The last time I wore these shoes was in late July, 2001, at a ceremonial passing out parade at Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, UK. I forget the guest of honour inspecting the young cadets, shortly to be commissioned naval officers. A Belgian royal I think, but it matters not. What mattered today was that for the first time in ten years I cleaned these shoes, buffing them until they gleamed, bulled the toe-caps, and wore them again. And how wonderfully comfortable they were!
The story of these shoes goes back a little further. They were one of three pairs of officers shoes issued to me in 1988 on joining the Royal Navy as the assistant chaplain in HMS RALEIGH, the place of entry and basic training for all ratings (US: Enlisted personnel.) I say three pairs. Two remain, and I must turn my attention, my polish, brushes and cloth to one other pair. The third pair, alas, is no longer in my possession. Together with sundry items of uniform, a camera, a radio and an inscribed Zippo lighter in a grip bag these shoes now live in the realm of Neptune at the bottom of the Adriatic Sea, following an incident during a helicopter transfer in 1992. Still, two out of three ain’t bad!