Along with the rest of our gang, Dave Rosewarne and I had idled away most of our Saturday afternoon in Hilldene* Café opposite the pet shop. I had smoked a joint or two out the back but Dave, the most sober and the most insane of my friends, and I decided we should spend the best part of my spare cash on a new pair of open toed sandals. We left the café and walked round the corner to John Barnet’s shoe shop and announced our intention. The manageress (for it was she) looked down at my filthy feet, clad in a disintegrating pair of sandals and said, “Well I am sorry sir, you will not be able to try them on.” I think I said, “That’s cool, I know my size, its nine, how much?” She went off and climbed the steps ascending amongst a million boxes and brought back a lovely white box deliciously smelling of new leather and I think she said they were £2.99. I only had two quid so I said, “Is that for both of them”. She was now beginning to think she was going to catch something infectious from me and was backing off. “Yes,” she said, “of course.” I said, “Could I have them for £2 only mine were falling apart and it’s all the money I have.”
Now she had just about had enough and she was putting the sandals back in their box. It was getting late and we were the last customers in the shop. The other assistants and the manager were now gathering around us in mutual disgust and support for the manageress. It then dawned on me my right sandal was much worse than the left so I pressed on with my original concept; I said, “How much would one be?” She looked puzzled and following a nod from the manager she said, “I am sorry Sir, they are only sold as pairs.” I said, “That’s okay, I only live up the road I will take one now and hop back next week to get the other one.” At this point the manager got a little closer and with an air of menace said, “I am sorry Sir, we are closing soon and I think you should leave.” I said, “Hold on, this is discrimination. What about if I only had one leg, and in any case you could make a killing selling the other one to someone else with the complementary leg.” He said, “ Sir, in the last five years I have only ever sold a single pair of shoes to a one legged man.”
My last joint was wearing off by now and quick as a flash I replied, “Exactly my point. Who was he and what leg was it?” I just knew the manager was a bullshitter and sure enough he couldn’t answer either question. He didn’t seem to remember anything at all about his only recent encounter with the alleged monoped. Out of the blue he then threatened to phone the police. I asked him why and he said because we had refused to leave, so we left. We wandered aimlessly up Farnham Road discussing the demise of capitalism and the impending world revolution. I couldn’t decide whether to roll my last joint in the toilets down West Dene Drive, or save it for later.
*Harold Hill, Romford. All the places mentioned are in this area of Havering. The events written about occurred in 1967 and all prices mentioned are historic.