NOW all those years ago, when I was a Highland Councillor for the first time, there used to be a very good shoe repairer near the Council HQ in Inverness’s Glenurquhart Road.
But sadly a recent search for the said gentleman revealed a blank: the neighbouring newsagent told me that he had closed and moved away years ago. So what was I to do? Back in HQ, Timpson in the Eastgate Centre was the suggestion. So off I went.
"Rubber stick-on soles, please – they’ll cover up the hole in this shoe, and the heels are still ok…"
"Hmm" the man turned my shoes over and examined them: "Are you left-handed by any chance?" Surprised, I said that although I write with my right hand, I thought that I might be a bit left-handed in other ways – perhaps like digging the garden.
"Thought so. You see the hole is in the left sole – and left-handed people nearly always walk more heavily on their left foot."
Much interested, I thanked the man – and headed for M&S. Then I stopped and mimed digging with a spade. Yes, it was definitely with my left foot. I smiled at passing shoppers, and hastened on.
Then thinking back – "No no, this isn’t right – you should put it to your right shoulder – the left one is wrong" said my father.
"It should be like this" and he picked up the airgun that he had just bought from an old friend who had earlier called by (with the shot in him; and I don’t mean airgun pellets), and he put the gun to his right shoulder. "Try again."
But I simply couldn’t. It was completely unnatural and felt entirely wrong to hold the gun anything other than left-handedly. Initially slightly bemused, my father eventually gave up and let me get on with it.
"It’s odd – because really you are right-handed…" was his final comment.
And then about my shirts – "Only use as dusters, I’m afraid. Gone through at the elbow."
I agreed – and then suddenly remembering Timpson, I looked at the worn-out shirt.
It was the left elbow! And then I looked down at my jeans – and noted that similarly it was the left knee that was showing the wear. By this time I was intrigued. So I did what we all do, and went on line.
"1) Imagine the centre of your back is itching. Which hand do you scratch it with? 2) Interlock your fingers. Which thumb is uppermost? 3) Imagine you are applauding. Start clapping your hands. Which hand is uppermost?"
As my TA drill sergeant used to shout, once we were under way on the parade ground: "Left! Left! Left!" Clearly I was a lot more than just a wee bit left-handed. In times gone by, this would even be seen as slightly worrying, such was the myth and folklore attached to left-handedness and the left side. "Sinister" - "Threatening or portending evil, harm, or trouble; ominous: a sinister remark - Bad, evil, base, or wicked; fell: his sinister purposes - Unfortunate; disastrous; unfavourable…"
"Sinister" is the Latin for left. And "gauche" ("lacking social grace, sensitivity, or acuteness; awkward; crude; tactless") is the French for left.
Two words that I most certainly would not intend to use to describe myself in an election leaflet. Not unless I wanted to put voters right off. No, in the old days being left handed was not a good thing.
And yet I write with my right hand. So why?
Almost certainly it is because I was made to. And this too would explain my awful childhood handwriting (and it isn’t much to boast about today, I can assure you).
It might also explain why my teachers all vainly attempted to get me to hold my pencil or pen "the right way". It can only be a good thing that these days schools are even handed (so to speak) as to which hand a pupil writes with.
The myth and folklore is a thing of the past. Rightly we have left them behind…
I leave you with two thoughts – firstly that parrots are mostly left-footed, or so it is said. And secondly, that August the 13th is International Left Handers Day.
(But then – why the number 13? Agh! – have we still learnt nothing?!)