Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's not a cold weather thing




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Occasionally some people suggest that the difference between countries where shoes are removed and where they are kept on is the climate. This is pretty misleading.

It is true that most countries with harsh winters like Canada and Finland are in the shoes-off camp, while the gentle weather of Mediterranean Europe is enjoyed by Spanish and Italians who for the most part, keep their shoes on indoors.

However, there are many countries with warm climates that practice the shoes-off rule. These include:

Morocco

Guyana

India

Hawaii (USA)

United Arab Emirates

Saudi Arabia

Bangladesh

Malaysia

Thailand

Nauru

Fiji

Maldives

Sri Lanka


And in some countries which have cold winters, but warm summers, for instance Albania and Croatia, shoes are removed over the whole year, winter and summer.

The fact is that whether the weather is hot or cold, dirt is still dirt. The fact that the weather outside is warm does not mean that the streets and the soil outside is clean.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Elderly Couple On Christmas Day

My parents invited an elderly couple over for dinner on Christmas day. They both removed their shoes on entering, despite my mother's protests that "We are not posh."

This couple run the trailer park (which in the UK has no class connotations) on which they live, so I suppose they are used to their shoes being muddy.

Often elderly people are thought of as being unable or unwilling to remove their shoes, but this is not always the case. The gentleman was diabetic. Some medical practitioners (particularly in the USA) give quite rigorous advice to diabetics, encouraging them never to go without shoes. Not all medical practioners take this drastic line and not all diabetics follow it either. Not all people with diabetes develop problems with their feet, though they need to make sure they look after them. The NHS website has a link to Diabetes UK, which gives advice about footcare, but does not insist on the 'wear shoes all the time' rule. It says:

'Fortunately, you do not usually need to do anything very different from other people – general advice on footcare applies to you.'


I thought it interesting that my mother though having a shoes-off rule was 'posh.' Generally people seem to think requiring shoes off is 'tacky.' Nevertheless, when she visited some relatives over the weekend, she took some slippers with her to wear, so I am obviously having an impact.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fictional People (Stereotypes?) Part 6

Natasha

Natasha is 31 and lives with her husband, Stan, on a council estate in Bedfordshire. They have been married for just a year, but had been living together for several years previously. Natasha has three children, one of whom was from a previous boyfriend.

Stan works as a mechanic. Natasha recently started working part-time in a sandwich shop. She had not worked prior to this since she was a teenager. Natasha left school when she was 16 and got pregnant soon after that.

Natasha has a shoes-off policy in her home.

This was a recent decision, after the council redecorated her house and put in a new wooden floor. Natasha was immensely proud of the improvements and decided she wanted to make an effort to keep the place looking nice. She had been a single mother for a number of years and had lived in some flats that were pretty grotty. She was poor then and she and her husband don't have a lot of money to throw around these days either. Her attitude is that you should value what you have got and look after it.

Some of Stan's mates moaned about having to shed their shoes when visiting, but Natasha soon put them in their place, "Fussing like a bunch of girls, you lot. Do you think your hard do you, moaning about your cold feet?"

With three children, it is not easy to keep their house clean, so reducing the dirt from foot traffic went a long way.

Natasha had also been prompted to institute the no-shoes rule when she read in Hello magazine that Mishelle Beckfield, the wife of the famous footballer Wayne Beckfield, required people to take their shoes in her home. Natasha adores Mishelle Beckfield. She would love to dress like her, but lacked both the disposable income and the slender figure of the footballer's wife.


Mishelle Beckfield

As with many of the more prominent WAGs, Mishelle had a fair dose of luck on her side. Like many young women, she had spend a fair bit of time in the pubs and clubs where the young players of a minor football club used to hang out. She became the girlfriend of one of the players, and with her boundless enthusiasm behind him, Wayne became the star of a major football team within a matter of years, and scored a crucial goal for England in the World Cup. Their marriage had been a major media event that was featured in the celebrity rags of every soccer-loving nation.

Mishelle very much enjoys the celebrity lifestyle and has been able to meet film stars, supermodels pop musicians and was even the dinner guest of a French philosopher (whose conversation she did not find particularly interesting). Mishelle appeared in the reality show "You're a celebrity, I presume?" in which celebrities got to explore jungles in remote parts of the world. While she enjoyed the media attention, she found it something of an ordeal and needed a number of shopping trips to recover.

Mishelle has a shoes-off policy in her homes, which include her Georgian estate in the home counties, her villa in the south of France, her luxury apartments in New York and Paris, and you could probably include her yacht, on which she spends a fair amount of time.

It was actually the yacht that got Mishelle wedded to the idea of having a shoes-off policy in her homes. Before getting her own yacht, she had spent plenty of time in other peoples' yachts. She knew the drill; a yacht is a stiletto free zone. However much you might spend on shoes, they were not acceptable on a yacht. This was not too much of an hassle with her perfectly pedicured feet.

Mishelle had noticed that the wood floors in her homes seemed to take a fair amount of punishment from stiletto heels, both from hers and those of her friends. Sure, she had plenty of money coming in from her husband's lucrative transfer deal and the royalties from her ghost-written autobiography, but why throw it down the drain on repair bills? Take care of the thousands, and the millions will look after themselves.

The nation's most desired hostess wasted no time in laying down the law. If her friends could look glamorous in their bare feet at boat parties, they could look just as glamorous sans stilettos when visiting her. The gossip columns managed to get a few snarky comments about her shoes-off rule, but what did Mishelle care? She was used to journalists bitching and she suspected they were probably just as precious about their crumby little apartments in London.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shoes Off At A Party?


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There are some people who are strict about no-shoes in their homes who make an exception for parties. They feel that parties are an occasion when people expect to dress up and this must include shoes. I disagree with their view. I think it is perfectly reasonable to require shoes to be removed for a party.

In Canada and Scandinavia, it is common for people to attend formal parties with a special set of party shoes that are not worn outdoors. This is not really feasible in the UK. I doubt that many British folks have shoes that are never worn oudoors, unless they keep a pair of sneakers to go to the gym. And if those formal party shoes have high-heels, they are unacceptable anyway.

Some people say that part of a party is clearing up afterwards, so you should not make a fuss about mess from people's shoes. This seems a little silly to my mind. People will make more than enough mess at a party without them bringing in dirt on their shoes. There will be plenty of spilled wine and crumbs ground into the carpet without chewing gum and dog dirt from peoples' shoes as well. Also the main party season in the West is Christmas and New Year, when there will be plenty of rain and snow (maybe not snow in England, but plenty of rain). The party season is a wet season.




Some argue that people will feel silly and uncomfortable at a party without their shoes. It is true that people might find it a little odd. But they will probably feel more comfortable for having removed their shoes. If it is made clear in the invitation that shoes willl need to be removed, then it will not come as a shock. Furthermore, if there is alcohol at the party, then most people will be feeling more relaxed.

The main argument levelled against shoes-off at parties is that people dress up for parties. A lot of people, particularly women, will chose their outfits very carefully and they the choice of shoes is part of that selction. For them, a party is an occasion to show off their good taste. They would not want to combine their cocktail dresses with barefeet.

In response I would say that parties are hardly the only occasions for dressing up. Ladies can show off their fancy shoes in restaurants or at the races. Not all parties are such formal occasions. If a party is a smart-casual event, it is actually quite rude to dress up more smartly than other guests.

The host sets the theme of a party. If it is meant to be a fancy dress party, then you should make the effort to find a costume or stay home. If it is an informal party, leave the suit or cocktail dress at home. If it is a no-shoes party, leave the kitten heels at the door.




I keep making this point, but I will make it again: it is best that guests know in advance that shoe-removal is required. If you are printing fancy invitations, make it known there (with some clip-art maybe?). If people know that they will have to take their shoes off, it will not come as a shock and they can plan their outfit with this in mind. They can bring some nice slippers that complement their outfit if they want and they can avoid long trousers that only look right when worn with high heels.

There is the question of whether it is really possible to hold a formal party while people are shoeless. It may be difficult in the West to maintain an air of formality when everybody is without their shoes, but is that really such a bad thing? Is it not better to be relaxed at a party? Certainly, the host and guests can make an effort to keep the party formal. Men can look reasonably smart by combining respectable slippers with their suits and women can look pretty elegant in stocking feet. So all is not lost. If shoes-off in homes becomes more common, shoe-lessnes will probably become less associated with being casual and informal.

There are some people who will certainly be far more happy and comfortable to party without their shoes on. As I argued in a previous post, it is not simply a matter of giving these people the choice. At a shoes-on party, those who take it upon themselves to remove their shoes are likely to get their feet squashed and to have to walk on a soggy carpet. Shoes-off for all guests makes it easier for those who want to take their shoes off.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Warning! There Will Be No Warning

The British Department for the Environment, Farming, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has announced that farmers do not need to give prior notice before using pesticides on their crops.

This means that if you live in the UK you cannot be sure whether your area is contaminated by pesticides.

Regardless of whether this decision is right or wrong, it is vital that if you live in a rural area, you consider the risk of pesticide contamination. Your shoes may pick up traces of the stuff. Make sure you remove them at the door and ask visitors to remove their shoes.

Intermission from normal service



This is me at the graduation ceremony, at which I was awarded my PhD for research in theology (University of Gloucestershire). The ceremony was a couple of weeks ago at Cheltenham racecourse. Still reading this blog, Victoriap?

One of the professors who questioned me in the oral exam stumbled across this blog by chance last year. She told me her son and his girlfriend have a shoes-off policy in their place. Good for them.

I know you don't get to see many pictures of me, but I thought I would make an exception. There are other pictures of me online, but I am not going to tell you where to find them.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

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.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Achoo!: Shoes Off Means Less Allergies

Achoo!: Shoes Off Means Less Allergies

'Shoes track into the house everything that they've encountered outdoors. In addition to plain old dirt, this includes pesticides found in soil, pollen grains, mold spores, pet dander, and more. With all the allergens in your home already and the efforts you make to reduce them, the last thing you need to do is bring more into the house and spread them all over the place. Institute a shoes-off policy and slip on some cozy slippers instead – it's for your health!'

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. It is argued that this will make them feel more comfortable and prevent embarassments such as foot odour and holes in socks.

I am not inclined to think so. 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 barefoot, rather than wear slippers that are not their own. In conversations I have had with people about Japan, I have noticed people go 'ew' at the idea of wearing borrowed slippers.



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.

It might be 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.

Monday, December 06, 2010

'elf and safety'

There was an article about Finnish schools in the Guardian today. In the last year I have seen quite a few articles about the Finnish education system. They usually point out how much better their record of success is compared to British schools and how different some of their methods are. Invariably they mention the fact that Finnish school children are shoeless in the classroom.

It does seem that quite a few British schools are moving in the Finnish direction of having pupils remove their shoes. I can imagine health and safety might slow this trend down a bit, however.

I do get the impression that on the continent, there is not the same rigorous culture of 'elf and safety' that we have in the United Kingdom. In some European countries you get nurses and supermarket staff wearing open-toed sandals, something that would not be permitted in the UK.

I am not one of those right-wing bores who collect and share stories about 'elf and safety gone mad.' I find those people rather tiresome. A lot of these stories that do the rounds have been exaggerated or even made up by the press. On the other hand, one can imagine that an obsession with health and safety can sometimes cause a lot of misery.

I hope health and safety concerns don't prevent more British schools from adopting the very sensible Finnish practice of shoes-off in the classroom. It protects floors and carpets paid for by the taxpayer, teaches children about respect and creates a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

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.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Academichic: What to Wear: To a Professor’s Party

Academichic: What to Wear: To a Professor’s Party

A blog about academic fashion addresses the question of what to wear when invited to a professor's home. The post points out the need for 'party-ready feet':

'Have party-ready feet. All three of us have been to parties at a professor’s home where we were asked to remove our shoes at the door. This would not be the time to make-do with hole-riddled socks or tights.'


Are academics more likely than other people to have a shoes-off policy? Possibly. They are likely to be well-travelled and have an awareness of the more enlightened etiquette in other cultures.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ed Miliband does not have a shoes-off policy

Ed Miliband does not appear to have a shoes-off policy. The Labour party leader was interviewed at his home in the Guardian today. He wore deck shoes, though his wife was just in socks.

Given that he has a cream carpet (according to the interviewer) and a new baby he really should insitute a no-shoes rule.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Having A Shoes-Off Policy


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Having a shoes-off policy does not mean that:

- You do not know the difference between asking and demanding.

- You ask your guests to remove their shoes in an unpleasent or rude manner.

- You "force" your guests to remove their shoes.

- You would not make an exception for elderly people or those with a medical issue.

- You would never make an exception if a guest felt really uncomfortable with removing her shoes (this is at your discretion).

- You would never make an exception for a party (but you don't have to; shoeless parties are great too!)

- You would not try to let guests know in advance that you prefer shoes-off.

- You make your guests wear horrible fluffy slippers that have been worn by hundreds of previous guests.

- You think your guests shoes are dirtier than your own.

- You treat your guests like children.

- You are obsessed with cleanliness.

- You are anally rententive.

- You are germaphobic.

- You keep your children in a sealed plastic bubble.

- You have plastic sheeting on your furniture.

- You have a foot fetish.

- You care more about your carpets than your guests.

- You are not an absolutely delightful host or hostess.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Degrees Of Firmness Part 2


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I think for friends I would go for the very direct no.6 (Could you take your shoes off, please?) and for people I did not know, I would use the more restrained no.4 (Are you alright with taking your shoes off?).

It may be that you are just too shy to use the more direct requests. However, you might find that the softest approach no.1 works a lot of the time. If you are barefoot and there are a lot of shoes by the door, you may get the right reaction just by saying:


You can take your shoes off here, if you like.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Degrees Of Firmness


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1. You can take your shoes off here if you like.

2. We take our shoes off here.

3. We do like visitors to take their shoes off.

4. Are you alright with taking your shoes off?

5. You don't mind taking your shoes off, do you?

6. Could you take your shoes off, please?

7. Take your shoes off, please.

8. Shoes off.

9. Shoes off now!

Which do you prefer?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Great Comment on Mumsnet

"But it's not really a case of valuing furniture over friends. It's of liking both , and wanting one to do to something small to keep the other one nice."


I like that. Asking people to take their shoes off is just a small thing, but it helps. This was in this discussion on Mumsnet. In general, Mumsnet users tend not to be keen on the shoes-off policy.

If it's glamorous on a yacht, it's glamorous in a house




A lot of people object to the idea of a shoeless party by claiming that such an event would be completely lacking in glamour. They feel that a pair of high heels is an essential component of a swish party.




Well, I have got news for those people. If you ever get invited to a boat party, your flashy pair of heels is coming off. No matter how rich or famous, you have to be in socks or bare feet at a yacht party.

So if the glitterati can look great sans manolos, I am quite sure you can look quite fine if you have to be bare foot at somebody's party.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

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, November 04, 2010

Satire

"I would just love it if people did not smoke in front of my baby, but I don't want to upset them. I mean, some people are very uncomfortable when they can't smoke."


"I think its lovely when my employees do some work when they come and sit in the office. Some of them do and I really appreciate it, but if they come in and just play games on the computer or read the newspaper, I just grin and bear it. I think it would be a bit rude to ask my employees do some work."


"I think it is a good idea for people sent to this prison to hand over their mobile phones and any money they have on them. I mean, prisons are so much more efficent when you control what is coming in. However, I think it's really rude to ask prisoners to hand over their stuff. I don't want to hurt their feelings."


"I get a lot of people coming in my cafe and eating their own sandwiches from their packed lunches. I would probably sell more sandwiches if people bought mine, but it is a bit embarassing telling them they can't eat their own. I just accept that is what they do at other places."


Is it really that hard asking people nicely to take their shoes off?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

My Worries About Our School Gymnasiums

One of the bizarre customs that has been imported to these shores from the other side of the Atlantic is the school prom. This is a sort of ball held for school leavers involving dancing, dressing up in appalling evening wear and, most shockingly, hiring limousines. The main culprit in this seems to be film and television. Every young person wants to copy what is on the screens these days. Probably the excess of glamour in celebrity culture has a part to play in promoting this abhorrence. Call me a puritan, but there is nothing sillier than seeing photographs in local papers of teenagers dolled up in evening wear.

My worry is the effect of this imported custom on our school gymnasium floors. Are they putting down plastic sheeting for these events? If not, are our taxes going to be wasted on repairing floors ruined by heels that girls have not even learned to walk in? Perhaps some head teachers can reassure me about this.

They really should think about importing the sock hop idea as well.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Christian Headcovering, Removing Shoes and the need for a Punk Attitude

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It is my belief that Christian women should wear an headscarf or veil during worship. This is not a fashionable idea amongst modern evangelicals, but I believe it is biblical.

Occasionally I hear from Christian women who feel some conviction over the issue, yet who say something like:

'I am starting to feel that the Bible does teach headcovering, but I am scared to wear one because of what other women at church might think.'


I find this attitude remarkably similar to what some people say about having a shoes-off policy:

'I would really like people to remove their shoes in my home, but I am scared to ask because of what they might think.'


Notice the similarity?

I think this fear of other peoples opinion is just so destructive. It paralyses people and traps them in a mundane world of convention. It holds back any attempt to try out alternative ideas.

You have probably gathered that I am a very conservative person in my values, but when it comes to this phobia, the part of me that loves Punk Rock really kicks in. When it comes to this fear of change because of the opinion of others, I am reminded of the need for the Punk attitude.

The virtue of Punk is a rebellion against conventions that limit us and prevent us from being true to what we really think and feel. Its about being true to yourself and what you stand for.

The Christian woman who has come to believe in the necessity of headcovering should be free to cover and stand against the shallowness of those who sneer at a covered hairstyle or the timidity of pastors who are afraid to preach on the issue. They should not fear the dirty looks or the accusation of rocking the boat.

Likewise, those of us who want shoes off in our homes should not be afraid. We must be true and honest about ourselves.

Who cares if people think we are 'clean freaks' or visitors mutter after they leave our homes? People who are really our friends like us enough to respect our preferences and will enjoy our company shoes-off or not.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox?


Are Protestants, Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox more inclined to removing shoes in homes? Which culture is more 'Offalist?'

This post is just for fun. Anybody who has done proper ethnographic research will see the errors in my methodology.

Let's list shoe-removing countries by religious majority. To make this simple, I am going to confine myself to historic Christendom and leave out Christian majorities in Asia, Africa and the pacific.

Shoe-removing Countries with Catholic majorities

Austria
Poland
Croatia
Slovenia
Lithuania
Latvia (but Protestants are almost even)
Czech Republic
Slovakia

Total: 8 countries


Shoe-removing Countries with Protestant majorities

Sweden
Norway
Denmark
Finland
Iceland
Estonia (but Orthodox are almost even)

Total: 6 countries


Shoe-removing countries with Orthodox majorities

Russia
Belarus
Romania
Moldova
Ukraine
Georgia
Bulgaria
Serbia
Montenegro
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (come on, you Balkans, sort it out, then I won't have to use that mouthful)

Total: 10 countries


I have heard conflicting things about Hungary, Armenia and Greece. Most of the evidence suggests that Greeks don't take their shoes off at the door.

Okay, so Eastern Orthodox win, Catholics come second, Protestants come last. Obviously this does not prove Eastern Orthodoxy is the true religion. Of course my weird demographic study does not take into account the large Roman Catholic populations in South America, where people mostly keep their shoes on in homes.

As for me, I am a Protestant. I believe the Bible to be the sole and infallible authority for Christians and that justication by faith alone is at the heart of the gospel. I reject the claims of the false Papacy and the traditions of Orthodoxy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Keep Security Checks On Shoes!


Martin Broughton, the head of British Airways has attacked requirements at UK airports to remove shoes for security.

I think checks on shoes should be maintained. It is a simple precaution that helps to keep people safe when flying. A metal detector is not going to detect plastic explosives for the simple reason that they are plastic. It is just a simple precaution; it's not like you are being asked to take off your clothes.

More significantly, there is something deeply ironic about having to remove shoes at airports that makes a wonderful moral point.


The ability to enable people to defy gravity is one of mankind's greatest achievements. The power to make a mass of metal, carrying a cargo of men and women fly higher than the birds is a true wonder. Airports are the height of our civilization, places that enable transport across the globe, a phenomena undreamed of in previous centuries. Yet in those very places, we must humble ourselves by removing shoes. At the airport we all find our common humanity. Great and small, rich and poor must all stand in stocking and bare feet. There is something wonderfully levelling about this.

In my opinion, people who make a fuss about having to take their shoes off at airport security need more of a sense of humour.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What do you think feet are supposed to look like?

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Sometimes you hear people commenting that feet are a part of the human anatomy that are weird, odd or ugly.

Some people do have unsightly feet. This is because of age, illness, injury or just wearing daft high heels. However, most people do not have feet like this. Some people are of the opinion that male feet are ugly, but female feet look nice. While men do tend to have larger and sometimes hairier feet (and often don't look after their toenails), their feet are usually free from the bunions and ravages caused by wearing silly high heels that female feet often suffer.

When people say that feet are an ugly part of the body, just what do they think feet ought to look like? Would they rather have cloven hooves or a pig's trotters? Or how about wheels?

I find it especially strange when Christians make this comment. They are effectively scorning the Creator's handiwork.

Our Lord Jesus walked this earth on human feet and now His feet are as burning brass (Revelation 1:15). When the saints are resurrected to glory, they will perhaps have feet of the same quality.

I believe the angels of heaven are not purely spirits, but have bodies that are in some ways like ours. I am sure they have feet like ours.

Romans 10:15

"How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!"


If anyone thinks that feet cannot be beautiful, I suggest that they be locked up for a week in an art gallery filled with paintings by William Adolphe Bouguereau.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stay at Home Papa: Take Your Shoes Off At The Door (Jeremy Dyen)

Stay at Home Papa: Take Your Shoes Off At The Door (Jeremy Dyen)

This week, my blog was privileged by the visit of singer-songwriter, Jeremy Dyen, who also sees the merits of a shoes-off policy.

You can listen to his music at his Myspace page.

Linoleum Floors

I quite like linoleum flooring. It has a reputation for being a bit tacky or old fashioned, but it is very functional and is much more comfortable than ceramic tiling or laminate floors.

I remember my ex-girlfriend would get very cold on the ceramic tiles of my parents' kitchen when in her stocking feet, but was fine in her stocking feet on her parents' linoleum floored kitchen.

If you have a linoleum floor you really should adopt a shoes-off rule, as it can easily get scuffed or marked by shoes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

House Tours For Guests


The Daily Mail article I linked below mentioned something interesting:

"But making people take their shoes off is a new fad, surely? Our parents didn’t do it, but then our parents lived in one or maybe two houses all their lives and entertained guests in a couple of downstairs rooms. Nowadays guests seem to expect a tour of the whole house, especially if you have just moved in."


This is so true. I entertained guests on several occasions at my parents' home when I was living there and they often requested a guided tour of the place. It was a good thing I made sure they all had their shoes off.

These days guests are likely to see more of your home than just the dining room and lounge. I think this is nice. It is fun looking at different peoples' houses and there is something intimate about showing people round your personal space. Everyone being shoeless adds to the intimacy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Daily Mail: Is asking guests to take off their shoes rude or good housekeeping?


Daily Mail: Is asking guests to take off their shoes rude or good housekeeping?

by Mary Gold

"But making people take their shoes off is a new fad, surely? Our parents didn’t do it, but then our parents lived in one or maybe two houses all their lives and entertained guests in a couple of downstairs rooms. Nowadays guests seem to expect a tour of the whole house, especially if you have just moved in.

Kate Millns says shoe removal is a ­generational thing. ‘I never ask guests to take their shoes off, but my daughter, who is 22, has moved into a new house with pale ­carpets and she makes people take their shoes off. Maybe it is now she has got her own place and she is having to do her own cleaning!’

Is the whole shoe removal commotion a class issue — all a little bit Footballers’ Wives? Has the trend for all-white ­minimalism turned us into horrible hostesses?
Absolutely not, says Jo Bryant of Debrett’s, the etiquette bible. ‘It doesn’t matter whether you like being asked to take your shoes off, it’s a matter of respecting the host. Look for signals — if there is a pile of shoes in the hall, offer to remove yours."

Skirts with Socks



I think it is fair to say that in general skirts don't go at all well with socks. Skirts look fine with nylons or bare feet, but with socks the look is not good. A young woman in her twenties might be able to get away with wearing a pair of brightly coloured socks with a skirt, creating a slightly preppy or schoolgirlish look, but on an older woman this would look disastrous.

My ex-girlfriend pointed this out to me one time. She had removed her shoes at the door when wearing a long, pencil skirt and later complained that her stocking feet were cold on the kitchen floor. She asked if she could put her shoes back on. I suggested she put on the socks she had brought for with her (she had a change of clothes for when we went walking later). She did so, but said she felt very silly. She looked cute, but had looked far more elegant before she put the socks on. After this, she started bringing slippers when she visited me.

On the other hand I once invited over a girl with her husband for Sunday lunch. She was dressed very smartly and wearing a skirt with pantyhose. After she removed her shoes at the door I offered to lend her some socks in case her feet got cold. However, she had planned ahead and had brought a bright red pair of socks with her. She was obviously happy to make socks work with her formal wear.

I have a friend whose sole objection to the shoes-off rule was the worry that she might be asked to remove her boots when wearing athletic socks underneath with a skirt. Obviously, that would not need to happen if she was visiting an home where she expected shoes-off at the door. She could plan on wearing trousers or just nylons under her boots.

What if a lady with socks, boots and skirt visited a home and was asked to take her shoes-off unexpectedly? My own view is that it is okay to ask for shoes at the door without prior warning if needs be. If somebody makes an unannounced visit, the host is not likely to be dressed up, so she need not feel too self-conscious. If she is very bothered, she could always take the socks off quickly at the door.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Requesting is not Demanding or Forcing

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Contrary to a lot of comments in the shoes-off debate, there is a difference between requesting people to remove their shoes and 'forcing' or 'demanding' them to do so.




I consulted the Meriam-Webster dictionary:

Request: to make a request to or of, to ask as a favor or privilege

Demand: to ask or call for with authority : claim as due or just, to call for urgently, peremptorily, or insistently

Force: to compel by physical, moral, or intellectual means

We do not force or demand that visitors remove their shoes, but we request them to do so.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Skins




The teen drama, Skins featured a shoeless party in the episode 'Pandora.' Removing shoes seemed to be presented as somewhat 'uncool' and cringeworthy in the episode.

I will not post a video, as some naughty things happen in the episode. When watching it on You Tube, I had to skip large parts of it out of decency and taste.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Abyss


Yesterday evening I was watching James Cameron's 1989 film, The Abyss, about an underwater drilling crew who discover an alien race in an ocean trench. I quite like that film, even though it is a bit unbelievable and rather fixated on special effects.

When I first saw The Abyss, I noticed that most of the time, the crew remove their shoes before operating the mini-submarine craft they use to explore the depths. Are they trying to get comfortable in a very enclosed space or do they want to keep the mini-sub cockpits clean?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Fictional People (Stereotypes?) Part 4

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Pekka

Pekka is an hydraulic engineer from Finland, but he lives and works in Aberdeen, Scotland. He is single and rents an apartment in Aberdeen.

Pekka has lived in the UK for two years and finds it an interesting place. He finds the Scots rather noisy and a little odd, but is proud to demonstrate that Finns can drink more than any Scotsman.

Like many in his country, Pekka is very fond of heavy metal, and being patriotic loves Finnish bands like Finntroll and Turisas. Pekka also loves ice hockey, the Finnish national game and is baffled by the British preference for soccer, a game he finds rather dull.

Pekka has a no-shoes rule in his apartment.

All his life, Pekka had removed his shoes when entering homes. That was until he came to Britain. He was shocked when he discovered that Scots and English often keep their shoes on in homes. He had imagined that in other countries people took their shoes off, just like in Finland. He had seen people in American sitcoms wear shoes in homes, but had just thought this was just a convention.

When a few visitors came into his apartment with their shoes on, he was strongly tempted to try out some hand-to-hand combat techniques he had picked up during his military service, but thought better of it. Now he just asks for shoes-off in short, sweet, Finnish style.


Martha

Martha is the mother of four children and lives in Hampshire, England, with her husband, who is a doctor.

Martha and her husband are devout evangelical Christians. They left their previous Baptist church, believing it to be too worldly and now host a small fellowship of Christians in their home. They feel that the intimacy of a church meeting in a home is much deeper than the usual experience of a congregation.

Martha does not work, but has taken on the responsiblity of home schooling her four children. She believes that much of the teaching in the public school system is built on an evolutionary and humanistic philosophy. She wants her children to learn biblical ways of thinking.

Martha has a shoes-off policy in her home. She wants to protect her children from the dirt and filth outside the home. Just as she would not allow horror films or rock music into the home, she would not allow anybody to defile it with dirt from their shoes.

Martha make considerable use of their house. Four families worship their at the house church meeting and sometimes a few others attend. The tiny congregation appreciate the hospitality of Martha and her husband in opening up their home for church meetings and are happy to respect their wish for shoes-off at the door.

Martha also offers tuition in maths and science for other home-schoolers and naturally asks her pupils and their parents to remove their shoes when attending.

Martha seeks to use her home for the service of God and feels that by looking after the carpets and floors, she is making it last longer and better able to accomodate guests.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Treating Guests Like Children?

Some people feel that in being asked to remove their shoes, they are being treated like children.

They may find it obnoxious, having to follow a house rule. They may think it is fine to ask children to take off their shoes, as who knows what they might step in, but they feel patronised to be asked to take off their own shoes. They believe that adults can be trusted to wipe their feet on the doormat.

What I would say to these people is that there are many good reasons why hosts may ask them to take off their shoes. I suggest they try not to think of it as a house rule, but just as a polite request (like somebody asking you to hold their umbrella). These people probably go shoeless sometimes in their own homes, so it should not be too onerous to do this when at the homes of others.

The fact is that wiping your feet will not remove all the dreadful stuff that your shoes pick up. You may try to be careful what you step in, but a lot of the worst things, like lead or weed killer is unseen.



Other people may feel that removing their shoes makes them feel childish. They do not feel terribly grown up skipping around a house in their bare feet or padding in their socks. What I would say to those people is that they should bear in mind that in many cultures, going shoeless indoors is the norm. In Japan or Sweden, nobody thinks it childish to be in socks or bare feet. There are plenty of situations in the UK where adults will be without shoes; such as on the beach or in a Yoga class. I suggest that when they visit shoeless homes, they ought to bring some slippers to wear.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cancer Slayer: No Shoes In The House

Cancer Slayer: No Shoes In The House

'Now, it grosses me out to think of what I may be bringing home, something many before me must’ve considered before banning footwear in their houses, too — people like my sometimes employer, domestic goddess Martha Stewart (not to mention the millions of folks who live in parts of East Asia). I’m a little late to the game, I know. But now I get it.

And I’m going to make Martha proud. Near my front door, I plan to set up a boot tray for shoes. And next to it will be a pretty swing-handle basket filled with fresh slippers for all my guests.'

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Egyptian Gods

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Following the post 'Elegantly Barefoot,' we must not forget that the gods of ancient Egypt were always portrayed barefoot.

The ancient Egyptians were so enlightened that they saw nothing odd about Pharaohs, queens or noblemen being shoeless in public. Contrary to any movies you might have seen, even if they did star Charlton Heston.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Daily Telegraph: Homeowner's victory in compensation fight over 'cowboy' builder accident

Daily Telegraph: Homeowner's victory in compensation fight over 'cowboy' builder accident

I am glad the lady won this case. An Englishman's home is his castle and we have the right to refuse access to our homes if we want. Still, if she wanted to protect her carpet she could have asked him to remove his boots while walking through the house. Shame they did not reach that compromise for whatever reason.

Elegantly Barefoot

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I want to challenge the notion that being bare foot should be associated with informality, poverty, tackiness or 'rednecks.'

The great artists of the past loved to paint the human form and they welcomed the challenge of painting the naked human foot. They have left us with many images of people who are barefoot, yet still possessing grace and elegance.

This blog's header image, The Golden Stairs, by Edward Burne Jones is a good example of this, but here are some more:
















Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lead

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You might think that with cars having catalytic converters, lead on the ground would not be much of a risk. However, cars had been belting out leaded petrol for years.

Lead does not biodegrage, decay or dissipate. Furthermore it gets absorbed by soil. It is not just cars that have introduced lead into our environment, lead paint, debris from demolished buildings and various industrial activities have deposited lead onto the ground in urban locations.

Lead can be introduced into homes on peoples' shoes through soil and dust. This creates a serious risk of exposure, particularly for children. Potential risks of lead exposure include brain damage, behaviour changes, slowed growth, poor mental and educational development and hearing problems and seizures.

Having a shoe-free home can considerably reduce the risk of lead exposure.

Sole Truth About Those Soles

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Recipricocity

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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 send a signal that it is okay for those who do.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"It's Better With Your Shoes Off" by Anne Cleveland (1955)



In 1955, Anne Cleveland wrote a classic comic book about life in Japan from an American perspective. The books illustrates the life of an expatriate couple, Mr and Mrs West who are in semi-permanent residence in Japan. An amusingly satirical work, this book introduced Japanese culture to many who knew nothing of the country.