AFTER decades of being reasonably well shod, I seem to have been caught up in something of a footwear crisis.

I mentioned some while ago that I had purchased a pair of stout walking boots as an alternative to wearing wellies for my role as equine effluent disposal operative.

It was a less than successful purchase, for although they proudly bore a tag declaring them waterproof, they leaked like a sieve the moment I stepped into a small puddle.

I would have taken them back, but somehow managed to set fire to them while stamping out a minor conflagration I had started when burning rubbish escaped from the brazier.

I demoted them to fair weather boots, for apart from the scorch marks and leaky soles, they seemed reasonably robust.

But last week, when I was wheeling my laden barrow across the yard, I noticed an odd slapping, flapping sound.

I at first thought the barrow had suffered a puncture, but then noticed that the sole of my left boot was flapping like Adam Buckham’s tongue in the jaunty Northumbrian folk song.

The dismembered boot certainly gave me bow legs, and I had to resist a strong urge to beat it up with a halter rope, a la Basil Fawlty.

I threw them in the bin as soon as I got home, which is where they should have gone in the first place.

Then it was my posh trainers, which I wore for a trip to Hexham.

I was walking across the Tesco car park on an admittedly wet day, when I became aware my feet were rather cold.

When I took my trainers off when I got home, I found my socks were sodden, because the sole had parted company with the uppers on both shoes.

Now this could have been expected if I had been playing football, climbing trees or running marathons in them, but all I had ever done was walk around in them, with perhaps a little scuffling through dry autumn leaves.

I had them for some months, but had hardly worn them, and had no idea where the receipt was, so I had to take the leakage on the chin.

As it happened, I had a voucher in my wallet given to me for my birthday, which could be spent at the Temple of Mammon that is the Metrocentre, so I decided to purchase a new pair of trainers on a rare visit.

I found a pair I liked at a reputable sports emporium, and after trying them on just to make sure my feet hadn’t expanded beyond the size seven they have been since I was at grammar school, all seemed to be well.

The third time I wore them, they split at the seam, exposing my little toe to the world.

What has happened to shoe manufacturers to allow me to purchase three pairs of defective hoes within a relatively short space of time? Shoes, especially leisure shoes, used to last forever, no matter how roughly they were treated.

In the days before designer trainers, most children’s feet were encased in black pumps from Woolworths which they wore all the time when out of school, and because they were identical, there was no one-upmanship about who had the trendiest and most expensive footwear.

The only other alternative was bumpers – which were coloured pumps with a broad rubber band around the bottom. They were called bumpers because they looked like the bumper cars from the fairground.

My footwear issues once embarrassed me hugely on a rather posh cruise which Mrs Hextol and I were undertaking to mark our 40th wedding anniversary.

One night, I had to don full evening dress but once the suit and dicky bow were on, I found I couldn’t get my shoes on.

They were rather dashing slip-ons, but my feet had swollen rather during the flight to foreign climes to rendezvous with the ship.

I usually take a shoe horn to deal with such a situation, but it seemed Mrs Hextol had forgotten to pack it.

I spent half an hour trying to cram my feet into the shoes, before giving up and going off to meet the skipper with my black trainers peeping out from beneath my shiny trousers.

If the captain noticed, he never said so, but when we returned to the cabin and flopped on the bed, there was a tinkle as the missing shoe horn emerged from a fold in the covers and fell to the floor.