Walking through Northampton town centre shortly after 9am on a Wednesday morning it seemed bereft of life. The high street had three pound/99p shops within close proximity of each other and a gentleman's club offering 'topless football.'
After navigating the unfriendly road network I eventually arrived at the address that was scrawled in my diary: 56-60 St. Michael's Road. Across the road is an old, disused shoe factory - it is in a sorry state. The home of Tricker's however, audibly buzzes with life as you cross the street.
Stepping into the modest reception area I thought I would be asked to head to another premises in order to get to the factory store. Instead, the friendly receptionist led me across the factory floor to the shop, situated at the rear of the building. As we walked, my mind tried to absorb everything around me - neatly stacked yellow lasts, a young cobbler applying colour to a leather sole, the noise of different processes, a radio playing The Smiths 'How Soon is Now?' at a level suitable only to that of a working factory.
Deposited in the box-like shop I was soon joined by David, a gregarious salesman who oozed enthusiasm for the quality of the product. We had a wide ranging conversation that took in the huge demand for the product at present and problems that stem from this (Robbie Williams was spotted wearing a pair of Tricker's recently.) We also discussed traditional shoemaking methods as well as ridiculous health and safety laws and old buildings.
After trying on a pair of Ripon boots and having problems with the leather sole, David unearthed a pair of Wetherbys, complete with commando soles, perfect. I paid up, and with a firm handshake David showed me the way out, 'through the car park, turn right.' It turns out my foray on the factory floor was a bonus.
Strolling back to the station, the town had come alive, the sun bouncing off of the impressive Guildhall and All Saints Church. I stopped to have a coffee in an Italian cafe where one older gentleman appeared to know everyone who came through the door. I am looking forward to returning to Northampton.