10 new on-trend pastimes for men that don't involve lycra
The curse of cycling has been weighing on Irish men for nearly a decade. But what if you don't feel like spending thousands just to cycle around a country lane in the rain? Pat Fitzpatrick takes a look at a range of on-trend and next-trend pastimes, from posh table tennis, banana bread and urban fishing, to ham radio, animal rescue and smoking weed in the gym
Don't call it table tennis. That was a game played in a youth club when you were too young to go on the piss. (Aged 12). Ping-pong is what you play in SPiN, a chain of super-cool social clubs across the States, owned by Susan Sarandon. It's outrageously hot, with the kind of 30-something men who watch superhero shows, such as Arrow. But don't let that put you off. There's food, booze, and ping-pong tables for hire by the half-hour. It has a small 'i' in the name, and all the other letters are capitals. (Wow.) It's only a matter of time before it takes hold here.
Not that everything has to involve drink, as your mother still says. (Even though you gave up the booze last year, because staying in control is the new skinny.) There is disturbing evidence that a few fashion-forward men in Ireland are already playing ping-pong, without the aid of drink. Not long now before one of them tries sober sex.
Two facts about ping-pong before we go. The first one is a plus. You can spend up to 400 quid on a paddle, so there is plenty of scope to rub your wealth into other people's faces. (That is so now, again.)
The second fact is a minus. Boris Johnson is a fan, and he calls it whiff-whaff. (Seriously.) That sounds a lot like a disgusting boarding-school ritual and could be enough to put you off.
PORK OR COFFEE
You've probably heard talk of low and slow. And no, it isn't a particularly filthy form of R&B. It is the process of barbecuing meat slowly on a low heat, using charcoal for a smoky flavour. It's popular with fathers, because they get to say, "Love to help you rear the kids honey, but I have to keep an eye on this shoulder of pork for the next eight hours".
There is only one problem here. Pork. It's just not worth eight hours of your life, even without the kids. Coffee, on the other hand - well, that's a different lad altogether. Home roasting won't just get you away from the kids - it will also get you off your face.
All you need is a popcorn popper for roasting, a grinder for grinding, and a safe space where you can sit shaking away like a madman for three days. If you are the kind of man who likes to take things to the next level, I recommend you hire a camper van and do all your cooking in the middle of nowhere, like your man in Breaking Bad. Bring a few friends, and you can sit around all weekend, ranting away at each other about the disappointments of pork shoulders and married life.
Oh look, that guy paddling very slowly and awkwardly around the headland is so hot, said no one ever. In other words, if you're single and looking for that someone special, try surfing - no one fancies the guy on the paddleboard. He doesn't even fancy himself.
The correct name is stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP. If you decide to give it a go, it's probably best you don't tell your mother you have taken to the SUP. The only thing she knows about the SUP involves poor old Dicey Reilly, and just you'll end up getting a lecture.
The SUP is very popular in corporate team-building exercises. (You carry on making obvious booze-related puns, I'm too busy trying to give men an alternative to cycling.) It might be an idea to get your company to pay for it. The cost of a board and paddle, with all the gear, is about €1,000. Some say it's a good investment if you spread it out over 10 years. I say, did you have any luck selling that kayak you bought last year for €1,500? Men. You see, we're easily distracted.
BANG THE DRUM
The ukulele is no instrument for a man. It's actually got to the stage where the people who play it are called the uku-ladies. This isn't because the women are trying to drive out
the men; it's just that they use the term 'fingering' a lot in the lessons, and most men have to leave the room because they can't stop giggling. (What do they expect us to do? Grow up?)
A far better choice here is some kind of drum. Steer clear of a drum kit. This is a tricky beast, not the kind of thing you can master in six weeks before you get bored and decide to have a shot at hanggliding.
A far better bet is an African drum like the djembe. You'll pick up the basics in a week; all you need is a small bit of rhythm and a lot of rage. (Sure, doesn't that sound like the product description for the modern Irish man?) Don't make the mistake of thinking it will make you more attractive. The djembe or congas can make some very sexy music, but the person playing them still ends up looking like a clown. (There's no escaping Eejit Drum Face.)
The problem with the gym is you're not allowed to take drugs on the premises. (Unless it's those muscle-building yokes you got posted over from Cambodia, in which case: pop till you drop, big guy.)
San Francisco is going to change all that. A cannabis gym opened there in March, which allows members to consume weed before and after a workout. The founder of Power Plant Fitness says cannabis is an ideal way to get into "eye-of-the-tiger mode". I ran that through Google translate, and it still doesn't make any sense.
You might think this has nothing to do with Ireland, given that cannabis is still illegal. That said, it's clear that Leo Varadkar likes highlighting how liberal we are down south, in the run-up to the Brexit. There is every chance he'll legalise drugs, just to piss off the DUP.
Supporting the new spliff gyms that pop up overnight won't just be cool, it will also be the perfect way to bring more jobs to rural Ireland. You'll need four or five staff in the locker room, just to help people remember where they put their keys. And they'll need four new McDonalds per town, because everyone will call in on the way home from the gym and order, oh Jesus, I don't know - everything.
I'm calling it here and now. The next big thing for men is going to be ham radio. Those under 30 might think ham radio is an FM station dedicated to actors from Fair City. But the rest of us know better.
It was the original male nerdy obsession, long before the internet came along and ruined everything. And if we know one thing about nerdy male obsessions, it's that they never die. Anyone who doubts this, should ask their try-too-hard uncle about the sound quality on his vinyl records. (Bring a packed lunch, he can bang on about audio compression for hours.)
Ham radio is amateur radio, where you can communicate with other enthusiasts across Ireland, Europe, the world, and here's the kicker: space. (That's 11 on the Nerd Scale.)
The equipment costs a few grand, and you have to pass a test before ComReg will give you a licence to go looking for aliens, or simply contact other people who like Doctor Who. Some say that should be enough to stop a revival. I say, now that they've brought back beer, bikes, Gola bags, doughnuts, and dressing like a bogman, the hipsters have nothing else left. So, seven-three, y'all. (73 is the ham code for best regards. You knew that, right?)
RETURN OF THE GOLF
Who says golf is in decline? Well, the ESRI as it turns out, with a recent report revealing that golf-club membership has fallen by over 20pc since 2007. This won't last.
For reasons which aren't immediately clear, everyone is drinking gin and tonic again. These things never happen in isolation. We give it two years before you find yourself standing at a golf-club bar in a yellow jumper, shouting, "I'm not paying my taxes so that some layabouts can buy a 50-inch TV. Same again there, Terry old stock, before the women members try to ban alcohol".
The second great boost for golf is our old friend - supply and demand. During the Celtic Tiger years, a lot of people were sitting at home, minding their own business, when they got a phone call from Eddie in the bank to say they were dangerously under-leveraged and their only option was to invest in a tax-efficient golf course. The result is a lot of empty golf courses, and membership prices coming down. (We've heard of one club that admits members who work with their hands. Crazy.)
It's only a matter of time before golf becomes cheaper than cycling. At which point, you will find a lot of men in Lycra standing in front of a mirror saying, "I don't think I could look more like a complete tosspot". Not even in a yellow jumper. So buy one, and get golfing.
There has never been a better time to get involved in pet rescue. First of all, there is no shortage of supply on the abandoned-puppy front, because Irish parents stopped saying no to their kids in 2004.
Secondly, the phrase 'animal rescue' will make you a must-have on Tinder. For women who channelled their maternal instincts by filling a house with orphaned badgers, says you, walking backwards out the door. No, come back - it covers perfectly sane women as well. Why? Professor Noel Fitzpatrick, AKA The Supervet on Channel 4. It's widely accepted that Noel could have any woman he wants, even though he has a Laois accent. Not that Noel has time for women - he's too busy referring to sick dogs as 'buddy' and operating through the night in an attempt to fix their bandy legs. But he has selflessly shown us the link between pet rescue and attraction.
Obviously, you don't want to get stuck with an actual pet. (Dogs are more demanding than kids.) So how do I show off my love of the beasts, says you, mad to meet someone. This is where social media gets to shine. All you have to do is like four Animal Rescue pages on Facebook. If that doesn't work, post a photo of a missing cat. That's what passes for commitment these days.
Fishing in cities was a thing for hipster blokes in New York and London around 2008. It didn't catch on here, because it was too working class for Irish hipsters. Here's how the conversation unfolded on the river banks. Hipster: "Hey man, great tattoo, where did you get it?" Non-hipster: "Mountjoy." Hipster: "Excuse me, man, I'm off to take up darts." Non-hipster: "Good."
However, as we know, most 30-something men who rent in Dublin city centre have no money left over for food. This is obviously a crisis, as they won't have enough energy to admire themselves in the mirror at the gym. So, it might be time for them to get out their rod. (Stop. Seriously.) A few things to watch out for here. Some of the best urban fishing in Ireland is around the River Tolka in Dublin; let's just say fishermen can be territorial, and territorial takes on a different meaning in the north inner city. The other thing is that, when it's done properly, urban fishing has nothing to do with fish. It is, in fact, about buying loads of gear in Aldi and sitting in a tent by the side of a river with a slab of cheap lager. Why wouldn't you want to do that?
No man in his right mind would have taken to baking when the Great British Bake Off was on BBC. Back then, it was aimed at fussy people on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But then they moved the show to Channel 4, where it became unpredictable and chaotic, a bit like yourself. It is clear that Noel Fielding is no Mary Berry, which presumably comes as a massive relief to both of them.
This edgy trendiness makes it the perfect time to take up baking. To be more precise, you should be baking banana bread. There is already an underground movement in Ireland, with stories of men who are "ripening their own bananas". (Seriously.) Don't tell people that you ripen your own bananas. It sounds like a dodgy double entendre, and it's also over-reach, because, in fairness, bananas tend to ripen themselves.
A further word of warning for dads. Making banana bread for your family doesn't mark you out as some kind of new man. Particularly if your partner cooks healthy meals all week and you suddenly appear at the kitchen table with, "Hey guys, check out this sugary cake". Just because your kids are cheering, doesn't mean you're in the clear.
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