How-to guides No. 1 and 2

How-to guide No. 1

You know that feeling you get when you've just had your carpets shampooed and they're still wet, but you have to walk across the room to fetch something, so you do it in bare feet? You know - that splurgey damp sensation where your feet sink in ever so slightly as though you were walking on a wet gymnastics mat or a pile of blankets that have been on a non-spin wash?

Well, if you want to recreate that feeling, and some of you might, as there's no accounting for taste, here is a recipe for success.

What you will need:

One pair of shoes that you think is waterproof
A weekend in rainy Sheffield
A husband who places a higher priority on comfort than elegance


Pack for the weekend in rainy Sheffield with your husband where you are going to visit your daughter-at-university. While packing, scoff at his decision to take a pair of ugly, enormous walking boots as well as his trainers even though you are only wandering around the city. Smugly put your own attractive and waterproof shoes on, stating that you are only taking the one pair and therefore will have less to carry than he will. Travel to Sheffield. Walk around rainy Sheffield for a whole day. Try to ignore the fact that within an hour, you feel like you are walking on heavy wet gym mats. Admit nothing until you reach the hotel room at night. Pretend that the reason you don't want to go for a drink in the bar is that you are too tired, then peel off your stinking, damp shoes and socks while he is in the bathroom. When he comes out, sneak past him to shower off the mud in between your toes. Forget to leave the shoes near a radiator for the night.

How-to guide No. 2

You know how you've always wanted to run away with the circus? Perhaps you've always fancied being one of the clowns? Well, I can help you to experience just a little of that. Follow these instructions carefully.

What you will need:

One pair of wet shoes
One pair of Size 10 men's trainers
A shovelful of humility


Wake up in a hotel room and admit to your husband that your shoes leaked the day before and that you forgot to dry them overnight. Put the shoes on the radiator. Get in the comment that he was, in the end, quite wise to bring walking boots, so that you get to say it before he does. Now tell him there's no way you can go down to breakfast in a pair of shoes that feel (and, to an extent, smell) like you're wearing used incontinence pads as slippers and that you will have to borrow his trainers even though you wear a size six and a half and he wears a size ten. Slip your feet into his trainers while he puts on his walking boots. Just for good measure, mention that his walking boots make him look attractive. Don't mention that you mean 'potentially attractive to other geeky manky-booted hikers'. Find out that while, yesterday, it took you thirteen paces to cross the hotel room, now it only takes three. Try to rearrange the ends of your trousers over the trainers so that they look less like clown boots, sticking out as they do two metres ahead of you. Make your way carefully down the corridors towards the lift. Make the RIGHT decision not to use the stairs, bearing in mind Shirley Bassey's experience on the Morecambe & Wise show when she sang wearing one very large boot and one stiletto. She would have had a rehearsal, at least. PRAY, PRAY, PRAY that no one else is in the lift, in which there is bound to be a notice saying, '6 appropriately-shod persons only - no clowns'. In the lift, fight for foot room with Husband in a way you've never had to before. Enter the dining room in as nonchalant a manner as you can, considering that your feet got there five minutes before you did and were directed to Table 3 in your absence by a waiter. Try not to think about other people's opinions as you both help yourself to the cooked breakfast, one of you in boots like sheds and one in trainers that are the same length as you are high - so long, in fact, that you take up four people's places in the queue and have to stretch a fair way to get to the mushrooms. Take strength from the thought that maybe everyone thinks you're an off-duty rap artist who's kept her trainers on but just decided to wear a black jumper, black trousers, red T-shirt and flat-hair wig instead of the white tracksuit, bling and hair extensions. (Or they would do if you hadn't done the laces up on the trainers.) Sit at the table with your husband and, while your breakfast gets cold, fight for foot room in a way you've never had to before. If you both decide to go up for more food, plan the manoeuvre carefully. After breakfast, leave the dining room keeping your feet straight ahead to avoid taking anyone else with you, and head for the lift. Shuffle in and do foot-r0om routine again. Try to ignore mirrors, or concentrate hard on the knees-upwards regions. Get back to hotel room and consider wearing Husband's trainers for the day rather than your half-damp shoes. Remember that you are spending another day with your daughter-at-university. Reconsider, and put on your shoes, which are damp but warm, in the way armpits are often damp and warm, bearing in mind the ancient Chinese proverb: wise woman wears gross footwear rather than risk mockery of teenager.

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