The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

favourite work bootsI had an interesting email from a guy that writes the blog – Bay Area Kicks. He suggested swapping links as we had a lot in common. I nipped over to his site for a reccy. It’s a blog that focuses on trainers. The ones that you wear on your feet.

Years ago I bought my first and only pair of trainers. Had the idea that it might be good to run everyday. As I struggled past the corner shop I heard a snicker. The trainers never ran again.

I mulled over this American guy and his penchant for shoes while weeding our veg patch. He had hit a chord. With the exception of trainers, I like shoes. I always buy good ones. One happy day I found a vast pile of brand new shoes abandoned in a side street in Covent Garden.

I was a toymaker at the time and my main outlet was a stall in the recently refurbished Covent Garden market. I was there every Thursday and Saturday for ten years.

On quiet days I would ask the stall next door to mind my stall and go off for a wander. This was the buoyant 1980’s when the area was a much seedier place than it is these days but just starting to get a bit of a buzz. Shops came and went, seemingly overnight and sometimes the remaining stock would be dumped on the pavement outside.

This is how I met the two best pairs of boots that I’ve had in my life. Black patent leather Doc Martins and an elegant pair of beautiful handmade leather boots. The former were not really my style back then but they were free and over the years I became very fond of this flashy footwear.

I shot back to the market clutching my spoils and within seconds was minding virtually every stall in the market as most stallholders vanished to scrabble on the free shoe mountain.

At the end of the day I passed the depleted shoe pile. A tramp had set up shop and was selling the last few pairs.

The Docs lasted for years. The dainty pair of handmade boots still live in the wardrobe upstairs along with quite a few pairs of shoes that rarely see any light as I tend to just stick to just a few favourite pairs these days and these are scattered about the cottage.

Ordinary Doc Martin’s were my standard work boot for years. Decorating requires a lot of kneeling and I found that the upper toe area wore into holes after 12 months. A couple of years ago I found a pair of half price Caterpillar boots in TK Maxx. I switched allegiance and discovered the wonders of a Rolls Royce boot.

Well made and comfortable they are the perfect work boot if you are on your feet all day and with their sturdy soles they are good on a ladder too. The toes are just beginning to wear and I reckon it will be at least six months before they develop holes. So even at full price they are bargain compared to Docs.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Amanda

    I used to be a bit of a shoe fiend too. Perhaps it’s time to sort out the boxes in the wardrobe…

    Hi Magic Cochin

    I’d forgotten about Pied de Terre. I used to shop there too. Your favourite calf length boots sound amazing!

    Hi Emma,

    I had doc boots and doc shoes later on. Both caused an uproar of horror at home which added to the delight!

    Well done you, running for years despite the catcalls!

    Hi Mildred

    I must try Birkenstocks. They were on sale at TK Maxx last summer! They look comfortable and stylish.

    Hi Moonroot

    The Covent Garden experience was the best shoe/boot experience of my life to date!

    The Cats are worth looking out for.

    Hi Clare

    Those sound amazing – Cats with steel toes! I hate throwing out shoes that have shared good parts in my life.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    So you were a ballet dancer! I remember going to that shop to buy character shoes, years and years ago.

    We wear fur boot style slippers in the cottage – snugly and warm.

    Hi Michelle

    Those z coils sound interesting. I think that its worth looking after your feet. If your feet hurt everything hurts.

    Hi nà

    Loved hearing about your shoes too. I must check out conkers in Totnes. I love that town. I have a wcouple of pairs of Camper shoes that I bought in Rome.

    I have small feet (37) so can often pick up shoes and boots in sales.

  2. …how lovely reading yours and these other shoe stories! i, like kate (UK), have huge feet. size 42 sometimes even 43! agh! they tell me that it’s because tall people need to be weighed down, but i’m not convinced! luckily i’m not too much or a girly girl, so me too – boots, birkenstocks, campers, sandals my friend makes, conkers handmade shoes from totnes (they’re lush!!). but i did have a great pair of dms when i was at school. i always tap my right big toe to the rhythm of music (odd, i know!) …so much so that over time i wore out a half cm hole in the leather right above the big toe on that foot!
    ah, the happy memories!
    p.s. – kate (uk) – where do you get kitted out with big shoes?

  3. michelle sheets

    Well, he is right, you two do have something in common. You both write very passionately about your chosen subjects!

    I’ve had a foot problem for a few years, so my chosen footwear has been z-coils, a trainer with a thick sole and a large spring in the heel to help take away the shock of the downstep. Snazzy trainers like the gentleman has in his blog are definately not for me. (Though the ones with all the diamonds all over are very pretty!)

  4. Kate(uk)

    I have VERY big feet so when I find a pair that fit AND that I like I wear them to destruction. I’m particularly fond of some slippers I got from Lands End that are more like shoes- fleece on top and proper soles underneath. I have an ‘indoor’ pair and a ‘gardening’ pair and they are now on their fourth winter.Absolute bliss when the arthritic toes play up but, sadly, hopeless in the rain!
    Covent Garden was amazing years ago- all sorts of interesting shops that serviced the theatres and artists that seemed unchanged from the 19th century and probably were. My best Covent Garden memory is shoe related too- going there to buy my first pair of ballet block shoes. The shop was tiny,lined with boxes of ballet shoes and shoes hanging from hooks wherever a hook could be fixed.The elderly man who ran the shop also made the shoes and made shoes for the Royal Ballet dancers- it was just bliss being fitted and I think those first pink satin block shoes would have to be my all-time favourites – and were probably partly responsible for the arthritis that nowadays makes my slippers such a comfy option!

  5. In the summer before I started 6th form I went on holiday to the USA with my family. Unleashed upon one of those discount outlet stores, I got a bit over-excited and ran around creating a new image for my new non-uniform status. I was listening to some rather thrashy music at the time and fancied myself as a bit of a rocker, so when I found a pair of thick soled CAT boots with steel toecaps and the kind of chunkiness that made you stride with intention, I was over the moon. Unfortunately by some misunderstanding I managed to buy them 2 sizes larger than I needed them, which meant I always had to wear them with really thick socks. I loved them though and (somewhat mistakenly) wore them with EVERYTHING, including skirts or long dresses. Needless to say my style moved on before they wore out, but they were so comfortable I still wore them whenever I could. I found them 2 years ago, hidden in the back of my wardrobe, sad and lonely with dust and neglect. I did get rid of them, I confess, but I was so sad to do it!

    Thank you for reminding me of such happy shoe memories!

  6. moonroot

    Your experience in Covent Garden sounds like a dream come true! I wear boots in winter and sandals in summer and I’m a great Doc Martens lover – they do take some breaking in but are worth the trouble, I think. I’ve never tried Caterpillars but I’ll keep an eye open in TK Maxx!

  7. What a great post! We love our Birkenstocks! I have a pair for everyday use, a couple of ‘whacky’ pairs, rubber ones for working in the garden, and an ‘indoor’ pair worn instead of slippers. The great thing is, when the soles wear out (on the leather variety) Birkenstock offer a re sole service. I have had one pair for over 10 years!

  8. I remember the first pair of Docs that I bought (from Peterborough market); they hurt like hell for a couple of weeks before being nicely broken in – heavy boots and trainers were pretty much all I ever wore on my feet for years, to the point that my feet eventually spread and are now a whole size bigger! Boots of some description are still my default footwear, although I have to look a bit tidier nowadays.

    I used to run a lot, so I had proper posh trainers for running – these, I found do not make you immune to the less than encouraging comments from mainly male bystanders as you run past.

  9. magic cochin

    I used to love mooching round Covent Garden in the 1980s – so I probably passed by your stall a few times on my way to see if Pied de Terre had some stylish shoes in a sale. I still love to hunt out unusual but comfortable shoes – my Hispantitas black mid-calf boots covered in appliqué black suede flowers have been my favourite footwear for 3 years (hope they last a good while longer). I can wear these boots with a long girlie skirt or dress and my feet are as relaxed as when they’re in Hunter wellies in the garden!

    I’m with you on trainers – I just don’t feel like me when wearing them! I do have a pair of trainer-style walking shoes, but much prefer the proper walking boots (mine are Meindl boots with comfy padded ankle support).

    You’ve also reminded me that I have a cupboard full of shoes which never see the light of day!


  10. A toy maker?! You’re too cool!

    I used to be a very big shoe collector. Over 10 years ago I gave away more than 70 pairs to a charity shop. I now have a favourite few pairs that I wear all the time. This includes a pair of Timberland boots which are over 12 years old and look it. My Mum bought me a new pair over a year ago but I still tend to slip the ones on (they look a bit like your CAT’s).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

2,254,427 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Copyright © 2006-2023 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder

Skip to toolbar