Saturday, March 31, 2007

Train Travel

Yesterday, I removed my shoes on a British train for the first time. I have removed my shoes on Japanese trains and on aeroplanes (I am amazed that some people keep their shoes on during flights!). It may not be very British, but I would rather travel in comfort.

I noticed a woman had put her shoes up on a seat. I made sure I put my shoeless feet up on the seat next to me to set a proper example. I remember a train many years ago that had a sign not to put shoes on the seats, but I have never seen one since. Neither the passengers or the operators seem to care.

Of course, I am sure some old-fashioned people disapprove of others taking off their shoes on trains. However, if I can get away with taking my shoes off on planes and I have to take my shoes off at airport security, why should I not remove them to make train journeys more comfortable? This is the modern world.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Visiting People

I have recently become more pro-active about removing my shoes in homes where people do not ask for it. The main reason being that a lot of people at church have now visited my other blog and may have found out my strong feelings on the subject. It does not seem quite right if I am not leading by example (though if I am visiting somebody who usually wears shoes at home I am still not going to bother).

I visited my friend Andrew the other day. As I was leaving and about to put my shoes on, he said "I am sorry I didn't offer you any slippers to wear. We have a spare pair of flip flops." Andrew had been a missionary in Albania a few years ago, where the norm is to exchange shoes for sandals at the door. It would have been a radically new experience to wear borrowed slippers in a British home. In Japanese homes, the slippers are often not quite the right size or shape and can be uncomfortable.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Children

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I am always a little surprised when I see children wearing shoes at home, whether on television or in person. It surprises me because when I was a child, my parents expected me to remove my shoes at the door. When I visited my friends' homes, their parents often expected me to take my shoes off. So it always seems a little strange when I see children keeping their shoes on at home.

The practise of removing shoes was expected until I reached the age of about 12. My parents became less stringent about it as I got older. Occasionally this house rule would be revived in later years. It was restored when I was 21 when my parents and I moved to a house with cream carpets, though they were not consistent in keeping to it.

There are some homes, in the UK, where the hosts will expect the children of guests to remove their shoes, but would not expect it of adult guests. Some guests will insist that their children remove their shoes without removing their own. I can understand why some people may be more concerned about children's shoes; children do tend to be less careful about what they step in and are more likely to run around in long and wet grass. However, adults should never forget that their own shoes pick up an awful lot of less noticeable dirt. There is also the fact that children learn to follow rules better when adults act consistently. There is a certain amount of 'do as I say, not do as I do' in the requirement of shoes-off for children only.

Many childcare experts are of the opinion that children should wear shoes to the minimum necessary and therefore recommend shoes-off indoors for health reasons.

Stewardship

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I believe there is an issue of stewardship here.

All that we have is a gift from God. We may enjoy our posessions, but we do need to give account to the Lord of how we have used them.

Carpet cleaning services are necessary to keep homes really clean, but they are very expensive. Replacing carpets costs even more. Having a shoes-off policy considerably reduces the need for maintaining carpets and other kinds of flooring. Therefore, as stewards of God's gifts, I would suggest that Christians ought to strongly consider the benefits of having a shoes-off policy in their homes.

Clean homes can also be more effectively used in the service of the Kingdom. Homes can be put to so many uses; entertaining visiting speakers, providing shelter for those who need it, hosting fellowship meetings (I think a good case can be made for holding all church meetings in homes) and Church lunches. Keeping homes shoe-free means that larger numbers of people can be accomdated at the home with minimal impact. It also makes the floor a safer place for small children and babies.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Some Serious Theology- Are you a Tramplian or an Offalist?

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You may be sick of the Calvinist/ Arminian debate, so let me introduce you to some new theological terms; Tramplian and Offalist.

Tramplians like to trample the carpets or flooring of their homes with their shoes on. They find it rather objectionable to be asked to remove their shoes when visiting somebody else's home.

The central principle in Tramplian theology is the freedom of the will. They believe that they should be the ones to decide whether they take their shoes off at a dinner party. Their attitude is "I decided what outfit to wear. I decided what shoes to wear. I should be able to keep them on if I like". They do not believe that a hostess should impose shoelessness on them.

Tramplians have a strong belief in the goodness of hosts. They consider that a hostess should be above all concerned for her guests wishes and convenience above keeping her home clean. They believe that if a hostess likes them enougth to invite them into her home, she will accept them with their shoes on.

Tramplians believe in the power of their own ability to keep their shoes clean. They consider themselves to be grown-up and to be careful about what they tread on. They do acknowledge that their shoes can be tainted by the corruption of dirty streets, however they hold that this can easily be dealt with by wiping their feet on their hostess' doormat. Their shoes can be restored to cleanliness by the exercise of their will.

Offalists in contrast, always remove their shoes at the door. Offalists believe in the Total Depravity of the soles of their shoes. The corruption of city streets has completely ruined the condition of their shoes, they argue, and the only hope is a change of nature for their feet, namely into slippers or clean socks. The Offalist pays heed to warnings about the health risks of pesticide, lead paint and animal excrement.

The Offalist upholds the sovereignty of the host. The hostess has been very generous in inviting her guests, however, she is sovereign over her own home and has the authority to set the rules. She will not allow anything corrupt to defile her home. Those who would enter her home must not come in their own shoes, but must meet her condition of a change into slippers or stocking feet.

The Offalist holds that the root problem of the Tramplian's theology is human pride. The Tramplian is proud of her ability to make decisions about her outfit. She is proud of her Manolos, her Prada heels or her Jimmy Choo boots. She is too proud to combine her outfit with stocking feet. She resents the idea that her hostess would not accept her in her own shoes.

The Offalist argues that if the Tramplian would only forsake her pride, she would actually find that she was far more comfortable in slippers, socks or bare feet. Her determination to remain in her stilettos will in the end hurt her feet and drag her to destruction. She may well remain outside the dinner party in the outer darkness.

37 Reasons for Having a Shoes-Off Policy in Your Home

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37 Reasons for having a shoes-off policy in your home:

1. Carpets are not easy to clean.
2. Carpets absorb dust and become breeding grounds for dust mites, causing the development of asthma and allergies.
3. If you do not have a carpet, the dust will not be absorbed and you are likely to breathe it in.
4. Shoes can leave marks on wood, PVC and marble floors.
5. Shoes can scratch wood flooring, especially if they have high heels.
6. Boots and high heeled shoes can cause wear and tear to carpets.
7. That goes for rugs as well.
8. Shoes pick up small particles of grit that cause wear and tear to carpets.
9. Shoes pick up traces of petrol fumes and industrial pollution.
10. Shoes can pick up pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals.
11. Shoes pick up traces of animal excrement.
12. Ever noticed how much chewing gum there is stuck to the streets?
13. In a square mile, there are more insects than people on the planet. How many do you think you have squashed on your shoes?
14. If you have a crawling baby, do you want him or her to be exposed to the dirt from people's shoes?
15. In rain or snow, you are less likely to get the floor wet.
16. If you live near a beach, you will bring less sand into the house.
17. If you have a crawling baby, you will do less damage if you accidently step on him or her.
18. If you get mad and kick the cat or dog, you will do less damage (apologies to animal lovers).
19. If your children play rough, they will do less damage.
20. It creates a less formal atmosphere.
21. It creates a greater sense of relaxation.
22. Your guests will become more like you by removing their shoes and will feel part of the family.
23. An oriental, Scandinavian or East European visitor will feel more at home.
24. It teaches children the importance of respecting and looking after things.
25. Psychologically, removing your shoes helps you to enter a frame of mind where you keep your everyday troubles outside your home.
26. It is more comfortable.
27. It is healthier for you feet to take your shoes off during the day.
28. Small children with growing feet should wear shoes only to the minimum.
29. If you wear high-heeled shoes, your feet badly need a break.
30. You can put your feet up on the sofa without taking your shoes off first (Dont tell me you put your feet on the sofa with shoes on?).
31. You can put your feet up on the coffee table without taking your shoes off first.
32. If you ever visit Japan, it will seem less weird.
33. If you are ever arrested and they confiscate your shoes, along with your belt and jewellery, it will seem less weird.
34. Your feet smell less if you do not wear them all day.
35. When you lovingly chastise your children, you will have a slipper to hand.
36. It was a Biblical custom (come on, did they wash their feet with shoes on?)
37. Do you really think the Saints in Glory are going to trample the sparkling, clean New Jerusalem with shoes on?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Presentation to my Church

I gave a presentation to my church this evening about my time in Japan.

I started by telling them that in Japan, people take their shoes off and wear slippers in church. I then took off my shoes and put my slippers on for the rest of the presentation. That was something they did not expect. I suggested that the elders and deacons ought to consider introducing a shoes-off rule here at Woodgreen Evangelical church.

One of the elders very helpfully scanned my photos and put them on a powerpoint. So I was able to show them some photos of the church and Ajigasawa. Among the photos was a photograph of a line of shoes in the church entrance-way. I also showed a picture of the church toilet with the toilet slippers.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Some Beautiful Photos

Scrappy Girl Decorates: Shoes On or Off in the House?

That is what a hallway should look like!

Some really interesting discussion about Hygeine

Comment is free: Wash before you swim

The orginal post was a complaint about a swimming pool that required clients to shower before entering the pool. The discussion raised some really interesting thoughts on hygeine, especially the contrast between British attitudes to hygeine and that of other nationalities. I was pleased to find the issue of wearing shoes in homes was raised and a few British (I presume) comments were made in favour of shoes-off.

I think it is the case that we British tend not to be relaxed about hygeine (except with regards to hospital hygeine at the last election). And that includes me. I may be obsessive (?) about shoes-off in homes and my profile may say that I believe 'cleanliness is next to godliness', but if you lived with me you would find that hygeine is low on my priorities.

Somebody in the discussion thread mentioned the British and dishwashing. That made me smile. The Canadians I met in Japan were quite unhappy with my usual custom of washing dishes without rinsing off the detergent. Nobody ever taught me to rinse dishes after washing them. I only once saw it done in Britain when clearing up teacups after church.

Airport Security with a Japanese touch

The Japanese security checks were like those in Zurich, rather than like those in Birmingham. That is, they did not ask people to take their shoes off, but if the metal detector bleeped, people would have to go back without their shoes. However, the difference was that the Japanese security people provided slippers for those who had to take their shoes off. I guess the Japanese are used to handling shoes-off situations.

Personally, I think the Birmingham strategy of making everyone remove their shoes was more sensible. It prevented delays and made sure that everybody's shoes were x-rayed. Think about it; if you were a terrorist, would you hide explosives in boots with metal buckles and zips like mine, or in soft sneakers with no metal?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I finally got one while I was in Japan

One of the things I brought back from Japan was a shoes-off sign for my bedroom door.

The sign has a picture of some shoes in a crossed circle. The writing is in Japanese. It says 'wearing shoes in here is prohibited.'

Of course, it is my parents house, so if they want to come in my room with shoes on, I cannot stop them.

If I had any friends visit, I would ask them not to wear shoes in my bedroom. However, I do not entertain visitors often and when I do, they seldom enter my bedroom.

Foreigners in Japan

It seems to be the case that nearly all westerners living in Japan adopt the shoes-off practice while in Japan and many continue it on returning to the west.

I suppose it is not hard to see why. For one thing, there Japanese accomodation will invariably have a genkan (entrance way where shoes are removed) and possibly a tatami floor (straw matting). What is more, any visitors they have in Japan will expect to remove their shoes anyway. They themselves will be used to taking off their shoes when they go practically anywhere indoors.

And of course, they often pick up that most truthful notion that wearing shoes at home is disgusting.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

At a Japanese School

I am sorry I keep posting on my trip to Japan.

I visited a Japanese school while I was there in Ajigasawa, Aomori.

Visitors were required to remove there shoes and put on slippers.

The pupils were not allowed to wear outdoor shoes; they wore sneakers that were worn indoors only. But they had to remove these in the computer room (often in Japan, you are supposed to remove even slippers before stepping on carpet).

The teachers wore a mixture of indoor-only shoes. Some wore smart dress shoes; others wore sneakers or birkenstock sandals.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Dancing Shoes

I saw through the door to one Japanese house that the owner had a large collection of fancy dancing shoes in her genkan (entrance way). In a western house, such a collection would almost certainly be stored in a bedroom rather than by the door (even if the owners usually took their shoes off at the door). However, in Japan, all shoes are stored by the door.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Every House a 'Shoes-Off Home'

My main task during my short-term mission trip to Japan was to put leaflets through peoples' letter boxes. When I am doing that in England (usually on behalf of the Conservative party), I look for clues that the owners of the house might have a shoes-off policy. It was amazing in Japan going past each house in the knowledge that every single one would have a shoes-off policy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Back in England Again

I am back in England again. I enjoyed being in Japan immensely. I very much enjoyed being in a country where removing shoes in homes (and many other places) was the normal.

What I shall miss most about Japan is wearing slippers in church. It was so comfortable!