Shoe-repairer and key-cutter Dave Parfitt, 59, has just marked the 30th anniversary of his Cobblers Corner shop next to Swindon’s bus station. Dave, who has two children and two grandchildren, lives in Coleview.

WHY is it that shoe repair and key cutting are often done under one roof?

Even though he began his career more than four decades ago, Dave Parfitt has no definitive answer to the question many a person has pondered.

He has a theory, though.

“I just think it’s because it’s household – you put your shoes on and you need your keys to go out.

“I suppose that at one time somebody thought, ‘Well, we’ve got to put something on the wall, so why not have some keys?’

“They make quite a big splash when you can have a whole wall of them.”

Dave has long been an expert in both skills. “I wouldn’t say I’m the smartest cookie in the jar and it takes me a long time to pick anything up, but when I get it, I’m good – very good.” He opened Cobblers Corner on September 1, 1987, but by that time he had already been in the profession for more than a decade.

“All I wanted to do was join the Army, and I passed the exams in 1973 to join the Junior Leaders Regiment. But then I got caught by the school leaving age and I had to wait a year.

“I joined up in ’74 – September – but I had a medical condition and got discharged three months later. I was devastated, to say the least, because I’d waited all that time to get in.

“I sort of drifted around from job to job because I was a bit angry, and then I drifted into this job!”

Dave initially worked for the Ravel shoe shop chain, which later became Peter Lord. He honed his skills before starting out on his own.

“The way things have worked out, it couldn’t be better. If somebody had said to me when I was at school that I was going to be a shoe repairer for 42 years I’d have laughed, but that’s what happened.”

“I would say that 98 per cent of the people who come in here are regulars, and they’re nice people.

“You just love it when they go out with a smile on their face. It’s just a sense of pride – if you put yourself out, people are going to come back, and if you don’t put yourself out, if you don’t do a good job, people aren’t going to be coming back 30 years later.”

During his 30 years at the cosy shop near the bus station, Dave has become a familiar face to countless customers. In some cases he has seen their children grow up and become customers themselves.

He has also occasionally found himself in the role of agony uncle and learned, among other things, that footwear trends tend to repeat themselves eventually.

“Fashion is fashion – it just goes round in circles.”

When Dave first set up shop, trade was so brisk that queues of customers sometimes stretched out of the door and along the pavement outside. There were times when he had to work into the early hours of the morning so as not to let clients down.

In recent years cheap imports, the economy and the rise of the disposable society have changed that.

“It’s a dying trade,” he said, smiling ruefully and holding up a worn and forlorn injection-moulded one-piece plastic sole and heel. Such things are cheap but they do not last. Properly stitched shoes with leather soles are becoming rarer all the time.

“They’re not making the shoes to be repaired; they’re making shoes that are, if you like, biodegradable. They’ve got a shelf life now, shoes.

“It’s not like years ago when you’d take your sandals out from under the stairs in the summer, chuck them back later and they’d last for 20 years. Now you’d be lucky to get a season out of them before they fall apart. Some of the materials actually dry out and crumble.

“You just chuck them away and buy a new pair. You go and buy a pair of shoes for £15 – they’re not any good but the way money is at the moment that’s all people can afford. They can’t afford to go and spend £140, £150, £160.

“You just can’t keep shoes unless you buy a good pair. I never ever thought I would see shoes made the way they are.”

The best shoes, according to Dave, are Goodyear welted – a technical term meaning a strip of leather or some other tough material is placed between the upper and lower parts of the shoe, strengthening it and making it breathable.

“That’s a proper leather sole stitched on. They’re more comfortable and they’ll last you for years if you look after them. If they’re polished well and repaired regularly, there’s no reason why they won’t last you 30 or 40 years.”

A few years ago the oldest shoes in use in Britain were sought for a national trade event. The winners? “They were 90 years old – the great grandson was still wearing them.”

In those days, according to Dave, it wasn’t just shoes which were of better quality.

“Everything was made better. I spent five years at [dry cleaning and shoe repair firm] Sketchley’s, opposite Debenhams, before I opened this place, and the quality of the clothes on the dry cleaning side was so much better than the quality of the clothes today.”

In spite of the challenges, and in spite of health problems including issues with his legs, Dave considers himself fortunate.

“I couldn’t work in a factory, seeing the same faces and doing the same job. Although I’m fixing shoes all the time there’s so much variety – they might be pointed, they might be rounded, they’re big, they’re small, they’re high, they’re low.

“You’re not putting the same bolt on the same axle for 40 hours a week.

“As long as I can get out of bed in the mornings I shall still be here. My attitude is that there are people worse off - and I look forward to coming into work.

“At the end of the day, I’ve struggled, I’ve had bad times, I’ve had good times, but I tell you what – I wouldn’t change anything.”