Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: I'd be lost without my daughter's conscience to hold me by the hand, but Daughter-Land can be a puritanical place
I have to be careful. The daughter's in the house. She moved out a while back - and moved in with her partner, Keith. I miss her and the little grandson, but I've got used to being able to say and shout anything I want.
You know that saying, 'My heart sings'? Well, that's what my heart does whenever I hear the daughter's key in the front door. And I always know it's her key - ever since I brought her down to the hardware shop so she could watch the lad there cutting her own front door key, a few days before she started secondary school. I hear her at the door and, like I said, my heart sings. My heart hasn't a note in its head but that's not the point; it tries its best.
But I have to be careful. I consider myself to be a tolerant, liberal, easy-going man. But the daughter puts me right.
- You can't say that, she says - a lot.
- Why not?
This time, she comes into the house just in time to hear me shouting at Ronan Collins.
- Actually, like, she tells me. - I could hear you down at the shops - inside the Spar. And you can't say it, like.
Ronan Collins isn't in the kitchen with us, by the way. He's on the radio. I can't even remember what I said now; I shout at Ronan Collins most days.
- Remind me, I say.
In fact, I do remember what I said but the daughter does what I'm reliably informed is an excellent impression of me in full flight, so I'm pretending I left my memory upstairs with my reading glasses.
- What did I say? I ask her.
- You're only an oul' one, Collins, an' you can shove your requests up your hoe-well!
It's amazing, really, how she does it. You're expecting Judy Garland but she opens her mouth and it's Louis Armstrong.
- What's wrong with that? I ask her. - Telling Ronan where to shove his requests isn't sexist - is it?
- No, she says. - That's just childish, like.
- Well said, love, says the wife.
She's in the house somewhere but she isn't in the kitchen. But now that I think of it, she isn't in the house at all. I remember now: she grabbed the car key about an hour ago and said she'd be home in time for Newsnight.
- You can't call Ronan Collins an oul' one, says the daughter.
I listen out for the wife - even though I know she isn't here. But I hear nothing more.
- He is old, but, I say.
- 'Oul' one' is a degrading term for an elderly woman.
- No, it isn't.
- Yes, it is.
- Not really.
- You're not an elderly woman, she says. - So you don't own that particular claim, like.
I listen out for the wife: nothing.
- And by suggesting, the daughter continues, - that Ronan is, like, not a real man - and big deal, by the way - it's even more degrading to elderly women cos it suggests that men are superior to women.
- Okay, I say.
She's right. I'm not sure why, but I raise my hands; I surrender.
- But, I say. - I only called Ronan an oul' one -
- You can't say that.
- Grand - but I only said it because of the song he put on.
- What song?
It's still on. If I Could Turn Back Time. Cher is still charging through it. She must be exhausted.
- I hate that bloody song, I tell the daughter. - And that's why I was shouting at Ronan. But really, when you analyse it properly, I was shouting at Cher. Because she's singing it. And she is an oul' one - she can hold back time for as long as she f**kin' wants.
- It's still degrading.
- Cher won't mind, love, I say.
The daughter seems happy enough. She's made her point.
- And she's a gay icon, I say. - So fair play to her - she's a great oul' one.
It's how I'm getting through life: I'm listening to the daughter. I hear or see something and I ask myself: what would the daughter make of this? I've been doing it now for a few years and it's serving me quite well. I'd be a bit lost if I didn't have the daughter's conscience to hold me by the hand.
But Daughter-Land can be a very puritanical place. I called Boris Johnson a bollix a few days ago and she told me it was sexist. Which is ridiculous - but the way she was staring at me, I was half-thinking of writing an apology to Johnson. The bollix.
Now, in the kitchen, Cher finally gives up trying to hold back time and Ronan announces U2.
- Ah, not those old white men, says the daughter.
It's my turn to stare.
God, it's great.