Amy Jenkins: Flip-flops, a broken toe and the desultory days of August

Urban life

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It's August, and every year I fall into the same old delusional imaginings that the month will be the zenith of summer.

I picture long hot days, lazy country picnics, swims in the sea. In some ways – and this harks back to childhood – I don't consider summer begun until the (state) school term is over. And then every year I'm disappointed because actually August is the tail end of the season. In Britain, at least, you feel distinct twinges of autumn the minute July ends: there's a chill in the breeze; the leaves on the trees get dusty and jaded; shop windows display the new season's jumpers.

I put it to you, then, that August is actually quite depressing. Real life, whatever that is, is undeniably on hold. There's a slow, lazy energy (even without the long hot days) and London is "empty" as we urbanites like to say when one or two of us go away. Some Londoners claim to love this. You can park in Soho. You can get a taxi after 10pm. You can get tables in restaurants and either first dibs on the autumn collections or 70 per cent off in the dying days of the sales. But despite all this, I've never liked London in August. Who wants to eat in the Ivy knowing that fun in Ibiza is the only reason you got a table? It's depressing, this idea that life is going on somewhere else – and, much as I hate traffic, I find the summer silence slightly eerie. It seems I'm acutely tuned in to the energy humming through the city, and when it drops, I wilt.

Another feature of August is the so-called silly season. This traditionally means that while Parliament isn't sitting the papers are padded out with stories about record-breaking vegetables, UFO sightings and new crazes like the one for "piranha pedicures" where you put your feet in a bowl of doctor fish and they nibble away at your dead skin. Silly season just adds to the ghastly stagnant hiatus – a month of "nothing happening" – and that's absurd when you consider the vital issues out there that need our attention, especially now there's some space. For example, did you know flip-flops can be dangerous?

Flip-flops cause 200,000 injuries a year. I know this having just broken my toe in an unfortunate – but typical, as it turns out – flip-flop accident involving an uneven west London pavement. I will be hobbling for the next eight weeks, apparently. Well, I would be, except the nurse told me I must try not to limp as limping can cause further complaints. Walking normally is hard when in pain but there is no salve given for a broken toe – no cast, no splint, no brace.

In the A&E waiting room I discover from the pin board that flip-flops can be far more dangerous than high-heeled stilettos. It's reported they cost the NHS £40m a year. They offer the foot little or no support so people break much worse than toes – they can trip and break ankles, arms and wrists. Flip-flops can cause shin splints, joint pain, knee problems and aching toes. The foot has to do strange things to walk in a flip-flop. Have you noticed, for example, the way you scrunch up your toes to hold the flip-flop in place? And yet these shoes, once thought suitable only for the beach, are worn daily by 15 million people. How foolish – how foolish!

Thinking about it, though, summer clothing has always been one of the season's many disappointments. I've never liked sun wear much. It's easier to look thin in winter apparel – and knee-high boots are cover for a multitude of sins. So it's never really a happy moment when rising temperatures force me to consider slipping into some kind of open shoe arrangement. Sandals – even the word is unsettling. The answer, I've always thought, was the flip-flop. Casual, disposable, cheap – a symbol of summery freedom.

It's bad enough that it's August. Now I'm sad I'll never wear a flip-flop again.

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