Practically perfect in every way (Plus bonus photo)

Friday was an excellent shopping day. Not only was an entirely appropriate dress for the Christmas carol service acquired (we have very strict colour instructions, with no two people in the same section allowed to wear the same colour – honest!), but I also found a new handbag (bliss) and later the same day made a rather impulsive purchase…

I don’t really have a good record with impulse buys – especially ones that begin with a friend ringing to tell me about the amazing bargain they’ve just found. It nearly always ends in disaster, I can be very easily led at times. However, I never thought that impulse buying would take place in an outdoor clothing shop. Make up, bags, random articles of clothing and at least one item per visit to Primark – yes, Mountain Warehouse – really not so much.

My friend (Morv, of fellow musical geek fame) had acquired a new ski jacket. Fairly practical as she lives in the far north and had just the day before had to contend with her first snow of the season. Sometimes, she even goes to Scotland to ski. When I met her and another friend we’d found in London, we headed back to the shop so she could show us her bargain [you’d have thought she’d have simply lifted it out of the carrier bag, but no] and within seconds I was trying on one in a different colour.

The three of us stood there contemplating jackets. I seized upon mine describing it as “cute”; Ali liked the look of one that was practical (she’s an engineer); Morv wanted something “mature” [those that know Morv will appreciate that this is the last word with which to describe her]. Is cute the wrong thing to look for in practical outdoor clothing? Should I really have been comparing waterproofing and stitching rather than colours?

Anyway, I ended up with a purple jacket (with contrasting pinkish bits) that came with integral phone holder, generic mp3 player pocket and ski lift pass flap (possibly useful for Oyster cards?). I had to laugh when the man at the checkout asked when I was going skiing – had he not heard the weather forecast, or even gone outside into the biting temperatures? I do not ski, despite skiing lessons aged 16, and don’t intend. I do, however, have parents who live in Ireland and also have an intense hatred of the cold, so it will get plenty of use off the slopes.

Getting it home, I suffered a little buyers’ remorse and kept the receipt safe, just in case. The next day dawned just as cold and it seemed sensible to wear it out. After less than an hour of wearing it I realised that there is nothing better than a jacket that’s effectively a duvet with a zip – £47.99 well spent I feel (reduced from £119.99, FYI).

Today, on day three of consecutive ski jacket wearing, I managed to inadvertently co-ordinate my outerwear outfit. Purple jacket, purple scarf (ok, the scarf was intentional), purple inside of glasses’ frames, purple gloves, purple hat (ok, may also have been a conscious decision to wear purple hat instead of black one) and complimentary denim skirt with blue tights. Actually, what amused me most was that two men commented upon the co-ordination, rather than women. (I will ignore the fact that C laughed at me wearing it at the office…) Thinking about it, if only it had been snowing – I could have worn the purple wellies too!

Wait, what’s the forecast for tomorrow? Would it be a severe weather warning for heavy snow in London by any chance? Indeed it would. Looks like tomorrow will involve a practically perfect outdoors outfit, in every single way.

I felt this post needed a photo – so I took one.

Warning: this clothing may cause injury

Who’d have thought that a humble piece of clothing could be dangerous?
High heeled shoes, sure – have you ever tried walking in heels on cobbles?
But trousers? Surely they’re fairly safe?

A few years back I developed a penchant for very wide legged trousers, the sort that’s made out of floaty fabric and are perfect on hot summer days with flip-flops. Problem was, it was a lethal combination…

Countless times I’d trip on the hems, or catch my toes in the opposite leg, then came a near catastrophe:
One day, while performing the simple task of crossing a friend’s living room floor to fetch cutlery, I caught one toe in the hem of the opposite leg and went flying. I’d gathered enough momentum to send me skidding along the carpet a good long way – resulting in hugely attractive carpet burns on my arms and grazes on my legs. As I lay on the floor holding back my sobs, my friend stood over me and evaluated the situation with one comment: “if you’d gone a couple more inches, you’d have landed on top of the TV – and I’d have made you pay for any damage”. Such sympathy.

I think that was the point at which I realised that perhaps this style of clothing was to be avoided. I tried blaming my ineptitude upon inherited mild dyspraxia, but really, it was simply a case of clumsiness and big feet.

Over time, I forgot this particularly stupid episode in my life, until yesterday. Last week a miracle occurred – while on a spontaneous shopping trip, I found a pair of black trousers that fitted perfectly (always a rare occurrence, I find trousers hugely tricky to buy), plus, they were high waisted and wide legged -what I most look for in a trouser. In fact, they are very wide legged, practically culottes and rather 1930’s esque.

Wearing them yesterday was joyous, until I reached the tube station. There, I had to dodge round a gaggle of teenage school pupils (for some reason, they always intimidate me, even though my school days are long behind me). Having politely said “excuse me” and made eye contact with their teacher, I negotiated my way round them. As I did, my foot caught in the fabric on my opposite leg and it was all I could do to stop myself landing flat on the platform floor. Actually, I didn’t stop my fall – the seats along the platform edge did – ouch.

I regained my poise rather red faced and shuffled along the platform sheepishly, all the while cursing my choice of trouser. I’m now rather paranoid about them, especially on my office’s marble spiral staircase – I’m sure one day either my trousers or my shoes (or a combination of both) will send me flying to an almost certain death. [Or at least a major injury, which could be fairly useful, depending upon when it occurred…]

It seems I really have learnt nothing from life’s lessons.

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! 

Impersonation is the highest form of flattery?

For about a year, I’ve lusted after a friend’s favourite pair of shoes. This year, a new and updated pair appeared and I decided I had to have them, and thus, last night we ended up shoe twins. [Yes, Twitter followers, these are the ‘new boots’ whose progress I kept you tediously appraised of throughout last week. Apologies for being so dull and shoe obsessed.]

I was a little concerned that she’d be upset that I’d effectively copied her. After all, when sororal telepathy kicks in, I have a tendency to be rather narked. I became even more concerned yesterday lunch time when I realised that my skirt was not dissimilar to a style she wears and that I was toting a canvas bag from our mutual second favourite bookstore (that would be Foyles; Daunts is our favourite), albeit a different one to her favourite tote, but still, the similarities were there.

It should be noted that I wasn’t intentionally imitating her; that quite frankly there are significantly worse people to imitate; and that she has a fantastic yet simple sense of style which is fairly easy to emulate accidentally. Plus, we have similar tastes – it’s probably why we’re friends. All the same, I was still a little anxious when she arrived.

Fortunately, I needn’t have worried. Firstly, her pair are on their last legs and she was contemplating getting the new version – seeing mine has simply confirmed that decision. Secondly, seeing them on someone else made her realise just how great they are. I don’t intend to sound big-headed (or make her sound it) when I repeat her comment that “wow, those boots really do look great with tights, I mean, people have told me they looked good, but now I can see it for myself!”.

Is impersonation the highest form of flattery? Should we worry if we dress the same as friends – why is it that once you’re past being a teenager this stops being appealing? Is it simply a passion for not conforming and breaking free from years of enforced school uniform wearing?

Most importantly though, I love new shoes…
Plus, I’m pleased that with this purchase I am making a determined effort to make myself wear heels more regularly. These are comfortable ones, so I have no excuse (other than the occasional moment of tottering unsteadily and reducing my walking pace fractionally) not to wear them.

Besides, I like what walking in heels does to my hips – sashaying really is quite the appropriate expression. You know why women like heels (apart from the height thing)? It makes them feel downright womanly.

Rage against the machine

Ahhh, the self-service checkout. It may reduce the queues in shops, but adds an extra frisson of possible frustration thanks to its many eccentricities. I have no quibbles with being made to wait for a cashier to check my age when buying booze, but repeated proclamations of “unexpected item in the bagging area” is liable to do my head in (especially when in the already volatile environs of Old Kent Road Asda) when all I’m trying to do is save the planet by using reusable bags…

I’ve just returned from that most Sunday of pursuits, a visit to a DIY store. My local B&Q always manages to conspire against me. I am actually quite a competent DIYer – I can paint a room, change a light bulb, wire a plug, help lay laminate flooring and screw almost anything(!)… But, every time I need to purchase a random DIY object, it’s nowhere to be found and I’m left looking like a helpless female having to ask for help in an alien environment. Today was particularly annoying as I knew exactly what I needed (the bit that connects a toilet flush handle to the actual flushing mechanism within the cistern) but couldn’t see it – on asking for help it emerged that other things had been placed in front of it, so not my fault at all. [I also felt judged as I was wearing my most girly of shoes – the red patent beauties.]

Once I’d acquired what I required, I headed to the self-service checkout, where I had the good fortune to witness a moment of wonderful rage against the checkout machine – thankfully not of my own making.

Just ahead of me in the queue was a man buying two boxes of tiles. He dutifully scanned them using the hand-held scanner (a sensible device used in places like B&Q and Ikea so you don’t have to lift up heavy items) and then looked surprised when the machine said “please place the item in the bagging area”. His (logical) response was to say (outloud and in a very middle class accent) “For f*ck’s sake! I can’t lift them up – they’re too heavy”. [This is what initally attracted my attention – a fully grown man, talking to both himself and a machine, in public, in front of several strangers – respect!]

He then did what any sensible person would do (if the one staff-member manning the self-service area is nowhere to be found) – he put his foot up onto the bagging area and leaned, clearly in the hope that it would register some kind of object, but to no avail. Then he attempted to lift the boxes, directing cries of “you tw*t” at the machines. Finally, the objects were in the bagging area, with an exclamation of “happy now? You f*cking useless machine?!”.

Poor man, I did feel for him – all the while trying to keep the grin on my face from being too obvious. It did strike me as the kind of thing that would not be out of place in an episode of middle-class family favourite sitcom Outnumbered.

The moral of the story? When man is pitted against machine, man rarely wins. Or, when buying boxes of tiles at B&Q it’s probably better to go through a manned checkout with a bit of queue than trying to avoid the queue by going self-service…