The third dispatch from author, printer and dealer in 'Vintage Fishing Tackle for the Soul' John Andrews (a.k.a Andrews of Arcadia). John is one of the six working men photographed by Neil Gavin for our spring/summer menswear collection.
The coming of spring prompts a changing of the guard, an audit of the kit that has got me through another winter on the floor of the market. Usually, this is nothing more than a list of repairs given to the Empress, the sewing up of ripped sleeves, the re-tying of buttons, the strengthening of pockets and shoulder straps and perhaps the re-heeling of a pair of boots. In one year it was a call to the scrap merchant to tow away the car whose wheels had seized and whose seats had rotten. A ritual as bruising on the heart as the shooting of a horse. This year it was something almost as significant, a change of shoes.
The old skins were a pair of brogues, bought at the end of the last century and whose soles and heels I had changed half a dozen times in the intervening years. My friend the cobbler Mr. Stacey Weeks, 'Spats' for short, a sartorial gentleman who wears a bowler hat, standard uniform for Victorian cobblers, and odd shoes to prompt a conversation about his art had done the honours each time in exchange for a favour or a score of good floats. I gave him the brogues in March and a week later received a letter that may as well have been bordered in black,
'Stripped your Commando soles off and there in quite a state really. The stormwelt is broken around the toe on one shoe and needs rewelting. But the welt is in quite bad condition elsewhere on both. They have been repaired often so gone weak. Also the uppers are splitting and worn. The middles are knackerd which I could replace but honestly, they are beyond it.'
I collected the shoes at an auction a week later, stripped of their soles and stripped of their heels. They had given me good service and taken me more miles than I cared to count. Their replacements would be a pair of boots kindly sent to me by the ladies and gentlemen of Toast, a pair of Modern British 'Veldtschoen' in Country grain - The Pennine Boot - made by Joseph Cheaney of Northampton. Spats lifted my heel and gave them an inspection much to the bemusement of passers-by. He insisted I take one off so he could get his hands into it. Then he gave them the nod, which was good enough for me.
During the The Great War, Lotus Ltd made 54, 751 pairs of Veldtschoen Boots which were worn exclusively by Officers on active service overseas and of which, according to their advertising legend, only 76 pairs failed to give complete satisfaction. Even twenty years later when war broke out again the legend of Veldtschoen endured in the form of another strapline, 'Till Victory is Won the Sale of Lotus Veldtschoen is Reserved to Members of H.M. Forces.' With their leather upper turned outward rather than tucked under and stitched onto the sole through the welt the Veldtschoen is deemed to be waterproof. A boot fit to march down the spine of Britain if ever there was one and more than adequate for the short walk to the market through the first of the large puddles that collects over the cobbles at the mouth of the Truman Car Park with first heavy shower of April.