By the time I was fifteen my feet were size 12. They subsequently grew to be size 13 (14 in many makes) with an extra wide fitting. When I was a teenager, obtaining shoes that actually fitted was a serious problem; I was left in no doubt that I was a freak. Nowadays, with more giants around, High and Mighty comes to the rescue, but even so the choice remains limited.

Once, when I was on holiday in Cyprus, I set my heart on acquiring some chunky leather sandals. I asked around and a well known shoe maker was highly recommended. The visit to his shop did not turn out to be as I expected. The shoe maker, an elderly man, insisted on giving me a cup of tea and showing me all the testimonials he had collected from the great and the good for whom, over the years, he had made shoes. I recognised some of the names – a smattering of nobility, some well known politicians and some captains of industry. It was all rather daunting.

Eventually, I plucked up the courage to ask him if he’d make me a pair of sandals. He politely, but firmly, told me that he only made shoes, not sandals. Now, it so happens that at the time I had sufficient pairs of shoes, but by then I was in such awe of this man that I felt it would be rude to press the point and insist on sandals. So, I carved in and commissioned him to build me some shoes that I didn’t need. He made me stand, in my bare feet, on a large sheet of flip chart paper while he carefully drew an outline of both my feet. I then chose the style of shoe from a catalogue he had compiled, gave him my address in the UK, and paid him in advance. Trusting, but total satisfaction was never in doubt.

Some six weeks later a parcel arrived covered in Cyprus stamps. I opened it and there, as promised, was a magnificent pair of shoes, pristine and reeking of leather. I tried them on and was horrified to find they were too small. My toes touched the end and the wide fitting wasn’t wide enough. I thought they might give a bit after I had worn them a few times but it was agony. I decided to return them with an apologetic note, conscious that the famous shoe maker would be expected a testimonial to add to his collection.

There was no word from Cyprus, no refund, no nothing. After about six weeks, when I had resigned myself to losing my money, another parcel arrived. I broke it open and there, gleaming in the midday sun, nestled another pair of magnificent shoes. I tried them on but this time they were too big.

This was a new experience for me; never before had I had shoes that were too big for me! I hadn’t the heart to send them back a second time, so I wore them with two pairs of thick skiing socks. And all I’d ever wanted were sandals without, of course, socks.

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