I found them at the beginning of last week. They were set out in the tumbled shoe section at the local Oxfam.
There they were, winking at me while I walked past the window all perty, cheery and cheeky, apple red against the rain and pavement greys and cold of earlier this week.
I needed to walk by but 2 or 3 steps later my feet took me back.
They forced me. Damn my shoe addiction, I am completely at its mercy. They wanted to see the flash of colour in the shop window for themselves.
They conspired against me, the shoes and my feet.
The shoes said,”I’m the right sort of red, not too bright, not too brassy. “I’m leather,” they sang. “I’m as good as new…”
“they have low heels too,” said my feet.
My heart talked next:
“oh! the embossed leather is gorgeous. You could wear them with jeans, with trousers, with that black and red dress, you could wear them with…”
My head adjudicated, fought and lost the battle – they were even in my size.
Soon they nestled at the top of my bag and peeked out at me from the floor all through the next meeting.
When I took them home the label emerged:
Made In Britain.
“Oh!” I said out loud. “Oh good grief. I didn’t spot that when I bought them.”
When I walked away with them in my bag this week none of us knew that the battle to save BHS would fail.
Since then it feels the British high street has lost more of its retail heritage, our retail heritage.
I’m not the only one confused by why this has happened. It seemed to be so promising.
I was rooting for its survival, it felt as if we all were and we were pulling together as one.
Once the troubles were announced I went in to browse and was surprised by their range. I bought some towels and pillows, because they were nice, not because I felt I had to.
The staff were helpful and friendly. There was none of the sense of economic doom when Icelandic firm The Pier went into administration.
I actually had a lump in my throat, I loved that shop so much.
In 2008 the global financial crisis meant names were toppling left, right and center.
Holes and gaps in local high streets grew more often than new business as we sucked in and tightened our belts, but BHS remained.
I’ve been thinking about these shoes differently since the news.
They are as attractive as the photos show them to be in real life.
I don’t think they are that old, probably sold in BHS in the 90s – so why didn’t I find them at the time?
Because I didn’t go into BHS is the answer.
I didn’t believe you could find lovely items to wear like these in there or if you did it’d be a fluke, too expensive or too mumsy.
Well they aren’t so, since Thursday I own a piece of fashion history as well as a nice pair of shoes.
They are a symbol of another story also. It’s the one about the end of the British high street of the past – one where Buy British was an advertising catchphrase, no eBay or online existed and quality of design and materials resulted in shoes like these.
BHS may have been established by a team of American investors but they gave us something that is part of our culture, our memories and our history.
BHS damned well deserves to survive!
© Carrie Henderson 2016