Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: First Footing

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  • Kerry Weston,

    Ha! Love it.

    You can stay. Mental masticators, eh?

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    As my nephews learned the hard way yesterday, cleaning hot tar off their soles before it's tracked onto carpets means either eucalyptus oil or in its absence, petrol.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19743 posts Report Reply

  • G P,

    The soft tar of the supermarket carpark on a hot day is one of summer's pleasures.

    I wanted to write a little more of the barefoot theme which was at the heart of Emma's original entry.

    Whilst I went through schooling - primary, secondary and tertiary as an occasional barefooter, it wasn't really until I discovered the Society for Barefoot Living on the net, that I began to abandon shoes on a more regular basis. The passage of years has also helped me to realise that you are a long time dead, that generally we do not know when our lives will cease, and that continuing to march to the beat of the drum of society's expectations is stealing from ourselves our opportunity to be unique individuals.
    It took me about 22 years at work for the same company to get to the stage where I felt I could break out of the regular office dress code expectation, and after some time of small barefoot steps forward, I will now only wear shoes when meeting external visitors. I feel fortunate that at work this eccentricity of mine is not questioned.
    I go barefoot because I like it and I can. It is physiologically and psychologically strengthening. My teenage daughter's friends classify me as weird but in a cool kind of way. I can live with that.
    I am continually putting myself into situations where barefooting is not the norm, e.g turning up at College BOT meetings unshod, In general most times and places I choose to go barefoot, whilst is there is the occasional sideways glance and more rarely a rude comment, mostly there is acceptance of difference.
    I do have occasional problems with members of the shoe police, having one such encounter at a cinema recently. Even when donning a pair of "emergency socks" that I happened to have in my pockets, the cinema ticket girl was not going to let me join my wife and daughter. Socks were not deemed to be sufficiently robust footwear to guard against the risk posed by broken glass that might lurk within the cinema's carpet. My offer to waive all liability was fruitless. It was only after some prolonged negotiation with the ticket collector's supervisor that I was allowed in, on the basis that I promised never to show up barefoot again. Of course when I got to my seat, the socks came off - and as for my promise - well I'm not sure a promise made under duress counts for much.
    Now if I conclude with a butchered quotation, I hope I can be forgiven: "Free your soles and your mind will follow"

    Papakura • Since Jan 2009 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • G P,

    @steven: well I'm more than happy to continue the thread - as long as I'm alive and kicking.
    Within the Society for barefoot living mail list, New Zealand is often held up as a near paradise for barefooters. Why is this?
    I think a large part of the answer lies within geography. The land shapes us in many ways. This country being long and narrow, boasts plenty of coast. Coastal areas tend to be more relaxed, welcoming to barefooters.
    The small size of the country and its position on the globe produce a relatively mild climate; temperatures not too hot (well maybe in Canterbury this week) and not too cold are more conducive to a barefoot lifestyle than a country with temperature extremes at either end.
    Our island status has helped to shield us from some of the nasties across the ditch - dangerous life in the undergrowth - not to mention the reptiles.
    Has the mildness of the climate also rubbed off psychologically on this country's inhabitants, in that the population tends toward the mild and tolerant? ( I may be laying myself wide open for argument here)
    Geographic isolation also contributed perhaps to delay colonisation; could later colonisers have brought a more egalitarian bent with them, such that today bare feet do not carry the notion of a lower class, a notion which might falsely affect the minds of some in the U.S.A.

    Am I loading too much on to my geographic argument?

    Papakura • Since Jan 2009 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Am I loading too much on to my geographic argument?

    No, I don't think so. That lack of dangerous wildlife thing is a factor (I spent a couple of summers in Oz as a kid) and also it almost never gets too hot to not wear shoes in summer. I've been reminded of this because the last two days it did, and the asphalt was burny.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • G P,

    There might also be a strong cultural component, that a result of our Polynesian, british aristocratic blacksheeps partnerships.

    I'm sure that Steven is correct, that the acceptance of barefooting in society in New Zealand is the result of the interplay between cultural, and geographic influences.

    shoelessness is more predominant in northland than any other part of New Zealand

    I recall, about 8 years ago, a piece that ran at the end of the news during summer, which sought to establish Whangarei as the barefoot capital of New Zealand. The reporter with her camera man had located several barefoot Whangarei locals and interviewed them as to their motivation.
    I remember one woman saying that "you see more and more quite respectable people barefoot in the street these days" - or words to that effect. Another advanced a number of reasons for her barefooting, including her desire to have a closer spiritual connection to the earth (and then laughed, saying : "Did I really say that?").
    The last interviewee, possibly a member of the Ngapuhi population referred to by Steven, simply responded "I don't own any shoes".

    Is Whangarei indeed the barefoot capital of New Zealand?
    Who are the other pretenders to this throne? I'd suggest that Nelson could be a starter, based on recent holiday experience. And if the net were to be cast wider to include settlements smaller in scale, then Takaka would give many others a run for their money.
    Here we see the irresistable combination of climate and an artistic/hippie culture.

    Papakura • Since Jan 2009 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Shudder. How on earth does that work?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19743 posts Report Reply

  • G P,

    Sacha, you can't see the look on the guy's face!

    That's a bit extreme for me, though useful perhaps for demonstrating to OSH/shoe police in cinemas that my going barefoot in their cinema is not really going to cause a problem. (Though I have to say I have had major problems at only two cinemas - Sky City in Queen St, Auck; and Berkeley's at Botany Town Centre, Auck)

    I do step on the occasional bit of glass on the footpath, and sometimes it's more than a day before I can dig it out. Once I was doing a 10km fun/run as a walker, and trod on a sliver which stayed in my foot. I could of course have stopped, pulled the glass out, then carried on. But because I'm stubborn, competitive, and don't want to be told " see, you should have been wearing shoes", I carried on for the second half of the event with this painful sliver. I got it out eventually about 2 weeks later.
    I think some of the glass I've walked on over the years must still be in my feet; at my funeral, they will need to have a sign; fragile, this way up.

    Some of the streets in the neighbourhood where I live are quite atrocious for the amount of broken glass on the footpaths. I may be slightly nuts for walking barefoot on them, but it's the people that smash their bottles who are really a sandwich short of a picnic.

    I was out walking with my fellow racewalkers one Sunday morning along the old Mangere Bridge, warming up before an event, when a shod guy stopped me, with a " way to go, bare feet" encouragement, adding he was normally barefoot himself, but then he showed my hit photo album of stacks of glass bottles. He tours around the countryside, living in his car I think, visiting prime tourist and natural beauty spots, and scenic reserves. He then gathers up all the discarded glass bottles that are lying about, puts them in neatly in a huge stack, and photographs them.
    He is campaigning for a 10 cent refund scheme for glass bottles in the hope that they will not be left casually lying around. Former Minister Chris Carter had not been responsive, neither were the NZ Herald's "Green Pages".

    Papakura • Since Jan 2009 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    G P, that bloke is on to something-if it was even a 5c refund for any kind of glass bottle, you'd have kids collecting them, avidly.

    Trouble is, recycling glass is going down the gurgler.

    Anybbody got positive suggestions here?

    (Local recycle centres here in faroff neverneverland are under deep threat.)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Wolfmaan,

    I love your story!

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post it! I am a barefooter and like yourself wear shoes only occasionally.

    Sadly, I live in a northern country and am required by self-serving, prejudice social morals to wear shoes in cold weather.

    You are in inspiration to us all!

    Canada • Since Jan 2010 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Vincent van Dam,

    did you get your roman sandals? quite partial to them myself, love 'em.

    Oz • Since Aug 2010 • 1 posts Report Reply

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