Wednesday 21 August 2019

Billy Keane: 'There's nothing like a bout of man flu to make a fella go looking for icebergs in the heat of July'

'My theory is the people who tell men it's only man flu should share responsibility for the fact so many men are reluctant to go to the doctor' (stock photo)
'My theory is the people who tell men it's only man flu should share responsibility for the fact so many men are reluctant to go to the doctor' (stock photo)
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

There was a time in summers gone by when I was thinking winter.

So on a hot summer's day I'd be out there on the beach or somewhere nice, like my favourite place by the Feale at The Spa, thinking this will be all over too soon. I was already lonesome for the present before it was even over.

I try so hard to stay in the now and enjoy the moment. On Thursday, I was getting over a bad flu. Spent several nights coughing all night long. It got so bad at 4am I thought I would have to go the emergency in Tralee.

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I'm on the mend now and thinking of heading to Croke Park for the football. The upcoming of a match always improves me. But I was very sick. I lost track of the number of people who said: "Ah sure, ha, ha, it's only man flu."

And they'd get another fit of laughing. Ha, ha, ha, ha.

My theory is the people who tell men it's only man flu should share responsibility for the fact so many men are reluctant to go to the doctor. The inference is men are weak and are only looking to be mammied and petted. Maybe there is a bit of truth in that too, and what's wrong with petting and mammying. We all need a bit of TLC every now and then. This woman who wouldn't be known as being particularly fond of men said: "Billy, sure you're only looking for notice."

I was nearly going to die just to spite her.

Like I was saying before I wandered into the hazy borders between the psychosomatic and the really sick, winter sent an untimely reminder.

I spotted a fallen leaf. Just one. The lone leaf wasn't exactly a harbinger of coats and fire sides. It was probably dislodged by a row between magpies and crows. There's no love lost between magpies and crows.

But for some reason, I just can't figure out, I was wintering in the middle of a summer's day when the good birds began singing. Suddenly it felt like if you were light enough, it was as if you could tip-toe half the length of the woods on the tree-top canopy. But I wasn't Billy Lightfoot.

I didn't realise that you can walk on the canopy without ever getting up off the grass below. All you have to do is to put yourself up there. Our brilliant inventive minds can just as easily make a tree house on the ground.

But then I was weighed down by the fact everything changes and I had winter on my mind.

Maybe there's an inner eye in some of us who have hit the depths that is sometimes on the lookout for some sort of impending disaster. If you come to think of it, and I have, it's a bit like putting a man up in the crow's nest on the lookout for Irish icebergs in July.

Since I started out writing this the sadness is nearly but not quite gone. There's a cure in writing. Your life and times are laid out before you and the forebodings never seem as ominous when you list the cares or talk them out one by one. Better again when you write out all the good things, the picture is brighter. But start with just one.

I find it tough enough to write these pieces. It's as if I'm showing signs of weakness by telling my business. Men of my generation are supposed to be tough and it was considered unmanly to tell your troubles.

Crying was only ever kept for winning at football matches. But there was no crying allowed if you lost.

I'm lying on the sofa. The TV is on the mute. There's a programme on about the Serengeti. A troop of baboons is having a lot of fun stealing eggs. The kids are hanging off their mam and dad's backs. Baboons are definitely related to us.

So it got me to thinking that the baby baboons are loving every minute of the egg hunt but when do the dads and moms stop giving the piggy backs and say in baboon it's time to go off out and steal your own eggs? And if they do cut them off, is the distancing partial or complete?

I know we all have to make our way in life. There are times when life can be tough and we need to be tough enough for life. Fair enough, but are we too hard on our men when they have to make their own way?

Dads stopped kissing their sons when they were nine or 10. We should kiss our sons always and forever. I was chatting with a man the other day and his dad died recently. He loved his dad but after the few drinks he told me his dad used to get the strap out to him, if he ever did anything out of the way.

The dad too probably got the strap or the stick when he was a boy. The line has to be broken. There isn't too much of the strap now. But we are far too hard on young boys. Think about it. Did you ever see or meet anyone who turned out bad from getting too much love? And we are far too hard on young boys when they grow into big boys.

Inside we are all small boys. And when we cry, we do not cry just like little boys. Men cry without tears. The standard of toughness imposed on men by society is far too high.

But it's still Thursday and I'm feeling desperately sorry for the boys and the dads who didn't know the right way to love their own sons.

I was writing this in my head, walking home, and wondering why men are the way we are. Hugo's pram was parked up in the kitchen. He was there on the floor, on his matt, talking in five-month-old gurgles, kicking away and the hands are everywhere like he's conducting a baby orchestra.

It's the Hugo Show. Hugo is our grandson. Hugo smiles at me. He's petting me. There's a cure in Hugo. Funny isn't it, the granddad is getting petted by the baby?

His dad Micháel will always give that daddy love to Hugo. And so will Anne, my daughter. I have great hope for this generation of mams and dads.

People ask me how is Hugo, and for a laugh, I say he's in second class already. But he is definitely smarter than his old granddad.

Hugo is still kicking like mad, and there's no holding back from the goo goo gaggas. I could hold watching him all day. I wish I was fluent in baby but I'm sure he's saying: "Hey Granddad, isn't this some fun?"

And when he cries we pick him up and pet him.

Irish Independent

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