Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

I’ll walk tall through it all in the latest Louboutins

As the snow and ice hit returned midweek, I turned the pages of the Daily Mail, shaking my head over the stories of abandoned cars, grounded planes and commuters struggling to navigate Siberian-style streets.

One photograph particularly caught my eye. It was of a woman pushing her scooter along a treacherous, snowy road.

What delighted the caption writer was that, in sub-zero conditions, the woman, unbelievably, was wearing satin kitten heels, with bows.

The reason I stared at the photo was that the woman was me. Obviously, I would have preferred the caption to say “stoic face of the whiteout”, but it was not inaccurate to depict me as Bridget Jones.

I have witnessed two city catastrophes: the fall of the twin towers in New York on September 11 2001 and the Tube bombings in London on July 7 2005.

Nothing could have been |less important than shoes on |those days, yet they became an issue because people had to walk everywhere.

Photographs show city workers wearing trainers and smoking cigarettes. But I strode from Canal Street to Times Square and back again, and from Hammersmith to Canary Wharf and back again, in my L K Bennetts.

The futile vanity was my flag for Western civilisation. There will be no Jimmy Choo once al-Qaida turns all women into enslaved crows.

I can see why the shoes could occasionally seem misjudged. Some years ago, while I was reporting on the Royal Navy, I was invited to have lunch with the captain of an American warship patrolling the Gulf of Aden.

I had to climb down the side of the British frigate and into a dinghy, cross a couple of miles to the American ship and clamber up a rope ladder. The water was rough and it was hard to get a footing. Particularly in four-inch, black suede court shoes.

Each anniversary of my marriage, my husband, who is from Yorkshire, plans a short trip for us.

We look at buildings of historical interest, walking miles from place to place. I blink at him rapt with gratitude and admiration. He stares at my feet with sorrow and exasperation. “Why can’t you wear sensible shoes?”

We will go through the same choreography as I bounce downstairs for our daily walk. My husband will be wearing hiking boots, fiercely laced. The children will be in Wellingtons. I will be in pretty jewelled pumps and bare ankles.

As incomprehensible as it is |to my husband, it is perfectly |logical to me. I have feet, not hooves, and hate the weight of walking shoes. They blister and rub and take ages lacing and unlacing.

They look so angry and utilitarian on the doormat. As for trainers, I don't think anyone over the age of 17 can wear them.

The weather may be cold, but it should not be grim. We need a little magic in our lives and it tends to be shoes.

It is why women flock to shoe films such as Sex and the City, while men prefer boots-and-socks movies such as Touching the Void.

When I first started riding my scooter, it took me time to master the balance. On one occasion, while zooming along, I wobbled and my delicate shoe fell off into the road. Lorries screeched and halted in fury.

But a woman passer-by, spotting what had happened, threw herself into the centre of the traffic to retrieve my slingback.

She would not have laughed at my high-heeled snow shoes.

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