Friday, March 24, 2006

James Brown's shoes

Uncle V looks like James Brown. There is no doubt about this. My brothers and I have talked about this at length and the likeness is beyond question.

Uncle V could not be less like James Brown. He is an old and good friend of my parents. He is Sri Lankan, lives in London and I have known him most of my life. He is a really nice man, quiet, polite and very successful in his field.

A few years ago he was at my parents' house for my Father's birthday party. There was music, rice and curry, some dancing, some alcohol - you know, the usual stuff that goes with these kind of events. At some point in the evening my Dad noticed that Uncle V was sitting on a chair and had taken off his shoes and put them on the floor next to his feet. He was half asleep.

For those of you that don't know this, Sri Lankan men are programmed to try to get into this state after a certain age. It is a state of contentment, caused by alcohol, food, good company and often some baila. One of the important characteristics of this state is that, when nudged or spoken to, the man must pretend that they were fully awake all along. It is also imperative that they respond with a noise such as "aaahh" or "mmm" or "uurgh", when spoken to.

I think it is a uniquely Sri Lankan trait, but I would love to hear of any other nationalities that exhibit this state. At the age of 40 I am happy to say that I feel I will have many good years ahead of me with this condition. I have seen it start in men who are in their twenties but I have also seen men in their sixties who show no symptoms of this.

So Uncle V was happily in this state when my Dad saw his shoes. He also noticed that Uncle V's shoes, the black smartish slip on mocassin type, were identical to a pair that my Dad owned. Identical that is, apart from the fact that my Dad takes a size 6 shoe and Uncle V looked about 4 sizes bigger. It had to be done. One of my brothers, my Dad and myself with Uncle V and some identical shoes was a deadly combination. Someone ran upstairs to get the smaller shoes and swapped them with Uncle V's ones whilst he was "fully awake".

Later on, Uncle V stood up to "make a move". Please bear in mind at this juncture that he looks just like James Brown and we often talk about him using terms like "ooww" and other James Brown expressions in our language.

He starts to put "his" shoes on. My Dad, my brother and myself are practically doubled up with laughter already, but Uncle V does not see this. He clearly realises something is wrong as his shoes feel a bit tight, so he looks down. No problems there, he sees that the shoes are his so continues to force them on. We see a look of confusion, pain and sheer "what the bloody hell?" on his face as he gets the shoes on. He pushes and forces them on, safe in the knowledge that they are definitely his shoes. He does some sort of dance and then proceeds to walk whilst in considerable discomfort.

By now we are in absolute hysterics. You know that point where you cannot laugh any more. well that's where we were. We confessed to Uncle V who told us

"My God I thought my feet had swollen for the heat or something".

It really was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. I felt a need to share it.

And we did give him his shoes back.

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