Shamrocks by Irene Davila Unsplash
As a child, and quite a young child, I was, briefly, a leprechaun.
I cannot say I was employed as a leprechaun, as such, though I did have management and there was a certain amount of unspoken contractual obligation involved – for me at least. For instance, there was quite a rigid dress code attached to this position.
It was agreed in advance that my work uniform must be convincing and in pursuit authenticity I was kitted out in my own woolly red tights, a large black belt, a pair of oversized boy’s boots, a bright green cardigan of indeterminate ownership, an old black felt hat belonging to my grandmother and a rabbit-pelt beard – belonging to a recently snared rabbit.
This particular accessory was smelly and itchy. To prevent it travelling half way round my head every time I looked left or right it was fastened very tightly around my face and head with old box twine that ran under the hat.
In addition to my wardrobe, I had three tools of the trade, so to speak. These were: a little ornate silver boot borrowed from the living room mantelpiece in our house, a small tin shortbread box, which now contained buttons that jangled around inside and which I had to keep tucked under my arm in the manner of leprechauns with money boxes, and a small hammer taken from the very-close-to-real woodwork set my manager, who also double-jobbed as my brother, had recently acquired.
My hours of work were flexible in the extreme and dependent on the presence of U.S. citizens touring the locality in air-conditioned coaches – quite common once upon a time in the west of Ireland.
This niche marketing opportunity was happened on quite by accident when my manager, came tumbling out of roadside brambles, where he’d been picking and eating early-summer wild strawberries, and into the path of just such a vehicle.
The driver jammed on, the occupants piled out and, after much checking and double-checking of his wellbeing, he became the focus of an impromptu photo session.
The subsequent whip around yielded a goodish number of one and five-dollar notes, or bills as our American relatives insisted on calling their adopted currency. In addition there was a very respectable amount of change in the local currency and a small amount of U.S. change – nickels and dimes, my New York aunt said later.
For all I know this loose U.S. change may still lie in the ornamental bowl in the back of the china cupboard where it was abandoned after all attempts to turn it into useful, spendable, local currency failed. As children with a good smattering of aunts and uncles making their living overseas we were familiar with foreign exchange markets well before such things were truly fashionable or profitable on this side of the Atlantic.
And before the coach had disappeared over the brow of the next hill my manager-to-be had brushed himself down and calculated the true potential of his experience.
Of course, tumbling out of brambles dressed in everyday mufti might have succeeded very well on an ongoing basis to part tourists from their money just by the sheer cuteness of it all. But he was not big on cuteness, this brother, well not his own in any case.
So a combination of boredom, imagination, naivety, my place near the bottom in the social order of my family, the recently deceased rabbit and trusting parents all conspired to put me, at odd times that summer, on a corner of the road a little way from our home dressed as described, hammering the little silver shoe with the little close-to-real hammer, the little box of button-money by my side, waiting for the next coachful of tourists to appear on the horizon.
It all ended unspectacularly when, on day three of my employment, a neighbour, driving home at an easy country speed from the local village, spotted me in position and took me home. He persuaded me there probably wouldn’t be any coach tours that day.
In any case, the day was warm, my beard was bothering me, and I was hot and a little tearful that my manager seemed to have forgotten my mid-morning break. My mother greeted my odd apparel with barely raised eyebrows, repossessed the little silver boot and told my brother the little close-to-real hammer was not a toy. There was no debate.