THE world of manual work was a new one to me until I retired after half a century behind a desk.

And after three years of clearing up the effluvia of a thousand horses, I find that even the work manual is something of a misnomer.

For while my hands have coped reasonably well with the demands of graip and brush, thanks to waterproof gloves, my feet have suffered cruelly.

After 50 years of wearing sensible shoes for the office, selecting footwear for a stable is a different kettle of fish altogether.

The obvious choice was wellies, coupled with waterproof leggings, and it was this combination I favoured initially.

However, even with steel toecaps, soft rubber wellies offer little resistance to a horny hoof stomping down on them with malice aforethought.

And no matter how crenellated and corrugated the soles they offer little resistance to the ice which occasionally coats parts of the stable floor while water is being distributed in the depths of winter.

I was once sauntering past the water troughs when both feet suddenly shot out from under me and I finished up flat on my back spreadeagled like a starfish. I lay there for a while, winded and giggling at the same time, before becoming aware of several pairs of eyes looking down on me anxiously.

Seeing me flat out and twitching, fellow workers assumed I was having a heart attack!

The soles are also vulnerable to attack from below, as I found when I was rummaging through a pile of decrepit fencing looking for baulks of timber to salvage.

I am always wary when poking about in such accumulations, for this is prime adder country, with the timber offering a million hidey holes for ophidian ambushes.

As I teetered unsteadily amongst the posts and rails, I fancied I heard a hiss, and then felt a stabbing pain in my foot.

I looked down in horror, expecting to see the hideous head of a venomous viper hanging from my heel.

But all that was visible was a piece of wood, attached to the ball of my foot by two rusty nails.

There wasn’t too much blood, and I thanked my lucky stars that my tetanus injections were up to date.

And while Sir Arthur Wellesley’s ingenious inventions may stop water getting in, they also prevent it getting out.

My little fat legs, when encased in plastic and rubber, sweat like the very devil himself when I am engaged in prolonged physical activity.

My socks and jeans finish up as sodden with accumulated perspiration at the end of the day as though I had not been wearing protective clothing in the first place.

I was therefore advised to buy myself a pair of stout boots, which would be watertight, and less sweat inducing than wellies.

So I scoured the outdoor apparel shops, and opted for a pair of hiking boots which promised to keep my feet dry, provide lots of grip and whisk me up to the top of Stac Pollaidh in the blink of blue hare’s eye.

True, they were at the cheaper end of the market, and I should have realised they were not the real deal when the laces only came halfway up the impressive array of lace holes.

However, they looked the part, and were certainly more comfortable than wellies – that is until I ventured into a small puddle to tip my barrowload of ordure into the gaping maw of the tractor bucket.

I could feel the water soaking my feet as thoroughly as if I was standing in my socks I squelched through the rest of the shift with water squirting merrily out of the lace holes, with the word “waterproof” shining mockingly at me from a little sticker on the side of each boot.

I did manage to dry them out though when I was burning some rubbish later in the day in the on site brazier.

An unexpected gust of wind lifted a sheet of burning cardboard completely out of the fire and sent it whirling away.

I chased after it, and managed to stamp it out, setting fire to the new boots in the process!

They are now relegated to fair weather boots only, and I purchased some proper boots in the flood damage sale at Otterburn Mill.

I checked them, and reasoned that if they could survive a raging flood intact, they should be able to cope with everything the stables could throw at them.