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Men’s stuff and the joy of aging

By Sir ScotchMistery

As a bloke, I’ve never been a party to a conversation between two women except perhaps on the periphery and I was brought up not listening to other people’s conversations. My mother always said it was rude, and since she was generally correct about everything else I have always accepted that as fact.

Men define themselves on meeting, by their societal role. “G’day mate, how are you?” Followed almost immediately by “what do you do?” In their answer, a man then defines himself in the newly established relationship, by the task which puts food on his table.

I am experiencing a major change in my situation because I decided that after 35 years, I no longer want to be party to the phone call at 7 o’clock at night by someone with a computer problem who feels that my time, whenever their calls arrive, belongs to them, by right.

I guess it would be a little bit different if there was an unspoken acceptance that at the end of a half hour call during which I’ve corrected the issue, that I would send them an invoice for the 30-minute phone call, but I have felt particularly uncomfortable asking for an email address or a credit card number. I’m not blaming the caller, please understand. If I had a few more balls I would just send the invoice, or ask for the credit card number and be done with it. But I haven’t – but that’s down to me.

She ‘who must be obeyed’ and myself, have, for some years, contemplated the idea of a change.

I love coffee. In fact, if there was a stronger word than love, that would probably describe me. I don’t only love drinking coffee I love exploring its history. I like to know about the beans. Where they originated. How they were picked. Who they were picked by. My preference is for coffees whose origins are “fair trade”, and where I can be relatively sure without taking long journeys, that the coffee beans were not picked by 7-year-old children.

I’ve just come back from my local favourite coffee joint, where Darian and I discussed the art of coffee, especially the effort he puts in to his “latte art”, producing from moment to moment such beauties as “a heart for all seasons”, “the blooming lotus”, “the summer seahorse” and my all-time favourite, “the split definitive”. Maybe you’ve seen some of these on your lattes in a busy city coffee shop. Maybe you’ve seen them and had no idea what they were. Maybe photographed them and sent them off on Twitter or one of those other social media conjunctions where people interact for a microsecond and then all memory of them is gone.

One of the great difficulties of writing in this format is the capacity to run off subject, or be seen to be dribbling, but the nature of a man’s conversation, not only with himself, but with those close to him and those unknown to him are by their very nature, fleeting. A man’s development of friendships, over years, changes as he ages.

Probably a year ago, I leaned over and said “G’day” to a chap who was drinking in that same favourite coffee joint. He was older than me by a few years, but unfortunately was equipped with a full head of grey hair unlike my own fleeting glimpse of what once was. I introduced myself, and noted that we had sat in the same coffee shop never more than 20 feet from each other, for some months and on that basis alone, we had something in common.

Since that day, John and I have joined together each morning to enjoy a cup of coffee and chat about the day’s politics, the state of our crazy nation, the nature of the staff at the coffee shop and a dozen other things that from time to time have arisen based on his reading of the AFR.

My conclusion has always been that anything owned by Murdoch was anathema, which generally means I hadn’t read what he had read. We eventually got around that by the simple expedient of him cutting out the article and bringing it along to coffee.

Frequently, the subject of “change of life” enters a conversation, and almost invariably the subject of the discussion is a woman we know. But as a 60-year-old, let me tell you; men have a change of life as well.

Finally, after all these years, my life as the go-to man for a computer problem is ending and my beginning as a local go-to coffee creator commences. I am leaving John with a mobile device so we can maintain contact, but the camaraderie of those mornings will not be there, and I will miss them dreadfully.

Yesterday I called in one of the members of a group I set up 5 years or more ago, for socially isolated, mature-aged gay men, and Grant came along after a couple of years of that running. Now he is not only a regular at our get togethers, he is a mainstay within the group. I explained what I was hoping he would do for me, which was join me for coffee, so that John knew he isn’t the only bloke around who drinks coffee on his own.

There was no intimation that John was gay, because he isn’t. It just wasn’t part of the invitation to Grant, who most assuredly, is. It was an invitation to one man, to meet another man, and perhaps in that meeting, foment another “stop by and chat” friendship, much as the one I have with both John and Grant, but at different points in my life.

They got on quite well by the look of it. I will leave John with Grant’s number and he can call if he wishes, but that is entirely up to him. I just can’t help wondering how different things would be, if there was no issue of sexuality in our community. I wonder how different things may have been if 40 years ago the church had stayed the fuck out of it, and hadn’t made homosexuality first, a crime, then later a state of difference between men. Being gay is neither a curse, nor a highlight. It’s just a thing, and if I’m not planning to sleep with someone, it shouldn’t even be an issue.

So, as I head off next Saturday night to the pub, in my new town, in my Hawaiian shirt and RM Williams moleskin trousers, and matching RM Williams elastic-sided boots, I will be quiet, but I won’t be hidden, and I won’t lie.

Such is the joy of aging, disgracefully or otherwise.


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  1. Zoltan Balint

    Dear Sir ScotchMystery I also enjoy my coffee with milk and appreciate the effort people put in to make it – one thing that always drives me to yell out or … is when individuals go in and ask for a ‘latte’, do they JUST want a cup/glass of milk. Cafe ole, Cafe con leche, Caffe latte … all start with ‘coffee’.

  2. Joseph Carli

    If I may reflect back a few years..

    A particular masculine cult, is the ordering of a short black at a zinc-bar in Naples, Italy…It is called a “zinc-bar”, because of the particular bulkhead lining around the bar-top..and THAT is there because one must, to glean the attention from the barista, tap a tip-coin on the zinc metal to attract the attention of the chappy serving the coffee…a tap with a low denomination coin will attract him slower that the tap with a larger, more solid coin…it’s as simple as that..and then there is the ritual of taking, putting sugar in and stirring the cup of what could be described as almost tar, coffee…the best short blacks in the world are or were(I am getting old now) made in Naples…a man of both dignity and gravitas can be assessed from the style , the “calma” in how he stirs ..and how much he stirs his coffee there…the entire philosophy of Machiavelli can be unravelled in the reflection into the depths of a Naples short-black..

    It is indeed an art…it is indeed a delight…it is indeed a truth ; “see Naples and die”.

    A delightful article, Sir ScotchMystery…Ta!

  3. Maeve Carney

    Zoltan, it is cafe au lait, coffee with milk in French. As I found last year, much to my amusement, if you want coffee with milk in the Nederlands, you had to ask for coffee verkeerd, which means wrong coffee.

  4. @RosemaryJ36

    Well done Sir Scotch Misery and I hope you enjoy your change of scene. I feel sorry for those men who have been raised to hide their emotional side and to fear homosexuals. Women have always been able to have close relationships with other women which may or may not have gone further than friendship but still raised few eyebrows. The church’s role goes back much further than 40 years and it seems that all religions base their attitudes on sexuality on ideas that are scientifically out of date by millennia. The current government is doing nothing to help us move our thinking forward!

  5. Zoltan Balint

    Thanks Maeve, thats why I use my mouth ordering in person and don’t send a text before I get there.

  6. helvityni

    Delightful, Sir Scotch, more please…

    “Men define themselves on meeting, by their societal role. “G’day mate, how are you?” Followed almost immediately by “what do you do?”

    We, hubby and I, belonged in a babysitting club; in the Inner-city suburb Balmain of Sydney; we were all orphans, our parents overseas or in Melbourne , Brisbane or Adelaide. So we baby- sat for each other.

    A snotty, uppity missus of a well-known architect came to our place for the first time. “H, is your husband an architect, it all looks so architectural”, she inquired

    “No Sue ,but what you see, is all my doing…” ( architectural or not)

  7. Mark Needham

    Warm article, no vitriol, just saying it as it is, and,or should be.
    Fair enough,
    Mark Needham

  8. Joseph Carli

    Sir..there is a certain whimsy in your writing that I can sympathise with..a kind of echo..perhaps a lost or more correctly put ; misplaced manhood in the understanding of the sensuality of it of the moment, the friend or the lover..The aging of a man can bring an understanding deeper through reflection back on a situation than the living of it at a certain moment..With that in mind, I will post this reflection from my youth when there was so much ahead for me to learn (for better or worse) from the men and women around me..

    “Such is the joy of aging, disgracefully or otherwise.”

    That song by Blondie : “In The Flesh”… …threw me back many years…way before that song was written..back to my apprenticeship years as a young blade on the building site. In the smoko room of a multi-story building site…

    Back in those days..mid-sixties or so, we had a loquat tree in our yard at home and this year it was most proficient with fruit, so I used to take a small bag of them with me to work to eat at smoko and lunch…but in those days, I, and anyone I knew , used to not peel the fruit, but just eat them skin and all..till one day on the site, at smoko..this Slavic chap at the table watched me eat the whole fruit and then addressed me so;
    (I won’t try to do his accent)

    “Why, my young friend, do you eat the loquat, skin and all?”

    “I don’t know”..I shrugged” I just else would you eat it?”…He put his apple down into his lunch-box and said..

    “Here..give me one..I see you have many..that big fat one there..they are the best to show you…” I gave it to him “ Yes,,very juicy”..

    He wiped the surface with his rough hand and then held it up in front of us both as in display.

    ‘This fruit is not just a lump of food..(pause)..this is a sensuous delight..not just to chomp down like the glutton you are , my young friend!”..and he lay it clutched in one palm and proceeded to peel it with his other hand…a strip at a time ..all the while giving me..and those other bemused older men at the table, a running commentary…I have to admit I felt a tad blushing in those innocent days..

    His eyes concentrated and his voice softened..

    “This fruit is like a have to be very gentle..for she will bruise so if you handle her like this fruit? must never be rough with that you must gently peel away the outer layers of “garment” (he paused in his action to give me a querying stare) you understand?” (several other men stifled a guffaw) and when you have it down to the flesh…you gently , with both the flesh wide so you can see the seeds..which you ease out with the index-finger..” He performed the whole procedure with all the care and sensuality of a lover..”And there”..he displayed the bare fruit in his open hand..and after a suitable pause for me to absorb the result, he raised the dripping delight to his lips and voluptuously pressed them down on the flesh so the juice oozed over his lips, which he dabbled with his napkin…His eyes rolled back in his head….he then spoke in a almost voiceless whisper..

    “And then…my so young and innocent friend..when you bring your lips to touch on that forbidden flesh , you can feel both the fruit and your mouth yield to a higher pleasure than you will ever experience in your otherwise worthless life…” There was a long pause while he held his pointed to the ceiling hand for a moment of appreciation..
    “Pitchken dim..” he sighed.

    There was a sudden outburst of laughter in the smoko room from the other men and I felt more than a little uncomfortable.

    But the other end of my life, I can reflect back on the incident with a somewhat sentimental smile at the Slav’s performance….and I recollect a poem (I have it somewhere around here) of Penelope (of Ulysses myth) saying goodbye to her secret lover as it was rumoured Ulysses was returning to the island. Her lover, a rugged but handsome young fisherman who travelled with the seasonal schools of fish for his livelihood , and was then moored at the wharf in Ithaca, asked Penelope for a token to take with him when he sailed that day as a keep sake, and (if I clumsily recall.from memory ) she spoke from her balcony to him below..:

    “There sir, by your hand..a white Athens rose,
    Throw it to me that I may grant your desire.”
    Tomas plucked the flower and did as she sought.
    Penelope pressed the stem to her bared breast,

    So a thorn pricked her milk-white flesh.
    A noiseless cry shaped her red lips and,
    A drop of her blood rose upon the place,
    As she pressed the white blossom upon it,
    So a single petal held her token there.

    She cast her loving eyes to Tomas,
    And returned the flower which he cupped
    In his hand ..then raising it to his lips,
    He plucked out that single petal upon his tongue,

    And took it into his body as a sign
    Of his endearing affection for Penelope..
    “Addio..( he softly whispered)…addio my sweet lady..”

    I have that whole poem around here somewhere..I’ll have to search it out one of these days..

  9. Kaye Lee

    The daughter of a very close friend of mine, who I also love, recently told me she thinks she is gay. I assumed she was preparing me to meet her girlfriend (I have met her previous boyfriends) but no, she was just telling me how she is feeling. I felt so sad….not because she thinks she might be gay but because she felt she needed to tell me. My response was “I hope we come to the day when it won’t be necessary for anyone to feel they need to announce that. And whoever you love, I will welcome with open arms.”

    Why must we make people feel that way? 🙁

  10. bobrafto

    Mr Joe

    Did you mention the island I was born on.

    My only claim to fame like your Naples.

  11. Joseph Carli

    I was not born in Naples or anywhere in Italy,, my father was..I have visited Naples several is a wonderful city.. there is a kind of adventure in the chaos.

    But to be able to say; ‘I am a native of Ithika” is good.

  12. Johno

    Sir Scotch
    Thanks, nice piece. Since you are all up on coffee research, why do some americans call a cup of coffee a cup of joe ?
    Nothing so sublime as loquats in our smoko shed when I was an apprentice. Meat pies, finger buns and the massive tea pot was the order of the day. In fact, it was tucking into a meat pie in the smoko shed that finally put me off eating meat, that and riding past Auckland’s main abattoir, gross.

  13. townsvilleblog

    The joys of aging mate, you must be kidding, I have found no joy at all in aging. My family treats me like s$%t my aches and pains are worse than they ever were and I am suffering from PTSD after a working life of being bullied and held to ransom, now all I want to do is die in peace, but my once pristine home is constantly thrashed by my family, so I suffer every day from living in a slum.

  14. helvityni

    Another babysitter (even more famed architect) did not send his wife to babysit, he did it; I like it that you always have REAL coffee on offer…

    Hubby started the trend of male babysitters. There had to be a special club meeting first if such outrageous thing was going to be allowed…

    I found it extremely weird, I thought we were all modern folk, all equal…

    At the time I did not know anything about the churchy child-molesters…

    PS. we too had an old loquat three in the backyard of our second house…. later on I managed to grow an avocado tree next to it.

  15. helvityni

    …in the front garden we had another wonderful plant specimen : a Pomegranate tree..

  16. wam

    You write about two women and periphery, but you can join two men, why the difference? Some women drink whiskey and surely it is possible to talk to them, as you, john and grant, without a root in mind?

  17. John Lord

    The love that dare not raise its name.

  18. helvityni

    wam, hubby (still then unmarried and young) ,not all that familiar with local behavioural rules, went into the kitchen looking for female companionship at a suburban barbie:’ Are you an effing ‘pooftah’ the mates said….we,( the real blokes), drink our beer out here… ‘

  19. Michael Taylor

    I know how you feel, townsvilleblog. Gripped with pain, day or night. But at 62 I’ve never been happier, more content, or more in love with life than I am now. It took 60 years (three quarters of them with constant soul-destroying bullying) to get there, so that’s one of the joys of aging.

    If I could have a different life – without the aching bones or muscles, without any ailments – I wouldn’t take it. I’m keeping what I’ve got.

  20. wam

    Sad helvityni, you must have been in an east rugby crowd??
    Happily, none of my mates had women who accepted that attitude. I went on my first date in Sept 62 and second feb 63 when I met my wife of 50 years(jan 1967). However the end point was the same.
    By the mid-80s there were only 4 families left and the 3 men had ‘undone the top button and bought gold’. We all went to a quiet camping spot for easter just off the daly river road with a shallow sandy pool and spring water. Rightly or wrongly there was two camps wife 2 kids husband by 3. The boys smoked, toked and yarned. The girls sat in the creek and read. Kerry joined the girls but I no longer felt comfortable in either camp and most of the conversations did not apply to me.
    My only recourse was the children and I supervised their swimming, helped organise the evening entertainment and took them on hunts for jewel spiders and constellations before bed.

    Now I am the only grand father in the group with 3 grandmas and we sit and pontificate together.

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