Sole Food

The origin of being ‘well-heeled’ comes from cockfighting: a well-heeled cock wore sharp spurs which could cause big damage in a fight. Witness the Orange Cock Womble and his strutting, he wears only custom made Italian shoes as he’s very insecure about his height and his foot size. His little size 8 feet ( you know what they say about the size of a mans foot and the size of his howsyourfather) are wedged inside size 12 black leather shoes with a 1 inch lift. He has to be the tallest man in the room and his shoes have to look proportional to his size. Pity the man who thinks with his Johnson – no not that one the other one that looks like a mushroom. But I digress. American frontier slang purloined ‘well heeled’ to mean being well-equipped, and so we now use it to mean having money as in;
‘Cor look at that classy geezer, wearing fancy strides and Chukka boots. He’s well heeled innit?’
I’m blessed with my Aunt Becky’s feet. Size four, high instep and not so narrow as to look like a chicken and not so broad as to look like a camel, but just the right size for a woman of 5ft and shrinking. As I write I’m wearing yellow socks, left in the house by Ava who’s 12, and salmon coloured trainers with double tied laces. The shoe rack in the kitchen sports muddy walking shoes, blue gardening clogs, furry slippers, wellington boots, flip flops and fancy grey suede boots I bought whilst filming in America. I wore them with a little lacy dress. Not so much mutton dressed as lamb more an old goat dressed as a kid.
It is true to say that as I’ve got older my feet are not the happy extremities they used to be. The high insteps pull on my tendons causing a numbing distress, relieved only by the old git massaging my feet in front of Corrie. One day without yoga and I feel like I’ve got corks jammed between my toes. There is an exercise that helps – picking up a 2B or not 2B pencil with the toes, rather like holding an HB under the breasts to determine the rate of sag, in my case I can manage a pencil case.
Most of the time I pad about barefooted preferring to feel rugs, flagstones and grass beneath my feet. A few months ago I had a new bathroom carpet fitted, a delicate grey, it changes shade depending on which way you stroke it, my feet sink into the luxurious pile making me aware of my first world sensibilities. Having a thick carpet in the washhouse is not on the top of everyone’s list, but we have visitors who have earmarked the bathroom as their room of choice – it’s warm and welcoming and the carpet feels like you’re sinking into Dennis the cat’s soft under belly .
But I love shoes, not in an Imelda Marcus kinda way but in an-overweight-‘Z’lister-who-could-always-rely-on-her-feet-staying-the-same-size-whilst-her-waist-hips-bust and belly-oscillated-from-a-size-6-to-a-size-20-kinda-way. To be honest, having released several pounds I think my feet are smaller, although everything shrinks with age. Ask the ‘oosbind.
I’ve got a drawer under the bed full of interesting flatties, including plimsolls, and shelves in the bedroom full of high heels, not to mention the cupboard in the attic with everything, from patent leather boots to my first proper pair of fashionable shoes which my mother bought in Watford when I was 13. They were a gift for getting into Watford School of Music. They’re slim, blue canvassy things with an orange and yellow stripe, a pointed toe and a little block heel. They lace up over the top of the foot, they’re 58-years-old and well trodden, they’re jammed on a shelf with all sorts of other blue shoes.
I have red, pink, grey, black, green, gold and yellow shoes. I have red wedges with dangly strawberries near the big-toe peep-hole. I have mauve, suede, tasselled ankle boots and, red and gold sequinned boots I was given from the BBC wardrobe department (blimey thems were the days) from ‘It’s a Knockout.’
I’ve got bikers’ boots, cowboy boots, and a pair of trendy boots I bought on the Kings Road from ‘R Soles’. The shop is still there. I wore them home and the dawter stuck a sunflower sticker on the pointed toes. That was thirty years ago and that sticker is still stuck. Our local cobbler renewed the elastic sides so I can wear them with thick socks. Nice!
When I was ten, well heeled we were not, but I was taken to St. Albans for a new pair of school shoes. I opted for an orange flat leather shoe with a t-strap. I’m surprised I was allowed to have them. I would walk to school and when I arrived at my desk I would spit on my handkerchief ( we all had a cotton hanky then ) and wipe the soles of those precious shoes, thus preserving their newness. I spent the rest of the day in socks. Years later I was costume buying for a telly job in South Molton Street. There in the window of a fancy Bond Street shoe shop was a pair of orange patent leather shoes with a strap that buttoned on the side. Not a t-strap, I grant you, but they were a nod to my orange shoes of 1959. I hadn’t realised that I’d been searching for those shoes for years. I’ve still got them – they sit next to a pair of orange brocade boots that would do well in a Restoration drama.
In my youth I would to go to jumble sales from Mill Hill to Boreham Wood, sorting through the trestle tables looking for treasure. I bought a pair of shiny black, round-toed shoes from the 20’s. I wore them with sheer black seamed stockings. On the top floor of a church hall in Kentish Town our theatre group rehearsed our plays, we accumulated dresses, hats, bags and jewellery but I did a runner from the controlling director leaving my vintage shoes behind, those shoes were never to be seen again. I have a pair of bejewelled sling backs from the 60’s, bought from a little boutique in Battersea square, and dainty character shoes from ‘Freeds’. I would buy job lots of ballerina shoes to match my culottes – lime green, rusty brown, classic red – and wear them on teaching practice. My ensemble silenced the noisiest girls; in the class we spent half the lesson discussing the power of colour and co-ordination.
I don’t know how many pairs of shoes I have and to be honest I don’t know why I’m holding onto them. Age compromises the balance and wearing high heels now fucks the balls of my feet and I look like a u-bend. But getting rid of them would be kissing goodbye to my youth. Each set of stilettos tells a story and anyway, who knows when the next show will beckon and I have to be seen tripping the light fantastic in my brown sequinned platforms.
Letting go is essential; as my ‘oosbind the pantomime dame would say, ‘You can’t have everything, I mean after all, where would you put it?’ But letting go is a process ain’t it?
I made a film for ITV on Feng Shui; we interviewed a writer who had shelves of books all piled up in her ‘wealth area’ and stacks of unnecessary paperwork cluttering up her ‘career area’. She was so traumatised, as we boxed up the books, that we couldn’t show the footage. It was just too harrowing. Then three weeks after the filming she contacted me to say her life had turned round and she had never felt better. For the first time in years money was rolling in.
Nice story, but letting go of stuff takes time and patience and being kind to yourself. Why would I want to keep five pairs of leather sandals I bought in Porta Pollenca in 1995? Why would I want to keep turquoise espadrilles, their wedged heels a recipe for arse-over-tittery. Why am I giving a home to red satin shoes with seven inch heels and bows and their jungle patterned kitten heeled companions.
I even have a pair of handmade baby blue patent leather ‘fuck-me’ shoes, with a heart engraved in the sole, made by an art student. I bought them from a sex shop in Soho. Why would I want to keep them? I’ll tell you why – because I am not ready to give up the ghost, not yet. And, who knows, when Steven Spielberg comes a calling and asks me to play Cynthia Payne, the Madam of a suburban brothel, in his next movie, I’ll have my own pair of Scooby-doos, and I’Il be able to put my best foot forward and kick arse.