The Nincompoopery of Barleycorn


Here’s the story of shoes, modernity, and cobblers.

MY SHOES! My precious shoes! Oh, no – why did this have to happen? Damn you world! Damn you to hell! I mean, honestly, the build quality of shoes these days is appalling. I’ve only had them eight years. Eight! They’ve been everywhere with me. Sydney. New York. London. Blackpool. And then… they just died. Just like that. Big flipping hole. I’m quite sad about the whole thing. It meant I needed new shoes. So the first thing to do was measure my feet. Do you know what we measure feet in, in the UK? Barleycorn. And I’m not making that up. Barleycorn! What the bloody hell is a barleycorn? “Ah, sir, I see you’re here for some new shoes.” “Yes.” “And how many barleycorns are you?” “10.” “And how many potatoes wide?”

You see, the UK is the only country on the planet that uses a mix of imperial and metric. But some things have gone unnoticed. Like shoe size. A barleycorn is a third of an inch. I mean, I like it – a world with barleycorn measurement is a better one than… erm, whatever the hell the equivalent is. But whenever you go into a shoe shop they always ask – “What’s your shoe size?” “Oh, I don’t know – you won’t believe this, but barleycorn rulers are really hard to find these days.”

I love the UK. I wonder what other hidden measurements there are. I bet bra size is measured in After Eights…

I’m not good in public. I panic and I’m really, really awkward. My levels of shyness fluctuate depending on what I’m doing. Shoe shopping catapults me into full blown social anxiety. But it all started with a trip to the bank.

Now, I don’t have a credit card, debit card or bank card – they’re the work of Satan. So I have to ask the teller for some money, like they did in the old days. Between asking for it and getting it is a long wait. A long, long awkward silence. Occasionally, my brain screams at me:


I can only imagine what not smiling for ten minutes, followed by a sudden uncomfortable smile, must look like to the teller. It’s a really cheesy smile. Ear to ear. All teeth showing. It’s like Gromit when he sees a piece of cheese. That teller must’ve been terrified. I was praying she didn’t have a panic button beneath her desk like they do in the movies…

Sometimes, they try to make conversation with you.

“How are you today, sir?”

That’s a very odd question. How many of us spend any time at any point in our day to analyse our state of being? You see, I’m very logical, so I weigh up the good against the bad to try to give a definitive and honest answer. Unfortunately, that takes a long time. So, between her asking the question and me answering, around 10 minutes of silence would pass. All whilst I stand there, cradling my chin like a philosopher and staring at the ceiling. Very deep in thought. I don’t like lying to people. The social convention is:

“Oh, thank you for asking – I’m jolly good.”

But if that wasn’t true, 10 minutes later I’d be like:

“Oh, no – I’m actually doing, really, really badly. Oh cripes, I have to go back and tell her. What do you mean she’s on her dinner break? Well, where? I need to tell her!”

Shoes! That’s what I was talking about…

My shoe shopping endeavours went really, really badly, and not just because I’m shy. Shoe shop owners are bastards. They have these pages on the web with all these lovely shoes and they have none of them in store. And they’re more expensive in the store. Who would pay £95 for a pair of bloody shoes? What happened to the days when you went down to your local cobbler and got a pair made for a shilling?

Honestly, if I were a Victorian, I would’ve been a cobbler. There’s nothing you can make that is more satisfying than a pair of shoes. Well, maybe love. I don’t know. It hasn’t happened yet. Well, there’s no reason you couldn’t do both, I suppose. Well, I mean it depends what she says really, because – sorry, I was talking about shoes…

The first shop I went in I immediately knew there was nothing in there for me. But I didn’t know the social convention. If there’s nothing in a shop, how long must you stay in said shop before you can leave casually? Because if you leave immediately, you look like a clown. But their male department was tiny. Not a euphemism. But if I had hung around for too long, going round in circles, I would’ve looked like a loon. So I waited until the staff were looking the other way and I bolted.

Second shop. My God, these modern shoe shops are vile. They had boxes in the various shoe sizes behind the shoes. It’s not like they used to do it. “Hi there, do you have these in a 10?” Oh no, not the way these days. Oh, no. Pick ‘em yourself. What happened to customer service? I don’t care if I sound 100-year-old. And they had TV screens. And really, really loud music. All this modern, techno thumping drivel. It was giving me a migraine. It was like a bloody rave. I’d imagine. But I won’t name the shop. I have more decency than that.

After I left Deichmann, I went to another shop. Only found one pair I liked. £95! Who pays – what the – oh my gravy… That is a joke. People don’t wear them for more than a year, these days. It’s all ‘fashion’. Who the frickin’ hell is looking at your feet! “Oh, my feet – they simply must look stylish.” What the hell! Nobody cares about your feet! NOBODY IS LOOKING AT YOUR BLOODY FEET!

Honestly, if you meet a girl and she immediately takes an interest in your shoes, I can assure you, she’s really not interested in you.

It really shouldn’t be this hard for a 25-year-old to buy shoes. I don’t wear trainers. I never have. I like smart casual ‘sort-of’ trainers. Skechers are my choice. Black. Leather. No logos. No bright colours. Refined and dignified. My old ones (sniff) lasted eight memorable years. But small towns like the one I live in only cater for the masses. The masses want bright coloured, thinly soled, plastic, awful, branded nincompoopery. In the end, I gave up. Well, you know my old motto, readers. If at first you don’t succeed, give up immediately…

I would like to point something out before I carry on with the rest of this post. Animal rights people – erm, I believe they’re called hippies, might be concerned that I buy leather shoes. Well, the leather my shoes are made from is from cows raised for their meat. The skin is just a handy leftover. So if you’re concerned about the origin of the leather, don’t worry. In fact, I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that cows like being slaughtered…

I didn’t know what to do, readers. I went home and gazed affectionately at the shoes I liked online that I couldn’t find in the shops. Skechers have this model range. I bought a pair, my old pair, and the new ones I wanted were the next generation. They look pretty much the same. It’s what I do, readers.

I bought a jacket once and I liked it so much that when it got tatty and ragged, I went back to the shop I bought it from and got an identical one. When that one became too small, I went back to the same shop and bought the same one in a larger size. Seriously. I’ve been doing it for over 10 years. I love that jacket. I might cry when they stop making it…

Who would buy shoes online? You need to feel them. To walk around in them. To get used to them. To test drive them. To smell them. To understand them. To be one with them – okay, I’ve gone too far. Honestly, what kind of screwed-up lunatic would buy shoes online?

I can’t wait for them to arrive next week…

My dad once said, “Shoes are expensive but the boxes they come in are free. So if you ever can’t afford shoes, ask for two boxes instead.”

Think about it…

Peace Out :|:

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. You can leave a comment and/or like this post below, or by clicking the title on the top of this post if you are on the ‘Archives’ page. Likes and follows greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Please feel free check out the latest posts from my other two blogs:

To Contrive & Jive
New Posts Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Click Here to Read the Latest Post

Hark Around the Words
New Posts Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday
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