I have been given this magical brace which I wear below my right knee to help control my spasticity.
After my fall, I didn’t wear shoes for a while. Then when I began wearing takkies, I was unable to tie the laces because of my spastic right hand. So Mums used to do them up for me. Can you imagine the frustration I felt as a 28 year old having my mother do up my shoes? Learning to tie my laces was one of my first Occupational Therapy tasks! Now I have this enchanting brace that enables me to walk straight and relatively normally. My days of ‘loemp doemp, loemp doemp’ are over!
However, I discovered that there was a problem with my shoes. I now had a right foot which with my brace was so much bigger than my left. Franette, my Orthotist, removed the insoles from my takkies and I just managed to squeeze in my braced right foot using a shoe horn. I could take Leah, my dog for an outing to the Botanical Gardens. But, at the end of our walk, my foot was tremendously swollen and I gratefully removed my brace and put on comfy vellies.
I was useless in a pair of slip-ons because my right foot just flung the shoe off with a debilitating WHIZZZZ. People quickly learned not to stand in front of me when I was wearing slip-ons because the WHIZZZZZ WHACK practically beheaded them! Not allowing a pair of shoes to get the better of me, I found that by slipping a piece of elastic around my shoe, there was no way that it could go WHIZZZZING anywhere! Fortunately while overseas I found this incredible pair of slip-ons that believed that WHIZZZZING was totally undignified. These shoes fit me like a dream. All my shoes did until…the brace.
Enter totally bewitching friends that have just given, given and given to me – Ynor and Alan Fleetwood. Ynor phoned me and said: “Gaynor, Alan and I have seen your new brace on Facebook and we noticed that you are no longer wearing your different coloured vellies.”
My trademark was to wear purple, red, green, blue and black vellies on different feet. Admit, a unique look!
“Ynor, my vellies won’t fit with my brace. So when I go for walks I am having to rely on my takkies. Even then, it’s a problem, because my right foot becomes really uncomfortable.
“Gaynor, Alan is the CEO of Bolton Footwear which has a factory in Great Brak. It’s where Grasshoppers are made.”
“Grasshoppers!!!! Glory, Ynor, those are what I used to wear to school. I had forgotten about Grasshoppers.”
“They make school shoes but so much more. Alan says that he will be up there on Wednesday and would love to see you to try and solve your problem.”
Alan has a face with grinning eyes. I missed not being enfolded in his engulfing hug but we did the COVID ‘elbow’ greeting and I looked into his eyes and my heart grinned back. Alan led me through to a conference room and introduced two members of his team, Grant van Aswegen and Sherwin Maharaj who smiled warmly at me.
“Right, Gaynor, won’t you please explain what your situation is with your vellies.” Alan said.
I had worn my takkies over my brace but I had also bought with me all of my different coloured vellies.
“As you can see, I adore my ‘vellies’. And I used to wear a different coloured one on each foot until I got this brace. The brace works fantastically, but I no longer have shoes that fit. I wear these takkies whenever I take my dog for a walk but my foot ends up sore and swollen horribly. I wonder if you chaps can perhaps find a solution to my problem?”
“Well, Grasshoppers manufactured the original Veldtschoen back in the late 1800’s and so I am sure we will be able to help” said Alan.
“Could you please remove the brace and just let us fiddle with it and your vellie?” Grant asked.
I did so and they discussed my shoes and brace in terms I did not understand, throwing out words like ‘vamp’ and ‘top-line’.
“Please could you leave one of your right Veldtschoen with us and we’ll see what we can do?” Sherwin enquired.
“Sure and thank you”, I said. “You have no idea how much I appreciate your help.”
“I’m off to Cape Town this afternoon. I am leaving you in very capable hands. I miss seeing you in your mixed vellies but I know I am not going to miss them for long,” Alan laughingly promised.
A week later, Sherwin asked me to come and try on my modified vellie. Grant and he had lowered the back and had widened and stretched the front of the shoe. And, using a shoe horn, my braced foot finally managed to fit into my beautiful blue vellie. I looked up at their two faces with grins shining down at my Veldtschoened foot and cried out: “You did it. It fits. Cinderella had nothing on me!!! How incredible the two of you are.”
“Wait, wait,” cautioned Grant. “The most important thing is how they feel. Walk around in them.”
I walked and they felt exactly like my takkies – walkable but so uncomfortable. They saw my face.
“Not good, huh?”, Sherwin asked. I shook my head. “Okay, Plan B goes into action.
Tim Vermeulen is involved in the design and development of our shoes.”
He picked up his phone. “Hi, Tim, Gaynor has tried on the Veldtschoen and it is as we feared. Okay…okay, fine. See you in a moment.”
As we were all wearing masks, I couldn’t see Tim’s full face. But the eyes are what truly reveal a person. His were warm and friendly. He measured my foot in my brace.
“I will use these measurements to make a ‘last’ or in layman’s terms a mould over which your new vellies can be built. I have bought one to show you.”
He drew out a green mould. I looked at it and laughed.
“I have an old wooden one of those that I use as an ornament in my lounge.”
“Visually pleasing”, Tim chuckled, “and now you will have one that is practically pleasing. Using this, we will be able to make terrific shoes for your braced foot.”
He then bought out swatches of differing coloured suedes and nubuck.
“Alan has said we must make you three pairs of Veldtschoen. I think it would be great to choose two colours for each shoe. Then we can mix and match the different elements of the shoes so you end up with contrasting pairs.”
What delicious fun I had choosing my shoe colours!
Two weeks later, with a laugh, I asked my friend, B: “Are you available to take Cinderella down to Bolton’s in Great Brak? Her slippers are ready and waiting?”
We walked into the conference room to be met by a beaming Sherwin and Grant and a table full of the most amazingly jewel coloured vellies. What a sight!
‘But will the right one fit over my brace?’ I thought.
As if reading my mind, Grant said: “Look at the size of the right ones, they are quite a bit bigger than the left.”
With my heart in my mouth, I picked up the right one and lowered my braced foot tentatively towards it. My foot slipped Cinderella-like into the shoe, smooth and easily. I insisted on trying on all three pairs. Tim had done a superb job of mixing the colours. I stood there admiring my newly clad feet amidst a roomful of smiles.
So now, I am able to walk normally once more. I don’t mind wearing my brace which is so incredibly noticeable. When people see my brace, their gaze is instantly diverted by my stunning Veldtskoen. They are definitely ‘one of a kind’! They truly live up to the Grasshopper motto: “The most comfortable shoes ever made!”
Thanks to four incredibly kind, generous men at Boltons, I am now able to walk with great panache! I leave my apartment and literally promenade along the street in my beautiful shoes. As I go this song often plays in my head:
These boots are made for walkin’
And that’s just what they’ll do
One of these days these boots are gonna Grasshop over you!!!