Is it just me but I love cleaning shoes. The methodical ritual of scrapping away countryside mud, brushing the dust off, choosing the right shade of rich creamy polish, applying thickly with a well worn bristle brush, an extra layer for the welt to waterproof and leaving the shoes and boots overnight for the leather to absorb the fats and oils in the polish.
Then the moment of taking a soft brush, vigorously buffing up a shine and there, finished. Resplendently like new. Every scratch and scuff erased.
Rethreading laces, repainting scratched heels, re-bonding soles to uppers, re-sewing small broken stitches. All these little shoe repairs make you revalue your day to day possessions.
Shoes repairing back in England seems to be a dying trade. The throw away high street bargain fashion shoes are slowing desimating the hand crafted artisan ones and finding a good Cobbler is difficult. The French it seems do repair their shoes. We found a querky shoe repairer in town. His little shop, a short hop from the high street in old town Montlucon, is a treasure for me. Not only repairs, but belt making, handbag renovation and just through a small door (sharp intake of breath here), a music shop full of secondhand jazz, electro-ambient grooves, nu-jazz and shoe-gazing CDs. Oh heaven. And books too and old French magazines. A cafe sits two doors away. I will be leaving on a regular basis with the taste of chocolate on my lips, shined shoes on my feet and a bag full of musical delights. I will be in another world just like Amelie. *
The brushes I inherited from my grandad and dad. They feel good in my hand, a patiner of buffing lending an aged look and smooth from years of use. A small bristle brush to apply the polish and a larger one to buff the shoe to a shine. I can still remember the flip flap sound of my Dad vigerously brushing the leather. A little army style spit can make a toe-cap gleam.
So tonight with an hour to spare after a tiring day of unloading furniture for the barn, I finally boxed up my polishes and treasured brushes ready for a huge cleaning session tomorrow.
Some of you may think it’s a load of Cobblers, but I like to think it’s carrying on an old fashioned tradition.
*Favorite film. A now cult hit about an overimaginative whimsical French girl trying to save the dull lives of her neighbours one soul at a time.