@Crocs for wedding shoes? Any shoes are better than none – extracts from #insicknessandinhealth – @JulieO’Donnellauthor

Well, I’ve just read that wedding crocs are all the rage – including sparkly bits, of course. I’ve seen brides and bridesmaids in trainers and even boots under their dresses, but crocs? Still, if they’re comfortable and serve a purpose (not just comfort, but keeping you upright), then they should be embraced.

Perhaps if I’d had a pair of them On March 29th, 2008, things might have been different… Breaking your leg on the morning of the wedding means an awful lot of problems. Including what to do about shoes – or more precisely, one shoe. Here’s an extract from my book, In Sickness and in Health:

Chapter eleven

FACE UP TO IT

 

What were we to do about shoes? Or rather, shoe, singular. Now look, I had put together a bag with options. The blue ones which I’d planned to wear – the ones Rory had specifically asked me to wear as he likes it when I square up to my vertical challenge, the ones not called killer heels for nothing, and which I’d gone to great lengths to make non-slip. There were also the cream Jimmy Choos to put on later for dancing. I insisted that I should wear at least one of the shoes. Those around me were far more sensible at this point and I was banned from even attempting to wear a high shoe and hopping around on it.

‘Do you really want another trip to the hospital?’ said Jo with no pun intended.

In faster time than you could say ‘Ugly sister’ the shoes were whipped away from my reach, which, given its now-limited range, meant they were left lying tantalising close.

‘Flats. She needs to wear flats.’

‘Where are all your flats, Julie?’

Let’s get one thing straight. I have a bit of a shoe fetish. Just a bit. In my bedroom there were one hundred and sixty-four pairs. Not including the boots. Shoes had been a passion for many a year and old favourites were still hoarded. In the days B.E. (Before ebay), I’d scoured charity shops for designer heels I couldn’t possibly have afforded new at the time. Then the odd one or two brand new pairs had sneaked in as a treat. Shoes have a capacity for eternal excitement. No matter how many pairs a woman possesses, there is still that thrill when she obtains another pair. And yet another thrill when she likes them so much she buys them in another colour. And did you know that more women over thirty have over thirty pairs of shoes than a pension? According to The Daily Telegraph. But I don’t normally do flats. Flats are what people live in. In fact only three of the one hundred and sixty-four pairs, or as we were thinking singularly about shoes now, six of the three hundred and twenty-eight of them, were flat. They were all black. Jimmy Choo black flats. A cheap pair of plastic flats I’d bought at a market for four quid one day when my feet were killing me. (There may have been three hundred and twenty-eight shoes but I never said they were all comfortable to wear. It’s a woman thing. Like PMT and menopause. There’s some sense in it somewhere but it can be painful.) And there was that pair in size six which Rosa had borrowed.

All agreed.

‘She can’t possibly wear black shoes with the dress – they’ll look terrible.’

I noted they were still talking in the plural. And as if at this point in time the colour actually mattered, though I do have another foible – just a little one, mind you – and that is colour-matching.

At least the plaster matched the pallor of my face with all colour siphoned out of it, and matched the bottom half of the dress. And the blue bodice matched the bruising creeping down my toes. In fact looking at the bruising, maybe the black shoe would match shortly.

Molly takes the same size as me but didn’t have any light-coloured flats. Zoë-Lisa takes the same size but didn’t have any light-coloured flats. Who else took the same size? Not Jo, not Rosa, not Carole, not Joy, not Lucy, not Ilona, not Naiara… not one of the female guests who were still trying to magic up a wedding like a flutter of butterflies racing in saddles against the clock.

‘Anyone got any time to go and buy a pair?’

No, we live in a hamlet outside the village outside the main town. A village now sadly devoid of post office and shop – though they probably never stocked flat shoes.

‘Who else is around? Ah yes, Alison is in a B&B down the road.’

Someone was dispatched to find Cinders a slipper to fit, and I was duly presented with a grubby white canvas shoe for a right foot. It was flat and it fit and I couldn’t have been more grateful if it had been the glass slipper itself.

However we quickly realised that when I stood up to hop around as I would have to do, the dress would trail some four or five inches on the ground and create a great slip, trip or fall hazard. Like I really needed another one. And we had no time to try and pin up the hem to shorten it. So any idea of using crutches for the day now fell flat.

As usual Molly spotted an opportunity: she could get an A* in this. I think she may have welcomed me into the household because of my footwear. She used to take all her friends on a guided tour of my shoe collection: it’s a wonder she didn’t charge admission.

‘Julie, you know you won’t be able to wear your wedding shoes?’

Don’t children have the edge in stating the obvious?

‘Well’, she said in the carefully-pitched tone, somewhere between a whine and cajole, that any parent will recognise. She was on semi-bended knee, her hands clasped together in a gesture most unfamiliar to her as a newly-decided almost-teenage atheist.

‘Can I, please? Oh please, please, please, please, please. They’re so much more comfortable than mine and they’ll go with my dress and they were bought especially for today and it would be such a waste if they weren’t worn.’

Ignoring the fact of course that it would be such a waste if her new shoes were not worn.

I was paranoid. I warned her about the dangers of wearing high heels at any time, let alone on the uneven ground outside. They may not have been as high as the chopine heels first in vogue in fifteenth century Venice – up to twenty inches apparently! They may not have been the seven inch high heels of Gwyneth Paltrow in 2008 or those of Naomi Campbell’s fall for which she is almost more famous than all of her successful swaggers down the catwalk. (How perverse is our society? It’s like watching a Grand Prix – I’ve always suspected some people are just waiting to see an accident.)  Even so, my shoes were created with conceit in mind, not common sense. She tried to stick her foot into one shoe and failed, discovering one of the facts of high-heeled life – that it’s far easier to sit down to put them on. Successfully crunching her toes into the pair, she did a practise totter like a cross between a foal on stilts and John Cleese’s Silly Walks. And then came the elegant glide, the grace which comes with the extra height, to which we high-heel aficionadas strive. The reason why we inflict on ourselves the torture – apparently, according to scientists, akin to the pressure of an elephant standing on us. As Manolo Blahnik said, ‘You put high heels on and you change.’ Though he also apparently acknowledged, ‘Fifteen per cent are total madness.’ But there can be beauty in insanity, Manolo.

‘Oh, all right then.’

A triumphant smirk twitched at the corners of Molly’s mouth. She’d successfully worn me down in record time and I was finding acquiescence the norm now.

‘But only to the church. Not in the marquee – just in case.’

The perfect powder blue satin, peep-toe wedding shoes were worn, not by the bride, but by the bridesmaid.

 

 

Molly wheeled me towards Rhona, dressed immaculately as always, in tight jeans, short jacket, and with a glowing complexion which is a great advert for her profession. (My mind just flipped there into wondering what might be an advertisement for other professions. Pale-as-a-ghost face for an undertaker? Hang-dog expression for a vet?) Rhona eventually got to make a start on my make-up in the dining room which Jo had hastily and not easily converted into a dressing room. She had heaved a weighty full-length mirror downstairs (very possibly, given her strength both physical and of character, by herself) and pushed a heavier Victorian dining/snooker table to the side.

She and Neil were front of the queue for common-sense genes and no doubt that went a long way to cementing their compatibility. They share a quick wit, interest in technology, similar tastes in music, a passion for dogs and cats, a love of food (with Neil always to be found in front of our Aga on his visits – no, not lying in front of it like the dog, but cooking) and a lust for travel. Jo towers above Neil in height but they stand equal in personality. And caring. After my more recent stay in the stroke unit of my local hospital (not sure Rory has been good for my health!) they headed the three hundred and thirty-nine miles down the motorway with the declared intention of filling our freezer with meals.

Neil was the light at the end of a very dark tunnel after Jo’s husband, a minister, upped sticks without one word of warning. Having discovered that he had run off with the church secretary, the tabloid reporters, in their borderless pursuit of gossip, hounded my friend – even chasing her across the fields to hunt for their story. And because they lived in a house which came with the job, she not only lost a husband, but her home. I wasn’t well-off in those days but I had slightly more than she had been left with – not hard when you are left with absolutely nothing, not even the cushion of a property to sell – so I hired a white van and between the two of us we moved her into a house rented to her by a church charity. She was determined to de-clutter in this enforced move: something which stood her in good stead for her future travels in the condensed home of the camper van. And with hindsight, this chain of events set her up for her silver lining. Though it was some time before the storm passed, her break in the clouds was, undoubtedly, Neil.

Rhona was going to have to pull out all the stops to make me up. Pain and shock were kneading my face into cracked, dry dough. Only distance could have made me look good.

Jo shook her head slowly from side to side, the gesture ending in a gentle tutting sound.

‘Well, you don’t exactly look the best I’ve ever seen you.’

Yes, if you can’t be kind at least have the decency to be vague. Only one of your best friends would get away with a comment like that.

It was true. I could feel the pain that had carved out creases where normally there were none, and I knew, without using a mirror, that I looked as drawn as someone hanged and quartered. In fact looking in a mirror was the last thing I wanted to do. Or have a pictorial record.

‘Wiki, I do NOT want photos taken!’

 

And from Chapter seventeen:

Rory was truly surprised – shocked – at how many shops we couldn’t enter. We saw just how much planning and effort must go into every outing for many people. And, given his pretty good car driving skills, even he was having great difficulty in reversing the wheelchair down the narrow aisles in shops, when he had pushed me to the end and found the corner, around which most people would walk, was too cluttered for a wheelchair, and the signs were leaping out at us and jeering, ‘All breakages must be paid for’. He adopted a very loud tone of voice (not difficult for someone partially deaf who has difficulty moderating the volume) destined for the shop owners’ ears, as he remarked about the inconsiderate placement of such obstacles for anyone in a wheelchair.

He had forgotten to get me a present on our wedding day. I told him so. He said his etiquette book didn’t tell him and it hadn’t been on any list but he’d be buying one today. I was thinking jewellery shops. As we passed each one I asked him to stop and browse. He looked at watches (men’s) in every shop. I looked at a brick wall. All of the jewellery shop window displays ended at waist height. If you were standing. Another insight into the world of wheelchairs.

I wouldn’t have dreamt of pointing out anything specific, but asking to stop at every jewellery store was a bit of a hint. He bought me a  kettle.

‘Stop!’ I yelled at various intervals. Not major trauma, but the only way to get Rory’s attention when I wanted him to stop in front of a window. I was discovering that it is very hard to have a conversation with someone walking behind you the whole time, especially when the wind is blowing from behind. And especially when your pusher is slightly deaf.

Rory, of course, also deployed his selective hearing skills when it was a shop in which he had no interest. Or, worse still, simply refused to stop, telling me, ‘No, you don’t want to go in there.’

‘Excuse me? It’s my foot that’s out of action, not my head. Don’t tell me what I want to do.’

So I spent half my time with a bad case of torticollis, gazing longingly over my shoulder at the disappearing shop windows, and utterly frustrated that someone else was in total control of where I would go.

Mind you, I was finding myself overly attracted to those shoe shops where, on the basis that no-one would ever run off with a single shoe, they display only one of each pair on the rack outside.

 

#insicknessandinhealth #weddingdaydisasters #weddingdisasters @crocs

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