Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: 'These days my granddaughter's a Goth and her hair's dyed a colour I don't have a name for'
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.
But anyway, there was me and the wife, all the kids and partners and the grandchildren, and some of the dogs; there were four or five grandkids back then. We were all happy enough, slagging the ads, when the wife changed channels and Julie Andrews was suddenly there, climbing every f***in’ mountain.
All the males in the room stood up and walked out, including a baby who climbed out of his Moses basket, and three of the dogs – and my eldest granddaughter.
I felt a hand grab mine. I looked down and there she was, marching out in protest with the lads.
– You don’t like ‘The Sound of Music’, love?
She shook her head and frowned, and smiled. She’s still the only female I know who hates The Sound of Music. It’s one of the many things I admire about her.
These days she’s a Goth and her hair’s dyed a colour I don’t have a name for. I’m not sure what a Goth is, exactly, but I know it annoys her parents, my son and his wife, and this gives me and the wife a certain amount of secret pleasure. – Revenge, the wife whispers, whenever the kid comes into the house.
Anyway, I’m mad about her; I always have been. She sits and chats with me but her parents can’t get a word out of her, not even a cross one. More guilty pleasure for me and the wife. We talk about music.
– What about Black Sabbath? I ask her. – Do you like them?
She shakes her head. The gesture, the movement, is so precise – it’s like an executioner’s axe.
– They’re too sentimental, like, she says. I think I remember reading that the singer from Black Sabbath, Ozzie Osbourne, once bit the head off a live bat, onstage. But, as far as my granddaughter is concerned, he’s only an oul’ softie. It’s brilliant.
So, anyway, we’re playing this game where you replace the word ‘love’ in a song with ‘hate’ – “How deep is your hate”, “My hate keeps lifting me, keeps on lifting me” – when she asks me if I’d like to go to the pictures with her.
This is historical. Her parents are in the kitchen, listening to every word, and I can hear her father catching her mother just after she faints.
– I’d like that, I say. – What film?
– ‘Overlord’, she says.
– What’s that one about?
– Zombies and Nazis.
And I sing: “These are a few of my fave-or-it things.”
I can see she already regrets inviting me to go with her. But I just add “not” to the end of the line – “my fave-or-it things… not” – and that seems to reassure her. So, off we go. In on the bus, to Cineworld.
– It’s 4DX, she tells me on our way up the escalator.
– What’s that? I ask her.
– Not sure, she says. – Like 3D, like.
– Grand, I say. – I can cope with that.
The film’s just starting when we get to our seats. The seats are huge, like fancy barber’s chairs, and I’m only sitting down – I haven’t seen anything yet – when the seats start to shake.
– Oh, Jaysis!
The granddaughter is laughing. I cling on.
– What’s the story?!
There’s a planeload of Marines, about to jump out with their parachutes, behind enemy lines. It’s like that old one, Where Eagles Dare, but without Richard Burton or Clint Eastwood. Or Mary Ure. The plane’s just been hit by a German shell. That’s why our seats are shaking – if that makes sense. Then they open the door and we’re hit by a spray of cold water.
– Ah, Jaysis!
The film is drivel but the crack is brilliant. The Marines are sneaking through a forest – and we smell perfume.
– It’s like Arnotts, like, says the granddaughter.
Then the shaking starts again and it doesn’t really stop ’til the end of the film. I have to go out to the jacks and vomit. But I’m keen to get back.
– Did anyone die while I was gone?
– Most of them, she says.
The Nazis have been designing zombie troops. “The Thousand Year Reich needs thousand-year soldiers.” It’s the only decent line in the film. But the violence is marvellous. I haven’t seen this much blood since the 1970 FA Cup Final.
We’re exhausted when it’s over.
Well, I am.
– I need a lie-down after all that, I tell her.
– Will we watch it again, Granddad?
– Ah, yeah.
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