I once wrote of how my friend Gerry ridiculed my choice of very basic wellington boots, warning me that such cheapskate footwear wouldn?t last two minutes. He favours posh leather-lined jobs that require a mortgage and three satisfactory references. Anyway, soon after, we were in Scotland, goose shooting. As we got out of the car, I was delighted to find that Gerry had left his fabled super-boots behind. My unseemly glee was all the greater because it was raining heavily and poor Gerry ended up with wet feet. Hee hee.

Well, somehow I neglected to write the sequel. You see, just a few months later, my bargain basement boots did exactly as Gerry had predicted. They split at the back seam. Ho hum. I haven?t got round to letting Gerry know.

More recently, I was driving through a town some distance from home when I remembered that it hosted a really good retailer of outdoor kit. I mooched in and, as usual, found myself buying all sorts of truly essential stuff that I couldn?t do without. You know how it is. Among my purchases was a pair of rubber boots. They weren?t fabulously expensive, à la Gerry. Nor were they the sort of cheapo rubber tubes that had aroused his criticism. And, coming as they did from a good retailer, with whom I have dealt for decades, I had

confidence in them.

Springing a leak

That confidence lasted for all of four days. That?s when I found that the right boot leaked. I was travelling on the quad, towing a trailer, when I decided to stop in a convenient ford to wash the trailer. The moment I got off the quad and stood in six inches of water, I felt an icy jab near my right ankle.

Now, there isn?t a whole lot of point in having rubber boots if they aren?t watertight. I had a look at the boot in question, but there was no obvious hole. Probably just a pinprick, caused by a manufacturing defect. I banished the offending boots to the back of the pick-up.

Two days later, I returned to the shop, explained the problem, and asked for a replacement pair. The manager said he wasn?t able to take back the boots because they were ?soiled? and EU health and safety regulations meant that his staff could not be expected to handle such hazardous objects.

I was incredulous. I mean, it?s not as though the boots were caked in slurry. They had been worn only once. The cleats and soles were as clean as whistles. But because I had stepped down off the quad and into the ford, the stream water had left a thin smear of dust.

A hazardous task

I asked if there was an outside tap where I could wash the boots. The manager said there was a garage a few hundred yards up the road. At this point I found myself starting to seethe with boot rage. After all, I wasn?t returning the boots because they didn?t go with my cocktail dress, but because they had proved defective on the very first time they had been worn. And now, having driven a long way at my own expense, I was being thwarted by some idiotic EU regulation?

Speaking in the manner of a mother to a small child as she changes its nappy, the manager said he would wash the boots himself. I spurned his kind offer, walked to the garage, paid a pound to operate the water hose, and dribbled a

bit of water over the boots. I performed this 30-second task without any protective clothing ? not even a face mask. Nor did I write up a risk assessment. How?s that for living dangerously? I marched back to the shop, and the boots were duly exchanged. In fact, I bought some additional stuff. I haven?t tried out my latest boots in a puddle. I don?t know if I dare.

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