The power of the ruby slippers

Mind the Gap, DorothyMind the gap, Dorothy…

Never underestimate the power of a pair of ruby slippers…

  • Red shoes enhance any day – especially a grey and dismal one. 
  • You’ll never be bored again – watching them sparkle, especially when the light reflects on furniture around you, is utterly entrancing.
  • People will ask you, at least 4 times a day, whether clicking your heels together will take you back to Kansas.
  • They are the perfect ice-breaker. Wear them to a daunting networking occasion and conversation will become effortless.
  • Even the most seemingly ascetic theologian will be captured by their beauty.

It’s nearly the first anniversary of the day they came into my possession. (Thank-you blessed Schuh sale.) Incredibly, I’ve not worn them anywhere near as often as I ought to – largely thanks to their unsuitable-ness in wet weather – but what with this summer’s pathetic idea of ‘warmth’, they’ve come in very handy.

And I’m not exaggerating – I wore these on Saturday and at least 6 different people made Dorothy references. But did you know that the original ruby slippers were in fact silver?

Ruby ReflectionsReflections – aka mid-lecture entertainment.

If you go down to the woods today…

…you’d better be well prepared.

One of the many marvellous things about London is that fact that you can take a short tube journey (20 minutes in fact) and travel from the urban East End to the edge of Epping Forest – a proper forest in which it is very possible to get well and truly lost.

I fully accept that I’m an out and out urbanite. However, I love a good ramble (in the truest Chalet School sense of the word) and quite honestly, is there any better way of spending a damp, chilly May Bank Holiday than tramping through mud with friends and an assortment of children?

As far as I was concerned, I was fairly well prepared – there was water, fruit, biscuits, sweets, an extra jumper & an umbrella in my backpack. I was wearing decent footwear – it was a toss up between wellies or new boots, boots won as the Hunters aren’t great for long treks up hill – but I had forgotten my waterproof. Though it seems my sister was still concerned. I quote her tweet at the end of the day:
“Why in god’s name did you wear your brand new, expensive boots? Didn’t want to get the Hunters dirty? *Bangs head on desk*”

Left, clean shoes on the tube (mine are the mahogany beauties on the top.)
Right, when the day ended.

However, I was thoroughly ill-prepared in comparison with our walking companions – the Jordan clan and friends. In total, we had 10 adults and 8 children (aged 2-14), that’s quite a pack. All the children were clad head to toe in waterproof material; they had rope with which to make a rope swing while having lunch; heck, they even had lunch with them (we invested in sausage/bacon rolls at a bikers’ cafe – I think we won on that score). They also had technology.

Our friend Rachel isn’t known for being terribly proficient with her Android telephonic device. She’s had it since Christmas and it still regularly foxes her, so it was with surprise that I discovered that she was using Google Latitude to track her father. Her Dad possesses a trait in common with my own father – the ability to disappear without a trace on family outings. Arriving at our lunch venue minus one adult and one small child, Rachel took out her phone and tracked him down, giving directions in repeated phone calls. It was really quite genius. I’d suggest my parents invest in the same technology, but it wouldn’t work as:
(i) My Dad doesn’t own a smart phone.
(ii) He has yet to fully embrace the concept of a mobile phone being ‘mobile’.

We had technology too. The rather rubbish official Epping Forest map was supplemented with Google maps and a remarkable number of phone compass uses. Yet still we managed to get lost repeatedly – our main map reader would claim that this was because no one listened to him. He may have been right…

The joys of map reading.
(If you look closely, you’ll spot Andy behind the others. The reason? He’s checking Google maps again.)

Ultimately, you know what you need when walking in Epping Forest? A good old Ordnance Survey map and an unlimited supply of plain chocolate digestives.

Creating a social stir

This morning, while enjoying a day off shopping with sibling and friends at the bargainous Bicester Village, I came across a random item in The White Company. [Actually, there were a number of random items in that store – including a wooden knife and fork…] A tube labelled ‘Social Stirrers’ caught my attention and I reached for it, hoping it might contain exciting items with which to stir cocktails – you know, a bit like the fluorescent giraffe shaped ones you get in Giraffe.

Looking at the label, I was initially disappointed. Social Stirrers are in fact devises to get conversation going at your dinner party. I quote:

“Forget the port, simply take a stick from the tub and pass around the table for a dinner party debate!”
Please note, anyone who forgets the port at a dinner party at which I’m in attendance will be severely reprimanded! Also, I’d like to think (although I’ve never actually hosted a proper dinner party – and this is clearly something I’m going to have to remedy very soon, it could be another 2011 First) that any dinner party I threw would not be lacking in effervescent conversation. I’m sure my sister’s dinner parties (she holds them frequently, what with owning an actual dining room as opposed to my table-in-the-corner-of-the-lounge) are also similarly scintillating, but we still both purchased a tube – what with it being only £2 an’ all. 
Turns out, it’s actually quite interesting and kept Annie and I entertained for at least 10 minutes on the train back to London. In fact, those that know Annie may be surprised to hear that the stick asking “If you were invisible for the day, what would you do?” led to a deeply philosophical discussion on pain – goodness only knows what our fellow passengers thought of us. Looking through the tub just now, the following are favourites: 
“Is camping under canvas a holiday?” [No]
“What or whose accent can’t you stand?” [The phrase ‘can open, worms everywhere’ comes to mind…]
“What do you view most online?” [The wrong answer to this question could see guests un-invited to future soirées.] 
Personally, I reckon there are much more interesting ways to generate a stir than by encouraging discussion. For example, one could wear clothing that stands out a mile – like these shoes (also spotted today) which I was banned from buying, even though they had them in my size and were only £7.50: 

A small shoe shopping rant

Actually, I should correct myself. It’s a large shoe shopping rant – in some people’s opinions, an exceedingly large shoe shopping rant. For clarification purposes, it’s the shoes that are large, as opposed to the rant…

I have big feet. I was a size 8 by the time I was 14 – thank goodness that’s also when they stopped growing! To put this into context, the average size for British women is a 5. Fortunately, I’ve never felt too much of a freak in this respect, as I seem to be gifted at making friends with girls who are similarly blessed. In my gospel choir alone, there have been at least four others with size 8 (if not 9) footsies.

Having large feet can be a trial, for a number of reasons, including:

  • Certain shoe styles only serve to make your feet look freakishly huge. Pointy shoes would be a classic example of this – the pointy bit at the front not being wide enough for any flesh, thus simply adding length to an already long foot. I like to call such things “canoes”.
  • Shoe shops rarely stock many pairs in their biggest sizes, thus they are often out of stock. (Though it has to be said that this is an improvement upon days when shoes stopped at a size 7.) 

Having big feet makes it exceptionally annoying when shop assistants do the classic “I’m sorry, we don’t have it in a [insert your shoes size] but we do have it in a [insert size below], so I brought a pair so you could try it on.” When you’re an 8, it’s often the biggest size available, so it’s unlikely that they’ll have brought a bigger size for you to try – it’ll always be the smaller one. Thing is, I know I’m an 8, that’s why I ask for it. I know my feet are big, that they won’t fit into a 7 (except in Birkenstocks) and therefore do not ask “please could you bring me this in a 7 and an 8?”. It’s exceptionally disappointing when you see the assistant coming back with a box, you’ve got your shoes off in readiness, and then discover that they’re not in your size. Perhaps the former shoe shop workers amongst my readers will criticise me for this, but it really is a pet peeve of mine.

On Thursday, I had an hour in which to do some emergency shoe shopping. ‘Emergency shoe shopping – how can such a thing exist?’ I hear you muttering to yourselves. Let me explain… 
Monday was an exceedingly wet day in London town. Before I was half way to the tube, I sensed that my left foot was exceedingly wet. Closer inspection revealed a crack along the sole, going right through the rubber and leather (Dr Marten soles – so this is an impressive feat). These boots are my winter stand-bys, I practically live in them from October to March. Since 2005 I’ve had two pairs and couldn’t be without them. Thus, replacing them became an urgent task for which I had little time. 
New boots were identified (these ones) and on Thursday afternoon I dashed to Covent Garden to acquire them. To my distress, the exact scenario I described above took place – the shop assistant insisted I ought to try on the 7’s, even though I’ve worn the 8’s in the same style consistently for five years and hadn’t noticed my feet having acres of extra space, I was deeply forlorn and feared that my toes would remain damp for several days to come – not a good thing given the weather forecast. 
Fortunately, though the weather god was against me, the shoe god was for me. Down the road I found another DM retailer where not only did they have the ones I wanted in the correct size and colour, but for £10 less than their RRP. Happy days. 
The observant amongst you will realise that it’s only three weeks since my last boot purchase. I normally wouldn’t spend so much money on footwear in such a short amount of time, but I’m sure that you’ll appreciate that the latter purchase truly was an emergency! 

An ode to…

…my slippers:

Brand spanking new on Christmas Day

Is it wrong that in the last few days I’ve worn these beauties to a church service and while chairing an AGM? Perhaps wrong is an incorrect term – is it odd that I was wearing them? Quite possibly. 
Slippers are beautiful things. These particular ones are almost certainly the best ones I’ve ever owned – no exaggerating. Not only are they stripy and colourful, but their boot-ness makes them uber cosy – think ‘normal’ slippers plus leg warmers. Lush. 
I’m unbelievably thankful that I found room for them in my rather full bag this past weekend (I was generously transporting a handbag for one friend and boots for my sister, so I wasn’t sure they’d fit) – it made living in a church so much more bearable. In fact, on our first evening several of us in our 20’s had a conversation on the topic. One friend had been reminded to bring her slippers having read my tweet on my packing dilemma…our conversation went a bit like this:
“I brought my slippers.”
“Me too!”
“I brought my dressing gown…”
I feel like pointing out that the guy with the dressing gown is actually 6 years younger than the two of us who had our slippers with us. [Incidentally, if you’re going to wear your dressing gown to breakfast with a load of random young people, it might be worth wearing PJ bottoms with them, rather than just boxers. You’ll be slightly forgiven if your legs are great, but it’s still just a tad inappropriate!] 
No, I didn’t intend to wear them to the service yesterday morning (I got caught up with a pastoral issue & didn’t get chance to change, which also meant walking up the centre aisle of the church as the service began – the precise point I realised I was still in them). However, I think they added a certain je ne sais quoi to my chairing of a potentially tense AGM – though perhaps detracted from my ‘please take me seriously, this is very important’ demeanour. Luckily, I did remember to remove them (and put on actual shoes) for the concert at which I was giving a notice designed to prompt people to donate money – I suspect this would’ve had less of an impact if I’d had stripy, cushioned footwear on. 
This all makes me realise that I am perhaps wrong for mocking colleagues who sit in important governance meetings wearing slippers. In actual fact they’ve got the right idea. If your feet are toasty and blissfully comfortable, then you’re not distracted and can concentrate on the matters in hand. Thus, I’m now (semi) seriously considering taking them into work – would that be inappropriate? Anyone else care to join me? 
[As a total aside, but still on the subject of work and slippers, my mother works from home most of the time but makes a point of changing into ‘proper’ shoes when working to distinguish from simply being at home…]