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Andy Kind | Promedian

Andy Kind

In a land far away lived a prince. I should say that he only lived far away from you. To his neighbours, he was only a stone’s throw away. He knew this because his neighbours didn’t like him very much and would often throw stones at him when he was trying to play in the garden.

His home was a fine palace and his velvet pockets were full of golden coins. It meant that everyone could hear him coming from some distance away by all the jingle-jangling he made. This gave his neighbours plenty of time to collect a good selection of stones to pelt at him. Sometimes the prince would throw some of his coins back at his neighbours, but then he was basically paying them a small wage for their cruelty. (This is, of course, the principle upon which most global economies are built).

Do you think the prince was happy? Well he wasn’t. He wanted to marry a princess. He knew a couple of princesses, but they were his sisters and you just can’t go around marrying your sisters.

Lots of pretty girls came to visit him at the palace, but he didn’t like any of them all that much. None of them fitted his idea of what a princess should be, and they were all trying too hard to impress him. One of them wore stilts to make herself look taller (she ended up trapped in a chandelier during a brief tour of the palace, and for all I know is still there.) Another of the girls brought 6 cats with her and never really explained why (one of them disappeared into the cellar after a mouse, and for all I know is still there.) And yet another of the prince’s potential princesses kept trying to do impressions of famous people, but they all sounded the same – like a donkey with a bad cold.

‘This is hopeless!’ the prince complained after one young lady had tried to woo him by juggling flaming torches, but accidentally dropping them and setting fire to a pair of curtains and the King.
‘I want to meet the girl of my dreams.’
You can understand the prince’s wish, can’t you, but saying that you want to meet the person of your dreams is actually a pretty silly thing to say. Perfect people don’t appear in dreams. The people you meet in dreams are weird and creepy and turn into sabre-tooth tigers which then start chasing you.

The prince decided to take matters into his own hands. One night, he jumped onto a white horse and waved goodbye to the King and Queen.
‘Come back!’ shouted the King.
‘I’m going to find the princess of my dreams,’ replied the prince.
‘But that’s not your horse!’ The King called back. The King was renting this horse while his other horse was in the garage. ‘You have your own horse – take him!’
‘My horse is an idiot! I’m taking this one instead.’
‘Will you be back for tea tomorrow?’ asked the Queen. ‘I’m making bolognese and I need to know how much mince I should defrost.’
‘Probably, yes. I shouldn’t think it will take more than a few hours of searching to find a suitable wife.’’
‘Well, just make sure she’s a real princess. And make sure she has no more than two cats!’

The prince travelled a long way, for a year and a day. Before you start worrying, the queen had put the leftover bolognese in the freezer, and so it would just need defrosting for a bit and then sticking in the microwave for 3-4 minutes followed by giving it a stir, then an extra couple of minutes to ensure it was piping hot throughout, then maybe a handful of grated cheese sprinkled on top. So that was the good news. The bad news was that the prince didn’t find a real princess to marry.
‘Did you find your princess?’ asked the King upon his son’s return.
‘No,’ said the prince sadly. ‘I looked everywhere and I’ve had no luck.’
‘You smell incredibly smelly!’ the Queen declared. ‘Have you had a wash in the last year?’ she continued, realising that the prince was wearing exactly the same clothes he went away in (this often happens in fairy tales).
‘Well, no. I’ve been too busy to wash.’
‘Do you mean to tell me you’ve been wearing the same pair of pants for 366 days?’ asked the queen, her eyes widening with horror and her head spinning with the fumes. ‘No wonder you didn’t find a princess – anyone coming within 3 miles of you would be knocked unconscious by the unbearable stench.’
‘I missed you too, Mum,’ said the prince, now feeling rather embarrassed.

That night there was a big storm. The wind blew and the thunder cracked and the lightning spiked down. You know, like in a storm.

The prince sat down to eat with his parents, the King and Queen. The food tasted odd.
‘Is this the bolognese you made the night I went away?’
‘Yes,’ said the Queen. ‘But I’ve added some peas for extra freshness.’
‘It’s delicious,’ the prince lied.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door.
‘I’llllll get ittttt,’ exclaimed the prince, knocking his chair flying in a determined attempt to get away from the ancient meal set before him. He went to open the big oak front door, the sort you find in most palaces. Usually princes have servants to do that sort of thing, but the family had fallen on tough times because the Queen had a habit of buying too many expensive things that they didn’t need. On top of that, the King had needed to replace the horse that the prince had stolen when he went away, and of course there was the new set of curtains to replace the ones which had been set ablaze by the juggling girl. It all adds up, and so the family could no longer afford household servants.

The prince opened the door as rain lashed in from the night and gusts of cold air raced down the wide corridors of the palace. A solitary figure stood in the archway.
‘Who are you?’ asked the prince.
‘I’m a princess,’ said the girl standing at the door. She was rather beautiful, and she didn’t appear to have a whole gang of cats or any stilts with her. This was what they call love at first sight.
‘I cannot believe it,’ said the prince (and he really couldn’t). ‘I’ve spent an entire year travelling round looking for a princess to marry, and the very night I return, the girl of my dreams turns up on my doorstep.’
‘Erm…who said anything about marrying you? I simply want to come in out of the rain.’
The prince continued to look at her, amazed by her beauty.
‘I will surely catch pneumonia if I don’t come in,’ said the princess through chattering teeth.
The prince invited the princess in, failing to ask any of the questions I would be asking in that situation, like ‘Why is a princess travelling alone?’, ‘What on earth were you doing out in that storm, foolish girl?’ and ‘What is your name?!’ I may have seen too many scary films, but I have my suspicions about anyone who appears out of nowhere during a storm and just claims to be a princess without a shred of proof.

The prince and princess sat up late into the stormy night talking, and in fairness to the prince he did finally ask what her name was. Her name was Bridget, but she coughed while pronouncing it and so it sounded to the prince more like ‘Pigeon.’ Rather than embarrass anyone by asking her to repeat something so simple, for the rest of the evening he just called her ‘Your Majesty’ or ‘Miss Princess’. He told her all about the other girls who had tried too hard to impress him, and how he spent a whole year riding around on a stolen horse without finding time for a bath.

‘This girl is the princess of my dreams,’ thought the prince.
‘This guy is really weird and smells terrible,’ thought the princess. ‘And did he just call me Pigeon?’
‘How’s your bolognese?’ the prince asked.
‘It tastes…super old.’
‘It was made the day I left. Today is actually its birthday.’

The King and Queen were secretly watching the pair from behind a stone pillar.
‘I cannot believe it!’ said the Queen. ‘Our only son goes away for a year and a day, and the night he returns he doesn’t even want to spend time with us.’
‘Lower your voice and calm down,’ said the King.
This was in the olden days before Netflix, so people used to entertain themselves by whispering in the shadows a lot more than we would today.
‘I just hope she’s a real princess,’ the King whispered to the Queen.
‘I will find out’, replied the Queen.
‘Oh yes? Will you trace her family lineage on’
‘Oh no. There’s a far more simple way to find out if someone is royalty.’
‘And what’s that?’
‘Put a pea under their mattress and see if it keeps them awake.’
‘Say again?’
‘A pea. I’ve just opened a pack, so it’s ideal.’

The queen went into the guest bedroom, took all the bedding off the bedstead, and laid a pea on the bottom. Then she took twenty mattresses and laid them on the pea, and then twenty another twenty on top of those.
‘What the blazes are you doing?’ thundered the King. ‘And where did you get all these mattresses?!’
‘They were on sale at the market, and so I couldn’t resist – I do love a bargain,’ chimed the queen. ‘I knew they’d come in handy for something, and stacking them on top of a single pea to determine the heritage of a vulnerable young girl in need of our hospitality is the perfect occasion.’
‘You are a raving lunatic!’ cried the King. ‘This is why we have no money! Nobody needs forty beds!!’ And he strode off down the corridor to watch TV. (Obviously, they didn’t have television in those days, so the King just looked at a series of paintings really fast to make it seem like they were moving pictures.)

In the morning, the princess was asked how she slept.
‘Oh, very badly,’ she replied. ‘I have scarcely closed my eyes all night.’
The queen looked excited. ‘Oh really? Was that because you were uncomfortable, as though something hard was digging into your back, something that only a princess would be bothered by?’
‘Erm, no,’ replied the princess. ‘I was sleeping about fifty feet up in the air on a dangerously rocking pile of second-hand mattresses. I spent the entire night terrified of falling asleep in case I rolled off the side and fell to my death.’
‘So you weren’t disturbed by a pea under all those mattresses?’
‘A pea?! Are you insane?! A pea would have been squashed by a picnic blanket, let alone forty beds. I could have died!’
The Queen smiled at this. The girl’s anger proved she was the real deal. Only a princess could be so sensitive.
‘Please don’t be offended – we just wanted to see if you were a real princess.’
‘By forcing me to sleep on a skyscraper made of beds?! You could have just asked to see some ID.’ The princess opened her purse and held out her provisional license to drive a horse. ‘You see? Princess Bridget of Brightlingsea.’
‘Oh, it IS Bridget,’ said the prince. ‘I thought it might be Pigeon.’
‘Nobody is called Pigeon, you silly boy – not even pigeons are actually named Pigeon.’
‘The Brightlingsea family are extremely wealthy!’ beamed the King.Then he said to the Queen, ‘My dear, buy as many mattresses as you like – we are rich once more!’
‘Well,’ the prince said, ‘I’m convinced. ‘You are the princess of my dreams and I shall marry you tomorrow in the wedding of the year!’ The King and Queen cheered.
‘No, you will NOT!’ shrieked the princess. ‘You are all completely bonkers, and I’m leaving immediately. Thank you for your hospitality, but my massive bed had food in it, and the food you gave me to eat last night was nearly as old as I am. You are just lucky that Trip Advisor hasn’t been invented yet.’
‘But what about our wedding?’
‘There is to be no wedding! One day I may well get married, but I will decide when and to whom. Goodbye!’
And she rode off into the morning sun, thinking that there were lots of things to enjoy in life, and not just finding someone to marry.
‘If I ever do get married,’ she said to herself as the birds sang and the streams chattered, ‘I will choose someone based on how well they treat me, and not on how rich they are or whether I tick the right boxes.’

She knew her worth was not based on money or status. And she knew she didn’t need a prince – just someone to love her with all their heart. And that is what a real princess should be like.

The End