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It has been another long day when I walk up to the camping. A long day across the beautiful Yorkshire Moors into Grosmont, where the North Sea coast slowly becomes tangible.  A man is sitting at the entrance.  Quietly, on his own. There is a sense of soft loneliness about him. I put up my tent next to his and we talk. I fancy a beer at this moment and invite him to come with me. No thank you, he says, a bit shyly, he’d rather sit at the river and collect firewood.

The camping is called Priory Camping ‘backtobasic’. The way I see it, it never was any more than basic. There is no shower, only a small kitchen block and a toilet. Apparently the camping guests have to do their own cleaning, and most of us left before we got round to doing that.

When I return he has a little campfire going. Tomorrow his daughter and granddaughter Daisy are coming to visit. He is looking forward to that.  A lot, I can see from his eyes. He doesn’t see his children much after the divorce.  A good wife, he says, but we had come to an end. She has a friend now, that’s good for her. He is alone, early retirement has returned the joys of boyhood; fishing in the river, campfires, roving through the woods. Still he is immensely looking forward to his granddaughter coming. He has already collected enough firewood for a huge bonfire. They will go fishing in the river and in the evening they will roast marshmellows over the fire. His somewhat timid pleasure and shy modesty at the prospect show the kind and mild boy he has never stopped being.  I dearly hope for him that Daisy will like the ‘backtobasic’ camping.

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I am in Scarborough, having an early evening meal, before taking the train to Manchester. At the table next to me an elderly man in a loose suit is sitting at a cup of tea. I estimate him to be around 85. His watery eyes look nowhere and distant. When I catch his gaze he looks at me. Smiles. We share a few words. About the beautiful day, the nice city. I say he looks well in his suit. His back straightens, his eyes become focussed.  Then two women come in and sit at his table. His posture drops. One seems to be his wife and the other her sister or friend. They talk to him in a punitive tone. His posture drops further. For a moment he looks at me and remembers that he liked it better a moment ago. He straightens his back again but he is not match to the voices of the women. Some minutes later they leave, he trudges behind.

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They bring tears to my eyes, these men. They remind me of my father. They seem open and lost at the same time in their need for affection and love, these men, all of us.  I feel a moving mix of pity, sympathy, love. So vulnerable. As transparent and as vulnerable as a soap bubble. Were you to touch them, they would burst. Surrounding them with loving attention is all. All we need.

    5 Comments

  1. That’s lovely. I’m glad you write in English!

  2. And a pretty topical subject right now too; depression in men etc

    • Hi deb. I believe there is a lot of work to be done both by men and women. I think women have an advantage as they have had to fight more openly and rightfully. What kind of man would have fought his position until recently? No wonder we are depressed….

      • Yes, I agree is more difficult for men in many ways. There is pressure on men to be strong, to “man up!” and keep going or else be branded a wimp or a failure. I witnessed the pressure my husband was under when he lost his job a few years ago and whatever I said I know he felt enormously the responsibility to provide for his family. I was talking to our eldest son about this at the weekend too, in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide; he said the pressure on men to still be macho, be strong, confident, get a good job, provide for a family, look and behave a certain way was huge and not everyone could cope. We discussed social media and how that exaggerates all these pressures – just one reason why he increasingly rejects it. He has a strongly feminist girlfriend and he sympathises greatly with the issues she has to deal with. He manages to balance things pretty well but not everyone succeeds so well. The battle of the sexes continues but at the end of the day men and women need to work together not against each other – I think having had two sons has helped me, personally, to see this.

        • Beautiful writing Wim! Deb, I recognize a lot in what you say….both about your husband and your sons. I have two sons as well and sometimes wonder in what world they are growing up. All the images of the macho world, influence of the social media, violence and sexism in lots of movies and games that I so much dislike…or even..wonder how harmful they could be. What to accept and what to keep them away from. I always feel the need to compensate, for the rubbish they see…the type of world that does not invite boys to be vulnerable and sensitive. They need and want to be cool, strong and show confidence. I wonder what I can do as a woman, a mother, a person who sees there is more than that. What can we do, except surrounding them with loving attention…which I find sometimes even challenging in the teenage years. Indeed, it would be so good if women and men could work together, instead of simply accepting the differences and the fact that you better hide your emotions…

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