My worst experience was getting stuck in boots at Bluewater. Not the shop – that would have been a piece of cake (a piece of low-calorie cardboard Shapers cake, no doubt) – but spending the night giving myself a free Brazilian and a St Tropez whilst wearing a leatherette-look bikini and inch-long false eyelashes would have been a dream compared with what really happened.
No, I got stuck in a pair of boots in Bluewater. It was my own fault; I had deviated from the Clarks’ range for ladies with calves like an East German shot-putter and was very attracted to a pair of boots for normal people (or skinny cows, as I call them). I tried on the right and asked the assistant for the left. Now where some people have one ear slightly bigger than the other or possibly a boob, I have, apparently, one calf bigger than the other. So what was on the right a snug but do-able fit, on the left became a feat of dexterity and patience, poking in the next little bit of flesh oozing out before pulling the zip up quick before it escaped again. I inched the zip up to the top where I was left with a below-the-knee muffin-top on an excruciatingly painful calf. Luckily the assistant had wandered off and wasn’t watching as I tottered to the mirror.
Nice boots, wrong legs.
I sighed – that same sigh – and hobbled back to the chairs. I took off the right boot and tried to pull the zip down on the left. It wouldn’t budge. Not even a millimetre. You’d think the pressure of all that flesh inside would have made it burst open like a dead pig left in the sun but no, I was trapped.
The assistant wandered back. ‘Everything okay?’
‘He he he.’ (Girlish giggle.) ‘I seem to be a bit stuck.’
She knelt and gave the zip a couple of tugs.
‘Oh, yeah,’ she said. ‘I’ll get the manager.’
Lindsay appeared, all brisk efficiency. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll get you out,” she said.
She then did a neat little trick which you could try if you ever find yourself stuck inside a pair of boots. She took the lace off another shoe and threadled it through that hole that all zips have on the pull tab. She then took both ends of the lace, wrapped them around her hands and yanked down violently two or three times.
She tried again, even harder.
By now a small crowd had started to gather.
Five or six times she tried, each more violent than the last but the boot stayed welded to my leg.
Finally she sat back on her heels, slightly breathless, huge red welts over her hands, and said,
‘I’ll have to get Nathan.’
The crowd murmured its approval and parted to let her through. I looked to the shop assistant for reassurance but she’d wandered off again, having realised I wasn’t going to yield a commission.
The music to Rocky started playing as Nathan appeared from the stock-room in a light jog, throwing punches into the air in front of him as he came. Not really, but when I replay the horror over in my mind, that’s how I see it except he was more like Mohammad Ali, a black God; that he was honed to perfection under his work shirt was all too plain to see.
Ali, I mean Nathan, knelt down in front of me, the crowd closing in behind him, wanting to see what he saw, be part of the rescue. After a few seconds’ reflection, Nathan gave a small nod and reached for me.
His cool fingers pressed into my flesh as he gripped the soft leather, one hand on each side of the boot and ripped it off me with his bare hands. A ripple went through the crowd; a satisfied sound marking a gladiatorial battle won, an adversary bested.
Nathan grunted and left, leaving me with a stubble-ridden leg exposed to the crowd, a sense that I’d been in the presence of a real man, and little, if any, remaining dignity. I covered myself up like a ravished floozy and slunk away through the dispersing crowd thinking women would pay to have their clothes ripped off them by someone like Nathan. Maybe they did, and I’d just got it for free, I thought as I made my way down to Clarks.