Shoes, socks and underwear in Swindon (Rousse)

In a strappy black vest top and black trousers, I probably wasn’t suitably dressed for a memorial service – even if I had the approval of AH who peered lustily down my cleavage. My main concern was the fashion faux pas of a white bra under black top with bra straps clearly on display. I wondered why hadn’t TPR pointed this out to me when I got dressed. Then I remembered that he had recently announced that he was bored with me and our relationship was on the rocks. How I wore my underwear was no longer any concern of his.

Then on the train to the venue I realised that I all I had on my feet were white socks. I doubted that anyone else would be carrying a spare pair of shoes, but if I could find someone wearing dark socks under shoes willing to do a swap with me and I wore their socks instead of my own, then perhaps nobody would notice that I was unshod?

I asked my school friend ST, who was sitting in the next carriage, if she could help out. First of all she offered to lend me a pair of multi-coloured fashion Wellingtons – the choice was between shocking pink and lime green – or some drab khaki Crocs. I insisted that she give me her socks, then enquired after her marital status. Was that really my undergraduate pal MH sitting opposite her? Were they an item? What had happened to C? ST explained that she had met MH on Facebook, they officially got together following a torrid affair online, MH divorced C, and ST now enjoyed good relationships with her new husband and his two adult children.

I got very confused when we arrived in Swindon. There were three memorial services/funerals being held simultaneously and I couldn’t tell which one was which. I made a poor guess and found myself joining mourners who had come to pay tribute to an unknown car crash victim. When I turned up at the second venue I realised that this was not right either. Nobody I knew would hold a memorial service anywhere quite so tacky.

By now I was desperately late, as was another member of our party called Chris. He was struggling with the directions, and also because he could barely walk due to a life-long disability. I carried him to the last possible venue, which – thankfully – turned out to be the right one.

Fortunately for us the service hadn’t started. However, everyone was becoming rather anxious and a number of my academic pals (amongst them PL) started shifting in their seats and saying that they would have to leave soon.

I took it upon myself to track down the host academic of the event: the head of the Department of French at Birmingham University. She was in a strange emotional state having only recently been released from an institution for the mentally unstable. First of all she shouted at me for disturbing her in her office, then she apologised and said that she would be with us shortly. In the course of the five minutes that I was with her she changed her outfit repeatedly, becoming increasingly glamorous each time. I decided that she would be more at home on the set of an American soap opera rather than left toiling in UK higher education.

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