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which was also disintegrating, could be seen inside. It must have been quite an achievement for her to keep her shoes on her feet. It is not my business why a respectable citizen is going about with shoes

G State of the nation

that are falling to bits, but I am allowed to speculate as to the reason. Poverty? More comfortable that way? Hadn’t noticed there was anything wrong? I refrained from asking her and went on my way. This triggered the establishment of a new quango - the Misfit Footwear

Maintenance Survey. Our researcher was amazed by the result. Sandals were observed so down at heel that it looked as if the wearer was walking on the insole. A gentleman was observed wearing a pair of trainers with the entire bottom worn through so that his socks could be seen; he was quite happy to sit with his feet crossed so that our observer could see the state of them. Several instances of soles coming away at the waist were noted, and one of a flapping leather sole which made the wearer limp. There seemed to be an epidemic of scuffed uppers going on; possibly supplies of polish had been held up by a strike or some similar disruption. Our researcher noted evidence of a shortage of white shoe dressing. Expensively dressed persons, mainly male, were walking the streets competing for the world’s scruffiest trainers entry in Guinness Book of Records. This last observation caused our researcher to

conclude his survey and go and have his supper. This state of affairs must be very sad for the nation’s

shoe repairing fraternity, but I wonder if they only have themselves to blame. Until John Timpson came along with his modern brightly lit attractive premises in locations where there is reasonable footfall and some incentive for people to bring in their shoes for rehabilitation, the image of the repair trade was frankly awful. Shoe repairers were for the most part to be found in out-of-the way places, in the sort of back street which does not even qualify for tertiary classification. Passing trade: nil. You didn’t go to a cobbler without hunting him down first. When you got there the premises were unattractive and the interiors even more so – spit and sawdust without the sawdust. Some more marketing conscious characters had a window and bothered to clean it occasionally, in which would be displayed repaired shoes for the public’s admiration. A few of these might have been be specially prepared for the purpose but

many looked as if they were jobs which had not been collected put in the window in the forlorn hope that their owners would notice them in passing and go in and claim them. I remember one repairer who had spent a lot of time decorating a sole with a seascape made up of different colour rivets. It was a work of art. Pity he had not thought to dust the window in which it was displayed. The standard of work varied enormously. Anyone with an iron foot and a hammer could set up in business, no training required. I don’t know if they


oing up an escalator yesterday my eyes strayed, as eyes do, to the heels of the young lady on the step above me. Not to her corporeal heels of course but the heels of her shoes which were in a terrible state. The back seams had come unstitched so far that the counter,

still do, but shoe repairing was a skill taught in prisons, both from the point of view of enabling the prisoner to earn an honest living when he got out and as a way of saving money on buying footwear for the prison population. Of course not all of the reasons for the decline of the repair trade cannot be laid at the repairers’ door. Shoes are cheap in terms of hours worked to buy a pair. Even now it is still possible to buy a pair of shoes which will keep your feet from touching the ground for under five pounds, which is much less than the cost of a decent repair. Not only that, but shoe technology has advanced by leaps and bounds so that not only do shoes last much longer than they used to, but the poor repairer finds it hard to keep up with the way they are put together. Rapid fashion changes don’t help either – the ordinary iron foot will not go into a pointed toe. I suppose it is not only a footwear problem. We live in a throwaway

society, and trades like shoe repair are helping the planet by saving resources. Come to think of it my camera (digital) recently refused to

A gentleman was observed wearing a pair of trainers with the entire bottom worn through so that his socks could be seen; he was quite happy to sit with his feet crossed so that our observer could see the state of them.

function. No problem, said Mrs. Misfit, the camera shop in the Arcade will fix it. Misfit toddled of to camera shop to find the camera shop had closed down. Not enough business. Mentioned this over supper when Small Misfit pointed out that a new camera could be bought for a mere seventy pounds, so why was I bothering about repairing something I had had for all of five years.? Misfit, understanding full well that Small Misfit was commencing

negotiations for pocket money increase, gave lecture on young days when ownership of camera was privilege. Produced grandfather’s Box Brownie from back of cupboard to show Small how it still worked almost a century after purchase. Small referred to dinosaurs and cave men. Debate brought to close by Mrs. M’s tactful display of ice cream. So what future is there for shoe repairing and similar service businesses?

They need to get into locations where they can be seen. There’s the rub. The rents in such locations would be more than the traffic could bear. Possibly the solution is to diversify and combine with other similar trades,

like dry cleaning. In France shoe repairers are often to be found attached to hypermarkets. Just how Tesco and the like would react to this I have no idea but it bears thinking about.

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