Top Tips from a former Shoe Fitter

I moved to London in 1997 to go to University. It was my dream to move to the big smoke, and I was so happy to be leaving Devon. But no one explained how expensive a city to live in London really was. It became apparent pretty early on that my grant (yes that’s how long ago this was) was not going to cut it and I knew I had to look for a part time job. I applied for various positions, did a week in catering (HATED it) then found a position as a shoe fitter in an independent children’s shoe retailer in Fulham.

Shop front

I wish I had a better photo of this beautiful shop. Gillingham’s of Fulham.

We stocked many different brands of shoes and I was trained to fit by Start-rite. The shop I worked for was in the second generation of the same family and was run by some very knowledgeable and committed people. I came to know the different makes of shoes, the anatomy of the shoe (toepuff anyone?), how they were made and the history of the shoe industry! I was there for three years, first part time and then, when I left university, full time. Ben even got a job with them too. Yes, for a time, children’s shoes became our lives!

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Shoe fitting was our life!

So when I hear people talking about shoe fitting, I can’t help but interject. And as the season for thinking about new school shoes fast approaches you may be interested in my top tips for children’s shoe fitting and the dreaded back to school:

Be prepared.

Never just ‘pop in’ unprepared to have your children’s feet fitted. If you pop in with your kids feet filthy, covered in sand and without socks it’s going to make it both difficult to fit and gross.

There is a reason good shoes cost money.

Yes, leather shoes are expensive. That’s because of the materials and technology that go into making them. We’re talking real leather, with stiffeners and toe puffs and things to support your children’s feet as they grow. They’re also built to last. By skilled craftsmen and women. Cheap shoes, I’m sorry to tell you, are not.

Fitters are trained. You are not.

You think you can fit shoes yourself? That’s fantastic. Don’t bother going into the shop then. Seriously. Asking Clark’s to measure your child’s feet and then taking them to Matalan to buy shoes is like having your eyes tested at Specsavers and then buying off the shelf reading glasses from the chemist. The fitter takes all sorts of things into account when finding the right shoes for your child. The size is just one tiny aspect of it. Also, how one place measure’s and another brand fits is an entirely different thing. Just saying.

Choice can be overwhelming

Asking your (often too young to give a toss) child which pair they like in a shop filled with hundreds of styles is a recipe for disaster. It’s overwhelming and if they are able to chose a pair, and it is appropriate for what you’re looking for, it might not fit, or even come in their size. It’s much better to have a shop find pairs that are appropriate and fit. Then you and your child can decide if they like them.

Trust your fitter

All reputable shoe shops have trained their staff. It’s not in their interest for them to sell you shoes that do not fit. So trust them and listen to their recommendations. Any good fitter will take you through their thinking for the pairs they’ve suggested if you ask them to. You don’t have to buy what a shop has to offer, but have the grace to listen to their opinion. It is after all what you’re there for!

But most of all

Back to School sucks.

It does, for everyone involved. The shops ramp up for their absolute busiest time of the year and fitters will work non stop, with very little break, every day for weeks. But parents are also stressed, because, like every other local parent, they’ve waited until the very last minute to get their children’s new school shoes. I understand why parents do it. They don’t want to buy shoes too early and then have their children’s feet grow. I get it. But if you are going to wait, you can’t whinge that the shop is heaving and “a nightmare”, when the reason it’s heaving and a nightmare is because everyone has had the same idea as you. Be aware that everyone is in the same boat.

Be patient, be nice to one another and be especially nice to your over worked fitter.

Happy Shoe Shopping!

 

#BML16 and why I’m choosing to focus on the positives

I’m quite sure most of you who read my blog have no interest in the practical side of blogging. I can’t imagine how boring a post about a blogging conference would be to someone with no interest in the industry. But more for my own sake really, I’ve decided to write my reflections on my first one, #BML16, that I attended in London this past weekend.

So ok, I’ll be honest (as I always am) it wasn’t perfect. What event is? I could talk about how I spent some of the day wandering around alone, unable to find a familiar face or approach an unfamiliar one. I know now others were feeling exactly the same and I suggest next year giving some space over to a dedicated ‘making friends’ area. Not everyone who attends has a group to ‘hang out’ with. I’m pretty confident and even I felt I couldn’t always approach people in case they didn’t want to talk to me!

I could talk about how mixed in terms of usefulness the sessions were. The technical ones were fascinating, but waaaay too short. Other just felt like a massive ego stroking session (theirs not mine!), not really what I signed up for.

I could also talk about how I was so dismissed by the first brand I approached, that I barely spoke to another all day. I went in fully aware that, in terms of stats, I was a small fish in a big pond, but to be shot down like that so early, meant I didn’t get the network contacts I went to the conference hoping to get. My fault and not theirs I guess, but still….

But you know me. I try and focus on the positives when I can. And so I have decided to concerntrate on my personal highlights of #BML16.

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My dress

Come on! How could I not talk about my mushroom dress? Everyone else was! I received so many wonderful compliments on the dress, it’s material and look. Which was lovely! But the best bit was totally the amount of these faces 😱🙀😮 I saw when I told people that my husband Ben had made it for me. For one it was a great icebreaker (oh my god you’re the girl with the mushroom dress /didn’t you make this or something/ btw can I just saw I love your dress etc) but everyone was soooo nice about it that it also gave me confidence in a room where I knew practically no one.

Top conference tip: wear a dress in an eyecatching fabric that someone unexpected has made for you!

Mushroom pattern dress

The mushroom frock

A good lift selfie. Gotta be done

A good lift selfie. Gotta be done. The dress looked surprisingly good with my Next pleather jacket

Friends

Blogging is a funny old sport. You get to know people you have never met in real life, sometimes quite intimately. You can talk for years before actually meeting in person. So actually getting to meet and hang out with some of what I would class as my blogging buddies was fantastic.

Me and Natalie from Diary of an Unexpectant Mum

Me and Natalie from Diary of an Unexpectant Mother. This is a bit blurry but I had just had a bottle of wine!

Me and Maria SuburbanMum

Me and Maria from Suburban Mum. Crazy lighting in the main room for the Brilliance in Blogging Awards (which I was not nominated for boohoo 😉 )

Kelley from BringingupGeorgia, when we finally got our full size Coke Zeros. Happy!

Kelly from Bringing up Georgia, when we finally got our full size Coke Zeros. Happy!

Fangirling

Getting to talk face to face to some of the bloggers I admire was an amazing, if a little disconcerting, experience. Once I got over the “oh, I know her from somewhere don’t I?” feeling, I was able to approach people to thank them for their writing or to introduce myself (although the first time I did this it came out a bit gushing “hi I’m Lisa I follow you on Instagram I love your pictures” literally without pausing. I’m not sure poor Hannah from Make, Do & Push knew what to make of me!).

The Fat Girls Guide to Running

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I have nooooo interest in running. Never have. However, the keynote speech given by Julie Creffield from The Fat Girls Guide to Running, really touched something in me. Not to start running necessarily, but the points she made about motivation, self belief and setting goals, or as she calls them Big Fat Stupid Goals. My life is about to change. Oscar starting school is really going to shake things up around here and it feels like the time to DO something is coming. I got to talk to Julie afterwards and it was super interesting. Watch this space!

Making new friends

I’ve been joining Laura’s #effitfriday link up over at Life with Baby Kicks for a while, but we only started talking recently over Twitter. We had a great chat on Saturday. I couldn’t get over how much she reminded me of my sister in law Rachel, which may explain why I later went on to pinch her bum as I walked past. It was only afterwards that I wondered if that might have been a bit forward for someone who I’d only just met. Turns out not, when I saw this on Sunday.

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And this really is what I went to this conference for. The human connection. Reaching out to real people. I love blogging and the space it affords me and the friends it creates online but nothing compares to real human interaction.

Yeah the conference had it flaws and if I’d gone with the sole goal of making money I think I might be feeling pretty maligned. Thankfully I got to make connections and touch someone (and I don’t just mean their arse). Conference made.

This was next door to my hotel and seemed so very apt!

This was next door to my hotel and summed up my feelings about the day.

 

KidRated’s Top 10 for Half Term

It’s half term. Another week in which to find things to do and hope your kids don’t massacre one another with boredom have a great time. If you’re in or near enough to London for day trips, this is always an option for boredom busting. I’ve never been brave enough to take Oscar up to the big smoke yet, but I can’t wait until I am. We went to our local science museum in Winchester recently and he loved it, so I can only imagine how much he’d enjoy the National Science Museum when we’re both ready.

But if you are there already, taking the children up to London for the day can make amazing memories. And you don’t have to just visit the usual suspects. My buddy Simon over at KidRated, has been doing some research and has come up with this amazing list of things to do with children, in and around London, this half term.

 

HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast is a ship, permanently moored on the Thames and run by the Imperial War Museum. It’s a firm favourite with kids and over half-term week, they’ll be teaching children how ‘dazzle’ camouflage was used to keep the ship safe during WW2!

Kids Will Love: The nine decks to explore

Adults Will Love: Kids go free and there’s a great cafe.

 

Thorpe Park Fright Nights

Teenagers should visit Thorpe Park this half term if they want to be seriously scared because Fright Nights are back. The horrors include riding Colossus in the dark and, exploring the new circus themed Big Top scare maze.

Kids Will Love: Anything that scares them witless.

Adults Will Love: Dropping them off.

13+ and over.

 

Brick or Treat at Legoland Windsor

The fantastic plastic park promises a whole host of ‘spook-tacular’ activities, plus their usual 55 rides, live shows and attractions. It all kicks of on the 17th October and runs until 2nd November.

Kids Will Love: The New Heartlake City attraction

Parents Will Love: The fireworks.

 

The Shard

A half-term visit to London’s highest landmark is well worth the trip as kids go free. Timed access to the Viewing Gallery means it never really feels busy and overcrowded, and kids rate it highly!

Kids Will Love: The express lifts, the friendly guides and the digital time travelling telescopes.

Adults Will Love: The view and the bar!

26th October – 1st November

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Bletchley Park

Packed with exhibits, both historical and interactive, you can easily spend the day here and many people do. The huts in which the code-breakers worked have been lovingly recreated and other highlights include authentic Enigma devices, a restored Bombe machine and a dedicated exhibit to the great Alan Turing.

Kids Will Love: The snazzy iPod guides.

Adults will love: The costumes and props from The Imitation Game still infused with essence of Cumberbatch.

Under-12s go free,

 

London RIB

We doubt there’s a kid in NW10 who doesn’t love the London RIB Voyages. With their distinctive red ‘Rocket’ boats, it’s one of our best-reviewed attractions. Warm coats are provided and don’t forget to take your camera because the sights look amazing from the Thames.

Kids Will Love: The funny guides and super speeds.

Adults will love: The 80s/90s soundtrack on the boats.

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Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge Exhibition was always great, but since it installed the glass walkway it’s become a must-see. There are maps, films, interactive exhibits and of course the best views in London – both up and down the Thames. Don’t forget the bridge opens, so time your visit right and you’ll catch that as well.

Kids Will Love: The glass walkway of course!

Adults Will Love: The Victorian engine rooms at the foot of the bridge. Two experiences for the price of one!

 

RATATOUILLE and FROZEN at The Royal Albert Hall

Visit the Royal Albert Hall for a winning combination of animation and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This half term they’re screening Frozen & Ratatouille. The former is the musical that has driven parent insane and the latter is the animated classic about a cooking rat. Both are true stories apparently…

Kids Will Love: That song

Adults Will Love: That song ending and seeing films in such sumptuous surroundings.

Booking required

 

Dark Arts at Warner Bros Studio Tour (The Making of Harry Potter)

Halloween is the perfect time to make the Potterhead pilgrimage to Watford. Kids will be able to test their duelling skills against Death Eaters and explore a carriage on The Hogwarts Express

Kids Will Love: The Great Hall, which will be decorated with apples, pumpkins and cauldrons of lollipops.

Adults Will Love: The incredible animatronics and handy transport links!

Booking required

WhatsOn_DarkArts

 

And of course there’s always the CINEMA

Handy if it rains and even better if you’re hungover, you can’t beat the cinema.

Younger kids and first-timers, check out Maya The Bee. An animated adventure about a cute bee and her friend, Willy.

For more experienced cinema goers check out Bill, a Shakespeare biopic by the Horrible Histories team. Paper Planes – a heartwarming film about a young Australian competing in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan. And Pan, a new take on the J.M. Barrie classic.

Kids Will Love: All of them but especially Bill.

Parents Will Love: Bill.

 

KidRated is a website where all the reviews have been done by kids.

You can sign up for their Newsletter, follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook or even K-Rate something yourself by uploading a review.

 

This is not a sponsored post, I just wanted to share some great ideas with you all.

Hope you have a great half term!

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