Shoes, dear shoes. Oh, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. If my shoes were people and I were to address them, I would need to hire the O2 Arena because I have a throng of shoes — a veritable host of them.
A sandbar of sandals. A boot-iful array of boots. A trailer full of trainers. There are high heels, wedges, kitten heels, sling backs, flatties and stilettos.
They are from Gina, Chanel, Sergio Rossi, Marks & Spencer, Warehouse, Dune, Clarks and, my personal favourite, Mauro Slomp.
Well-heeled: Penny Smith with just some of her 300 pairs of shoes
It is ridiculous. There is no reason for me to buy another item to fit on my feet — ever. I could wear a different pair of shoes every day for a year and still have some left over for guest appearances. That is the depth of my obsession.
The problem is that whereas I am the ultimate recycler of clothes (gaily given to my nieces, my sister and the local Oxfam shop), I can’t bear to part with my footwear . . . and I have hundreds of pairs.
So imagine my feelings yesterday when I read that a new study has found the average woman owns 20 pairs of shoes and more than half of them — worth around £400 in total — are never worn, sitting in the wardrobe waiting for the right occasion, which never comes.
How outrageous! I mean, ten unused pairs? Worth just £400? Who are these women?
I have at least 300 pairs of shoes in my wardrobe, and most of them never get to see the light of day. In fact, if you worked out that I spent a about £100 on each pair (and that is a very conservative estimate) that would mean I’d spent . . . actually, I’d rather not do the maths.
I know of one pair, for instance, that I’ve had for ten years and they have never been worn. They are ruby red Emma Hope shoes, bought — as so many are — in a sale. They were a bargain.
Shoe fetish: The average woman owns 20 pairs of shoes... but not Victoria Beckham
They might have initially been stupidly expensive, but they were down to a ridiculous price and I couldn’t resist. After all, I convinced myself, I was actually saving money by buying them for £100.
They are high and pointy, and absolutely stunning. The only thing is, I just have to look at them and my feet start wailing. They absolutely cripple me. So why buy them?
Well, they are red. And they have beautifully-sewn-on tiny sequins. They make my ankles look elegant. The sales assistant didn’t pressure me, but I could tell from her admiring glance that they looked good. And in the shop, they were comfortable — honestly.
Yet within ten minutes of putting them on at home, I started to walk with my bottom out, my agonised expression reminiscent of a giraffe eating bitter twigs.
And I’m not alone.
Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings says it’s all to do with the promise and expectation. High-heeled shoes make you look taller and slimmer. And they are forgiving if you put on a few extra pounds.
Exactly. You go out to buy a pair of trousers and spend hours struggling into one pair after another before tearfully coming to the conclusion that you are a heffalump who should be wearing a pop-up tent.
Then you go into a shoe shop, and you are still a size 7! Sometimes, even a 6!
That’s another thing! Quite a lot of us buy shoes that are the wrong size simply because we like them.
We are talking about works of art here. These bits of cobbled together leather/pleather/cotton/plastic are going to make us look magnificent.
'The room will hush as we enter. A gasp will go up: ‘New shoes . . .’
The room will hush as we enter. A gasp will go up: ‘New shoes . . .’
Best-selling author Victoria Hislop tells me she reckons there is something deep and dark about our love of footwear.
‘There is nothing else that you keep on buying which you then put in the wardrobe and never wear because it’s so uncomfortable.’
Maybe she has a point. But not one she takes on board.
‘Oh no. I’ve got loads of shoes that have not seen the light of day. I have no idea how many, but they are all unwearable.
‘Some of them have been carried about in a bag and then had a moment of glory before being hidden away again.
‘But I do have a new pair of high Armani sandals which are beautifully designed and the miracle is that I can walk in them. I love them,’ she says dreamily.
Recent research has found that one in five women admit to keeping shoes in the living room, scattered around the house or even in the car.
A tempted shopper: Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings says it¿s all to do with the promise and expectation. High-heeled shoes make you look taller and slimmer
In my previous flat, I could only keep food — including Cornflakes, marmalade and stock cubes — in the fridge, because I needed the cupboard space for my footwear.
I have loved shoes for as long as I can remember. When I was small, my dad was sent out with me with strict instructions from my mother to buy me a sensible pair of brown school shoes. I forced him to buy me red ones, and determinedly wore them home knowing Mum couldn’t take them back to the shop.
At 14, having saved up pocket money, choir money, bell-ringing money, birthday, Christmas and turkey-plucking money, I blew the lot on a pair of tan wedges with round toes and three straps.
At 18, after three months of getting up before I went to bed and looking after three unruly children as an au pair in France, I spent every last franc on some crepe-soled boots which I wore until the stitching fell apart.
Later in life, I treated myself to a pair of lovely Louboutins. But they don’t get out much. Too small.
'I could buy a car with the amount of money I have wasted on shoes'
When I was at GMTV, I would run into the studio in my bare feet and throw them on as the programme went to air.
BUT by 9.20am I was crippled, and with a sigh of relief I would throw on my battered old Converse trainers.
And there, almost literally, is the rub. I have hundreds of pairs of shoes, and yet I am always to be found in the same ones. They are all flat, and most of them are showing signs of decay.
My current excuse is that I am about to hike 26 miles on the MoonWalk for Breakthrough Breast Cancer, so my feet are getting a little bashed up on the training walks.
But really, like most women (obviously, I’m not talking to you Victoria Beckham), it’s because I want to be comfortable.
I want to be able to walk to the train without wincing and run for the bus without spraining my ankle. I want to hoof it to the opera without having to walk home in bare feet.
Yes, it is ludicrous. I could buy a car with the amount of money I have wasted on shoes. Hell, I could probably buy a small flat in Tunb ridge Wells. But homes and cars don’t make your legs look long and lean, do they?