Living Between the Lines

Birthdays, shoes and puppy dogs

I shall gloss over my second visit to the dentist. Suffice it to say, the experience was quicker, cleaner and would have been painless had the anaesthetic worked first time and I had not had to wince as the drill hit an unprotected nerve. Enough said.

This month’s post is not about dentists, it is about birthdays and shoes and puppies.
The birthday belonged to my mother – her 89th to be precise. Here we are, the two of us on the big day. (I say big day, it was a low key affair but none the less enjoyable for that.)

and here she is in another new dress, she wore out to dinner…

Still glamorous at 89 yrs old (in non-sensible shoes)
Still glamourous at 89 yrs old (in non-sensible shoes)

I took my mother shopping when she arrived for her visit. Lamenting the horrors of putting on weight and losing two inches in height over the past two years, she had managed to buy some new dresses that looked lovely on her and so was quite willing to be taken out for both lunch and dinner.

Lunch was the highlight of the day really. A simple home-made soup and some bread it may have been, taken in a local cafe but when the owner/Chef learnt it was mum’s birthday, just before we left, he disappeared for a moment, returning with a tall, red, lit candle. He then exhorted the other diners to join him in singing “Happy Birthday to Pat”. My mother was very moved.

She was so moved, she didn’t hear him ask her to blow the candle out, so when it was lowered in front of her, she grabbed it and hissed at me,
“What do I do with it?”
“Make a wish,” Fred smiled.
“Blow it out,” I whispered back.
“I don’t think I have ever had to blow out a candle on my birthday before,” Mum mused afterwards. I did not mention that on her seventieth birthday, we four children held a surprise party for her and presented her with a cake covered with, if not 70 then almost 70 candles, burning brightly which she blew out with gusto.

Suffering from osteoporosis and arthritis, my mother does pretty well on the whole. She will tell you that she went ballroom dancing two or three times a week until she was 83, when her long-term partner, not a small man, trod on her foot, putting his full weight on her toe and causing her to scream in agony.
Until recently, she would tell you,
“He didn’t just tread on my foot, he put his full weight on it. I am sure he broke my toe,”
A recent trip to the foot specialist, showed her toe to be dislocated, not broken but it has been dislocated for so long that it now causes problems when she walks having affected a bone beneath her foot. My mother’s life long love of high heels had to come to an end.
“Buy some sensible flat shoes. Hotter shoes are perfect,” the consultant ordered her, regarding the 1.5 inch heels on her current shoe with a frown and handing her a pair of special insoles. My mother was sceptical.
Wasn’t 1.5 inches flat enough? No, we told her.
I ordered some fashionable but flat shoes for her from Marks and Spencer as a compromise. She tried each of the four pairs on but sent them back.
She obtained a catalogue from “Hotter”. I ordered the shoes she chose, online. She tried them. They were no good apparently. She sent them back. I had a horrible feeling we would be going down the same route as with the coats last winter. Back then, I ordered seven coats for her to try on. She sent five back, kept two to think about and then sent those back too.
When she stayed with us last Christmas, she bought a coat from Marks and Spencer and took it home. Once home, she decided it was not for her. It was taken back to the very obliging store who refunded her money.
I will not bore you with the details of all the purchases I have made that have met this end but there have been a few.

As luck would have it, there is a shop stocking Hotter shoes, in a seaside town not far from here, Lee on Solent. So, on a sunny August day, we took her down to the seafront to find it. The shop was small and the girl behind the counter, very helpful. My mother studied the shoes and picked out a couple of pairs of sensible flats to try.
“I am a size 3 – that’s a 35.5 you know, not a 36. That seems to be a misconception these days,” she said. (I concur with her on this, European size conversion varies in shoes and can be very annoying).
Unfortunately, the shoes she first chose were not available in her size (35.5) but the second pair were and she had to admit they were remarkably comfortable.
“I don’t like them though,” she said petulantly.
“The consultant said to wear them with the special insoles, for a few minutes at a time, at home,” I reminded her.
“I wont go out in them,” she decided.
“They are to wear at home, around the house, mum, like slippers,” I persisted.
“Oh yes, well I suppose I’ll have to…how much are they?”
The cost was a bit of a shock to someone who has not quite kept pace with rapidly rising prices. Hotter shoes are not cheap.
The ever patient sales girl brought out other shoes which my mother tried on and rejected, “too tight, too wide, too ugly…wrong colour,”
Finally, she was left with the first pair. She walked round the shop.
“I don’t like them,” she said, a defiant tone in her voice.
She was walking well in the shoes, not wobbling at all.
“Think of them as a health benefit, like medicine,” I said.
She liked the analogy. I knew we were winning.
I was reminded of the time she took a nine-year-old me to a shoe shop and I wanted the same, low heeled, probably plastic, shiny red, slip on shoes as my friend.
“These are lovely, very sensible for school,” my mother said and I stared at the brown, buckle up shoes that sat on my feet like bricks.
“I don’t like them,” I moaned.
“Well, you’re having them,” she told me.
How I hated those shoes! The red ones were probably cheap and nasty it is true and absolutely no good for my feet but knowing that did nothing for my street cred.
Now, here in this other shoe shop, the shoe was quite literally on the other foot. Here was I, insisting my mother take the sensible shoes and here was she, in her own words, acting like a child.
The shoes were bought and guess what? My mother wore them all day long and her ability to walk was so improved that she walked down our lengthy garden, and half way down the slope, without her stick and played ball with Flossie for a while when no one was looking.
As we sat in the garden, later in her 3 week visit, she was surveying the shoes on her feet and smiling.
“You know, I might wear these to go the shop when I am home,” she said, “they’re not so bad are they?”
I do hope she does. They really have made such a difference.
She even wore them when we went to choose our new puppy…

Here is Charlie Brown when he was three weeks old – a mere scrap in my hand…
Charlie Brown, a little Border Terrier, will be joining us next month. His breeder is the same lady who brought us Flossie and whilst choosing our new pup, we met Flossie’s mum again – now a stately older lady but just as adorable. We also met one of Flossie’s sisters – I couldn’t help noticing her sister was much sleeker and thinner than dear Floss who has become a little rounded these days. The breeder told me it is likely she has been comfort eating since losing old Keano. This may be true or it could be simply that she has been getting all the scraps from the grandchildren instead of having to wait for Keano to get there first. Either way, she now has a new regime.
I think she likes her early morning walk followed by the treat of a raw carrot and she has adjusted well to the new type of food (no additives) given as one big meal, mid afternoon. I even re-introduced the clicker with which I trained her many moons ago and was delighted to find that with one click, she comes and sits patiently by me. Who would have thought she’d remember that old trick? One click now marks her dinner time and stops her thinking she will be fed every time I make a cup of tea. A remarkable transformation…

I understand that Border Terriers are easy to train – let’s hope so. Anyone who remembers my struggles with Flossie and her personal trainer will realise this is important to me. We will have to stretch chicken wire across the railings again and prepare a home for the new pup but I have high hopes for little Charlie Brown… just watch this space… 🙂

P.S. My mother spotted a coat in Marks and Spencer while she was here, bought it, took it home and loves it and is extremely pleased with herself…Bingo!

I am an Author, wife to one, mother to five and grandmother to six. I live in the English countryside in Hampshire, UK, with my husband and two dogs and am a non exec Director for Glow


  • Teresa

    Your mum sounds like a wonderful lady and she looks so beautiful. I must admit when I first started to read, I thought it said her age was 80 and I thought she didn’t look it, so I was very surprised and had to do a double take when I realised I’d misread 89. And how brilliant the Hotter shoes sound (oh how I remember shoe shopping with my mum when I was little and longing for the non-sensible option).

    And what can I say about Charlie Brown – so cute! I am nearly in tears at the sight of him. What a gorgeous little pup. I can’t wait to read more about him 🙂 x

    • Debbie

      Thanks Teresa, my Mum does look wonderful for her age I must say though taking her to have her hair done is a nightmare as she is never quite satisfied with the way they style it. As for Charlie Brown, all I can say is, watch this space! 🙂

  • patricia60

    This is delightful storytelling Deborah – Thank you. We have a 2 year old Border Terrier named Lorax in the family. My daughter’s dog. They are smart as a whip and her pup stays close to her without a leash but he did chew the arm off her best chair and the little runty has a shedding problem that activates the allergies at our house. Lovely dogs.
    My Hotter catalog just arrived. If any of my daughters (3) gets married I want the “Donna” in the pink to wear….none of those events on the horizon. I must have a British foot as shoes from UK always fit me better than those from USA.
    My Mother and Grandmother were both so picky about coats and we played the purchase and return game so many times. My Grandmother refused a fur coat from her youngest son that was specially made for her. The 80s were so fun! Undergarments were also an extremely tricky problem to solve. I still can not find the humor in that. Only comfortable shoes allowed for these ladies – although my mum wore Grandmother looking healed oxfords the whole 28 years she taught first grade! Ugly shoes.
    Gram died at 96 and my mum at 94 – now 7 years ago. You are lucky to have such a “Dame” still styling in your life – and we are fortunate for you sharing the stories. Lucky us!

  • Debbie

    Kind words, Patricia and I hope you get to wear your “Donna” in pink very soon. That game of purchase and return is quite exhausting at times isn’t it? My mother had run out of so many things, including underwear, that while she was here we actually managed to buy under garments, several pairs of shoes, skirts, dresses, blouses and of course, the coat. It took three weeks but we got there in the end! 🙂

    • patricia60

      Child has given fellow an ultimatum – I may get to wear the shoes and I discovered HOTTER has an store in Seattle where I can order my size after trying them on..and knowing they will fit.

      The purchase and return game is extremely exhausting because it has to do with control in their life and your guessing workout just adds more attention to that behavior. I finally had to remind my mum that as kids we had no choice over the food we ate – ever ( except for birthday dinner and box of cereal) and she had to accept my taste or stop getting dressed everyday, because with a fractured back she needed something new that we could get on and was warm. The game stopped the last six months of her life and she shared more interesting things “like Politics” and TV news shows. She could spot a lie miles away and that gave her power of knowledge

      I wonder what game I will play as I get old? It always humbles me 🙂

  • Hilary

    Hi Deborah … gosh she has a mind of her own still doesn’t she – but obviously with a little cajoling can be encouraged to try new things … they take a while – wonderful she’s got her new shoes and her new coat …

    Congratulations to her for her 89th birthday .. and it must have been fun being able to celebrate altogether …

    Charlie Brown will be pulling your heart strings very soon and will have you round his little toe doing his bidding – he looks a delight … cheers Hilary

  • John Cowton

    Hi Debbie, I’m catching up, having just got back from my holiday. Your mother is a stylish woman who has grown older gracefully.
    Love the soon-to-be new addition to the Barker family. Coincidentally we are due to have a new addition, a tabby kitten that will be ready this weekend. Sadly we lost our George, a black and white cat we had for 13 years, a couple of months ago when he got cancer. We were not going to replace him, but felt sad on holiday that we had not got anyone in the house to go home to, so were lucky to find our new cat the day after we got home from our holiday.

  • Debbie

    Ah, I am glad you have decided to take the next step and get another kitten John. We took a year or longer to feel ready to get a replacement for old Keano but Flossie needs a four legged companion – at the moment she keeps barking for me to go out and play with her! 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: