On the verge of tears, I climbed into my friend’s car ready for the ignominious journey home. Once perched on our settee, I googled stuff like,
‘Excruciating pain wearing new boots’.
Some folks reported that it had taken a while to wear their boots in, but nobody else had suffered such a complete failure as me. Me.
The preparations for our walking holiday had been going okay. ‘Life in the ole dog yet’, I wrote, displaying a picture of Stoodley Pike. And the following Monday, off I went again with Jane and Emily to tackle the next leg of the Calderdale Way, from Todmorden to Todmorden to Todmorden to Heptonstall. Try as we might, every twist in the path returned us to a fresh view of Tod…I mean, That Place…The perfidious Stoodley Pike beckoned imperiously on the hill opposite, mocking our efforts to escape its eagle eye. Finally, we turned eastwards once more and temporarily escaped its attentions. Perhaps I do Tod…an injustice; the scenery on this stretch of the Way is absolutely beautiful.
The walk went well. However, I knew my leaky boots wouldn’t do for our holiday in France. And, my knees felt extra knobbly after Emily, our comparative spring chicken, fancied descending the rocky path through the woods from Heptonstall to Hebden Bridge. Time to buy a walking pole.
And so, fresh from a shopping spree in Pontefract, we headed out the following Monday on a shorter walk designed to wear in our new boots. I’d spent out on the most expensive pair in the shop, in which my toes felt cosy and comfortable. Armed with my brand-new carbon fibre pole, I felt in every way the well-equipped, seasoned hiker.
My new-found confidence lasted all of two miles. I became aware of severe chaffing just below my left ankle bone. I walked on until we reached a convenient wall, then I dressed my ankle with a large plaster, a measure I find usually works. Not this time. I limped on another half mile. I could go no further. Emily phoned a friend, and it wasn’t ‘cos I wanted to be a millionaire.
After the ladies had completed the walk, Jane sat with me, prayed with me and then made a phone call to our son Martin who also wears Size 8 boots. My part was to contact Berghaus, the manufacturers, who asked me to send them to their repair shop. But the next day I tried again. I got all of 20 yards before having to admit defeat. In the place where it hurt, I found a protruding vein, a legacy of my old varicose vein problem. The boots have robust padding in this area. I concluded the boots weren’t unfit for purpose. I was!
Later the same week, Martin and grandson Sam came to stay. Martin’s old, weathered boots – worn for gardening and all sorts – felt like carpet slippers. And he seems to be happy with mine, pleased to be wearing in a pair of posh-looking boots! I tried his out on our subsequent visit to London; we find we typically walk 7-8 miles a day when we’re there. Sam makes sure of that. My feet felt comfortable and – yes – we’ve done a swap.
So, what of the phrase, ‘tough as old boots’? Not so these. And as I become an older codger, I want to be like these boots. Supple, flexible and mellow, able to mould around the feet that need me. Our family lovingly remembers Grandma Ruth who died in 2014. Over the years she was transformed from a rather authoritarian mother to a woman of God whose wisdom, gentleness and practical kindness touched many people, young and old.
Unlike the new boots I gave to Martin, his (now mine) won’t survive many more hikes. But they’ll die in active service. That’s my wish, too.