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.


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24 Comments

  1. my great aunty win goes to tai chi 3 times a week. she has just turned 89 and is as sharp as a pin. she swears by it. she says it takes all of your concentration to learn the moves and then once you’ve mastered them, you can concentrate on how good you are feeling.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pamela

    I must look out for Merrell shoes – thanks for the tip.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    I’ve always heard that Tai Chi is excellent for loads of things including inducing a sense of well being.

  3. Kate(uk)

    The hips were a bit of a shock! A robust sense of humour has proved very handy over the years.
    Haven’t found a belly dancing class near me yet, but I have started Tai Chi- discovering how to stand properly has been a revelation- and as the class is made up from people like myself who have trouble balancing it is pretty hilarious, but we are doing surprisingly well as long as we do it v-e-r-y slowly.

  4. My shoe of choice these days is definitely anything made by Merrell. I have them in all styles ranging from walking boots to smart loafers for work. They are a perfect fit for me and are bliss to wear all day as they are all basically trainer soles with different shoes on top. My only problem now is that I used to buy them when on holiday in Canada where there was always a huge choice for my tiny feet (size 3.5) and it is so frustrating constantly being told here that they don’t make them that small – in spite of firm evidence to the contrary. I recently got some on ebay but it’s a real gamble and 2 pairs had to go back. My sister swears I am the only person she knows who can wear out DMs.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Oh Kate you made me smile at the end of a day that seems to have stretched the length of England and back!

    I am a hopeless dancer but still have a go!

    What a shame that your hips gave out when you were only in your teens. This must have been totally devastating.

    Please take up belly dancing. I’d bet that you’d excel. If you do take it up, I’d love to hear all about it.

  6. Kate(uk)

    Hello na-shoes for BIG feet ( 42/43 and wide), when I was in Holland it was easy as lots of tall ladies have big feet there but in the UK it is not so easy- sometimes in summer there are some men’s sandals that are’t too bad, but winter is a problem.Docs fit, but I find them hard work with dodgy legs and feet!Hotter do big and extra wide sizes, but they are a bit old ladyish- but I did have a thought the other day of trying to find a supplier who makes shoes for trannies and drag artists- bound to have girly shoes in big wide sizes!
    I did do ballet Fiona until I had to give up in my late teens when my hips gave out- I still miss dancing, but now I have a new hip and am walking well I’m tempted to try it again- perhaps some gentle belly dancing to start with if I can find a class.

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sam

    That’s a wonderful, heartening story – thanks for sharing. I love the idea of cream docs under your wedding dress!

  8. doc martins…..my favs!
    my friend gaby turned up at my house wearing a pair of docs when we were about 15. my dad was disgusted! it amused me greatly, but only bought my first pair some 10 years later. i had lived in boots in the meantime, but cheap rubbishy ones. mum and dad were not impressed with my choice of footwear even though i was 25!! a couple of years later i met nick and to cut a long story short, when we got married, he was wearing some lovely black doc boots, and i, under my cream dress was wearing a magnificent pair of limited edition cream docs. m and d suggested that this was not my finest idea, i begged to differ. docs are the most comfortable things around (when broken in )and getting married means spending pretty much all day and all night on your feet. and as we were married at the height of the foot and mouth crisis, and everyone had to walk through a dip, ours were the only shoes that weren’t ruined that day!! HOORAH for docs!!!

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sarah

    At last someone who has delved into the delights of patent leather Docs!

    I don’t reckon that you’ll ever find patent leather garddning clogs. But never say never!

  10. Almost 20 years ago a boyfriend gave me a pair of patent leather Doc Martin shoes for Christmas; I loved those shoes till their death. I think it is time for a new pair of shoes…I wonder if garden clogs come in patent leather?

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