My memory is not linear so forgive me if I back up to Scotland for a moment and relate how Ariana’s boots got fixed so she could safely walk again.
When she fell in Aberdeen she was afraid to wear her boots again. They were the kind of boots that have big hooks at the top for the laces to pass around. She had tied her boots lower which made for empty hooks and longer loops on the bows. One of the bow loops caught in the hook on the other boot and down she went.
If I had had some pliers I could have crimped down the hooks at the top – fixing the problem for good. Unfortunately the only metal “tools” I could bring aboard an aircraft were nail clippers and tweezers – not counting the paper clip I used for putting European SIM cards in our iphones (important travel tip – bring a paper lip!). I went out looking for either pliers or a shoe repair shop that would do this simple job.
I found a repair shop just off Union Street and not far from Blackfriars Pub where Ariana fell (she wants me to remind the readers that she had not been drinking). As I entered I noticed two men, one with a whitish beard and one clean shaven, leaning back in their chairs as if they had planted themselves there all morning. They were surrounded floor to ceiling with shelves of boots and shoes. They were so relaxed that I asked if they were open yet.
“To be sure.” The older bearded one replied as he slowly stood up to examine Ariana’s boots.
I noticed when he rose that there wasn’t that much difference in height from sitting or standing. He barely came up to my elbow. He had on an apron and a knit cap. His ears stuck out from the cap and his face was a mass of friendly wrinkles. The total effect was that of a shoemaker elf from the children’s story “The Shoemaker and the Elves” in which a humble shoemaker gets some help from elves when he first opens his business.
I quickly described my wife’s fall and the problem with boot hooks.
” I ken what you say, ” he nodded soberly examining the boots, “Tis a poor design that is.”
Took the boots to his work bench just a few feet away as we talked how to best crimp the hooks for now.
“I can flatten em down for now but n they mait break off, de ye waint me go ahead?” He said with concern as he cradled the boots.
“I haven’t got anything to lose.” I explained.
He took out what looked to be pliers and I commented that pliers were the tool I would have used. He smiled and pointed out a heavy, squarish piece of metal that was part of the pliers. “Ah, but mine have this wee hammer here.” He said proudly pointing to the attached metal square.
His very words. “Wee hammer.” That was so cute! I struggled to keep a straight face. The little elf with his “wee hammer” was competently repairing the boots.
At the end I asked him how much I owed and he said “Is no charge.” and settled back in his chair smiling with contentment. I half expected him to take out a pipe with a long stem and start rocking.
Just like the story- elves work for free.