks are hand-knitted up in the mountains, suitably prickly, itchy and as ugly as a newborn. They're also in a state of colour-flux between olive green and dark grey. I say colour-flux because surely there can't be an official colour this ugly. Pantone just wouldn't allow it.

Anywhere, where were we? Yesterday, that's right.

So yesterday I decide to grace the little deflated balls of woven fluff with my feet. Lucky sods if you ask me.

I had just come back from the city and didn't take my stockings ('tights' for those who speak Americanese) off, I just slipped the socks on top...that was my mistake, I gave them a chance to strike.

Sensing the delicious lack of friction between themselves and my stockinged feet, they hunkered down and waited until I was at the top of the stairs, rushing to the kitchen to check on some boiling milk.

All that M and C heard was the thump of a foot coming down hard to stop me from falling. I felt and heard the soft crunching of muscles and tendons pulled as my other foot landed in a funny curled position and took a lot of my weight. It's not designed to land in that position and hold that amount of weight.

The dialogue that ensued was rather predictable.


"Are you alright!?!?!"

{Expletive} {Expletive} *sharp intake of breath* {Expletive involving parentage and fornication} ... "I'm fine!" I yell as the kind of pain birth is usually associated with climbs up my leg and takes my breath away.

"Are you sure?"

...and here's what I was later criticized for:


How could I be sitting there in so much pain, yet say that I was alright?

You see, to me, the litmus test for the first 'are you alright?' is:

'If I were alone right now, would I be in trouble?' In other words, is something broken or am I bleeding in pretty little pumping arcs across the walls? Do I need hospitalisation? Do I need converting to a faith quickly? Do I need to pick out a casket?

If the answer is 'no' to this little self-directed query, then I'm technically alright. I can take care of myself and apply first aid alone, albeit slowly. I can go and lick my wounds. I can curl up somewhere and heal, hoping that no-one will notice my blunder.

Of course, it's far better to have someone around to help and I was grateful to hear the thumping of two sets of feet coming toward me.

Two faces looking down. I'm scrunched up in the corridor, knees to my chest, clutching one ankle and making noises that might, in retrospect, be considered a little embarrasing. I'm still having trouble breathing as my diaphragm refuses to relax. Frankly, I'm surprised at the amount of pain given my usual high threshold of tolerance. I'm *really* hoping I haven't misjudged things and broken my ankle.

"Oh my god" says C, "She's pale."

I manage to hiss "Ice" before going back to staring into space and clutching at my ankle.

M rushes to the freezer and promptly hands me a bag filled with tiny frozen penguins, dolphins and long, thin ice cubes that always bob out of your drink and threaten to take one of your eyeballs out. I usually hate those ice cubes. Right now, I'm forming a deep bond with them.

Having done everything they possibly can, M and C look down at me for a little while. Then the inevitable starts. C breaks out into a grin.


"Shut up."

"How could you fall down the stairs?"

"I just...did."

"Yes, I wish I had seen it."

I don't know what it's like to have siblings when younger, but I'm willing to bet that this feeling of wanting to kick someone really, really hard is a part of the experience.

So I start telling them that it was the evil pair of socks. I point out the whole slipperiness-when-paired-with-stockings-issue. No sympathy.

"You wore them with stockings?"



Like she's got a pair of hand knitted mountain-man socks that she is careful to avoid pairing with stockings ALL THE TIME.

I maintain that the socks leapt out at the appropriate moment and made me lose my traction. It had *nothing* to do with my running down the stairs way too fast and not paying attention. Nothing.


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