October 10: cobbler cobbler mend my shoe

The search for a decent cobbler goes on unabated. You arrive with a pair of shoes to be heeled. Th cobbler, or more often than not, the cobbler’s mate, receives you into their humble abode. The cobbler’s gatekeeper I call him. Often a woman, of course. Perhaps (who can guess?) his wife. This is a question you cannot ask. Excuse me Miss, but are you by any chance the cobbler’s wife? This would be an interrogation too far. The mate assesses the damage. To what level has the heel degraded? There are strata of degradation to a heel and on such decisions is the estimate given. Mostly, I feel robbed by the estimate of the cobbler’s gatekeeper and go away thinking I should have just bought a new pair of shoes. If only I could have spoken to the cobbler himself, the master cobbler and not his mate. But that is the way with gatekeepers. Of course, the humble cobbler lives in a downsized shed-like construction with a hatch-window, where he is obliged to also perform the humiliating business of key cutting. Pity the poor cobbler; key-cutting was never his aspiration. It is the cross he must bear. Moreover, this unfortunate profession is also the victim of etymological machinations. To cobble is indeed a 13th Century word to mend shoes but in the 16th century the meaning of botching something also arises, as in to cobble something together. Hardley the greatest endorsement of the cobbler’s craft. Still, it’s hard to find a good one in London. Here’s an idea. The cobbler, like the dry-cleaner, is cheaper the closer into the centre of London you go. I throw this idea out there. It’s just a suggestion. Everything else gets more expensive. Cobblers get cheaper! Cobblers thrive at hubs. It is at intersections that the cobbler plys his trade. They know that hubs are where custom throngs: the city gent; the traveller hurrying to his destination; the femme du monde. Hence competition amongst cobblers. Supply and demand, ergo deflated prices. The simple economics of a cobbler’s life.

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