Clare Grove

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CLARE GROVE

My obsession with shoes started at a very young age. My mother recalls a visit to an expensive shoe shop in London when I was about 18 months old. Upon returning home, she discovered a large sparkling crystal ball in my hand. From my pram I had managed to liberate this gorgeous, glittering prize from its home on a beautiful shoe, having decided it should be mine. My mother, mortified, never returned to the shop. I belatedly apologise to the store owner now.

Growing up in a quiet village in rural Kent, England, I would scour local jumble and car boot sales, spending my pocket money on the highest and most glamorous shoes I could find. I remember one very special pair of red and gold stilettos, procured at the age of around six, which became my pride and joy. As soon as my mother waved me off to school and was out of sight, I would whip these beauties from their hiding place in my school bag, unbuckle my sensible Clark’s T bar school shoes and step into what I considered far more appropriate footwear. My poor parents would get reports back from friends saying I had been spotted tottering rather precariously towards school in what could be understatedly described as ‘non-regulation’ footwear.

Perhaps my most vivid memory of shoe-related adoration came on a play date with a school friend who lived in one of the picturesque converted oast houses dotting the Kentish landscape. My friend’s very elegant mother had dedicated the upper half of one of the house’s rounded turrets as her shoe cupboard. I remember being completely entranced, standing for ages taking in the circular rows of shoes spiraling around me and wishing with all my heart that one day I could have the same. Rapunzel would have approved. Carrie Bradshaw would have been green with envy.

Now, living in Auckland with my husband and three children, my passion for shoes remains. While I don’t have a turret in which to house them, my collection of shoes of every conceivable style and hue, spills from every available space, and I don’t see that changing any day soon.

Writing and illustrating these books have given me hours of pleasure, journeying down memory lane and escaping momentarily from the sometimes mundane reality of everyday life. I hope it does the same for you.

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