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Prince Charming – a gombeen with a foot fetish

The Conjurer  Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) Musée Municipal, Saint-Germain-en-Laye

The Conjurer
Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516)
Musée Municipal, Saint-Germain-en-Laye
There were fourteen steps on our stairs at home. Not nearly enough. Apart from that they were made of wood. Mother had them covered with lino, with little brass rails between each step to stop the lino from moving. We’d have to take it in turns sweeping them and polishing those feckin rails every Saturday. I hated doing it because took forever. There always seem to be a lot more than fourteen of them when you were at it too. ‘Twas like magic. You’d think you were nearly done so you’d sit back on a step and check your progress. That was always a fatal mistake because you’d learn pretty quick that you hadn’t even reached the half way mark. Adding to the misery was the glow of sunshine filtering beneath the front door to touch the bottom step, as if to show you what you were missing and the amount of dirt you had yet to clean.
The stairs were out of bounds anyhow. Big time. Not because they, like every other stairs invented, were potentially dangerous. In point of fact if we came down on our heads an eyebrow would scarcely be raised. We could run in roaring to Mother rubbing the offended part and she would say,
“And whose fault is that? The stairs didn’t jump up and bite you”.
No. Injury wasn’t an issue when it came to playing on the stairs. It was the noise of four sets of leather boots, clomping up and down at various speeds and levels of excitement that sent her over the top. You’d be skinned alive. Our stairs were most definitely out of the equation.

I had to make do with the back door.
There was only one step up to our back door. It was stone and let me tell you it was well worn. There was no possibility of working up a decent speed to compensate for the lack of steps either. If I ran through the kitchen I’ve have got a boot up the arse that would have sent me flying out the back door on my head. No one ran in our kitchen. Another rule. I had only two strides, from the sink to the doorframe in which to gather speed. That was far enough away from anyone to avoid getting a clout and close enough to the door if they got up to do it.
Even with the door sorted, it still wasn’t plain sailing. Cinderella galloped out of a ballroom, with lots of huge windows and most importantly, wide doors. They had to have them in those days so their dresses would fit through. You’d be stuck tight in our door if you tried that in a ballgown, even if you went sideways. Oh yes, Cinderella had a clear run. Ballgown or no ballgown I had no such luck.
Our back door was pretty standard in size and, most importantly; it was the door we all used. Occasionally the front door would be opened to let in someone, but they were either the priest, the doctor or a yank from America, so it didn’t get opened often.
We had a Yank once. Mother drank sherry and sang. ‘Twas most odd.
Anyway, because we only used the back door, except for state occasions, traffic was an issue and it got pretty congested around teatime. I had to gauge my runs, my shoe drops and my reruns. T’wasn’t easy.
The only real thing going in my favour was the time of year. It was summer. Our back door was always open then, to let in the fresh air. Were it winter, the door would have been closed and that would have brought a whole new series of problems with it.

Nonetheless, I suffered for science that day.
Mother caught me two fine smacks across the legs with the teatowel when I nearly levelled her coming in with the eggs.
Minnie our cat nearly took the back of my calf off with her nails and teeth when I ran across her tail.
Daddy roared at me for upsetting Mother and the cat and threatened to lock me out entirely. He told me I could “sleep in the shed with the feckin’ cows and a tanned arse to keep me warm”, he said.
But I persisted, only stopping when John John decided to start using me for target practice as I went in and out the door. He was two years older than I was and he had a mighty aim.
What’s worse, because of all the trouble I’d caused I couldn’t even gripe about him.
He knew that too, the fecker.
Anyway, bruised and damn near broken, I finally completed my tests. At the end of the day my shoes always bounced a bit. No matter how fast or slow I went, no matter how carefully I tried to run out of them, they never rested on the step right. Every single time they would wobble and fall, frontways, sideways and backways, straight into the back yard. Every single time they met with concrete, and they were leather. The glass shoe hadn’t a hope of surviving.
That made me seriously doubt the facts of the story.
There were other holes in the tale. Some were glaring. For instance, wasn’t that prince awful sure of himself when he went out about town with the glass slipper? He tried it on all and sundry. Every girl in the parish got a shot at it. It didn’t even matter if he had never even seen them before. You might just be in town for the day and you’d get a go. With those odds six girls in the same parish could have had the same size feet as Cinderella.
How did he know they didn’t? He was winging it if you ask me, and stupid to boot.
What if it fitted more than one girl?
He might have to marry three or four of them – and that’s a sin.
You could be jailed for that sort of nonsense.
And here’s another point worth considering. His goose would have been rightly cooked if the shoe fitted one of the ugly sisters.
That wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility. If one of them thought to put a dash of talcum powder into the shoe it might well have popped on and looked the part. He’d have to marry her. And where would he have been then? I’ll tell you where. Waking up every morning to an auld badger with a bad attitude that would strike the fear of God into any man.
Mind you, he was safe enough in that respect. The ugly sisters were far from bright. Talcum powder didn’t cross their minds. No. Instead, one of the gombeens went and cut off her toes to make the shoe fit. What was she thinking? As if the prince wouldn’t notice a shoe full of blood and spare toes lying around the floor, with no foot attached to them. I hope they gave that shoe a good wash before the next poor girl tried it out.
And did he ever think that shoe could have fitted a small man! There you go now.
Didn’t think of that, did he?
That would have added another string to his bow for sure.
That prince was a right clown and ‘twas only luck that made his happy ever after. If I was Cinderella I’d have given him a wide berth and gone looking for ‘Sleeping Beauty’s’ prince instead.
Oh yes, ‘Sleeping Beauty’s’ lad was the man for me. He was willing to go the distance, to fight his way into an enchanted forest and risk life and limb for the girl of his dreams. He was a meat and potatoes man. A real man.
Not a gombeen with a foot fetish.
Furthermore, if the damn shoe fell off, it clearly didn’t fit her in the first place.


About The Burren and Beyond



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