• Roger Waterhouse


At school I was never much good at team games. I was OK with the team bit. The problem was what you were physically required to do. Somehow the football always hit the wrong side of my foot. And although I played a good stroke at cricket, the ball had gone past already. I put it down as a problem of speed. Or lack of it. It wasn't that I lacked eye/hand coordination. I was just too slow.

So in a school which prided itself on its football and cricket, I opted for rugby and tennis. Rugby was easy. All you had to do was shove hard in the scrum, and fling yourself at any passing opponent holding the ball.

And since the tennis racket was much larger than a cricket bat it allowed for a greater margin of error. I never claimed to be good at either of them.

It wasn't that I wasn't sporty. When I passed the eleven plus the family bought me a bike. And off I went. Throughout my teenage years. I scoured the whole of north Derbyshire, and to this day I know the gradients of all the hills out of south and west Sheffield.

And childhood tree climbing was followed by reckless and unsupervised potholing. To say nothing of the swimming.

My Dad taught me to swim. We went every Friday night to Heeley baths as members of the Oak Street Chapel Swimming Club. (Neither of us attended Oak Street Chapel, but he had been member of the club when he was a lad). I became a really strong swimmer - though I nearly drowned at Babbacombe when I was seventeen - though that's another story.

But the breakthrough came when I was 16. My school nominated me to go for a summer month on an Outward Bound rock climbing course in the Lake District. And the enlightened Sheffield City Education Department paid for me to go.

And that was how I learned about Chris Brasher. He was a climbing hero.

And I loved the climbing, and was good at it.

It was supposed to be character building as well - and actually it was. On the final 3 day hike, where you planned to take in as many peaks as possible, and bivouacked on the mountain, I was designated as leader of a team of four - which taught me more about teams than football or cricket ever did.

But what about boots? The only requirement of the Outward Bound course was that you brought your own rucksack (mine was British Army ex-commando. and bloody heavy) and your own boots. I persuaded Mum and Dad to buy me a horn handled sheath knife - just in case. I've still got it. I can't remember the make of the boots, but they lasted me for years, and I learned the importance of having a good pair of boots.

(Come to think of it, I only missed call-up by two quarters. And had I gone, as I fully expected I would have to when I was 16, Dad would have given me the advice - two things to look out for -your boots and your cutlery).

Let's skip 40 odd years. In the interim I had been to the Lake District many times, but now was at a stage in life when bivouacking on the mountain no longer appealed. Staying in a nice pub, with a good restaurant (it was probably The Drunken Duck) and a strenuous one day hike sounded challenging enough.

Some say there is no such thing as bad weather - just inappropriate clothing. And on this particular trip Jacky and I decided to fortify ourselves properly against the Lake District weather.

We went into the big (and famous) outdoor shop in Keswick and bought anoraks, middle layers, and footwear. I bought a pair of Brasher boots. In fact I bought two lots of Brasher foot wear - a pair of boots and a pair of shoes. They were strong, stout, and fitted beautifully comfortably. I wouldn't have bought the shoes as well, but the man who sold us the boots was wearing a pair himself , which convinced me they could be worn for every day.

And I wore them. Day after day. And eventually the shoes gave out, but the boots were still going strong. But after about 6 years the backs had gone, the soles were thin, and I bought a new but identical pair. Great.

That was about 7 or 8 years ago.

I don't go to an office anymore. I rarely have a need for 'city shoes'. I don't like wearing wellies unless I have to. So I wore my Brasher boots every day.

About 4 years ago, the backs started collapsing, so I decided I would have to invest in a new pair. I wasn't about to go back to Keswick (these days we go to the Inn at Whitewell in the Borest of Bowland) so I tried to source Brasher boots in Derby. I couldn't. I went round various shops, and nobody had heard of them. So I bought a pair of Doc Martins instead. Now I had never had a pair of Doc Martins before, but they gained their reputation in the 70's as 'bovver boots' - good for kicking heads in. So tough and strong.

Not a bit of it. The soles were thin; the uppers were floppy. So I continued my search for Brasher boots, in the meantime still wearing my clapped out pair.

Then Outdoors opened a store in Chesterfield.They had a big range of walking shoes and boots, and a discount scheme which you had to buy into. I went in there and spoke to the assistant in the shoe department. He had never heard of Brasher boots and thought they must have gone out of business. But once he knew what I was looking for he could and did recommend a German walking shoe by Meindl - which I bought. I have to say, it is a very nice and comfortable walking shoe. But what I really wanted was a work boot.

Then it happened. About a fortnight later I went into the Outdoors store in Chesterfield for something else, and there they were - the real, branded, Brasher boots. In my size. So of course, I bought a pair.

That was 18 months ago. But I haven't worn them yet.

Because my old pair isn't worn out. The soles are still good. The tops are still good. They are still waterproof. And they are still very, very comfortable. And I decided that the backs being broken didn't matter. In fact, it was a good thing. Because, providing I use a shoe horn, I can get them on and off without untying the shoe laces. And that's very handy, and kind on my back.

And besides, I do have some affection for my old boots.

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