Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I have an ungovernable love of shoes and boots. Heels, flats, knee length, ankle length; footwear of beauty in all its delicious forms. Hiking boots are the antithesis of footwear of beauty. They are interminably dull. And, as I found out, horrifically expensive too.
The undernourished nine year old who was helping me purchase aforementioned walking boots was not so subtly astonished to discover that a person of my advanced years was going hiking in Nepal. He hid his astonishment as best he could and kindly helped me to a vacant seat. He flew into a flight of fancy that involved him seriously expecting me to pay four hundred and fifty quid for walking boots. Readers, this did not occur, except in his nine year old imagination.
Then, much to my disgust, he told me I was a size five (I’m not), but in my role as a silly little old lady, I took his advice and became the disgruntled owner of a pair of super boring, incredibly expensive walking boots, that are indeed slightly too big for my dainty, lady-like feet. I am not prepared to divulge how much cash he extracted from me that day, but let’s just say it was more than I really wanted to pay for a pair of ugly boots that are at least a size too big for me.
My main cause of offence was the price of the socks. For the price that Go Outdoors (or whatever the name of the nasty establishment was) charges for these things, I seriously expected them to be handed knitted from unicorn tail hair. I refrained from purchasing the socks.
I texted Bec that afternoon, it went something like this:
Me: “I’ve purchased fucking hiking boots....”
Bec: “Ooh, how exciting” (Bec is wonderfully upbeat about everything - it can get annoying at times)
Me: “I fucking hate them, and you, and fucking Nepal and they cost the gross national debt of Nicaragua”
Bec: seventy billion guffawing face emojis....
Unlike Bec, with her gazelle like limbs, my lower limbs are not designed for this style of footwear. I look WAY better in my Louboutin’s - wonderfully purchased for my fiftieth birthday by the youngest of my children, hereafter referred to as ‘Special Precious Boy’. More of him later.
I am a little older than Bec, so by this point in time, I had already ’celebrated’ my fiftieth birthday.
Asked by the Special Precious Boy and my sort of boyfriend thing (it takes complicated to an entirely new level), what I wanted to do for my fiftieth, I opted for a day of drinking fizz and then a posh meal. I had various flirtations with a visit to the zoo or nothing at all, as it really is too depressing to think about your fiftieth, unless your Bec who appears to think its some kind of rebirth or second coming.
Cutting later to that evening, after a wonderful day with TBT (The Boyfriend Thing) we set out to the nearest Miller and Carter for a celebratory steak. Special Precious Boy also graced us with his presence.
I belatedly realised that three bottles of fizz and a pair of inappropriate knickers that really should have been labelled ’I’m definitely NOT fifty‘ knickers don’t mix well. Scrolling through to another two bottles of fizz and many despairing looks from TBT and Special Precious Boy, I was undeniably drunk. Being helped from the establishment (I can’t walk in Loubs), I decided that removing the aforementioned ‘I’m definitely NOT fifty’ knickers (excruciatingly uncomfortable), outside Miller and Carter was the way to go.
”Perhaps hiking boots are the way forward” was my second thought the following morning when my hangover abated enough to allow the pain from my feet to intrude. My first thought was “Jesus, did I really take my ‘I’m definitely NOT fifty’ knickers off and throw them at TBT outside Miller and Carter?”
The answer, when I vocalised this somewhat worrying question was “Yes, yes you did” delivered in what can only be described as withering tones by TBT.
I hereby apologise to all the people that may have witnessed my ungrateful collapse into being fifty.
Pip wears Loubs and Bec wears Jimmy Choos. Neither of us naturally wear hiking boots.
Roll on eighteen months after the wedding. Pip had taken a restraining order out on her fourth husband after only five weeks of marital bliss. She’d moved house (twice), adopted a very large, black Alsatian and changed jobs by this time.
I’d tried to work with several start ups, failing miserably to get on with the owners and founders who were lovely, but I couldn’t work with. By now I’d realised it was definitely me that was the problem and self-employment remained by destiny.
In 2019, a year before my fiftieth birthday, I tracked down the details of the trekking company that I’d waffled on about at the wedding and got some information. Between Pip and I we decided we couldn’t really afford it, but we should go anyway.
The marketing literature was very appealing. Lots of stunning images of impressive landscapes, suitably exotic looking people in brightly coloured robes and plenty of evidence of prayer flags flapping in the wind. There was even a paragraph about taking a special trip to the Yak Plains. I had no fucking clue what the Yak Plains were, but they sounded great. Perhaps I would taste Yak’s milk after all.
In my enthusiasm, I contacted the organiser, a nice Scottish chap called Gavin and enquired as to whether two slightly older women with absolutely no experience of trekking or even walking very far would be suitable to take part.
He assured me that they took things very slowly and the day was spent focusing on the cultural aspects of the remote villages and the religious communities we would be trekking to each day.
Feeling quite relaxed, I duly completed his registration form. He needed six people to sign up before he could confirm the trip was going ahead. No money was yet to change hands, which in my mind meant it wasn’t real.
I forwarded the form to Pip, which as I write, I realise I haven’t checked she’s completed.
My forty ninth birthday was upon me and my ever-patient husband kindly purchased a serious pair of walking boots for me. I decided that it would take about a year to wear them in sufficiently to avoid blisters. Comfort is of paramount importance these days.
The boots cost almost as much as a pair of Jimmy Choos and I was hesitating in my choice of birthday present, wondering whether it was too late to change my mind and spend my fiftieth in a champagne bar with friends.
A man approached me in the well known, family run outdoor emporium in Perth. It was too late. There was no turning back now.
Those immortal words were uttered, “Can I help you?”
”Yes please.” I said breezily, pretending that I was in my natural environment.
”I’m going trekking in Nepal next year and I need a pair of walking boots.”
There, I’d said it to a complete stranger and would definitely have to follow this pipe dream through. It almost doesn’t count when you say things to friends and family because they’re used to hearing you talk all kinds of crap. Or maybe that’s just my friends and family and their thoughts about me.
”What time of year are you going?” Was his immediate reply.
”November”. I said, mustering my best nonchalant tones.
”What altitude will you be trekking to?”
”Fuck! Fuck!” I thought, I hadn’t been prepared for this. “Err, about four and a half thousand feet.” I’d vaguely remembered that the Yak Plains were that high up.
The man with the kind eyes didn’t miss a beat. “Do you mean metres?”
”Yeah, metres. That’s what I meant. Four and a half thousand metres.”
Wishing to minimise my very obvious ignorance about all things trekking related, I moved the subject on.
”Do you have anything suitable in a seven?”
”It’s best if we measure your feet first.” This man clearly had the patience of a saint.
”Really? I’ve been a size seven since I was thirteen years old.” I retorted, just about keeping the sarcasm out of my voice, I was after all, on the back foot.
We went through the foot measuring ritual, complete with sturdy walking socks to ensure authenticity. It seemed like he was right. My feet, in the world of trekking had grown to a size eight. I was secretly relieved that I’d managed to curb my sarcasm.
I tried on a series of ugly boots, all of which made my feet look like the giant boots the Tweenies wear in the CBeebies programme. The people in the shop had thought of everything and I spent the next twenty minutes walking on rocky things on a slope and pretending to trek up a hill.
Not having a clue about walking boots, I plumped for the most expensive pair which had to have a special insole fitted for my delicate, narrow feet, designed more for the accelerator pedal on a Ferrari, than size eight walking boots and rough terrain.
New socks were also purchased and cleaning fluids. Strict instructions were imparted to me about the perils of not cleaning your boots after each walk and remembering to use Nickwax (I’d aways assumed this was some brand of sexual lubricant) frequently to ensure the boots remained waterproof.
I left the store, several hundred pounds lighter and with a sense that a line had now been crossed. These boots had to be word. They demanded to see the outdoors, feel the rocks beneath them and experience the exhilaration of ascending a large hill, slash, small mountain.
All Pip and I needed to do now was embark on our first trek.