Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 23 February 2012

In Her Shoes

Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue
And a silver sixpence in her shoe

So goes the traditional saying which itemises the five things a bride should have on her wedding day for luck. Historically shoes have been associated with wedding customs for centuries. Anglo Saxon husbands would hit their new wife over the head (symbolically one hopes) to establish authority, whilst the custom of tying shoes to the back of the bridal car originated in Tudor times, when a direct hit by a guest on the couple’s carriage signified good luck! The rhyme above is thought to be Victorian, and the sixpence in the shoe was to bring financial prosperity. Here is a wedding photograph of my grandparents in 1918. You can read more about this in ‘Wedding Day Delay’. The shoes she was wearing would of course have been white, and the ribbon was most likely attached by my thrifty grandmother, so that afterwards the shoes could be used for everyday wear, possibly after dyeing them a more servicable dark colour (though wouldn’t it be lovely if she dyed them red?). I don’t know whether she had a silver sixpence in her shoe, but if she did, the charm didn’t work, as all their lives my grandparents had to watch their finances very carefully.

Pub sign, Budleigh Salterton, Devon.
By kind permission of Michael Downes
Queen Elizabeth I never married so there is no need to speculate about the footwear she would have chosen for the great day. However, there is a story that her shoes (colour unspecified, but let’s say ‘red’ for the sake of continuity) were saved from spoiling in a muddy puddle, by the gallant act of Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618), who removed his cloak and laid it in her path. This always struck me as a rather silly thing to do, and the story paints Raleigh as something of a show-off, overshadowing his success as a writer, poet, soldier, courtier, spy, gardener, historian, religious enquirer, MP and explorer.  It was a grand gesture but it didn’t save him from the executioner’s axe many years later. By then, King James I was on the throne, and he was not one to be so easily swayed. The legendary act is commemorated on a pub sign in Devon. This should please Alan, who gave us the shoe prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday, but is also an aficionado of pub signs, which he demonstrates on his own blog

By Albi V R,*1
I would love to have had the feet and figure to carry off a pair of red shoes, preferably shiny and high-heeled; not like the Ruby Slippers worn by Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz', nor those in Hans Christian Anderson's fairytale, 'The Red Shoes', whose character, Karen, suffered a dreadful fate whilst wearing them. Nor  do I crave those worn by Moira Shearer in the film, 'The Red Shoes', the wearing of which also led to obsessive behaviour and an untimely death. Kate Bush was inspired by the film too and wrote a song and an album by the same name. My Mother tells me that when she was at school in the 1920s she acted the part of Karen in a class reading of the tale. When she kicked off the hateful shoes, she was a little over-zealous and one flew through the open classroom window onto the street below. 

By Anonymous *2 
Red shoes certainly get you noticed, and the eye is immediately drawn to them.The little boy on the left was painted in 1810, and this work now hangs in the Stadtmuseum, Berlin. The artist is unknown, but the title is 'Boy With Drum'. the drum stands out almost three-dimensionally from the picture, due to the bright colours, in contrast to the child’s white dress, but you can’t help noticing the little red shoes he’s wearing too. Without these the painting would not be quite so interesting.

I've never been a follower of shoe fashion, and have usually gone for comfort over style; I feel more kinship with 'The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe' (certainly in my head teacher days), than with Carrie, in 'Sex in the City'. My daughter, however, has always loved shoes; from the time she could squeeze her toddler feet into my high-heels in dressing-up games, she was smitten. Here she accesorises her red shoes with rather snazzy stripey leg warmers which were all the rage in the eighties. Helping Daddy in the garden needs wellington boots, and there’s only one colour for wellies when you’re only three. 

The title of this post is borrowed from the 2005 film of that name, based on the book by Jennifer Weiner. The film is both funny and moving and is notable for showcasing three wonderful poems, read by one of the characters, played by Cameron Diaz. I kept thinking about my grandmother’s wedding shoes and I thought she would appreciate a touch of colour to enliven the sepia, so here’s ‘In Her Red Shoes’ especially for Gran.

 Now, squeeze your toes into your dancing shoes and hot-foot it over to Sepia Saturday to see what other participants have come up with.

* 1.via Wikimedia Commons (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) 
*2 Photo byAndreas Praefcke; May 2008)  [Public domain], viaWikimedia Commons


  1. This was a great post, Nell, but I have to say my favourite bit was the story of your mother kicking off her shoe and it flying through the window. That IS a tale!
    I am not a shoe-person. Neither does it appear that anyone in my ancestors was either. I shall have to see what's on Kev's side of the family if I'm going to come up with something.
    I do have a poem about shoes, to which I may resort if I am not successful.

  2. Ooh, just noticed that last photo. Well done!

  3. ...and how did it feel sitting in her shoe! I can't believe my eyes!!! Once I saw your last photo! I don't know when you took or thought of adding the red shoes, but just today (23rd) about 1:00 P.M. my lunch hour today, I snapped a photo to go with my Sepia Saturday post for this Saturday....with (my) red shoes in the photo! So curious when you decided to do this....because our thoughts were linked together on this...even though my post will begin with it...as yours ends with it...but this totally rocks!

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Kat’s comment was removed because it duplicated the one above, which I had failed to post earlier! Sack the admin:)

  5. I had the old, new and borrowed, blue nail varnish on my toes and a sixpence sellotaped inside my high-heeled shoe! (They were stilettos with a sparkly flip flop style strap, so it wouldn't have stayed in otherwise)

    Red wellies are definitely the cutest, I remember mine fondly x

    ***Faith Hope and Charity Shopping first blogiversary giveaway open now***

  6. I don't think I had ever heard the or seen the third line in the three line saying at the beginning of the post.

    During he first half of life I seem to have had a lot of red shoes. One of the first significant things I bought with my own money was a pair of red loafers I bought when I was 7 or 8.

  7. Those red wedding shoes were quite unexpected at the end!

  8. Not long ago, I went to a recital by a noted mezzo-soprano, who came out for the second half of the concert in a new dress gown, but after the first song, she apologized and said that Beverly Sills had given her advice to always have a pair of comfortable shoes. But hers were now killing her, so she kicked them off and performed the rest of the recital in her stocking feet!

  9. I think we should probably all have at least one pair of red shoes in our lives. This means I need to get serious about finding a pair before my time runs out.

    Fun post.

  10. I really enjoyed this, Little Nell. Who would have thought shoes could be so interesting?

  11. My daughter had red wellies as well, otherwise the only others I remember where those you've mentioned - worn by Moira Shearer. A great finale to this post.

  12. Hi Nell, your post is delightful! Loved the history lessons. I'm like you, I go for comfort over fashion in the shoe department. I'm sure that last picture is making your Gran smile about now. I haven't see the movie or read that book, but I think that I had better get on that; I enjoy Jen's other books very much.

    Your daughter was so cute.

    Happy Sepia Saturday,

    Kathy M.

  13. I laughed out loud when i got to the last picture with the red shoes. Marvelous. I looked through so many wedding photos, both family and unknown. The brides' shoes were all covered by their wedding gowns!

  14. Shoes through the ages, so entertaining. Love reading that. I remember knitting a pair of stripy leg warmers, what was I thinking.

  15. How clever. I loved that last photo. A great bit of info in this post too. A perfect way to make it well worth reading. Thanks gal.

  16. I love the film "the red shoes". Maybe that's why I've always had a pair or two in my wardrobe. Now I just have one red shoe because my dog loves them too and she has somehow hidden the other one. After two weeks I'm still looking.
    Your last photo was priceless. Every bride should wear red shoes at her wedding even if thy don't show.

  17. My very first high-heeled shoes (with "high" being a relative term here) were bright red ones, picked out on a shopping trip with a normally absentee father. There's something magical about red shoes.

  18. A lovely photo of your grandparents; life without shoes would not be so interesting! I thoroughly enjoyed the history lesson and your clever way with words.

  19. Maybe you could do me a pair of red shoes, too, just like your grandmother's? I don't believe I've ever had a red pair.

  20. Love the wedding photo! Brilliant post- I wore red sparkly shoes (like Dorothy's!) at my wedding last year! I wore a tea dress, so they were clearly on show. My cousin's two-year-old daughter was obsessed with them!

  21. There is something about your blog-posts, it must be the teacher in you. They never fail to fascinate, to inform and to entertain. I bet you were a superb teacher.

    What's the weather like in Lanzarote at the moment? Good, I hope, for the GLW and I are heading your way in a weeks' time. I don't suppose there are any decent pubs on the island are there?

  22. Thank you for your kind comments. Of course there are lots of decent pubs on the island. I’ll PM you.

  23. Lovely pic of your grandparents, Little Nell - I'm sure there was talk of a sixpence in my shoe when I got married but it was probably taped to the sole. I'm mad about shoes, but have the wrong shape of feet to wear lovely shoes without limping, and the only time I had red patent shoes I attracted the
    "wrong sort" of attention... I suspect your Granny died hers black or brown. Jo :-)

  24. That paint job you did on your grandma certainly gave me a chuckle. I wonder what she'd think of it...

  25. I've never heard the silver sixpence part -- I guess that's too much for Americans to handle so it apparently has been dropped, in my little world at least. I enjoyed the red shoes stories!

  26. Some Anglo Saxon's Still Do! Your Sepia Photo Reminds Me Of The Elvis Costello Song The Angels Want To Wear My Red Shoes Great Post.Thank You.


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