Denis Lehane: In these icy conditions, the cobbler is the poor farmer’s friend

I nearly came a cropper, on the streets of Ballincollig last Wednesday night.

Icy conditions underfoot had a part to play in my near downfall, but my footwear that was the real culprit.

I had been wearing a pair of well worn boots on the evening in question and, like a jeep sitting on bald tyres, I was only asking for trouble.

So, later in the evening, once safely home and sitting comfortably by the fire, off came the boots for closer inspection.

And you needn’t have been Sherlock Holmes to deduce that my boots were on the last legs.

They were like something from a Charlie Chaplin movie.

The heel was worn to the quick, and the sole was hardly there at all.

They were a shameful example of the footwear worn by farmers, even in these impoverished times on the land.

Indeed they were in such a state of despair that I felt my missus had to see them at once, even if she had already gone to bed.

“Would you look at these shameful things!” I demanded, shaking my old worn-out pair of shoes in front of her and waking her from her slumber.

I’m telling you, she wasn’t long telling me what she thought of my footwear, and of me too, if I must be blunt.

It was clear to me at that moment, that steps would need to be taken in the shoe department, to avoid all kinds of accidents and injury, both inside and outside the home.

So, the following day, as I was required to do a bit of business in the big smoke, off I trotted to Cork with my old, worn out boots under my arm, to a cobbler who I hoped could bring them to heel, for a price that wouldn’t have me weak at the knees.

“Well,” says he, “in all my years working in the leather industry, never have I seen such a worn out pair of anything.”

How I had managed to get around in them at all, was of great interest to the man.

I explained to him that ’twas with great difficulty that I got from one place to the other.

And then of course I went on to tell him that the reason why I didn’t have a good pair of shoes in the first place was all to do with the economic climate that exists in Irish agriculture today.

“New shoes,” say I, “are an extravagance far beyond the reach of the average farmer.”

While I didn’t bring a tear to the eye of the cobbler, I’d like to think that his heart softened to our plight.

If humans were required to do an NCT test, my boots would have failed me long before any emission problems would have been detected.

I had taken a huge gamble in using my boots for any propose other than resting them on a table.

Anyhow, for a sum far less than a new pair would cost, on Thursday morning, a new heel and a new sole was fixed onto each boot.

And taking them for a test run later in the day, I found them to be most satisfactory under all kinds of terrain.

Uphill, downhill, sideways or backwards, there was no stopping me or my boots.

With Christmas just around the corner, I feel I’m well equipped to deal with every obstacle put in my path.

For the festivities that lie ahead, from this moment on, it’s all about putting my best foot forward.


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