Natural law number 395

HOW many shoes do you have? And don’t lie to me.

I know you have a pair you wear to work, something you slap around the house in and maybe two pairs for weekend activities.

Okay, we’ll throw in the thongs for the beach, even though they hardly count as shoes.

That’s five pairs, one of which is on your feet.

Why, then, is there a shoe graveyard in your porch?

It’s another one of life’s natural laws: shoes wake up in the middle of the night and stroll to the porch. They’re meant for walking, after all.

Now that I’ve drawn your attention to it you’ll probably have a clear out.

Don’t waste your time. Unless you burn them — and probably even if you do — they will crawl back, scarred and smelling of feet, uppers separating from soles, like something out of an Elm Street movie.

I have developed sympathy for Imelda Marcos. Admiration, even. I mean, at least she was tidy. She kept them in the wardrobe. And in doing so she kept them in reasonable condition.

I suspect most of us have as many shoes as Imelda, but ours are growing mould and noxious diseases on the porch.

Except that lots of them aren’t ours!

Yesterday I went through the 20 pairs in my porch. Two people live here. Between us we wear the nominal ten pairs of shoes (five each. Not all at the same time, you understand). But of the remaining 10 pairs, we don’t recognise eight of them. This means either they’ve been rotting there a very, very long time (which is a strong possibility), or they’re not ours.

How can that be? We have people over to dinner and they go home in their socks? There’s a family asleep upstairs that we don’t know about?

I don’t know the answer. I don’t think there is one. If you have a solution I’d like to hear it.

I also want to know if it’s a universal problem or just an Australian one. Are English porches littered with brogues and gumboots? Do the Japanese, whose homes are renowned for their elegance and minimalism, have lava flows of old sandals on the step?

I have a sneaky feeling that if you could penetrate the bowels of the Amazon, and find a race of people who had never heard of the wireless, plastic bags, the internal combustion engine or stiletto heels, they would still have a pile of shoes heaped against the walls of their huts.

It’s one of life’s great mysteries, like the rubbish in the third drawer down.

It couldn’t always have been like this. There must have been a time before shoes when there was room on the porch for the dog, or a broom, but I don’t remember it.

I just know I’m losing. I flung all mine in a cardboard box and bunged it in the bin, but — like Arnie Schwarznegger — they’ll be back.

And knowing my luck one of them will have trodden in something unpleasant on its way home.