An unlikely encounter...

Sometimes you experience an interaction in an unexpected place, which leaves you with a smile, having had the pleasure of sharing a short conversation with a total stranger. This Easter Bank Holiday Monday I found myself in East London trudging through the rain long after the tube had closed and jumping on the first of a series of night buses taking me back home to the opposite side of town. People tend to keep themselves to themselves on public transport, perhaps even more so on weekday night buses, as they are much less crowded than over the weekend with all the noisy revellers making their way home at the end of a night out. So I found myself a seat on the back row of the empty bottom deck and duly settled in for the journey home. It was then that an elderly man joined me on the back row but in the opposite corner.

Almost immediately he began to point excitedly at the floor around my feet and with a lot of gesticulating joked how I was lucky no youngsters had mugged me for my shoes. He asked me where they were from and I obliged, explaining they were by Oliver Spencer. The shoes appeared to bring back some vivid memories of his childhood in Sierra Leone, at which point he expertly launched into character, adopting the mannerisms of his then teacher. Wide-eyed, this disciplinarian would survey his classroom domain, calling out a pupil's surname at random and then asking: " What is 12 x 5 over 50?" As the teacher posed this question, he would tilt his head and carefully inspect the shoes and trousers of each child he asked. If the attire was not up to his strict standards, he would fetch his cane and administer a stern and painful lesson (apparently in sartorialism?). He then laughed and said: "In that case, you made damn sure you had a few towels underneath your trousers". As he finished this sentence his bus stop appeared and he stood up and proclaimed "They don't make shoes like that anymore!", which is about the most perfect compliment I can imagine a designer could want to hear. With a smile and a warm handshake he got off and waved from the street as the bus headed off.

PS. For those of you curious, the shoes in question were a pair of country brogues, which come highly recommended by a discerning gentleman of Sierra Leone.

Joseph Seresin - Oliver Spencer re-toucher.

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