“Commander Vermont here my good men and it is my duty to Queen and Country to make sure that you know how important it is to shine your boots. So fall in soldiers and I can talk to you about spit and polish.”



Boots should be shiny, that’s all there is to it. You can spend all the time you like making sure that you use hospital corners when you make your bed. You can take a whole day ironing your uniform so that the creases match the ones on my face. You can stand still for hours staring at nothing while I shout at you. But the most important thing, the be all and end all of a soldier is his boots.

My father was a military man. And my father’s father. And my father’s father’s father. And my father’s father’s father’s mother. And they all knew how to shine their boots.

In my family you learn how to shine when you are 5 months old. We have a ceremony where the family gather together much as they would to celebrate a birthday or anniversary. The babe is given his or her very own monogrammed kit. It contains all the essentials of a good shine. A brush, a tub of top quality polish and a cloth.

The babe is then taught how to polish his booties and it is tradition that if the babe learns how to do this by the time he is six months old that he or she will go into the army. If he or she is seven months then it is a naval life for them. If he or she is eight months then they will join the airforce. But if the babe gets to nine months and still doesn’t know how to get a decent shine on those booties the child will be a civilian.
This happened to my brother’s son, Johnny and that side of the family has never been the same again. To say that Johnny is a disappointment to the family name is a gross understatement. We do not, cannot invite him to family functions as his shoes really let the side down and make us a laughing stock in military circles.

Thankfully I have never had to worry myself. I learnt how to polish when I was five and a half months old. And Octavia – well, my darling girl had an inherent knowledge of shoemanship. She was just 4 months old when she toddled over to the store and bought her very first tub of polish. That evening I came home to find that all my boots, shoes, buttons and collection of brass band equipment had been polished to within an inch of their lives.

The history of boot polishing is a fascinating one that I have spent a great deal of time researching. It all started in 1286 when Sir Archibold Humphreys invaded the tropical rainforest area of Kilinmefeet.

Archie and his band of soldiers were wearing standard issue boots, size 14, 21 eye laces. They were issued scuffed such was the quality of leather in that day and age. After many days of hacking his way through the rainforest, Archie grew tired of his men getting dragged away by passing anacondas. There they were, walking through the undergrowth when suddenly and without warning a snake would appear from a tree above and drag a soldier away.

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