I am visiting my parents right now in Dudley: a town famous for unleashing Lenny Henry upon the world and for manufacturing the only still-functioning part of the Titanic – the anchor.
As usual, when I arrived in my old room last night, I was greeted with a pile of new socks and boxer shorts. I think my mum buys so many socks on my behalf due to the fact that every time I visit, I take off my shoes at the front door (as is the law in parental households – and don’t even think about touching any walls) to reveal a gaping hole in the big toe of each sock, the toes themselves protruding pinkly.
This seems to bother my mum substantially. She can tolerate my constant career failures, strange romances, televisual obsessions and existential crises but sock holes is where she draws the line. Dad owns a pair of fingerless gloves, I argue, to which there is little difference in principle. How am I supposed to open bananas with my feet if they are all wrapped up in sock?
I’m not particularly ashamed of my inability to own a single sock that doesn’t resemble cartoon swiss cheese: Einstein had the same problem. He said, “When I was young I found out that the big toe always ends up making a hole in a sock. So I stopped wearing socks.” See also: this.
It’s nice that my mum buys me so many socks. I mean, you have to use them and they can be pretty expensive so I’m grateful of course. You’re never far from a makeshift puppet show in my house. So many of my socks at Dudley does however mean that I have to bring either a spare empty bag down from Glasgow in order to carry them all back or else bring only one bag filled with things I can jettison or leave behind in Dudley for the next time I visit.
The same goes for pants: you’ve got to have them. My mum has a good eye for pants and I’m happy to let her do my pant shopping. This does not make me a weird nerd (although on those rare – I mean numerous – occasions that I “make it with a girl” it is strange to get down to my boxer shorts and to think albeit briefly – pun intended – of my mother. I do hope this is not her intent. She is so old and warty).
It is perhaps strange to travel half the length of the country with a single bag filled exclusively with new socks and underpants. I like how it is such a huge thing to carry yet entirely light in weight. I also like the idea of accidentally abandoning it in a train station somewhere and for the bomb squad to do a controlled explosion on it only to be showered with fragments of pant.