There are certain events in your life that you never forget. I remember the first pair of boots I was bought. I was six years old and my family were staying in Borrowdale.
I remember being taken into the George Fisher shop. It was like Aladdin’s cave piled high with all sorts of equipment. We went downstairs to where all the boots were kept. I can’t remember how long it took to find some boots but I do remember being amazed by the fact that you could not tell if the boots were the correct size by pushing the leather at the toe because it was too tough. Instead the woman who was fitting them said that, “if you could get one finger down between your heel and the end of the boot then they would fit.”
I wanted these boots so much that I didn’t really care how well they fitted! The boot test was applied and everyone agreed that my boots fitted me. I left the shop with them on my feet, carrying my tin of all-important Dubin, with which I had promised the women in Fishers, I would “dubbin” my boots religiously every night.
My boots were brilliant.
They were made by Dachstien and they looked exactly like real big boys mountaineering boots. They had a totally stiff sole, which would be good for rock climbing (“What’s rock climbing Dad?”). And they had a monster tread on the sole.
When the winter snow came I would walk to school in my fantastic boots. At six years old I was slow at getting to grips with the lacing system. My mother would help me tie the laces before I left home. When I arrived at school we all changed into indoor shoes. When it was time to go home I was given special dispensation to leave the classroom early before the other kids. This was because it took me so long to lace up my boots and my teacher, Mrs. Harris, didn’t want me going home in the dark.
It was a dark day in my life when it was clear that I had grown out of my boots.
They were given to my little brother who thought the boots were brilliant too. But he was constantly reminded, by me that they were not his boots and that I was only lending them to him.
It is nearly thirty years since my parents bought me those mountaineering boots. I still have them. It was probably one of those days in the basement of George Fisher’s boot room that helped shape my life as a High Mountain Guide.