Emma started at the University of Bath at the end of September. Which meant that an awful lot of September was dedicated to packing. A process that seemed to involve an astonishing amount of unpacking. And then repacking. Because, it seems, deciding what to take, and how much of it to take, is more complicated than getting into Uni in the first place. And one of the most contentious issues was that of shoes. After all, when you’re a teenage girl, you will be defined by the shoes you take to university!

And, if not how many, certainly what sort of shoes…



Look, I don’t for sure: I’m an old bloke and things were very different in my day. Not least, I suspect, because I was a teenage boy.

And it was the late 1980s…

But also because I wasn’t really forced to choose what I took to Uni. I simply chucked everything that fitted me into a couple of bags, and away I went.

On the flip side, I didn’t have to worry about mow many facemasks I would need, to keep COVID at bay…!

But, anyway, back to how many shoes Emma would need.

Emma, as it turned out, wasn’t really worried about her shoes. She figured she only needed about five pairs. Daughter number two, Ceri, was horrified by this.

When I asked her how many pairs of shoes she thought you need to take to Uni, she seemed confused:

“What do you mean, how many shoes do you need?” she exclaimed; “All of them, of course!”

Ceri is planning to head off to Uni herself, next year. She’s already informed me that I’ll need to make a second, dedicated, trip to her Halls of Residence, just for all the shoes she’ll be taking. And, given that my car looks like this, that is an awful lot of shoes.

I might even have washed it by then…
Ah, who am I trying to fool!?

I, for my part, scoffed at the idea of needing many shoes at all. “Why,” I enquired haughtily, “Can’t you be more like me? I’ve hardly got any shoes.”

At which point they stopped bickering with each other, and slowly turned towards me.

Let me tell you, there is no clearer sign than this, for a father of teenage daughters, that you really need to be somewhere else. I quickly checked for the nearest exit, but it was no good: the door was the on other side of the bed. And the daughters were between the door and the bed.

I was doomed.

The eye-rolling started immediately…

“What do you mean, you’ve hardly got any shoes?!” Demanded one of them. I’m not sure which daughter it was, and, frankly, by this stage, it didn’t matter: their mutual disdain for their father had effectively merged them into one stroppy mega-daughter. I tried to edge around the monster I had created, only to be cut off before I could shuffle more than a couple of feet.

I risked a glance and, as feared, the arms were tightly crossed and the lips were pursed so tightly that I feared for their teeth. Not that I had to worry that much about their teeth, as there wasn’t much time for lip-pursing, what with all the remonstration…

I just hoped that my end would be swift and relatively painless.

Just as my knees were starting to buckle under the onslaught, I was offered a lifeline, “You’ve got loads more shoes than me!” A voice announced. [It had to be Emma. No matter how much I’d annoyed Ceri, she’d never be too far gone to try a line like that!]

“Really…” I said, loudly enough to be heard over the barrage of tutting I was being subjected to at the time, “Even including slippers and flip-flops?”

There was a pause. The briefest shared glance of uncertainly. Just enough for my hopes to peer over the parapet (foolish hopes). Then the air between them shimmered in what, I later worked out, must have been daughter telepathy, because their confidence was back:

“Yes, Dad, including slippers and flip-flops,” Emma declared, in that teenage daughter voice, and with what I can only describe as, an Atomic Eye-Roll, “You go and count how many shoes you’ve got, and I’ll count mine.”

With that, they did a synchronised hair-flick, catching me from both sides at once. By the time my eyes had stopped watering enough to be able to see again, they were gone.

I’d survived another one…

For now!

Surely Emma had more shoes than me. Surely…

I mean, I live in a gloried pair of slippers that I can also wear outside: how many shoes could I possibly have?!

And Emma hadn’t placed a wager on it, so she can’t have been that certain. Usually when they gang up on me like this, there’s at least a tray of doughnuts on the line.

I could be on to a winner here…

I wasn’t!

Soooooo many more shoes than I expected.

There were two things that I hadn’t taken into account:

  1. I’m old
  2. I don’t throw things away unless they’re wrecked

As such, in the last thirty, or so, years, I’d managed to hoard 20 pairs of shoes. Admittedly less than the 31 pairs that Ceri has, but close to twice the number of shoes owned by Emma.

I got Emma a tray of doughnuts, anyway, to try and take the edge off the inevitable gloating, a gambit that was only partially successful. I also kept well clear of the packing from that point on, which did the trick nicely.

Even so, and while I’m here, it genuinely astonished me just how many shoes I have. So, let’s take a look at them.

From back to front and left to right:

  1. Snow grippers, for skiing holidays
  2. The shoes I currently live in, indoors and out
  3. Hockey astros
  4. Indoor work shoes (old pair of trainers), for painting and the like
  5. Shoes I wear out, for informal occasions
  6. Formal shoes, for weddings and the such
  7. Office shoes, from when I worked in an office
  8. Indoor slippers
  9. Climbing shoes
  10. Hiking sandals? Useful on holiday, at least.
  11. Random other pair of sandals that I have no recollection of buying
  12. Beach shoes
  13. Running trainers, for that hallowed day when I’m light enough to go running again…
  14. The flip-flops I got on holiday, when I forgot to pack my flip-flops
  15. Cowboy boots, for fancy dress purposes
  16. Ski boots, because my feet are too wide for any of the hire pairs at the ski resorts
  17. Hiking boots
  18. Rigger boots, for heavy work outdoors
  19. Wellies, for gardening
  20. The flip-flops I should have packed for the aforementioned holiday

It’s funny, really: looking at this list, and with the exception of the duplicate pairs of flip-flops and sandals, I’m not sure I’d get rid of any of them. Alright, maybe the office shoes could go. After all, the chances of me regularly working in an office again are pretty slim.

But, thinking about it, flip-flops are notorious for breaking, so having a spare pair can’t hurt. On a similar theme, the ‘Hiking Sandals’ are pretty knackered, and covered in paint. It’s only a matter of time before Julie ‘accidentally loses‘ my Hiking Sandals, so already having their replacement will work out in the end…

Admittedly, the cowboy boots are an extravagance, and I haven’t used the climbing shoes in over a decade, but I’ve got them now. There’s no point getting rid of them unless I have to. Besides, who doesn’t want to watch a middle-aged fat bloke, struggling on a climbing wall!?

All the rest of them have their time and place. They might not be used that often, but they’re there when I need them.

And, anyway, Ceri’s got 31 pairs of shoes! What about her then? And, she’s only a teenager…!

Of course, being a teenager means that her shoes aren’t where they’re supposed to be!
But you can get an idea of how many shoes she’s got from all the gaps…

I’ve never really understood the appeal of shoes. I know that there is a section of the female population, for whom shoes are almost an obsession. And it’s always seemed daft to me…

Until now.

To some extent, it’s starting to make sense…

After taking out my duplicate flip-flops and sandals, I have 18 pairs of shoes. In addition, the office shoes and the indoor slippers could also be considered duplicates. Which still leaves me with 16 pairs of shoes. Each pair serving a different function.

But the number of distinct functions for which I need footwear is quite limited. Certainly compared to the choices and options available to women.

For a start, all my footwear is at a uniform height, which is to say flat. Ceri, however, has options for both flats and heels. Something that will immediately double up most of her external footwear needs.

In addition, I live in dark colours, typically black and dark blue. Consequently, I only have to worry about shoes that go with dark trousers. Ceri, on the other hand, enjoys more variety in the colours she wears. This, necessarily, means that she needs more variety in the accompanying footwear.

And I’m beginning to become suspicious that there are more rules relating to what shoes go with dresses and skirts, compared to trousers…

What I’m driving at here is: Ceri’s going to keep buying shoes, isn’t she…?!

31 pairs just isn’t going to be enough to see her to my age, is it?

Ah well, at least I feel I’ve learned something from all this.

Maybe that will appease the daughters somewhat…

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