Time for men to talk.

Let’s admit it, fellow men. We’re not exactly great talkers, are we? I mean, we are at football, chatting about the people we like in the bar, and how work gets us down, but when it comes to talking about our feelings, well, we don’t do so well at that, now do we?

In the spirit of International Men’s Health Week, it’s time I broke this convention and showed you all why:

  • Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the United Kingdom. 76% of suicides in the UK are not only male, but men under 45. Just let that sink in.
  • Men are four times more likely to kill themselves, six times more likely to self-harm themselves, and nine times more likely to let their mental health issues get the better of them.

It’s time this changed. To do this, we have to look at the cause- it’s not just that men get more embarrassed or that men just don’t go to the doctors out of a sense of pride, it’s that we genuinely don’t have a space to talk through how we feel.

What we need, (this part is primarily aimed at women) is listeners. We don’t need to be told what makes a “real man” or what is more masculine or feminine to you. We don’t need to be constantly bombarded with how women feel and then when we want to talk, get silenced with laughter and the repeated use of the term “male privilege”. We need a family courts system where the scales are radically redressed, so that neither the father nor the mother has an advantage because of gender. But far more than that, we need people to Listen.

Do you remember listening? What that’s like? You know, waiting patiently for your turn to speak, quietly taking on board the salient points of speech and responding to them? For men, this is probably the biggest help imaginable for us in regards to helping us when our mental health isn’t so brilliant. We need people to listen and respond and care. Actually care, not just pretend you do and then carry on. When a man suggests some form of suicide, take him seriously. Otherwise, let’s carry on attending more funerals for male suicide victims.

We don’t need to and certainly shouldn’t have to belt up, keep quiet or “man up” anymore. #DontFilterFeelings

Yours,

Davey

What does it mean to be a man?

This is the question that media and news outlets are asking worldwide this week, as we try to defend masculinity in a post-masculine world through this week, which happens to be Men’s Health week.

Here’s what I think:

I think that what it means to be a man is an incredibly complex thing to answer, as the definition changes between every bloke alive, both cis and trans-gendered, but ultimately, it depends on the male role models in your life.

I have a couple, whom are both now sadly deceased, who both defined masculinity. Firstly, my adoptive grandfather. He was my absolute idol, as I grew up. He provided a version of masculinity not often seen anymore: Similar to Danny’s father in Roald Dahl’s Danny, Champion Of The World. He was kind, albeit flawed. He never, ever rose his voice (with one exception) at anyone. Be that parking wardens, racists, the squirrels who kept stealing his peanuts on sunny afternoons in his back garden, his perennially broken car or the restaurant that could never cook vegetables that he could eat with his dentures on. To my grandfather, to swear, raise your voice, shout or resort to name-calling meant you lost the argument. In my opinion, some politicians could learn that lesson. He lived a ripe old age, and every day in his life, he’d play his wife a song he wrote in the 1960’s, before telling her that she was his stars and sky.
He matched a fair few stereotypes about men: He liked his beer (only South African Bobote or real ale from Yorkshire would do), loved driving when his car would work and watched as much cricket as I think anyone could watch in their lifetime. He started my love affair with Formula 1, and to me, he was one of the pinnacles of masculinity.

The other was my other grandfather’s brother, my great-uncle Booth. Booth was a little more rough-cut, but then, my adoptive mother’s whole family are. I love most of them to pieces, but Booth showed me that whilst being somewhat pacifistic and passive was one way of showing masculinity, being actively masculine was nothing to be ashamed of. He lived his last few years a mere stone’s throw away from his sister in law, and frequently took on the mantle of being like a grandfather to me and my siblings (Joe, my grandfather died at a relatively young age). He had lots of grandchildren himself, but saw no problem with adding a few after Joe died. His masculinity burned a little hotter than my adoptive grandfather (Geoffrey)’s did, but it didn’t demean him. He loved his football, a good beer, cups of tea and a smoke, but he allowed himself to be both loving and firm. This was a man who had a temper, but it seldom showed. I can only recall this stoic man showing how hurt he was on three separate occasions in my life, but this was a man who was unafraid to tell you how he felt when he needed to. Booth sadly died in September 2011, and he will be missed by all of us.

Both men did something very masculine. Both men went to work for most of their lives (one went to war), not to gain money, but to take care of the people they held dearest. I have not a lot of idea as to what Booth did most of his life, but in the time I remember him working, he worked with his brother, my granddad, in a mill in a small town in West Yorkshire. They both did whatever they could to look after their own, and whilst one man in this list wasn’t born in Yorkshire, both men were not just men but Yorkshire-men. Both men fought very difficult circumstances to keep their families together, too. One fought the Nazis and a family schism in the early 1990s, whilst the other had to deal with the fact that his niece married someone completely unsuitable for her, and then they moved to the other side of Yorkshire. Both showed complete nerves of steel, albeit through using approaches that were completely opposite to each other, and neither man cracked at any point. One kept his nerve to the end and fell asleep, surrounded by both sons and his wife, as well as his eldest grandson. The other kept his nerve and in the end, showed complete dignity and refused to stop doing what he enjoyed, even though it killed him.

Pauline_and_Booth

Pauline and Booth, whilst Booth was healthy.

So what does masculinity mean to me? A mixture of Geoffrey and Booth’s respective approaches. It’s very rare to hear me raise my voice, but I’m unafraid to show how I feel. I am musical and arty, and unashamedly so, but I can also like racing, sports and food without needing to validate it by acting over-the-top or excessively butch about it. For me, it’s not walking the line between having perceived masculine and feminine interests, being a man is about actively and unashamedly enjoying things passionately, whilst never being violent with words or actions and keeping a control on my behaviour and impulses.

So that’s what being a man means to me,

Yours,

Davey.

Wipeout Omega Collection- a review.

I love Wipe Out as a video-game series. Fast, furious and high-speed Drum’n’Bass combined with bright and futuristic visuals, high speed thrills and the adrenaline rush that kicks in when the races start is damn near unbeatable. I’m not sure what George Lucas had in mind when he created pod racing for the Star Wars film we don’t talk about, but damn it, this is pod racing at it’s finest.

I’ve played most of the games and seen the evolution: from the first game to the PS3 and PS Vita versions, I’ve played most of them. This is why I loved it yesterday when I got to play the first 4K version on the PS4 just ahead of general release in my country.

Now you all have an idea of what Wipe Out is, let’s start with the negatives of the latest offerings and get them out of the way. Whilst loyal players like myself get one hell of a nostalgia buzz out of playing the latest offering, as they’ve remastered lots of track from previous games, they’ve not added many new tracks, and I’m not sure everyone is going to want to pay £29.99 for three old games combined, remastered and put on one game with a shiny new spin. I’m also not sure people who like Drive Club, Need 4 Speed or Forza are going to like this game either. It’s ruthlessly fast, brutal and demands your attention at every moment you’re playing. It really doesn’t take any prisoners. Okay, the fast paced soundtrack, which is superb by the way, helps you react if you sync your natural rhythm to it, but there’s no time to take your eye off the ball. There really isn’t.

That being said, the visuals are absolutely glorious, and for once, the trailers offer up the game relatively honestly. From the moment of your first race on the easiest setting, you’re transported into some form of mecha-future of the kind that Osama Tezuka imagined for his cult manga, Astro-Boy. It really is that beautiful. If you buy this game not believing me on that one, go into the game’s “photo mode” mid race and have a look around the ships and the track. Everything is highly detailed, from the advertisements around the tracks, to the false sponsors who’s transfers emblazon every ship on the game. The guys behind this (Sony’s Studio Liverpool) have checked just about every last little detail into this game. It’s not just an anti-gravity racing game, like the other games of the same genre out there, it’s a work of art!

The soundtrack also comes into high praise from me, as they’ve picked classic and modern tracks from older games and existing D’n’B to make this game work. You have the UpBeats and The Prodigy, helping newer inductees into the Wipe Out series understand the urgency and requirement for attention, but we also have some amazing remastered soundtracks from older games such as Pure (the first Wipe Out game on the PlayStation Portable) and Wipe Out 2048. It’s an instant acid-trip that lets you see into the future for some, particularly those who like Sci-Fi, and for those of a certain age, it’s a nod back to the ecstasy and acid fuelled days of underground raves and nights at the Hacienda nightclub in Manchester.

As for playability, this game has leagues, so the uninitiated can play along just fine and learn to race like everyone else will online. That being said, whilst the easiest league feels slow to you, there’s a sheer gulf of difference between leagues in terms of speed and brutality, and this game really doesn’t let people off lightly. The difference between Wipe Out and most other racing games is that in this particular gaming series, you can destroy your opponents in order to win. Whilst this is, broadly speaking, unheard of in earlier games, it becomes increasingly common as you go through the different leagues and as you go through the game. Also, if you get hit by a weapon powerup from another racer, be that player or otherwise, you really do feel it. The controller vibrates furiously and the digital heads-up-display (HUD) moves and shakes with the visuals, making the game even more immersive.

Because I got to play the game early, I didn’t get a chance to play this game online sadly, but I did get to play it with my housemate who came along for the ride, and we enjoyed some great multiplayer action. Unlike modern racing games that are slowly moving away from the arcade-style splitscreen style for multiplayer, Wipe Out Omega Collection allows you to go retro and choose either horizontal or vertical splitscreen, but we all know which we’d choose (horizontally, obviously). It is, however, a nice touch to add the choice, if you were using a curved 4K screen, I could see that coming in handy.

So as far as I’m concerned, WipeOut Omega Collection gets a 4.5/5. There were a few little issues I had, but they’re niggles as opposed to serious problems, and I’ve yet to play a game in the racing genre so immersive. So, well done, Sony, this game really is for the players.

10 Things I have learned over the last 6 months

Crikey, the first half of 2017 has been a real rollercoaster. Moving house, falsely accused and then absolved, extreme sports, getting accepted to college, finally getting some help with my mental health, and a failed relationship, and that’s just my personal life.

Brexit was finally triggered in February, Trump pulls the US out of climate negotiations, housing benefit was cut in the UK for people under 22, there’s been plenty of things in the news that have made a lot of people sad, so here are some positive things I’ve learned:

  1. Whilst not everyone agrees with you, you can still have amazing friends who may not be on the same page.
    Despite my Asperger’s Syndrome meaning that my brain works by logic mainly, I’m throwing my political weight behind the Labour Party for the June 8th General Election. This isn’t exactly what one of my best friends thinks is a smart move. His name is Joey, and although he’s from Ulverston in the Lake District (basically all of Cumbria and a bit of Lancashire), he’s voting for the Conservatives. Whilst I may not approve, we’ve had plenty of fun times playing and fixing old video games consoles.
  2. The biggest enemy of happiness and ultimately, recovery, is worry.
    When I worry, the niggles in the back of my mind, ranging from when I next get paid to the downright ridiculous, such as heavy rain in Lancaster making me charge everything electronic and portable. These niggles over the last few months have made me rather ill and caused a few big changes in my life. I’m back to not touching Alcohol, and I’m quite happy about that. The one thing I’ve learned is that worrying leads me to stupidity.
  3. Sharing resources, such as food or wealth when possible, is better than being selfish.
    Anyone who knew me before 2017 will quite happily tell you that I share nearly everything, except food or my first cigarette. In 2017, I’ve cut my smoking habit down to the point where it is now very nearly non-existent. I also get to know my housemates and new friends using the medium of food, which is often cooked and funded by me.
  4. Don’t stick in unhappy relationships.
    Another close friend, who wishes not to have her name used, recently escaped a relationship that was to be frank, toxic. I’m going to use a pseudonym for her to help explain. Sally was constantly being the perfect housewife, cooking and cleaning for her girlfriend, and being manipulated whilst doing it, as her missus was nearly always under the influence. She’s left the girlfriend now, moved away, and is living a much better life somewhere else. She’s much happier, and personally, it’s like Sally has finally come back to life. She was missed.
  5. Being impulsive is not a bad thing, what you do with it is what matters.
    I have Asperger’s, an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. One of the things that this does is make me far more likely to be impulsive. To help combat my addictions, I’ve changed the way I respond. When an impulsive gnat in my brain starts to bite, I’ve decided to change the way I do things. I’ve swapped pints of beer with blogging, cleaning and running. Whatever I can to get the same adrenaline buzz, but without setting off the runaway train that tells me to drink.
  6. Don’t fight fire with fire.
    I’ve been accused by the police of doing something horrific and put on bail, but last month, was released without charge, as there was empirically not a shred of evidence. I had to move as a result of this, my mental health took a swan dive, and I’m attending weekly counselling sessions. What I learned was that despite my fury at this move, there was nothing I could have done during my time answering police bail apart from just wait. There was no point in being angry, as you can’t exactly go and pick a fight with the police for doing their job. There was no point in letting my anger control me.
  7. You don’t need antidepressants alone to fight depression.
    I’ve not had the best of mental health recently, as I explain in point six, but because of this, the doctors have had me on antidepressants to stop me doing something daft. However, they can dose you up enough to make you as dopey as a Labrador, but without your own effort, it’s useless taking them, no matter the dosages or strength of the pills. I used exercise and making conscious efforts to see things I found beautiful in order to beat my depression. Admittedly, isn’t worked all the time, but in the immortal words of Meatloaf, two out of three ain’t bad.
  8. Life is about learning and doing, as opposed to where you end up.
    In December 2016, I was looking at doing a social work related degree to get back to university and fulfil a promise I made to one of the biggest role models in my life on his deathbed. Now in June 2017, I’m looking at getting more Level 3 qualifications before going back to university, and doing a film production course at Kendal College in the UK in September. I’m really looking forwards to it, too. What this has taught me is that whilst getting the endgame is still the same, what matters more in life is how I do it. There’s no point in going back to my studies if I’m just going to flunk everything again.
  9. You are going to make mistakes, learn from them.
    I’ve made a few mistakes in my life- from pushing those closest to me away, to fudging up everything in my life and ending up homeless. Even now, although I live somewhere better, and am quite happily in a loving relationship, I make mistakes. Be it financial miscalculations or silly nights out that have proved unnecessary, I have made the mistakes. I’ve also learned to try to budget better, and avoid getting into conversations that lead to nights out. The only nights that are late for me these days involves musicals, movies or popcorn.
  10. Make time for yourself
    We’re all guilty of ignoring ourselves for a while, but what matters mostly is taking time to stop and think. Rash decisions often lead to bad consequences, and I’ve learned to be far more careful. Whether that’s shopping around for cheaper food or making sure certain people get higher priority than others (they know who they are), taking time out to make sure I’m doing the right thing is having a much better impact on my life.

What have you learned this year? Comment on my Facebook post, or just on here, as I’d love to hear from you.

Yours,

Davey

Why you should vote…

There we go- you clicked to read what I have to say.

I’m going to attack this from firstly a strategic standpoint and then from a moral one.

Firstly then, as promised, the strategy. Right now the Conservative Party has the weakest majority known in parliamentary history. They only have 4 seats needed to form the majority without coalition with other parties. That means that Ms. May and her cronies only need to lose 4 constituencies to lose power. If you’re wanting a one-party government then, and you don’t want the Tories, then you vote for the party with the largest number of seats: Vote Labour. We can worry about them later- once the extreme right wing bias from our politics is cauterised and removed.

From a moral standpoint, I strongly suggest you vote labour. It really is a two-horse race this time around, with the only left-wing party standing a chance being Labour. Even if Diane Abbot makes your blood boil like it does to mine, I’ve got a feeling that she won’t be in the formation of the new cabinet under Labour’s new government. Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t exactly separated himself from her, but he certainly isn’t appearing with her anywhere.

I’ve been homeless before, and trust me, sleeping rough is not a nice thing at all. I’ve had to rely on foodbanks (like 1.5 million others currently in the UK) and I’ve been sanctioned. My disability allowance has been cut for a disability which would under any other government, be handed out. It wasn’t a lot, but £20 goes a long way for me.

It’s not just that I like Jeremy Corbyn, or the Labour party. I have suffered immensely as a direct result of two successive Conservative governments who have shown that the couldn’t give a sugar-coated fuck about anybody who doesn’t match their agenda. I’m not rich, so they don’t care about me. I’m not physically able like most people, to work and do hard graft, so they don’t care about me. I’m not in paid employment at the moment, so they don’t care about me.

But, it’s not that they just don’t care about me either- they don’t care about you.

They don’t care about you, if you’re a single parent living on the breadline, barely making ends meet.

They don’t care about you, if you’re a woman trying to break through the glass ceiling at work. Okay, two women are in the cabinet, but why aren’t there more women in power?

They don’t care about you, if you’re LGBT. We all know Theresa May tried to block the same-sex marriages act.

They don’t care about you, if you’re BAME. BAME people and disabled people seem to be the people the latest round of welfare cuts.

They don’t care about you, if you didn’t go to grammar school. That’s why they rigged the system against people with state education.

They don’t care about you, if you’re not rich. In their eyes, you’re either too stupid or lazy to be rich.

If any of these apply to you, Vote Labour.

 

Yours incredibly sincerely,

Davey