Sunday 15 December 2019

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


Illustration by Ben Hickey
Illustration by Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

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.

Indo Motoring

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