Eco-friendly Tiger

I have had my eye on a pair of Onitsuka Tigers for some time, and I’ve been waiting for the perfect pair. I did have my eye on a yellow pair (I love yellow), but I decided the black stripe was a bit too waspish for me: I want the yellow to be mellow, not invoke a fight-or-flight response when you look at them.

A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing the Onitsuka website when I noticed they had brought out a new selection called ‘Soft Marty‘. I think it was the basic and minimalist approach to these shoes that grabbed me, coupled with the ‘micro-knifing’ technique used to give a raised texture to the accents. They were just a bit different to the millions of other trainers on the market:

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There are two models available on the UK website, the Mexico 66:

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Mexico 66: £155

and the Corsair:

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Corsair: £155

I didn’t realise this at the time, such was my fervour to put a pair on my legs, but they’re also made with leather produced without using chromium-based tanning methods. Chromium IV, used in leather tanning, is harmful to the environment and to the people doing the manufacturing. So hurrah for not using this method! However, they don’t explicitly state which leather tanning process they do use, and given the colour of them I am assuming they probably use the aldehyde method rather than vegetable tanning methods. Formaldehyde is pretty toxic to the environment and people, so I don’t think we can be claiming any bold step forward just yet, but it’s a nice try for the marketing department. I am not going all eco-warrior here and demanding we boycott leather; leather manufacturing is toxic by its nature, and as long as we protect workers and dispose of chemicals responsibly I am happy. I just don’t think non-chromium leather can make any outlandish claims about being eco-friendly if they use formaldehyde instead.

Anyway, back to the shoes… from an arthritis point of view, the Corsair would be a better choice. They’re more stable, with great cushioning and arch support and not as slim-fitting as the Mexico 66. However, with my slim feet and love of the shape I went for the Mexico 66.

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I was very impressed from the start. They’re very, very soft and light-weight, and although they don’t offer a lot of support along the foot because they’re so soft, there is enough arch support to stop me over-pronating, meaning I can walk a reasonable distance in them.

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I also love the detailing on them, the cream colour is a quite like ‘cricket whites’, which I find very pleasing, and it goes with everything, especially denim. I quite like the fact they are not just another pair of white trainer that look the same as all the others. The micro-knifed texture is a nice touch, they feel good when you hold them, which, again, I really like. The narrowness and close-fitting form, coupled with the lightness, makes me think of fencing shoes, which for me is tremendously nostalgic (yes, before I was f*cked by the arthritis, I was handy with a sword and used to represent my university at fencing), but I realise that won’t be for everyone, but the Corsair is not so fitted…OI000035.jpgThey’re also very flexible, which is great for tired arthritic feet that don’t want to work hard. I can’t imagine they will be so great when the temperature drops because the leather and soles are thin in order to accommodate the softness and flexibility, and cold is worse for arthritic bones but, for the cool summer the UK is having, they’re perfect. I also wonder about how hard-wearing they are given their delicate feel, but I can report back next year.

So, in summary, I really like these shoes and I would heartily recommend them.

Festival season: Citadel

 

Citadel is a newish one-day festival. Three years old this year and set in London, it is, on paper, a festival I would enjoy: it’s close enough to my house not to have to stay over anywhere, and it fields the sort of music that I like. However, it’s been my experience that festivals in or close to London are not as fun as those outside London. In order to live in London, people forget how to interact with each other in a civil manner, which is fine on the tube but not so fine when you’re supposed to be feeling chill listening to your favourite bands. To put in bluntly, people in London can be arseholes (and I am sure I am guilty of this at times, especially when people are STANDING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ESCALATORS. YES, IT DOES MATTER!!!), and so London-based festivals have to be pretty special to get my money.

I was tempted by Citadel this year, I really liked two of the bands — Sylvan Esso and Wild Beasts — and quite liked many of the others: Laura Marling, Nadine Shah, Foals. However, because I had seen Wild Beasts twice last year I didn’t think it was worth spending the money on seeing them again, but then I had the chance to meet an old friend there as part of her birthday celebrations (I was missing her party), so I was sold.

Being a London festival, it does mean that one has no excuse to look like you’ve just crawled out of a tent. If I owned anything sequiny I would have donned it (gonna trawl some charity shops with this in mind for next time). The weather was also being a bit of a pain: it was warm, but in that ‘going to be muggy and rain in a minute’ kind of way. I the end I wore a light dress with an awesome print, but with fish-netty leggings because it wasn’t the weather for a short skirt, and a long cardigan for layering.

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I also struggled with what to wear on the feet, even though it was technically a local festival, I actually did more walking because I used public transport, so I wanted something really comfortable. The leggings made it hard to wear sandals (and also you have to be quite brave for sandals at a festival, they can be grim and I wanted my toes covered) so I went for glittery hi-tops. Glittery hi-tops are totally festival shoes.

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Chuck Taylor All Star glitter: £85

This outfit worked really well on the day. I could take the cardigan off when it got really hot, I had an umbrella for when it rained (too hot for a waterproof), the dress was floaty and summery but the print hid the muck and beer spillages, and the leggings prevented my legs shocking any teenagers. There were a lot of people in festival gear — glitter-galore and flower crowns, but I can’t be bothered frankly. However, I can recommend an eye pencil for some grown-up sparkle at festivals or otherwise:

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Colour Chameleon champagne diamonds £19

I’ve been wearing this Charlotte Tilbury eyeshadow pencil over the summer and it’s great. Long-lasting and easy to wear, it’s got a nice starry sparkle that isn’t too over the top. I bought the champagne sparkle, which is for blue eyes, but there are other colours available. This colour does like nice with my grey–blue eyes, but it would suit most people.

So to review the festival itself, Citadel was a lot of fun, and they managed to cram a lot in. Victoria Park was a lot bigger than I had realised, but I think the organisers had tried to cram too much into the space, there wasn’t enough distance between some of the smaller stages to be out of earshot of other stages, and this was really detrimental with the spoken-word events, such as the comedy and the science talks as you just couldn’t hear them.

That said, the bands were really good. The main stage was huge and had lots of screens that were so high-definition you could read the waist size on the band members’ Levis. Wild Beasts were, of course, belting out some solid tunes, although I think they do better headlining their own smaller stage.

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Wild Beasts + camera man’s arse

They were on at a bit of an awkward time and overlapped with my favourite set that night, Sylvan Esso. I don’t have any pictures of Sylvan Esso because I was dancing so much; they really seemed to be enjoying being on stage, and it whipped everyone up. People were really getting into their songs, which created such a special moment, and one that seems to be rarer as I watch live music as I get older. So in the absence of a picture I’m posting a youtube of one of my favourite songs. I don’t love the video, but this song got everyone dancing:

Margaret Glaspy also did a really good set. Short, snappy grungey New-York rock, I was surprised as I always assumed she was folky. I will definitely be checking her out in the future.

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Margaret Glaspy

So in summary, Citadel was enjoyable, but it’s not one of my favourite festivals. Maybe because it’s a London thing but it feels kind of manic, like there were just too many people and pineapple workshops and not enough thought about the spacing of the music or the comfort capacity of the area. If you have to queue to get into a bar, you know something is wrong. Also, I hate a lot of corporate sponsorship at festivals. I realise that without it, the ticket prices would be a lot higher (it was close to £60 including postage and booking fees, which I think is reasonable for a day’s entertainment), but it really felt ridiculously in your face at Citadel. It just wasn’t needed to have Jagermeister branding all over the Jagermeister tent. All you could buy at the bar was Jagermeister (which smells so potently of regret) so it was bloody obvious. It didn’t feel like there was a square metre that didn’t have some corporate branding on it… not my thing. Also, the litter situation was atrocious. I know it’s a festival and people want to get drunk and not put things in the bin, but when I look back to other festivals such as Greenman and Bluedot, they are pristine: they have reusable cups and the litter-pickers work very hard.

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Foals playing the headline. Litter everywhere…

Walking out to the periphery to take a photograph of the main stage when Foals were playing, the were plastic cups everywhere. It looked like a rubbish dump. I took a quick snap (above) and put my camera away, it wasn’t very inspiring.

I probably would go again, given the ease of getting there, but they would have to have some really good bands playing and the bonus of catching up with some old friends, which was by far the best part of the day.

In terms of attending with a disability, it was good. the ground is smooth and flat and there are accessible toilets if you need the extra space. It was hard going, but I limped home happy.

 

 

Festival season: Bluedot 2017

It’s that time of year again, when a music lover’s mind turns to days devoted to listening to their favourite bands live in the sun, and when my arthritic bones start complaining about element exposure and long standing times in fields. Yes, it’s festival season, and if you have arthritis and love music in equal measure (I REALLY have arthritis) it’s a double-edged sword.

After enjoying Bluedot in 2016 I decided to do it again, as the fact I can combine a single day at the festival with staying at my mum’s house makes it a really attractive option. It’s nice to see my family and catch up with them, and the festival turns it into a little bit of a holiday, especially as it has a good range of science talks and kids’ activities.

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3,200 tonnes of science

So, as I always recommend, I checked the weather forecast religiously in the week before the festival, which suggested it would be 17°C, and as last year I remember being really cold when he sun went down (which is hell for arthritic bones) I packed a jumper, gloves and a hat. Of course the day before the festival, the meteorologists realised that the approaching cold-front wasn’t going to hit until the following day and instead would be 24°C and sunny. If I had had access to my wardrobe I would have worn a dress or a pair of shorts, but making an outfit from what I had, I went for a shirt and cropped jeans, and it worked pretty well:

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Jeans: whistles. Shirt: OtherStories. Trusty gig bag: Boden (all old, bag is bloody ancient). Scarf: Rockins

On my feet, I wore the Clarks Tri Angel, which are a great choice for a festival if you have arthritis and don’t feel the need to make a statement with your shoes. There was plenty of glitter at the festival, but generally people don’t do fancy dress for Bluedot: people realise it’s a field in Cheshire, not Coachella, and I only saw one flower crown. Comfortable, flexible and light, the Clarks Tri Angels really helped me last all day: I ended up walking over 7 miles at the festival, but my joints didn’t feel too bad at the end of it.

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My daughter’s infinitely cooler converse trainers and my Clarks angels

So, the festival itself, Bluedot is a good one for families or if you’re with people who like music but get bored just doing it all day. There were lots of interactive science displays from all over the country, interesting talks, comedy and activities for children. Maybe it was the weather, sunshine makes people chilled out and chatty, but I ended up chatting to lots of scientists over the course of the day, and I learned a lot. My favourite was discovering a robot I would actually like living in my house:

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Miro robot: cute AND clever, get a robot that can do both

I don’t want robots that do stuff apart from be petted and enjoy my company, because then they won’t want to kill me (I’ve seen sci-fi, I know what happens).

Musically, on the day I attended the festival was OK. Alt-J were the headliners on Sunday and played a good mix of old and new songs. They’re not the band to see live if you like a lot of interaction, but they always have great stage design — their lighting is always beautiful — which makes up for it:

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Alt-J

But aside from Alt-J, there weren’t that many musical highlights that grabbed me. Warpaint (who were given the penultimate slot) were so insipid that I wandered off to a tent where people were coding electronic music live, and you could see the coding and algorithms they were using (yes, it was super nerdy, but it was really interesting and it’s the sort of thing that allows more people to make music, which is no bad thing. I was inspired to have a go at coding music, and I don’t code):

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Drop some weather report in there

The early, lesser-known bands and performers had lots of energy and were better festival fodder, my daughter had a great time dancing to them:

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A particular highlight was the Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band, which did a set on stage, playing various sci-fi themes, and then joined the crowd later on in the day, getting everybody dancing with some traditional music:

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It was impossible not to dance to this

Another highlight from Bluedot is that although there was some corporate sponsorship, it was fairly low-key and not too much in your face (the worst offender being Blue-Moon beer), but generally it didn’t feel like you were in the middle of a massive advert like so many festivals. Also, the litter pickers were AMAZING, Bluedot not only had great recycling bins everywhere, the teams worked really hard to keep it spotless. You can see from the photos, it was pristine and that really made a difference to the atmosphere for me.

My one criticism of Bluedot this year was their decision not to allow re-entry on a day ticket. The best way of managing a small child at a festival, is to take the child to your mum’s when she’s had enough and go back for some grown-up festival experience. If you have a really family-friendly festival, they should be issuing wristbands because a) kids need to be able to leave if it gets too much and b) it’s great to be able to leave coats, picnics, changes of clothes and all the stuff kids seem to need rather than carry it round all day. I know some kids can get by with very little, can eat anything, will be chilled out all the time etc… I do not have one of those kids. In addition, if it’s hot, you don’t want to be carrying a coat, but it does get cold when the sun goes down, which can be hard on people with arthritis, so being able to go back to your car to get a coat and sweater, or maybe a pair of warm socks, is a massive bonus.

I hope Bluedot changes their stance on this next year, because it probably is a deal breaker for me, and it would be a shame to miss it because it’s a great festival.

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Stay classy Bluedot

 

Susan Calman’s Grensons

I have been talking about buying myself a pair of Grenson shoes for a long time, but had never quite gotten round to talking the plunge. Although they are really beautiful, they’re also really expensive and to be honest, I couldn’t quite justify buying myself a pair of super-fantastic brogues, when Clarks do a reasonable brogue for a fraction of the price. Sometimes, because money is not an infinite resource (unless you’re a government trying to buy your way into staying in power), ‘that’ll do’ has to take precedence until a combination of factors force you to go the extra mile. This summer, I passed the Grenson event horizon, and the factors that pushed me over was a damn fine sale and the comedian Susan Calman.

Susan Calman was touring this summer (and there are tour dates in the autumn), and I had seen her a few times on television. However, last year I randomly got tickets to be in the audience for a panel show she was on, and she was naturally very funny with an eye for the ridiculous (and quite competitive, which I admire!)

So when a friend asked me whether I wanted to go and see Calman’s stand-up show, I jumped at the chance. The first thing I really liked about Susan Calman is how nice she is. I have been to lots of comedy shows before and my first rule is to never sit on the front row, because you will get picked on, and secondly, never ever be late, because you will be destroyed by that acerbic wit you admire so much. Susan Calman actually told us to be nice to latecomers, because you know it’s actually perfectly reasonable for a journey not to go as planned, and she had a section in her show actually encouraging us to be kind. She was very funny and didn’t have to resort to being horrible to people. Yay!

The second thing I really liked about her was her honesty. On the day of her show, the UK Conservative government had made a deal with the Northern Irish DUP, a party that holds some, to my mind, abhorrent views, not least that homosexuality was an ‘abomination’. Given that Susan Calman is gay, she got genuinely very upset about it, and she talked about it in her show, bringing her close to tears. If I knew talking about something would make me cry in front of a large audience of people I didn’t know, I would not dream of talking about it. So I have a massive amount of respect for her, she’s very brave.

The third thing I noticed about Susan Calman was that she was wearing some lovely yellow shoes, even from the back row from where I was sitting. I had a hunch they might be Grensons, and was thinking about them all of the following day (you know when you get a crush on shoes? No? Just me is it?) so I got my friend to ask her on twitter and the confirmation came about the same time that the Grenson sale started… coincidence? Yes, but a happy one, and I got to shopping.

While Susan Calman’s amazing shoes were not in the sale, I think these are most like them in terms of style:

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Grenson Emily: £70 (reduced from £230)

Many of the brogue styles were not available in my size; however, Grenson do a nice line in trainers, and I really loved these blue suede shoes:

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Grenson tennesee: £98 (from £195)

They come in a wider F fitting, which is good for arthritis; however, being narrow of foot I went for these shoes, which have a D fitting — a little bit derby, a little bit trainer, all lovely:

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Grenson Effy: £70 (reduced from £210)

I have had these shoes for a few weeks now, but I have been unable to wear them because it’s been so hot, but fortunately the good old British weather did what it does best, and promptly went cold and rainy for no reason.

These shoes are REALLY comfortable. I went to London in them without breaking them in, and there was no rubbing, discomfort or blistering, and they look really nice.

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I have a lot of very girly, 50s-style skirts, and these boyish shoes are the perfect contrast:

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So there we are, Grenson shoes are definitely worth splashing out on, and you should definitely see Susan Calman if you have the opportunity, not least because you may find some shoe inspiration.

Life on campus

It seems recently that the way of fashion (or being cool or whatever) is that we have a trainer to get periodically obsessed about and then never wear again (remember when everyone was wearing Adidias stan smiths ALL the time?) Now it seems the turn of the 80s style Adidas campus trainer.

I’m not a huge fan of the campus… maybe it’s because I was a child in the 80s that I associate that decade with everything not cool about it (for all that we criticise kids of today, there was a LOT more plastic crap marketed at kids back then… spokey dokes anyone?) Also, if you want to go down that 80s route, you should go for the Nike Air Max; the chunky full-on trainer design is much more 80s and very comfortable, although perhaps go for a more tasteful colour than the black–red or neon designs of yesteryear. I really like these tortoise panelled ones, they’re a great ‘neutral’ shoe without being boring:

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Nike Air Max: £92

But back to the campus. Like I said, they’re not great for me. I find the sole a little chunky and the heel tab gets on my nerves; however, I realise that this may be beneficial to some people who like the retro-trainer look, but find the soles on Adidas gazelles too thin to be supportive or the shoe too narrow.

My favourite for summer are these white pair with the pink sole:

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Adidas campus: £79.95

They also come in a grey and pink-sole combination, which is also fab: the pink sole makes it a little bit different.

And while we are talking about Adidas, I just wanted to mention for any fellow Wes Anderson fans out there, that Adidas brought out a limited (only 100 pairs!) of Rom Zizzou trainers that were seen in the Life Aquatic.

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Apparently they were available at the We Love Green festival in Paris, and the chances of me ever getting my hands on a pair are precisely zero, but I can dream and in any case, lets just sit back and admire the beauty that is these trainers:

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Rom Zizzou: not for you mere mortals

The kooky wedding

Last year, I talked about the problems of trying to dress glamorously for weddings when you have arthritis, thus delicate spindly shoes are out.  This year, I was invited to the wedding of a friend I have known since I was 12 years old (a very long time ago now), which gave me the chance to go all out on dressing how I wanted. That’s not to say I shouldn’t have looked amazing, my friend has high standards and a very strong eye for detail, it’s just she is cool and not very mainstream so, traditional wedding attire was out, and celebrating the unique was in.

So, my mind wandered straight to buying a jumpsuit! Jumpsuits have several advantages at weddings: trousers are easier to move about in, you don’t trip over them on stairs, and nobody sees your pants when you fall over during the giant tug-of-war (it was that sort of wedding), but the advantage of a dress is that you don’t have to mess about getting the top and bottom sorted. The jumpsuit has the best of both worlds, and they look more ‘special occasion’ than trousers and a top because it’s not something you wear (or I wear, anyway) everyday. Sometimes, smart trousers and a top can look a bit ‘meeting with head office’. The downsides of jumpsuits are, first, getting them to fit. I have a long body and relatively short thighs, so you can imagine how easy it is to find jumpsuits that don’t ‘cheese-wire’ in the delicate areas and, second, most are cut with a tapered leg, which makes anyone with a big bum look even wider, especially if you have a small waist.

However, I found this jumpsuit at The Finery; I loved the print, and it fitted like a dream.

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Finery columbia jumpsuit: £69 (in the sale)

The fact that the trousers are wide-legged helped to balance out my proportions, and the belt helped to highlight the waist, Also the fabric is really flowy and flattering, which helps to make it dressy. I really want to wear it again (if the dry cleaners can get the wine stains out).

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holding my first of many flutes of fizz…

 

Also in the sale are these jumpsuits from Whistles, which I think would flatter all figures (although some are tricky to wear a bra underneath, which would put me off):

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Whistles tangerine dream jumpsuit: £135
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Whistles nadia jumpsuit: £175
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Whistles jaipur jumpsuit: £255
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Whistles delia jumpsuit: £235

And as for the shoes, the beauty of jumpsuits and trousers is that you can wear robust shoes on the feet without it looking strange. I was going to buy some white brogues, but the hot weather ruled that out, and I wore some petty awesome gold sandals:

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These are old sandals I bought in the sale from a shop called Northern Cobbler, who make really beautiful, quality shoes.

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They’re not the cheapest shoes, but they’re so lovely, and perfect for weddings where you can go a bit off-piste in the shoe department (when I got these shoes, I was thinking of this particular wedding, before it had even be proposed…)

This style has long sold out, but for some funky, bad-ass retro sandals, Grenson do this pair:

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Grenson Ethel: £220

But if you like the woven sandals, I think they’re called ‘fisherman sandals’, Churches have this beautiful silver pair:

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Churches kelsey : €390

But if your budget won’t stretch that far, Saltwater sandals make a nice pair of sandals, and you can wear them on the beach afterwards:

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Saltwater sharks: £65

 

Bargains with a side helping of bargain

So, the UK had a general election, in which you could legitimately vote for Lord Buckethead and Mr Fishfinger, so it’s not been the most normal couple of days. The knock-on effect of the surprising exit polls was to send the value of the pound down against the euro. So, what should you not do if you’re in the UK? Shop in euros. What did I do anyway because of free delivery and 20% of already marked down prices? Yes! I shopped in euros!

If you are also feeling a bit nuts, you may like to know that Ancient Greek Sandals are having an extra 20% off their sale items with the code MRK20, which is valid until the 18th of June 2017. If you do it today you will also get free shipping to EU countries (better make the most of that while we’re still in, eh? #toosoonforBrexitjokes?)

But seriously, these discounts do make the prospect of an expensive, yet very beautiful, pair of sandals a bit less of a hit on the bank balance, despite the weak pound, and if you’re shopping using euros as currency, you go girls and boys! There are bargains to be had.

I went for these because I love the steel grey colour:

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Alethea: €120 + 20% off at checkout

But these also took my fancy, there are a range of sizes left, so everyone should be able to find something that they like…

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Athanasia: €102 + 20% off
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Clio croc: €128 + 20% off
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Eros: €116 + 20% off
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Fotini: €116 + 20% off
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Niove: €156 + 20% off

This is just a small selection; I purposefully haven’t included the ones that tie around the leg or the slides, as they are not great for the arthritis, but there are some beautiful shoes in both these categories if they tickle your fancy so have a look…