Monday, 22 June 2009

Winter’s half over – but don’t put away your boots yet

I’m not a huge fan of winter so it was with a sense of relief that I woke up this morning and realised that we’re halfway through – 21/22 June is the winter solstice, which in the southern hemisphere is the longest night and shortest day.

Still, in the western Cape the actual weather lags behind its solar equivalent by about a month and, in bleak years, longer – which you can clearly see on my 2008 weather tree (on which spring doesn’t really get going until into October). Which means that in real terms, we’re still heading into the worst of the cold, wet weather.

So there remain three months ahead of wrapping up warmly, keeping the home fires burning, and making soup and drinking wine. (Not everything about winter is bad!)

One of the things I dislike the most about winter (besides battling to get washing dry, putting out buckets to catch roof leaks, the mountains of mud tracked into the house by children and pets, rescuing shrews, frogs, snakes and gazillions of earthworms from the pool, and how my hair behaves at all times as if it’s having 10 000 volts shot through it) is the necessity for footwear. I have size 9 feet, so finding shoes of any description is always a battle for me, and I can just forget about elegant ladies’ boots.

We had a lunch gathering recently and three of us – T, G and I – compared footwear. Both T and G were wearing very stylish Doc Martens boots; I was wearing a pair of multicoloured Uggs (left).

The Doc Martens are obviously highly enviable footwear, but the thing about my boots is that they were made specifically for my feet – 22 years ago! My friend Stefan Genrich, a shoemaker who lived in Jeffrey’s Bay (like all good hippies) at the time, hand-stitched these sheepskin-lined leather boots from me from a drawing he made of my actual feet.

I was quite amused to read on Wikipedia that Ugg boots have been ‘a fashion trend for men and women since the early 2000s’. Stef made me my boots in 1987 (left – this pic was taken in Stef’s workshop). All I’ve done since then is have them resoled – and that only once.

I have worn them every single winter since Stefan gave them to me (and my daughter regularly expropriates them too), and although they’re now well worn in and bear stains of various kinds, the stitching has held, the eyelets have stayed put, and the leather ties are still as strong as the day they were made. Maybe most amazingly, they don’t release that awful old-socks whiff when I take them off – they still smell vaguely of lanolin and leather.

I’ve long since lost touch with Stefan, but I’d love him to know that his boots are still going strong, and that I plan to wear them for another 22 years (should I live that long).

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Gemma said...

I am the very proud owner of the Doc Martin proud as a new mother would be of her first born...I don't have children so thats as close as I can imagine it to be!......and in comparison to my sole mates in the picture they are the baby. The story of how I acquired these babies was finding their older and dare I say it more worn out but I have to add gorgeous sister on the feet of my cousin when I was on a trip home to Ireland recently. It was for me love at first sight and I made it my mission to find a pair. Now she had acquired hers through her sister who had bought them over the internet quite some time ago so my excitement waned somewhat when I heard this until I remembered that I was spending my last weekend in London before returning to SA were I could get to the shop itself and check what they had in stock. finding myself on Neil St in Convent Garden on a very busy Saturday afternoon, slightly nauseous with the excitement of it all, I pushed my way through the crowds into the Doc Martin shop. Like a woman possessed I manically eyeballed every pair of shoes until I spied them.....and there they were waiting so patiently for me in between their black and brown brothers ready for a new life in the Southern Hemisphere! Like every new parent, it was a 'come to mama' moment! I love my Doc Reds and I look forward to the next 22 years together and hope that we will come through them as well as the handstitched UGGs.

Muriel said...

Great story, Gemma, thanks!

ali g said...

30 years ago was at a party and there was a Yank there wearing tooled beautiful Texan cowboy boots. I sat and admiring them told this guy [who was somewhat inebriated] that I liked his boots.
Well ..he then said "you like 'em I'll give 'em to you"
Said sure why not and that and forgot about it.
When leaving and about to drive off he chased me and said . TAKE YOUR BOOTS!. said to him no couldnt do that so when he then wanted to fight me said all right all right give me the bloody things.
Well they were a size 10 and very narrow and didn't fit me or any one else in the family so after a few years put them on display in the sunroom with a 'Cinderella' sign saying anyone who they fit can have them.
After some 10 years and some 20 odd try ons a solicitor friend came to dinner one night and lo & behold they fitted him perfectly.
He then wore them EVERY day to his practice for the next 10 years and when he eventually became a barrister & moved to regal chambers located in Sydney still wore them until the other senior barristers pulled him up & said 'no more cowboy boots thank you it's not very dignified'
Hes now back in the country and last time I saw him was still wearing them but they looked a little worn [as he did]

Muriel said...

Another great boots story! Thanks, Ali G!

tonypark said...


I can read Salma again. The bug has gone the way of swine flu and fizzed out.

I have no boot stories (but have heard Ali G's) and can only add that Ugg boot's are not one of Australia's great gifts to humanity.

However, ugg boots aside, it's great to be able to see and read you once more!

Muriel said...

Welcome back, Tony! Very good to see you on salma again.

meggie said...

Such a great tribute to your Ugg boots!