Thursday 17 October 2019

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: One (limping) foot in the grave…


Illustration by Ben Hickey
Illustration by Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

There's probably nothing as boring as men's health. Unless you're the man. And I am. So. I'm worried. I've low blood pressure. I discovered this a while back and it came as a bit of a shock. But the bigger shock is, it's the only thing wrong with me. I'll be honest: I'm a bit disappointed. Other men my age seem to have a list of their ailments in their back pockets. They don't tend to talk about them but they have them at the ready, just in case. I could make a list of my own, I suppose, but it would look a bit threadbare: thinning hair, thinning eyesight, sagging self-respect.

I'm feeling a bit left out.

I've even started limping a bit, so I can claim I'm on the waiting list for a hip replacement. But no one noticed the limp until I whacked the side of my head off the cigarette machine on my way out to the pub jacks. The clang - Jesus!

I'm telling my brother, Pat, that I have the low blood pressure and that I've fainted a couple of times, and he ups and tells me he has coronary artery disease. The way he speaks, he might as well be telling me he's had porridge for his breakfast.

- Coronary artery disease? I say.

Even the number of syllables makes me jealous.

- Yep, he says.

- What's that involve?

- Ah, he says, - it's just the arteries coming out of the heart. They're are a bit clogged.

- Clogged?

- I could die any minute, he says. - Is your man, Pogba, the worst player on the planet or wha'?

- Your heart, but, Pat.

- Ah, sure, he says. - It's grand.

That's the thing: he can boast and push away the subject at the same time. It's the only opportunity ageing men get to tease and all the men I know are grabbing the opportunity - except me.

I've been pretending to limp so much, I'm actually starting to limp, even when there's no one looking. I'll end up having a perfectly good hip sawed off - or whatever it is they do - and replaced with a plastic or a wooden one. Because I'll never admit there's nothing wrong with me.

I remember one morning when I was a kid, telling my mother I had a toothache. I didn't, but there was no way I was going to school because a bigger lad, Mallethead Moore, had said he was going to shove my head down the jacks. Just because I'd given him the nickname, Mallethead. His real name was Fergus, so he should have been bloody grateful.

Anyway, I did such a convincing job, my mother brought me straight down to the dental clinic and the dentist, whose hands were shaking and had a drip at the end of his nose, pulled out a perfectly good tooth. It was one of those useless ones at the back but it was still a tooth.

- Is that better now, love? my mother asked me on the way home.

The side of my head had just been torn off, the dentist's elbow had cracked one of my ribs when he was leaning on me, and I couldn't speak. But I nodded: Yes.

And I know, I haven't changed that much in the 50 years since. If the wife asks me why I'm limping, I'll end up having the hip replaced before I'll admit I'm only acting the maggot. Because I want my own small list of ailments. I want to be one of the lads. I'm a desperate eejit.

I'd love a dose of diverticulitis. I looked it up, I gave it a quick Google after my buddy, the Secret Woman, mentioned his. And it's no joke. I needed fresh air and a chocolate biscuit after five minutes' deep research. But I'd endure it - one almighty pain in the a**e - just so I could nonchalantly claim it as mine.

But it's not mine. All I have is low blood pressure and a couple of liver spots.

- High blood pressure's the dangerous one, but, isn't it? says Pat, the b****x.

- Well…

- Low blood pressure, he says. - You only have that because you don't give a s***e about anything. Fair play to you, Charlie, you'll live to be a hundred.

Was it Cain killed Abel? Well, he had the right idea. I want to murder Pat. I want to pull my leg off and beat him to death with my limp. But all I can do is smile and take my slagging. Because we can't pretend it worries us.

But that's the thing. It's not the low blood pressure that worries me - not much, anyway. It's the fact that it's only low blood pressure, and not one of the show-stoppers like Pat's coronary f***in' artery disease.

That's what's keeping me awake.

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