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Published 15 November 2022

Celebrating International Men’s Day 2022 with www. 

The pandemic and lockdown had many downsides and, of course, we’re still feeling the effects. But for me, one big silver lining in that dark Covid cloud was Zoom. For those who mastered the not-too-demanding technology, it brought us all a bit closer together by being able to see and hear each other (when we remembered to unmute) albeit at arm’s length.

A personal highlight while living in lockdown was the creation – in February 2021 – of a small, but perfectly formed, weekly Zoom group which strengthened an existing friendship of 20 years and created a new one. My fellow Zoomens are Peter and Graham. We’re not defined by our ages, but they’re 85 and 57, I’m in between at 67.

Our Zoom group continues to meet and we’ve recently added a fourth member – Ruth. She is happy to join us three blokes online each week (and at a pub lunch the other week) and we’re pleased to have her along for the ride; with the combined wisdom of 281 years we should go far! 

Our conversations each Monday morning are unplanned, but some themes recur – aches and pains, money-saving tips, interactions with friends, family and neighbours. Food is another topic and, when we came out of lockdown, we started to meet for a monthly meal – at someone’s home or (particularly when celebrating birthdays) in a pub of the birthday-boy’s choice. We don’t agree on the perfect pub, but that’s OK – it would be boring if we did.    

We’re comfortable in each other’s company but that’s not happened overnight; remember we’ve now been meeting online for nearly two years. We don’t shy away from traditionally difficult (well, difficult for men…) subjects like reflecting on the aging process – getting confused, slowing down, problems with peeing – and acknowledging the loss that Peter and Graham feel as widowers. But we also look forward positively to things we can do, here and now, and one of the things we’re planning is to go places.

The three-men-on-a-bus idea first came up because Graham used to be a bus driver. The early onset of Parkinson’s has robbed him of some of his mobility and his driving licence. Peter gave up his car some years ago, and I’m applying for my older person’s bus pass when I retire in 2023. Armed with our passes, we plan to travel. 

Everyone seems to be ‘on a journey’ these days, but we’ll be doing so literally! Keeping our brains and bodies in use, meeting people, and having affordable new experiences is a recipe for staying healthier and happier for longer – which happens to be the mission of the UK Men’s Sheds Association.  

Our plans are still in development, but we’re thinking about day trips to get the hang of it – with Graham in charge of bus timetables, Peter researching destinations, while I record our exploits for a podcast (because the world needs more podcasts!) and/or a blog or vlog – that’s a video journal. If that goes well, we might try longer journeys with overnight stays with friends, if we can find anyone willing to have us. We’re also thinking of doing some ‘research’ – that might involve local pubs – to find out why some high streets are more vibrant than others.

Reflecting on our travel plans for 2023, I’ve identified ‘Five As’ for assessing these and other adventures we consider for the next 12 months (we’re not planning too far ahead).

Affordable – Money is likely to be tight as we grow older and as the cost of living skyrockets, so any concessions – thanks to our ‘older person’ status – are to be welcomed.

Accessible – With each year we’re not getting any more mobile, so we’re not planning any mountain hikes or skydives. That said, we aim to keep on the move as long as possible. 

Achievable – We’re happy to be taken out of our comfort zones, but need to be realistic about what’s possible. Having a plan is always helpful.

Agreeable – Whatever micro-adventure we plan, it must be fun. And our plans need to be agreed (but there’s nothing wrong with someone leading from behind to make it happen) 

Active  Above all, we want to stay active in mind and body as long as possible and, if we can motivate each other to do this, we will. 

So it’s ‘all aboard’ for Spring 2023 – watch this space to find out how we get on!

Of related interest…

A transport of delight – Flanders and Swann

Bus drivers’ school – Bob Newhart

Chris Lee, UKMSA Trustee, November 2022

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