Sunday 18 August 2019

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: 'TV ads are giving me the beginnings of a stomach ache'


Illustration: Ben Hickey
Illustration: Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

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 are two young women about to kiss each other. They disappear, replaced by a young woman looking tearfully happy - I'm betting she's just found out she's pregnant. And then two men, father and son or two long-estranged brothers, hug. And I think to myself: it's another ad for a bloody bank.

And I'm right. Bank of Ireland. Begin.

They're at it again. The bastards.

I've said it before: the ads get on my wick. But they've been easy enough to avoid in recent years. We record most of what we watch, me and the wife, and we just fast-forward through the ads. It's sometimes hard to tell when the ads have ended and the show's back on but that's a minor inconvenience - and a bit of crack, now and again.

- There's a talking meerkat in 'Derry Girls', look it.

- Are you sure it isn't a nun?

But with football and the news, you're stuck with the ads. You don't have to listen to them but they're still there. And we make the most of it. We've been analysing the ads.

The football ads are predictable enough - drink, cars and betting. But it was me who spotted that the ads are different when Brexit is in the news. And it always is. It's like the unmarried uncle who comes for the dinner and never leaves. But this is true: when Brexit is the main feature on the RTÉ News, the ads during the break are nearly all for painkillers and cures for constipation and stomach trouble. Check it out for yourself if you don't believe me.

The wife believes me. She sits up when I say it. And that action, sitting up, is far from easy on our couch. The thing has sunk so much, we don't really sit on it. We climb into it.

But anyway, she sits up.

- You're right, she says.

I don't want to overdo it. I don't want to give the impression that this is the first time in years that the wife has accepted something I've said as being truthful or accurate. We don't live like that. We're great buddies, me and her. She sits up because she's delighted. She loves spotting things like that, trends - or, memes, as the daughter would probably call them. And I'm just chuffed that it was me who spotted this particular trend.

We're keeping count.

- There's the Gaviscon one again, look it.

- That's three, so far.

- Here's my favourite, I say.

It's the Nexium ad. There's the girl with her desk drawer full of drugs, and the woman with the glove compartment full of drugs, then the woman walking out of the chemist's as she drops her Nexium into her handbag; she looks so happy.

- Is it not sexist, but? I ask.

- Why is it?

- It's all women, I say.

- And you're complaining? she says.

- No, I say. - Just curious. And what is it about the handbags?

- What handbags? she asks.

She's looking at me like she's finally met her intellectual equal. We're lodged in the bottom of a couch in a room in Dublin but - just for a minute - we're in Paris just after the War. I can nearly believe we're talking French and I'm wearing a beret. Anyway.

- There was a yoghurt one a while back, I say. - That bionic yoghurt.

- Probiotic.

- That's the one, I say. - And the young one in it says the yoghurt sorts out her tummy and then she pats her handbag. And the question has to be asked. What's she after dropping into the handbag?

- Her poo, says the wife. - But not literally.

- I thought that, myself, I say. - But there's loads of women with handbags in the ads. Are they all full of s***e?

- Yeah, says the wife. - Essentially.

- It's a bit basic, but, isn't it? I say. - And is it only the women who are constipated cos of Brexit?

- Good question, says the wife.

I ask my pal, the Secret Woman.

- How are your stools?

He looks along the bar, at the line of seats.

- Grand, he says. - How're yours? He's hopeless.

The ads at news time are full of women holding their heads or with cartoon knots in their flat stomachs; then they're miraculously cured and they're striding along, smiling, swinging handbags full of s***e.

But it's the Bank of Ireland Begin ad that has me constipated. It manages to invade nearly every aspect of private and family life and even tries to claim ownership of it. It's why - we - are here. Bank of Ireland - Begin.

- Begin what? I ask the wife.

- God knows, she says. - Begin looking around for another bank. Let them have it, Charlie.

- Begin, me hole!

- Good man.

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