Posted Mar 21, 2014
For many years, I thought Saint Patrick had achieved his sainthood solely on the strength of services rendered i.e. chasing the snakes out of Ireland. My own brother - the shame of it - was one of those responsible for bringing them back. One anyway, a large python , christened out of sheer spite, Patrick. For the next six months Patrick was used as a method of extortion. 'Hand over those crisps, you little wimp, or Patrick will swallow you whole.' 'I know you got five quid for your birthday - Patrick - oh Paaatrick!' Of course, we handed over our crisps, money, lungs, liver, a couple of corneas, whatever he demanded. Just the look of Patrick was enough to cow us into submission. A little over a metre in length, he was also quite plump, with black, gold and white markings. He would have been quite a handsome creature, were it not for the evil look in his eye. We kids had no difficulty in believing the snake would swallow us whole. He ate live rats and mice- hors d'oeuvres, according to my brother. My younger sister was particularly frightened, not just for herself, but also for her hamster, Wiggy, who had proved adept as an escape artist. And, lo, it came to pass. When both were out for a bit of a constitutional around the house, Wiggy and Patrick bumped into one another with predictable results. That particular meal proved to be the snake's last supper. Found guilty of breaching the house rules by dint of eating my sister's pet, he was issued with his sliding papers. No one was sorry to see him go, except my brother, who lost no time in seeking out a new method of extortion. He grew up to be a lawyer!
With hindsight, I realise that Patrick the Python was much maligned. Our perception of him as evil and a child-swallower was based on my brother's tall and grisly tales. Pythons can, I'm told, make excellent pets. Admittedly, it's not a theory I'm particularly keen to put to the test. As for the Wiggy episode, Patrick was only doing what came natural.