How Flavoursome Is Your Slice

There’s a saying that goes along the lines of “if you want something doing,

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ask a busy person”. I remember when I first heard of this I thought it was terrible advice. How can it be better to ask a favour from someone who already has a huge pile of shit on their plate? Surely asking someone with a lot if Time on their hands would be far more productive.

But experience has show it to be true, people with seemingly less available Time always come up with the goods far sooner – and more efficiently – than those whose days are filled with twiddling thumbs. So how can this be

It seems to me that it all comes down to how Time is viewed by the individual. I don’t mean that I think some people see time in slow motion – maybe some do, I don’t know. What I’m referring to is the importance with which Time is viewed. Even further than that, as Time is a finite resource for all of us – though it continues ad infinitum, we each only get a minuscule slice of the Time pie – it comes down to how we prioritise how we spend our share.

Most people who, when you look at their diaries, aren’t busy, often think that they are. This seems to stem from a misplaced priority in how they spend their allotted Time. They are so used to having plenty of free Time to be taken up by personal pleasure – playing games, watching TV, reading books – that the luxury of “free Time” becomes an entitlement. When they say they don’t have time to help you move house on Saturday, what they really mean is that Saturday is when they watch Games of Thrones and they couldn’t possibly move that to Sunday because that’s their movie night.

Put a genuinely busy person in the same situation and – assuming they’re a Friend – they will most likely respond with a positive answer. They may have the same weekend plans, but because they are busy they recognise that “free Time” is a luxury and comes at the bottom of the priority list – particularly if the favour asked, e.g. moving house, has a time limit on it.

As a really simple example, take the scenario of a busy pub with only one guy on the Bar. He has a pile of glasses which need washing and a group of people waiting at the Bar. He wouldn’t turn to the customers and say “I don’t have the Time to serve you”, rather he prioritises what needs doing first – do I have enough clean glasses to serve these people, who was at the Bar first, etc.

When looked at in this way, Time is a good measure as to whether the guy you’re dealing with is what the What Men Do Guide refers to as either an Adult or a grown-up (see

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the glossary for the definitions). A grown-up acts like the child who tells mother he can’t possibly do the washing up, as he has too

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much homework to do. Meanwhile in the privacy of his bedroom, the runt is trying to complete GTA V.

An Adult knows that Time is precious and to be invested wisely. If that means using a little

to help a Friend or colleague, then so be it. These are the guys who tend to have the most flavour in their slice of the Time Pie.

You Talkin To Me?

Some guys love confrontation. For some, it’s the psychological thrill of bargaining prices down in a deal, for others it more physical. I dread confrontation.

If you look at Hollywood, the tabloids or what’s happening down the pub this sunny weekend, you’d get a picture of how men handle any confrontation: head on. It’s wit against wit, brawn on brawn, mano a mano.

That’s certainly not how I see myself handling confrontation. Usually I try to avoid it in the first place. But if you intend to live your own life, as I do, then from time to time you will find yourself with your back up against the proverbial (or literal) wall. Why? Because what marks you out as an individual, as how you want to do things, will certainly not be the same way as everyone else.

I found myself in a situation recently. It was not a physical confrontation, thankfully. I’ve been running a lot lately and my calves just couldn’t handle a chase. There was an issue with some work that I had been doing with friends. Nobody’s fault, but frustrating.

The subject was raised over dinner and it immediately got my back up. When a question of why something had gone wrong was raised, I reacted a bit Hollywood and puffed my chest out, ‘Well how the hell is that my fault?’ My over reaction shocked a couple of people at the table and immediately put the breaks on this conversation. It also made me feel like a real dick.

10 minutes later, one of the group, a couple of decades more experienced than myself took me to one side and said something about when you find a boat on the river, you don’t push it, you tie it along behind you and take it with you.

Now, at the time I didn’t really get this and it only served to wind me up further. The next morning, once the dust had settled, I thought a bit more about this boating gibberish. Suddenly, it dawned on me what he was talking about.

The boats represent two people. Now, you can try to push a boat in the direction you want to go. I’d call this the Hollywood way. Although in the movies instead of pushing it, you’d launch a full on nuclear attack and probably need a load of oiled up ninja-chicks. Alternatively, you can get the boat, go gently alongside it, tether it to your boat and sail together into a glorious sunset. Hollywood? No. Successful? You bet.

If I had taken a breath when confronted and let the conversation flow, I might have been able to get the other person on board (excuse the pun). It seems to

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me that the boat method is the best way for handling any confrontation. It certainly seems the best place from which to start.

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Going toe to toe doesn’t leave much room for any other outcome than bruises, be it to the flesh or to the ego.

If this is the path you want to take, then know that it’s not the manly one. It might reek of action on the surface, but deep down it’s two toddlers fighting over a toy.

There are going to be many battles ahead. Choosing the ones to fight is one thing, but knowing how to fight is another… Avoiding any conflict but still coming out with what you want has got to be the best. I’m in that boat.

As Heraclitus said, ‘Everything Changes’

One of the most powerful images that has ever entered my mind has been recurring more and more during the past couple of weeks. It occurred during the time I lived in the United States.

I actually lived in New York City at what was the ‘big city’ office of a vast clothing and footwear organisation based in Nashville, Tennessee – not the most liberal and forward-thinking of the Southern States, especially where ‘social advancement’ was concerned.

On one occasion when I flew down to Nashville for an interview with my boss’s boss

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well as my Yorkshire accent) there was an election in progress. It wasn’t a Presidential election so I suspect it was something to do with the Tennessee State Legislature, an entity always portrayed in Hollywood movies with short, overweight Charles Laughton lookalikes who wore large panama hats and spoke very slowly.

What I was suddenly drawn to was a wild jamboree of singing and dancing by those, male and female, who had recently won the

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right to vote as they celebrated via some sort of ‘standing in line’ to undertake the amazing task which had been entrusted to them. As a result of Federal legislation they had now been given the power to put a mark on a slip of paper and become a part of history.

I was so moved by what I was witnessing that my eyes began to fill with what I knew would become tears if I didn’t take immediate steps to stem them. This was very necessary as I was with my immediate boss (who’d also received a bollocking from our superiors). Plus, needing to take a leak a couple of hours earlier in the centre of Nashville, I’d entered the local piss palace through the ‘wrong’ entrance.

Actually ‘entrance’ is somewhat straining the description of what was more like a hole-in-the-wall, it being the entry point for the local population with their notoriously large black knobs …. whereas my knob, being smaller and white, was required to enter through a door at the other end of the building in the style expected of my superior status as a civilised human being. (Having entered, we all pissed together.)

As you might have suspected, I’ve been comparing this wonderful party occasion with the voting for the European Parliament and Halifax Town Hall – the local antics of which have irritated me with their pamphlets, mailings and phone calls. Their level of annoyance has been at such a pitch that I was suddenly brought to a halt.

Afterall, they were only ‘putting their point across’ or ‘telling it like it is’ and how they intend to ‘fix it’, at least from their perspective. Wasn’t that commendable? Wasn’t that Democracy?

Well, in theory yes …. but my youthful innocence has by now transformed itself via the absolving of myself from the process to something closer to cynicism. I no longer see Gary Cooper in ‘High Noon’, the One Man standing alone against the vested interests of the ungodly others.

At this point in time I’m no longer sure who I despise the most; the local politicians with their empty promises or myself, the former idealist who has lost the power to either believe or to trust.

And I wonder what happens in Nashville, Tennessee nowadays when the people are called out to pass judgment. Is it still ‘party-time’, a communal occasion of ‘Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité’ which goes on long into the night?

And if not, why not?

The Art of Healthy Neglect

This weekend one of the columnists in ‘The Sunday Times’ was writing about what the sub-editors headlined ‘Teenage Boys – the towering masses of angst no-one notices’.

The column was written by a woman of course; in my experience most of ’em are because, I presume, females are the more Caring gender.

On the same subject, most male writers are, for me, vaguely embarrassing. The way I read it, as they’re guys, well, they know the score – of maleness. Once you hit the third 7-year life cycle around age 14/15, a young lad finds himself knee-deep in sexual awareness (although in reality it’s only a surface awareness which he’s obtained through his peer group) and the hassles of adolescence, not least of which is his intuitive awareness that to be a male, and to be considered an adult by those others he respects (and indeed confirm him in his adulthood), he has to recognise the ‘being alone’ that’s inherent in his condition.

We’ve made a big thing of this in the ‘What Men Do’ Guide – that in the process of coming to terms with who and what you are (as a male) your integrity becomes key, and increasingly important.

For that reason we cite the rugby ace Johnny Wilkinson as an example of the typical ‘hero’ others – particularly the young – want to emulate. The kind of guy whose integrity is 100% solid and whose word can be trusted.

This ‘being alone’ creeps up on you as the maturing process takes root, which is where the angst comes from. Women, especially mothers, notice its manifestation – how could they not? – as its surface appearance via grunts and scowls and petulant displays of (largely meaningless) resentment make increasing appearances and, being female, they worry.

Along with fathers, male writers on the other hand see the growing angst and smile to themselves. They see the maturing pain of teenagerdom and leave it to do its work …. and in practical terms, what do they do?

They leave their son alone.

This is the spot that female writers (and often girlfriends) get wrong. Their loving need to ‘help’ asserts itself just when a young guy’s struggle is hitting another high point for an attempt at resolution.

Fitting your slowly-maturing individuality into your family, your ‘tribe’, even nature itself, not to mention the cosmos, poses complexities that even the brightest teenager has difficulty grappling with.

Indeed it’s often the ‘brightest’ lad who suffers most of the angst, as the likelihood is that most of his reputed ‘brightness’ springs from his brain, the major tool of ‘Thinking Man’.

Meanwhile, Life Experience – that which reveals what is truly human – comes from ‘Feeling Man’ and ‘Sensing Man’, primordial areas which existed and slowly developed millions of years ago at the time of Homo Erectus. These areas of the human condition remain largely unknown to today’s teenager, who has been encouraged to rely on his brain and his technological box-of-tricks to provide answers and solutions to what is causing his angst.

Having read Sunday’s article I suddenly remembered an old ‘Guide to Rearing Boys’ which I’d read years ago. It never struck me as particularly brilliant until last Sunday when it seemed that it might have some merit. The formulae was to apply ‘healthy neglect’.

It suddenly made sense, so if he’s now on

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to it – Life that is – leave the lad alone.