I am told by my mother, my SHO, the doctors in the second series of Junior Doctors, and my old psychiatry registrar that it is tradition to buy oneself something nice with one’s first real grown-up paycheque.
My first real grown-up paycheque came this week. I’ve bought myself some council tax. It’s all very surreal. I was a student for a long time. I’m not sure what to do with the sensation of paying for, for example, a train ticket, without having a minor cardiac event during the fifteen seconds it takes the machine to tell me that my debit card hasn’t been declined. I’m even less sure how to convince myself that this money doesn’t represent my entire budget until January. It is probably a reasonable summary of how I feel about this if I tell you that I bought a pair of work shoes today and experienced crippling guilt over how much I paid for them.
These are, I should say, a pair of shoes that I bought to replace this pair of shoes, which I have been walking around in in this condition while I waited to be paid. And when I say “walking”, I mean “squelching”. And when I say “shoes”, I mean something that has long since ceased to have the molecular structure of a shoe.
The soles split just before my first week of long days. I’ve been telling people that NHS corridors have broken my shoes. My consultant has been frowning and muttering dark things about trench foot.
So, despite my crippling guilt, my new pair of work shoes — which are not Manolo Blahniks or Prada or even Clarks — does not count as my something-nice-with-my-first-paycheque. I am given to understand that most girls do go down the designer shoes route, or else the designer handbag or the indecently expensive bottle of champagne or the something shiny from the Apple store route.
I am not most girls. I wouldn’t know a Manolo Blahnik if the heel of one trod through my big toe.
And, as I joyfully explained to the man in the Le Creuset shop, who promptly gave me a discount when he found out what I was doing, I’ve been planning my First Paycheque Handbag-That-Isn’t-A-Handbag for quite some time now.