Monday 30 May 2022

It's the hormones

It's common practice to excuse men's misbehaviour, in particular teenage craziness, by saying it was "testosterone-fuelled" and so they couldn't help themselves. "The hormones took over".

I think that's total baloney. Where's the evidence that testosterone was the culprit rather than simple loss of self-control or unfettered rage or a sense of entitlement? How come some testosterone-soaked men can control themselves easily enough while other men can't?

There's little scientific backing for the supposed link between testosterone and misbehaviour. Studies of aggressive behaviour and testosterone are inconclusive. About half the studies found a relationship and about half of them didn't.

I must say I was never aware of displaying any testosterone-fuelled behaviour when I was a teenager. Of course for several years I was at a strict boarding school, which greatly reduced the possibilities for extreme behaviour. But even after I left, my behaviour wasn't especially wayward. I certainly wasn't sex-obsessed - I had no sex of any description till I was 22.

I didn't go in for wild rampages or shoplifting sprees or wanton vandalism. I was commendably well-restrained (or as well-restrained as any teenager is capable of being). We had no family car so I wasn't about to go for an illegal drive and smash it to pieces.

It's too easy to blame men's misbehaviour on testosterone. It excuses them from responsibility for their own actions and the responsibility to behave decently and sensibly. It's about time this nonsense was dumped.

Thursday 26 May 2022

Go with the flow

Anxiety is seen as something very abnormal that we shouldn't be experien-cing. The assumption is that it needs to be banished or at least greatly reduced. But is that right? We live in an increasingly uncertain world in which the future is far from predictable, so isn't anxiety a rather normal reaction to what's going on around us?

There's climate breakdown, the invasion of Ukraine, the cost of living crisis and the crumbling NHS, just to pick the most obvious problems.

Yet we're told we should be free of anxiety and trundling along happily in our little domestic bubble, not paying too much attention to what's happening in the rest of the world. Just go with the flow and follow your instincts.

But if more and more people are saying they suffer from acute anxiety, doesn't that suggest that anxiety is actually a normal reaction and that calmness and serenity (or whatever is the opposite of anxiety) are not normal at all?

In which case, what needs adjusting is not our individual reactions, which are perfectly healthy, but the world around us that's causing those reactions?

I've been an anxious person for decades, and no matter what I do to lessen the anxiety, it stubbornly persists. And I think it's significant that I wasn't anxious as a child but very happy-go-lucky and carefree. It was only as I got older and learnt more about the wider world that my anxiety developed. Is that really so surprising?

Perhaps we should live with our anxiety as a healthy emotion and not bust a gut trying to get rid of it.


Five comments failed to appear on my last blog post. Only two comments were missing on this one. Things are improving.

Saturday 21 May 2022


Supposedly men are all obsessed with football, cheering on their favourite team and trashing whoever their team is playing against. They'll sit in the pub for hours discussing the finer points of X's missed goal or Y's penalty kick.

It all leaves me cold. I was required to play football at my prep school but I hated every minute of it. I couldn't see what was so compelling about men getting balls into nets. Wouldn't they prefer to settle down on the sofa with a good book? Apparently not.

The young lad next door goes in for long sessions of ball-bouncing. That's okay for about ten minutes, but then I start to wonder if he could find some slightly quieter pastime. Like weightlifting.

My thoughts turned to football after repeated pitch invasions this week by football fans, with one fan head-butting a player, other fans throwing smoke bombs, and a club manager being taunted. Football clubs are urgently discussing how to prevent the disorder escalating.

All I can say is, why oh why? What's the point of running onto the pitch and causing mayhem? It just makes football fans look like uncontrollable lunatics.

As for the obscene amounts of money footballers command just to turn up and play a few games (Christian Ronaldo, Manchester City, £29 million a year; Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City, £23 million a year), how can they possibly be worth such inflated sums? Is a footballer really worth 300 times the salary of the average hospital surgeon?

It's a nice little earner though, if you're a dab hand at getting balls into nets.


Comments from five of my blogmates - Mary, Joanne, Ramana, Beatrice and Wisewebwoman - haven't appeared on my blog. Presumably a technical glitch at Blogger. I hope they sort it out soon, it's a bloody nuisance.

Monday 16 May 2022

Hassles and hurdles

Jenny and I are back from a week in Liverpool. And what did we conclude after our trip? For one thing, we've lost some of our enthusiasm for travelling - especially long distance travelling.

We're getting less patient with all the hassles and hurdles we have to negotiate just to spend a few days somewhere different. In this case, fiddly journeys to and from ferry terminals, a ferry departing 2½ hours late, noisy guests in nearby hotel rooms, and a biting wind that prevented any proper walks along the waterfront.

Not to mention the tricky ins and outs of booking a holiday in the first place. Which is the best airline? Which is the best hotel? How much are we prepared to pay? What does Trip Advisor say? Will the flights be cancelled or delayed? Will the hotel be in the middle of building work? So many imponderables.

Of course there was plenty to enjoy in Liverpool. We revisited some of the excellent museums and galleries, we met up with a couple of old friends in Chester, and we had some great food and drink. And we had a fabulous view across the Mersey from our ninth floor hotel room. But are the enjoyable bits worth all the annoying bits? We decided that maybe they weren't - unless we were so keen to go somewhere that the annoying bits simply wouldn't matter.

So we're still happy to visit places in the UK or Ireland, but we'd be loath to visit anywhere farther afield unless it was somewhere we really really wanted to go to. Especially when my energy levels at 75 are flagging somewhat.

But watch this space. We may suddenly have a burning desire to visit Costa Rica. Or Jamaica. Or Mexico. Who can predict the odd twists and turns of the human brain?

Pic: Tate Liverpool

Tuesday 3 May 2022

The old normality

Belfast is rapidly returning to a kind of normality after two years of pandemic restrictions. Very few people are still wearing masks or using hand sanitiser and few shops still have limits on customer numbers.

But it's not the new enlightened normality a lot of people were predicting, it's more the old restrictive normality that people wanted to change.

When we were all outside our houses on Thursday nights clapping for the health workers who were dealing with incredible pressures in an underfunded NHS, and we were aware of all the other frontline workers who were keeping society going - teachers, lorry drivers, supermarket staff, transport workers, postal workers, the emergency services - it looked like a big step forward.

A lot of us hoped that once the pandemic was over, those frontline workers would get the proper appreciation they deserved - big salary rises, special bonuses, better staffing levels, better working conditions. They would be seen as vital cogs in society and not invisible minions nobody cared about.

Some businesses did indeed compensate their employees generously, but most didn't and in fact if anything salaries and working conditions are now worse than they were pre-pandemic. Not only are wage levels still in many cases dismal but the rapidly rising cost of living is eating into them.

Most people are once again taking frontline workers for granted or even abusing them when they slip up. The politicians are setting the tone by refusing to reward them for their hard work and their high exposure to covid.

Health workers who always went the extra mile and did absurdly long shifts (and still do) are now taking out loans and using food banks in order to keep going.

The old normality is reasserting itself quite ruthlessly.