This is from the beginning of the third chapter of After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie by Jean Rhys.

THE NAME of the dark young man was George Horsfield. Half an hour afterwards he came out of the Restaurant Albert, thinking that he had spent a disproportionately large part of the last six months in getting away from people who bored him. (The last six months had been his kick of the heels.) The habit of wanting to be alone had grown upon him rather alarmingly.

I searched Google for the precise expression "kick of the heels" and didn't come up with much. I looked at Wiktionary and saw that "kick one's heels" means to wait, while "kick up one's heels" means to dance or relax. But I don't know what kick of the heels means.

The only interpretation I can come up with is that Mr. Horsfield had spend the last six months partying and living it up, and now he finds himself wanting to be alone.

What is a "kick of the heels"?


This is probably a variant of the more widely used phrase "kick up one's heels". From The Free Dictionary:

kick up one's heels
Enjoy oneself, as in When she retires, she plans to kick up her heels and travel. This expression originated about 1600 with a totally different meaning, "to be killed." The modern sense, alluding to a prancing horse or exuberant dancer, dates from about 1900.

kick up your heels [BRITISH]
If you kick up your heels, you enjoy yourself a lot, for example at a party. Lucia was spotted kicking up her heels in the Tangiers Club. After years of working hard and raising all those children, I could kick up my heels and go entirely where I wanted to. Note: This refers to a horse that has been released into a field, as horses commonly do this as they gallop off.

kick up your heels
have a lively, enjoyable time. chiefly North American

kick up your heels (informal, especially American English)
be relaxed and enjoy yourself: Now that he’s more confident in his job, perhaps he can kick up his heels and stop looking so worried all the time.

kick up (one's) heels [Informal]
To cast off one's inhibitions and have a good time.

In the context of your quote, it seems the first one of the definitions quoted above may fit the best. I haven't read this story, but it sounds like George Horsfield has spent his last six months on something like a gap year - enjoying himself, kicking up his heels, and getting away from people who bored him. What would be the noun form of kicking up one's heels? Perhaps, to be precise, a kick up of one's heels; but a kick of one's heels would also fit well enough, I think.

  • "A kick up" doesn't sound right to me. Maybe because, while "kick" can be verb or noun, "kick up" is usually just a verb? "A kicking up" sounds better to me. But that's just my intuition, I'm not a grammarian.
    – user14111
    Mar 5 '21 at 3:44

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