Archive for July 17th, 2008

How’s this for a big, fat, screaming paradox? I like shoes, in the same way that Hef likes blondes. The same way Amy Winehouse likes to ‘flirt’ with Class A’s. The same way that WAGS like fake tan and getting ‘papped’ on their holliers. That is to say, I like shoes A LOT.

Yet here’s the rub. Girls who harp on incessantly, breathlessly and publicly about how much they love their shoes? Me no likey.

To me, it’s become such a pathetic, predictable, lazy single-girl cliché. Ostensibly taking their lead from Sex & The City and its ilk, a lot of successful women bang on about Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks as though they are the singular passports to success, sexiness and being beautiful. However, these tend to be the same ladies who tote a fake Mulberry or Louis Vuitton bag across town, and carry their gym gear in a battered Harvey Nichols bag. Pay no mind to them. Give me a girl who’s got a weakness for knickers, notebooks…hell, even nipple-clamps, any day of the week. Anything but a lass who’s happy to follow the crowd. Lord knows I tried to break away from my own innate, inbred love of shoes but it seems I am alas stuck with this particular passion.

Long before Carrie Bradshaw or Marian Keyes ever said I could, I coveted footwear like no other. In Junior infants, Emma Thompson became the first of a long line of people I would envy from the ankle down. The girl showed up in school – without warning, I hasten to add – wearing patent grey Mary-Janes. Next to my sensible black sandals, she might as well have been wearing Cinderella’s crystal slippers. I was beside myself with envy and avarice.

The following summer, I begged the powers that be for grey Mary-Janes. I petitioned and canvassed like a politician in the last-chance saloon, marched and howled like a pint-sized suffragette, until the yearly pilgrimage to Clarks. Come September, and resplendent in my own Mary-Janes, I went back to school to find that Emma Thompson was now wearing red, pointy sandals. They even had a little heel. Bitch.

Up until the age of seven, I became roundly and unhealthily obsessed with Holy Communion shoes, pawing them and perving on them every chance I got. Shag the dress, veil and parasol. Or the money, for that matter. I recall the day my mother produced her own Holy Communion photograph. It was the ’50s, and the poor girl looked stony-faced and stoic in a cast-off from one of her 6 sisters and sensible black shoes. At the time I was appalled – she might as well have walked down the aisle on bloody stumps.

Next up came a year-long fling with acid-bright canvas pumps, thanks in part to Dirty Dancing. (As an aside, a pal – with three sisters, no less – admitted that she had never seen this nugget of cinematic frivolity. It was like hearing she had no nipples. But I digress). My pocket money went not on toys (I would bag whatever gadgets my brothers had), but on magazines like Look In! Hi!, Girl, and Smash Hits, and pumps in every garish colour of the rainbow. And let me tell you, there’s nothing like the sight of an immaculately-heeled 10-year-old playing rough with boys’ toys.

In secondary school came the mandatory Converse/penny loafer/brothelcreeper phase. It was my first and last attempt at normalcy, and I broke free towards the world of gnarly steel-toe boots as soon as I could. My mother and grandmother would stare down at my monstrosities – teamed with cheesecloth shorts, check shirts, or whatever Courtney Love was wearing that week – with a mixture of awe, revulsion, confusion and amusement. It was like I had strapped two miniature bearded ladies to my shins.

Anyway, you get the gist. There is no extricating myself from this now abominable and unimaginative folly at this stage in the game. Nowadays, people come to my house and visit ‘the shoes’, as though I’m harbouring a pair of conjoined albino twins in a cage in my spare room. And yes, the shoes are a sight to behold…plentiful, colourful, many of them treacherously vertiginous. Still, I don’t go in for the designer stuff: you can keep your Manolos (too ladylike), your Jimmy Choos (too pricey) and your Ginas (too slaggy). As long as I can get my hands on Buffalo beauts and old faithfuls from Penneys, I’m a happy camper.

Sometimes I think about Emma Thompson, hoping that she’s had six kids and works part-time in telemarketing, destined never again to even smell a new shoe in these recession-riddled times. For my part, I shall continue to do the hoovering in my newest pair of heels, to break them in before they make their open-air debut. If it’s any consolation, this career as a footwear fiend has rendered my tootsies callused, corned, blistered and banjaxed to bits. Au naturel, they look like the doormats of hell. If anything, I need the shoes for camouflage.

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Joan As Police Woman

So last night I went out driving with my mam; she’s got her driving test coming up and I’m trying to help her get over her fear of driving, other cars, traffic, horns, pedestrians, cars emerging from side streets, traffic lights and other such horrors. She is coming along fantastically.

When I got home, I poured myself a big glass of Jacob’s Creek rose (I never drink JC but it was the only thing under a tenner in Superquin) and stuck on Joan As Police Woman’s new album, To Survive.

I love this album. It’s not normally the style of music I listen to. It’s kind of funky and soulful and even a bit cheesey at times. While I really liked Joan Wasser’s last album (and played ‘Christobel’ way too many times for my obsession to be healthy), To Survive is light years ahead as a work of art. It’s intensely individual and personal. Joan seems to have tapped deep into feelings and experiences of love, which makes me feel, when I listen to the album, that I’m going through her journey of self-discovery and sexual awakening along with her. (If that doesn’t sound too creepy.)

My favourite songs are Holiday, To Be Loved, To Be Lonely (it makes me cry), and Hard White Wall. It also works as a whole album, which is rare. The last album that did that for me was Shelby Lynne’s I Am Shelby Lynne. The only song that doesn’t really belong is the closer, the political To America, a duet with Rufus Wainwright.

It was only after a few times listening to To Survive, savouring it and really ‘feeling’ what Joan was singing, that I realised why it was so special: it’s not often you get to hear the point of view of a 39-year-old woman singing from the heart. Okay so Madonna is 50, but it says nothing to me about my life.

It’s rare to find an album I can actually relate to, as a woman. So why not pour yourself a glass of rose, preferably a nice pinot grigio blush, and stick on Joan As Police Woman’s To Survive. You won’t regret it. It conjures up an image of pure blissed-out happiness and you can’t help but feel the same and sway and feel pretty damn mellow… I’m thinking of sticking it on the stereo in my mam’s car the next time we go driving.

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