2 December 2021

A mile in their pompes


 "If you walk a mile in my shoes you'll end up in a wine bar!"
@WineWankers on Twitter

"Walk a mile in her shoes and you'll get champignons des pieds!"
 Waiter at local café on a customer taking up three booth spaces 
 
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Paris is a walking city, and cordonneries - shoe repair shops - abound. Come winter, expect to get in line behind a crush of shivering customers waiting to drop off that favorite pair of boots that's trod cobbled byways, sometimes for decades.

My husband recounts the days his father would meticulously shine his "pompes" - slang for shoes for both men and women - many an evening, preparing them for the office the next day as he proudly pointed out how he's had them going all the way back to business school. Oh there were times they needed new soles or a section had to be re-sewn, but crucially, they were made by hand, lovingly stored upright and supported by wooden shoe trees, year after year, the shine on the leather provoking smiles of approval.

Long ago the term pompes walked its way into the English language to become "pumps" - women's shoes characterized by a pointed toe and slim heel - some speculate a derivative of the 16th and 17th century French pompes worn by men.

There is a French expression, "marcher á coté de ses pompes!" that translates to, "walk next to his shoes!" It means that someone is abnormal, unpredictable, capable of n'importe quoi.

Meanwhile we see pompes funebres all over Paris. These are not shoe shops that specialize in footwear for funerals, as one American woman I met mistakenly surmised, but funeral parlors. Apparently she went inside one only to instantly realize that the man in the gray suit was not there to measure her feet. Or maybe he was. - BPJ

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