Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Thursday 8 January 2009

Shoe tree mystery solved!

The £265,000 National Lottery funded project to investigate a tree full of shoes is causing much righteous indignation in Middle England.

A project spokeswoman described the practice of hanging paired shoes in the tree as 'an absolute mystery'. In fact, a quick trawl through Wikipedia offers a plethora of alleged reasons for shoes in trees, ranging from passing-out rituals for local squaddies to drug dens or gang murders, with a short detour into the occult (the departed need them for trips back home, apparently).

Other suggestions include a (very) public declaration of the loss of virginity or a celebration of marriage; the fact that shoes laced together have pleasing aerodynamic properties and you can get home without them (if comfortably intoxicated) makes them eminently suitable for the purpose. Using Wikipedia alone, the research team had enough possibilities to keep them busy for years, with the option of some nice field trips to the various (usually hot and sunny) locations round the world where similar trees are to be found.

The one explanation missing is the most obvious, at least to anyone who has observed the behaviour of human beings en masse (ever watched people at a conference deciding where to put their empty coffee cups?). The desire to conform is hard-wired into our brains at such a basic level that, as long as there are shoes there, other people will add more. The only shoes with a unique human purpose are the first pair put there in the 70's; all the rest belong to sheep.

Now can I have my £265,000 please?

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