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Friday 28th February 2003

The drive from Cardiff to Stratford-upon-Avon reminded me of the coach trips we occasionally took from my school in Cheddar in the early 80s to see various Shakespeare plays at the RSC. My main memory is not of the plays (though I do recall that the black woman from Blake’s 7 was one of the witches In Macbeth and I also remember Phil Fry showing me how you could release the catch on the opera glasses using the strap of a digital watch and thus save yourself ten pence) but of the journey. In the high street of one of the towns that we passed through on the way (I have no idea where it was, now there’s a challenge for someone) there was a shoe shop called “Richard Herring Shoes”. I remember that we all found this impossible and hilarious and that after the first trip me and my friends would anticipate the sighting of the store and there would be a rousing football-style chant of “Richard Herring, Richard Herring, Richard Herring Shoes! Richard Herring, Richard Herring, Richard Herring Shoes!” to a tune that would be very familiar to you, but I don’t know if it has a name.
Now it strikes me that it would have been quite funny if it was a shop that either just sold the kind of shoes that I wore or alternatively would only sell shoes to me. As I was a 13 year old school-boy who lived a hundred miles away at the time, neither venture was likely to be very successful. I can’t imagine many people in this anonymous Midland town, coming into the shop and saying, “I want to wear the same kind of shoes as a nerdy Somerset teenager, what can you offer me?”
They are more likely to have come into the shoe shop and asking for some cool trainers or whatever, only to be greeted by a weary shop assistant saying, “Sorry we only sell black Dr Marten shoes, not boots like Rich’s friends wear, because his mum won’t let him. Just the shoe version. Ironically in a few years time such a shoe will go through a brief phase of being trendy, but as you know, now in 1980 they are laughably un-cool. Do you want to buy some? We only do the one size of course and Rich has freakishly small, yet wide feet.”
And of course had the shop just sold shoes to me it would have had a similar stock, but been similarly unsuccessful. Perhaps cannily the shop owner had opened the shop on the route between Cheddar and Stratford realising that I would pass by in a coach at least once every two years, and that my curiosity was bound to be piqued. Unfortunately he had forgot to factor into the equation that I was going to be in a bus which I had no power to command to stop, that I was a teenager who carried only two pounds maximum, which I planned to spend on ice cream in the interval (or opera glasses if I had forgotten my watch) and that in any case my mum bought all my shoes. (Maybe had he called it Barbara Herring Shoes he might have had a better shot at success.)
I think I passed through the town some years later (though I may have been mistaken) and the place I remembered Richard Herring Shoes being was now occupied by a different shop (possibly Simon Harris Pillow Cases), so clearly the rather specific retail enterprise had floundered.

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