The Australian-English phrase like a twisted sandshoe has, at least, two different acceptations:
– extremely ugly;
– extremely tired.
The noun sandshoe denotes a light canvas shoe with a rubber sole.
The phrase like a twisted sandshoe occurs, for example, in Kennett, the man who reinvented politics, by Adam Essaber, about the Australian politician Jeffrey Gibb Kennett (born 1948), who was then the Premier of Victoria, published in The Age (Melbourne, Victoria) of Friday 9th April 1999—here, the phrase means extremely ugly:
Kennett is widely considered arrogant and dictatorial, but when, in the midst of his latest sartorial adventure, he admits he has a face “like a twisted sandshoe”, his humor elicits sympathy.
The earliest occurrences of the phrase like a twisted sandshoe that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:
1-: From the column A Look at the Films, by P. D. Spooner, about the U.S. actress Geraldine Page (1924-1987), published in The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Queensland) of Saturday 21st August 1954—here, the phrase means extremely ugly:
Miss Page is no oil painting, but…
To succeed in Hollywood, history has it, an aspiring actress must have two vital attributes—face and figure.
Well, just to confound this popular belief, there comes to the screen this week a lady named Geraldine Page, in a picture called “HONDO,” at the St. James.
Miss Page is no oil painting. Indeed, in most scenes she looks as though she has been pulled through a barb-wire fence backwards.
Her hair is scraggly and her face is thin and worn like a twisted sand-shoe. In fact, on Hollywood standards, she is ugly.
2-: From the column Town Talk, by Robert Kennedy, published in the Daily Telegraph (Sydney, New South Wales) of Saturday 18th December 1954—here, the phrase means extremely ugly:
MEMO. TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS: What about a bash at the pedestrians, as well as the drivers?
Yesterday I drove in Market Street from York to Elizabeth Streets at 11 a.m.—and every four or five feet had to manoeuvre through swarms of jaywalkers, past people walking in the road, around jet-propelled, would-be suicides shooting from behind parked cars.
Then, at the Castlereagh Street cross-walk, a girl with a face like a twisted sandshoe stopped in front of the car, sneered: “Give way on the yellow lines, mug!”
3-: From The Brunette Spree, by Jill Bowen, published in The Australian Women’s Weekly (Sydney, New South Wales) of Wednesday 10th August 1977—the meaning of “tongues like twisted sandshoes” is unclear:
The annual amateur race meeting at Brunette Downs in the Northern Territory is more like an 84-hour marathon.
From 6 pm Tuesday when the Brunette barbecue kicks off as a prelude to the sporting spree until 6 am Saturday when exhaustion is rampant and unfortunate sufferers return to work, it is a straightout social binge.
The question most commonly asked is “How’re y’ feeling?” The answers, along with the people, deteriorate daily.
The morning after the first night, most admit to being “crook.” The second morning, they’ve heads they don’t want to know about and tongues like twisted sandshoes. The third morning, hydraulic shock has set in. And on the fourth morning—well, a survivor joked, “I’m one lager shandy away from the DTs!”
But what robust, good country fun. A nucleus of 250 people are involved in the three days of racing, rodeos, balls and recovery parties. The bar estimate is 13 tonnes of grog absorbed, mainly beer and rum; and when Ted Egan, the Territory’s answer to Rolf Harris, entertains at the ball singing “We’ve got some damn good drinkers in the Northern Territory . . .” I’d be the last to disagree.
4-: From Jeff Kennett: Feels like a twisted sandshoe, is really an advertising man and looks like a vicar, by Keith Dunstan, an interview of Jeffrey Gibb Kennett, who was then the Leader of the Opposition in Victoria, published in The Age (Melbourne, Victoria) of Friday 15th November 1985—here, the phrase means extremely tired:
“I left home at 6.15 this morning and the House will sit until midnight. By the end of the week you start to feel like a twisted sandshoe. This week the telephones started ringing at 5.40 am . . . They have no compunction at all about ringing you at a quarter-to-six. Even if you haven’t got to bed until a quarter to four or something. It’s an amazing lifestyle.”