With a sinking feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach, I knew that the time was approaching. For some time now, I had been drifting along in relative bliss, the memory of the last occurrence but a dim afterthought in the dank recesses of my mind. However, with an inescapable inevitability, the telltale signs began to show through. I tried ignoring them, tried to push them away and hope they'd stay submerged but to no avail. The time was fast approaching again and I had no alternative. I would have to square my shoulders, gird my loins, grit my teeth and take the plunge. There was no getting away from it - I would have to go shoe shopping.
I have to a hatred for shoe shopping that borders on the pathological. It's not an irrational phobia - for starters, it's not a fear but very much a hatred. I know exactly where it stems from and that is two specific places. Firstly, I have very wide feet. Now, you may not think is sufficient grounds for a burgeoning intense dislike but I can tell you it is when every shoe shopping trip as a wee nipper involved going into every single shoe shop in Lewisham, being measured on every conceivable machine and trying on what felt like pretty much every shoe in the shop until eventually we went back to the first shop and bought the pair that was the least uncomfortable.
"OK," I hear you say, "so you had horrible shoe shopping experiences as a child. Well, boo hoo, get over it, you're a grown man." Ah but that's not the only reason. The second reason I hate shoe shopping is because, for three and a half years, I was a children's shoe salesman in Selfridges on Oxford Street. Yes, I do appreciate the irony - boy who hates shoe shopping grows up to work in shoe shop, fitting shoes for children. My, how we laughed.
It's an eye-opening experience, working in a shoe department. Particularly a children's one. I know what you're thinking - that the kids must be the worst part of working there. Not so. True, a lot of them were irredeemable shitbags (this was Oxford Street after all and people who shop in Selfridges like to think they're posh but can't afford to shop in Harrods) but they weren't the main problem. Oh no, my friends, the real problem were the mothers. The mothers who are convinced they know best over a trained shoe-fitter (oh yes, they trained us; we went on a couple of days training to learn how to fit the shoes as an ill-fitted shoe can damage growing bones, folks) and the ones who want to save a bit of cash by getting them two sizes larger to grow into. Now, I'm the sort of person who, even if he doesnlt like a job, still takes pride in being able to do that job well and it was always depressing to watch a kid leaving the floor with his/her shoes falling off his/her feet. Even more depressing when they came back the following week for a refund because they didn't fit and our policy meant we had to honour that.
It's also a frightening insight into the world of the shop worker. You know how sometimes you give them a pair of shoes and they go off and spend ages "looking for it"? No, they're not looking for it. They're chatting to their mate who works out the back or having a sit down with the paper for a bit. This is something which I can confirm as a fact. I know, I did it (but only to people who were rude to me).
All of which means that I resent spending my time having to shop for things which will be worn on my feet until they fall apart, making me buy new ones, all because I don't want to step on sharp things or dog plops when I'm walking around. So I've perfected my "smash and grab" technique. Into to first shoe-type shop (preferable if it sells clothes as well so you can do the whole thing in one fell swoop), pick three likely looking pairs and, if they don't cripple you when you try them on, buy, buy, buy!
Which means that I managed to try on and buy one T-shirt, three shirts and three pairs of shoes today in an hour and that includes the half an hour it took to walk there and back. Smash and grab, people, smash and grab.