Andy KJ Cragg


My Father's Italian Shoes.

After my father's funeral we came across his pair of Italian, hand-made shoes. We thought we should definitely keep them because of the story they told. My father had these Oxford Brogues made by a man in Italy, and every year, my father would go to Italy and have the shoes repaired, or a new pair made if needed. Oxford Brogues, in Italy.

Every time he came back from Italy, the shoes would look brand new, and father always said that the Italian repaired them most years and made new ones every ten years or so, the quality was that good.

When father got his terminal diagnosis, he knew what he wanted to do first. He went to Italy and to the shoemakers shop to get his last pair of shoes repaired.

He walked in with his current pair of Oxfords and said to the man, Giuseppe, that this would be his last visit, and would he do his shoes for one last time. Ah, said Giuseppe, yes, by coincidence this is my last year as a shoemaker. I've made enough money to retire a happy life on my brother's vineyard, and so I retire, too. I retire as you do, Signor Graham, but alas, I have a little longer, god willing. I am sorry.

One year, father put a little nick on the inside of one of his shoes, to see if Giuseppe did indeed repair the shoes or simply make a new pair from the last that he had made all those years ago. The repaired shoes did indeed have the nick intact.

I was wondering, Giuseppe, said father, on his final Italian visit, I was wondering - did you really repair my shoes all those times? Or did you simply make me a new pair every time? I think, sorry to be vulgar for a moment, that the cost was always about the same, the repair, the new pair.

Giuseppe looked at my father for a long time. And then he said, come with me! Giuseppe went out the back of his shop. Well, father had never stepped beyond the counter, and was hesitant. Come! Giuseppe exclaimed. Come!

So father did, he went behind the counter and followed Giuseppe into the back rooms. There were shoes, and lasts all neatly stacked, with names written in gorgeous cursive text, then there was a kitchen and a living room with a big TV, and then out the back door. A courtyard, that was very wide, yet thin, then a building beyond which had a corrugated iron roof and a big wooden front door. It had rusty hinges, and flaking paint but a brand new lock. Giuseppe took a key from his pocket and opened the door. Inside was a wide, thin room. All the walls were covered by tall cupboards, wall to ceiling, and each cupboard had a name, also in fine cursive text. Come, said Giuseppe, as he walked to the far wall on their right. Come!

There was a cupboard with Signor Graham written on it and Giuseppe opened it. Inside was shelves and shelves of shoes. Each one was labelled with a year.