You’ve had some right cowboys in here (Moving to Holland 7)

I need an extra centimetre on the sole of my left shoes. I also have flat feet and wear down the insides of the heels. Yesterday I took my favourite old brown shoes into a cobblers in Alkmaar, to be repaired for the Nth time. It is not only the heels that need doing, said the cobbler. The sole also needs replacing. It is worn and badly done in the first place. Who did this work? Ah, a Belgian. I am not surprised. Anyway, these shoes are no good. I could repair them for a hundred euros. But they are no good.


So after taking their photograph, I have thrown them away.

“This work is badly done. To put it right will cost a lot.” – this is a lovely example of “You’ve had some right cowboys in here”, I said to Emigrating Companion as we left the shop. But Emigrating Companion was smiling. She thinks I wear old things long past the point that is reasonable.

(“You’ve had some right cowboys in here” is what, classically, an English builder will say when you ask them to come and carry out some necessary repair to your home.)

And another thing, said the cobbler before we left. You say you need an extra centimetre. That is something you need to get checked regularly. When are you going to a doctor about it?

At least I had a small triumph. At three o’clock this afternoon, I said. It was true. I had an appointment with a podoloog. (In Belgium, where we lived before, I’ve never had an appointment for a routine health matter on a Saturday.)

A couple of hours later I stood on a platform on my flat feet in my underwear while the tall and jolly podologist (Call me René, can I call you Paul?) looked long and happily at my back. He looked at my shoes, he looked at my insoles, he called in a colleague to have a look at my back too. Normally a single check on someone is enough after I make them a new pair of insoles, he said – but you, I’m going to have to see three or four times at least. You’ve had this so long, it hasn’t been treated right, you are overcompensating so much that it is impossible to see what is really going on. This is the kind of work I like.

So once again, “You’ve had some right cowboys in here”.

But: both the cobbler and René seemed to make their remarks our of sheer pleasure in their job – unlike the builders, for whom it is a reason to charge more. The cobbler wouldn’t take my money. And as far as I can tell, there’s a standard price for fitting new insoles, regardless of how many sessions you have.

Making conversation as I got dressed, I told René that living in Holland is turning out to be good for my health. I exercise more, I said; I eat and drink less. Just wait till you get a social life and start going to the pub and going out to eat, he said. Here are some good restaurants I recommend to get you started…

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Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "Energy Storage" at European Commission, Joint Research Centre

2 thoughts on “You’ve had some right cowboys in here (Moving to Holland 7)”

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