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Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: 'I’d rather go back to the Christian Brothers for a year than go to a spa for a long weekend'


Roddy Doyle column
Illustration by Ben Hickey

Roddy Doyle column Illustration by Ben Hickey

Roddy Doyle column Illustration by Ben Hickey

The wife wants to go to a spa.

I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and that’s what she came up with. It serves me right. Why didn’t I just get her a scarf or one of those One4all vouchers – or even both?

The problem is, she expects me to go with her. I went to a Christian Brothers’ school. It wasn’t a happy time; they were mad bastards there. But I’d rather go back to the Brothers for a year than go to a spa for a long weekend. You knew where you were with the Christian Brothers. But I’m not even sure what a spa is.

I’m looking at one on the laptop when the daughter walks into the kitchen.

-What’s that? she asks.

-A spa, I tell her.

It’s actually a photo of about ten women in white dressing gowns, and a man – he’s in a dressing gown too. The women look like they’re having a great time but the man looks a bit lost. Not lost, exactly – his face reminds me of Fredo’s in The Godfather when he knows he’s going to be shot.

-It looks fab, says the daughter.

-Does it?

-Ah, yeah, she says.

I point at the man.

-Look at that poor sap.

-What’s wrong with him? she says. –That’s just a projection, Dad. He probably thinks it’s epic. Oh, wow - massage therapy, body treatments, hot stone massage.

I whimper. At least, I think I do. Some sort of noise comes out of me.

-What’s wrong with you? she asks me.

-Would I have to do all that? I ask her back. –If I went.

She sits beside me. Actually, she shoves me off the chair and I’m standing beside her as she takes over the laptop.

-There’s loads of stuff for men as well, like, she says.

-Is there?

My eyes are swimming, she’s hopping from page to page so fast

-Look, she says. –Cool. There’s a man package.

-A what?

-Deep tissue massage, hammam, and Indian head massage. Will I book one for you?

I whimper again.

-Poor Dad, she says. –The first two days are the worst, like.

I point at the screen.

-Would I at least be able to watch Soccer Saturday while they’re doing the Indian thing to my head?

-Mammy will love it, she says.

She’s right, and that’s the main thing. I try really hard to believe that.

-Perfect, says the daughter.


-There’s a couples pamper package.

-Ah, Jesus.

I go out the back for some air. There’s a rope in the shed and I might hang myself while I’m out there. The dogs think I’m bringing them for a walk but then they see that I’m shaking and they sit – all of them – and stare at me.

-No walkies today, lads, I tell them. –Daddy’s having a coconut rub.

The thing is, there’s something up with the wife. It’s not anything midlife – we left that behind years ago. It’s nothing bad or too dramatic but there’s definitely something up.

-How many menopauses does the average woman have? I ask my pal, the Secret Woman.

-Give us a chance, he says. –I’m only after getting here.

-We’ve been here for hours, I tell him.

We’re in the local, looking at the third pints settling.

-I mean becoming a woman, he says. –It’s all new to me.

-The shift from male to female, I say. –Maybe that’s your menopause.

He stares at me.

-Maybe you could take that idea and shove it up your hole, he says.

-I rest my case, I say back.

But back to the wife. She’s restless, constantly wanting to do stuff. She’s always been like that and it’s one of the things I’ve always – well – loved about her. But this is different, somehow. She’s on the go all the time.

-It’ll force her to relax, says the daughter.

And she’s right – again.

–Book it there for us, love, I say. -Where is it, by the way?


-Ah Jesus, is there nowhere a bit nearer?

But that’s us, me and the wife – we’re heading to Roscommon for the wife’s birthday. I’m driving and she has the spa website up on her phone. She’s booking the treatments she wants. She’s excited – I can tell. And it’s nice.

-What sort of a wrap do you want? she asks me.

-A wrap? I say.

Things are looking up.

-Tandoori chicken.

-It’s not on the list, she says. –You can have a muscle-ease ocean wrap, an exotic frangipani body nourish wrap or a dry flotation.

We’re going past Mullingar, so there’s no turning back.

-Fuck it, I say. –Put me down for the dry flotation.

It sounds harmless enough.

-Does it come with chips? I ask her.

-I doubt it, she says. –Unless you’re floating in vinegar.

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