Can I Please Be a Man for a Change?

“Cazza,” a friend asked me in all seriousness. “Would you like to be a man?”

Of course not. It was a ridiculous idea. I’ve had plenty of time to get used to being a woman, and I enjoy it. A lot.

Why would I want to be a bloke, with all the disadvantages like obtrusive pipework, higher car insurance, and the chore of daily face-scraping? A no-brainer.

But fast forward a few weeks, and I’ve seen The Danish Girl, I’ve done some thinking about gender, and I may have changed my mind. While I wouldn’t resort to surgery, it might be nice to have a magic wand and painlessly turn into a fella, just for a bit.  FreeImages.com/Cecile Graat

Here are just some of the things you can do when you’re a man, even in 2016:

1 You get acres of space on a tube train just by spreading your legs apart.

2 There’s no need to queue up for a pee. 

3 You can take part in conversations about asbestos removal, carburettors, or the offside rule without someone saying it’s a bit technical for you. 

FreeImages.com/bugdog

4 Interrupting isn’t rude. It’s decisive. And you’re never bossy. It’s called ‘being a leader’.  

5 You can rearrange your scrotum at leisure under the guise of thinking.

6 A fart machine can keep you entertained for hours. 

fart machine

7 There are no periods or hot flushes, and you can pile on weight without people asking when it’s due.

FreeImages.com/Mathias Gelinski

8 You can irritate the crap out of someone, then say, “You’re so gorgeous when you’re angry.”

9 If you clean the house or look after the children, your other half is deemed to be very lucky, and you’re hailed as a saint. 

FreeImages.com/Martin Abegglen

10 You’re a good sport, even when women make fun of you.  

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Is Researching a Book Better than Sex?

Some authors say that research is the best bit about writing. I’ve never believed that. What’s so great about spending long hours in the stacks at the library, or ages trawling the internet to find out what people had for dinner in 17th century Crete?

reference library

But now that I write fiction, research has taken on a whole new hue. I wouldn’t say it’s better than sex, even if in some cases it IS sex. Here’s a rundown of some recent endeavours.

1 Intel gathering for a steamy bathroom scene.

steamy bathroom scene

Is it possible for the earth to move while scrubbing lime-scale off the taps?  Everything had to be just so: a non-slip bathmat, a filthy dirty bathtub (this takes months), and of course the right bathroom cleaner.

Cillit Bang

2 The front seat of the Mini scene. If a couple feel inclined to bonk in their Mini near a lighthouse in Norfolk, can they do so without tearing an Armani suit or a ligament? We may never know for sure. Thanks, man who rapped on the window to say, “Ere, lost me mobile. Can I borrow yours?”

Mini Cooper S

3 The Gents at the hospital. There’s a scene in my work-in-progress where a character has to rinse his tackle in the loo at Watford General Hospital. I couldn’t do this one on my own, but the great thing about being married is all those vows. My other half is an honest guy, so he takes such things seriously.

However, it proved not to be so simple. The water was either freezing cold or boiling hot, and the hand dryers were at the wrong height. Besides, who’d actually dip his bits into a Dyson Airblade?

Dyson Airblade hand dryer

4 Undercover underwear work. Hopefully this quiet day would keep me on the right side of the law. St Michael may be the patron saint of underwear. They’ve even made briefs with the word Gentleman woven into the elastic, just like the Diesel ones say Diesel. But John Lewis has the range of men’s kecks I needed for my research. So there I was, checking out the feel and, more important, the scent of the fabrics used in boxers, briefs, budgie-smugglers, front-loaders, posing pouches and thongs.

Pierre Cardin knitted briefs

As I crumpled the waistbands and studied the gussets, I managed to side-step six shop assistants, or, as John Lewis calls them, partners. Unfortunately I didn’t spot one of my patients who was shopping for Y-fronts. He caught me with my nose up a pair of Calvin Klein trunks (low-rise, if you want to know). It’s funny, but he hasn’t made an appointment to see me since.

5 Bridge over troubled water. It used to be so easy to climb in and out of King’s College, Cambridge after the back gate was locked.

King's College Cambridge bridge (1819)

But what about now, after they’ve added extra ironwork as a deterrent?  As I found out, there’s a very real risk of losing your footing and falling into a deep and murky ditch, especially if you’re 40 years older than the last time you did this.

I tried to think calming thoughts.

Keep Calm.You're in Cambridge

This is hard when a couple of tourists are standing over you, offering to ring an ambulance. A passing medical student thought an air ambulance would be more appropriate. Perhaps he hoped Prince William might pitch up.  What got me out of the ditch in the end was a snooty college porter, incensed that I was doing my research on his patch.

6 An overnight stay in a bookshop.

bookshop

Luckily I didn’t have to do this myself, or enlist any of my family, as an American tourist did exactly that in late 2014.

Right. That’s it. From now on, I’m doing all my research on Twitter. Though I will miss my husband.

***

I’ll be at the Indie Author Fair at Foyles, Charing Cross Road on April 17, and so will lots of other authors. Why not come in, see their books, and maybe ask them about their research? The event is free.

Indie Author Fair

Is Beatles Music a Health Hazard?

Exactly 45 years ago, photographer Iain Macmillan stood on a ladder and shot the iconic image for Abbey Road. Tourists from all over the world continue to come to London’s most famous crossing. They gawp, revere, take selfies and generally mess about, taking no heed of cars, vans or the 189 bus. This was the scene yesterday.

Abbey Road

Now Westminster Council is considering the use of a lollipop lady to keep people safe. I hope they recruit a lady or gentleman who looks the part in period 60s gear.

On that August day in 1969, did the Fab Four realise the poor example they might be setting for future generations of fans? I think not. If they had, they’d never have larked about as they did. And Paul would have surely kept his sandals on. It’s madness to walk around London in bare feet.

Pretty much everyone (not just Charles Manson) has their own interpretation of Beatles lyrics. While most people focus on the drug references, the songs may contain other menaces to health.

Beatles vinyls Sleeping in the bath is something I’d never recommend, yet that’s exactly what happens in Norwegian Wood. Luckily John doesn’t drown. But what does he do when he wakes up? He burns the house down. OK, so he was a Beatle scorned, but arson does seem a tad over the top.

There’s another fire hazard in A Day in the Life.  The track opens with John’s graphic reminder of what happens if you run a red light. But in a later verse Paul dices with death when he nods off on the bus with a lit cigarette in hand.

I feel like shouting the B-side of Can’t Buy Me Love (in case you don’t remember, it’s You Can’t Do That).

Paul survives his bus journey. He still hasn’t kicked the tobacco habit two years later, though, because there he is holding a ciggie on that album cover. But the USA did some unauthorised airbrushing and removed the offending item from posters.

Other risky lifestyle choices advocated by Lennon-McCartney:

The Beatles will always be my favourite band, but as a doctor I’m concerned about an already over-stretched health service having to extract coins from noses, bandage injured feet and give whatever medical help is needed to those mugs who take their oeuvres too literally.

Beatles mugsOn Revolver we’re even told that you can call Doctor Robert day or night, he’ll be there any time.

In your dreams, John and Paul. Not in today’s NHS.

The thing that worries me most, though, is on the White Album. Yes, hotel rooms cost money, but doing it in the road is the ultimate in unsafe sex. Nobody’s watching you! So you’re even more likely to get killed by some motorist who wasn’t expecting to see people bonking on the asphalt.

I’m really hoping Westminster Council will be wise enough to install appropriate signage. 

How to Mend a Broken Heart

This week I’m delighted to feature a guest post from psychotherapist and author Christine Webber.  If you have angina, talk to your doctor, but if your heart’s broken, you need Christine’s wisdom.

Chris WebberIs there a worse pain in the world than heart-break? I don’t think so.

It can happen if you’re made redundant. Or if a parent or partner dies. But most of us associate it with being dumped. And that is one of life’s truly devastating losses.

You lose your partner. Your investment in the past and future. Your certainty about who you spend Sundays with. And – most distressing of all – you can feel that you’ve lost your judgement too.

As one heartbroken client of mine said: ‘I picked him. Then I put up with all sorts of awful things when we were together – but soldiered on because of our children. Now I wonder what on earth I was thinking when I got together with him in the first place.’

So what can you do to get over your broken heart?

First of all, don’t make things worse than they already are by assuming that life is going to be hateful for ever.

Often, when people are heart-broken they say: ‘I feel rejected, and miserable and low …’ This is entirely logical, and understandable.

But then they compound their distress by saying something illogical like: ‘And no one else will ever love me again, and life will be total hell from now on.’

However, without a crystal ball, they can’t possibly know  that!

broken heart

So, no matter how hurt you are, try to confine your focus to what’s happening now, rather than making painful assumptions about your future.

Secondly, accept that the relationship is totally over. It’s agony acknowledging that your partner has really gone for good – but it’s easier in the long run than living in hope that he or she will have a change of heart.

Another thing you need to accept is that you may never understand why you’ve been dumped. Often people insist that they can’t move on till they know for sure what went wrong. This is a waste of time and energy. Vast numbers of individuals never feel satisfied with the reasons their ex gives them for wanting out. So the sooner you give up on getting a plausible explanation the better.

Next – no matter what the temptation – don’t try to be pals with your former partner. He or she may try to persuade you to stay friends, in an attempt to lessen their own guilt. But this is unlikely to benefit you. You’ve got friends. You wanted your partner to fulfil a totally different role. In time, perhaps you will be able to restore some sort of friendship – especially if you share children – but not now.

Above all, NEVER HAVE SEX WITH YOUR EX. Afterwards, you’ll feel more lonely and wretched than ever.

Of course your ex-partner may hint that he or she has made a terrible mistake. If that happens, you should talk together, have dinner, talk some more …  But don’t let this person join you in bed unless the relationship is fully back on track.

Finally, write a list of things about your ex that you don’t miss. This is very therapeutic. Carry it with you at all times and add to it every time you think of another negative aspect of this person who has hurt you so much.

One day, like the characters in One Night at the Jacaranda, you’ll realise that you’re ready to start dating again, and that you’ve got a whole lot of living to do yet. I can’t promise you when that will be, but it will happen.

Christine Webber is a psychotherapist who specialises in sex and relationship problems, and the author of How To Mend A Broken Heart.