Breaking in my shoes

So here’s the question really – do we ‘break in” our new shoes, or do they ‘break in’ our feet?

I’m hoping to go on a boat soon. My husband has been working tirelessly on our new-old little boat, to get it ship shape. I say new-old because it’s over a hundred years old, but is new to us. We acquired it, because it was going to be scrapped.

By the time it’s finished, it won’t be a free boat anymore, but the cost will be a fraction of having to buy one. The main plan is to be able to visit all the little bays we can’t get to by road, and snorkel there. My plan will be to learn about boats, and I guess develop some upper body strength trying to get in and out of it from the water. That will do me good.

So first of all, I needed new shoes, of course. Huh, I hear you saying ‘shoes?’ Well, I have a few pairs, but nothing suitable for wearing in a boat. There’s a chance to go on a much bigger one next month too, so surely it was worth the investment. After a much pained day in Hamilton, visiting every shoe store I could find, I settled on a pair. Pained, because of the price. Now ‘deck shoes’ look to me just like the old Bata Bullets1 we had as kids in New Zealand. I think they came from Para Rubber2, because I remember the strong smell when trying on shoes there. These are names that most of you won’t know, but my new shoes look just like them, flat, white rubber sole, canvas upper, and lace up. They cost at least fifteen times more than my remembered childhood ones, but I guess that’s inflation and Bermuda’s prices. Bermuda works tax into all saleable items to keep tax on wages low here. It means it inflates the cost for everyday items like food and clothing. It used to have the highest cost index in the world, but I see we’re now in second place4. That’s good. My new shoes came with leather laces curled up at the side, and not done up. I persevered with this ‘latest fad’ lace system for about an hour, wearing them home from the shop. By the time I walked to the car, I had red raw bleeding heels and was hobbling trying not to catch the backs. I sat down and applied Band-aids to both heels, wondering if you all remembered how I did the exact same thing in North Wales wearing my walking shoes for the first time in months after they had been in storage? My heels looked just the same then, and I have to admit I put those shoes back into storage and I haven’t let them near my feet since! Now there’s blood on my news ones, I won’t be able to take them back, so I have to be persistent with them, and break them in. Or am I really breaking in my feet?

New-old little boat being kindly picked up before it was scrapped

In Bermuda I hardly ever have to wear shoes. It’s winter right now, but I’m still comfy enough in sandals, and I‘ve managed to avoid socks. Feet spread from not being contained. So if you live here a while, you might need wider shoes than you used to wear. They swell with the heat too, so a size bigger might be more fitting. I have found shoes that lace up, or can be adjusted to loosen off, are the most comfortable when I do have to wear them. It’s always weird though, because it feels like I’m wearing ‘grown-up’ clothes, when socks and shoes are a necessity. Now it’s a bit cooler, my shoes feel loose on me, which is why my new deck shoes couldn’t be too fitting. I gave up on the fad-laces, and asked my lovely husband to buy me some ordinary shoe laces to use instead. In hind sight, I should have waited to do this myself, because as much as the new laces are the right colour, they are just a tiny bit too short. So there I was trying to wear them with a tiny bow tied, so small I got cramp in my fingers a couple of times trying to tie them. Laces that short can’t be put into a double bow, so I tied, and re-tied them over and over as they loosened off over the course of the day. Yesterday I went back into Hamilton, and bought a longer pair, which stayed done up, were easy to tie, and look good. With all the boxes ticked, and after wearing them for over a week, surely they’ll be better now? No, the walk from the bus stop to home, skinned my heels a second time.

Maybe the salt water and snorkelling make my feet soft? I often get around in bare feet, but I have to admit, since the rooster has been hanging about, I do this less often. He pecks at my toes, which scares the living daylights out of me. I don’t cope with it because when I was about eight, my job was to feed the chickens at home. One evening when down in the hen house, the wind blew the door shut on me, and I couldn’t get out because it triggered the lock to snib on the outside. Being face to face with our rooster, Sir Albert, was a bit of a shock. He must have felt threatened, or thought I was threatening the hens, because he was up with his talons and flew at me, making the most goddam awful noise. It was summer so I was in shorts and jandals4, with nothing to protect my legs. He ripped at me from my knees to my ankles and kept coming back, over and over. I was panic stricken, and couldn’t get out, but in the end kicked the door in, breaking it enough to put my hand through, reach the lock, and get away. Now Albert wasn’t meant to be in with the day old chicks we had purchased, and a dozen doesn’t mean thirteen. It was a sneaky way to get rid of the male unwanted chicks back then. By the time Mum and Dad realised, we were quite attached to him. The hen run was a long way from the house, the crowing never bothered us and the neighbours never complained, so it was reasonable to keep him. That evening when I arrived at the back door torn and dripping blood, Dad asked ‘what happened?!’ Not that politely. I just said ‘Albert’ and Dad, without discussion or hesitation picked up the axe. We had Sir Albert for tea, he was delicious, and we all went back for seconds! So our new acquired rooster ‘Kiev’ has to keep his distance from my feet. I don’t have an axe, but I know where the machete is. There’s also chicken culling here, so I could get in touch with that bloke if I needed to. And if he crows before seven, he’s casserole!

Kiev’s a handsome fellow – but don’t get too close with those talon’s!

Years later, but still a child, while on holiday at the beautiful Lake Taupo in the North Island of New Zealand, black swans were on the shore. I remember being frantic about it, and sure enough they pecked my toes! Once again I was wearing jandals and couldn’t protect my feet. Looking back in hind sight, I was probably kicking up such a fuss, that they had to come over to investigate the noise! Years after that, one of my music teachers owned a huge cockatoo. It had a perch, but was free to roam wherever it liked in the house. Now my instrument of choice is the flute, which is held sideways when being played. This cockatoo would swoop off it’s stand, fly around the room making a raucous noise, and then land on my flute! The bloody thing nearly knocked my teeth out once or twice. I can not tell you how hard it is to play music with a heavy bird perched on the end, of what he must have thought looked like a very nice shiny seat! I’ve been working very hard to let rooster ‘Kiev’ and his new addition ‘Brown Chicken’ near enough that it’s pushing my bird-boundaries. Early days yet I’m afraid.

Today I’m in slippers, as I’m having a home day. I brought my favourite ones over from the UK, and was laughed at for the weight of them in my suitcase. My lovely husband thought they would be way too hot, and I would never wear them. Now in my second winter here, I live in them when I’m at home. They are so nice to put sore tired feet into at the end of the day. I keep them in a shower cap during the other seasons, because they turn green with mould really fast. All natural fibers do, but keeping the humid air away from them helps. My heels are getting a rest for now, but tomorrow I’ll be in my new shoes again.

Surely my feet will break in sooner or later?

More soon – Sally

  1. Bata bullets was a brand of gym shoes that were very popular in the 1970’s in New Zealand
  2. Para Rubber was a store that sold all kinds of rubber items from family outdoor pools, to hot water bottles, in New Zealand in the 1970’s
  3. Information about the world cost index can be found here:
  4. Jandals are unisex summer footwear also called flip flops (UK) and thongs (Australia)

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  1. I had a good giggle too and now understand your bird issues. Good luck with the new shoes! By the way Para Rubber still exists. Shall I post you some shoes?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your column gave me a good laugh. I so related to your childhood stories, and also to your shoes.
    Who would have thought tennis shoes and Bata Bullets would become high fashion.
    I’m wearing a pair of black Hush Puppies (like tennis shoes) to a funeral.
    While my mum is possibly turning in her grave, she is also applauding that I’m comfortable enough to do it.

    Liked by 1 person

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