If I look at my shoes and boots, lined up I guess I don't know what they achieve either, or what this achieves, this writing. I think it was William Morris who said something along the lines of “If a thing is neither beautiful nor useful then one should throw it away”. I'm not convinced that I'm able to make those distinctions. I feel like I need to purge something from my system, but what? I mean maybe that's it. Perhaps there isn't any grand answer or ever a sense of pure comprehension. I'm probably meant to be confused. It's odd how we search for meanings in everything though. We make these little decisions about what shoes to wear with what outfit and … and … it's like the big stuff doesn't get done.
Apparently, I was hard on my shoes, consequently, from the age of 11 I was forced to wear monkey boots. I wasn't very happy about this. Everyone else at school had normal footwear. It's kind of unfair to make a kid different to their peers. But, I got used to it, so used to it that I continued to wear monkey boots even when I didn't have to.
What I love about the monkey boot is its indestructibility. They're bomb proof. In the wet, they keep your feet dry. In the summer, they let your feet breathe. And they look peculiarly sexy with white ankle socks – well I think so.
At the age of 18 I graduated from monkey boots to para boots. That was a punk thing, a definite construction of image. I'm not sure what it is about punks and para boots, or why essentially we all copy each other while insisting we're anarchically different … I was listening to some Snuff today though, remembering that gig at the Albert, when we nearly brought the ceiling down, and you've got to wear para boots to something like that. You've got to be up for it.
I had a few pairs of DMs as well, but those are for socialists [laughs], white woolly liberals …
My boots stopped being a fashion accessory and started being a necessity when I was working as a builder. I'm the dropsiest cow on earth and there's a limit to what you want landing on your feet. I could've withstood a screwdriver or a spirit level, but a large hammer or an angle grinder would've been a different matter.
There was this one day Steve and I were building a wall. The hippies, who owned the house, wanted it all done with reclaimed bricks, most of which were scattered throughout their huge garden. My job was to toddle about with a wheelbarrow, pick up said bricks, chisel off the old crappy mortar and scrub them clean with a wire brush. It was also my job to get lunch from the deli down the road.
I was surprised to see shocked faces greet my entrance. I looked a bit of a sight, dusty and everything, but not that bad. Mouths were hanging open. The woman behind the counter was crying. I smiled. Everyone frowned. Silence hung in the air like a noxious fart.
“Er, hello,” I ventured cautiously.
“Have you heard?” Five pairs of hungry eyes were upon me.
“About the bombings?”
I hadn't heard. I'd been furtling about in the undergrowth of a mansion garden all morning looking for bricks. I raced back with our sandwiches (beef and horseraddish) and Steve and I sat in his Transit van, eating and listening to the radio.
In common with most people, I found the whole thing completely surreal. The woman from inside the house kept rushing out, tears streaming down her face, asking if we wanted to watch the TV. We didn't. Steve rolled another spliff. At about three O clock we staggered out of his van and carried on building the wall. That afternoon he showed me how to lay bricks perfectly and finish them with a scutch hammer. He was more patient than usual. We'd sort of hit this silent meditation time. A few thousand miles away people were jumping out of collapsing buildings (einsturzende neubauten) and we were here, in this quiet garden, gently reconstructing some antique architecture.
Life's just so weird innit?
I don't wear para boots as a fashion statement anymore. It seems sort of wrong somehow. They're for soldiers' feet and I'm not a soldier and never will be. The ones I have at the moment are German. My Dad would've hated that. Brilliant design though. Perhaps the only boots you can shove your feet straight into and run without doing them up. Didn't occur to me, until relatively recently, that it's probably because that's what soldiers have to do, ie, get woken up in the middle of the night and start fighting 10 seconds later. I don't have to do that. Even if I'm working physically hard, shifting kilos of crap, breaking my back, it's just not the same sort of labour.
Sometimes I wonder who wore my boots before me, because I always buy them second hand, I don't even know if you can get them new. She must have been a woman, because men aren't often a size four. Maybe she was called Greta or Freya or Brunhilde. I'm curious as to how she came to be wearing them. What choices she made in her life. I don't really understand people I suppose. I don't know how those men came to the conclusion that it was a good idea to drive those planes into those buildings. As a spectacle it worked, because it was damned spectacular, but I'm not entirely sure what else it achieved.
I'm wearing my trainers today, and a pair of ripped jeans. This is how I am most of the time. Regular. Like a reasonably sized drink. Like a period. Like a heart beat.
Normality has its appeals, the greatest of which is anonymity. No-one notices me when I'm dressed like this. I'm just some woman, mediocre in appearances and tendencies. Invisible. That's cool. That's cool because I like the sneakiness of sneakers. I'm nobody. Really. I do my shopping and my nails. I clean the toilet. Every six weeks or two months I wax my legs. I help my kids with their homework. Sometimes I burn the dinner to the bottom of a pan (usually rice). This is how it is, you know, slip on, slip off, tune in, drop out. There's nothing to see here, move on, move on.
Kinky boots, I reckon every woman should have a pair, even if she doesn't wear them. I have tiny feet, so winklepickers suit me and they go with anything. Despite appearances they're actually very comfortable, although when I run in the them things do tend to get a bit wobbly.
Strangely, or perhaps not, winklepickers gained notoriety in the 1960s, due to their weapon like qualities. Boots like these are usually made out of soft leather. It's possible to roll the leg length into a ball and use the stiletto heel as a sharp, jabbing thing. Apparently, many testicular injuries were caused in this manner – [giggles].
The thing about wearing heels, even low heels, is they automatically set my hips to hinge swing mode. Of course I know I'm doing it. Obviously I can accentuate it. WHAT? Look, I can't sing, play a musical instrument (well), realistically I have to admit to a slight double chin and my hair doesn't always behave itself properly, so I use what I've got. It stinks doesn't it? The way I avoid potential finger pointing is by saying that at least I'M using it. I mean it's MY ass and if I want to wiggle it surely that's MY choice.
Do men perceive me differently if I'm wearing kinky boots and a pencil skirt? Yes. I'd like to think that most don't automatically assume that I'm advertising availability. But that's the thing with stilettos, they give out two messages simultaneously; 'Look at me,' and 'I can have your eye out'. Maybe it ties into the whole submission and domination thing. I really don't know.
Anyway, these are my kinky boots, my click clack hear me coming down the street heels, my nod to the classic game between the sexes/genders …
There are rules, most notably: Permission is explicit, by implication 'No' doesn't mean maybe and 'Yes' can mean everything.
A question frequently asked in BDSM circles is “When did you know /first realise/become aware that you were into being hurt/restrained/owned??? For years I never had a ready answer. How do you explain pain and submission – FUCKING FREAK? The most dangerous consideration is that you're being manipulated by an/other. Of course, we all want to satisfy those we love. I'm clipping my sentences in an attempt to prevent mutilation …
I cycle pretty much everywhere. Big, black bike, handmade frame, basket strapped to the front. I like the straps, brown leather, little chrome buckles. I use a flexible lock, tensile steel coated in thick, shiny plastic. I fetishise objects …
My bike has a low step over, and frequently I dismount while still in motion. The paving slabs by the supermarket are slightly uneven. I jumped to walk, pushing my bike to the entrance. Red bricks remind me of Birmingham, where I grew up, threw up, escaped from. There aren't any stands here, so I always lock her to some brushed steel architectural detail. As I was doing it my knuckles caught on the wall, scraping skin off. It didn't sting until I sucked it. The metallic taste of blood in my mouth. Flicking my tongue over ragged cuts. And then I remembered …
I fetishised him, Adam, the boy who barely noticed me. He was an angry young man. Yes. I was there. He was there. We were both there. And even though it seemed as if only a hair's breadth separated us …
Pubescent fantasies, I wrote them all down. My notebooks would get passed around the class. Red bricks. The side of a house. A dark alley way. The sweet stench of stale piss. I put him there, Adam, with me pressed against the wall. I was resistant, a good Catholic girl always is, so he pushed harder, gripping my hands in his and scraping them against the bricks, repeatedly, until my skin was torn and bleeding, and I was gasping and begging, wanting what I didn't want …
These days it's an organised reality. Contracts are drawn and signed. From the point I'm collared (literally, not metaphorically) I belong to him. He can do anything to me. I submit. But he's earned that trust. I've only ever met two men my whole life through who could be the master of me. I crave it. I don't want to be responsible, accountable or liable. I want someone else to take that entire weight from my shoulders. The sheer relief. It's like gravity doesn't exist …
But, I'm not a 24/7 sub. I don't do slavery. I'm a costumed whore. I like the corsets and expensive fripperies. We went to a cocktail party the other week and I got dressed up. I knew I looked stunning. Men couldn't approach me. No-one would've dared touch me. Sirens scare the shit out of people …
And there's the paradox, submission is domination, a highly complex art form, one I'm still learning. The shoes, those kitten heels, they're part of the process. It's difficult to attempt a transformation from fury to furry. I'm such a goddamn hellcat most of the time. But they're my Audrey Hepburn shoes, my tie me up tie me down shoes, my tamed defiance, my comfortable silence. They represent a refuge, where my no means no and my yes means yes. Does that make sense?