the dirty bits

Did you wash between your toes?
Did you wash between your toes?

Firstly, an apology to those who’ve seen the title and arrived here looking for pr0n.

Secondly, an apology to those who’ve looked at the photo and are expecting foot-fetish stuff.

Even if I admit that there’s an ‘adult’ element to the upcoming musings, it’s actually all U-rated.

I may be ‘talking dirty’ here, but that’s ‘dirty’ as in ‘not clean’, not the more metaphorical dirt.

So, the question I wanted to ask, was: when was the last time you felt you needed to make an extra effort to wash behind your ears, or to scrub your knees?

When you stand next to someone on a hot and crowded tube train, your first worry isn’t that their neck’s dirty, is it? Nor that they haven’t washed between their toes.

And yet toes and knees, necks and ears, are the things that fictional mothers always nag their children about.

I understand that the sweat glands in armpits don’t become active till puberty, so it makes sense that the mothers don’t keep asking if the kids have washed under their arms (though regular commuters might think they’d be doing us all a favour if these habits were encouraged early in life); but why do our ears, toes, necks and knees stop getting so dirty as we get older?

I suppose there was a reason for dirty knees in my childhood – back then, little boys wore short trousers and little girls wore pretty cotton frocks. Now they are almost all uniformly clad jeans or tracksuits, just like their parents, perhaps they are no more prone to muddy knees than adults.

But what about the other places?

This whole train of thought has arisen because recently I’ve been doing something I hadn’t done for nearly 40 years: climbing trees. Not for pure pleasure – though once I’d realised just how tame our fruit trees are, it was indeed fun – but because after living here for 5 years I thought it was high time I took responsibility for the pruning of our orchard myself.

So I’ve been out in the garden, climbing trees and playing in the mud just like a child. Yet I haven’t found it necessary to make a particular effort to wash between my toes at the end of the day.

And though we were always threatened that we’d get potatoes sprouting behind our ears if we didn’t wash, I can assure you that if I want home-grown spuds, I’ll have to dig the vegetable plot and plant the seed potatoes just like the neighbours.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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