Thursday, 19 March 2015

Dogs, chickens and clogs

The lofts of our old farmhouse are floored from end with square terracotta tiles, sometimes called tomettes. The good condition of these tiles and the care with which any gaps between floor and wall were sealed with cement to exclude "nibblers", indicates that the lofts were used to store grain, until quite recently.

Several of them bear the impression of passing feet. When the burden of tiles was off the roof, we could see them much more clearly: -

dog - at a run, followed by variations on a theme of "gerroffit you ..."
Chicken, or chickens

and - a couple of these....

To me, that looks like the print of a clog iron, from the sole of a child sized clog, complete with nails.

You can buy clog irons, British style, from Walkley Clogs, of the Yorkshire town of Mythomroyd, a place we visited with Les Hiboux 2CV group.Traditional dance groups, for example, often dance in clogs, to the ruination of many a good wooden dance floor.

A set of clog irons, complete with nails, as sold by Walkley's
We found a sabot (wooden shoe) hidden in the lofts when we first moved in. The practise of hiding shoes in buildings is well documented here by June Swann. She says that shoes
"are symbols of authority, as in the Old Testament. They are linked with fertility: we still tie them on the back of wedding cars. And they are generally associated with good luck (witness all the holiday souvenirs in the shape of shoes).  But most of all they stand in for the person: it has been a common practise from at least the sixteenth century to at least 1966 to throw an old shoe after people ‘for luck’."
She concludes that a shoe hidden in the roof may be an "I was here" symbol representing the roofer who finished the work, in a sort of topping-out ceremony. I shall have to ask Loic if one of his team would like to hide an old shoe, without telling us where it is!

Our sabot is made of one piece of birch wood, and is a typical farm worker's clog. Here is a description (in French) of the sabot-making process, from the genealogy of the Sousquiers family. Agricultural workers would go to the blacksmith to get a reinforcement for the wooden sole, at toe and heel. For the sole this could be an iron plate in the form of an ogive, following the curve of the shoe. Sometimes these were made from a jam pot lid, held on with round-headed hobnails.
  • Les cultivateurs préféraient du résistant : ils allaient voir le forgeron qui usinait des talons métalliques fixés par trois pointes dans les oreilles de fer. Ces morla emprisonnaient le talon et le garantissaient à la fois de l'usure et de l'éclatement. 
  • Pour la semelle, deux techniques prévalent : une plaquette de fer, en forme d'ogive, ou une tôle récupérée dans une boîte de conserve. La fixation se faisait à l'aide de tachouns (clous) à tête ronde. L'inconvénient de ces ferrures réside dans le fait qu'elles " attrapent " la neige ; il faut interrompre la marche pour dessocar (détacher le bloc de neige).

1 comment:

Jean said...

Fascinating stuff, a little hint at the building's history embedded forever in the tiles!
I dare say you can buy artificially created tiles with pawprints in the very fashionable shabby chic vintage shops which flourish in towns round here, but you certainly can't beat having the real thing.