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Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: You can tell a lot about a man by his fist bump…



Illustration by Ben Hickey

Illustration by Ben Hickey

Illustration by Ben Hickey

'Greetings - they're a minefield. Do we kiss on the cheek? But then, how many kisses?"

I hate that bloody ad. The one for Carlsberg about the handshakes and the kisses - and Carlsberg. The wife says she loves it but I can tell by the way she sits up whenever it's on: it's not the ad she likes, it's your man in the ad. She'd dump me in the brown wheelie in exchange for him, just because he was the baddie in one of the James Bond films and he has a mouth she calls sexy and I call crooked.


It's not the ad, so much - most ads get on my wick and, in fairness to the Danish chap, he's not nearly as irritating as Thierry Henry in those ones for Renault on Sky Sports. I'd happily reverse a Renault over Thierry Henry's head. And the wife says she would too.

But anyway, it's the whole handshake, hugging thing. I can't really cope with it. "Fist bump - yeah, it's good. But complicated." That's the problem: it is complicated. It's nearly bloody impossible. And I've just spent the last two nights in Beaumont A&E to prove it.

Shaking hands used to be a reasonably straightforward exercise. Put your hand out, clutch the hand in front of you, move it up and down once or twice, then let go.

Mind you, we never shook hands when I was a young lad. When you met your pals, you just nodded. There was no bodily contact, none of the bashing chests, tapping knuckles, all-around-the-house stuff that happens now when young lads meet. You'd need years of training with the Bolshoi Ballet to say "Hello" the way a lot of the men and boys do these days.

I watched two of the grandsons greeting each other last Sunday when there was a gang in the house. It started in the kitchen and, by the time they'd stopped shaking and tapping and dancing and thumping, they were over the back wall in Considine's garden. I have to admit, I was impressed. Baffled, but impressed. And I asked the kids to show me how they did it.

Oh, God.

Only adults shook hands when I was a kid. I remember seeing my father shake hands with my Uncle Mick and wondering why. They were brothers. What were they shaking hands for, like strangers? It made no sense.

I was going for a job interview once, lounge boy in my father's local, when I was 16.

- Just remember, son, my father told me. - When he shakes your hand, make sure he knows you've a good, firm grip.

He - the manager, who wasn't a Christian Brother but should have been - grabbed my hand and squeezed. I tried to squeeze back and, just as the pain started to charge up my arm, he told me the price of a pint of Guinness and demanded to know how much six pints would cost.

- Two pounds, sixty-four!

He stopped squeezing.

- And there's two 'n's and two 's's in 'Guinness', I told him, just to be on the safe side.

I got the job but I never shook hands with another man again, until my wedding day. And, to be fair, I didn't witness a handshake quite as violent until I saw Donald Trump shaking hands on the telly with Trudeau, the Canadian.

But, anyway. I ask the grandsons to show me how to shake hands like a hipster.

- Fist bump first, Grandda.

That's easy enough. I tap knuckles with both of them. We grin.

- Now turn your back, Grandda, and put your left hand over your shoulder.

I do what I'm told and, before I really know what's happening, I feel a tug and I'm in the air, and I've gone through the sitting room window. Double glazing, by the way - Senator windows, me hole.

I wake up in the front garden and I wake up again in Beaumont A&E, in among all the swine flu victims. I'm wearing a neck brace and I can't feel anything under my chin. It's like the Somme but the oul' lad on the trolley beside me insists that the Somme was Tayto Park compared to this place.

- At least we had guns! he roars.

I'm home now. It's a kid-free zone. There isn't a fist bump in sight. The wife has me propped up in front of the telly. The remote control is lying high on my chest, so I can change the channels with my chin. She puts a can of Carlsberg with a straw sticking out of it on the arm of the couch, close to my mouth.

I hate Carlsberg. I hate everything to do with it.

- Well, Chuckles, she says. - Do you want it or don't you?

I stare at the can - and eventually speak.

- Probably.

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