Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: 'We were turned down for a mortage but then the bank manager had a heart attack'
There's nothing exciting about this, son, I say. - Is there? I'm with one of my boys, in his car. We're in Meath, above Kells somewhere. We might even be in Cavan.
- No, he says. - No, there isn't. He sighs. - Did you expect it to be exciting? he asks me. I can't answer him. I can, but I don't.
When myself and the wife were looking for somewhere to live - the first time, and the other times - we always knew we'd be grand. We'd get somewhere that suited us, that we could afford, that was maybe even nice - in Dublin. We enjoyed ourselves.
I know: I'm looking back through the proverbial rose-tinted glasses. But I think it's true. We did enjoy it. We were moving out of one world, into a new one of our own. It was an adventure.
The first place we looked at - Jesus. It was just the two of us; we'd been together less than a year and we weren't married yet. The place, though - it was a room in a house on the North Circular Road, beside O'Connell's School. We looked at the walls, at each other, and at the walls again. They were black - all of them. And so were the curtains.
- Is it paint or damp? I asked the chap who'd let us in.
He didn't answer. It was too dark to see him properly but I'm betting he was blushing.
- Are you interested? he asked.
- Fascinated, said the woman who was going to be my wife. We laughed all the way back down to the bus stop at Newcomen Bridge. The poor chap had told us that the Christian Brothers were the landlords.
- Are you are a Brother, yourself? I'd asked him.
- Not really, he'd said.
We found a place the following night, if I'm remembering right. In Clontarf. One room, big windows, small fridge, no telly. It was grand until we needed somewhere bigger. By then we were married, she was pregnant and we wanted to start owning a house. And we found one.
It wasn't all a laugh - far from. We were turned down for a mortgage; we didn't even get to meet the bank manager. We were both working, we had the deposit, we thought we were grand. But, no. We were lucky, though. The manager had a heart attack and died. I had nothing to do with it, by the way, and neither did the wife. We were miles away when it happened. We even have the photographic evidence.
But anyway, we got to see the new manager. He didn't look at us during the meeting. Well, he did - he glanced once or twice at the wife's breasts. But he didn't look us in the eye and he hardly spoke; it was terrifying. I was on the verge of confessing to the murder of the previous manager when he saved the day, looked up from our application and said: "Right - okay."
The lad I'm with now, he'll probably never own a house. His partner's at home in Dublin, with the kids. The landlord's selling - so he's told them - and they've two months left to find somewhere else. They already know it won't be in Dublin; they've given up looking for somewhere they can afford. They'll have to take the kids from their schools and their friends and start again, and hope for the best.
- The scenery's nice, I say. My son beside me laughs.
- It is, I say.
- It's something you said, he tells me. - Years ago.
- Scenery's for people who don't have Sky Sports.
We're both laughing now.
- I'm a gobs***e, I say.
He doesn't respond.
We found the house we live in now, me and the wife. We'd three kids - the boys - and she was six months pregnant. And we couldn't get the table into the new kitchen. The angle - whatever it was - we couldn't get it through the back door or in from the hall.
We sawed a few inches off each leg of the table and superglued the bits back on when we had it in the kitchen. But we must have got the legs mixed up, because the table shook every time you leaned on it, or even walked past it. Plates slid, mugs toppled; it was like eating at sea - for years. But I missed it when we eventually got a wider back door, and bought a new table.
I'm tempted to apologise, say sorry to my son. But I don't know what I'd say if he asked me why I'm apologising. The country's a mess, the world's a mess. We've elected people who think profit is more important than homes. We've let it go on for decades. Our parents left the world a better place; they probably did - their parents definitely did.
But I don't know.
I don't know.
- I'm sorry, son, I say.