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Old traditions die hard

I bought a new pair of old shoes last week.

They qualify as new shoes because they are fresh out of the box, but they are also technically old shoes owing to the fact they are the same as the pair I’ve been wearing for the past four years.

I had become so attached to my blue Sketchers that I couldn’t part with them until I’d got another identical pair.

I recognise that buying two pairs of the same shoes because I find them comfortable and stylish is like something my father would do, but I care not.

My main concern now is breaking them in. There’s nothing worse than a pair of shoes that look new.

If I’d been back at Lurgan Junior High School I’d have had no problem getting my shoes up to scratch, in the most literal sense.

When you turned up at school in a new pair of shoes - be it smart school shoes or trainers for PE - you were met with cries of ‘New Shoes Boy’ and a gang of willing volunteers leapt onto your shiny shoes and scuffed, buffed and roughed them up in such a way as they became sufficiently aged.

It was a distressing ordeal in every sense of the word.

There was no point trying to reason with those intent on lynching your shoes.

I remember one boy attempting to outrun his tormentors shouting, “They’re not new. They’ve just been freshly polished.”

It did him no good as they eventually caught him and gave his footwear a particularly thorough scuffing.

When I look back at my school days at the junior high I learnt many important lessons that stood me in good stead for later life.

I learnt not to be precious about possessions because in the end you can’t take anything with you. I also learnt it’s impossible to reason with an angry mob.

Most importantly I learnt that the three angles of a triangle will always add up to 180 degrees.

I expect if I were to return to the playground of Lurgan Junior High I’d find the tradition of breaking in new shoes has died out along with that of frozen Tip Tops and piercing the lid of fizzy drink bottles with a compass so you could squirt it into your mouth. Interesting, the childish origins of squirty drinks bottles proves that not all boyish trends were senseless. Now the majority of sports’ drinks bottles are squirty as standard.

Another trend which I remember fondly is that of boot-polishing.

When I first joined the Scouts I had no idea about this ‘dark’ tradition.

My first annual camp was to the Isle of Man in 1989. Having survived one of the poorest attended camps in First Lurgan history I awoke on the last day and my face felt strange.

It wasn’t until we’d struck camp and were ready to head for home when I was in the toilet block and discovered I’d been subject to an overnight boot-polishing which left me with boot polish all over my face.

I later learned that any Scout attending his first annual camp was initiated by way of getting boot-polished. My initial feelings of embarrassment were replaced with the honour that I’d joined an elite club.

The next camp I went to I was chased by the boot-polishers again. Like the boy with the freshly polished shoes at Lurgan Junior High I tried to tell them that I was already familiar with boot polish. It did me no good and I was duly plastered from head to toe.

Parents thinking of sending their sons to the Scouts should note that boot-polishing has been banned for some time.

Many will say it’s for the best that we’ve taken away initiation procedures, but in a strange way I’m glad to have been put through the mill.

Having undergone various initiations I believe I’m entitled to my opinion.

Should anyone disagree with me they’re quite welcome to chase me down, step on my new shoes and smear my face with boot polish.

While many passing-of-rights ceremonies have died out I’m glad to see that one of the oldest initiations is still alive and is regularly practiced throughout the world.

Before couples have children, it’s generally accepted that they’re supposed to undergo a harrowing ordeal where they dress up in silly outfits and perform a gruelling ritual while friends and family laugh, point and take pictures in an act otherwise known as getting married.

Weekly teaser

The answer to last week’s teaser was: The three ants were walking in a circle.

Here’s this week’s teaser: Rearrange the letters in NEW DOOR to make one word.