With lockdown restrictions ruling out the pub – festivities came to the man cave last night.
From early evening onwards, blokes tramp through the front door, hollering greetings and hauling crates of Guinness.
Soon everyone was by the fire watching YouTube videos of BOLTR destroying power tools. The house is filled with sounds of grunting, cussing and reminiscing for a lost age when “when men were men and sheep were scared.”
Preparations for the party began earlier in the day. Blankets on the sofa straightened, windows in the spare room opened, things moved around and a sudden rare sighting of my fellow cave dweller with a vacuum cleaner sucking cobwebs from the ceiling.
This is the man cave version of house proud. Things don’t get cleaned up – shit just gets moved around. Items turn up in surprising locations. Yesterday an ornate corner cabinet, appeared next to the kitchen kettle with a jar of coffee on top and couple of saucepans on the bottom shelf. The spindly, heavily varnished structure was still caked with grime.
“Perhaps not ideal having cookware next to the cat dish,” I point out. Hostile silence follows – and I realise I have over stepped the mark.
Later I find the spindly unit next to the dustbins with an axe in it. Soon it will kindling on the fire.
To be honest I was wary about joining last night’s festivities. On the one hand I need to be incredibly thick skinned, immune to all manner of blokey bluntness. On the other hand I must tread sensitively around their sensibilities. It’s a minefield.
For example, cave man loves making loud sexist comments about woman. But seems genuinely hurt when I don’t find them hilarious, or if I yawn loudly and call him a Jim Davidson throwback. I am doubtful the jokes are going to get any funnier after a crate or two of Guinness.
The occasion calls for a bucket of Cava. After a couple of glasses, I begin to feel an inebriated glow, and pluck up courage to step into the man throng.
The big brother has arrived. They are in the middle of a quiz on male actors winning Oscars for playing real life characters. Conversation turns to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Truman Capote and then to Dostoyevsky. Everyone agrees their favourite novel is Crime & Punishment.
As though the atmosphere is dangerously convivial, the subject switches abruptly to female authors. Big brother addresses me directly.
“I don’t like writing by women.”
I’m taken aback because until now he has not said hello.
“Fair enough. I have heard women say the same about male writers.” I am unruffled, taking care not to be provoked.
The big brother is a man used to an audience. The room goes silent while he assumes the pose of Rodin’s thinker, straining to remember an anecdote that typifies the ‘feminine story’.
Finally he speaks, confidently, borrowing the authority of John Steinbeck with a snippet from The Winter of our Discontent.
Two women meet. One cries, “What have you done with your hair? It looks like a wig.” “It is a wig.” “Well, you’d never know it.”
Until now I have been listening patiently, trying to follow the thread of his thought, waiting for subtlety of insight. I’m gob smacked to discover that this is just a vacuous anecdote about hair. Apparently he believes it is the only thing women think about.
“It’s the cunning… the way women make a sudden change tack to approval,” explains the brother. “I don’t want any part in their story. I never want to be there.”
Judging by the empty cans in the grate, he’s had a good few drinks, but even so, I am shocked by the force of his disdain.
Moments pass. It takes time for his words to sink in. When I reply it is to ask him if this is his definitive view on women.
“Don’t you think we are all evolving?”
“No” he snaps back.
Once again the room is silent for his opinion.
I try to question him but he has no interest in further debate. The subject is closed and the conversation roars on.