Back in Canada...But thinking about Tunisia.
Actually, there's one memory in particular to catch my eye on. A while before we left Tunisia I sent in a little tag to the effect that I had been to a cobbler to have shoes cobbled. Then the thread went dead. I’m picking it up.
The shop was just off a lesser used road heading out of the Medina in downtown Tunis. Through an archway that would have at one time lead into a villa’s central courtyard but that instead lead to a gritty narrow alleyway, a sharp right-hand turn and up a long set of brick and slightly tiled (fully tiled in their day) stairs and into a high second-floor alcove-cum-hallway. At the top, a pile of discarded leather with the odd broken shoelace sat outside of a rough paint-flaking door. A knock and it opened.
I handed him my shoes - the soles were separating from the uppers. He looked at them. He looked at me. “Why don’t you just get another pair?”
“I like these ones.” He looked at me like I was nuts. Then he looked back at the shoes and kind of shrugged.
The room was full of odd memorabilia. There was leather littering the floor with the exception of a well-worn path from the entrance through to his workstation. There sat a pile of Nike knock-offs and a pile of leather that was prepped to turn into the knock-offs, all in front of a massive and ancient sewing machine. On the wall were photos, of kids, of his father, of the former president (conspicuously absent was any reference to the current president). There were also American-bashing cartoons, Chinese New Years balloons, Tunisian touristy scenes and magazine cut-outs of Italian or Lebanese models. Hanging above it all, reams of shoe-laces, multiple bobbins of different colours of thread, and leather-working tools sagged from perches all over the place.
Then, the scruffiest-looking chicken that I have ever seen peeked out at me from behind some internal doorway. The head was followed by a leg stretched straight out. The body followed. It kind of clucked then cocked its head.
I looked up at the cobbler. He was engrossed in his work. He had grabbed nails and glue and was doing something with them and with my shoes. I looked back at the chicken.
I was in the second floor of an older building - in the cobbler’s place of business - downtown. And there was a chicken. Its feathers were a mess, it was scrawny, and seemed blissfully unaware of anything.
Bang! One nail in. It startled the chicken. The chicken was now looking at the cobbler. Suspiciously. Bang! Bang! Bang!
He handed me back the shoes for two dinars. "Done." "Thanks."
And now I'm back in Canada...