Tuesday 15 October 2019

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: 'I'm blaming the Saoirse McHugh young one... It isn't easy being green'


Illustration: Ben Hickey
Illustration: Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

Whenever I hear someone talking about climate change, on the radio or in the kitchen, I think of my father. I can nearly hear him.

- Turn off those bloody lights!

He sat in his chair all through the winter, shouting those exact words. And he trained us well. If I see a light on, I automatically go to turn it off, even if I'm the one who's just after turning it on. There was even once, years ago, I turned off the Christmas lights on Henry Street - but that's a different story. Imagine, though, having to spend the night in a cell in Store Street Garda station, for energy saving. Imagine as well, my father's face when he came in to collect me.


It wasn't the future of the planet my Da was worried about; it was the expense. Money didn't grow on trees and he once marched us out to the back garden to prove it.

- What are those yokes hanging off the branches?

He pointed at the oldest of the brothers, Denis.

- They look like apples from here, said Denis. - But I might be wrong.

I've never admired anyone more than Denis. And I think that's what saved him that day because, judging by his facial expression, our Da was all set to get a rope from the shed and hang Denis from the strongest branch. But he saw me looking up at - looking up to - Denis and he decided to grant Denis a stay of execution. I think this because I know it. My father told me, himself, years later, just before he died.

- I saw you looking at Denis, he said. - And I knew that myself and your Mammy were rearing a great bunch of lads. It's the little moments, Charlie - they're the big ones.


I'm always turning off the lights and shutting all the doors to stop the heat from escaping. I've been a Green for donkeys' years - and that's free-range donkeys. But it isn't enough, apparently. We're making some more lifestyle changes in the house.

We're not eating any more plastic bottles and we're saving the teabags. But I might be confusing things a bit; I probably am. I came home a few days ago with a cardboard cup of coffee in my paw and the way the daughter was looking at me, you'd swear she'd found out that I was in the Hitler Youth in my - well - in my youth.

- I wasn't the only one! I say, before I cop on and calm down.

She's still staring at me.

- What?

- Is that reusable? she asks.

- Is what reusable?

I don't know if she's referring to my head or my jacket. The jacket is newish. I think it's brown.

- The cup, like, she says.

- Why in the name of Jaysis would I use it again? I ask.

It's an honest question.

- I'm going to rinse it out and throw it in the green wheelie.

She's still staring at me.

Before I go any further, I want to make one thing clear: I was never in the Hitler Youth. I was never even in the Hitler High Babies.

Anyway, cardboard cups are out. I've to buy one that I can bring with me whenever I go out. And that's only one thing. The daughter has made a list - on recycled paper - and taped it to the fridge.

- She doesn't even bloody live here, I whisper to the wife.

She's afraid to answer; she's afraid to even nod.

The daughter has just looked into the bin - the ordinary one.

- What's this? she says.

She's staring down into the black hole.

- It's rubbish, I say. - What's it look like?

- There's no such thing as rubbish, like, she says.

The grandson is beside her, looking into the bin and shaking his head.

- It my planet, G'anda!

It's the first time I've heard him pronounce the letter 'L' but I decide not to mention it. The daughter leans down and pulls a banana skin out of the black bin.

- Was that you? I whisper to the wife.

She still doesn't answer.

- It isn't even finished, like, says the daughter.

- Loads left! says the grandson.

Two more perfect 'L's - it's a big day.

Myself and the wife stand there, ashamed. I'm blaming the Saoirse McHugh young one. Every woman in the country wants to be Saoirse, and a fair few of the men. Just because she's right and quick and brilliant.

They've gone. The house is ours again.

- Get the plastic bottles out of the green wheelie, love, I say to the wife. - We'll bring them down to Dollymount and fling them into the sea.

Now she speaks.

- Listen, she says. - Go on 'Dancing with the Stars' if you want attention.

But she smiles.

- The future's green, I say.

- Ah, it'll pass.

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