Strawberry Fields Art
Kevin Austin
Tel +44(0)1684 561486
Mob +44(0)7751 833575
E-mail : kevin@strawberryfieldsart.com

Winklepickers

Some of us had to be somewhat innovative when it came to fashion. Historically shoes are the most important item of clothing where peer pressure in 1961 was never so great as to the style of shoes you were seen out wearing. Mother was a real square when it came to the style of shoes her little size 10 son Kevin could wear and as a 16yr old impoverished apprentice she was the one who bought them and unfortunately had the say on the style.

With £3 in my pocket equal to a whole weeks pay I took the bus into town and traipsed through all the shoe shops from Timpsons and Saxone to the trendy Bold street outlets where everything was at least £1 more than in my pocket but ended up on the Kensington Road (Kenny Road) where the cheapo trash of cardboard construction was to be found but where the most outrageous and extremes of shoe fashion were on display. I viewed and tried on so many high fashion winklepickers and as incongruous as they were they were just the footwear of dreams and would never have dared use the money on anything like those…….Mother would never let me wear such extremes, what would the neighbours think of her adolescent son ! So I finally selected some mildly fashionable semi pointed shoes which I thought would be an agreeable compromise back home. But oh no !!…. It was the inevitable trip back on the bus with Mother to the shop who demanded an exchange for something ‘nice and sensible’ round black ones and don’t think I've ever hated anything so much in my life and cursed the bloody things and refused to wear them.

But you cant go round in no shoes so drastic action needed to be done ! my old shoes were nearly falling apart but I just couldn’t face my winklepickered mates with new shoes like those my mummy had bought…So with some imagination my mother never saw the new shoes again quite as they were !…….. For a day or so I’d put the horrible things on as if I was going out and said ‘see you later’ to mum and dad and then darted back to my shed at the end of the garden for that quick change into my old knackered ones. Then during my ‘hobbies time’ in my shed I set about an amazing transformation of the horrible round things. I took a Stanley knife to them and proceeded to reshape them in the form of a pointed shoe…. except the genuine article was slightly longer to allow for the point. With each shoe in turn I used my hand drill to make a series of holes on the cut side of the uppers and through the leather sole and threaded them with a strong waxed string together with a liberal dollop of black mastic. I clamped each shoe in the bench vice overnight to set and on the third day had my first pair of ‘winks’ I tried them on ..well forced them on and boy were they tight but it didn’t matter even though they looked a little strange of shape. I did a little twist in them and thought ..YES ! these will do . Then came the big crunch time meeting up with my mates in the park. I sauntered up to Macca my best mate who worked on the Waterworths wagon delivering greengroceries and earning twice my pay. He was with the rest of the winklepickered group all congregating around a lakeside bench…’Arr right den Macca’..I said…Macca looked at me, who never missed a trick and said immediately… 'see you’ve got new shoes den’ … 'oh yeh' ! I said …..’bit knackered aren't day’ said Macca…..’had a while Macca, bin using dem for werk’ I said…I'm doing a little dance by now to hinder close scrutiny. ‘So what we gonna do den’ I said still jiggling about… Macca lit up a stolen fag.

I managed to use those shoes for several weeks before the stitching came adrift and my feet were bloody sore. Mother noticed me one day limping off in my DIY winks and said ‘what are those awful things you are wearing ’ I said ‘oh just some shoes me mate gave me’ whilst doing a little dance. Years later she told me she and Dad knew what I had done and it was a great source of amusement to them.

2 months passed and one bored sunny day was passing down the back jigger as you do, back of Gladeville Road off Elmswood Road and, just because for no reason as we did I legged it up and over the wall which was part of the mysterious laundry site at the back and a military dump full of plastic training ammo. It had a stretch of wasteland running the length of the street and also a dumping ground for old bags of clothes and bike frames and household bits and bobs and old exhaust pipes etc, you name it…... I was always a bit of a tatman at heart. Well you never did know the little treasures which occasionally were found. Other than discarded nudie books, I once found a magnificent EPNS brass tray which nearly 50 yrs later I use every day with my B&B business which is a continual reminder of my juvenile foraging times…

Anyway back to the dump site… Walking through the rubbish with both eyes skinned I spotted something interesting amongst all the shite which looked like a mans shoe. Well not only was it a mans shoe but a pair of filthy old shoes and then realised Id struck gold as they were a pair of genuine winks and not only just a pair of ordinary winks but were 2 tone brown crocodile textured and with side lace ups ! and Cuban heels ! Bloody hell I thought ‘these are fantastic’ and couldn’t wait to try them on,,,I just prayed they weren't too small….Too big wouldn’t be a problem..even if it took 6 pairs of extra socks. I stuffed them under my jerkin and legged home back to the secrecy of my shed. I Slipped my old converted ones off and tried one of the fantastic finds on which went on like Cinderella's slipper. Bleedin ell ! as I slipped the other one on and looked down below my drainpipe kecks. They looked fantastic with their dagger points..albeit slightly turned up at the tips like some 17th century dandy..all that was missing was the bells.. …I couldn’t help but think Macca will be so jealous. The only thing wrong with them was they needed re-heeling which was no problem for me with my new found cobbling skills and then spent a glorious hour polishing the crocodile finishes to their former glory.

Then came the big day. We always used to walk through the parks on a Sunday afternoon talent spotting. Usually in Sefton Park, Otterspool park and the prom were our favourite haunts.

This particular Sunday afternoon I had a new date with an usherette from the Mayfair cinema and arranged to go for a walk through Sevvy park with her. We always wore smart on Sundays ..oh and Saturdays evenings too. Sports jackets were all ago then….mother approved of those, but not the accessories. .I was wearing my newish Harris Tweed one from Burtons with an immaculate white shirt with a cutaway collar and a lavender coloured 1 inch wide tie and matching lavender socks. My trousers were beige cavalry twills taken in to 14 inch bottoms…Then the piece de resistance .The new WINKS.. Boy did I think I looked the bees knees with those protruding monsters.

And Macca and the lads hadn’t seen my new footwear yet.. Anyway together with this new bird and swaggering around the lake coming towards us was Macca and co with transistor radio blasting ‘Runaway’. They were all in their finery of course. 2 wore smart navy mohair Itie suits and Macca wore his identical to mine sports jacket which was always a contentious point with dirty looks. They all had their statutory winks on of course. I suddenly was filled up with such smug pride with a bird at my side and wearing such superior footwear as we drew towards each other. We stopped … Ah right den Macca … ‘Yeh’ ‘Aright Kev’…The lads were eyeing my new bird up and ..of course glancing at my wonderful ‘not quite new’ winks, especially Macca’s beady eye who surprisingly didn’t say a word about them and we chatted a bit and moved on…’See ya den’ as Macca was still ogling my new footwear.

The next day was Monday and an all together different dress code with one exception….Shoes…In fact the same shoes. I met Macca who had his usual weekday gear on. My mother used to have a nickname for Macca..’Moonface’ which was quite apt with his large round face and premature thinning with a DA. He had a totally unmistakable profile and could spot him a mile away. He was renowned for his rather formidable appearance being rather portly wearing a navy blue donkey jacket with PVC shoulder pads over a black T shirt and ice blue denims so tight on his sparrow legs he looked as if he was going to topple over. He had his rather worn and crinkly black winks on sticking out like a pair of stilettos on the end of his feet.

It was the usual ‘ah right dens’…..I was wearing my usual garb too which was not quite so extreme and intimidating as Maccas. I had my prized conventional black leather jacket and fairly tight needle cords on. But just to outdo Macca I was wearing my 2 tone crocodile daggers which Macca immediately brought up the subject at last. ‘Were dew get dem from den.’ ‘Oh I gorrem up Kenny Road’ I said. ‘Bit battered aren't dey’ said Macca.. ‘Oh bin usin dem fer werk’….’not really worn them out much’ Macca then retorted ’Yeah, pigs might fly..and the price of bacon will go up !

Within 12 months came Beatle Boots…

 

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