Sunday, 24 October 2010

A day of men and money

I promised you breakfast: not just any old breakfast, lover though I am of croissants, jam and coffee in the right setting, that is to say, France. What was in prospect by the time we reached the end of the last entry was nothing less than “the full English”, that miraculous gathering together of tastes and textures, mainly intensely savoury but with moments of sweetness from tomato, baked beans and even mushrooms (mind you, one of my closest friends once felt sufficiently at liberty to say that my sense of taste was eccentric).

I am afraid your experience of breakfast on this occasion is going to have to be virtual, this being cyberspace, but it is a wonder of our biology that the memory of the breakfast I had on Saturday is causing me to salivate even now. It is a fair bet also that these sentences will have triggered some happy breakfast memory in you that produces the same effect on your physiology. Here is a consolatory picture.

Oh my my!

The breakfast I ate on this particular day was similar, although the eggs were scrambled, there was no black pudding and there was fried bread instead of potato—you see, even something as Dionsysiac as the full English can have its geeky side. I was in the company of three other men (at the house of one of them) for what has become an occasional meeting of friends to support one another and pray for each other’s concerns.

There is a lot of misunderstanding of how men generally communicate with, and relate to, one another, although it is generally accepted that men will converse about things—both material (“stuff”, artefacts and the like) and immaterial (for example, ideas, politics, organisational dynamics)— whereas women’s conversations are about feelings and relationships. There are always exceptions but this is broadly true, explaining why men’s telephone calls are more often than not about the exchange of specific information and are in consequence relatively brief. Oh go on, shoot me down in flames as an unreconstructed dinosaur, as the world of work and business tends to blur the distinctions between typical male and female discourse (just watch The Apprentice, now in our screens in real time, although not as yet in this blog time). What I am getting at is that the degree of emotional satisfaction that men get from talking to each other about stuff is pretty comprehensively underestimated, if not—more sinister this, or am I just being paranoid?—actively down-valued. Men attach a lot of feeling and meaning to stuff that they are interested in.

So, we talked about money, politics and our working lives as we enjoyed our juicily wonderful, though not over-indulgent (trust me), breakfast. Yes, then we moved on to more personal stuff, which, as you will understand, must remain with the four walls within which it was uttered. So, chaps can do emotions…

In case all these carnivorous images and references are getting the vegetarians among you down, let me show you the gleaming, life-enriching produce brought home from her allotment by our host’s wife.

Lovely fruit and veg with the tools of the trade.
Five-a-Day and then some!

A fair part of the day that followed was spent wrestling with financial things, which always take me an age, as with any field in which one is not blessed with confidence. I had managed to overdraw my main account by a three-figure sum, which, happily, I had elsewhere but for a while I thought things were more grave than that.

A quiet, cosy evening followed during which my wife and I reflected on the days of diagnosis and initial shocks. We realised with gratitude that we were both less on edge about the future. As my wife said, “we couldn't have lived that intensely all the time". In the minor and quotidian is often a merciful rhythm of release.

There is one breakfast that can sometimes trump the English, namely the American. Please indulge me in one more calorie-burdened image; events are about to take a more serious turn and we need some comfort food.

Does this not make you go weak at the knees?
Forget your arteries for a moment and revel...

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