I think those of us who have brought up children, will know the resigned and inevitable shrug of the shoulders when our children all seemed to need new shoes at exactly the same time. Unlike clothes which can be recycled between siblings, despite shrieks and demands for new clothes, shoes are personal and cannot be passed onto smaller siblings.
The expense of proper–fitting shoes, that do not fall apart after a few weeks of wear, is still a heavy expense for parents. I know that my mother would get very annoyed at me for scuffing shoes and not taking care of them, so I was given baseball boots or ‘gutties’ for the summer. Maybe the summers were warmer then. Guttie’s is a Central Belt word for those canvas gym-shoes that are black and slip-on, and came from India. Gutta-percha being the rubber on the sole.
Her own specialised shoes, needed for the calliper she wore, were converted at Belvedere Hospital in Glasgow. I think she got the “building up” and blocking of the specialist shoe free on the NHS, but the buying of the pair of shoes when one wore down rapidly– well that was her problem.
Her appearance mattered to her, as it does to many people regardless of having polio or not, and wear and tear soon wore down the shoes, thus necessitating the purchase of another pair of shoes. Finding shoes for a calliper was not a simple quick trip to the local shoe shop; new shoes had to be found that had a ‘proper’ heel that could be converted to hold the calliper prongs. Usually my mother had already bought two pairs of the same shoe previously, in a sale or offer that she had probably haggled and wrung out of a small local shop dealer in Lanarkshire who specialised in such footwear.
She was a fairly fearsome character in these negotiations and her gambit was simple; make my life easier, and I can recommend you to a lot of people in a similar situation. Similarly her calliper wore out her skirts, trousers and other clothing very rapidly. So she was constantly darning, sewing, and reinforcing or patching to keep clothes wearable – for all of us.
I was given a chunky–knit cardigan that was my elder sibling’s. She just ripped it out at the bottom, found an offer on wool, and knitted in a new piece for the cardigan. So I had a sort of chunky–knit “Coat of Many Colours” that I had to wear in winter – with no arguments or petted lip.
That was until my chest expanded considerably and it was at last goodbye to the cardigan. (See photo at end of article) Clothes nowadays are almost throwaway items that can be picked up at incredibly low prices at those retailers who import from Bangladesh or India.
When I came across the this article by the disability charity Scope It brought back vividly how my mother coped with the constant expense of her own needs in shoes and clothes, and of course the needs of me and my brothers.
Scope is campaigning to raise awareness on what are expensive necessities for the disabled. Annabelle is quoted in the Scope article and to encourage large retailers to buy collectively to ease costs of wheelchairs and equipment on the disabled.
Annabelle tells her story ;
“I have to buy shoes far more frequently than I would do if I did not have cerebral palsy. My shoes wear out quickly because of the way I walk. For example, the shoes I wear for work – 9 to 5, five days a week – only last me two or three weeks. As a professional woman in my thirties buying shoes should be a thrill for me. Instead it’s an expensive chore.
My job means I need to look smart, and this means that some things that others would see as treats are a necessity to me. For example, sometimes I struggle washing my own hair and need someone to help me, so I’ll have to go to the hairdresser. Someone who didn’t understand my situation might see me as indulgent but really, I’m just putting myself on the same footing as everybody else.”
You might have wondered why I put a picture of myself as a bairn wearing a chunky knit cardigan. My family in the 1960’s was well aware of the extra costs that we had to pay, and it was a very make do and mend or recycle attitude that my disabled mother had. However, how many folk nowadays can repair, patch, recycle or even knit clothes?
When my mother’s calliper broke, as it often did, the repair time meant my mother was immobile, and the time taken for repair was bureaucratic and lengthy. Not judged as needing a wheelchair at that point, my father would take the calliper to his work immediately, where he or other metal–bashers and turners, would weld, reinforce or improve it.
Some of the extra costs which the disabled have to pay are listed here.