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'
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.
-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.
My eyes are swimming, she’s hopping from page to page so fast
-Look, she says. –Cool. There’s a man package.
-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.
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.
-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.