Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: 'We love you, Greta Thunberg, will you adopt us, please?'
Myself and the wife are adopting Greta. We haven't told the kids yet. Or the grandkids.
Roddy Doyle introduces his latest character, Charlie Savage: featuring the misadventures and mishaps of a conflicted man in an ever-changing world.
Myself and the wife are adopting Greta. We haven't told the kids yet. Or the grandkids.
My phone is up in the attic. And it's staying there. I don't need it, I don't want it. If I need to phone anyone, I'll use the landline, the yoke on the...
We're all set for a no-deal Brexit. We've the freezer full of Brennans bread.
I’ve never really understood that saying, ‘Curiosity killed the cat.’ But I can tell you now: it killed the flies, the wasps and a fair few of the bees.
It's been a long, long day. I'm climbing into the bed, trying not to creak too much.
It's quiet in the local. I'm there before my pal, the Secret Woman. There's racing on the telly but the sound is down. The sun is exactly as I want it, outside but sending a solid-looking beam through one of the windows, across the floor. I have to wade through sunshine to get to the bar.
Whenever I hear someone talking about climate change, on the radio or in the kitchen, I think of my father. I can nearly hear him.
I worry about nostalgia. I spend most of my days privately, and sometimes not so privately, weeping for the old days. And at the same time I know well: most of the old days were sh**e. But I hear a song from the early Savage years, and I'm off. I don't even have to like it. I can hate the song - Sylvia's Mother, for example - but still listen, and sit back and remember a life that I never...
I'm going to have a gawk at Rural Ireland. The wife's coming with me; we're making a day of it. The little grandson is with us too. The daughter's gone to Spain for a few days, with her partner, Keith; they've gone to a wedding, even though she doesn't approve of marriage as an institution.
I still get a bit of a buzz when I'm going up the stairs, even when the legs are protesting. My mother warned me never to go upstairs on the bus. So, of course, I did.
Midweek, and I'm watching the football. It's half-time and I'm sitting there thinking about the lesbians when I look up at the screen and there...
I saw two girls holding hands today, I say. We're in the kitchen, me and the wife, the daughter and...
I'm living a lie. I'm living a lot of lies. I'm living at least three porkies every 10 minutes. That's according to a book the wife's been reading.
We're sitting up in the bed, me and the wife, and we're reading. We used to have a telly up here but we got rid of it. We gave it to one of the kids...
For years I wanted to be the man who stood outside the bookies. You know the one - he always had a rolled-up copy of the Mirror, and a...
So, I'm sitting cross-legged on the floor. And I've been like this for quite a while. Hours, I'd say - even days. I think I've gone through darkness, daylight, and back into darkness. I think I've grown a beard.
I'm giving mindfulness a go. I think. I can't remember what I've agreed to, exactly. I was on my way to a beginners' yoga class - I was actually at the side door of the parish hall where Rita from around the corner holds the classes - before it really dawned on me what I might be letting myself in for, and I turned back. I went for a pint and threw my yoga mat into a skip.
I'm walking past the mosque on Talbot Street.
There's a chap on the radio giving out about the seagulls. He's just after calling them vermin. Dublin's seagulls - vermin?! I wouldn't mind but he's a culchie. He's no right to an opinion on our seagulls.
I'm drugged to the gills. It's a long story. But it's not, really.
I get up onto my stool beside the Secret Woman.
I'm leaning against a bus shelter. And in case you're wondering why, I'm waiting for the bus. I've an app on my phone that tells me when the bus is due and, more often than not, it's bang-on. So, strictly speaking, I don't need to be here, holding up the shelter. But I've always been of the opinion that, to fully embrace the experience, you have to do one of two things, either be a bit early...
The turnstile is the first surprise. I'd forgotten about the turnstile and the excitement you feel when it gives way as you push. We're in Phibsborough, me and the wife, just outside Dalymount Park.
The wife's out the back, sunning herself. She's sitting back; her face is tilted to catch the sun. She's like a tropical island out there, surrounded by a sea of surging dogs.
I'm wearing pajamas. That's not a very spectacular or arresting statement - until I add three words. I'm wearing pajamas in the local. It's not a dream. I wish to God it was. That would be great, to be nudged awake, rescued by the wife's big toe or elbow. To wake up gasping, at home in the bed, and not here - wide awake, fully conscious - in the boozer.
When I was a little lad in primary school there were 54 boys in the class and if the teacher said, "Patrick", five of those boys would lift their hands and say, "Wha'?" or "Anseo". There were three Thomases and a rake of Seáns. There were even two Charlies, although one of them - not me - was called Cathal at home.
I've been watching the news but I can't really concentrate. I'm afraid Sharon, the newsreader, is going to fall over. They're making the presenters stand up while they're reading the news. It started on the BBC, I think, but - inevitably - the practice spread to RTÉ. If the Brits are doing it, then we have to do it as well.
I heard Luther Vandross a couple of days ago and I started crying. Luckily, I wasn't driving or in control of any other machinery. The only machine in my hand was a carton of milk. I was looking at it, trying to make sure that it was just ordinary milk. And I was about to give it a sniff, to be on the safe side. Then I was crying.
When did you peak? I ask the Secret Woman. He puts his pint on the counter and, contemplating the question, gazes at the line of gin bottles on the high shelf in front of us.
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.
I love the zombie films. They've always been my favourite. Don't get me wrong, I've a grá for the vampires as well. I remember watching that old German one, Nosferatu, with the brothers late one night. We were pretending it was great crack but there was something about it - the fact that it was so old and primitive; it made it all seem more realistic or something. It terrified me.
'Greetings - they're a minefield. Do we kiss on the cheek? But then, how many kisses?"
It's dark. I'm awake - or half awake. And I have to get up. The room seems warmer than it usually does in the middle of the night. I'm not complaining. The carpet's wrong, the feel of it under my feet. And the dark - it's way darker than usual. I can make nothing out, no shapes or anything. I take the two steps to the curtains. But they're not there - it's a wall. I can't see the curtains. I...
Years ago - it must be more than 10 years ago, although I find it's getting harder to measure my life in years - we were all in front of the telly when the wife commandeered the remote control. She took it while I was up in the jacks. I blame myself; I should have taken it with me and that's what I've been doing ever since.
By New Year's Day I'd had enough. And I slid out for a pint - early. I texted my pal, the Secret Woman. "Pint?" He got back to me before I'd even sent mine. "Pint?" We were reading off the same desperate hymn sheet. We were sick of the holidays, sick of food, sick of everything. We'd had enough good cheer and were both dying for a good whinge.
Never again. Did anyone ever say that and actually mean it? I'm thinking of hangovers or eating too much or spending too much, or swallowing the magic mushrooms my daft cousin told me were harmless. Those "never agains" are never really sincere.
We're off into town, me and the little grandson. To wander around for the day and have a look at the lights.
It's a good while since we went through Dublin Airport. We stayed in Ireland this summer. The place was so hot and dry, we thought anywhere else in the world would probably be unbearable. We'd been watching the news - forest fires in Sweden, up inside the Arctic Circle. I looked at the wife. She looked at me.
I am not a lazy man. And in fairness to her, she never actually said that I am. She's the wife, by the way. She doesn't say I'm lazy but she's got a look on her face that I interpret to mean: I'm married to a waster and it's only really dawning on me now. She's caught me reading.
It was our turn last Friday, so we had the wife's gang in the house for the monthly nosebag. The craic was good. It always is when Carmel's husband, Paddy, is around. Carmel is the wife's sister, so that makes Paddy my brother-in-law - I think. I've never been sure how these family rankings are worked out. But, anyway, when himself and Carmel walk into a room they light up the place.
I should stay away from the modern stuff. That's daft, I know. Modern stuff. I actually love a bit of modernity. Central heating's a great invention; I've always said it. And I'm so fond of our microwave, it has a name. Séamus. I was going to call it Kylie but I thought the daughter might accuse me of sexism. I could nearly hear her.
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.
Do you have any of the health stuff? I ask the Secret Woman. We're in the local, same as always, two fresh pints in front of us. - Health stuff? he says.
They're saying they'll let me go home tomorrow. I'll be able to watch the rest of The Shining. It's my own fault - again. It started during the presidential election. One of the nitwits from Dragons' Den was on the lunchtime news and he was going on about how he worked in "the real world".
I've just been down to the shops. Bread, milk, a small bunch of bananas. The little grandson loves bananas and I'm quite fond of a banana sandwich, myself. Anyway, it takes us five minutes to get to the Spar, and 15 back. There's a bit of a hill, and the little lad likes to examine the state of all the gates on the way home. He loves rust.
I'm in the kitchen reading a thing the daughter showed me earlier. It's a link - I think that's what you call it. I'm not sure about the terminology and I don't care enough to find out. I've got the wife's iPad and I'm reading this article the daughter found in an online magazine. About dogs. But it's not about the dogs. It's about the owners.
It's time to get out. I've been hiding indoors since my failed - thank Christ - run at the presidency. We turned up, me and the daughter, a week late for the Leitrim County Council meeting. Or maybe the Council lads were a week early - I don't know. Anyway, I'm safe for another seven years.
A shark can smell a single drop of blood from a mile away. I'm the same with football, except I'm even more deadly. I can hear a ball being whacked from at least two miles.
We're more than halfway to Leitrim before I can muster the courage and tell the daughter.
The humiliations are queueing up. Just because I'm getting older. The holes in the memory; the cheese on the chin (see 'holes in the memory'); the hair on the earlobes, enough to make a pair of very weird pigtails. There seems to be a fresh indignity waiting for me every morning in the kitchen, smiling evilly as I put on my reading glasses to find the handle of the fridge.
We don't really do the phones, me and the Secret Woman. We both have one, and it wouldn't be that uncommon for us to answer a text while we're chatting in the local. What I mean is, we don't take them out every time we're talking about the football and forget a player's name. Or, if either of us has been to a Holy Communion, we might mention it. ("Jesus, man, I need a pint after all that religion.") But we won't take out the phones and start scrolling through the photos. The only photograph in my phone is of the inside of a broken cistern. A plumber asked me to send it to...
I can remember my first day at school.
I was in the barber's and I thought I was going to get away with it. But then, just when I thought I'd escaped, he asked the question.
I know, I've been going on a bit about that question, "What are you thinking about?" And I know, it's part of any marriage - well, a part of any heterosexual relationship, anyway. She wants to know what's going on inside his head and it's his job to guard the contents of that head, no matter how flimsy the contents might be - especially because there might be nothing much going on in there. An empty head is no man's most attractive feature.
What are you thinking about? I've done no scientific research; I've nothing to back up what I'm saying. But I'm betting that "What are you thinking about?" is the most frightening question that any man can ever hear.
The world is in rag order, fascism is on the march, the EU is about to implode. But all I hear any time I walk past the radio is someone from Irish Water telling us what we shouldn't be doing with the water. So, I've turned it off and I won't be plugging it back in until we get a decent shower of rain.
I'm glad I never have to make my mind up. It must be hard for young people. They're presented with so many choices, it must be crippling. I'm sitting in my local with my buddy, the Secret Woman. We're in our usual spot, two stools in front of the taps. And they've installed another new tap since the last time we were in here, this morning.
It's all s***e, really, isn't it? says the Secret Woman. We're in the local, side by side at the bar to the left of the taps. It's one of his days.
Myself and the wife are just back from the hospital. We were there with identical injuries. We even shared the same ambulance, and saved the State a few bob. It must the sign of a successful marriage - is it? - when yourself and your beloved can sit side by side in A+E, sharing the groans and bandages. And after all that, a night and most of a day in sunny Beaumont, we're still talking to each other. Although in my case that's not easy, because I bit off the tip of my tongue. And the wife still isn't certain who I am.
Officially, according to my birth cert, I'm well into my 60s. In fact, I'm just less than 16. Because, like every other football lover, I measure my age in four-year instalments - that is, the gaps between the World Cups.
'That hair isn't grey, says the wife. - It's silver, look. They both have matching hair. She's right. She often is. We've been watching all these ads that are aimed at older people. People like ourselves, except we don't have matching silver hair. We don't usually pay attention to the ads. We record what we want to watch and charge through the ads. But we're watching some crime thing and I have the remote pointed at the telly, flying through the ads, when the wife shouts - Stop! I do.
I'm blaming the weather we've been having, all the ex-hurricanes and snow, and the storms with the names. One day we were living in a sleepy little democracy, and the next we're trapped in some dictatorship of the weather. All the yellow alerts and orange alerts and red alerts - for f*** sake.
Everything's bloody perfect.
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.
The daughter's after dropping the little grandson in to us, with a sack of avocados. She wants to have the avocados out of the sack and into the little lad, half a one a day, by the end of the month. She's insisting on it.
I'm with the little grandson and we're feeding the ducks.
I'm having a day out with the little grandson and we're counting the dog poo. It's not like the old days, because there's very little to count. We only spot three good lumps between the house and the Spar.
We had them all in the house last Sunday - the whole family, all the kids, wives, partners, grandkids and a few other strays. One minute, it was just me and the wife in the kitchen. The next, it was me, the wife and more than 20 others.
Jessica Lange, says the wife.
You know that scene in Ben Hur where Charlton Heston encounters the lepers? He sees them coming out of a cave and he hides behind a rock. Now, the lepers were his mother and sister, so it must have been quite upsetting - because they would have been in much better nick the last time he saw them. But at least he could get in behind a rock and hide.
I was up in Beaumont Hospital a few days ago. I went in reasonably healthy and I came out with three types of flu and a dose of TB as well, I think. And pneumonia and one of those skin diseases that you'd normally see on a dead fish.
We all have our heroes. We often forget about them as we get older - the footballer, or the singer, or even a politician - but they're still there inside us hidden away, keeping us company.
I'm looking at my friend, the Secret Woman. Or Martin, as everyone else knows him. I'm actually looking at his nails - his fingernails. I've never noticed before, but they're very long and well looked after. I'm tempted to take a sneaky photo - get the phone out and pretend I'm checking the football scores - and fire it off to the daughter, to get her verdict.
I'm standing on a ladder and I'm holding a roll of wallpaper, more than 20 years after I swore I'd never do it again. I've paste in my hair and all over one lens of my glasses. My arms are aching and the trousers are starting to slide off me. And, really - I swear to God - I don't really know how I got here.
I'm sick of people asking me what's wrong. So I've been working on the face.
'We'll go to Berlin, says the wife. - Will we?
I was at a funeral there, yesterday. A cousin I hardly knew. But I'm running out of cousins, so I went along to see him off. There's so many people I know dying these days, I have a special jumper and trousers that I only wear to funerals.
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.
Pint? It's the text I've been waiting for all day. I'm into my coat like Batman into his - whatever Batman jumps into when he's in a hurry. And I'm gone, out onto the street - through the letter box; I don't even open the door.
I check to make sure I have everything. I pat my pockets and recite the line my father delivered every time he was leaving the house.
They're all in the house, the wife's family. Her sister, Carmel, and the other sister, Dympna; Carmel's husband, Paddy, and Dympna's new partner whose name I won't bother remembering unless I meet him at least three more times.
The daughter's an amazing young one, really. I mean, all the kids and grandkids are amazing. It's the only proper way to look at them.
I'm in an off-licence with one of my sons.
It's coming up to Halloween, so me and the wife are doing the rounds. Looking for drugs. To sedate the dogs. And ourselves. We always leave it too late.
I'm a bit of a lost soul. So the wife is saying, anyway. I think she's just a bit sick of me moping around the place, especially in the evenings. She puts her head on my shoulder when she says it, but it's still a bit hurtful. And, just as her head touches the side of my neck, her hand reaches out...
The wife says she wants to go to Dunkirk.
What gobs***e decided that serving tea in a glass was a good idea? I'm not sure if there are any references to tea in the Bible but I'm betting that Jesus and the lads had theirs in mugs. And his holy mother - with a name like Mary she definitely drank hers from a cup and she went down to the Irish shop in Nazareth for the milk. And a packet of Tayto for Joseph - salt and vinegar.
I'm in the jacks. Not at home - in the local. Anyway, I'm in there. And I'm… I'll use the formal expression - I'm urinating. Now, normally I wouldn't be telling you this and you, I'm sure, would be happier if I wasn't. But there's a chap standing beside me and he isn't - urinating, that is. He's making a film.
The wife is furious. - I'm telling you now, she says. She repeats these words every time she opens a press, looks in, and slams it shut. We're in the kitchen, by the way.
The holidays used to be easier. They were nearly always disastrous; I'm not denying that. But they were more straightforward. You went into Joe Walsh or Budget Travel just after Christmas and got their brochures. You went home and sat with the wife until she decided where you were going. Then you went back in the next day, got into queue and booked it.
There are things that we give up on as we get older, and things that give up on us. Eyesight, hair, self-respect: they all walk out the door. Memory strolls out too, and it leaves the door wide open.
I push the pub door open.
I haven't gone for a pint in ages. That's a bit of a fib - it's a lie. I've been out for a pint a fair few times. But I haven't gone to my local. I've walked in the opposite direction, to a pub that's nearer the house but definitely isn't my local.
I've nothing against Bovril. In fact, I'm quite fond of a drop of Bovril. I even put a dab of it behind my ears once - kind of an experiment to see if the dogs would notice.
I'm standing out in the back garden with the wife. Now, in actual fact, we don't have a back garden. We have a hole where there used to be one. We used to have grass. No surprise there, I suppose; it's kind of your basic ingredient, isn't it? But we had a lilac bush that was spectacular for a few weeks in the year, and an apple tree that had real apples hanging off it in the autumn. We had all sorts of flowers. The garden - in its way - was lovely.
The wife wants to go to a spa.
I’m only putting the pint to my lips when the text goes off in my pocket. It’s the daughter. The grandson wants to say night-night to Spongebob. I look at the text, I look at the pint. I’ll send her a photo. I’ll unbutton the new shirt, do a Spongebob selfie, and fire it back to her to show the kid before she tucks him in.
I’m heading into town with the daughter. Normally, this would be grand. We’d have a wander and a laugh and maybe a drink on the way home. But this is different. I have to buy clothes. The wife used to come with me but she slapped an embargo on it the last time, about two years ago - maybe three years.
I’m having a slow pint with my buddy.
One of the grandkids wants a tattoo.
The wife wants to go to a spa. I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and that’s what she came up with.