Thursday 27 October 2016

This Man's Life: Into the cave, where my clandestine affair with Jose is conducted

Published 16/10/2016 | 02:30

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho Photo: PA
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho Photo: PA

It's like that old Elvis song. My wife and I are going our separate ways. Albeit for 90 minutes every week. We will have a trial separation for 90 minutes a week. I am leaving her for someone else. She is happy about the arrangement. It isn't quite the classical open relationship, even though there is someone else involved. That 'someone else' is Jose Mourinho. And the place I am vanishing to for my emotional infidelity, my rumpy pumpy with Jose, is my new man-cave to watch Man United on Sky Sports.

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Don't get the wrong impression here: I am not desperately seeking manctuary in my hallowed space of masculinity so much as following a traditional path. Maureen Dowd in the New York Times in 2009 wrote that: "Men have always craved private realms - the golf club, men's club, garage, workshop, shed; a place to get away from the chatter and clatter of women and kids." They say if you are looking for President Obama after hours? Check the Man Cave known as the Treaty Room in the White House.

So don't be too quick to judge me as living in a time-warp. The bins are collected on Tuesday at 7am so I will still have to come down from my man-cave tomorrow night after the Man U v Liverpool game to put the rubbish out on the road, usually in my underwear.

Up here in my man-cave watching Jose roar at Jurgen Klopp, I can treat the psychological wounds we sustain in daily life. These hours are a critical time for me. My Mondays with Jose. And before feminists accuse me of being a self-interested male, I might point out that females do have their woman cave It is called the bathroom. Bathrooms are lady spaces. I grew up with three sisters and once they went in there with their lotions and potions, that was it. You couldn't get them out of the bathroom again.

From up here, I can see above Portobello and right across to the spires of the church in Rathmines, Mary Immaculate of Sinners. It's not a room with a view. It's a cave with a view. I can see the graveyard from up here where my parents' bodies lie for eternity, side-by-side.

I re-read Philip Roth's dour Everyman recently. I found it kind of cheerful. In it, at his father's funeral, the sound of the muck against the coffin makes "the sound that is absorbed into one's being like no other". And then, observing family and friends, as the New York Times put it, "tilt one by one toward the grave, he is forced to confront the horrible truth: 'Old age isn't a battle; old age is a massacre'." Confronting horrible truths are not my thing. I don't want to get old any quicker than I need to.

I know a man-cave sounds Neanderthal, but it isn't. I can be as emotionally vulnerable as I need to be up here. I sometimes do yoga up here, too, almost always after midnight, and sometimes later. I feel amazing, full of good energy, good stuff, not least when I silent chant my Transcendental Meditation word. By breakfast I am back to me, back to being at war with myself once more, more exasperated with my failings than ever before. My hairline is still riding up over my forehead like The Four Horsemen Of The Grecian 2000 Apocalypse. And I still have a belly hanging over my pants as I head out the door to work. I take small comfort from the fact that my wife hopefully likes my pot belly the way does Bruce Willis's girlfriend does in Pulp Fiction. I quieten the inner annoying fecker who tells me I'm a fat useless lump by playing with my child when I come home from work. When I am with her, I might feel I am running out of time at my age but every moment is truly special. Because she is truly special. I take her along the beach in Sandymount. We feel like Joyce's Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom "walking into eternity on Sandymount Strand". I also read Yeats and Byron 'stuff' up here, sometimes (don't laugh) aloud. Hearing this lunacy on occasion, my wife (who does laugh) thinks I am mad. I think I am mad.

It is not off-limits to the opposite sex though. And I don't see my new man cave as inherently masculine. It is just my wife hates football. Or doesn't care about it. When John Delaney came over to our house for dinner last year she didn't know what he did.

It's not that often that I want some man-cave time. Still, despite my protestations, I do feel a bit of a Neanderthal that I want such a stereotypically gendered thing as a big TV to watch football. But that doesn't make me Donald Trump. And my man cave does not accommodate locker room talk. The talk up here is more existential room talk. I am usually having an inner dialogue about matters of the soul (if such a thing exists) God (if such a deity exists) death and what happens after we die Personally, I believe - and I don't want to believe this - we rot to dust in the grave.

Up here I can ponder all that stuff as well as sharing the bitter disappointment of failure, watching Man U - probably - lose to Liverpool tomorrow night.

Sunday Independent

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