… today I thought I would post this piece that I wrote back when I entered the Vogue talent contest in 2005. Entrants had to submit three pieces of writing, one of which was an autobiography in 600 words, and this is what I came up with. It’s not strictly an ‘autobiography’ because most of it isn’t true, but it could be the autobiography of a fictionalised version of myself. Of all my work, it was the piece which seemed to appeal to the judges most: when I went to the finalists’ lunch at Vogue (my very own “Carrie Bradshaw” moment) it was definitely the one that they remembered: people kept saying, “oh, you’re the red shoe girl!” Yep, that’s me!
And it’s true that I am strangely compelled to wear red shoes (the ones above were a present from France). Even though this piece is now over three years old, it seems particularly appropriate to post it here, given the title of the blog and all. After all, it’s all very well to talk of going off to follow yellow brick roads, but how much better if you’ve got a pair of kick-ass ruby slippers to do it in?
So here we go:
The Red Shoe Diaries
1. Red Sandals
They glistened and gleamed, the red shoes. They were perfect, everything a shoe should be. Red, glistening and perfect, like something out of a dream.
She lay on the rug and rewound, just to see Dorothy skipping along in the shiny red shoes. “Their magic must be very powerful, or she wouldn’t want them so badly,” Glinda the Good Witch said. Her own shoes were black, patent-leather, round-toed and squeaky: shoes her mother chose. They were cartoon shoes, something Minnie Mouse might wear, nothing remotely magical about them. At school, the other girls had proper, grown-up shoes, with little heels that they click-clacked importantly in, up and down the playground. But they weren’t magic shoes, either: it was red ones she wanted.
She had a book of fairy-tales with a story in it called ‘The Red Shoes’. The shoes were treacherous but they were magic too. After all, she read, there is really nothing in the world that can be compared to red shoes.
That summer, she finally got them. Red sandals to wear with her white knee-socks and gingham school dress. They didn’t dazzle like Dorothy’s, but she knew they were magic just the same. They were sandals to skip along unknown roads in, shoes that could take you anywhere. They looked quite ordinary, but she knew better. Sometimes she surreptitiously practised clicking her heels together, once, twice, experimentally, just to see.
2. Scarlet Shoes
No one else had scarlet shoes. Their feet were all the same, in their identikit fashion trainers, and they looked scornfully at her in the red velvet high-heels she had bought from a charity shop for a handful of pennies. Back then, they had seemed enchanted shoes, exotic, otherworldly: shoes to wear to a smoky jazz club or a fabulous party in some faraway foreign city. Now, they were giving her blisters, and the other girls were looking down their noses and saying nothing. The drunk man in the corner kept leering at her across the room. “You know what they say about girls who wear red shoes…”
After that she kept them to wear at home: she wore them to do homework in, to dance around the bedroom to David Bowie. Put on your red shoes and dance the blues. Years later, she found them at the back of her cupboard, still waiting for another dance. She thought of the film The Red Shoes with Moira Shearer, which had, for a brief time, made her long to be a prima ballerina. She remembered: The Red Shoes are never tired… Time rushes by, love rushes by, life rushes by, but the Red Shoes go on….
3. Ruby Slippers
They glistened and gleamed, the red shoes. They were perfect, like something out of a dream. Beyond the haze of the shop window, they stood waiting for her. The perfect ruby slippers: crimson Marc Jacobs peep-toe shoes with tiny bows on. They were everything a shoe should be.
“You can’t be serious,” said Emma. “You’re going to spend a month’s rent on shoes! When will you even wear them?” But she wasn’t listening. As she slid her foot inside, she felt the enchanted transformation take place. They were powerful magic shoes, shoes that would never be tired. There is really nothing in the world that can be compared to red shoes. It was true, she reasoned, as she skipped out of the shop and off along the unknown road, going who knows where.