Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Oh sole mio

Do cobblers still exist? Not that they’ve received much help from me over the past decade. My footware routine is unvarying: buy trainers from M&S, wear them until they start pumping in rain water (less than a year), buy another pair, drop used pair into garbage bin.

In my youth all shoes were repaired. Our cobbler was a caricature. Short, hunched, bright-eyed, Mediterranean complexion, loquacious to the point of being prepared to talk to a ten-year-old. What about? I have no idea. All I remember is the backdrop – a huge table piled high with scraps of leather. Plus two items of technology.

In the corner a powerful mangle or wringer. Except that the rollers, instead of having parallel sides, mated convex with concave. Before attachment to the shoe the rough-cut flat sole was passed through the mangle giving it the contours of a shallow dish. I cannot imagine why this was necessary. Nor do I intend to embarrass my correspondents by asking them. Knowing why would require familiarity with those dark, cold, hungry years of Britain’s immediate post-war.

The other item (in fact there were several) was the sharpest knife in Christendom. The blade was hook-shaped and one tour of the newly attached sole was enough to remove all the overlap. As if the leather were a damp Digestive.

And then there was the smell. Ah…

I can’t match the lovely horticultural close-ups of my correspondents so here’s a long shot of part of our garden. It’s low maintenance.

5 comments:

Relucent Reader said...

Ah, a cobbler's shop, one of my absolute favorite scents. They are fewer in numbers these days, true, though even as I type in Fredericksburg, VA, there is one right down the street. Business is not what it used to be, but they hang on.
Growing up in Weymouth, MA, there was one half mile away, owned by an Italian family. Business must have been good, as they owned many buildings in the area.
Enjoyed your post, as always, and the picture of the garden.

Barrett Bonden said...

Is Weymouth in Maine or Massachusetts? I have friends in the latter and know the state fairly well. But not the latter. I remember the thrill on my first flight to the US (by Icelandic Airlines the last airline to fly prop planes across the Atlantic) when the pilot announced we were just flying over Augusta, Maine. A big adventure. I didn't even know whether I had a job or not at the time.

Just substituted the garden pic for something more arty.

marja-leena said...

Lovely garden! Nice memory tweak of such an ancient shoe repair shop in Winnipeg, I think he was Eastern European and yes, he liked to talk to children like me. Today's shops are modern and usually in the malls.

Relucent Reader said...

Weymouth, Massachusetts. A "bedroom" suburb of Boston, 18 miles as the crow flies, 1 hr in traffic or so.
Moved to VA in '94, bit of an adjustment ("Y'all ain't from around heah, are ya"), but people are more open than in NE. I can say "good morning" to someone on my early morning walk and not get maced...

Plutarch said...

So you have a garden after all! There is a cobbler next door to Tunbridge Wells station. He is, someone told me, a serious wine buff, and has a cellar of some note.