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An Idiot Abroad - Boots In Manhattan

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
An Idiot Abroad - Boots In Manhattan
It wasn’t my intention to be an idiot abroad. It’s never my intention to be an idiot anywhere but things happen sometimes and the only way forward is to go with it. February, 1980 I was sight-seeing in New York at the end of a month or so spent with family who live in Virginia.
I was flying home from JFK later that day so all my luggage had been taken for storage to the airport, leaving me with my handbag and what I stood up in.
What I was actually standing up in, just about, was a pair of supposedly made-to-measure, authentic cowboy boots from a specialist shop. It was my first time of wearing them and in spite of my companion’s warning that they would still need ‘breaking in’ I insisted that they would be fine and it was easier than trying to squeeze them into my packed bags.
I had enjoyed a fabulous time catching up with my cousins and everyone. They lived in a rural area of open countryside where everyone rode horses. Well, not me, of course not but it was the normal thing for my family. I blended in with my attire of jeans and checked shirts and kept smart trousers and skirts for evenings out sampling local restaurants – local was about 20 miles away – and going to the nearest shopping mall, the same distance.
I bought more jeans and checked shirts, cheap compared to the UK at the time. I really wanted some proper cowboy boots and was delighted when a friend of my cousins recommended a boot maker close to a saddlery and tack shop that they were visiting and offered to take me. It was perfect. Measurements were taken, leathers and suede chosen and payment made, while the middle-aged gentleman was fascinated by my English accent and kept me talking. I was treated like a princess. He would do his best to have them ready before I returned home otherwise he would send them parcel post to the UK at his own expense. At twenty-five, I was impressed by the celebrity status he gave me. It was excellent timing and I collected them a couple of days before my homeward journey began.
With more stuff than I realised and bags packed, I decided to wear the boots rather than try to fit them into my luggage. They were slightly tight with new-ness. Also, I thought I might be glad of them in New York, where it was freezing and the weather forecast expected snow, unlike the more spring-like climate in Virginia. My uncle, who was to accompany me, voiced concerns about it being a long day in the wrong footwear and I needed something comfortable. There would be no opportunity to change until I arrived at Heathrow. I’d be fine, really. If only I had been fine.
We left Virginia for a very early flight from Washington D.C. to La Gardia, New York.My luggage was transferred to JFK and we went to Manhattan. In the icy wind I shuffled through busy streets, almost falling backwards to see the sky above the giant buildings. I spent ages at the top of the Empire State Building, looking down at the roads I’d been looking up from. It might have still been the tallest building at that time. I tried not to let the agony from my feet spoil my day.
Yes, I really was an idiot abroad. An idiot trying to walk in New York with my feet absolutely killing me and me insisting that it was my legs and not my feet that were hurting, rather than admit to my uncle that he was right.
To make matters worse, my flight was delayed due to a late arriving connection from snowbound Chicago. I suffered the boots until I was on the plane then off they came.
I didn’t wear them again, but kept them for ornamental purposes and as a reminder of the importance of comfortable shoes.
One of my favorite poems, Home Thoughts, From Abroad
  Oh, to be in England    Now that April’s there,
   And whoever wakes in England
   Sees, some morning, unaware,
   That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
   Round the elm tree bole are in tiny leaf,
   While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
   In England – now!
 And after April, when May follows,    And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
   Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
   Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
   Blossoms and dewdrops – at the bent spray’s edge –
   That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
   Lest you should think he never could recapture
   The first fine careless rapture!
   And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
   All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
   The buttercups, the little children’s dower
   Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
    Robert Browning1812 - 1889
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