Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Former Soviet Union

I believe removing shoes in homes is almost a universal norm in the former Soviet Union, to my knowledge. There might be some places in the former Soviet Union where shoes-off is not expected, but I do not think there are many. A combination of Islam, industrial pollution and bad weather ensures that I suppose.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Athlete's Foot

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An unpleasent fungal infection.

A lot of people mention Athlete's Foot as an argument against people having a shoes-off policy. However, this is a quite unnecessary concern.

Athlete's Foot is generally associated with swimming pools and changing rooms. It is possible to catch Athlete's Foot on one's barefeet at a swimming pool or in a locker room. However, recent research indicates that this is not so likely as was previously thought.

Most importantly, the reason people catch Athlete's Foot in those places is not because people there are barefoot, but because the fungus needs a warm and wet environment. People get exposed to the fungus in the damp conditions. If they fail to dry their feet, the fungus is very comfortable and even more so if the victim puts on sweaty socks.

The fungus will not survive long on the clean, dry floor or carpet of a person's home and so you are very unlikely to catch Athlete's Foot in somebody's house, even if the owner has the condition.

What is more, people who are not wearing socks are likely to put on sandals when they leave, as opposed to closed shoes. Thus, they will not create the right environment for the condition to thrive.

Of course, if you are worried about it, you can always bring some slippers or socks when you visit a shoes-off home.

People who have a shoes-off policy ought to let their visitors know in advance and be willing to lend a pair of clean socks, if not slippers.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Choice

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Some people are of the opinion that it is very important that guests have the choice of whether to keep their shoes on or not.

However, it is not as simple as that. Some choices may impose on the choices of others.

Some visitors may want to take their shoes off, but may fear that doing so will be considered rude. Being informed that shoes-off is encouraged will be a great welcome for these people.

The shoes-on folks might then argue, "Yes, but you can still let people keep their shoes on without imposing on the people who prefer to go shoeless."

However, this is not the case. Firstly, those people who want to take their shoes off may fear, if there are lots of other guests, particularly at a party, that their feet may get squashed by other peoples' shoes. In a crowded party, it can be hard to avoid having people tread on your toes.

Secondly, people who take their shoes off will prefer to walk on a floor that is cleaner. In fact, there is another issue here, as Angie pointed out in a previous post. Some guests will enjoy sitting on the floor. And sitting on the floor is a much more pleasent experience when it is clean. So allowing guests the choice of wearing shoes imposes on those who like to sit on the floor.

The simple truth is that no host can please everybody. However, there are far more good reasons to insist on shoes coming off at the door than for allowing shoes to stay on. Let guests chose between slippers, socks ot barefeet. That is choice enough.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Manga

I was in Birmingham today and I saw a couple of girls carrying bags with the Manga label on. I presume there must be some shop in Birmingham that sells Manga comics and movies.

Manga and other Japanese comics and cultural products are becoming ever more popular here in the UK. Young people are becoming more and more exposed to Japanese culture, and with it that most commendable practice of leaving shoes at the door.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

It is not Selfish to ask Visitors to Remove their Shoes

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Some people claim it is selfish to ask visitors to remove their shoes. They think that it shows excessive concern for one's carpet or flooring.

On the contrary it is not selfish at all.

Firstly, there is an health issue involved. Peoples' shoes pick up dust and animal excrement which is not good for one's health and especially bad for the health of one's children. If one has babies or small children that play on the floor it is extremely sensible to keep one's home shoe-free.

There are many worries today about the health risks posed by pollution, toxins and chemicals. Personally, I think many of these health scares are exagerrated. Many of the supposed health risks have not been scientifically verified. However, it is best to keep as much nasty stuff out of the house as possible.

Secondly, the notion of selfishness here is relative. In a country where shoe-removing is the norm, like Finland or Russia, it would hardly be selfish to insist on shoes-off.

In Britain or the USA, where keeping shoes on is the norm, there are many people who would like to insitute a shoes-off policy, but who are afraid of causing offence or being deemed 'selfish.' If a person is brave enough to insist on shoes-off, she makes it easier for those other people who feel that they would like to make their homes shoe-free. In time, the norms of the UK and the USA may change and shoe-removing may become as normal as it is in Thailand or Sweden.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Should One Provide Slippers for Guests?

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In some Eastern European and Asian countries, guests change from their shoes into slippers provided by the host.

Some argue that if you intend to have a shoes-off policy in your home, you should keep some slippers for guests to wear. This will make them feel more comfortable and prevent embarassments such as foot odour and holes in socks.

This is a fairly good idea, but I am not so sure. If slippers are provided, then they must either be disposable plastic slippers or else slippers that can go in the washing machine. It would be quite unreasonable to expect guests to wear slippers that have been worn by somebody else that day. I am not sure whether most slippers are machine washable. Some guests might not even trust you that they really have been cleaned and may prefer to stay in bare or stocking feet.

I think the practise of providing guest slippers might be just a bit too weird for British. Many British people will have been to a house where shoes-off was required, but not many people will have been offered guest slippers to wear, unless it was in another country. I think a lot of English guests would prefer to go shoe-less, rather than wear slippers that are not their own.

I think it is a good idea to buy slippers for family and regular visitors and keep them at your house. These should be worn only by the person they are provided for. Hopefully, one's family and close friends would be delighted by this consideration.

Providing clean socks is a different matter. I would suggest keeping a supply of clean socks in different sizes by the door for guests who are not comfortable going barefoot.

I think it is very sensible to let visitors know in advance that one has a shoes-off rule in one's home. That way, they can be sure to wear socks without holes or bring their own slippers if they prefer.

Wednesday, May 23, 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.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

That is what I like to see!

A young estate agent visited our house today. He offered to remove his shoes. He was wearing shoes without laces, which shows foresight.

His more senior colleague visited last week and she did not offer to remove her shoes. It seems wisdom is on the side of the youth.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Weed-Killer

Our front drive was blasted with weed-killer yesterday. If anybody comes down our drive, their shoes will no doubt pick the stuff up. Not the sort of thing you want bringing in your house.

Just think, what if somebody sprays her own drive and then comes to visit you? Do you think maybe her shoes might still have traces of weed-killer on them?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

My Conversion to No Laces

You may recall that I bought several pairs of shoes with no laces before going to Japan.

Since coming back in March, I have hardly worn my old shoes with laces at all.

I do not think I would ever buy shoes with laces again unless they were walking boots or athletic shoes.

I used to think wearing shoes without laces was lazy. I now think it is so practical. I certainly would not have survived Japan if I had brought lace-up shoes with me (my fingers would have dropped off after tying and untying so many times). Seeing as I always take my shoes off at the door at home, they are great for me here as well. If I forget something, I will never be tempted to go back upstairs in my shoes.

Since switching to No Laces, I am removing my shoes more often when visiting people. If people do not expect me to take my shoes off, it is embarassing to stand in the doorway fiddling to get my shoes off.

Last month I got some sandals, with all the warm weather. I chose Birkenstocks, as they allow the option of quick removal.

Lace-up shoes are an anachronism that we should abolish, along with wearing shoes in homes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

At a French Campsite Ten Years Ago

Ten years ago, my family and I stayed at a French caravan park near Paris. There was a rule that you had to take your shoes off and put them on a rack before going in the shower block. The idea was to stop mud appearing on the wet floor inside.

At the time, I thought the rule was a bit weird. I had never come across that before at a caravan park and so at least once I ignored the rule.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

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

Monday, May 14, 2007

Recipricocity

You may not have a baby at crawling age
But if you ask visitors to your home to remove their shoes, you send a message that it is acceptable to keep your home shoe-free. That makes life easier for those who do have crawling babies.

You may not have a new carpet
You may have an old carpet that needs replacing or a wooden
floor that is covered in scratch marks. But if you have a shoes-off policy, it will make it easier for those who do have a new carpet to do the same.

You may not live in an area where there is pesticide on the ground
But if you have a no-shoes rule in your house, it will make those who do need to require shoes-off feel more comfortable about it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Some Twenty-somethings still wear Slippers

There was a photo in the Times today which showed a twenty-something couple who were both wearing slippers. You sometimes hear people saying that nobody wears slippers anymore. Given that most fashionable clothes shops have slippers on their shelves, that does not appear to be correct.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Home Fellowship on a Wet Evening

I went to home fellowship yesterday. Our home fellowship meets at the house of a family who evidently do not wear shoes at home. Usually, most of the group keep their shoes on; sometimes I am the only one to take my shoes off. Yesterday, with it raining outside most of the group removed their shoes.

The generation gap came out. All of the people in their twenties removed their shoes; those who kept them on were all middle-aged.

It was wonderful to see people taking their shoes off for once. But it would be nice to see them removing their shoes in dry weather as well. Does a line of shoes at the door not give people a clue?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bottlebank

I took some bottles to the bottlebank to be recycled; there are plenty of empty bottles here.

As might be expected, there were lots of bits of broken glass sticking to my shoes after I had disposed of the bottles. No doubt there were also lots of even smaller particles of glass that I could not see.

Would you really want those bits of glass walked into your carpet or dragged across your laminate floor? Maybe the same floor your baby crawls on? Just take your shoes off at the door. It is not that difficult.

I did not even want those bits of glass in my car, and so I took my shoes off before driving home.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Pollen Warning

You can smell the pollen outside.

I have said it before, and I will say it again; if you or your family suffer from Hayfever, you can reduce the effects by leaving your shoes at the door and asking visitors to do the same.

Your shoes pick up pollen, don't grind the stuff into your carpet.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Photography

There does seem to have been a huge rise in the number of photographic studios here in the UK. They are openning up all over the place.

What seems particulary popular are these photographs of people against a white background.

I have noticed that people in the white background photos are always either in socks or barefeet. I even saw a photo of two girls on a bicycle who were conspicuously in their socks.

I presume the reason for shoes being removed for these photos is that any black marks on the backdrop would spoil the photo.

I suppose it must be very annoying for the obsessive shoe fanatics that they cannot be photographed in their shoes in this style. Yet another example of how modern life brings us these shoes-off situations.

Tuesday, May 01, 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.