Monday 24 July 2017

Charlie Savage: 'I'm stuck shopping with the daughter and I'm terrified'

Roddy Doyle introduces his latest character, Charlie Savage: featuring the misadventures and mishaps of a conflicted man in an ever-changing world.

Roddy Doyle column
Illustration by Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle column Illustration by Ben Hickey

Roddy Doyle

I’m heading into town with the daughter. Normally, this would be grand. We’d have a wander and a laugh and maybe a drink on the way home. But this is different. I have to buy clothes. The wife used to come with me but she slapped an embargo on it the last time, about two years ago - maybe three years.

-Never again, she said, when I told her that the shirt she’d said was perfect made me look like Mary Tyler Moore. I’d forgotten all about that. But she hasn’t. It was what she called the second-last straw.

Anyway.

I hate clothes.

I could look at a jumper for days and still not know if it’s the one for me – or even if it’s defintely a jumper. So the daughter has agreed to come with me.

-Grand, so, she says. -I’ll be your fashion consultant.

-I’m only buying a pair of jeans and a couple of shirts, I tell her.

-There’s no such word as ‘only’, Dad, she says. –Not in the world of high fashion. Think ‘big’, think ‘statement’.

But I think ‘Good’, I think ‘Jesus’, and I think I’ll go hide in the attic till she’s forgotten all about it.

But I catch her looking at me.

-What?

-I’m looking at your eyes, she says.

-Why?

-We start with the eyes, like, and build from there, she says.

-My eyes don’t wear trousers, love, I tell her.

But she’s not listening. She’s taking a photograph – before I know what she’s doing – and she fires it off to her friends.

-Why?!

-To find out what colour your eyes are, she says.

-They’re brown, I tell her. –I think. At least, they used to be.

Her phone starts pinging and she’s reading out her messages.

-Megan says yellow, Sally says puke green and Mark says you must have been a ride before the Famine.

-Mark?

-D’you want his number?

-Ah, here, I say, and I text my pal, the Secret Woman.

Pint?

So here we are.

-I have to buy new clothes, I tell him.

-Hate that, he says.

-I was hoping you’d come into town with me, I say. –Give me a hand.

-No way, he says. –You’re on your own.

I look at him now; I actually stare at him.

-I thought you identified as a woman, I say.

-Yeah, he says. –A woman with enough cop-on never to go shopping for clothes with a colour-blind oul’ fella.

-Who says I’m colour-blind?

-Look at your jumper, he says. –Look at your shirt. Clash, clash, clash.

He’s hopeless, no good to me. So I’m stuck with the daughter and I’m terrified. Saying no to the wife is easy; it’s a big part of the gig. But the daughter – I could never say no to the daughter.

She brings us into the place that used to be Roche’s Stores and I think I’m on safe enough ground. But then – Christ – she gets me to put on a pair of trousers and I don’t think they’re trousers at all.

She shakes the changing room curtain.

-Are you alright in there?

-I don’t think these are meant for a man, love, I say. –I think they’re for a big girl. There’s no zip.

-It’s at the side, like.

-It’s no good to me there, love, I tell her. –Can I not just have a pair of Wranglers?

-Try this, she says, and she hands in some sort of a one-sleeved jacket.

I want to cry – I nearly do. She’s not going to let me out of the changing room unless I commit to becoming a cartoon. I’m thinking of digging a tunnel when she hands me in something that’s almost definitely a shirt. It has a collar and all. I try it on and I show her.

-Blue’s your colour, Dad, she says.

-Can we go home now, please? I ask her.

But she’s only starting. For the next three hours – I think it’s hours but it might be days, or weeks – I stop having opinions and a personality and I just surrender. I only put the foot down when she thinks she’s deciding which pub we’ll be going to on the way home.

So we’re sitting in the Flowing Tide and I’m looking at her over all my shopping bags. I like a pint, I rarely need a pint – but I need the one in front of me now. I’m exhausted, and relieved – a bit hysterical; it must have been like this for the lads coming home from Vietnam. And I admit it, I’m kind of looking forward to getting into the new gear. I smile at her as I pick up my pint, and she says it.

-I’m proud of you, Dad. You’re a real metrosexual.

I put the glass down.

-I’m a what?

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