Oi Polloi

The Antiques Clothes Show: Josh's Boots

Published: Fri Feb 27 2015

This edition of The Antiques Clothes Show tells the story of Oi Polloi's intrepid explorer Josh and his beloved boots. Take it away Josh...

To cut a long bike ride short, I once cycled from Goole to Cape Town. Goole is a town, civil parish and inland port located approximately 45 miles from the sea at the confluence of the rivers Don and Ouse in the East Riding of Yorkshire. I figured Cape Town might be more interesting.

The whole bike ride lasted about 450 days. I wore an old, formerly waxed, Barbour cap for at least 400 of those days to cover my unwashed hair, but I thought I’d tell you about my boots.

Before leaving for the trip I had plans of buying some amazing boots to see me through — instead I bought a pair of adidas x Ransom boots in a clearance sale somewhere. I thought them a decent compromise between something casual and something practical, and figured I could put up with them being a bit too small.

I could say they served me well right across Europe, straight through Turkey, round the end of the Mediterranean, before finally beginning to give up in Egypt — but in truth I mainly wore a pair of Tevas.

The first real issue with the boots came when playing football with some Egyptian kids outside an ancient temple in Luxor, after which I ended up with a hole in the toe of the left boot. I did a bit of back street searching, and thankfully found a guy, working out of room the size of a walk in wardrobe, to patch them for me.

They then did actually see me quite well on my way up the Nile, through the Sudanese desert, into the Ethiopian highlands, and through the Kenyan badlands, but were falling to bits by the time I took a dhow to Zanzibar. So I found a guy, working out of little more than a normal-sized wardrobe, who re-stitched all the seams for me. He seemed to have done a proper job, and I had renewed confidence that they’d last me yet.

That was until I reached a backpackers lodge in Malawi, and got chatting with the owner. He offered me free camping, food, and alcohol if I looked after the place, served all the other guests, built a dry stone wall, re-varnished the bamboo shower unit, fed the chickens and planted a herb garden, while he visited a few towns with shops and had a bit of Malaria. I jumped at the opportunity, and parked my boots in my tent’s porch for a couple of weeks. It turned out that termites quite like both living beneath boots, and eating leather.

They almost completely ate through the inner side of each boot. I wasn’t really sure if this one could be fixed, but decided that when I reached the next big town I would go to the market and find a leather man.

A guy in a pink, peaked beanie, ensured me he could do it, but I asked him only to do one, so I would be left with a sort of before and after.

I left the boots with him for half an hour, and went and got the elbow holes in my favourite shirt repaired elsewhere. My boot guy did a top job, and I really should have had him do both, because, by the time I’d pedalled through Mozambique, up into Lesotho (the country with the world’s highest lowest point) and all the way round the bottom edge of South Africa, the one I’d left un-repaired was really falling apart…

It’s a few years now since I’ve been back in trusty old England, and the only travelling the boots have done since is from one cupboard to another, wherever I’ve gone. They don’t get any wear, but there’s no way I’m throwing them away.