Tuesday 20 August 2019

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: If you remember it, you weren't really there

Illustration by Ben Hickey
Illustration by Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

It's been a long, long day. I'm climbing into the bed, trying not to creak too much.

I look at the clock beside me; it's nearly three in the morning. This time of year, the seagulls and the smaller birds will be up and roaring in an hour; the sun will be heating the bedroom window before I fall asleep. My back is at me; my feet are complaining.

But it's been worth it. It's been brilliant. I'm just back from a gig. So there.

I thought those days were over. I went to my fair share of gigs when I was younger, before and after kids - if that makes sense.

I went to Springsteen in Slane. I went to great shows in the SFX - The Clash, the Smiths, the Pretenders. I've been reliably informed that I saw Thin Lizzy in Dalymount but I've no recollection of it.

I remember leaving the house early in the morning and getting into the back of my brother Denis's van, and I remember waking up in the back of Denis's van. It was dark and we'd had a great day but I've no memory of Whiskey in the Jar or The Boys Are Back in Town, or anything else. But even that, the lack of a memory, is a great memory - an unforgettable day that I'll never remember.

But, anyway, I hadn't been to a gig in years. Except to see the wife's band, The Pelvic Floors.

They broke up a few months ago, by the way. It wasn't about artistic differences, exactly. It was about ownership of a cardigan. Carmel, the band leader and the wife's big sister, claimed it was hers and the wife - quite rightly - knew it was hers. Anyway, Carmel wrote a song called Pink Cardigan Thief which actually named the wife in the second verse. So that was the end of that.

Although, they're talking about a reunion, because Carmel found her own cardigan in the back of her car, under a pile of sh**e.

Anyway, one of the sons was in the house with his gang a while back and he told me he was going to see Bob Dylan and Neil Young, in Kilkenny.

And I said I'd love to go to that one. He says - Come with me.

And I say - Ah, no, and he says - Ah, go on, and I say - Ah, no, and he says - I'll sort another ticket and I say - Grand. I'm delighted. Going to a gig with one of my boys. It's been worth the decades of misery, the sleepless nights and destitution. I don't tell him that, mind you. I just say - Thanks.

So anyway, I volunteer to drive and I end up with the son beside me and three of his pals behind me. I never get the hang of the lads in the back.

They all look like the same big boy, a line of them grinning in the rearview mirror. They seem to share the same beard. But anyway, we get to Kilkenny and park in the grounds of the psychiatric hospital.

- There's a bed for the night, an'anyway, I say, but the lads - including the son - don't seem to think it's funny. And I don't either now.

I'm trying too hard, that's the problem. But I'm nearly having to run to keep up with the lads. We fed our children too well, I think; their legs are at least six inches longer than ours - well, mine.

But anyway, we get into Nowlan Park just when Neil Young is coming onstage.

And this is where the lads really come in handy. They make their way through the crowd and I just have to get in behind them; it's effortless and it's wonderful. Because I'm standing beside the son when Neil Young starts singing that one, Old Man.

"Old man look at my life, I'm a lot like you are."

The son looks at me - well, he looks down at me - and he grins and puts his arm on my shoulders. And I'm thinking of my own father - Turn that sh**e down! My son on one side, the ghost of my Da on the other - we're looking up at Neil Young, enthralled.

The stadium is packed with all shapes and ages. There are young ones that look like they've just climbed out of a magazine and there are oul' lads like me and oul' lads way older than me.

Including Dylan.

He's amazing. I can't think of a time in my life when there hasn't been a Dylan song in my head.

He's the soundtrack of fu**in' everything. I look up at him now, at the piano, singing Ballad of a Thin Man, and I say to himself - I'm way younger than that bol**x.

It's a perfect day.

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