I generally maintain a Japanese attitude towards shoes in the house: it is incorrect. I am not the only person I know who does this, especially in London. One of my bessie-mates who now lives in Barcelona (and still insists on shoes being taken off before entering a bedroom) had the same rule at his London flat. Enter house, shoes off. This is due in part – in most part – to the fact that the filth that covers the streets of London probably still harbours vestiges of the plague. I kid you not. You’ll see what I mean if you wander around Hoxton or Shoreditch of a Friday or Saturday evening. Coming home with vomit on one’s shoes – not one’s own vomit – is pretty much par for the course.
I insisted upon this rule at the last flat I lived in up in Glasgow and though my flatmate thought this was taking things a bit far, she agreed. She would take off her shoes in her room, thus the hallway was the only place where shoes were worn. She mocked me, until she came home after unknowingly having stepped in dog shit and tracked it all over the hallway carpet and into her bedroom.
I do this at The Mom’s too, though I am the only one. It is partly because I know what filth lies on the soles of my shoes and partly because I don’t like wearing shoes. Flip flops I’m fine with, but anything else and they get left at the door.
The Mom’s new American neighbours commented upon this and asked if this was just the Canadian way of doing things. I believe The Mom made a comment along the lines of, “No, it’s just a Gill thing.” And promptly proceeded to walk into their house with her shoes on.
This has always seemed incredibly rude to me. I don’t know why but it just has. Though I know most people don’t mind and even look at me as though I’m slightly crazy or have just returned from several years abroad in Japan.
But recently I was invited to a housewarming party for an Australian colleague. Actually, she runs the shop, so you know, I felt it behooved me to make a good impression. I swear, I had The Mom’s voice in the back of my head as I enquired, the day before, what other people were bringing as far as house-warming gifts went. The answer was nothing. Which I – don’t worry – ignored. I rallied some other colleagues and on the way to her new home we picked up a suitably nice bottle of champers. Boss or not, you just don’t turn up empty-handed. The Mom’s training has worked. Scary thought, and yet.
We rocked up and found the house to be covered in fluffy white carpets. Who does that? It’s just madness. And there, along the wall of the entrance corridor were everyone’s shoes and boots, nicely lined up. Now, I am normally the first person, as I mentioned, to take off my shoes or boots but the problem on this occasion was that the tights I was featuring were old, as all my tights are as I’ve simply no time, money or inclination to go and buy more – riddled with holes. Two holes on each foot, and several more in the thigh area but all were covered by my dress (yes, it was a party and I wore a dress because that’s what one does – at least in London, things would appear to be different out here in the countryside of Bristol). I thought I would be okay.
But then with everyone else having taken off their shoes, I felt this would not be the best moment to let my erstwhile boss know that I march to all of the different drummers. I love thwarting convention and authority – preferably at the same time – but I suspected a party was not the best place.
I asked my hostess if she would mind if I kept my shoes on, and, as she was wearing hers, she shrugged and said she didn’t mind one way or the other. Suited me, so I just wiped my boots thoroughly and carried on.
When I regaled The Mom with this woe begotten tale she was visibly pleased.
“You see!” she screeched down the internet. “It’s just weird to take off your shoes at a party!”
I don’t know if I’d go with weird, but certainly unwise.