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Putting Your foot in it! by Dr Mc Neil

In my experience, Newbold Verdon is to shoes as Castle Donington is to second-hand cars, save that the young lady who advertises the latter has catchphrases which always include the words “superb” and “trust”. For my part, being ancient, I would tend to trust shoes more than secondhand cars no matter how much the latter were “superbly finished.”

I learnt long ago that members of the female gender tend to have an unnatural attachment to shops selling footwear. Yet it is only now that I realise the magnitude of my mistake when I drove my good lady friend, her daughter and her grand-daughter to this Mecca of shoeology. Several hours later, they had tried on nearly every available shoe in the establishment twice and were going round for a third time.

'Why is this so remarkable a blunder?' ladies of my taste may well ask. Well, when the daughter left school, she went to work in a shoe factory in Mountsorrel. Every other night, she would come home with a new pair or three. I never knew her to wear any of these shoes, but soon there was a storage crisis, which was only averted by her throwing out several dozen pairs and then going out and getting some more. In my ignorance I thought that motherhood would change her – but no. I believe that in the end there was no room left for her partner in their house, and he was ousted in favour of shoes.

A few years pass. I no longer drive the daughter or the grand-daughter anywhere – and the good lady's health no longer permits her to wander up and down aisles of shoes, or aisles of anything else, come to that.Yet every time I drive her past Newbold Verdon, even on our way to somewhere else, I still have a certain shiver of fear as Main Street flashes by.

That was until today. One of the good lady's hobbies is singing, another playing her electric organ, for which she has a teacher who comes once a fortnight. It is Easter. The teacher, who in addition to the good lady, teaches various schoolchildren locally, has no cause to visit our humble hamlet for a week or to. So Mohammed goes to the mountain, to coin a phrase. They set up a session in an impressive-looking Baptist church (from the road, that is) where she will sing and he play the organ. The question she had to wrestle with was what to do with me when I was not acting as taxi driver extraordinaire.

Now my skills at singing are such that she has volunteered me to sing on the Bishop's Rock should their foghorn ever fail. Thankfully from my point of view they no longer need foghorns, or it may have been difficult to write this. Therefore, I am an embarrassment to be shipped off a.s.a.p. As said church is just up the road from Newbold Verdon, she suddenly had an attack of slipper-less-ities. I am instructed: Approach Mecca of shoes, making suitable postrations on the way as becomes a shoe-buyer; seek out a pair of slip-ons, dark blue in colour, size 7, with a furry bit round the top; purchase same and return. DO NOT HURRY.

The last instruction is impossible. All the old fears creep stealthily back as I approach the road junction. In my mind's eye I see thousands of women clogging up hundreds of aisles, trying on hundreds of thousands of shoes – with perhaps the odd man grabbing a pair he did not come in for, and which are not his size, and bolting for the door.

So with knocking knees and sweating palms, I enter – to a virtually empty barn save for various assistants trying to restore some order after the last invasion – little things like trying to pair up 20,000 single shoes, trying to find out where they came from and who sold who the rack on which they originally hung. Skilfully, I creep along the central aisle, plotting out the lie of the land. In the distance I detect my quarry, except that they are beige, not dark blue. I creep closer and pounce – and am nearly flattened by a four-year-old desperately seeking his mother. I suspect that she was under a pile of shoes in an aisle nearby, but I cannot be sure.

A quick inspection; no blue ones in sight; indeed no others of any specification. I make a hasty retreat to the counter; I consult the lady serving by giving her the details I had received and asking for her approval. She wants to know “if they are wrong, will I blame her, and if they are right, will I take the credit?” “Yes.”

The good lady has not seen the slippers as I write. If I survive that event, I will let you know...

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