I OCCASIONALLY delude myself that I have an eye for a bargain. I do not. What I do have is the ability to read price tags and think, “Oh, that’s cheap,” without going on to conclude that cheap things are generally cheap because they are not very good.
So when I saw that I could buy two pairs of Chelsea boots – one black, one brown – for £40, I did not do what you would do, ie, shake my head and think, “Can you imagine the mug who would buy those?” Instead, I bought them. And I wore them.
And in the beginning, it went quite well. They were comfortable and springy, with a satisfying cushioned thump of a footstep, and I walked with the gait of a much younger man, the sort of man who would turn heads on Carnaby Street and feature in a moody monochrome photo shoot in a derelict factory for GQ.
But when I was removing the brown boots, the right heel detached itself. I do not know what the manufacturer had used to affix the heel to the upper, but, judging by the evidence, it appeared to have been the adhesive used on Post-It notes. Never mind, I thought. Dodgy batch. At least I still have my black boots.
I suppose I must have worn the black boots about 15 times. I don’t keep a record of these things, but I know when I bought them and can extrapolate.
And then it happened.
I was leaving the Liverpool Daily Post Hyperdome after a long day of being paid to be me, and I could hear the pleasingly cushioned thump-thump- thump-thump of my footsteps.
I left the building. Thump-thump-thump- thump. I crossed the road. Thump-thump-thump- thump. I mounted the pavement. Thump-thump- thump-thudump.
Thudump, I thought? I looked at my right heel. It was hanging off, like a broken exhaust.
At first, I was angry. Did the shoe manufacturer actually build the boots so that they would disintegrate after 15 uses?
Which evil mastermind would come up with a plan like that? Lord Sugar? It is not as if I were giving them unwarranted punishment, I hadn’t been up Snowdon in them, or walked across hot coals. I’d only been to Tesco in them three times. Did they toss a coin to decide if they’d stick the heel on with a Pritt Stick or Blu-Tack? I bet they were all laughing at me, and the other dupes who had shelled out twenty quid.
But anger would get me nowhere. It was my feet that would have to get me somewhere, specifically home. And I had a dodgy boot. I had to find a way of crossing the city centre without my footwear malfunction being observed. This was not my fault, but a casual observer might have concluded that I was the sort of idiot who buys cheap shoes.
I started to walk, but not normally, as perhaps you would walk.
Imagine walking wearing flip-flops.
Now imagine replacing the left flip-flop with a heavy, if pleasingly cushioned, boot and continue walking.
Now imagine attempting to conceal the fact that you are wearing a flip-flop as you walk. It would sound a little like this – thump-shuffle- thump-shuffle – and it would look exactly as you imagine. I was walking with a limp, the likes of which the world had never before seen.
And, instead of provoking derision for being the sort of idiot who buys cheap shoes, I actually detected tenderness in the eyes of passers-by. Shrapnel wound, they would probably have speculated.
So now I was taking sympathy which should have been spent on the genuinely physically lame, instead of on the genuinely morally lame. I was in a very dark place, even darker than a branch of Hollister during a power cut.
I made my decision. And so I walked with my head held high, with a thump-thudump- thump-thudump, all the way home. It was excruciating, but humiliation beats guilt every time.
Still, 40 quid for two pairs of boots!