Made for Walking: my life and footwear

I nearly found myself starting this blog post with: ‘I don’t really approve of Twitter, but I Tweet.’ Then I thought about it. Aside from the fact that it’s fatuous, what on earth do we mean by ‘approve of’.  I mean most of us over-sixties say it, but so what: what does it mean? And increasingly I’m convinced, it’s a frustrated expression of our inability to keep-up with current trends. So we ‘disapprove’ of them – as a way of cloaking our technological incompetence with a coating of academic rigour. So we ‘disapprove’ of Twitter in much the same way that we ‘disapprove’ of, say, Neo-Nazis. In reality, of course, we don’t understand the one and we detest and abominate the other. But as usual I digress: this blog post was meant to be about footwear, not boots or shoes mind, but footwear.

Actually the previous paragraph wasn’t so much a digression as a diversion – and I’m not about to get further side-tracked into that particular distinction – maybe we can enjoy that in the future. No, I mentioned Twitter because in a moment of madness I Tweeted that I was planning to write a blog post about Footwear. And why? To be quite frank, I haven’t the faintest idea. I just said it. Maybe that’s why I sort-of ‘disapprove’ of Twitter: it allows you to say things. But then you have to live with the consequences – a fine of £500 if you slander an innocent man, or, in my case, you have to produce an interesting blog post on Footwear. Mark you, I’m not doing badly so far: nearly three paragraphs and not so much as a mention of heels, tongues, soles or laces. And that’s another thing I disapprove of: laces.

Surely to Goodness we were not put on this earth to spend months, yes, months, of our lives tying and untying shoe laces? Having said that, I was a lace-slave myself until I started to keep sheep, then one lambing spent bent-double doing or undoing my laces every time I had to enter the house, to collect a bottle of milk or a syringe of antibiotic from the fridge, soon cured me of that. Now I understand why the Australians invented elastic-sided boots. Being right-thinking sheep minders they realised that laces were insane and a particularly gifted Aussie, one R.M. Williams, designed a boot with only one seam (up the back). So they never leak! They’re also guaranteed for life. Personally, I don’t demand that RM replace my old boots, as I consider they’re worn-out fair and square; but then I only buy another pair every four or five years. My current pair are in their third season. And boy, are they tough: I live in the damn things; in fact, Maisie thinks I sleep in them when she’s not at home. R.M Williams also produce superb and very hard-wearing moleskin jeans which I also adore, keeping the thin, worn-down pairs for summer. Most last me three or four years.

My ageing R.M. Williams boots

My ageing R.M. Williams boots

And then there are boat-shoes. I wear these in the house and in the garden, too, in summer. I’m aware they have laces, but I never, ever, undo them. They remain permanently laced – like some of my more dissolute archaeological friends in the past. For reasons best known to him, my brother Felix has given me two pairs of boat-shoes. I don’t know why. Suffice it to say: he lives in London, where they have strange attitudes to footwear.

My boat-shoes

My boat-shoes

And that’s it. I don’t possess any other Footwear. When I was on the Ancient Monuments Advisory Committee (I nearly wrote Clinic) of English Heritage, back in the ‘90s, I used to wear a grey suit and black shoes for my monthly trips to Savile Row. When I’d finished my stint on AMAC my black shoes remained in a dark cupboard. Then about five years ago, I took them out to wear at a funeral, and as we were driving there, they quite literally fell apart, revealing white foamy stuff in the heels. They must have been very cheap indeed. So now I have no black shoes and in October I’ve got to attend a school re-union in a smart West End London Club, where, I gather, black shoes are obligatory. Maybe I’ll smear my RMs with tar or treacle? Maybe I can borrow a pair? I suppose I ought to be getting worried about upsetting social convention, but I just can’t be arsed. I know I shouldn’t say so, but I don’t think that footwear matters very much, so long as it’s well-made and keeps your feet dry. And yes, doubtless it does express all sorts of important social trends and aspirations, but then so do the frames of people’s spectacles or the tint of their car windows. You can’t analyse everything all of the time – that’s what I’m trying to say. Stop analysing and float. It’s summer for Christ’s sake! Maybe that was what I was attempting to Tweet. OK, I should have remained silent. Sorry!

Still life with footwear, succulents and petals

Still life with footwear, succulents and petals

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