09 September, 2010

Why we love shoes: The Key to happiness is balance - Heart, Body and Sole

The above statement is true. It has to be. Because I have recently found that in life I am supremely happy when my body is healthy, my heart is light and my feet are well shod* If I’m ticking 2 out of 3 of these boxes I’m on my way, but when it’s a full house I am skipping – clicking my shoes mid hop – along the rooftops to work, singing U2’s Beautiful Day in a flawless soprano and smiling at people who aren’t even there. That’s the dream.

This fine September 2010 I am just one clickety-step away from fulfilling my dreams– as soon as I get hold of my next item of footwear to compliment my (currently existing only in my mind) Autumn wardrobe. Then it will be tick, tick, tick and I will be off to join the huddle of squealing girls excitedly clutching their latest Shoe purchase and envisaging its place in their (existing currently only in their minds) 5th avenue walk in wardrobe. With a different shelf for each brand and a shoe shine boy per pair. Built for them by SATC’s Big...

If anyone ever asks what makes a girl happy...SHOES.

We .Love. Shoes. Killer heels, pretty ballet pumps, gladiator sandals, trendy brogues, comfy slippers, cool shoe boots, sexy cowboy boots, cutey ankle boots…and not forgetting my all time favourite ever piece of footwear – The Flip Flop. Throw out all my clothes (except my dresses) and fill my wardrobe with Havainas and I would be one contented young lady.

I haven’t actually always been this way. It is a very recent thing. For example, when I was little I was adamant that we buy the same pair of red shoes with butterflies on them for me whenever the annual trip to Clarks came upon us. I clearly wasn’t bothered about variety. I knew what I wanted and it was red butterfly shoes thank you** Anyway, I have had friends who love shoes, colleagues who worship shoes and even men who are more devoted to shoes than I ever thought I would be, but I was never that concerned. Until I caught myself daydreaming earlier today about what my next footly garment would be (I’m lusting after tan brogues with a slightly pointy toe and maybe even brown laces – the very sole of Autumn) I realised I had quite without warning joined the shoe loving parade, with bells on.

When had this happened? I wondered. And why?
What causes one to so suddenly and passionately take pleasure in something that goes on our feet (the least visible part of our body unless being greeted by an ant), steps in all sorts of grim things and to be honest doesn’t stay all that that fresh?
After much consideration (as much as one can fit in to a hummus and pitta break) I came up with several answers to my own question. Vis-à-vis:

1. Women can control their shoes
We can choose any shoe we like and they will bloody well go on our feet. They will go wherever we want them to go. They will dance if we feel like dancing. They will come out to play as and when we want them to. If we feel like kicking someone, they have our back. And if they bore us to death we will shove them at the back of the (massive walk-in) wardrobe with a strong warning not to come back out until fashion repeats itself and our daughter might want them. And they don’t say a word. They just do their daily shoey duty and look pretty and honour and obey us until the winter range do us part. You and you’re two shiny shoes. A match made in heaven, whoever said three is a crowd?

2. They fit. Forever.
100% of the time, every time. Fair enough, sometimes you see a handsome shoe and it doesn’t quite wiggle on like you want it to, especially if you have weird shaped feet and every time you see a pointy ballet pump you know you’re going to have to go a size up just to get your little toe in. But that’s okay. Because going up a shoe size is something our vanity can cope with, as we don’t have to take any responsibility for it. Tight jeans, chafing bras and straining waist belts we have to take the blame for and then eat loads of lettuce until we have repented of our chocolaty sins and can fit back into the drainpipes, but shoes don’t work this way. They fit all year round. Even just after Christmas when we are the shape and sometimes even colour of Mr Blobby. And given that most girls weights tend to fluctuate with the seasons, it is a small blessing that when we’re up a dress size and don’t quite feel like shopping for crop tops (spare me!) there is always that charming little foot garment that we can still fit into and will still make us beautiful and help us ignore the fact we ate an entire pizza last night. All week. The beautiful invention of the Shoe. The most loyal friend on earth.

3. They make us who we are
Now that everyone is a working mum of 6 who is best friends with Davina and married to a Millionaire and does charity work in their ‘spare time’ in Africa and looks 15 years younger and runs 11 miles every morning before they get the kids up and still has time to look damn sexy every night for Mr Millionaire, there is very little else women can do to get noticed anymore. Hair is overdone, make-up is overdone, clothes are overdone, the whole Oh –what-me?-Yeah-I-just-have-fifteen-different-roles-to-fulfil-and-still-have-time-for-Yoga look has been over.done. And we all gave up after Cheryl Cole anyway.
So now we lasses have to find a subtle way of staying ahead of the rat race. Best foot forward. So we oh so subtly use our shoes to prove just how good we are. Kurt Geigers, Manolo Blahniks, Jimmy Choo, Primark (ahem)…whatever we choose our shoes say something about us, they reveal our personalities and strip us of all other masks. And if they don’t? Then you’ve missed a trick love.

So of course women love shoes. The better the shoe, the better the wearer of the shoe, the better the chance we have of being somebody.

All this said, I am currently gazing at a collection of battered Primark pumps, worn down River Island heels, scuffed ankle boots and battered flip flops. Not sure what this says about me other than someone’s shoe fetish didn’t start early enough. Where’s my credit card...

*wine, dresses and men are a predetermined right so are not included in this formula

** I can’t say my taste has changed much.

07 September, 2010

Will Power Vs Chill Power and the gift of man-flu

The other day, when I looked up happily from my horizontal position on the sofa, peered over the top of my pizza and announced to my friend – with a contented/smug smile – that I was “just the perfect amount of hung-over”, I expected him to nod in understanding. Instead he looked at me like I was a bit extraordinary, wrote me off as a crazy and asked “isn’t that an oxymoron??” No. No dear friend it’s not an oxymoron. And this is why.
If, like me, you’re one of those who struggles to sit down in front of the TV for more than 3 minutes without your mind thinking about what you’re going to do when you get back up, you’re hands fidgeting for the nearest rubix cube and your body twitching to at least be hanging off the sofa upside down backwards if it’s going to be forced to be in such a seated position, then you may just understand this concept already. For this inability to be tranquil, though sometimes useful, is a disease. And a real pain in the A for some of us.

Yes, we fidgety types like to be busy and yes we can channel the everlasting surplus energy into all sorts of prolific and unnecessary activities, (like just the other day, I couldn’t bear to sit down after my tea, so I decided to see how many walks I could do on my hands. Turns out not many), but sometimes when you’re knackered from the effort of walking on your hands, it would be nice to be able to take a pew, watch the Xtra factor and shut the hell up for a few hours. I find it nearly impossible. Nearly.

This is something my poor mum had to deal with while I was growing up – if I wasn’t bouncing a ball repetitively outside her window, I was somersaulting on the sofa in my plimsolls and drawing my name all over my grandmother’s book collection (and then blaming my grandmother). My dad too tried in vein to quash it, intermittently playing a game with me called “Let’s See How long We- And By We I Mean Hannah- Can Be Quiet For” when I was aged about 4. I certainly don’t have any trophies from that particular tournament. It was the same with the blinking, laughing, statue and breathing games. And alas, I did not change. Instead emerged a Fidgeter, with a beeline for the next activity before she’s even finished the last.

For the Fidgeters of this world, the only time we can ever actually chill the hell out and have a breather is when we are quite literally struck down. For me this is occasionally by illness, fairly regularly from hangover and potentially at some point in the future by lightning.

Therefore it is a blessed relief when something like a cold saps of us of our excess energy and forces us to lie motionless for hours, sometimes even days on end, with nothing on our minds but the next episode of Friends. Bliss. Though it’s initially frustrating for Fidgeters to be inhibited in this way, once you know there’s nothing you can do it is a secret sweet reprieve. “I can’t be bothered to do my run, but that’s fine because I am ill” and “when I get in from work, if I just want to watch Friends for 7 hours that’s okay, because I NEED TO.” It’s basically a get out of jail free card for any activity or responsibility you don’t really want to contend with, but without the sheer guilt that comes with just sacking it off when you’re in full health.

It is a blissful experience when we can occasionally just STOP and feel nothing other than the snug respite of the divan. Some are born without the burden of the Fidget factor, and they are blessed and they can lie down for days and they can do/think/talk absolutely nothing whenever they fancy it. I envy you. All of you. Because when I’m cleaning the inside of the fridge for the 8th time, you’re chilling out and generally having a wale of a time. Guilt free, because you can’t help it if you’re born like it.

Therefore, sometimes, after a particularly busy few months, if I feel a sniffle coming, it’s all I can do not to stand in the rain, in wet clothes, next to a group of influenza patients, wielding a hand held fan to really break the ice of the group and get the germs flowing. Because catching said influenza is the only way I am going to force myself to have a freaking seat.

But of course there is a fine line between the heavenly, much sought after, low immunity and the unwanted pain of full-scale illness. In my uni days I was frequently knocked off my treadmill by bouts of tonsillitis that left me bed-ridden for days, unable to earn money, unable to finish essays and, worst of all, unable to GO OUT. Horrors. The excruciating pain of 15 knives in my throat and small planets for glands was not worth it for a guilt free week in bed and a V.I.P. pass to temporarily hop off life’s roundabout. Far too high a price to pay for down time and I would rather have just kept going with the Fidgteyness thanks.

The same can be applied to hangovers. Sometimes we spend hours on the bathroom floor while enduring agonising headaches and the occasional feeling we might just die today, awaiting the days end as the excruciating tick of the clock reminds us time is actually going backwards and we have just wasted our one day off teetering on the outskirts of hell. Those days I would rather leave. On other occasions, after a good old fashioned game of VODKA, we’re very pleasantly surprised to find that apart from an overwhelming lethargy and instinct to lie down and eat without a care in the world, we feel pretty fine! And on days like this we happily take to our sofas, grab the nearest blanket, stock up on potato cakes and hope the day never dies. Sigh. It was one of these days I was experiencing when I made the “perfect hangover” comment to my friend. And I still agree with myself.

Currently, I am hovering on the edge of man-flu, and though part of me is stocking up on vitamin C, making soup and getting an early night tonight, there’s a devil inside me that wonders if it just…gets…a…little…worse….I might be able to sack off everything productive this week, hibernate in my room, get the Sex and the City box-set going and gather up all the take away menus ready for action… we can only dream. But until that glorious day arrives, I will write this blog, haul myself to work, run like a crazy woman at the crack of dawn and wonder just what it must be like to be a lazy little sod with all the time, the highest bed-attendance rating and the strongest chill-power in the world.

02 September, 2010

Mobile marathons with your mates. Priceless?

“I’ve got to go, I have just looked at the clock and realised it’s July...”

For me it’s an undoubted fact that girls generally love to spend as much time as possible on the phone. And men don’t. For them, the shorter the call the better. Whether it’s their mum, their girlfriend, their mate or the Chinese, the quicker they can get things wrapped up and say their various ‘I Love Yous’ (in the appropriate places) the sooner they can get on with putting pasta inside massive bread and overfilling the washing machine. And to be honest, I think they’re on to something. Here's why...

I was recently startled and bankrupt in equal measure by the size of my phone bill when it flew happily into my hotmail last week. The sum in front of me was not one for poor eyes. How could this be? I begged of myself, staring accusingly at my phone. ‘You had better not have been calling Australia unknowingly again’ I scolded myself guiltily (it’s been done). I knew I hadn’t actually been holding daily international conference calls with the Southern Hemisphere, but I was traumatized by the figure next to the Payment Due tab on the email in front of me and was sure I couldn’t possibly be responsible. What could I have possibly been doing?!

'A mad dash away from my desk and some well placed hold music (Hey Big Spender) later and I was unceremoniously told by Jane on the o2 switchboard that I had casually gone mightily over my 2,000 free minutes (plus free calls Saturday to Monday. ahem.). Plus then of course there’s the tax, love.'

So basically what I had ‘possibly been doing’ was exceeding my 2,000 mins/m over the course of what is actually only 16 days when you take away the 3 free call days each week. I actually don’t want to do the maths.

The main culprit of my mobile bill quandary is my best friend from school. A clich√© I know, but she and I are a perfect example of the scary amount girls can prattle on about twaddle for several hours and be quite happy to keep doing so until a prior engagement rudely beckons us and makes us resentfully say ‘we’d better go... sigh’, pulled unceremoniously from the colourful envelop of a BFF phone call. And that colourful envelope of joy is exactly why we do it. Some are addicted to Mars bars, some to wine, some to the buzz you get when someone famous tweets you back, and we, the womenfolk, are addicted to the elation of a good old fashioned mega-call with your girls.

The point is, just how do girls manage to rack up so much conversation? I mean I’ve always known I can outtalk Frank, but what do we talk about? If you, the men, are under the impression we discuss proper things and reach genius epiphanies whilst solving worldly dilemmas, you are mistaken. For though we do this sometimes, it’s not what has my phone bill nearing triple figures.

Only recently me and culprit school friend spent a good half an hour (of a 2.5 hour ‘catch up’) coming up with outlandish states of affairs, such as the idea of me loitering near my house with a bandage on my head and claiming to be Humpty Dumpty. Something we found absolutely uproarious for much longer than necessary. I am not going to bore you with the details of how we came to that particular picture, but it was half an hour of my life I will never get back. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to.

For despite the fact that period of time produced nothing but an extra 0 on my o2 invoice, it was 30 minutes spent ecstatically hanging upside down off my bed in a fit of laughter and eventually toppling on to the floor to continue the hilarity laying flat on my carpet, unable to stand for the fact the wheezing and spluttering had drained me of all strength. What’s more, it wouldn’t have been so funny if it was a face to face conversation. Something about the safety of distance means you can conjure up more ridiculous scenarios than you would ever dare in person.

In contrast, when I speak to my male best friend – as enjoyable as those conversations still are! – it’s very different. It’s a case of ticking off an itinerary of points we need to cover this week, progressing through them as quickly as possible, summarising that we’re content we know enough about each other’s lives to tide us over for another week, and then ringing off in time for Big Brother. It is just a completely different kettle of conversation. If I attempt to start a completely unrealistic imaginative wondering and deviate from Real Life, he has a charming habit of  putting his phone down on his bed/desk/nearest cliff edge, goes off to read a chapter and comes back 15 minutes later to find me still talking, unaware I’d ever lost his interest and indeed his ear. It's win-win. He's just not quite so up for the lengthy musings in the fanstasical forum of a phone call that me and my female friends so obsessively indulge in. Well of course, it’s a waste of time...or is it?

It’s not just phone calls. It's not rare for me to hole up in my room for 3 hours on a Sunday afternoon having a Skype date with my my long lost ‘Wife’ friend who's currently residing in Taiwan. Gossiping with my laptop. Telling it stories. Laughing at its jokes. Detailing exactly what I did from last Thursday to now. It’s a good job Wife is on the other end of said laptop at her desk in Taiwan, and what’s more is quite happy to listen to me recite my recent life events in painful detail. In chronological order. Names, times and toppings not omitted.

I suppose it’s not so astonishing then that our phone bills continue to be higher than the average persons IQ every month. Given that we lasses are capable of talking about everything under the moon and spinning downright drivel for hours on end, twice over, every day, I wonder why service providers haven’t developed their own girl-centric tarrifs offering 10,000 minutes for every 50,000 you use, throwing in a free R-Patz screen saver and a box of chocolates for good measure.

"Kerry was cross that Jane had not called her once during thier shopping trip"
When put like this, cost issues aside, I think the population of people with phonebias (male or female) are in fact missing out. Nothing makes us happier than laughing with our best friend about something only we find funny. That is actually not funny. At all. Ever. In any stratosphere.
Even when it's unrequited phone-love, if he does put the phone down on his bed and go off to make some dinner while I prattle on regardless, I still feel radiantly happy when I bounce accidental thoughts off of his uninterested self. So even if my next bill tells me Imust never communicate via mobile again or will be fined £3 million and thrown into isolation until I learn the value of silence (yeah okay then), the chances are I will just pick up the phone and tell someone about it. Speaking to your best mates? Definitely priceless. (Until it reaches the cost of a flight to Taiwan….)