Those of you who have not grown up in ye merry olde land of ye gin and tonics may never have experienced that most British of childhood experiences, the regular visits to Clarks to have one’s feet measured. When I was a child, this involved putting one’s foot onto a metal box while the sides excitingly slid in, stopping when they hit foot. When one pulled out one’s foot, one’s new shoe size was revealed to the ponderous sighs of one’s parents. The shops were inevitably dim and slightly dusty and filled with navy Mary Janes and black daps. Lots of places sell children’s shoes but really, there is only one Clarks - which is why, despite putting out only one fashionable shoe a decade, there are still Clarks shoe shops on every high street in Britain.
These days, not much has changed. The shops are brighter and the Mary Janes are now pink but a machine which is undoubtedly a mechanical foot-measurer still exists. The spud’s feet however were measured by a nice man who I am certain sold me shoes when I was 6, using a sizing ruler with a little slider on it. Of course, baring the spud’s feet and crouching down beside him gives him a great excuse to kick a stranger totally senseless while grinning widely and sweetly, like a miniature Malcolm McDowell but without the bowler hat. ‘Aww’ said all the shop assistants as the nice Clarks man retrieved his teeth from the floor.
‘What size is he?’ I asked, having no clue what size a baby’s foot ought to be. ‘5G’ said the nice Clarks man, maintaining a rictus grin while backing away. ‘Is that big?’ I asked again ‘Well’ he said with a smile, pointing to the cute little baby shoes ‘none of these go up to that size’ and he indicated a small shelf of serious looking shoes. I wasn’t sure at that point whether or not a satisfied little smile crossed his face as he watched me furtively clocking the price tags. Mentally I began cancelling holidays for the next ten years as I calculated how regularly we would have to repeat this routine. As we bumped our way out of the shop in the buggy, me clutching to my chest the precious bag of shoes, the nice man called me back. 'Here' he said, holding out a little card with a date scribbled on it 'come back around this time so we can check his size. He should be out of these shoes by then'. I looked at the date. It was
The real trouble is of course that now we know the spud's shoe size, suddenly we are obsessed with buying him shoes. The Frog is the only man I know who can compete with me on 'size of shoe wardrobe' and therefore, as two shoe obsessives, we have already bought the spud a cute pair of size 6 boots for later because they were on sale. Suddenly, time passes not in increments of days but in the spud’s shoe sizes. I’m not sure what this means for my skin, but my bank balance is surely going to be in need of artificial enhancement fairly soon.