When I had a job, I sold my skills - mostly intellectual skills - for money, which I then exchanged for stuff. I was primarily a consumer. Now - note the blog title - although I still consume stuff (though less so), I am primarily a producer. This is what's prompted the change in attitude. Spending my time producing things makes me think much more about how other things are produced, too.
I often find myself considering whether to buy something or try making it myself. Very often, the question is,
Why spend all that time making something when it's so cheap to buy?In more reflective moments the next question is,
Why are these things so cheap to buy?Although efficiency is part of the answer - particularly with my lack of expertise, I tend to be slow, and there are economies of scale - I believe that most of the answer is exploitation. Even with much greater expertise and more efficient processes, no-one can produce things at these prices and still make a decent living for themselves.
I find myself forced to acknowledge that our prices are all wrong. We're paying far too little for most of the things we buy. The reason that things are available to us at such low prices is that people are working their socks off (if they can even afford socks) for pitifully low wages. Mostly this happens in foreign lands, far away and out of sight, so it's easy to ignore.
I don't want to be part of this system. I don't want to exploit people, wherever they are. It's not easy to hold this position at the same time as trying to live on a low income (though when you put it into context, really not that low), but I'll try. Much of the time I'll fail - I don't know much about the supply chain for the value ranges at the supermarket, for example - but at least I'll try, and hopefully I'll gradually move towards a point where I know where all my stuff comes from, and I'm happy that the people I'm buying from are getting a fair deal.
Now, back to the shoes. These are my old shoes:
They are simple, flat shoes for everyday wear. I like these shoes and would be happy to get them repaired if I could, but the moulded rubber soles are not designed to be mended. I have worn them as long as I could, but now holes in the soles are letting in water. And stones.
I went to shoe shops looking for a replacement pair and came away depressed. They were all the same mass-produced, disposable shoes that I'd been wearing happily for years, but didn't feel comfortable with any more. If I'm honest, I didn't much like the styles available, either.
I'd noticed a while earlier that a friend had posted a link on facebook to a local shoe maker, Ruth Emily Davey. Tempting, but surely very expensive (no prices given on the website, but...) I parked the thought, but found myself coming back to it again and again. Yes, it would cost a lot of money, but wouldn't it be great to have a pair of shoes made by a local craftswoman? I wondered how much I'd be prepared to spend. These shoes are designed to be repaired again and again, so I'm looking at a very long term investment. I typically spend £40 to £50 on a pair of shoes and they often wear out in a year. If I buy a pair that lasts ten years, I could go up to £500 (this calculation is skewed by repair costs, but then hopefully they'll last longer than ten years, too).
On impulse one day I went to Ruth's workshop when I was in town with a bit of time to kill. She usually requires an appointment, but she kindly talked to me there and then, measured my feet, and... I put down a deposit on a pair of shoes. Including adjustments to the pattern (my feet are size seven and a quarter, apparently) the final cost was nearly £450 pounds and for that I get made-to-measure shoes designed to fit actual feet. I'd always thought my feet were an unusual shape (wide at the toes and narrow at the heels) because standard shoes don't fit them very well, but apparently this is quite normal. Standard shoes don't fit anyone terribly well. Even the
off the shelfsamples I tried on that day were the most comfortable shoes I'd ever worn.
I had to wait a while because Ruth was busy with other orders, but a couple of months later my new shoes were ready. Here they are:
They felt a little too big when I first tried them on, but that's because there really is space around the toes. They fit snugly over the arch and around the heel. The first day I had them, I walked two miles with no problems at all - no rubbing, no blisters. I really appreciated how comfortable the are a few weeks later, when I put on my walking boots. They felt hideously uncomfortable by comparison.
So, I now have a very superior pair of shoes made by a local craftswoman working in decent conditions. The fact that I paid more for them than Ian generally pays for a car is, I think, right.