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All dressed up - Nowhere to go

Sat at the table, with Prince in his throne, I could see him eying up my new boots. Distracted by an issue that my mother was having with her new mobile, I was unable to interact, and although I could sense a tension, he just sat there patiently waiting for me to finish. Unlike his usual self, who might have made his presence known by tutting or huffing until he had your attention, this time he just gazed down at my feet with a grin on his face.

Moments later, unfixed from my duty to this technical hitch, I engaged his stare. Don’t look at these boots like that, they’ll never fit you, I said jokingly. He raised an eyebrow, and gave one shake of his head, like that thing we do when we wink at someone, a sort of nod of approval but in the wrong direction, and then he looked down again. So if you'r not interested in the boots, what is it then, and why do you have that grin on your face? I asked him. That’s when he said, with a slight hesitance but with a look of genuine interest, “Do you like swimming?” he said. Swimming? I thought to my self. I knew what was coming. I scanned his expression, thinking of every conceivable answer that he was expecting, and why, and before I could give him an answer, he said, “you must like swimming”. Yeah, why’s that then? I said. And Bang, just like that I was a fly in his trap. “With the size of those fucking feet you should be a professional at it. You could swim the channel easy with those. You wouldn’t need flippers to go scuba-diving, you’d do alright with those fucking trâd (feet) as they are”. I had been caught hook line and sinker. But, being no stranger to the odd bit of piss-take, we both had a laugh.

As I looked back at my feet, removed from the notion that my feet have always been a source of entertainment, it got me thinking, and I could hear the wise words of Billy Connolly, who once said, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that who cares?… He’s a mile away and you’ve got his shoes!” Just over twenty years ago I walked many a mile in Prince’s shoes, literally, to and fro Gwernllwyn (the local nightclub); low cut tanned leather boots that looked exactly like the ones I was wearing now. I was fifteen back then, and I didn’t have my own shoes except for school shoes, and Nike air Trainers, and you couldn’t get into the night club without them, so I would have to borrow a pair from Prince.

Just imagine, the only obstacle that stood in the way of a fifteen-year-old teenager and the luxuries of an adult nightlife, was a pair of boots. I could have all the fake ID’s in the world, but without a pair of shoes or boots, I would be rendered friendless as my booted companions hit the nightlife. And I wasn’t about to sit in the Legion (a pub in the next village) alone drinking Whisky, just because the landlord couldn’t risk serving us pints of larger in case the local Bobby walked in. No bloody way.

I felt like the bees knees walking into that club. Wearing cream chinos, a paisley shirt, leather jacket, and Princes’ tanned boots. I might have looked a right tit thinking back, but I was fifteen, in a nightclub on a Saturday night. This was a win-win situation, and although my father’s boots were crippling my toes to the point that it added a limp to my walk, in this moment, I was cool as fuck.

Stranger than the idea that I was now wearing boots that were identical to boots that my father sported in the 80s and 90s, like nodes of future/past, was the fact that these boots are the only wardrobe item I have ever borrowed from my father. Never have I borrowed a shirt, or a jacket, I don’t think I have even borrowed a belt. This got me thinking, and that’s when I remembered my father’s suits. I had definitely never borrowed a suit. I’m not sure if that is the kind of think you borrow. But some things you just know. Prince would lend you the shirt off his back, or the shoes off his feet, but I’m pretty sure if you asked him to lend a suit, he’d tell you to go and fuck yourself.

With less of an obsession in the clothing department besides jackets, my father does not have a great collection of clothes or shoes, but he does have three suits in three colours. Brown, black, and navy blue, and cut like a diamond. One of these is a designer suite, which I remember him informing us, had been tailor made and come all the way from London, as he suited up in the mirror to check its fit. It's funny how those things stay with you, but it is a rare occasion to see Prince wear anything but his blue jeans and trademark jackets.

“I took a walk up by the reservoir once, and there was Dwarfy (Senior) standing next to a cement mixer outside an old dilapidated building. He asked if I’d seen the Postman on my travels, to which I said, no. When I asked him why, he told me that he was waiting for a delivery. “But there’s no one living here”, I told him, and he said, “Yes, but the Postman doesn’t know that, see”. In the same breath he said, “Hey Prince, do you know anyone that’s after a washing machine, or a suit? I’ve got a cracker of a suit that would fit you like a glove, Armani”. Fuck off, I told him. Now, there’s a star for you. By the time these companies caught on to his game, the mixer was set up somewhere else. New street. New postman”. Prince   

A couple of years back, walking through my parents Kitchen, I could see my father across the room sat at the dining room table, cross-legged, arms folded and dressed sharp as a button in a cut navy single-breasted suit, white shirt and black tie. I hadn’t seen Bond dress this sharp. This was something of a rarity. Someone normally had to die before Prince donned a suit, so I expected the worse.

Everything alright dad? I said, to which he replied with a simple, “yeah”, without lifting his head from its hanged position, staring at the ground. So what’s with the suit then, has anything happened? I said, to which he replied, again with a simple “nope”, lifting his head to light the half smoked roll-up that hung from the corner of his mouth. At this point, I was becoming a little worried. What could have happened that he was sat like this, was he in shock I wondered. Then my mother walked in all calm and said, “Look at him, fucking Wally”.

“Your mother said I can’t go anywhere now. We’ve got visitors coming, see. So I thought I’d make an effort, and put my suit on. For fuck sakes, we’ve got to try see, we can’t leave people down, here”. Prince

It turned out my father had planned to go to the club for a couple of pints, and now his plans had been spoiled. So in many respects, this was a grave moment. Some might think that this was Prince acting out in protest. I like to think that this was indeed a funeral, a funeral for his pride, and that, most certainly required more than his everyday clad.

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