Wednesday 30 November 2016

Wednesday 9 November 2016


This blog will be closed until further notice.

In the meantime, if someone finds hope, decency, respect, empathy (and its close relative, sympathy), acceptance and humanity, tell them they are much missed.


Saturday 5 November 2016

Thoughts in Progress

Lately I have been wondering if the mark of true masculinity can be found in a role allocated to us, men, that we are supposed to fulfill, or if such concept is devoid of meaning at all. My deliberations have come as a result of recent discussions on the role men play in society nowadays.

A key component of male identity has long been a bread-winning mentality. Whether of the blue- or white-collar type, the masculine professional mind-set has usually seen itself as the one that brings home the bacon. Yet, in recent decades the male influence has somewhat dwindled. The collapse of industries up and down the UK, changes in the workplace (with a corresponding higher female intake), the emergence of a zero-hour-contract culture, the swift transition from a manufacturing economy to a consumer-led, service-based one; these are all factors that have dealt a heavy blow to the male ego.

Gendered identities have been a comfort zone for many (although, it appears women were not consulted too often on them) for centuries. Whilst it might have made sense in a world riven with unknown dangers in ancient times – and I, for one, am not condoning such attitudes – it makes less sense in the modern era. We live in a non-binary world now and this has proved to be challenging for the older male generation.

Nevertheless, we still live in a world governed by my gender. Wherever you turn, media, politics, business, you will see men calling the shots. However, once you start cutting through the different strata of society you notice that men no longer perform traditional roles. Moreover, they often can be found in positions that used to be thought of as “women’s jobs” (education and childcare being two). This has created a conflict between men and the rest of society (including women and institutions) and within men themselves, as they struggle to understand their place on planet Earth in the 21st century. The typical power-related behaviour displayed by the male of the species has had to adapt quickly to a market-driven economy that favours customers over gender.

I've got a softer side, you know?

Is there, then, a crisis of masculinity? Yes is the answer, if we ascribe ourselves only to a man-centric viewpoint. No, if we believe (as I do) that masculinity is not defined by athletic prowess or pub-closing-time brawls. Male identity does not exist in a vacuum, even if that has been the long-held opinion. What has happened in the last two decades, from the rise of LGBT activism, to the ever-increasing female influence on society, is that the penis-shaped, Berlin-Wall of masculinity has come tumbling down. Notions of gender and sexuality are not as strict as they used to be. More women are employed now than ever (even if they still make less money than their male counterparts performing the same jobs). Straight men have shaken off the shackles of orthodox masculinity.

It follows then, that indeed there could be a men’s crisis, but only insofar as this crisis stems from a pre-conceived idea of what a man is meant to be and do. Once you eliminate the rigid notion of masculinity you are left with a very loose and hard to categorise definition. Not that there has not been a backlash against these changes. You only need take a look at Donald Trump across the pond and Nigel Farage in Britain to see male power in retreat and fighting back. Its targets are the usual suspects: the politically correct brigade, “feminazis”, “bloody wimin”, gays (with a new addition, “trans activists”) and “unmanly men”. It will be interesting to see how this head-to-head battle pans out in years to come.

In the meantime, those of us who have decided that masculinity means more than talking about women in a degrading way, have embraced openness and acceptance as a means to assert our humanity. This is a much bigger concept than maleness and far more inclusive.

© 2016

Next Post: “Urban Diary”, to be published on Wednesday 9th November at 6pm (GMT)

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Diary of Inconsequential Being

It might not come as a surprise to many that one of the marks of modern life is how different the world of celebrity has become. Whereas in years gone by there was a certain mystery and suspense around famous people, we now face an information overload. This is not, in case you are wondering, one of those “back in my days things were better” type of column. Especially because, a) I’m only forty-four-years-old (soon to be forty-five) and, b) because my life so far has straddled two countries and equal amount of continents.

Yet, I, too, have noticed how inane and repetitive celebrities’ output has become. So, I am joining the fray tonight. This is a new space in which I will discuss my quotidian (un)exciting, inconsequential life experiences. Any attempt to bore you is intentional. Content will be repetitive occasionally and very often devoid of meaning and depth. Feel free to yawn. In fact, I encourage you to.

Monday 5th September

I have now been back at work for two days but it is only today that the children are returning to school. On my way to work a car comes within a whisker of kissing the frame of my bike but it ends with no amorous encounter between the two modes of transport. The automobile in question is not some rare species, just an old, battered Ford. Its size is never less than spectacular and its colour is the typical red commonly found on British roads.

A sky-blue, seasonally-warm, early morning makes my day already. My journey to work lasts the customary twenty-odd minutes and nothing important happens. The traffic lights are still in the same place, jumped through by the same threatening-looking lorry drivers and bespectacled bus drivers.

On the news today: Keith Vaz is to step down as Commons committee chair after sex claims and Theresa May refuses to commit to Brexit pledges on immigration and NHS. Sex and immigration. I bet a large part of the population of these isles is getting their jollies right now.

I begin to read "Oscar Wilde" by H. Montgomery Hyde.

Tuesday 6th September

The young. I could watch them forever, crossing roads without a care in the world, heads bowed down, eyes never leaving their gadgets, and yet, stepping out of the way of a rush-hour, speeding car at the last minute.

Until one day they will be lucky no more.

I stop at the same busy crossroads on my way to work and notice for the umpteenth time that we need a green man on this corner. Reason number 1, there are about four secondary schools within a radius mile of each other, plus half a dozen primaries. Reason number 2, visibility is very poor because of the road layout. There aren’t four corners per se, but five or six places to cross from, all of them equally dangerous. Reason number three… forget reason number three, the light has changed.

The papers are full of the just-cancelled junior doctors’ strike. The front pages betray their usual political alliances. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is more fortunate this time when he comes on Radio 4. No one gets his surname wrong. Ah, my kingdom for a spoonerism!

Wednesday 7th September

I am thinking of investing in a pannier. My rucksack feels heavy and my neck is beginning to ache. I ring up Cancer Research UK and find out that I can still sign up for the Brighton marathon next year. Later on tonight I will submit my registration fee and the tortuous but rather exhilarating prospect of running twenty-six miles again is enough to carry me through the day.

My daughter is cooking tonight. She usually does Tuesdays and Wednesdays whilst I still cook on Thursdays. Fridays are “unhealthy food night” and Sundays and Mondays it is my wife’s turn to take over the kitchen. Saturdays are LTOOD day (Left To Our Own Devices, in case you are wondering).

I love my daughter’s recipes. She is always inventive. I wish I had been that daring at her age but between being born in a country where men in the kitchen are a no-no and living with four women under the same roof, I never had the same opportunities.

And to be honest, I did not look for them either.

Totally random image. Photo taken by the blog author
Sports Direct is in hot water. The company has been caught red-handed after a Guardian-led investigation uncovered practices that could easily be compared to those of a Victorian workhouse.

There is still good, investigative journalism around. The kind that does not depend on stories on sex and immigration to ramp up its sales.

© 2016

Next Post: “Thoughts in Progress”, to be published on Saturday 5th November at 6pm (GMT)


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