…and you brave the malls of Perth’s CBD, endangering sole and sanity in a fruitless search for work boots for your geologist flatmate, you know you have to call in the big guns – your enterprising Australian neighbour from Darwin. This turned out to be quite an enlightening experience. Darwin generously drove to our rescue, and drove us around to the right shops. Work shoes, he explained, cannot be found in shoe shops. Right. Just like you can never find socks, stockings or Dr Scholl’s products on the racks next to the shoes in any shoe store in Perth. I fail to see the logic of this but then Perth isn’t India.
Our shoe safari began, very logically, at Totally Workwear. This complete one-stop shop in Victoria Park stocks boots for all reasons and seasons. Hazardous chemicals? Wet work? Construction? You name it they’ve got it – everything from the hard hats to the neon jackets. Apparently there’s a whole work-wear industry here. I think of the rubber chappals Indian road workers wear while digging up Mumbai’s roads – also an industry apparently vital to our economy. The Aussies call these thongs…strictly beach or university student wear. Nope, Totally Workwear do not have these. Not so total after all then. But seriously, I admire the way the Australians have protective clothing for just about any kind of work.
However, trail didn’t end here. Could there be better work boots somewhere else? Surely not. Camping stores, declared Darwin. Clearly, this boot-buying business is tricky stuff. You need to think like an Australian for this. So off we went down Albany Highway in search of Ranger Outdoors. I think the last person to go camping in my family must have been my dad, when he was in the boy scouts. I’ve always thought of camping as survival – rubbing two sticks together to make fire, that sort of thing. It’s amazing what people have invented over the years to make this a comfortable experience. Tents nearly as big as my bedroom, chairs to sit in as you watch your cooking pot bubble on a gas stove…no campfires burning here. Of course, I can see how all this is good for preventing forest fires…and a sore butt. And yes, they had shoes – but not quite what our geologist was looking for.
We finally hit pay dirt at the Wellington Surplus Stores that stocks camping, military, and survival gear and, of course, the perfect work boots for geologists. They also sell things that remind me of train journeys as a child…jerry cans and holdalls. My dad’s holdall is long gone but the jerry cans might still be packed away somewhere. There’s also a range of gadgets from nifty compasses to wicked knives. I know where I’m going Christmas shopping this year.
Mission accomplished, we headed home. I’m mentally groaning at the thought of having to repeat this exercise myself when I go boot shopping. Since coming to Perth, my feet have had this mysterious tendency to shrink or grow as they march from store to store. I’ve never worn boots and haven’t the faintest idea where or how to buy a pair. But this is an adventure for another day…for now, I’m just a happy camper.