Many years ago now I went away for a couple of weeks, perhaps to Fiji, and left my then flat in the care of a friend of friends. This fellow, whom I hardly knew, was himself about to head off for Amsterdam and needed a place to stay until his flight left. Well and good. But when I returned ... actually, I didn't see the full extent of the disaster, because someone else had generously come in and done the bulk of the cleaning up before me. R had been in the habit of eating while sitting at my desk, then throwing the crusts and other food scraps into the top left hand drawer which had, naturally, been colonized by cockroaches. The bathroom was filthy, the toilet unflushed. The kitchen ... no dishes had been done for days on end, so the cockroaches were enthusiastically sporting in there as well. He'd somehow managed to leave an element burning on the stove. It was no surprise to learn that he had also read through my diaries - they were left lying open on the desk top. And he'd taken, by mistake, my black pointy toed suede Beatle boots with him, leaving his own pair behind. This was the one ray of sunshine ... mine were a touch small for me, but his fitted perfectly. Couple of weeks later, I had a letter from Amsterdam, regretting the loss of his boots and asking me to forward them to him. I never replied, why would I? But one passage from early in that letter has stuck in my mind. I probably owe you some explanation for the state in which I left your flat, he wrote. Now, about my boots ... increasingly this seems to be indicative of my own mental state, as well as the state of the world at large. We owe an explanation, to somebody, for something; but all we really want is our boots back.
PS I was singing the Nancy Sinatra song in the hearing of my sons the other day, when one of them, the younger, said: That doesn't make sense, Dad. What else would boots be for? Kicking? I offered. He thought about it. Yeah, maybe, he said.