Walk from Leith to Porty made me feel like Anna Pavlova (if she had been on Napoleon's retreat from Moscow) – Susan Morrison

When the great ballerina Anna Pavlova danced, legend says she left a bloody trail across the floor.

Friday, 4th February 2022, 7:26 am
Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova (1885 - 1931) perfroming in a production of 'Chopiniana' in New Zealand.   (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova (1885 - 1931) perfroming in a production of 'Chopiniana' in New Zealand. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Hard on the feet, ballet. Well, if you are going to go about on extreme tippy-toe, then expect retribution from Mother Nature. Been thinking a lot about poor Anna this week. Mainly because of those bleeding feet.

On Sunday, I was going to lunch with two rather marvellous women at The Espy on Portobello prom, which, terrifically, is open and ready to take your order.

There is much to commend a bar with a sea view, crammed with diners, drinkers, wild swimmers, dog walkers and kids.

The welcome from the friendly staff is just as warm for folks in Dryrobes looking for a good cup of tea, as for families and friends booking in for three-course meals with posh plonk. Go. Thank me later.

A spot of pre-lunch exercise should be in order, I thought. A walk from Leith to Porty. It's about an hour, until recently the state-sanctioned time for our trot around the exercise yard.

I decided to wear my new shoes. They are incredibly smart. Leather brogues. Very nice. The sort of thing 1920s’ lady golfers would have matched with tweed skirts and strongly held opinions about disappointing politicians. Looking at you, Mr Johnson.

Now, I haven't actually worn proper shoes for the entire lockdown. I’ve been cutting about in trainers, mainly.

Halfway across Leith Links, the trouble started. A niggling little pain in my left heel. Right at the back. Not to be outdone, my right started to make its views on the wearing of hard leather shoes against skin softened by long months of cushioned fabric.

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Naturally, because I am an idiot, I did not turn around, go home and change. Me? Never. Made of sterner stuff. Well, I might be, but my heels sure aren’t. By the time I got to Porty, my feet looked like I had been on the retreat from Moscow.

Two glasses of wine it took me to recover. And then I had to hobble home. The damage is spectacular.

Women will be wincing right now as shoe-related combat flashbacks re-surface. The agony of ridiculous footwear. Heels, rubbed and bleeding. That particular pain in the ball of your foot where the satanic engineering of stilettos forced your entire body weight to balance on just a few square centimetres.

No wonder Thatcher walked funny. The toes squeezed into pointy narrow party shoes screaming for mercy at the end of a long night. And strappy sandals were no better. How many of us have complemented a summer outfit with Eastoplast around a scabby, scraped big toe?

Look closer at the old photos of family parties and Christmas office nights out. Some of those smiles are plastered over seriously gritted teeth.

Men, of course, weren’t daft enough to wear sky-scraper heels, or ram their feet into too-tight, too-small shoes, even if they were a bargain in the sales.

And when it came to sandals, well, British men protected their skin by wearing socks, even if their families objected strenuously. My dad wore those big shorts as well. Mum was mortified. She wouldn’t speak to him in public.

She had a lot to say to me about breaking shoes in. She was right. Next time, I’ll listen.

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