16 July 2010

happy feet: 2

Thomas Hardy's Garden
I have been meaning to write about boots for some while, ever since I noticed that one of the regional museums had chosen a pair of Victorian boots as part of its contribution to the History of the World in 100 objects project.  Boots were on my mind.  I had recently resuscitated some boots from the bottom of the cupboard with elbow grease and polish, wore them all winter with woolly tights, and wished I could wear them all year round.  It was not always the case.

Note the boots I am wearing in this picture, for example, a pair of DMs.  I'm sitting in the garden of Thomas Hardy's cottage and the picture was taken on John's Box Brownie camera by a Japanese tourist who was totally perplexed by the fact that all he had to do was move a little lever at the side of the "box".  We were on a long walking holiday, one which had taken us from Pembrokeshire (had to escape before I came down with pneumonia from the damp),whence to Cornwall (to recover),  up to the North Devon/ Somerset borders -  Minehead, Porlock, Ilfracombe, Woolacombe, Baggy Point and then on to Dorset.  Some of this journey was done by bus, but much of it was completed on foot.  We travelled light, slept under a makeshift tarp, no tent or sleeping bags, swam in the sea, washed in streams,  boiled water for coffee in a black billy can hung on a hook over an open fire.  Rabbits sniffed us and toads joined us for breakfast (honestly).  When it rained, we hid in barns, drunk cider and dreamed of having our own shepherd's hut. We looked like tinkers and smelt of smoke in the lanes.

Drying the bed, Maiden Castle
Back to the DMs.  I had to spend good money on those boots because I had started that walk wearing  a very silly pair of shoes indeed.  However, the boots had a crease at the back of the heel that rubbed and rubbed and gave  me the most awful blisters.  Whatever we did to soften the leather never quite worked.  In the end, I had to buy a cheap pair of fabric deck shoes, which I hated, so that I could walk.  You can just about see them in my string bag here.

Colleen with the grumps, a Dorset lane
Whenever I see this picture I think of Thomas Hardy's Tess: "She took off the thick boots in which she had walked thus far, put on her pretty thin ones of patent leather, and, stuffing the former into the hedge by the gatepost where she might readily find them again, descended the hill..." (Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Chapter 44).  Tess's boots were taken, of course.  Mine never were.  I'm not sure if they ever made it all the way home or whether we carried them as far as Hampshire when we caught a bus home.

The moral of the story is, of course, that you should always try to have happy feet.

11 comments:

Weeping Sore said...

Your photos are luminous and lovely! Back when I was a hippy on Cape Cod (the peninsula of Massachusetts)there was a guy named Walter Deyer who made lovely leather walking shoes. He called his company Happy Feet, Smiling Toes.

jane said...

What a lovely post, I don't know that I've ever seen such evocative photos. So personal. I love the idea of you pottering around looking like a tinker.

Happy feet are an absolute requirement, and this is so easily forgotten. Definitely a case of 'you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone'. But oh, you know it when it's gone. Blisters are worse than the ten plagues.

Rattling On said...

Beautiful photos. We used a box brownie when we were younger, it was my aunt's and I loved it. Up until not long ago I had a Kodak that my Dad had had from being a teenager. They don't make the film any longer, but I love the square pictures that produced.

Maybe you have feet like mine- I have very high insteps and an odd bone that protrudes on the back of each heel, making many items of footwear unbearable. All my comfiest shoes are basically knackered-which is the only reason they're comfy! Having said that I have nice feet, no corns or bunions etc. as I've never been able to wear 'silly' shoes.

wazz said...

I know *precisely* what you mean about the uncomfortable shape of a DM heel. What a wonderful post - words and pictures.

Liz said...

So we should. I happen to love long boots and wish I'd kept some of those now long discarded (a purple suede pair from Biba being particularly memorable). As for DMs, a friend's daughter got married last year wearing an orange pair underneath the white dress.

Your photographs are fab, by the way.

60 going on 16 said...

What a wonderfully evocative post and photos. Amazing memories.

You must have been in Thomas Hardy's garden around the same time that I was . . .

Felix said...

A beautiful post.

I love the imperative of 'happy feet' and your tale of walking and adventuring with a billycan, toads, and woodsmoke.

shandy said...

This is a great post. Looking back all those years, do you wish you could just take off and sleep under a tarp again, or are you only too pleased to check in to a b and b?

colleen said...

What an interesting question! For many years I was completely averse to camping, but now I find myself thinking again about sleeping in the open rather than a B&B bed that is far too soft for me.

knit nurse said...

Lovely tale and lovely pictures! Finding a pair of shoes that make my feet happy is always a joy, and when they are boots, so much the better. I had a pair of green DMs when I was at college which I loved with a passion but I don't think I suffered the same discomfort - even as a teen I'm sure I would have discarded them if they had caused me such grief.

stan said...

Gorgeous post, and the happy feet theory is one I'll gladly subscribe to. My boots had served me very well but they lack cushioning so after a few days walking my soles feel like they have been bashed with a hammer! For me this is worse than blisters (which thankfully didn't appear until day 8). Love the photos too, esp the one at maiden castle, a frequent haunt for us Weymouth boys.