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The good, the bad and the plain old tired . . .

I'M just finishing a stern conversation with myself in our local supermarket in which I tell myself aloud, to the bewilderment of nearby shoppers, that I am, in fact, "Clint Eastwood in comfortable shoes".

Next, I storm out, coat flapping behind me like a cape, in to the middle of the street, where I promptly flag down and attempt to hijack a family car full of someone else's panicked children.

If this were America, I can't help thinking, this would be where it all goes into slow motion and I am shot six times by a passing patrol officer.

Being Ireland, however, the assumption is that I am either mad or inebriated. I am both sober and sane, simply tired and irritated.

In fact, this entire situation, I decide, is my wife's fault.

Cue the wavy lines as we flashback several days to where I'm sitting in the kitchen, moaning about not having any shoes that aren't falling apart.

To illustrate this, I hold up one and stick a finger through a hole in it.


"Honestly," says my wife. "You REALLY need me to hold your hand all the way to the shoe shop?"

"No," I pout, adding sheepishly, "Just your bank card would do."

She actually drops me to the local sports shop, as there's no shoe shop for men within reasonable driving distance.

Normally, I go for black cowboy boots, terribly uncomfortable things that look cool and make me feel a bit like Clint Eastwood.

Inside the shop, I peruse the display, mostly trainers for women. An assistant appears.

"This is the men's section," she shows me, gesturing to where my eyes are instantly transfixed with horror on some sort of pointy, fluorescent- yellow, shiny leather, science-fiction clown's shoe with a series of velcro straps.

"Those," reveals the clerk, "are football boots."

"Really," I stutter, flummoxed. "Have you got anything in black? For walking," I say, adding impulsively: "Something comfortable."

She returns with a pair of lace-up, ankle high, climbing boots, in a kind of chocolate brown.

"Strolling shoes," she corrects me, holding them up for me to see: "In 'mocha'."

"Mocha," I repeat tonelessly. "Strolling shoes."

And we stand there, two microbes on a tiny blue marble spinning in space, lost amid the spiral arm of a galaxy expanding silently and slowly through a vast and empty universe.

I think to myself: "Mocha strolling shoes? Is this what my life has come to?"

"Only €45," she chirrups.

"I'll wear them home," I say dryly.

Fast forward a few days again to where I'm standing in my local supermarket trying to convince myself that I'm not a knob.

Look, that's me – there, by the magazine rack, hiding behind a copy of Mojo and muttering about Clint Eastwood while other shoppers look at me like I'm a lunatic.

Now rewind just a bit, that's it – I'm walking backwards, fast motion, in very comfortable-looking shoes it must be said, to the little office that my wife and I rent for work.

Backwards through the door, a little more, upstairs. Now freeze-frame, just as my wife is leaving – 'play'.

". . .to the supermarket," she says, "because I have to be at the collection for 6.30pm." And she leaves.

"What?" I call after her. But she's gone.

I work a little longer, close up and lumber off to said supermarket where I wander around looking for her, ending up at the checkout as lines of people wait to pay, and I stand there in my sensible shoes, looking lost.

"Okay there love?" calls a checkout lady. I look around, point at myself and mouth: 'Me?'

"She was here," she yells to me, making everyone look. "But she's gone home to make your tea, love."

A toddler points at me, one finger up its nose. I've never felt less 'Clint Eastwood', more a sort of middle-age Victor Meldrew.

"No," I stutter. "Me? Hah! No, no. I was just looking . . ." and I stumble to the magazine rack and fumble through something before fleeing outside.


With a great relief, I see our distinctively crap, five-seat Alhambra idling at the lights and step out in front of it with one hand raised, mime an exaggerated shrug as I squint through the windshield, then go around and tug at the door, which is locked.

"Oh, come on!" I mutter and peer in to where the driver, a young man, appears to be stabbing a phone furiously now as two children in the back tremble on the verge of tears.

"Sorry," I mouth silently. "Hah-hah! Wr-ong c-ar."

I call home. "Oh," says my wife. "I told you, I was just calling in to the supermarket before doing the collection from guitar lessons."

"I thought you'd abandoned me," I say.

"The thought has crossed my mind more than once," she says.

When she picks me up, I tell her what happened. "I think that's what they call a bit of a 'senior' moment," she chuckles. "It's slippers and meals on wheels next," she grins.

"Clint wouldn't put up with this," I mutter.

"What's that?" she laughs.

"I say I'm sure this is entirely your fault, you know," I tell her. "I just haven't figured out how."