Boots, Boots, Boots, Boots….

Boots. upon the availability and solidity of which depended the British Empire as its small professional armies marched to support the interests of the Lancashire cotton barons and the monopolies of the London Stock Market against the wild hopes of native leaders to exploit their peoples in their own interest without having to share the profits.

In this post imperial age, boots were to play their part in our journey back to Costa Rica from Spain.

My husband is into boots – and before the back row of the stalls starts slavering I mean gardening boots, not thigh high horrors in latex, whose existence only became apparent to me when trying to buy boots in his size on eBay.

There is a whole world on eBay which is unknown to me and which, with a bit of luck, will remain so.

While the size of his feet posed no problem in the U.K., lesser breeds without the law first in France, then in Costa Rica, seem to go in for small feet. His size is unobtainable.

While we lived in France he would buy his boots – and shoes – on visits to England….and then occasionally would find a clutch of them in the end of line shops: Noz, Mille Stocks, Moulin des Affaires, who would knock them out for absurd prices given that no Frenchman worthy of the name would sport feet which took size 47.

In Costa Rica there is no chance….though he did once find a cache of boots on a trip to Nicaragua and made the salesman’s day as he bought up the entire stock. Costa Rican customs officers – more accustomed to cocaine and heroin in their rummaging activities – were very puzzled, but no doubt put it down to mad gringo syndrome.

His health had been very poor in the last few years in France, whose much vaunted health service had let him down very badly, so by the time we left for Costa Rica he could no longer wear gardening boots, the weight being more than he could bear. Accordingly we left them behind and, as the dishonest caretaker took a smaller size, they were still at the house when we exchanged it for the house in Spain and so came down with the removal van last year.

He greeted them with delight…there were four pairs, steel toe capped, all weighing a ton…and they became the footwear of choice, offering as they did firm support for his ankles.
Given the tiled floors you could hear him coming from a long way off which gave rise to the more irreverent of the party goose stepping to the strains of ‘Die Fahne Hoch’ or the ‘Panzerlied’ as he arrived in the kitchen to cries of ‘Godverdomme!’ and a brisk exchange of ammunition in the shape of almonds from the trees in the garden.

The family gone, our holiday nearly over, it was time to pack.
Travelling in sardine class we had only carry on luggage and one suitcase in the hold…23 kilos limit.

What to do about the boots? Let alone the books?

Come to that, how to weigh the suitcases?

Luckily the gentleman who looks after the house could lend us his bathroom scales and at the first attempt it was apparent that not only were we well over the limit but that we would risk a hernia trying to move the suitcases more than an inch at a time.

What to discard?

Not the marble pestle and mortar.

Nor the books.

Nor the ceramics.

It had to be the boots.

Two pairs were put aside for the next trip…one pair was packed and one pair would be worn.

We were just under the 23 kilos.

The gentleman who looks after the house and his lovely wife – a real English rose – were to take us into town to catch the bus to the airport….and they were kind enough to show us a caff in the port area for a light meal….it was a perfect end to our holiday…a balmy night, simple food, good wine and better company and so in high good humour we settled down in the bus station for the couple of hours remaining.

As you do we surveyed the (limited) action in late night Castellon de la Plana.
A series of dustcarts came and went…a few beggars tried to tap us for money (no chance)…other passengers arrived for buses to the ferries to Morocco…and a light went on in the window of one of the flats opposite our bench.

For the next hour or so we..and the other occupants of the bench… were the spectators of a floor show as a young lady changed her garments and donned and doffed pairs of elbow length gloves. No nudity, but a great deal of suggestion.

Someone should put her on Tripadvisor.

Our bus arrived.
A surly eastern European driver who refused to load our suitcases for us.
People sitting in our seats to be ejected.
Stuffy overheating.
A halt at a miserable service station for forty minutes.

Finally we arrived at Barcelona airport…but at which terminal?

The driver had not elaborated…and it is a long trek between Terminals 1 and 2.

Leo descended to a dusty answer and called me to unload our luggage as it was clear that the driver had no intention of offering assistance.

Luggage unloaded we headed for the zebra crossing to the departure area.

But the driver was blocking the way, scratching and yawning.

A polite request to pass got us nowhere….so Leo went ahead, stamping on the driver’s feet with his gardening clodhoppers in passing. The path was clear..the driver displayed more activity then heretofore revealed to us…and we were on our way.

The clip below is so familiar to me…not just the music but the surroundings…I hope you will play it and enjoy the pleasures of a past age.


61 thoughts on “Boots, Boots, Boots, Boots….”

  1. You’re a real storyteller Helen. I enjoyed reading your text this morning, it really made me laugh. As for Leo, perhaps next time he could change his repertoire and do some elegant tap dance à la Gene Kelly with his size 47.

  2. I clicked the video and soon enough the malt and i were marhinh about our tiny condo and saluting each other in that strange, palm-forward Euro way of yours. Talk about martial inspiration.

    Size 47 you say? Good heavens, that man has a stable foundation. If my shoe size converter (yes, there’s an app for that) is accurate, that is a US size 14. I’ve been told I wear massive clodhoppers and I am a size 13, practically petite in comparison.

    Good to have you back. These tales have been missed.

    1. I did like that video…especially the throwaway line about bits dropping off…
      Videos of the marching malt eagerly awaited.

      He’s a tall man – luckily given the size of the feet!

  3. Glad to know that you are both back safely, and that Leo put his clod-hoppers to good use by using them as clod-stampers. That’ll teach the miserable little driver a lesson. 🙂

    How thoughtful of the young lady to keep you entertained, and all for free!

    Was it just the one marble mortar and pestle? Did you not succumb to the lure of the programmable cooking pot?

        1. I made sure that I did the last minute shopping… it was I could breathe a sigh of relief when finding that a massive carnivorous plant that he had had his eye on had been sold….

  4. I’ll save Mr.Dawson for later…
    It’s as well that some of us can write of our trials with foreign obstropery in good humour.
    Hope things at home are not too obstroperised!

  5. Lovely clip. Good poem, good tune and delightful gramophone. Where was the movie taken?

    I certainly wouldn’t have hung onto a mortar and pestle though. In my experience you can find the damn things all over the place. But perhaps Costa Rica doesn’t have any fancy cookware shops.

    1. I must check out the other videos in the series when I have a minute.

      Costa Rica certainly has such shops but the prices are such as to induce cardiac arrest…..mark you, carrying the blasted thing in the luggage came close to it too…

  6. Wish I could watch the clip but sadly there is no improvement in our connection. After a month with no computer, mine died and went to heaven, and I wanted a one with a French guarantee and a qwerty keyboard so this all took frustrating time but at last I am back on line. The laptop I think is quicker than the last one but the connection is just as bad!

    Love your story telling. N has a huge problem with shoes, size is simple but comfort is another problem as he has peripheral neuropathy. He cannot stand pressure on the top of the foot, or socks around the ankle!! He has a pair of sandals that sort of are OK in summer but once winter arrives!!! How do you wear shoes that keep you warm without socks that do not touch the top of your foot, he also has the added problem of a high instep. His sheep skin slippers are wonderful but can I convince him that he should wear them out regardless of what people think!!!

    Keep well both of you Diane

    1. Amazing how men worry about what people think of their clothing….Leo’s peripheral neuropathy is easier to manage in that his feet are completely numb – thus his balance problems. Has Nigel tried those shoe liners you can buy in Primark?

      Miserable to have a poor internet connection and one of the things i don’t miss about France. At the house in Spain I have internet for 3 euros a month…not enough for downloading films but man enough to cope with the video….an initiative by the village’s social club.

      I bought an Airbook when in England…all that now remains is to see if i can get it to work….

      1. Shoe liners do not help as they just put pressure from the shoe on the top of his foot. We have spent a fortune in footwear that now just sits in the shoe rack and does not get worn! Sometimes N’s feet are completely numb then he also has balance and control problems, other times they are extremely painful and very cold. They seem to change from day to day. I know if it was me I would just wear my slippers regardless of what people thought! N’s is hereditary not diabetic, tablets do help but help is the operative word, not cure.

        Hope the Airbook works,we looked at Apple computers, but they are so expensive, I do though think they are the best

        1. Leo’s doctors are thinking of trying thalidomide for the peripheral neuropathy to try to help with his balance….Nigel’s case seems much harder to handle as he has pain…Leo has pain in his hands, but the feet are just completely numb.

          As to the Airbook, there was an offer on….

  7. Size 47!?! Egad, woman, them’s some big feet! Of course I had to google a conversion chart to figure that out. I played the Kipling song as my reading accompaniment to this wonderful post which had as my favorite bit (a nod to my German side) the image of Leo goosestepping down the hall. COL!!!

  8. I tried the recipe…as good as promised, so it’s now in the repertoire.
    Those feet certainly know how to occupy bed space….given their ability to wrap the sheets round themselves heaven forefend he should goosestep in his sleep…

  9. I always enjoy your posts, Helen. The first paragraph of this one managed to state what whole history texts have inside their covers in a few brief sentences.

    Perhaps you should have stuffed the toes of one of the left behind pairs of boots and worn them on the plane. It would have made more room for books in your suitcase. 🙂

  10. Boots for gardening has become an absolute must in our homestead, or as least shoes. Terry was out there in sandals with no socks on and something did something. He landed in the hospital with septicemia and the starts of liver/kidney shut down. He gets out of the hospital, after the abscess in his ankle is lanced, after 4 days (which tells you something in our in-and-out hospital system) only to have his other foot start hurting. Seems that by favoring (staying off the infected foot) he pulled/tore something in the good foot, only to land back in surgery. I’m sorry, truly apologizing, for putting attention on our place and away from your delightful post but this dragged along right after I saw “boots for gardening.” Thankfully I’m laughing.

    BTW: is that first photo your home? I love it! Happy day, Helen.

    1. Not a good way to learn to wear boots for gardening! I hope he is back on his feet now…it sounds decidedly scary – four days in a hospital in the U.S. is truly serious!

      I’m guilty of the sandal wearing too….but a lot less than I used to be given some of the ‘critters’ lurking in the grass.

      The photo is the newer part of the house in Spain…there is an older part one level up alongside.

    1. Hello Linda, I’ll be glad to be able to read your blog again…Google thought I had stolen my own laptop when I tried to access Blogger from Spain!

      Over here eBay calls itself Mercado Libre and is much more mainstream, thank goodness.

  11. My mother wore a size 10 and I can well remember her travails in attempting to buy dress shoes…She might find one pair…Anymore than that was a stroke of good fortune and she would buy the lot…

    Glad you had a good trip.

  12. Any outsize body part seems to be a problem when clothes-shopping, as most shops seem only to stock standard sizes. My arms are so long I always have a problem with shirt sleeves. Luckily my feet are a “normal” size.

    So have I missed something? Why is the weight of gardening boots too much to bear?

    I’m surprised at the surly Eastern European driver. In my experience Eastern Europeans are very helpful and eager to please.

    1. Yes, his surliness surprised me too….not a job for someone who does not like people!

      The boots. Leo always used to wear heavy boots for gardening but the effects of his illness and the dubious treatment thereof in the latter years in France left him too weak to pick up his feet in them. It’s a measure of the improvement in his health that he can wear them again.

      I agree, it does seem to be difficult to fit anyone who does not match the Chinese/Philipino/Cambodian/Pakistani pattern for clothes…you’re lucky if you can still find long or shorter leg trousers.

  13. I was waiting to hear that the bus driver admired Leo’s boots so much that his entire personality changed and he assisted you perfectly until you boarded the plane…..oh well, never mind. It is excellent news that Leo can wear his boots again though.

  14. Do you do an actual swap of your house in France or just a holiday swap? Does it mean you are at last rid of the place?

    You managed a fair amount of adventure on your journey back to CR, epecially the stamping of Leo’s boot on the surly driver’s foot. Good for Leo!

      1. Wow, I’m impressed! Knowing French admin, and Spanish probably has its moments, it must have been quite a challenge, but you’re at last rid of the French boulet. 🙂

  15. I am glad that Leo is definitely on the up, stamping on someone’s feet in heavy boots is not exactly easy. Pity about the surly driver when everything else had been plain sailing. (Well, by your standards anyway)

    The Boots song is highly amusing, I heard it called ‘song of empire’ in the background. Can’t remember ever having heard it before. Thanks for introducing me.

    The couple who look after your house seem to be a real find, it is essential that the people one relies on are honest and straightforward.

    1. After the person who ‘looked after’ the house in France to the advantage of himself and his friends it was such a relief to meet people who do what they say they will do.

      Well, at least it was only the driver’s feet that were flattened….and not the driver himself…

      Glad you liked ‘Boots’….I hadn’t heard it for years but it came to mind hearing Leo clumping round the house.

  16. I’m glad to be back – it’s been a while but as usual no disappointment – and a good belly laugh. I sympathise for the shoe dilemma – Bigfoot has his nickname for a reason. He’s now into size 48. His 14 year-old brother is bringing up the rear with a size 46. When we ask French shoe shop assistants if they have a certain shoe in size 46, we are told that they buy them in packs. My answer is that human beings don’t come in packs.
    I hope that the driver’s feet increased at least three sizes after Leo traipsed over them.

    1. However do you find shoes for them!

      Leo is happily clumping about in his boots…dogs, chickens and ducks are keeping well out of the way….and I’m wondering if the recent earthquakes were real ones or his impact on the wood of the balcony…

      That driver was a real pain, so I rather hope pain was inflicted.

  17. Good story. I have had two tricky moments at airport security. The first in Turkey when I had to explain why my suitcase was fall of driftwood – it was for making model boats, and the second in Ireland when staff were surprised that I had four umbrellas – I thought it rained a lot in Ireland but they took some convincing!

  18. Too long it has been since I read your accurate and acerbic posts, Helen. I enjoyed this post very much, and whilst the music wasn’t exactly to my taste, it was perfect for conjuring up the images to go with your words! Hope Leo gets all his boots safely home again before too long. Axxx

    1. Trying to plan for next year already…all depends on the works to be done…and Leo’s health, of course, though he stood up to the journey very well.
      Perhaps he stood up so well as it would be impossible to fall over in those boots…

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