Category Archives: Men’s health

A Month to Make a Difference!

Movember 2012, Me and My Boy

Movember 2012, Me and My Boy

Pete Lawler’s Mo Space 2013

So, I thought I’d sit Movember out this year. I was growing a nice trendy winter beard. I was a bit narcissistically self-conscious of the mature grey parts that have all of a sudden started appearing, but I’d learned to accept and even like my more mature look.

In case any of you don’t know, beards have become the coolest thing since sliced bread. You wouldn’t be caught dead in a trendy place like The People’s Republic of Hackney without looking like a well-groomed Grizzly Adams. I’m sure it’s a similar sartorial situation in your own cosmopolitan urban centers.

I was just starting to get to like the beard look on me. I fancied myself looking a bit DH Lawrence (American intellectual look, don’t ya know). The missus was even starting to tolerate/show a favo(u)rable attitude towards the facial fur.

The American Londoner

Me with with my beard.

Besides, I’d done me bit. Hadn’t I raised £400 last year and over £200 the year before?

That’s an excuse though, isn’t it? It’s a rationalisation. It’s what people say when they mean, “This has nothing to do with me and is clearly not my problem.” I’ve put a dollar in the collection basket. I’ve done my bit. I’ve bought my girl scout cookies. I’ve done my bit. I’ve bought my single source coffee. I’ve done my bit.

But then, walking around one of our quaint little local shopping venues yesterday, seeing bearded models in the window, I started to think, am I just putting my vanity over a cause that is far greater than myself? After all, men have a 14% higher chance of developing cancer than women and a 37% higher chance of dying from it. More than 100 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer every day. And suicide is the single highest cause of death in men under 35. Given that I’ve raised over £400 in the past (that’s around $640!), isn’t it morally irresponsible not to try to raise awareness of men’s health issues and funds for a great cause? And growing a tache is such a small thing to do to make a significant difference. So, I’m not trying to “big myself” up as the kids these days used to be fond of saying. I could be doing way more. But this is a small thing for just 30 days to make the world a little better.

Besides, the jury on the beard was still very much out. DH Lawrence was stretching it and “tolerating” is not the same as “enamored with”. I can always grow it in December anyway.

So, have a heart, dig deep, click on the link and give. Goal this year is £500 and if just 100 of you gave a fiver (that’s right. A fiver!), that it’d be men’s health that much more better off in 2014. I’ve kicked my tenner in. Go on. Make a difference.

Movember

Oh dear. Clean Shaven and Ready for Movember. Day 1

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London Cyclist Diaries: The Heartbreak of a City Cyclist

Raleigh Access

The sad and mangled corpse of my beautiful Raleigh Access. Mournful sigh.

Owning a bike is an emotional investment. There’s no two ways about it. Your bike takes you places. You take pride in it. Sometimes you brag about it to your friends. It helps you to defy traffic by flying past giant metal boxes on wheels sat stationary in gridlock. You glide through the wind, coast in the glory of the sun; sometimes it even makes the 9 mile commute pure pleasure.

So, if you’re a cyclist and you live in a city, you probably also know the heartbreak that I felt in January when I opened the door to my East London flat to find the woeful and pathetic assembly of parts you see above. You could have taken a jagged, rusty dagger, thrust it into my abdomen, twisted hard and repeated and you would come somewhere close to appreciating how I felt. To reappropriate Shylock, the curse never fell upon my nation until that moment. I never felt it until then.

I might as well come out and say it: I loved that bike. We had come home from our week long holiday in Copenhagen, an absolutely brilliant cycling city, last February, having had the healthiest and most exhilarating vacation we’d ever known, cycling through snow, over bridges and rivers, through settlements and hipster hangouts and we came back having been bitten by the bug. We were determined to acquire ourselves wheels upon our return to the metropolis.

My bike before it was stripped.

There it is, in all its marvellous, urban glory. Grieving sigh.

Before Denmark, I hadn’t really cycled in years, but it didn’t take long to fall in love with zipping speedily down urban thoroughfares, drunk with the power that comes with the speed and control of my own muscles, reawakening after sleeping lazily in a near atrophic state for years. I was surprised to notice — actually notice from day to day — becoming physically stronger in partnership with my two-wheeled 6 speed wonder. I went from a 5 and half mile limit to 9 miles in just over 40 minutes rapidly (Oi, serious cyclists! Stop laughing. I was doing well) and with that came such a euphoric sense of accomplishment — all from pushing with my two legs in a cyclical motion.

All right. I know in the end it all comes down to an endorphin rush, but at the time, it was an epiphany. And my bike and I were one. If you are a cyclist or passionate about anything, you know the feeling.

And then it was savaged. My beautiful machine.

No. It wasn’t stolen. I would almost have rather they had done that. At least there is some finitude in a clean theft, some sense of closure. No. Some very talented and very vile scum patiently — but quickly I imagine and with help I imagine — picked my bike clean and left its bare skeleton clothed in nothing but its rear brake calipers still locked to the signpost to which it had been fastened for nearly a year.

Words are difficult at such points. If it’s happened to you, you know that all you see is red. I saw red. Blood and danger and fiercely marching Soviet red. And all I could think was, “Please. Let there be a hell. Let it be good and hot, full of hungry serpents, sizzling vats of oil brewed just for torment, pits of spikes and chains from which you may be fettered while vultures peck at your flesh inducing everlasting pain. Let there be a hell of boundless pain. And drop all bike thieves right down in the bottom of it.”

Dramatic? Perhaps, but if you know the feeling, I think you’ll probably agree, my response is quite a liberal one.

Want to know the kicker? I’ve had two bikes stolen since! One, a Dahon Matrix acquired fairly quickly after the Access, lifted at night, liberated from its quick-release wheel, which the spiteful spawn of Satan left me with.

Wheel Dahon Matrix

A cruel joke? I find myself flailing around for a sense of humor.

The last one, most recently, was a find off gumtree that I counted myself lucky to acquire: A Dahon Dream, a model rare in Britain, built for the domestic Chinese market, but after acquiring a loyalty for Dahon and Raleigh, I know any Dahon is going to be well built. All for £60. That’s right. £60!

Dahon Dream

No Raleigh Access, but after three weeks, I was starting to grow rather fond of it.

Alas. It seems the brotherhood of Hackney Bike Thieves have made me a marked man.

I thought I had finally hit on the perfect security system. I had started packing away my folding bike (I’ve become quite attached to the urban flexibility of folders) in the trunk of my car. So far, so safe.

And then, after three weeks of riding around this lovely little ride, just three weeks, I rode home late one friday, having babysat for a friend, locked away my orange wonder, thought nothing else of it until two days later when I opened the trunk of my car and was met with this:

Empty trunk

I know something valuable is supposed to be here.

I must have started becoming calloused. After being hit for a third time and after 30 seconds of taking in the full impact of the emptiness that lay before me and what happened, I nearly shrugged.

Then the litany of profanity followed. As near as I can figure, some local, morally depraved trolls must have seen me putting my bike in the trunk, picked my lock and neatly plucked the bike out. Bloody hell. At this point, I started to feel bereft of any reason to have an iota of faith in humanity.

I’m not a fan of putting profanity on this blog, but I thought this image I found by a righteous defender of the cycling faithful just warmed the heart.

bike theft fuck you

Yes. That is the bike thief victim’s pain, powerlessness and rage, encapsulated neatly in a wheatpasted flyer. (image taken from alleycat.hk)

And one of the worst aspects of this whole thing is that I leave my home now looking around at people in the street with narrowed eyes thinking, “Which one of you, huh? Which one of you did it?” Was it the youths on the corner or the vegan anarchist volunteers in the cafe downstairs? It really is anyone’s guess.

According to statistics from 2011, there are over 22,000 bike thefts in London reported every year and I live in one of the worst boroughs for it (Hackney, over 1500 thefts annually). I didn’t report my second one and my first one I was told by the police that there wasn’t much point. I suppose it’s supposed to be, “a comfort to those that are wretched to have companions in misery,” but somehow it just makes me want to give up the hobby altogether.

I’m not of course. Criminal vermin won’t scare me off the roads that easily. But I’ve learned some lessons:

  • If you care about it, insure it.
  • If you’ve got a folding bike, do the logical thing and keep it inside.
  • Register your bike with the police. Might not make any difference, but at least you’ve done all you can.

With that in mind, somewhat incredibly, I find myself trawling ebay again, search terms: Dahon/Raleigh folding bike. I don’t foresee the financial grounding until next month, but it’s nice to look. It’ll never be like that Raleigh Access, but I’ll get on my bike and ride.

Raleigh Access

Somehow, I’ll ride again

Time to Stash the Tache: Four Things Movember Taught Me

Movember Day 19

In my last week as a Mustache Merchant

So as the last hours of my second Movember draw to a close and I sharpen my Wilkinsword Sword (a British brand of razors for those raised eyebrows in the house) and lather up, it seems an appropriate time to reflect back on some of the poignant lessons that participating in this phenomenon has taught me that I can take away and use to make myself and the society around me better.

Blackadder #Movember

Blackadder, the British television comedy icon that I was likened to around abouts day 20 (photo taken from blackadder.wikia.com) 

1. Fellas: It’s time to start talking about it. 

I started this month with a post that mentions a very young Irish man who died of a testicular cancer that might well have gone undiagnosed for far too long. But who can blame him? We live in a society in which we are seeing the great renaissance of the ancient Greek value of stoicism. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Especially if it hurts. Bear up and you’re even more of a man. These are the values that we as males are raised with, especially in North America and Western Europe, as was brought home to me in a conversation with a colleague the other day. Said colleague was talking about how her husband had had a scare some years ago, and how ‘men just don’t talk about it.’ How can we? We’re not supposed to. Women get together and if one or even more than one of them has had breast cancer, they talk about it, they swap stories, they share experiences. But what are we supposed to do, whip it out in conversation at the pub? I meant the conversation topic of men’s health, of symptoms experienced, anxiety keenly felt (what did you think I was talking about?) To do so would be seen as an admission of weakness. Or perhaps of our own mortality and by extension, our humanity and therefore a great act of courage. So, whether it’s your disco stick or your meat cleaver, your lincoln log or your trouser snake, we’ve got to start talking more, being uncomfortable less and forming common bonds of support around the issue of health.

David Niven #Movember

David Niven, who I was also likened to around day 18 or so (taken from vivandlarry.com)

2. On that point, get checked out. 

On that point of diagnosis, how tragically awful and wasteful must it be to die not because you have a fatal condition but because you have a condition that, had you had it diagnosed sooner, could have been prevented from becoming fatal? And yet again, colleagues and friends have, because of this issue in the last month, spoken to me about countless cases of men losing one testicle or suffering a much worse fate simply because they didn’t know or didn’t think they needed to get certain irregularities checked out or that those irregularities were worth regular self checking.

I know how nerve-wracking it is. It evokes that great unspoken apprehension that we of the Y Chromosome persuasion all secretly hold: The George Castanza Fear — “What if it moves?” Yes, what happens if my organ, whilst being given the once over by the kindly male doctor, even involuntary… shifts… even in the weakest pulsation of a movement? What could it possibly mean? I admit, it is a legitimate cause for concern that hung like a specter in my head for weeks before the last time I had myself checked out. As it happens, it did not move, but could as easily have done just from the sheer nervousness I felt and the one answer I have come up with for anyone — including myself — that feels the Castanza Fear is an obstacle is that suffering and dying from a preventable and treatable condition is far worse than movement down there under close examination.

Zhivago #Movember

Yuri Zhivago, who I was quite flattered to be compared to by my cousin (taken from interfence.com)

3. Men’s health organisations need money

I know it is true that most charities are crying out for donations all the time, but one of the most surprising facts that I found as I was reading up on Movember’s History was that when Movember fundraisers presented the Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia with a cheque for AUD $54,000 in 2004, it was the largest single amount they’d ever received. No big donors. No great benefactors. It took a bunch of Aussies growing facial hair to bring the under-funding of men’s health to the world. And the continuing phenomenon is proof of both changing attitudes to men’s health and the continuing need to talk up and raise funds for these very serious charities and health organizations, who are still desperately in need of cash.

Magnum #Movember

I was always repulsed by Magnum, PI’s mustache when I was a kid, but my mother would always respond with, “Ah but the ladies like it.” Still not seeing it. (taken from denofgeek.com)

4. Be bold and savvy when fundraising. Save the guilt for when the money’s counted

I raised £208 last year for Movember. I thought If I could do it again this year and raise £300, I’d be doing well, but then the wife said, be bold, why not go for £500? And she was right. It is better to aim for a bold number and miss then aim for a realistically modest number just to be sure and hit the target. At last count my grand total for Movember was £425, which is not too shabby considering it was just about £250 entering the last week of the month. I attribute the success and the slight shortcoming to three things: Pestering, Persisting and making it personal. I put a reminder on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ (just for good measure) nearly every day, and any of you keeping up with my Tache page know that I updated that pretty frequently too. There’s an apprehension with some people who don’t want to feel as though they’re being a nuisance. Again, being a nuisance is a small price to pay for preventing suffering, especially since you’re not out in the street trying to get bank details and email addresses and all you have to do is pass on a link. I also sent text and email reminders that were most effective, both on my personal email and my email at work and thanked my donors in a group email or on as much social media as possible. If a person donates, at the very least they have earned the right to have it acknowledged as publicly as possible. All of this hindsight-acquired vision comes with a caveat though: Facebook was useful, Twitter was not. By a long shot, which is odd because I often find Twitter more fun. I sent direct messages to every company that follows me, but the truth is, no one goes on Twitter to give to charity. It is a format that is uniquely suited to the superficial nature of the internet and in-depth appeals for charity seem to fall dead in the water. Better off next year sending personal emails, perhaps even followed up by phone-calls.

Finally, if you feel so inclined, Movember certainly will not turn your money away just because the month is over, please click on the link and donate to a worthy cause. You will be making a huge difference no matter what your contribution.

Pete Lawler’s Movember Page  

#Movemberandsons

My son “liking” my mustache on Facebook. He’s five. 

 

 

 

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