A Lifetime in Shoes


Greetings Readers!

Welcome back to my blog, today I have a slightly different blog to what I usually write about.

Now, as some of you may know I am currently a creative writing student and have recently finished my degree at Goldsmiths University, one of the things I had to do for my creative writing module was to put together a portfolio of my creative work and so I thought over the next week I would share some of the work I have written.

This is the first piece and it is called A Lifetime in Shoes and maps some of memories throughout my life through the different shoes I wore, so I hope you enjoy this little piece and let me know what you think of it.

This was written by myself Emily Davison I own full copyrights to the content of this piece, anyone wishing to republish it anywhere MUST first of all contact me before doing so.

A Lifetime In Shoes

I slump on my chair and groan, rubbing my temples rhythmically with the pads of my fingers, unable to believe the extent of the rubbish the corners of my house possesses. Every year I perform the self same ritual of detoxing each and every room in an attempt to relieve my mind of the memories that are piled high to the ceiling, making it impossible for new ones to be stored neatly away.

Spring-cleaning is that time of year that you either come to loath or love. It is the time of year when people explore into the realms of their attics and cupboards in search of the forgotten, the unwanted and the unknown.

It still surprises me to this day, how much stuff we humans believe we need; and yet half the time this stuff merely ends up turfed onto some desolate looking rubbish heap, so far away from where its material life first began.

I glance up from my silent musing and fix my eyes on the large set of drawers in front of me, they are an old set of drawers that I found in a local market, slightly scuffed and worn with years of use. But, I managed to upcycle them last summer with some wood paint and a whole lot of sheer determination. So that now, they look more akin to the stylish upcycled furniture you see in the boutiques of urban London. I walk over to them and run a hand along the surface, admiring my handiwork. In my house this is the one and only thing that never gets ransacked during my Spring Cleaning fest and for good reason.

It contains every wonderful pair of shoes I have ever procured during my many years of traveling, late night eBay scouts and trips to the bright lights of London. It’s the fruits of my labour and each shoe holds a memory, some good, some bad, and some just down right strange. But, they are my memories just the same and each pair of shoes catalogues each memory.

I pull open the drawer and fix my gaze upon the carefully arranged shoes, in an array of colours: deep red, navy blue, garish animal prints, magenta, forest green, glossy black and the slightest hint of orange. I feel a sense of euphoria at seeing them in their full glory. It’s strange to think that something as simple as shoes can make me smile in such a way. I describe it as the kind of feeling you get when you take up your pen and begin to write, or hang a camera about your neck and set off in pursuit of beautiful images, or even when you smile in relish at the beginning of a new season and adorn yourself with your gardening gloves and arm yourself with spade, trowel and seeds. A hobby: and mine just happens to revolve around my shoes. I suppose Cinderella must have felt the same, after years of wearing scuffed up tan coloured slip on shoes, it must have been a sheer revelation to see something out of the ordinary.

The first pair I pull out are without a doubt my all-time favourite pair; cherry red, glossy, with gold buckles, a few scuffs either side to show the marks the world has made upon their surface – like the way the shore is marked by the tide. The first day I wore them into the new world of college, everyone smiled and said “Oh My Actual God! Those shoes are totally amazing!”

“Those. Shoes. Are. To. Die. For!”

‘Where did you get those shoes from? They look like Dorothy Shoes.’

And now that’s what I call them, they are my trademark, after all everyone’s got to have a trademark, something for people to distinguish you with in a sea of faces. It still fascinates me to think how Dorothy Gale created such a name for herself with the aid of one simple pair of shoes. I can imagine how peeved she must have felt when that old, gnarly Wicked Witch of the West swooped in with sinister intent to pluck those ruby slippers from her feet. I mean I ask you, what on earth would such an old fashioned frump want with such a glamorous pair of shoes like that? Luckily for me I do not have any shoe bandits on the loose.

I cast one final glance of admiration at my gems before placing them back in the drawer and moving to the next. The next pair I take out, navy blue, shiny patent with a striking t bar running across the front. My mouth curves upwards in a sour version of a smile as I recall one of the more recent memories of escapade that this pair of shoes accompanied me on…

I can feel my toes curling inside the smooth, patent material of my shoes, this date is truly awful! I cannot help but mentally cringe away from the person sitting opposite me; he is tall, pale, with light blonde hair, and a nose that looks rather askew, and contrary to what his profile picture alluded me to believe. Come to think of it, he is nothing like I expected him to be.

 

He sits across from me, staring down at his plate, making no effort to add some seasoning to the rather bland atmosphere between us. I clear my throat to speak, “So….d’you have any hobbies?” I asked pleasantly.

 

He slowly finishes his morsel of food I can see the sauce dripping from his beetroot red lips as he prepares to speak. It’s all I can do not to lunge to my feet and leap for the door that is temptingly placed a few metres away from me. I blink and turn my head towards my date and fix a determined smile to my face, the kind of smile that is so false that it hurts.

 

“Don’t know really…Does singing in the shower count?” he asked.

 

I wince painfully as I recount the recent episode that these poor, defenceless shoes have had to endure alongside their unfortunate owner. I resolve to do something truly spectacular in this pair, to make up for the cringe worthy memory that is currently etched on them. But what, I cannot possibly imagine.

I scan across many other pairs of shoes all with happier memoires. A pair of moss green wellington boots, that always reminds me of my travels in the Lake District. A pair of light pink espadrilles that I wore on a trip to Rome one year and consumed so much Pizza, that I returned 4 pounds heavier. A pair of black leather ankle boots that remind me of the many autumn walks I have taken, year after year. Even now I can hear the sound of my boots crunching through the dense leaves that snap and crunch against my feet in such a satisfying way.

My gaze flashes to my next pair of shoes, not overly attractive to say the least, just a very fatigued looking pair of black flat pumps. Yet, I can never seem to throw them away, the way I describe them is like this. They are my safety net, my comfort blanket, and my insurance policy. They are the pair of shoes close to hand when my shoe choice takes an ultimate malfunction and my feet bear the brunt of the savage, merciless attack. The sores, the calluses and the god almighty, literally show stopping Victoria Beckham Bunions!

It’s funny, as I recall the many times, when I have seen women heading into the office for another day at work. They briskly walk towards their office wearing a rather plain pair of flats that look as if they have been very much ‘loved’ in their life. Well, if you want to call a pair of shoes where the soles have been practically worn into the ground, loved that is.

These women with their ‘loved’ shoes walk towards their destination and just short of the office door you see them leaning against a wall and grudgingly prize their black trusty slip-ons off their feet and substitute them for the killer shoes. These are usually a pair of black-heeled shoes, patent, the material shining and the heels extremely high. That small ritual every day, marks the beginning of a day of toil until the time when 5pm comes round and those trusty black shoes that remind one so much of home comfort return to one’s feet and travelling back home, revelling in the fact that, another day has been conquered.

“Ouch,” I say to myself, recalling the countless times I have had to whip my trusty black pumps from my bag in an act to salvage the lumps of mutilated flesh that were supposed to be my feet.

I pick them up, dusting lint off the surface and stroke them with a kind of fondness that no words can truly explain. Then my eyes involuntarily cast down to the pair of patent deep pink kitten heels that to the eye look so innocent. The heel is so very slim and perfectly cut, the heart shaped peep toe for exposing one’s toes. But, appearances can be deceptive.

Summer in London has always been a challenging time to say the least, it’s hot, and it’s busy, two things I hate. As a result, walking with ease through London’s many streets turns into an arduous task. I remember walking through the streets one day, wearing this pair of pink kitten heels, proudly stepping daintily on the pavement. Suddenly, the world around me seemed to take a jolt and I found myself haphazardly stumbling, pitifully trying to regain my balance. I glance down and realise that the heel of one shoe has become lodged into the grating of a drain.

 

I glanced around with trepidation, fearing that a passer-by had seen my folly and was now whipping out their camera phone to get footage of the clumsy woman caught in the grating in this choice of footwear for the likes of YouTube and You’ve Been Framed. Luckily, it seemed that my fears had not come to fruition; instead I heard the sound of advancing footsteps and awkwardly turned to see a young man coming towards me.

 

“Miss, can I help you there?” he asked politely.

 

I thought about it for a moment, but before I could politely decline his gentle offer, he had proceeded to hunker down and grab my ankle in an attempt to free it from the grate. I wobbled unsteadily and grabbed onto his shoulders for support, he laughed with mirth and continued to attempt to free my leg.

 

Then I realise with a growing sense of humiliation that the leg of my trouser is slowly rising to expose my unshaved legs. It is something that many women go through, a period of rebellion in which they refuse to go through that grim process of maintaining their polished and preened persona. But, in the unpublished women’s law book it is universally known that this should be kept a trade secret.

 

In a frantic gesture I sharply tug my leg in a bid to free it from the grate, but as I did I felt his hand slip. And, all is lost as my shameful secret is revealed; yet he was a true gentleman and took no notice of this revelation. Instead, with one final tug we manage to free my leg, I quickly moved to straighten myself up, thank him for helping me and turned to carry on feeling the blood rising to my face.

Yet, I still feel his presence behind me and I glance back in his direction. He stood there, hands in his pockets, a shy smile on his face.

 

“Um…well I was-I mean…. I was going to ask if you’d like to grab a coffee with me?” he asked.

 

I couldn’t help feeling rather shocked, and yet felt a certain sense of triumph, despite my shoes catching me in a very precarious situation, they had also resulted in my being rescued by this man now standing in front of me. And of course, I agreed and said yes, and the rest is history.

The next pair my eyes flicker to are a pair of light grey trainers, new, unworn and still with their tags. I bite my lip as I recall the startling amount of money I spent on them along with my earlier New Year’s resolution to adorn myself in my scruffs and take a daily fitness pilgrimage to my local gym in a bid to lose the post-Christmas weight.

But, alas that never happened and like my ever-growing collection of shoes, the bulk of my behind has not shrunk, but grown.

“I should really get rid of these shoes,” I mutter. Stretching a hand out to pull them out of the drawer and sell them on eBay for a semi decent price that I know will only be spent on a new pair of shoes much more glamorous than these. Yet, my hand falters, I cannot bring myself to remove them from their meticulously placed spot.

Then my eyes glide across the next row of shoes, they are all exactly the same in style, and they are made from a sleek jelly material and smell strongly of those plastic shoes one used to wear as a child. Except these are, of course not jelly shoes, they are high heels, t bar with a buckle on the side and are without a doubt the crowning glory of my shoe searching escapades. It all started one day when I had awoken from my first operation in hospital, I cannot remember much, having been highly dosed with every kind of pre-op drug under the sun.

But, when I awoke I remember feeling rather bored, hours passed monotonously until I finally could not abide another second of day-time television and idle chit chat from the nurses. So, I picked up my phone and decided to search the web for my next pair of shoes. I remember finding them on eBay to begin with and I could not believe my eyes, so simple in design and yet the variety of colours was what made them so special. These colourful jelly material heeled shoes came into being after collaboration between Vivienne Westwood and Melissa and something truly incredible was made.

Despite my convictions about most of Westwood’s designs being extremely flamboyant and high fashion, these shoes were both practical and striking. The first pair I remember buying were in a pale blue shade as pale as the sky on a spring morning. When they arrived I revelled in the sound they made as they tapped against the pavement and the way they seemed to embrace my feet and most importantly, how despite wearing them for hours on end, when I finally removed them from my feet there was not a single blister in sight!

To date I now own ten pairs of these shoes and the collection is still growing, I simply will not rest until I own each colour ever made. Call it an obsession, call it a fetish, perhaps it is. But it is one that I will see through nonetheless.

I can’t help but feel my hand gravitate towards a pair of emerald green Jimmy Choo Court Heel shoes, made from sleek, smooth leather that elevates the foot the way I never imagined a shoe could. It took me an age to acquire this pair of shoes, over six months of saving parts of my monthly earnings before I could call them mine.

Poignant these shoes are to me, as I spent the entire time at the funeral staring down at them to prevent myself from facing the reality that my Great Aunt was no longer there to admire them with me and commend me on my choice of shoe.

She had always told me “Never save anything for best, each day is your best day.”

That day I had been preparing to wear a rather mundane funeral regulation outfit of conservative black dress, a black handbag stuffed with Kleenex, and a pair of plain black patent loafers.

Yet, her words drifted over me and I remembered all the years I had seen her in her best shoes, even if they were her absolute best pair and she was merely inside the comfort of her own airy kitchen. So instead I found myself adorning myself with my Jimmy Choo’s, and somehow they got me through the anguish of the day, and by the end I found that I was the one saluting her memory at the wake.

I did receive a few odd looks that day, many from people who thought my choice of footwear far too garish for a funeral. Yet, my great aunt was always one who loved colour, who loved the art of spontaneity, and always had a prudent quote close to her lips.

She would say, “you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy shoes and that’s kind of the same thing,” or “Life’s too short to wear boring shoes.” She would say that particularly toward her older years, I smile as I consider its significance to me now.

I suppose that’s why I cannot bring myself to ever get rid of any of my shoes, because they remind me of the mistakes I have made and will never make again and the wise choices that they subtly guided me towards. When I walk down a new path in life there will always be a new pair of shoes on my feet and brand new memories to be made along with them.

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