The boots I have been looking for all my life turned up the other day. They were in a little shop round the corner from my house, which goes to show that what we are seeking is often right under our nose. I had not gone out looking. I had just popped into the shop to browse and there they were, standing casually by the door. Tan, knee high, a slight western feel, perfect in every way. Except for one. Why is it that when you find the thing your heart desires most it beckons to you with the allure of being meant for you then announces that it is not available? ‘We only have that boot in a size three or seven,’ the ice-cold sales assistant declared.
I am officially a four but sometimes a three. Alas, despite much squeezing, I was not a three that day. I asked whether she could order it but she said no. I pleaded. I begged, I lost all dignity. I cried, I threw myself around the shop like I was fainting. I explained to her that these boots were going to make everything right in my life. She was starting to enjoy it. She was saying no and smiling. I left the shop, but I still had hope. I still had the internet.
I went home and looked up the website for the brand name inside the boot, Kennel & Schmenger. The front page was all black except for a picture of a woman holding a shoe, over which various square shapes were sliding. The only way of getting any further than the front page was by expert manipulation of the computer mouse to balance the avatar precisely over the shoe in the second when the square shapes revealed it and clicking before it disappeared again. It took me many attempts but eventually I forced entry into the next page. This was black with a piercing light flashing out of a logo in the middle. The logo expanded ominously, until it morphed into a whole line of moving shoes and boots. They were sliding ever rightwards in a relentless parade that was unfeasibly terrifying. I flapped about with the mouse and managed to make the arrow stick on one of the boots. No sooner had I nailed it than the boot shot rightwards and the parade recommenced. I tried again, and again. Eventually I worked out that even if you managed to stop a boot moving for a second, clicking on it did absolutely nothing. All that happened was that the boot got bigger for a second before shrinking back into line. There was no way of ordering it. It was boot pornography.
Gripped by a maddening frustration I clicked the mouse on everything else on the screen. The line of words across the bottom did not make much sense — ‘backstage’, ‘press’, ‘contact’, ‘login’ and ‘impressum’. ‘Impressum’ was an address in Germany. ‘Login’ was a deeply forbidding page asking for Kundennummer und Passwort. ‘Press’ was four identical pictures of a smug looking woman wearing some K&S boots not dissimilar to the ones I was trying to order as if to torment me. ‘Backstage’ was a page bearing the following legend: ‘Shoes are the most individuell of all means of transportation — and the one that is closest to us all. Kennel and Schmenger has opted for quality becausewe [sic] believe our customers feet are too important for us to make any compromises.’ Very moving, I’m sure. And I wasn’t asking for compromises, I really wasn’t. Just a way of buying some boots. As it was I was no closer to owning a pair of high quality ‘individuell means of transportation’ than when I started.
But I still had ‘contact’. Surely this would yield something. I clicked and a list of countries came up. Austria, Finland, Great Britain, Lebanon, Luxembourg. I selected Great Britain and a list of towns flashed up from Aberdeen to Leeds. This was odd. Another L town was half visible at the bottom of the screen. London! I tried to move the list down to reach it but it would not go. It had got stuck half way through the alphabet and would not budge. I crashed my mouse about so violently I sent books and papers and pens and paperclips flying off the desk. The cat darted out of the study in anticipation of a major incident. No matter what I did I could not manipulate the icons to display anywhere further down the alphabet than L. My options, therefore, when I reviewed them, were to visit stockists in Douglas Isle of Mann, Kilmarnock, Leichtenstein or Lebanon. The thing is, I really, really want these boots. In any case, I hear Beirut is quite nice this time of year.
Melissa Kite is deputy political editor of the Sunday Telegraph.