Guest Post – Bern Morley’s Red Shoes

There are times when I read Bern Morley’s blog So Now What and laugh until my sides hurt even though at the same time I actually want to cry.

This time last year her mum was dying of cancer. The hospital seriously stuffed up their treatment of her mother. She complained passionately and eloquently to Anna Bligh, the Premier of Queensland and got somewhere with that. People listen to Bern. At the same time she was working 4 days a week,  blogging, studying and renovating a veritable reincarnation of the Money Pit. Bern has three children: one who has a disability, one who is (as Bern says) ‘a natural disaster on legs‘ and the other on the ‘precipice of premature womanhood‘.

In the midst of this she can wrote about depression in the same week that she described her worthy girl fight against Ronald McDonald red hair disasteers and husband shredding dry heel skin.

How does she do it? She has a laconic sense of humour and the ability to find something funny to say about the most melancholy of topics.   When she writes, she inspires others to look for the bizarre and the hilarious in the rickety train rides of our lives. Furthermore, when she writes she inspires me to write.

She loves red shoes.  The question here is whether for her red shoes are a talisman or a monkey’s paw…?


So can a pair of shoes determine what kind of day you are going to have?  What about what kind of season you will be living through?

Bern Morley's Red WedgesI am not a hippy, so normally; I would say a definitive – NO.

Why was it then, after wearing my new, lovely red wedges that I adore, I ended up in the Emergency Department at our local hospital, not once, but twice?

Now, these aren’t expensive shoes, nor are they are brand labelled.  In fact, these imitation leather, I believe the word is synthetic upper, high wedges were purchased at Target.

They were $8.92 in one of those, had to be there at the right time, 40% off the lowest marked price clearance sales.

I had first seen these shoes about two months before and had immediately loved them.  But red shoes, I thought, were for zany people.  Ones that wore bright green spectacles and were the brightest beacon in the room at any social event.  I just straight up passed them over for a similar pair of black ones.  Same cut, same design, just black.

And I wear a lot of black.  Particularly for two reasons:  a)  It trims down the appearance of my particularly large arse and b) I spill stuff on myself.  A lot.  Black is always going to be my new black.

But then one day, for no particular reason,  I wandered into Target, and there sitting in the clearance bin, discarded along with 2 pairs of gold lame’ slip on sandals that would do Demis Roussos proud,  were my red wedges.  Size 9.  I tried them on with my black work pants.   Great news, they fit.  Extra great news, they were comfortable. Fucking excellent news:  They were less than ten bucks!  SOLD.

The very next day, I went to work wearing my new Red Shoes.  Along with black skirt, a black top and a little black cardigan.  And I loved myself sick.  Compliments flowed.  Well, I work with 3 other people, so they I guess, they leaked, rather than flowed, but they were forthcoming none the less.

Just after lunch an unknown number flashed up on my mobile.   I ignored it with some flippant remark like “If they want me bad enough, they will call me at work or stop blocking their number”.     Turns out they did want me badly.  Very badly.  My eight year old son had fallen off the monkey bars at school.  Standard schoolyard folly one would think.  Except this wasn’t standard.  Basically not much connected his elbow anymore to the rest of his arm.

So after sitting in the ER, having being told his break was “as bad as it could possibly get” and being told they couldn’t guarantee he would ever use his arm again”, I put my head down, focused on my stupid red shoes and cried into my knees.

Good news:  his operation was successful.  An overnight stay. Yet, my red high wedges had one more appearance to make during this hospital stay.  See, my dear husband, stressed to his eyeballs, went home, grabbed me a tracksuit to sleep in, but no other shoes.  So if you happened to see a dishevelled lunatic wandering around the kids ward on the Gold Coast, wearing a mismatched tracksuit with high red wedges, you would have been looking at me.

Not one week later, I got ready for work, but knew something wasn’t right.  I put on my work outfit, yep black and my red shoes, first time since the last time.    Sam was lethargic.  And hot.  And well, just scaring the living shit out of me with his pale listlessness.  I think every parent knows this particular feeling.

I still went out that morning appearing to go about my business as normal, yet inside I just knew it would be anything but.  Sam and I went directly to the ER.  See, his arm had a 5% chance of getting an infection.  Highly unlikely the doctor informed me.  Well, you know what doc, after the year I’ve just had, highly and unlikely are just two words that I have heard bandied about one too many times.

So after a full day of having Sam assessed in the ER, we were admitted.  Likely infection in the arm.  Bad if it gets in the bones apparently. Sam, eight, small, the light of my life, just lying there, whilst I looked down at those god damned red shoes again and commenced my best impression of a prayer.    The next week was not pretty.  Countless cannulas, enough antibiotics to kill a hippo and equal amount of tears to break the outback drought.

Within two months, my mother died.  My two sons ended up in hospital with various degrees of broken bones.  My own mortality was tested.  Those shoes went to the back of the closet.

So, have I worn them again?  Have I tempted fate?  You betcha.

They are shoes, not the precursor to seven shades of shit that seem to have previously accompanied them.   Of course I always knew this; it’s just hard when you associate shite times with an inanimate object.

They now are starting to look a little dog eared.  They have scuffs and the weather is getting cooler and I want to wear boots.  But they will remain in my cupboard until next summer.

Next summer which can’t be as bad as the last.  I refuse to believe that.

14 thoughts on “Guest Post – Bern Morley’s Red Shoes

  1. I love it when writers are raw and honest. Your blog gripped me tight. May your red shoes be a warmly glowing beacon of hope in a rather crappy bleak season. I must admit that red shoes are my absolute favourites, so I’m glad you found their redemptive qualities. Maybe a pair of red boots for winter? Best to you and yours. 🙂

  2. I have found that life runs in cycles; if things are shite, there seems to be a lot of that all together. Then you get a respite before the next onslaught from Bastards Headquarters.

  3. Oh Bern. Your writing makes me want to comfort you and stroke your hair, but also it makes me want to skip (in red shoes) with you too. You rock. xx

  4. Oh, wow- I had no idea you went though all this. Wish I’d known you then. You are an amazing, beautiful woman. Great blog- and great intro @gabfran.

    • It was an absolute delight and an honour for me that you agreed to write this. You know that I have been shoe stalking you for a piece on red shoes for Quite.Some. Time.

  5. Surely the shoes couldn’t be cursed? No seriously, sad for all the crap you’ve gone through, and good on you for wearing the shoes anyway. I think there’s a lesson in that for all of us, don’t you?

  6. Oi! Why did I not see this in fucking June last year?

    I love you, Bern. You are a fearless goddess. (I once saw someone write that with one ‘d’ … godess … which reminded me of my high-school disasters in PE as a beginner with menstrual pads. Modess. I digress.”)

    I wore red shoes to my mother’s funeral.

    She’d have loved it.


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