Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: New threads for a new wife…
I'm after buying a Russian wife. I think I am - I'm not sure. I pressed something on the laptop - I don't know. The Irish wife isn't going to be happy. Why didn't I just go to the shops? Ah, Jesus.
I open the kitchen window and gulp some air. It doesn't help. The dogs are under the window, expecting food or affection.
- It's not a good time, lads, I tell them, and I bring my head back in.
What have I done?
As far as I know, I didn't really do anything. But I must have done something.
I'd better explain. I wanted to buy a shirt. Actually, I wanted to buy my youth. I'd been telling the daughter about a shirt I'd had when I met her mother. I was describing the collar to her and how, if you lifted it, it went up past your ears. It was a colour I don't have a name for - kind of a mix of silver and black.
- You couldn't buy a shirt like that now, I said.
- You could, like, she said back, and she told me all about vintage clothes, and how I could buy any old shirts I wanted, online.
- A shirt like that one? I asked.
- Probably that same shirt, like, she said. - You'd be buying it back.
I couldn't care less about clothes.
That's the official line, isn't it? I'm a man in my late middle years; I might even be elderly. In fact, I am elderly when I wake up every morning and I stay that way until I'm half way through my first cup of coffee and I can recall my name and the day of the week.
My clothes are easily described. If the garment isn't grey, it's dark blue. Except for my funeral jumper which, conventionally enough, is black. So, I don't care about clothes; I'm way past caring; I never cared that much anyway.
But, actually, I do - and I'm not - and I did.
It's hard work trying to look average. You're never more than a collar away from shame or a slagging.
I remember being heartbroken when a pair of my Levi's finally fell apart. I'd worn them through the last years of secondary school, through country-rock, punk and new wave; they were nearly as old as I was. It was like a dog dying, the grief, when I opened the washing machine in the laundrette - I'd just moved into my first bedsit - and discovered the jeans had become about 30 slices of denim. I brought them home to my mother in a H Williams bag but not even she could bring the jeans back to life. I buried them - I swear to God - in the back garden.
I still miss those jeans; I don't think I ever quite recovered. I've never felt truly happy with a pair of trousers since.
There was a hoodie I wore throughout the '80s, until most of it disintegrated and it became just a hood. I put the hood in a drawer and checked every couple of days to see if the sleeves had grown back.
So anyway. I start looking online for the shirt of my dreams, with the daughter.
- That it, Dad?
- Is it like it?
- Even a bit like it, like?
We're having a great time. Well, I am. I think she's losing interest. She keeps trying to get me to look at other shirts, cool ones, ones that would make me look like the sad grandad of those lads in the Budweiser ads.
I think she read somewhere that if you hear 'No' 10 times in a row you should get up and walk away.
So, she does.
She leaves me alone with the laptop. And that's where the trouble starts.
What happens is: I'm looking at shirts on a website called Vintage Shirt, Vintage Man when I spot this picture at the side of the screen. It's a woman. And she's lovely - about 40, I'd say. It says her name is Alexandra and she's looking for an Irish husband. There's a box that says "Click Here". And I do. I don't even give myself time to laugh. Then it says there's an email - a confirmation - on its way to me.
But it's the wife's laptop - and her email address.
All I wanted was a f***in' shirt! I don't think I even wanted the shirt - I just wanted to see a picture of it. I'm such an eejit.
There's the door - she's home.
She comes into the kitchen. She's holding a bag.
- I bought you something, she says.
- A shirt, I say.
- How did you know?
- And I bet it's silvery black.
Her mouth kind of drops open.
- Sit down, love, I say. - There might be something I have to tell you.