Out of the blue, I woke up one morning and my feet didn’t work. I opened my eyes, swung my legs out of the bed, and at the very moment my feet should have begun walking nothing happened and I promptly fell flat on my face.
I asked Dr Google and he was unequivocal. If your fortysomething feet won’t flex in the morning then you are suffering from a condition called plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the soles. There is, naturally, no cure other than to stop using your feet.
However, you can help yourself by wearing trainers. ‘I am going to have to venture into one of those sportswear superstores,’ I think.
According to the builder boyfriend, there are myriad such stores in the wilds of south London and if I haven’t been before then I don’t know what I’m missing. He offers to take me to one — on the weekend, make a day of it.
I tell him that even if we leave aside the issue of whether I shall ever learn to make a day of anything, I cannot wait until the weekend for trainers as my feet are in agony.
So I find myself turning the Volvo into a god-forsaken retail park and limping inside a store the size of an airplane hangar.
First, I see a wall of trainers in every colour. Then I see the word ‘Mens’. Then I see a vast staircase disappearing upwards. And a sign announcing that the women’s trainers are upstairs.
‘Typical!’ I shout. A sales assistant gawps at me. ‘Don’t worry! I’ll climb the stairs. I’m the weaker sex.’ And I throw myself at the steps and batter them with my battered little feet like a demented Nepalese Sherpa.
At the top, huffing, I am regaled by another wall of trainers, but entirely pink. And unlike the men’s, they are not just so. They are all over the floor.
Whereas downstairs assistants bore trainers to men sitting on sofas, here desperate women are pulling trainers off mini-shelves and gazing into them, as if expecting to find something inside like a £10 note, or an old sock, or a piece of paper with the meaning of life written on it. Then, when they don’t, they are throwing them on the floor.
I pick up a trainer and look into it, not knowing why. Then I realise I want to know the size. Of course I do. But I can’t find it. So I throw the trainer on the floor.
The customer next to me, a lady in a hijab, is trying to force her foot into a pink Nike. I look around. There is no help. Nobody is going to come and help us. Nobody! I grab another shoe and look inside. Size 37. I throw it and grab another: 39. I throw and grab: 36. Throw. Grab: 37.5…
Then I realise there is a great mound of boxes in the middle of the floor so I fall to my knees and start opening them and pulling shoes out.
I fantasise that if I pull enough lids off enough boxes the staff will have to come. I find one size 38 in a black Slazenger that I really don’t like.
Eventually, I realise I am emitting a howling noise. And then a sales assistant comes and tells me that if I want a cross trainer I ought to be looking at the other wall. I know I could laugh and say: ‘Cross trainer? What about me? I’m livid!’ But all I can do is whimper:
‘O-other …w-wall? There’s another w-w-w…?’
And he points into the distance where, at the end of the horizon, possibly at the end of the world, I can just make out another wall of trainers. I ask if he will help me but he shakes his head. I must go alone. When I get there I must ask for Dave.
I set off for the other wall in very poor spirits. When I arrive, Dave isn’t there. In fact, no one has even heard of Dave. However, another chap does help me find a cross trainer. It is silver and red and quite comfortable. I like it slightly but that is not the point.
‘I’ll take them. And these too.’ I am still clutching the Slazenger’s. We’ve been through so much together.
He leads me to a cash desk where a cheery girl says: ‘Alright, darlin’, that’ll be £30.’
‘No, you don’t understand. I want to buy both pairs.’
‘That is both pairs, darlin’.’
I text the builder boyfriend to tell him. He texts back to say ‘I told you so’ and what’s more he’s in Wetherspoons having a burger and a pint for £6. ‘Honestly, you’d like it here.’ Maybe we can make a day of it.