OK so you may have guessed I’m no longer doing NaBloPoMo. I just hadn’t got organised enough to do it properly and have decided to spend the time I’d have spent blogging doing some proper writing instead. The piece i’m about to post has been inspired by a shopping trip to buy E some new shoes this afternoon. We went to a Clark’s outlet store to save money and still managed to spend £21.99 on a pair for her (discounted from £32.99). They recommend coming back in 6-8 weeks time in case her feet have grown. Aside from the fact that I’m not going near there before Christmas, who can afford such a thing? And yet, clearly E needs decent shoes. Her feet will be her best friends throughout her life. She and I had a lovely time pulling the shoes from the shelves (her) & putting them back (me), & I remembered how much I wanted a pair of patent leather shoes when I was a kid.
Anyway, I’m doing on online writing course at the moment and they asked us to write an essay about our feet. Here’s mine:
“E’s feet are just beginning to find their purpose, carrying her little toddling self about more and more now she’s got the hang of walking. Her feet are perfect round chubby things, no arches or insteps yet, no bunions, no callouses, no hard skin or blisters. All that’s to come.
She finds her feet funny though not as funny as she finds mine. She looks delighted to see them again each morning as I free them from her sleepsuit, playing with them and pointing to them. If you read her a book that mentions feet she will stop paying attention to the pictures and bend down to point at her own feet, so proving that she knows what you mean.
My feet, in contrast, have stories to tell. My feet have never been referred to in a positive way by others. A neighbour called me a monkey after she watched me pick up a pencil with my toes, something I was proud of until she made me think perhaps it was freakish.
My mother worried that my feet would always be a problem – once they were ‘diagnosed’ as being too wide by the shoe measuring system in Clark’s. The assistant had pointed at my misshapen toes as evidence of wearing too narrow shoes. She envisaged a future of cobbler-made shoes, expensive and bothersome. Instead I’ve spent my life wearing shoes one size too long to compensate for the width. You can get away with that when they’re not very big.
The tiny size of my feet was incongruous when I was an overweight lumpen teenager. I disguised them by only wearing large clumpy black boots and generally feeding on insecurity. I hankered for a pair of Doc Marten’s but my father disapproved, fearing perhaps that that the boots would confer some power onto me and turn me into a vandalising hooligan. When I finally bought a pair of DMs, years later, pregnant and terrified of slipping on badly maintained icy roads, there was a frisson of teenage rebellion to putting them on, a hooligan’s two fingers to the old man.
School swimming sessions gave me verrucas that I had to get scraped and painted by the local nurse. The effort of not kicking her in a reaction to being tickled got too much for me and I heeded my grandmother’s advice instead: “After a few years they just fall out.” This is true.
My husband calls my feet ‘Hobbit feet.’ This is not because they are hairy but because I can walk over unpleasant terrains barefoot and not mind. Around home, in our street, popping out to the car or garden, I don’t wear shoes. I find them restrictive. This means two things: my feet are leathery and hard on the soles; also that I usually come to bed with freezing cold toes. It is only when lying awake in bed that I mind the chill and often have to get up to pull on bedsocks. Sexy.
I walk a lot. It’s my belief that you don’t get to know a place well until you have walked round it. It’s the main reason I don’t fancy visiting Los Angeles. It’s a car city, like Auckland. I also feel that you haven’t had a good night out in a city unless you’ve had to walk home barefoot. To be honest, this is more a result of my wearing inappropriate shoes when I shed the teenage weight and spent my late teens and twenties clomping in heels that wouldn’t last the night without some pain. I’ve walked barefoot in Maidstone, Eastbourne, Brighton, Nottingham, Barcelona, Ann Arbor and Berlin. Gladrags on and heels in hand. The trick is to ignore the stares.
It may not sound it but I appreciate my feet. They are the only body part I don’t mind spending money on. I may not care about a new haircut or a face mask but if I can try a new cream or pumice or nail polish then I will. They’re worth it. Walking is important for my peace of mind. And they entertain my daughter. She laughs at them, tickles them and is tickled by them. You get to see things new when you have a child. I show her I can still pick a pencil up with my toes, neighbour be damned.”