It is a man’s world…


It is man’s world. Or so they say. 

But if you arrived here having Googled “being a man” or “perfect man” you’re probably already in the doo doo bro….or, dude….or mate….or whatever the down-with-the-kids reference du jour might be.

Men are, in general, having a bit of an identity crisis. Masculinity is under threat. Apparently it takes more than the ability to arm wrestle, grow a beard (shucks), and being able to assemble flat pack furniture (shucks).

That said, I have just returned from getting my silver fox locks cut in a “traditional” barbershop in Dorking, Surrey, where the air was a heady mix of talc, hair gel, testosterone and banter. And the sweet smell of someone vaping….

I looked down the line and noticed that all five of us in the chairs were hirsute , bearded. Two were having a shave. With a straight-edged cut-throat razor. Like real men. And this was despite an age range from early twenties to much, much older than myself….

We clients were referred all referred to as “boss” by the all-male barbers. And conversations were about football, the weather, work, and someone’s new car. It was a very male experience. Somewhat safe. Somehow comforting. Somewhat harking back to a world when men were men…..confused only by the moisturiser, texture gum and the occasional man bag. It was like it was back at in the day. Back in the old cave. Back on Mars….

For sure men still hold most of the political top jobs today, with notable exceptions such as kitten-heeled Theresa May and last year’s ‘Time’ magazine’ “Person of the Year”, Angela Merkel, both often judged more on their clothes rather than their policies. Which is probably no bad thing for them….. 

But even poor old Hillary Clinton could not shatter the political glass ceiling in the USA even when faced with the American equivalent of Alf Garnett on drugs in a Klu Klux Klan cape and a badly-fitting ginger wig.

It is also still the case that less than ten percent of UK CEOs in our top 100 FTSE companies are female, while the gender pay gap continues to hover in the range of twenty percent. 
And yet we hear that girls consistently outperform boys at school, at least up to GCSE level. And that suicide remains the main cause of death amongst men under the age of forty five….

It seems that the brave new world is a little confusing, surprising, and terrifying to the non-female of the species….
And, so many people seem to be asking “what does it mean to be a man today?” Indeed, somewhat ironically, this was the topic of Radio 5 Live’s “Women’s Hour” yesterday. And, this weekend sees the third Southbank Centre conference on “Being A Man”.

We must conclude that it isn’t easy being a modern man. Our roles have changed dramatically and quickly and continue to do so. In just two generations the clearly defined differences between the sexes have blurred. Society has changed. Many would say for the better. But not without consequences and complications. 

And I haven’t yet found the YouTube video or the iPhone app that tells us how to adapt and make the change….

And the change is rapid. Two generations rapid. My grandmothers worked in service, managed their homes, and raised their children. My grandfathers both fought in World Wars, did manual work to pay the mortgage and put food on the table, often quite literally, providing fruit and vegetables from the veg patch in the garden or from the allotment. The roles were clear, distinct, yet complimentary.

Yes my own mom worked but she always made sure that she was around when we kids were small, even working the night shift in a factory while we slept. She cooked the food, did the washing and the ironing. Dad also worked hard and would make himself a sandwich and even do the vacuuming. And yet the roles were still fairly clear, fairly distinct, and complimentary.

The roles may be changing, merging, becoming more equal but not all us men are emotionally equipped to appreciate the change. To feel it.

I grew up being told by teachers and peers to “man up”; that “real men don’t cry”. I was sold on the virtue of the stiff upper lip. I was told to walk on the curb-side when walking with a lady. When I phone “home” as I do every Sunday my dad immediately passes the phone to my mom. It is as if it is mom’s role to enquire about what is going on in the family. If dad does talk on the phone it is normally to exchange information rather than emotion, with chats about football, DIY, or asking directions. Like the men in the barber shop.

Some would argue that men have suffered somewhat in the battle of the sexes. We have sometimes been blamed for the woes of the world. Blamed for the wars. Blamed for the banking crisis. Blamed for the grooming; for the abuse. Blamed for being stuck emotionally in the world of our fathers and grandfathers. But I’m not sure it is true that we are being blamed; or to blame. We just feel blamed….as we continue to wallow in the dark corners of our man caves and our garden sheds.
And for sure we still have to man up. Recognise that a SatNav can’t fix all of the communication problems in a relationship. Take responsibility. I have lived on Mars and taken refuge in my cave far too often….

But it is hard in a world that expects the modern man to be Casanova in the bedroom, Marco Pierre White in the kitchen, with the insight of Freud, and the wisdom of Solomon, the dress sense of David Beckham, and partial to a bossa nova on Strictly Come Dancing. 

We are expected to be intellectual, entrepreneurial, entertaining, empathetic, body-aware metrosexuals, lovers, and heroic beard-sporting dads who cry in public and rush home from the office to spend time with the children before walking the dog, cooking dinner for the family, and settling down with a glass of red and a box set of Game of Thrones.

Well I have a beard. I do cry at sad films. I love my wife to bits. She is my best friend. I cook a mean hot pot and Sunday roast. I watch University Challenge and Question Time and enjoy a glass or three of red while watching “Sex and Sandles” . But, I am very much a work in progress. I am slowly emerging from my cave. But, and apologies to all my MAMIL friends, I shall not be donning the Lycra shorts any day soon….

But did I tell you that Brooklyn Beckham once mistook me for his dad?….

November 27, 2016 at 5:28 pm Leave a comment

The truth is out there….


Do not worry America. World, do not fret yet. Keep calm my friends and family. Donald Trump will not be President. I say again, President-Elect Trump will never sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office….

No, not because of an assassination. But I wouldn’t rule it out.

And, no, not be a use of a legal challenge to the election result. Although I wouldn’t rule that out either.

No. Aliens.

Have you noticed that our media is awash with stories of space colonisation and alien invasion? “Independence Day: Resurgence” in our cinemas; “MARS” on The National Geographic channel on our TVs, and the return of the “X Files”; and even  Jeff Wayne’s musical version of “The War of the Worlds” at the Dominion theatre in London’s West End….

The media is acting as a state-sponsored PR agency, preparing the ground for announcements soon to be made….

And, did you not wonder why with political tension between the USA at a pitch higher than at any time since the Cold War; with accusations of Putin deliberately interfering in the American election; and, fears over a potential World War Three as a result of armed clashes between the two great powers of in the Syrian conflict; why, in March this year a Russian Soyuz rocket launched a joint US / Russian crew to the International Space Station?

Why are the Super Powers putting aside Earthly political disagreements in order to cooperate in Space?

Aliens.

Aliens are coming! And, our politicians and their PR agencies are just trying to ease us in to the reality of it….

It has been known for a while. A blind Bulgarian mystic, Barbara Vanga, who died in 1996, predicted that Barack Obama, as 44th President of the United States, would be the last ever president. This has caused conspiracy theorists to believe that 2016 will be the year that Barack Obama will finally announce that aliens really do exist and have already visited the Earth. Area 51 is true.

Consequently the World will need to pull together, and form a new world government, and the role of US President will no longer function – leaving no place for Trump.

Miss Vanga’s predictions apparently had an 85% success rate, including the Boxing Day Tsunami. However, some of her incorrect interpretations include the date of this event, having predicted it would not be until 2130 that aliens would arrive on Earth and help humans to live under water. She also predicted the Third World War would start in 2010, and that Bulgaria would be in the 1994 World Cup final. So, there is still some room for scepticism….

But perhaps most revealing are the words of the last President himself. When questioned by a 6 year old girl on a TV show about the revelations within the fabled Presidential “Book of Secrets” and asked about the existence of aliens, Obama responded: “We haven’t actually made direct contact with aliens yet.

Many have focussed on the specific use of the word “direct”……

The truth is out there….aliens will save the world from Trump! Phew…

November 12, 2016 at 6:09 pm Leave a comment

The Life of an Ordinary/Extraordinary Man

There is just a week to go until Remembrance Day. This is just one story of one ordinary man who served and died. Lest we forget….

Middle Man

This is the Great-Grandfather of my wife.

Joseph Hoolahan (1877 – 1915)

Joseph Hoolahan, my wife’s great-grandfather, was an ordinary man who lived an ordinary life. He died in France in the Great War. Let us remember him.

Joseph Hoolahan was born in Droylsden, Lancashire some 22 miles from Hadfield, Glossop on 27 Mar 1877. As such, he was the first generation of Hoolahan’s born in England. Droylsden had seen an influx of Irish immigrants from the mid-1800s following the development of the cotton mills and of the Ashton and Peak Forrest canals. It would seem that the Hoolahans came to England around 1876.

According to his military recorda, Joseph had brown hair and brown eyes, and, at the time of joining the army in 1914 aged thirty seven, was healthy, five foot three inches tall and weighed one hundred and twenty five lbs, with a chest size of thirty seven and a…

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November 5, 2016 at 10:45 am Leave a comment

Wear It With Pride

In light of all this nonsense from FIFA regarding a ban on the England and Scotland football teams from wearing poppy armbands, I thought I would reblog this post.

The poppy is neither political (unless you ignore its meaning and choose to oppose its wearing), nor is it religious. It is a sign of respect and remembrance for those who fought and those who fell on the fields of Flanders, on the Normandy beaches, in the jungles of Korea, on the hills above Port Stanley, in the dust of Helmand, and everywhere else that brave men and women served and continue to serve to maintain our freedom and the right of people and organisations such as FIFA to spew such nonsense! @WearItWithPride

Middle Man

Yesterday the Royal British Legion launched this year’s annual Poppy Appeal. The RBL is a charity which provides support to men and women who are serving or have served in the Armed Forces, and their dependents. Selling poppies is one way in which they generate funds.

While I believe that the Poppy Appeal, and wearing of poppies, are common in North America (in Canada they are known as “Clowns Shoes”) and the Commonwealth, I know that their symbolism is not well understood in many parts of Europe. When I have worn my poppy on business trips in the past it has been the cause of some bemusement and discussion. So, I hope that this will be illuminating for some of my Continental visitors.

Wearing a poppy is also an important part of the annual Remembrance Day which is held on the Sunday closest to the 11th November and the…

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November 3, 2016 at 10:31 am Leave a comment

M6 – The Haunted Motorway

As it’s Hallowe’en….

Middle Man

piper

Does anyone know anything about the ghost that apparently haunts the M6 motorway around junction 17 at Sandbach?

I was at a social function at the weekend and chatting to a traffic cop who works the motorways of Cheshire. There have been a number of fatalities on the M6 motorway recently and the stretch between junctions 16 (Crewe) and 19 (Knutsford) is a well-known accident blackspot. I have never understood this as it is a perfectly straight stretch of road with few distractions at the side. So, the policeman was asked to explain why.

Apparently, this stretch of the motorway is haunted. The locals and the policeman all agreed that many of the accidents had been caused by drivers who had been distracted by ghostly apparitions. Now, those of you who know me will realise that I am a sucker for a good ghost story and believe that I have…

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October 31, 2016 at 8:42 am Leave a comment

Learn the lessons of history….please!

It is Hallowe’en, nearly, and America is zombie walking into a potential catastrophe – the possibility of electing the Bogey Man to the position of President of the USA and (self-proclaimed) leader of the free world.

Winston Churchill once said: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” And for sure, you only have to look at the winners of the X-Factor over recent years to know that he was right.

Some say that those who vote for Trump are protesting against the Washington elite and its great political dynasties. Well recent protest votes in the UK gave us Jeremy Corbyn and may yet see us leave the European Union. America, feel free to wave placards and man the barricades but DO NOT VOTE TRUMP no matter how much you distrust Hilary and condemn her for poor e-mail etiquette.

It is seven months since I wrote this blog. I have been following the US election campaign closely since then (unlike many American citizens it would seem) and my view has just hardened as revelation after revelation condemns him further. As his own words and actions condemn him.

Clinton may be a poor choice. But she is still the better choice.

Do not put Trump in power. Do not let him control the media, the justice system, the military or the nuclear button.

It is Hallowe’en, nearly, and the Bogey Man is coming. America you have just ten days to save the world. DO NOT VOTE FOR TRUMP.

Middle Man

image

Forget the fact that Donald Trump is sexist, a misogynist. Which he is. Put aside the fact that he a rude, belligerent bully. Which he is. Forget the fact that he is dismissive of the media who try to expose him. Which he is.

On Fox News Trump attacked anchor Megyn Kelly: “She had blood coming out of her whatever” – following the first  Republican debate, which Kelly moderated.”Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.””You know it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.” “I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

If that is enough to make sure, if you’re an American, then you can stop reading here.

If not, then read on. If you have not been appalled…

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October 29, 2016 at 11:04 am Leave a comment

Time to travel again….


I have just started to travel on business following a “lay off” of a couple of months. I’ve not missed it. It is stressful, traveling. 

First there is the worry of whether the taxi will turn up. And, if it turns up at all , will it be on time. And, if it turns up on time, will it be able to find us – our house is not visible from the roadside and, consequently, is hard to find.

Thankfully it turned up on time and the drive phoned when he couldn’t find us. Phew.

Then there is the Russian Roulette which is the M25. The journey to Heathrow Terminal 5 should take 35 minutes. But, given the vagaries of the M25 it is best to allow at least 2 hours. The traffic flowed pretty well. Phew.

The plane was only delayed for 30 minutes. I was served a “delicious value for money”meal (not) of a packet of crisps with a can of lumpy orange juice; I flew through passport control (I think they’ve given up since Brexit); and, jumped into a Parisien cab which both a) knew where the hotel was and b) didn’t try to rip me off. Even the Periphique was free flowing. Phew. Result. Pinched myself just to make sure.

The hotel was expecting me which is always a good thing and they even had actioned my request for an iron and ironing board to be placed in my room. 

Well, I say an iron. There was this thing which any electrician in the world would have condemned. It heated up sporadically while fizzing somewhat and had the residue of the previous user’s garment coating the bottom like a film of tar. And, I say a board. It was just two foot long and 4 inches high, designed to sit on the desk. It is like ironing a shirt on a body board. It also had the residue of the previous user’s garment coating it and some child’s doodling in biro.

The hotel has had a makeover shell since my last visit. On the surface all was good – new carpets, fresh paint, new doors, etc. but upon closer investigation my irritation at hotel design in general quickly surfaced…..

A strip mirror, about 4 inches high, had been placed along the wall opposite the bed, beneath the rather small flat screen TV which was alien to English-speaking channels, and on the walls either side of the bed, at exactly the height of the bed. 

So, when lying on the bed I found myself looking at myself from all angles. It was not pretty and had me checking the walls and ceilings for hidden cameras. I can only assume that Novotel is pitching its newly refurbished rooms at people wanting to make amateur porn films of themselves on their iPhones. Which I do not.

As ever, despite taking the trouble to liberally scatter USB charging points around the room (so that my phone/alarm could rest next to me rather than across the room on the desk),the master switch for the lights was only on one side of the bed. The wrong side. Which meant that I either had to plunge the room into darkness and run a naked obstacle course between the bed, miniature ironing board, cooling iron, mini bar and desk to get to my side of the bed or risk putting my back out stretching across several superfluous pillows and cushions.

The mini bar was empty and, therefore, also superfluous.

In the bathroom the sink and mirror instead of being positioned centrally were off to one side against one wall. The sink was misnamed, being one of those modern square, shallow jobs – more of a damp tray upon which you can spread your toothpaste and shaving detritus rather than a basin you could fill with water. And, no plug! 

Shaving in the mirror meant resting one shoulder against the wall while tilting your head at an angle likely to cause a crick. And, of course, the cable on the hairdryer was so short that I was forced to crouch precariously in a yoga-like / torture position resting one of my chins on the edge of the sink so that only the top of my head was visible in the lob-sided mirror.

And, don’t even start me on the hotel food….but look what greeted me at the airport Starbucks:


That is a so-called English muffin. I let it cool down and that cheese had welded itself to the paper plate.

Well at least, BA, French air-traffic control and the M25 allowing, I will be at home tonight with a reheated chilli (the oven is broken), and my own inadequate bathroom to look forward to – the joys of renting. At least the mirror is in the right place!

It is stressful, renting.

October 12, 2016 at 2:26 pm 1 comment

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