Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: New year, same old me
I hate the New Year. Actually, I hate everything new. Nearly everything. Clothes, music, recipes, neighbours - the list is probably endless. And the exceptions - babies and hips - they just prove the rule. The vast majority of new things are a pain in the arse, especially the new years.
I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't have a new year. I'm not stupid. I know that the earth orbits the sun and I accept that we have seasons and that your man, Shakespeare, was on the button when he said if winter comes, then spring is probably tagging along behind it.
But it's the whole Year Zero thing that gets on my wick. Every January 1, we're expected to become new people.
We were out on the street at midnight on New Year's Eve. It's excruciating, having to shake hands with, and even hug, people I can't stand. But the wife makes me come out with her.
- Stop whingeing.
- I'm not whingeing.
- Here's your jacket - get up.
Anyway, one of the neighbours, Brendan, was hugging me - bit half-heartedly, in my opinion. A half-hearted hug is even worse than a full-blooded one, I think.
- What are you giving up? he says.
- For the new year, he says. - What are you giving up?
- It's not bloody Lent, I tell him.
- Well, it's no more junk food for me, he says.
You should see the state of this chap. He looks like a greyhound that never caught up with the rabbit. I don't know what he sees in the mirror - because he's hardly there. I'm not sure I'm even talking to him in the dark. It might be just an optical illusion in a lemon-coloured jumper. Anyway, I never saw a man in more need of a couple of crisps - and he was giving them up. Because it was the January 1.
By the way, I saw him in the Spar yesterday and he was hovering close to the Pringles…
It wasn't always like this. There was a time when the only thing you expected from the new year was a hangover. Now, though, we're expected to alter our bodies and - even worse - the way our minds operate.
I've been living with my mind - my brain, my personality, whatever you want to call it - for more than 60 years. And we've been getting along fine. There have been off-days and weeks and one God-awful decade, but, generally speaking, me and the mind have managed to get this far without too much aggro or damage. If my mind suggests a pint, I'm often in agreement. If the mind gives me the nudge and tells me to say something nice to the wife, the timing is generally spot-on. And what I say to her - "Your hair's nice", "I'm with you, love, it's not fair", "It's your brain I fell in love with, not your cooking" - the mind has usually delivered something apposite and even - once or twice - wise. And devious.
So, anyway. I'm content enough with my mind, in a happily miserable kind of way. The memory isn't what it used to be, but I can't blame the mind for that; we both decided not to bother with the fish and the crosswords. And what do we actually have to remember? A few names, our own name, our team, the colour of the front door, the difference between the dishwasher and the washing machine. That's about it. And my mind - I'm reluctant to call it my intellect - is well up to that.
Anyway. I'm happy enough with the mind I was given and I'll have no problem accepting its guidance, all the way up to my terminal breath. "Keep the mouth shut there, Charlie - you'll be a better looking corpse." The body and the mind - we're in it together for the last stretch of the long haul.
Apparently, I have to become more optimistic.
- Your outlook's too bleak, like, says the daughter.
- Bleak doesn't cover it, love, says the wife. - He's windswept and desolate.
- So is the Wild Atlantic Way, I tell them. - And the tourists are flocking to it.
- Well, there's no one flocking to you, buster, says the wife. - The head on you.
- What's wrong with my head?
- New year, new man, Dad, says the daughter. - You should start giving yourself daily done wells. Love yourself, like. What did you do well today?
- Oh sweet Jesus, I say, and I leg it up to the bed. And I congratulate myself as I climb in.
- Well f*****' done, Charlie.
The wife gets in a few hours after me.
- Come here, I say. - You don't want me to change, do you?
- Do you?
She puts her hand on my back and pats it.
That's a 'No'. I'm safe for another year.