When I was at school I was very happy to be double jointed. I would push my thumb down level with my arm to amazed and disgusted exclamations from classmates. Yoga classes were fun too, it was cool to be flexible.
But then when I was 22 I found a lump on my foot and the doctor pronounced bunions, which I thought only old people got. Deformation of the bone, caused by soft ligaments not supporting the foot properly… perhaps being double jointed was not such fun. By my late 20s my feet were painful, deformed and a real nuisance. Only ugly boots fitted and eventually I decided on surgery. Doing one foot at a time, with a 6 month gap, the bones were broken (local anaesthetic), re-set with metal pins and I hobbled about on crutches for nearly four months each time.
Well now my feet are fine, but I must be careful, as it is a problem which can return. And more importantly it can be hereditary. The teen can do the thumb trick too. So despite my generally broke single mum status, shoes are not skimped on, they must be leather and good quality. So when my daughter wandered in from school this week and announced “My shoes don’t fit” (looking about her as if a pair might magically appear), I resigned myself to spending the equivalent of a weeks food money at the local quality shoe shop.
The teen’s feet were measured, and pronounced to be size 5.5 (the same as mine) and we asked to see some school shoes. “We don’t have any that size” said the shop assistant with the carelessness that only lack of competition in a small market town can engender. With no time to get to a bigger town, I decided to order from Clarks online, my favourite shoe store. Except Clarks refuse to sell school shoes without fitting them, and will only send them to the nearest shop which is Colchester, half an hour away. I fire off an email to Clarks pointing out that my daughter is nearly 15 and knows when her shoes are too tight, besides this is an adult size! But I am out of options, so order the shoes.
Meantime, despite being behind with work, I accept an invitation from my friend D to go and paint for the day. I take along the painting of a boat at Snape Maltings I am working on. I am unhappy with it, and it is not going well. “Hmm says D, you have done the water too dark, and now you are fighting to resolve the rest” He is right of course, but I try to increase the tonal values, to at least get it looking reasonable. Whilst we paint, D enthuses about an exhibition he has seen at the Minories gallery in Colchester. “You simply must see it” he says, showing me the catalogue. Ah well, I can go when I pick up the school shoes I think. At the end of the day, D thinks my painting is not one of my best, “But you have improved it” he says hastily. “Don’t spend too much longer on it, it’s making you unhappy” he says perceptively.
So off to Colchester I go. It’s the last place I want to be on a Saturday afternoon, when I have worked all morning. It should take about 25 mins, but an hour and many traffic jams later we finally park. We pick up the school shoes from Clarks, served by a teen who looks barely older than her customer. “Do you want to try them on or anything?” She says in a disinterested voice, making me even madder that they wouldn’t send them by post. Then it is on to the shops and an attempt to get my daughter who has the complexion of a Nordic milk bottle to have a sun hat. But she doesn’t like any. She picks a floral one for me though, and I am unsure if she thinks it suits me, or she just wants to make me look stupid. But I buy it anyhow because I like it. The teen is by now too hot, bored, tired, starving hungry, her legs hurt and her jumper itches. I realise any attempt to drag her round an art gallery will be met by advanced sabotage in the form of loud sarcasm and whinging. She does like private views, but mainly for the cheese straws. In the end I pacify her with a chocolate bar and we head home. I will have to try to make the exhibition another time…