On why cleaning one’s shoes is a bad idea

Sometimes you feel like doing something really good, like polishing your shoes. You get the shoe polish out the cupboard and find that when you bought your last pair of shoes from a real shoe shop, you also picked up a bottle of some spray-on ‘I clean anything’ magic lotion.

The first mistake is that you’re in sixth form, still at school, and although you don’t have lessons for the first two periods, and hence had a lie in, you do have lessons later on.

The second mistake is to throw every shoe you own into a box, carry them all downstairs into the smallest room in the house—the utility room—and proceed to spray on the cleaner.

Of course you don’t realise that you’ve made a mistake until every shoe shines. You stand up and try to breathe, but find you can’t.

In fact, the air is sticky. You wheeze your way into the kitchen, trying to breathe through your nose to see if that will help, and grab the back-door key.

You spend the next ten minutes stood in the garden. You drink large volumes of water, open every window and make a squeaky phone call to your mother to explain you’ve accidentally poisoned yourself with shoe polish. You text your friend who is already at school—speaking hurts—to say you’ll be late.

And you never, never do it again.