A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Hooptedoodle #107 – The Mystery of the Missing Shoe Sizes

Today’s practical problem at Chateau Foy. Well, there are several problems, but I’ll spare you the broken gatepost and the window sash cord which suddenly, mysteriously became 12 inches shorter. Today’s treatise is on the subject of shoes.

My son is now 11, and is growing rapidly, as they do. He is, however, one of the youngest in his year at school, and is one of the smaller boys, so I can only assume some of the others are even scarier.

The immediate issue is a class outing to a concert tomorrow night – yes, that’s Friday night. As a brilliant interweaving of recent class projects on WW2 and orchestral music, some unspeakable genius has come up with the idea of sending almost two dozen 11-year-olds to an evening performance of Britten’s War Requiem.

I would welcome suggestions for better ways to turn kids off serious music for life – off the top of my head, I guess it could have been Gorecki, but I can think of no finer recipe for fidgety, bored children and stressed teachers – especially with a one-hour bus trip into Edinburgh and back and a 7:30pm start.

To make everything perfect, the dress order will be “smart casual”. Terrific. It makes sense on official school outings to get the children to wear uniform – it is smart and practical, and Lord knows we are obliged to buy a great deal of it from the approved suppliers. However, they who know best have decreed that smart casual it will be. There will now be a lot of social pressure to compete on the fashion and labels front, such as you might expect at a small, rural, private school.

There is no reason why the kids should behave any differently – there is a substantial clique of the mothers who obviously put a lot of emphasis on this sort of thing – the merit of an individual is judged by the weight of bling they carry to school and the degree of feigned carelessness with which they park the Range Rover. Within the last couple of years I have learned, for example, that there is a league table of prestigious manufacturers of rubber boots. Gosh.

Anyway, the immediate problem is that our son is fresh out of smart casual shoes. He has sports boots, trainers, hillwalking boots and actual school shoes galore, but nothing suitable for tomorrow’s outing. It’s not that he is deprived, you realize – he’s just between shoes (so to speak). No problem – just buy some, and make sure that he is not going to be humiliated by them.

Not so easy – his size is 5.5, which corresponds to US size 6, and takes a narrow fitting. Two days’ intense shopping effort by the Contesse – who is a world-ranked shopper, by the way – have produced nothing. I’ll repeat that – nothing. Boys’ sizes go up to 6, but none of our local shops stock anything over 4. Men’s sizes start at 5, but the shops do not stock anything below 6. Now such shoes must exist, but presumably the shops stock only what they are asked for.

From a scientific point of view, I am very interested in this:
  1. Every man who has feet bigger than size 5.5 must have passed through size 5.5 at some point, and I can’t believe they all went barefoot or stayed indoors when it happened.
  2. Most of my son’s friends had size 5.5 feet (approx.) about a year ago – we need more information about how they managed – we didn’t notice anyone in sandals or anything at the Christmas party, so they must have come up with some solution which has escaped us thus far
  3. It seems we could probably get size 5.5 shoes online, but shopping online for shoes is a dodgy proposition – especially if you take a narrow fitting
  4. Most interesting of all, there is no shortage of girls' shoes in any size you can think of - discuss...
Nature abhors a discontinuity – something has gone wrong here. We have to come up with something by tomorrow night, since even fashionable rubber boots will not do for the concert. A shopping trip into Edinburgh – or possibly New York – might be required.

Why are things always so complicated?


  1. It used to be Clarks in my day. Have they all gone?

  2. and I detest Benjamin Britten, even though I am named after him...

  3. Send him in his school shoes.... :o)

    1. That is exactly what I would do, but we may be barred from future parents' evenings if we do. Actually, that's not such a bad idea...

  4. I jam certain that you'll want to know what happened in the end…

    We found a pair of old casual shoes which still fit, in the wardrobe (no-one would have thought of that), and the concert went quite well - Nick thought it was good - impressive - but a bit long. And maybe too much singing - right.

    The party stopped at McDonalds on the way back and had piggy ice-creams with crushed things sprinkled on, and the bus got back dead on time. No sweat.

    I don't like it. Things are too quiet.