As you may know, I find ordinary domestic details from the past absolutely fascinating. Ruth drew, a journalist, writer and broadcaster, sounds a real character – I never heard any of her live broadcasts, but I have the collection of some of her work which was published posthumously in 1964, four years after her untimely death. She writes so informatively, and yet humorously, quirkily, who would have thought an article about shoe cleaning could be interesting?!
Another point about equipment: it’s important to work with clean tools, shoes don’t like dirty clogged brushes, and dusters any more than noses like dirty powder puffs. And a shampoo for them only takes a few minutes.
What she says is patently true, clean tools are important for any job. Yet, the analogy dates this completely – she is writing for women, women who will be cleaning the shoes, and women who in those days all had compacts and powder puffs. (I mentioned a few days ago about ashtrays – that most young people would see a domestic ashtray from the past and think it a little dish for something, something edible or just for bits and pieces. In the same conversation with my friend about ashtrays we talked about powder compacts and powder puffs, who has a compact these days?) Back to Ruth:
Now you may well say this is all very well for people who trot about on town pavements. But what about shoes which come in plastered with country mud? Well, sometimes, when the mud’s dry, it can be brushed off. otherwise the answer’s first a wash with plain water and then a careful slow drying in an airy place not near radiators, or toasting like crumpets in front of the fire. All the mud has to be shifted before the shoes are dried and polished. if not you’re left with crusty blobs of dried mud rising reproachfully under the polish. And no amount of guilty rubbing’s going to see the back of them.
Warmth is a help when you’re polishing shoes. If you work with slightly warm dusters and brushes the polish comes up quickly and can save you time and elbow grease.
What lovely images – shoes toasting like crumpets, crusty blobs of mud rising reproachfully, guilty rubbing… Who could not find Ruth endearing?