I was wandering through Armstrong Park in Newcastle the other day, when I came upon an unusual sight. In a small clearing there were three or four trees, each littered with hundreds of pairs of shoes.
A small board in front of the trees, placed there by the council, raised more questions than it answered. It seems that nobody knows how it got started, or what exactly the point is.
I stopped and gawped for a couple of minutes, along with a few passers-by, before capturing a couple of washed out snaps with my iPhone’s camera.
When I got home I did some research and found that there are 26 of these trees in the US alone, and unknown numbers all around the world.
Is it the same madman who travels the planet, planting the seeds of this odd ritual, I wondered, or is there some distant evolutionary reason for this odd behaviour?
I also found that there’s a novel in which the Heaton Shoe Tree(s) plays a central character. It’s called The Taxi Driver’s Daughter, and it was written by the late Julia Darling, who Robyn Hitchcock mentioned was a close friend when I interviewed him a couple of weeks ago.
The tree – and the coincidence – is all weird enough, but the oddest thing of all is that I wore through a pair of shoes last week, and now I want to throw them in the tree…
I still have no idea how it got started, but at least I understand how it keeps going.