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Joys Of Modern Life: 1. velcro sandals

FOR the past 20 years I haven't worn shoes. Where do I go, that I need shoes? I wore trainers, always plain white, whether going to the Groucho Club, while living in London, or walking up Grasmoor, while living in Lakeland. In really nasty weather, I might put on some wellies, but mainly I lived in trainers.

I swore by them: how comfy, how casual, brilliant for walking, far better than those stupid walking boots which are so heavy.

The only criticism I would accept about trainers was the pong. So what, I said. Then about five years ago, I began to get problems. Nothing to do with wearing trainers, certainly not. A spot of arthritis which resulted in a nasty growth, some sort of bunion thing on my big toe. Trainers became hell to wear, wellies impossible.

Then I saw an advert in a mail-order catalogue for a new sort of walking sandal. Only pounds 27, they said, half the retail price. I bought a pair. They were so marvellous, I bought another two.

I have lived in walking sandals for the past five years. They have these Velcro straps so I can alter them to give my bunion a bit of space. But they also happen to be enormously comfortable, with their shaped soles, and enormously strong, tough enough for any Lakeland walk. I can go over rocks and through bogs, easy peasy, and not get soaked or bring back half the bog with me.

Two years ago I went up Table Mountain in Cape Town in my sandals. I didn't mean to. We turned up for the cable car but the queue was three hours. I said bugger this, I'm not waiting, and my wife agreed to walk with me. We got up in two hours, no problems.

I adore my sandals. They are perfect for my needs. If only we could find such ideal supports for all our practical and spiritual needs as we travel through life. I can well understand why trainers are now so passe. Ugh. Nasty smelly things. Was I really in love with them for so long?