11 April 2016

Windows: My First Heels

[Ed: As Madam is tied up (no not like that) with work these last weeks with no time to chat or post (apologies to all I hear in the background), she asked me to go though her notes and find something of interest for you to read. On trying to encipher her jottings I came across this story concerning her first pair of heels and how they were acquired. I asked if I should let it lose on the world. She was affirmative to this, as she was going to follow-up on the note she made on her heel collection page anyway.]

[Ed. So here it is.]  

One holiday in the early 80s we were in the near from a town called Street in Somerset, the HQ of the shoe company Clarks with their so-called ‘village’. The town was just full of shoe shops and as Mrs.A took then, as now, every opportunity to look for shoes we spent ages checking out one shop after another. The only consolation after walking miles wearing out the ‘souls’ of our shoes looking for new ones was being allowed to go mad in a bookshop buying a backlog of 15 Terry Pratchet paperbacks. [Ed: Checking my log this was 1982 and they hadn’t been back for quite some time and the founder of Amazon was still at high school.]
You may say that it is normal for a girl to constantly scan the shoescape, but in the case of Mrs.A it’s also very frustrating, as she has very small feet (2-3 UK) and finding something that looks good and fits is for her a nightmare. Usually when she is occupied rummaging around in the small sizes, I’m sent off to buy at least one pair of men’s shoes (boring) so that she doesn’t get a guilty conscience when she, on the rare occasion, finds something to take home for herself. 

So when I’m told to do my own rummaging, I am always on the lookout for heels in my size, 43EU/9UK (not so boring but equally frustrating). It’s an almost hopeless situation in a "normal" shoe shop, but I look anyway. In the 80s I really don’t remember seeing anything in large sizes, these days either women’s feet are getting bigger or the manufactures and outlets are getting in on the needs of girls like us who would have to look to ‘special’ shops on- and off-line. Things are getting more liberal and these days ‘a sale is a sale’ whoever there for. 

After countless shoe shops we entered a small long dingy establishment. Mrs.A stayed at the front in daylight and I slowly wandered to the back and there in the gloom bathed in a ray of light from a single window I saw them! It was like a vision, imagine something like the blessing / god sequence from Monty P’s Holy Grail - I didn't hear the choirs, but near enough! There on a well past its sell-by date discarded display case was a pair of black patent leather court shoes with four inch heels. 
I could not believe it; they looked like they could fit! 
I started to get nervous. 
So often in the past my excitement was dashed when I looked at the size. Usually 2 sizes too small and the only way I would have been able to put them on, let alone walk, was with serious toe bending! 
I took a deep breath and turned them slowly over. 
They were 7.5UK! Was I dreaming? That’s the largest I’d seen in a long time. But something was not quite right. 7.5UK was my boy size equivalent to a 9UK girl size, but as before they really looked like they could fit! Could they be sitting here banned to the backroom because of some production glitch? 

Just then Mrs.A startled me by tapping me on the shoulder. I turned round forgetting I had the shoes in my hand. She looked at the shoes and back up to me and asked “Do you want them”? I looked at her dumfounded and then heard the Monty P. choirs! I slowly nodded, without another word she took them out of my hands and went off to the front of the shop to buy them. I could have gone with her but held back being at that moment totally embarrassed, studded and excited all at the same time. I thought it would be better to say out of sight at this stage. The shoes were obviously not for her and I didn’t want the assistant to put 2&2 together. She probably did anyway, Mrs.A came back for me handed me the bag and we walked out of the shop with my prize clasped tightly in my arms!

I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel. That evening I tried them on under the scrutiny of Mrs.A. We had been on our feet most of the day and even in those days I was having problems with my legs and plates, but swollen or not I went for it. I unpacked them and looked them over in detail; they were from Bally (petal), elegant and well made. The 4 inch heel had the angle and shape typical for the style at that time. [Ed: Dug out this poster from 1982 to add a bit of atmosphere.]

I put them on, and in semi-cramped pain I spent ages trying to strap them up. The buckles were to put it mildly on the small side and I was not use to bending over and manipulating anything on the outer side of my feet, an odd feeling I must say having Mrs.A sitting there looking on. After a few under the breath frustrated rude expressions my side, Mrs.A took pity on me and buckled me up. 
I stood; the pain went up a notch. I walked around as best I could as the pain started to migrate towards my squashed toes. After a few wobbly minutes I sat down and when Mrs.A asked how there were, I lied through my teeth and said ‘a bit tight’ but on the whole ‘ok’. I must say I can’t remember much more about the evening only that after removing them we laughed about it, with me throwing in jokingly a few red herrings as not give her the idea I was in heaven with my very own heels! 
As they were ‘a bit tight’, next day it was decided to keep an eye out for other heels in larger sizes. No idea whose idea this was, but I was certainly game! I suspect she read me better than I thought. So for the day we repeated ‘the walking the streets of Street’ scanning for shoes. You can imagine I was in a totally different frame of mind compared to the previous day. Mrs.A was still looking for shoes for herself, but this time I had a mission! I took every opportunity to ‘officially’ check heels at the other end of the range and I didn’t have to wait until she and every one else was out of sight! 

After a luckless morning we went to the Clarks village and had lunch. I’m not sure when and where we found them; it was not as spectacular as with buying the patent leather ones. As you can see from the picture they were open toe sandals. They were larger than the Bally’s and so didn’t cause the level of pain as before, but they didn’t hold me that well either as I was swimming about too much in them. This made it difficult to walk in as much as I could judge within the confines of the hotel room. 
No matter I had now two pairs of heels. 

Since then over the last 30 years I had plenty of occasions wearing them when Mrs.A was not around. They became more comfortable due to the leather forming to my feet. When the opportunity arose I would combine them with tights or stockings from my mini stash. For a brief period we had in the wardrobe two lovely semi-frilly dresses one white and the other black that ‘almost’ fit me. Either Mrs.A had mistakenly bought them without looking at the labels or she had wanted to give them to someone, obviously not to me as a present, can’t really remember her motive. Luckily the waistbands were elastic and allowed me to pull the dresses up to my waist. The rest was just too small for my statue, although with the white one I got my arms through but my back was fully exposed the zip out of reach and anyway useless. In combination with my heels and stockings I could enjoy the look and feeling for brief periods. 
After a few months we talked about them taking up space and she suggested giving them to her niece, I agreed of course, I had no real choice. I don’t think she knew or thought I was ‘wearing’ them at every opportunity and checking to see how I would react. It was just her way to ask me beforehand when giving things away. Anyway they ‘hung’ around awhile before her niece visited and took them. 
I missed them a lot. Well over the years the heels stayed out of sight, I think I was too shy / embarrassed to get them out and wear them in full view, what excuse would I have had?

After time I thought she had forgotten about them but it was not so. The only time I had ‘officially’ to wear my black heels after the initial wearing, was an evening at home watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show which had come out on VHS tape. We had gone to the movies to watch it a few times and experience the audience participation with their flashlights, water guns, rice, toilet paper etc. We didn’t ‘dress up’ but had some of the props with us second time round and got into the swing of things. Quite a number of the audience took the opportunity to drag it as the characters, all great fun.
Thinking about this we decided to make an ‘event’ out of viewing the film at home. We would both dress as far as possible like Transylvanians. Well, Mrs.A reminded me that I had my heels which surprised me some what. Of course officially I had nothing else and so we bought some black stockings. I needed suspenders but we couldn’t find any in my size, so Mrs.A made me some! 
Makeup was no problem and as she had lots of different nail vanishes (like I do now), we painted each other’s fingers in different colours. All this was for me more fun than watching the film! And so we had for a few hours our ‘private’ film showing dressed for the part. We never got round to dressing up again, apart from at Carnival time with classical costumes. 
It’s a shame but there it is. I should have hinted in some way, talked about it while the opportunity was there, but typical me I kept silent. 

The blue and red heels I threw this year, they were way over the top but I still have the black heels. The leather has, let’s say, ‘matured’ over time, the heel tips have long disintegrated and the buckles just un-do-up-able. But they were my first and I can’t throw them away can I?