If the shoe fits … you're lucky. Because if you are a woman with size 41 feet in Hong Kong, you might as well throw the shoes out and wear the boxes: forget finding footwear your size.

Recently, I set myself a mission to buy a pair of boots. "Try this", I was repeatedly urged, as I had size 39s foisted on me in a modern-day version of foot-binding. Shop assistants then prying them off my feet as I writhed on the bench made for a grim sight.

In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "the answer to life, the universe and everything" is 42. In Hong Kong it's clearly 39.

Years ago, a friend nicknamed me "Yeti", but are my feet really that enormous? Two of the world's most elegant women, Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Onassis, both took a size 42, (US size 10½-11); and at 5 feet 7 inches, both were a couple of inches shorter than me.

Michelle Obama's feet are size 42, as are those of Paris Hilton, Kate Winslet, Tyra Banks, Meg Ryan and Uma Thurman. And at a US size 10 (41), Katie Holmes has bigger feet than former hubbie Tom Cruise (lending new meaning to the phrase "sole custody").

If I had a dollar for every time I've been told to "just buy them anyway", I'd have more money - and shoes - than Imelda Marcos. I probably couldn't walk in them, but maybe that's why Hong Kong taxis are so cheap.