There was a time when I could spend most of my summer barefoot or just about barefoot. It was when there were no responsibilities, jobs, family or meaningful consequences.
Sitting in the browning grass and listening to music, reading a book or entering a beer induced doze in the park in the afternoon, weather permitting. It seemed that all the summers were balmy and restful. Church bells in the distance and birds chirping in the trees and the low whine and rumble of the double deckers trundling along the street. Kids shouting and parents chasing them. It was an idyllic past that really only exists in fading memory.
I remember sitting in the garden of a pub looking at the surrounding dirty feet, calluses and scrapes and scratches, along with bright red chipped nail polishes and more earthy colors and tye dye shirts and pants some toe nails cracked with dirt under them. The laughter and the joy of summer. Then the meander to the field were music happened, the happy ruddy glow of dancing in the dying light as the sun set behind an oak tree.
I remember kneeling next to the garden plot in the allotment as my grandad made tea in the little shed as I weeded. Pulling the dandelions out of the cabbage patch and nurturing the carrots and lettuce and tomatoes and he hummed You Belong To Me as the water was boiled on the methylated spirit stove that he had pumped into a furious furnace under the old sauce pan. The tea was brewed in a cracked brown tea pot and the mugs were chipped there was one china tea cup with a saucer stirring full cream milk into the tea and two lumps of sugar My feet bare would dig into the earth and he would tell me to put my shoes on. Michelle would sit on the only deck chair yellow dress and massive sun hat on her head, she got the china cup, we got the cracked mugs. Her feet were clean and bare, she would sit with the sunflowers and daisies as we weeded and drank tea and talked, my Grandad in grey flannel trousers, shoes and socks and a pressed white shirt and always a sport coat. Stopping for a pint of mild on the way home in the Eagle and Child opposite the market.
I remember tending the camp fire on the beach. Bare footed and clean with salt drying in my hair. Potatoes roasting in the ashes and sausages on sticks. We never seemed to catch a fish. My dad would juggle with the potatoes to cool them laughing, a warm bottle to Tizer and butter for the potatoes. the sausages rolled in a piece of white bread with ketchup. The wet suits drying hanging on the car then we would roll up in sleeping bags in the awful orange brown and green striped tent that looked like it should be populated by clowns and often it was. The next day the old patched inflatable would take us to the next murky dive, regulators, face masks, fins and the most exciting knife to strap to your leg. We would sit with our bare feet to the fire and plan the dive in the tropics instead of Wales but ill health got in the way and we grew apart for awhile.
Today I stood in the garden barefoot and picked green beans with my grandson, we would’ve picked peas as well but he has managed to eat them all as they grew. His feet were bare as well and filthy with dust and dirt and scratches, later we picked blackberries as he sat on my lap on the tractor, we like to drive into the berries to get the big fat juicy and sweet ones, I know you shouldn’t drive the tractor barefoot but well it was so far to go get the boots and it was hot and humid and just too much. In the evening I sat and thought about all this and was sad and happy and content. Pretty soon we will pick tomatoes barefoot and eventually peppers and corn, we will surely watch the sunflowers bloom and maybe we will sit in the garden and drink tea from cracked mugs and Michelle will wear the oversize sun hat and we can think of that long gone old gentleman, I have however grown out of drinking mild.