Flushed with my eBay success, you might expect me to quickly set aside my immediate resolution not to blow it all. But I didn't blow it all.
That said, I decided to invest a bit of it in fitness.
I don't like the idea of gyms and jogging and mountain biking. Not my style at all. But I do like walking, especially as you can combine that with two other of my favourite activities - driving (you've got to drive somewhere to walk from), and photography (landscapes being my chief thing). But proper walking can't be done in ordinary shoes. You need boots. And that's what I've just spent some money on.
The first serious pair of boots that I bought in 1992 were really quite good. I covered many miles in them. In fact I kept a Walk Diary, and set myself weekly mileage targets. I actually wore those first boots out, the rubber grips on the sole eventually becoming ineffective, making me liable to slip up on steep descents. None of the boots I've bought since have been as good. They've all been cheap substitutes for the real thing, and none have been a good fit, so it's hardly surprising that I stopped wanting to do much walking, especially in wet weather. And got fat as a result.
So, now that I was keen to get up on those hills again, it seemed sensible to buy a pair of really good boots at a place where they would be fitted properly. I went to Peglers in Arundel, and spent an hour with a nice man called Jonathan (alias Jonny), who gave my needs a lot of thought. Peglers are specialists, and you can view their website at http://www.peglers.co.uk/. They get in stuff from all over the world. Jonathan carefully measured my feet with walking socks on. To allow plenty of toe room I ended up with a size 9 and a half, in a wide fitting. That sounded gigantic to me, but in fact it didn't look so terribly large.
The most comfortable pair that he thought suitable for my feet, and for the proposed use, were boots made by Alt-Berg, a Yorkshire firm based in Richmond. Here they are, at home:
To keep the boots company, cushion-comfort Merino wool socks by Wigwam of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA.
Yes, that's very comfortable indeed. These Alt-Berg boots feel solid, not a hint of sloppiness, and extremely supportive for feet and ankles. Jonathan had me up on a small section of sloping 'rockface', so that I could feel how it was when making my way down a steep slope, when the toes tend to move slightly forward in the boot. No problem at all. Nothing was moving much, nothing was getting crammed up. And although appearance wasn't a deal-maker or deal-breaker, I thought the dark brown boots looked handsome as well. Here's the purchase receipt:
That's £170 for the boots, and £26 for two pairs of those special socks. But no charge for the tin of leather oil. Strange to see my name handwritten in full by someone else. It looks rather nice like that!
There are of course a host of walking things that I could now buy - shell clothing - poles - GPS stuff - but I'll resist for now. Most of my existing gear dates from the mid-1990s, and could do with uprating, but it's still OK and there are many other priorities. It would be nice to stride out in trendy new stuff, modelling myself on Julia Bradbury perhaps, but it isn't necessary. This, by the way, is Julia Bradbury, hitherto the most scarily fit outdoor woman on British TV, but shortly to be a mum at 40 (and many congratulations to her):
Hmmm. Not much resemblance to me! But then I am a bit older, and a lot heftier.