Tuesday, 8 June 2010

It all starts with shoes

Nordstrums in San Francisco is a fabulous store. I particularly like the café on the top floor where they top up your coffee forever. The sales people are incredibly helpful, there seems to be no end to how hard they will try to find what you want.

That level of service tempts you to go for the impossible, which in Lois’s case is all about shoes. We tried to get a new pair of shoes. I think we ended up with three assistants and about fifty pair of shoes spread out on the floor. Maybe we were lucky to get there on a slow day, but I think that was when it dawned on me that it was all beyond us. If Nordstrums can’t find a shoe to fit Lois then there probably isn’t one anywhere.

There’s little point in trying to explain why her feet are weird, it might make sense to an orthopaedic surgeon - maybe. I should know, I once wrote a chapter in a book about the foot. Feet are quite complex and very three dimensional, almost four dimensional when you consider that they change shape when you stand on them. There are bones and muscles and ligaments all struggling to do their bit. Shoes, on the other hand don’t follow the same rules. Ideally you need a shoe that helps your foot; that holds your foot where it happens to be weak. Lois now has orthotics to go inside her shoes that support her feet and keep them in shape so long as the orthotic stays in the right place. That means the shoe has to work with the orthotic and of course shoes are not designed to do that. No matter how hard all those assistants tried, there just wasn’t a shoe that hat did the job.

We did eventually discover that riding boots work OK, they are reinforced underneath to cope with the stirrups. Back when Lois was younger she just had constant problems with her feet and couldn’t wear fashionable shoes. That meant she didn’t wear fashionable clothes, or make-up or jewellery, and that in turn leaves you out of a lot of conversations as a teenage girl.

Lois ended up being the outsider looking in, observing others but not part of the scene. She became a psychologist. Now she’s an artist, both roles seem to involve a lot of observation and wry comment. That’s what bad feet can do for you.

Well that’s the short version; I think the whole story could be a book.