Sunday, 18 September 2016

Blood, sweat, tears and craic: the stuff of life!

Many thanks to all of you who responded so positively to this colyoom’s mention of male mental health a couple of weeks ago. It’s great to hear your tales of progress; magnificent that you’re so willing to tell them.

Traditionally men are not considered good at talking to each other, but that’s not necessarily true. We share feelings through telling jokes, reveal tragedies and victories through tales and anecdotes.

Sometimes you don’t need to go into the details. Sometimes it’s just enough to get away from whatever ails your head and spend time in the company of others who are simply pleased to see you. 

Sometimes, for men, the fellowship of other men who want nothing from you except attention and time can prove wonderfully healthy.

One of the ways I and a few others massage our male minds is to gather on Friday afternoons round at Soldier Boy and Whispering Blue’s gaff.

It’s a little like one of those excellent Men’s Sheds that exist these days, except that we don’t actually make anything except conversation and endless cups of strong sweet tea.

Okay: it’s exactly like a men’s shed.

A few weeks ago we were joined by Bog Doctor, a soul with a keen sense of the absurd, often couched in overtly perverse and scatalogical humour. Passionate about the local environment, his insights have helped me to look at the bog differently when I’m out walking Lady Dog.

Are the plants by the drainage ditches looking more healthy than the ones far out on the middle of the plain? How much does our digging affect growth on what was once wet ground?

Reaching down beside his arm chair, Bog Doctor produced a small metallic suitcase, which he opened to reveal a microscope, slides, little bottles and tools, all slotted snugly and orderly in place.

On the table was a Coffee and Walnut cake, purchased to celebrate Soldier Boy’s birthday. Bog Doctor took a minuscule granule of the cake and placed it on a slide, whereupon each of us in turn groaned and giggled as we lowered our stiff and creaky middle-aged frames to kneel carefully by the microscope

Now I know that to a microbe, a speck of icing sugar looks like the Ross Ice Shelf on the continent of Antarctica.

Pricking his thumb with a sharp point, Bog Doctor carefully spilled a drop of his own blood onto a slide. One by one we all once more knelt uncomfortably to peer at blood as we’d never seen it before, magnified x 200, then x 400 and finally x 900.

It was utterly fascinating to see the emergence of what looked like cells. Bog Doctor managed to answer all our questions clearly and sensitively, without making any of us feel thick.

If only Science at school had been more like that.

Every massively enlarged image of organic matter looked like a 3D satellite map of terrain and what with there being a room full of blokes, talk naturally turned to maps.

Weren’t they great? 
Didn’t we all love them?

While everyone shared their own personal tale of how maps had mattered to them in the past, I could only think of one, and reached for my phone. A few years ago I asked my friend, cartoonist Martin Rowson, to create a map of our walks with Lady Dog.

So that we might swap tales, The Snapper and I have allotted names to several spots on our townland and bog (Snifffy Woods; Horse Stands High; Pheasant Nest Corner and so on) and I wanted to suggest to the lads that another function of maps was to aid the evolution of place names. Maybe over time an area we call Sniper Alley might become something like ‘Snipraille.’

Trouble was I couldn’t for the life of me find the image on my phone. By this time, the room was silent, every eye focused on my fingers as they splayed over the tiny screen’s shiny surface, hitting this and sliding that, while I spluttered and muttered.

Eventually I turned to Bog Doctor, who was eagerly waiting by my side to see the map I was going on about.

“Sorry mate. Taking me ages. These things are not designed for middle-aged male fingers. Old man with iPhone I’m afraid.”

There followed a suitably long silence; not too long, but a period of time heavily pregnant with Bog Doctor’s imminent response.

Quiet as a mouse, he muttered under his breath:

“Hmmm. iPhone with old man.”

The depth of his verbal switcheroo took a few seconds to sink in, but then the wonder of his observation hit me. With a tiny bit of word inversion, he was implying that the phone was a more competent entity than I was myself; that somehow it was the phone that was struggling to accommodate me, rather than the other way around.

That’s my kind of humour. Subtle, slightly absurd and suitably cruel, laden with more than a dollop of painful truth.

“iPhone with old man! iPhone with old man!’” was the chorus roaring around the room, as we all for a couple of minutes forgot our woes and collapsed into hysterical giggles.

I laughed until I cried, at which point Bog Doctor launched himself at me, brandishing another microscope slide.

“We’ve had blood and now we can look at tears. Anybody got any sweat?”

©Charlie Adley

No comments: