Women, I am told, love to buy shoes. There must be something wrong with my genetic make-up: I do not love to buy shoes. And now that I have to buy them for the baby too, my pleasure in this task has dissipated still further.
Contrary to footwear forays in the past, I had actually been looking forward to the purchase of her very first pair of shoes. Forget the sandals, the lightweight canvas of summer. Proper shoes. A proper milestone.
The day dawned and off we went to a shoe shop of repute. “Aah, one of the seminal moments of motherhood,” I thought, blinking back a tear of emotion as I picked out teeny, dainty pink slippers fit for any princess. But then I glanced at my tomboy of a child, who was looking distinctly unregal as she played football with a pair of discarded pop socks, and returned the slippers to the shelves with a sigh. I guess they wouldn’t have fitted her in any case. Our budding David Beckham is somewhat large of foot. Which is probably why we call her Flipper Girl.
The assistant suggested ankle-boots and brought out a pair of sturdy clodhoppers, which would have made even Tinkerbell look like a navvy. The shoes I liked were too narrow. My second choice out of stock. We left empty handed.
Shop two — this time on a trip up north so grandma got to come too, proud as punch to be part of the small girl’s big day. The ones we wanted? Not available. We tried some more.
“Can you walk in them?” asked the assistant a little too loudly, in the hope that volume might make up for any lack of vocabulary on the baby’s part.
“Yes, walking,” said the child in a withering tone as she paraded up and down the shop. “And marching. And stomping. And jumping…”
They didn’t fit.
Shop three — a whole new range on offer. None, alas, to our taste. We selected the pair we disliked the least. “That’ll be £60,” said the assistant.
We made our excuses and left.
Shop four — and hurrah! Shoes I had admired on another child of our acquaintance were in stock. Shoes that were neither fluorescent, nor sequinned, nor available only in narrow fittings. Better still, they did not necessitate a second mortgage. Eureka! Except… “She has a very high instep,” said the assistant. “No, sorry, these just aren’t going to go on.”
Shop five — discussions about high insteps. Advice that a T-bar shoe is the way forward. At last — progress. But (of course there is a “but”) the only pair available in her size is white patent. Judging by the way the child is hanging upside down off the bench by her toes (“swinging mummy, like a monkey”) they will last precisely 15 seconds. By now I was having recurring dreams starring Prince Charming and a job-lot of glass slippers that were too big, too small, too tight, too loose. Fortunately, diligent research provided me with a list of further footwear emporia to try.
And so we set off for shop six. The baby looked a slightly odd shade of green en route, but I put this down to an understandable aversion to shoe shopping. Out came the buggy, in went the child and …bleurgh. Buggy, baby, pavement dripping. I won’t go into too much detail about the day of projectile vomiting that ensued but suffice to say — no new shoes.
By the time we made it to shop seven both the baby and I were considering emigrating to a Pacific island where we could go barefoot for ever more. But, no, not a mirage — there they were. The perfect shoe. T-bar? Check. No sequins? Check. Sensible colour? Check. I held my breath as the assistant slid them on to the baby’s foot… a perfect fit.
Yes, I know, in another six weeks’ time we’ll have to go through the whole thing again, but for now they’re just the job. It seems Cinderella shall go to the ball after all.