“Great game tonight, mate.”
George bumped fists with Aaron and clapped him on the shoulder.
“Yeah. First time I’ve scored a hat-trick - they won’t come around often!”
“Yeah, good result. Great job second half.”
They headed towards the car park, exchanging stories of an ordinary week just gone and a familiar week in prospect.
“You playing next week?” Aaron enquired.
“Nah. Wife’s out with work colleagues, so I’m watching the kids. Three weeks on the bounce, reckon my old joints need a break!” George feigned a twinge in his leg and pretended to limp a few steps.
“Too old for this shit, mate,” Aaron liked paraphrasing action movies - even 30+ years later it was still relevant.
As they changed their footwear for their respective drives home, Aaron nodded to George’s new football gear. “How are the new boots?”
“Okay thanks. Bit tighter round the foot than my last pair, but very flexible for changing direction out there.”
“It’s certainly an older style of boot. That one of those new retro pairs I’ve seen advertised lately? Trying to remind people of a different era in the game but updating the gear.”
“I wish, but no.” George replied, “Picked them up at a charity shop.”
“Oh?” Aaron tried hard to sound surprised.
“Yeah. Just browsing really, but spotted these”, George lifted one of the boots to better show them off in the low lighting of the car park, “and they were the right size. Literally only £3, but they’re in really good condition.”
“Let’s take a closer look.” Aaron accepted the shoe from George and inspected it in detail. “Look at that!” Aaron exclaimed suddenly, “Got your name on the bottom as well!”
“Yeah, I spotted that too. Kind of clinched the deal, to be fair.”
Aaron continued to appreciate the boot closer. “The stitching is perfect, almost like new. The leather too - and it’s clear this is real leather - is immaculate, not scuffed around the seams.”
George turned his car lights on, to get a better view, and pointed out some details. “There’s a couple of markings that I’m struggling to understand. Here, on the back of the boot, for example.” George gestured for Aaron to return the shoe and led him into the main beam of the headlights. They both crouched down to get the best light on the boot.
“It says KR,” Aaron mused, catching the reflection of the embossed inscription, “what does that mean? Thought these belonged to a guy called George?”
“Dunno,” George came back, “but it also says KGV on the tongue, where you would expect the logo to be. Maybe KR is the logo and KGV were his initials?”
“Probably just a brand that made boots back in the day.” Aaron shrugged noncommittally as he spoke. “It’s really shiny lettering too, like a gold colour,” it was Aaron’s turn to point out the legend carved into the leather, “surprised that hasn’t lost its lustre over the years.”
As George turned the boots over in his hands again, Aaron spotted something else unusual. “Whoa, you’re not supposed to use proper studs out there. It’ll tear up the astro.”
“Calm down,” placated George, “these are really short studs, no more than a few millimetres. It’s just another thing that’s a bit weird about these. Astro may have been around a while, but I remember mainstream boots coming in the late 90′s. There are loads of these short metal studs - they are more like training or astro boots than proper football boots.”
“Might be a good thing it’s a friendly game. Wouldn’t want you catching anyone’s ankle with those.”
“I’ll check it all out and let you know in a fortnight.” It was George’s turn to shrug this time. Truth was it didn’t really matter much, as long as they were comfortable and cheap.
“See you in 3 weeks,” Aaron shook his head as he spoke, “I’m away for Valentine’s Day the weekend after.”
“See you then, take it easy mate.”
Three weeks later, they were both back for the Friday evening kickabout. Aaron saw George coming across the car park and raised an arm in greeting. George didn’t appear to notice - he seemed preoccupied. He also wasn’t wearing the new old boots.
“Everything alright, mate?” Aaron enquired of his friend. As George came into the bright floodlights around the pitch, he could tell all was not well.
George didn’t stop either - as soon as he spotted Aaron he walked straight towards him, took him by the elbow and led him a few paces away from the others gathering for the evening game.
“What’s going on, mate?” Aaron was unsettled by George’s behaviour, but could see something was troubling him. “You look really pale. You alright?”
George was looking all around and over his shoulder every few seconds. Aaron looked too and couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
“You remember we were talking about those boots a few weeks back?”
Aaron stole another glance at George’s feet, as if to confirm that he wasn’t wearing them. “Yeah. Why aren’t you wearing them tonight? Have they asked you not to because of the studs?”
“I wish,” George shook his head as he spoke, “turns out they did belong to someone called George. The boots were lost property and they’re coming to pick them up next week.”
“What?“, Aaron exclaimed, “How could you possibly have found out who owned them from all those years ago? And who is they?”
“The Government.” George almost hushed the word and ignored the direct question.
“The Government?” Aaron scrunched up his face, processing the information.
“They were never actually used to play football,” George continued, “or any sport for that matter.”
If it was possible, Aaron looked even more puzzled. “What were they used for then, if not sport?”
“Mostly ceremonial use. Turn up, shake hands, maybe a photo for bigger occasions.”
“What are you on about? Who the hell needs ceremonial football boots?” Aaron wished George would get to the point; he needed to warm up for the game
“Someone important.” George paused. “The boots were made in 1927, specifically for this ceremonial usage, to prevent the wearer from falling over if it was muddy or slippery.” George spoke like he had been given a script, “They even had a false pair of soles made to match the boot and fit over those short studs, so that they could be worn on solid ground and not clatter when certain VIP’s were walking.”
“What bloody VIP?” Aaron was the one getting agitated now, “What the hell are you on about?”
“Someone very important, who might make an appearance at a major, national sporting event - football, rugby, maybe even an early field hockey game...“, George gestured as he spoke, like he was struggling to say the words out loud, “the sort of person who people stand for when expected?”
Aaron’s eyes went very wide suddenly and he looked straight at George. Then his face went ashen as he too struggled to say the words that now became apparent. “Oh god. You’ve got K...”
George sighed very heavily as he spoke the clearest he had done that evening.
“I’ve got King George V’s football boots.”
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