Friday 14 December 2018

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: Storm in a tea, um, glass…

 

Illustration: Ben Hickey
Illustration: Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

What gobs***e decided that serving tea in a glass was a good idea? I'm not sure if there are any references to tea in the Bible but I'm betting that Jesus and the lads had theirs in mugs. And his holy mother - with a name like Mary she definitely drank hers from a cup and she went down to the Irish shop in Nazareth for the milk. And a packet of Tayto for Joseph - salt and vinegar.

Anyway.

I'm not mad about tea; I rarely touch it. When I was a kid, about 15, I was in Dandy Mulcahy's house. We were playing records, chatting about the local young ones, and deciding whether we'd open one of his da's bottles of Smithwick's.

I was very keen. It wasn't my house; it wasn't my da.

- Go on, Dandy.

- No.

- Go on, I said. - He'll never miss it. I'll smuggle the empty out.

- Okay.

Then his ma came in and asked us if we wanted a cup of tea. And Dandy changed. My best friend turned into an oul' lad right in front of my eyes. The mere mention of tea and he forgot all about the mysteries of bottled Smithwick's and the much more promising mysteries of Eileen Pidgeon.

He sat up and clapped his hands.

- Tea! he said. - Rapid!

He instantly became a lad I didn't know. His face, his expression, changed completely. One minute, he was my blood brother and we were all set for a life of beer and women. The next, he looked like someone from the audience of The Late Late Show - you know the ones I mean - and he was baying for tea and a goldgrain.

Bloody tea - I haven't trusted it since.

But I'm not giving out about tea. It's the clown who decided to serve it up in a glass - that's my gripe.

Myself and the daughter are in town with her little lad. She has that look in her eye: she's going to make me try on a metrosexual pair of trousers. So I head her off at the pass and suggest that we go for a coffee and maybe a muffin, if her conscience, which I'm betting wears Lycra, will let her.

- You're hilarious, Dad, she says. - I don't think.

But anyway, we go into this café place that's she's found on her phone. It's a bit intimidating but I tell her I want a black coffee and she translates that for the tall lad with the beard behind the counter. He nods, raises his eyes to heaven, and starts knocking the bejaysis out of his machine.

The daughter's ordered black tea - it's good for something or other - and she gets it in a tall glass. And the little lad is having a Coke. She only lets him have one Coke a month. The poor kid is only three and doesn't even know what a month is, so he's like a starving dog in front of a sirloin. I have to hold him by the collar and loosen my grip when he's calm enough for another sip.

But, anyway, we get chatting, me and the daughter, and I must have let go of the little lad's collar. Because the next thing I know, he's screaming and clutching his throat.

- What's wrong?!

I've had two heart attacks so far, and I think I'm after biting half an inch off my tongue.

He looks fine; there's no blood.

He's after mixing up the tea and the Coke, that's all, because they're both in similar glasses. And he's furious.

- T'aum-a-tize!

- What did he say? I ask the daughter.

I can usually understand him but this is a new one.

- He's traumatised, she tells me.

- Did he say that?

And he says it again.

- T'aum-a-tize, G'anda!

His eyes have gone into the back of his head and I'm half-expecting his head to start spinning. I pick him up and put him on my knee. It usually works, and it does now, once we let him clutch his glass - the one with the bloody Coke in it. He holds it on his knee.

- Where did he learn that? I ask the daughter.

But I know already - the radio, the telly, everywhere. I was traumatised, myself, this morning when there was no honey for my porridge. He must have heard me but I was only joking - kind of.

- Listen, I tell him now. - If you want to know if you're really traumatised, just put 'Joe' at the end of sentence. Are you with me?

He's full of sugar and taking in every word.

- Say after me, I tell him. - "I was traumatised, Joe."

- T'aum-a-tize, Doe!

- That's the 'Joe' Test, I tell him. - If there's a 'Joe' at the end of it, it's not really trauma.

- T'aum-a-tize, Doe!

And he knocks back his Coke.

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