What A Fuckin Horrible Dream I Had Last Night!

And it wasn’t a nightmare in the sense that snakes and dragons and unrecognisable madmen were desperate to cut my throat. It was real, at least inasmuch as it had happened … and the more I’ve thought about it these past few hours, the more I’m convinced that it was the moment that my father lost interest in me and the rest of my life.

For several years I’ve realised that my father tried to

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live his life through me. There’s reference to this in the What Men Do Guide – not specifically me and my father but the situation whereby a lad gets fucked up because without realising it he takes on automatically the values of his father plus his father’s frustrated ambitions.

As to the actual incident and last night’s rotten remembrance …..

…. my parents kept a country pub here in Halifax where on Saturday and Sunday evenings I was required to play the piano.

Unfortunately I have always had the facility of being able to play ‘by ear’; if you whistle me a tune I can instantly play it – in ‘C’, ‘G’ or ‘F’ of course.

When my father was demobbed from fighting the Fuhrer he did three things for me; he made me clean my teeth twice a day, he taught me to play chess, and he instigated a weekly piano lesson. I was 7 years old.

After a few months the piano teacher told my father that I was proving difficult to teach because as soon as she had played a piece of music which I was left to ‘learn’ I instantly played it ‘by ear’. In other words the learning process was a fraud.

However my father chose not to recognise this; I was part of the caberet at the pub, in practical terms a money-spinner for him. Local farmers who could sing ‘Bless This House’, or ‘Come Back To Sorrento’ and popular ballads of the period never seemed to be away from the place.

Later, when females entered my life, playing the piano was a curse; I was never available even for a fumble on Sowerby moors on Saturday or Sunday nights.

And then my father learned of an impending visit by a Bradford-born pianist, one who had acquired a big reputation – in London no less – as a teacher.

On the appointed day of his visit to play a one-night recital, my father and I took the bus to Bradford.

After the recital (which actually bored the pants off me), I was taken backstage to play for the maestro.

This I refused to do, knowing that, at best, I was what was known as only a ‘honky-tonk’ pianist.

My father was outraged. On the bus back home and for weeks afterwards all he could say to me was, ‘well, y’had y’chance’……

If I’d been worried that my cock wasn’t going to grow big enough to deliver a decent shag up till then, I became even more convinced from that point onwards.

And now that horrible estrangement from my father has entered my dreams. I awoke in the early hours before I could cry out ‘Dad, that’s not what I wanted! I didn’t want to be a concert pianist! I’d’ve hated it and anyway, I was never good enough!’

But that’s what my father wanted.

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

We may be arriving a little late to the party here, but we’ve been giving some thought to the fact that CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably, have named 2014 as the Year of the Male. The plan is to open up a year-long discussion on what it means to be a Man and to look at what changes are needed to create a fair and flourishing society, one in which men aren’t pressured to live up to “unrealistic ideals”.

We first became aware of CALM and the fantastic work they do around the time when we launched the What Men Do Guide, around eighteen months ago. As the Guide is primarily aimed at lads in their late teens, plus those former rebels who have since bought into the programme of chasing the Bitch-Goddess ‘Success’ to acquire wealth, status and power, we were only too eager to get into bed with them.

Since the Guide was published we haven’t changed our opinion that the greatest quality a man can possess is Self Respect. Armed with this he’s able to Stand Alone when his integrity is challenged and ‘be his own man’.

The sad truth is that few guys are ‘their own men’. This is a delusion which they increasingly feed into their existence as they settle for the bullshit that’s been fed to them from Day One about ‘fitting in’ with Society in general, and doing so as quickly as possible so they don’t ‘miss the boat’ – and once they’re on the boat, God forbid they do anything that might rock it.

The trouble for many guys comes around age 35 when they suddenly have a burst of awareness where they realise that they should never have boarded the boat in the first place. By fixating on ‘fitting in’ they never spent any time in that private ‘inner space’ which is vitally necessary in order to decide what is right for them.

Reviewing this in later life what

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becomes increasingly clear is that it isn’t their life they’ve been living; it has largely been that of their frustrated father coupled with his dated values of what was most important in life.

Our view is very clear – we reckon the purpose of why we were given life is to be ourselves, to mature in such a way that the specialness we have to offer is there on the surface of who we are – what you see, touch and smell is what you get. (Or as the advertising world puts it ‘it does what is says on the tin’.)

The brainwashing given during childhood and youth – be it from parents (well-meaning or otherwise), teachers preaching the benefits of staying in the education merry-go-round, or other ‘authority figures’ pushing job security over happiness – is increasingly difficult to eradicate once it has been etched into

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the psyche. This becomes further entrenched when age brings with it the desire for comfort and security. The priorities of what’s important become dominated by both Fear and Lethargy.

It’s no wonder that CALM is now calling for the Year of the Male. For most guys, we’re reminded of the Park Warden at the boating lake calling out ‘your time’s up’.

Fortunately all is not lost. Tom Daley’s decision to publicly announce that he’s currently enjoying a close relationship with another guy and James Wharton coming out as gay while still serving in the Household Cavalry were both welcomed positively by the media, which

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suggests that being yourself is not in any way un-manly. In fact it’s the opposite, it is the starting point of living the life of a man – living your life.

And whose life are you living if it’s not yours?

Yet More Signs Of Emptiness

Is it just me or do we all get more and more mail marked ‘Private and Confidential’? The thing is, when you take a looksee of the contents, it isn’t either private or confidential. Invariably it’s some marketing shit concerning ‘free’ offers.

This inflation of words is one of my personal loathings. Years ago I realised that to be truly effective, words have to be used carefully. They’re perfect for telling lies but much less so at expressing the truth.

And it’s not just words that are bandied about. More and more there’s a lack of real substance to what’s on offer to us. Few things seem to match up to the ‘it-does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ scenario. All too often the claims are just limp pricks ….. and I’m

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not the only one who’s noticed this drift into a state of airy unreality.

I’m not nosey by nature, though I suppose that is a matter of interpretation; I admit to a tremendous curiosity, especially about what I call the ‘human’ element in human-beings.

This is probably one of the reasons I enjoy directing Plays. One of my leisure activities is that I’m involved with a Youth Theatre, the objectives of which are to use Drama as a means of taking bad-lads off the streets and on to the stage, the idea being to use a production of ‘Coriolanus’ and fake blood on the streets of Ancient Rome as a substitute for real blood on the mean streets of Halifax.

What I’ve discovered is that you need imagination and a curiosity about the happenings of the Past to put together something which, on stage, an audience can believe approaches the ‘real thing’.

What increasingly disturbs me is that the ‘real thing’ is no longer obvious in ‘real life’.

There’s reference to this in the What Men Do Guide which, I recall, is particularly incensed about false tits (it being one of the few subjects the three writers can agree upon). My complaints are more, well, petty, but they still cause me to despair at the desperate state of the human condition today, and worse, the drift which I suspect gives us a true glimpse of the future.

For instance one thing – you may consider this nit-picking – is I’m particularly dismayed at the rubbish magazines I witness being purchased by those ahead of me in the queue at Tescos. More often than not, they’re devoted to the ‘amazing’ lives of either the ‘pretend’ characters in the soaps, or the related emptiness in the ‘private’ lives of those acting out the roles. Emptiness piled on to more emptiness.

And it isn’t just the media that seems to be running on empty.

I was chatting with one of my cousins a couple of days ago. He was just back from a funeral – the father of one of his mates had passed on – and he recounted to me how unreal he’d found the funeral.

My cousin said that not a single member of the congregation shed a tear; there was not a moment of sadness in the church, just a chilly formality as if those present were enacting a ceremony which was strictly devoted to observing a formal sense of duty.

At the reception afterwards the women exchanged some airy kisses on the cheek, and some of the guys made a stilted attempt to hug each other. At least, he said, that was what was suggested. But this obviously lacked realism for him. He described it as more of a ‘duty hugging’; it was impossible to believe that any warm, human energy was being exchanged or any suggestion of a personal intimacy being reaffirmed.

I have to say, I found no difficulty imagining this scene, or the formal acknowledgement which will undoubtedly appear in the local newspaper effusively thanking everyone for attending.

If observations of empty ‘thankyou’s’ and ‘Private and Confidential’ are now acceptable as meaningful communications, how much future credibility can we expect to believe from ‘I love you’?

Tapping into the Life Force.

Until Sunday I’d heard of Schoenberg but nothing more than that. Since then I’ve become a bit obsessed. There is an exhibition of his work alongside his old mate, Kandinsky, at Amsterdam’s Jewish Historical Museum. It was the Kandinsky name that attracted me but I left babbling about Schoenberg.

As with the exhibition, context is important. I’ll keep it brief (mainly because I’m only just learning this myself):

He was a Viennese composer (and later painter and music theorist), born in 1874. He rose to prominence (in Germany) fairly young and was incredibly polarising. When things got too hot, the critique more threatening with the rise of Hitler, he upped sticks to LA.

Although I listened to his music, it’s not something I feel I can confidently write about. What I would (possibly ignorantly) label “Classical” music isn’t something I’ve spent enough time with. But that is of little consequence as it’s more the man that interests.

As I mentioned, his music was incredibly polarising at the time. Apparently the more traditional among the musical elite didn’t like what this young upstart was doing.

He got some rough treatment. An entire audience booing and hissing after a performance was just

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one of the many incidents on record. His reply to the critics was the most inspiring piece of art in the exhibition – more than any of the wonderful, chaotic yet harmonious works by Kandinsky.

“I did not choose to write this way. I am forced by an inner compulsion greater than any upbringing.”

There are a few gleaming gems expressed so eloquently within this sentence. One is a wonderful defiance to be anything other than what he is. The second, is his dismissal of upbringing as defining him or dictating his behaviour. The third is the idea of an “inner compulsion” – he’s tapped into a force greater than logic and it’s driving him forward.

In a similar vein, and a bit more amusingly, when serving in WW1, an officer asked if he was “this notorious Schoenberg, then?” To which Schoenberg replied: “Beg to report, sir, yes. Nobody wanted to be, someone had to be, so I let it be me.”

What become evident was that this was no bull shit. The guy was a prolific composer, inventor, painter and tinkerer. He had tapped into the life force and the tap was constantly flowing.

Alongside the paintings and manuscripts, were a host of inventions, from portable music stands, to a board game he believed would help teach people to choose diplomacy over military actions (called Coalition Chess).

The more I learn about these guys, the men who can’t put the pen down (or whatever their version of the pen is) the more I’m convinced that tapping into the core of ourselves to find our own, great inner compulsion is absolutely the key to being our own man.