Mo’ mo? No!

Hands off my stubble, man. Put that razor down. I’m not doing it.nomobro

My reasons for skipping the Movember party this year are various. I did it for the previous three consecutive years, and that seems a magic enough number to stick on. Each year, I asked more or less the same people for money (apparently I make few new friends) and I’m starting to feel like a tax collector – albeit an extraordinarily dashing and manly one.

Each year that I’ve done Movember, I’ve upped the ante to keep things interesting. Without a bigger budget, a film crew and the whole month off work, I’m not sure where else to go with it. In 2011, I just took a picture every day for the information and amusement of people I knew. In 2012 I took a picture each day involving a Movember theme: Mona Lisa, Mohemian Rhapsody, the Littlest MoBro etc.

Then last year I reached new heights in back-rod making by deciding to write a Movember and men’s health related blog entry 26 out of the 30 days in the month, each with a relevant picture, to span an entire thematic A to Z. If you can be bothered to read it, it’s all down there below this entry. You know how fast the internet moves these days though, I bet it already seems embarrassingly dated. So 2013.

But as I sit here, one year on (well ok, eleven months on), wisely stroking the light beard that I have grown for non-fundraising reasons, it seems a good time to see if anything’s changed. Did my blog have any impact on anything? Anyone? Anywhere? And, to stop thinking about myself for a minute, is Movember changing anyone’s behaviour, other than their shaving habits?


Blog = slog

I won’t lie: the blog was hard work. There’s no way I could have done it without fairly meticulous planning during October of the same year. Some happy accidents along the way helped, such as the monthly meeting of the Handlebar Moustache Club falling on the 8th (AKA the Hth) of the month. There were certainly times where I was feeling the pressure, and some entries I’m more proud of than others (L is for London? D is for Desperate).

I think I gained more, though, than just getting the words on the page in a timely manner. I bulked up many of the posts with additional research, and although I have now forgotten most of the facts I looked up, I’m sure the overall message stayed with me, i.e. “Don’t be so damned cavalier wiv yer ‘elf boy”, or possibly just “WOTCHIT, SON, it could ‘appen to you too”. I’m not sure why the message is so threatening and cockney, but I’d advise you to listen, if you know what’s good for you.


Touched for the very third time

If having an influence on others is too much to ask, at least I’m still boss of myself. So as well as subjecting my upper lip to itchy hairiness and my wakeful mind to incessant worry about what was going in the next blog entry, I went to my local GP to have my testicles expertly prodded (on the Gth of Movember). This led to a further ultrasound several weeks later, and, happily, an all-clear on any serious problems.

It didn’t stop there though. Here’s a lazy Bridget Jones pastiche to detail the health-check achievements since the end of November 2013:

  • GP visits – 0
  • Physio/massage visits – 1
  • STI checkups – 1 (maybe this is too much information?)
  • Testicular self-assessments – approx 3 (this is definitely too much information)
  • PSA tests – 0 (but I’m a bit young for that sort of thing)

The one blot on my record is that I have not done the testicle thing as often as I might have. However, I remember how to do it (being taught how was one of the important gains from last year) and I’m going to correct the infrequency right now. Unbeknown to you, between that full stop and the word “Unbeknown”, I put a little reminder in my phone.

I am now, I think, more likely than I was to take my health seriously, and to talk about health issues. There’s still work to do, though. In writing this today, I’ve had to decide whether to use euphemisms or not (did I check my testicles, or my “bits”?). I’m pleased that I haven’t used euphemisms, but I think it’s not just me who feels the reticence. Privates are private, much of the time. I have just started working with a clinical trials involving people with testis cancer, so I’m going to have to get used to it, one way or another.


We mean you

In writing the blog, I hoped to challenge not just my own attitudes, but those of people around me.

The challenge to some was indirect. Each blog entry was (shamelessly) linked on Facebook, and I would talk to people I saw out in the real world about the whole project and the thinking behind it – always in an unpushy way, you understand. That potential audience might not have decided to click the link, however, or listen to what I was saying.

To certain other people, my approach was more direct. I went for lunch with my father (on the Fth of Movember), and more or less ambushed him with some tricky questions about, amongst other things, how recently he’d had a finger up his bum. By the end of the month I think I’d convinced him to get a health check of some sort, but he’s not so bad at doing that anyway. I did a similar thing to my brother (Bth of Movember), and hopefully got him thinking too.

I may have had some small influence, therefore, on the men closest to me, i.e. my dad and my brother. I know at least that my dad has had a fairly thorough health check in 2014, but he still won’t confirm if he’s had a finger up his bum. I’ll keep probing (as it were).


The bigger picture

I’d love to be corrected on this, but I don’t think I can claim that my blogging had any influence on anyone else. Fair enough. I mean, I was only copying and pasting things from Wikipedia anyway. However, I’d like to think that it has been a small part of a bigger shift. I notice that at least one Movember participant, my cousin, is this year doing his health awareness bit as well as growing the tache: he’s posting health tips every day with his daily pic. Good lad!

Movember has always been about not just raising money, but also raising awareness of men’s health. I reckon one of these two objectives is easier than the other. People have fun growing their taches – I know I have – and money flows, especially in a country like the UK, where there is a strong culture of charity giving.

But how many of those who take part use the opportunity or think and talk more about men’s health? In all the chat and banter between participants, how often does #movember and #menshealth actually end up as #justgotchecked? I don’t know the answer, but I suspect it could be more than it is.

Maybe Movember will tail off in a few years, or maybe it will stay with us for longer, but we must hope for a time when the issues it aims to address don’t burn like they do now. A time when men feel freer to talk to others about their health problems, without conflating them with strange ideas about weakness; when boys, as they grow and learn, receive better guidance from all those who guide them about how to look after themselves; and when this positive message has legs to spread without resistance to future generations. When looking after yourself is just…what you do.

When was the last time you checked yourself, anyway? Don’t mean to bust your balls, but better I do it than something worse does!


Z is for…Zonked

Z Please refer to yesterday’s entry for the heavy stuff; today I’m too tired. Writing a themed blog every day for a month is quite a sizeable undertaking, and it has been a test at times. No regrets though. I’ve learnt a lot about all sorts, including about writing, about my body, about looking after myself and about how tolerant people are of repetitive, attention-seeking Facebook posts. I am almost certainly a changed man.

However much you’ve read of this, whether you’ve dipped in and out, taken a daily dose, or even if you’ve only read this line, thanks for reading.

Next year I will not do this again, I promise. But there’s always a chance I’ll attempt something equally challenging and time-consuming. See you there?

Z2It’s goodnight from me, and it’s goodnight from him.



Still not too late to donate to my Movember campaign – all donations very much appreciated!

Y is for…Yer money’s still good here

YYou must allow me to start winding this down now. Un oeuf’s un oeuf.

This has all been about various things, including the following, so far probably in this order:
1) raising awareness of men’s health issues to whoever will read/listen; while Movember is funny because of moustaches, there is a chance that the vital issues don’t get talked about, still
2) encouraging people through engagement and entertainment to give money to the Movember foundation, which then goes on to good things like prostate and testicular cancer research
3) through the contrived situation, to have a positive impact on my own health and of those around me
4) to see if I can write a reasonably-sized blog entry every day for a month without losing the plot or resorting to desperate measures (jury’s out on that)
5) to rock the boat and see what tangents occur from forcing myself to do something every day for a while
6) other minor reasons

However, for one day only (or maybe tomorrow too), reasons one and two will swap. I’d like to definitively ask for more sponsorship. Yes, I get “credit” in a way, but clearly it’s not about that. Don’t be silly. I’d be just as happy if people give direct to, for example, Prostate Cancer UK instead. Same difference.

I’d be equally happy, actually, if any men reading any of this decide to do one thing differently for their health after Movember. It could be getting a prostate exam, learning how to check their testicles, getting a sexual health checkup, setting an exercise/fitness target for the next year, or even just encouraging men they know to do any of the above. You don’t even have to tell me you’re doing any of the above. It’s nothing to do with me. Do it for yourself.

Thanks enormously to all those who have donated so far, and those who have supported in other ways. It has been invaluable.

Only one day to go. Sunday will be a day of rest, that’s for sure!


Please feel free to donate to my Movember campaign – all donations very much appreciated!

X is for…XY

XQuick background, for those who flunked those lessons: you are made up of cells. All sorts of different kinds of cells that make up different parts of you. Cells are complex little things, but we can say (at GCSE, at least) that they are “controlled” by a nucleus.

Nuclei are complex little things, but one of the things they do contain are chromosomes. Chromosomes are made up of, alongside other things, DNA.

DNA is a complex little thing, but its main purpose is that it is interpreted by other little things inside your cells, and turned into proteins. Proteins do a million different jobs in the body, and define what you look like, (to some extent) who you are, what you are good at, what you are bad at, what you may die of, etc etc.

Chromosomes are what are passed to you from you mother and father during that nice time that had together that night (well, a short while after that, actually). You have 46 of them; 23 from each parent.

Chromosomes mostly look like little Xs, but there’s one funny little runty one which is quite dear to me, and which just over half of humanity possesses.

In our 23rd pair of chromosomes, we men have an X and a little Y instead of another X. This cosy little arrangement gives us cool stuff like:
– moustaches
– a certain hormone balance that gives us more muscular bodies
– greater intelligence (NB: it’s a joke)
– greater spacial awareness (NB: it’s a doubtful thing that people say)
– a penis and some testicles (usually two)

But it also gives us (often due to its inability to fight what its partner chromosome wants to do) bad stuff like:
– bald heads
– colour-blindness
– haemophilia
– other, rarer things like Duchenne muscular dystrophy
– a relative inability to look after our own health

The genetic stuff we can do little about, other than try to find ways to help the affected overcome the negative effects. Sadly, therapies for some of the rarer conditions are not researched as much as other conditions; they affect fewer people, so maybe it makes sense in a way, but people still suffer. That’s a difficult issue, and I will leave it alone.

The last thing in that list obviously we can tackle, but I guess I’ve harped on enough about that already in the last few weeks.

Overall, we need to love our Y. All this post-feminist talk of men one day being redundant – don’t listen to it lads, we’re here to stay. As long as we keep looking after ourselves, right?


Please feel free to donate to my Movember campaign – all donations very much appreciated!

W is for…Wax

WMy tache was feeling a bit limp today. Something was missing. The corners were dry, incoherent, downward-facing. A big hairy frown.

Then I figured it: time to get waxing. When the extremities on one’s Movember handiwork start to extend across the cheeks, wax becomes essential. Without wax humanity would not have achieved the dizzying heights of sophistication demonstrated by this and this and this. Mine even smells good too, and in doing so provides me with a constant reminder of my Movember mission.

Mmm, sandalwood. AKA the sweet smell of success.

W is also for…Waxing lyrical

Here’s some silly verse to fill up the rest of today’s entry. Please be advised that you have to pronounce “moustache” mus-tash. Emphasis on “tash”. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

If you’re really a man you should grow a moustache and
Don’t be afraid if it’s not quite in fashion
The ladies will love it and so will the guys
They’ll all think you handsome and manly and wise;

When you have your moustache you should really now wax it
Preen and then style it, stretch then relax it
Wait til it’s right and then wear it with pride
Safe in the knowledge you’ve nothing to hide

With your new facial feature you should go spread the news:
Be healthy and manly, you don’t have to choose!
If for some reason you spurn the moustache
The least you can do then is give us your cash


Please feel free to donate to my Movember campaign – all donations very much appreciated!

V is for…VD

VYou’ve really done it this time. In Movember, the manliest of months, a veritable festival of manhood, your manhood itself has been where it shouldn’t, selfishly taking a risk that the rest of you now suffers for.

Thankfully…just a bad dream.

Movember is all about men taking better care of themselves, but this one is also about men taking care of everyone else as well. If you don’t go to the doctor about a strange lump in a strange place, you might be risking you life. But if you don’t go to a GUM clinic when you know you ought to, you’re risking other lives too.

I’ve just tried to find some statistics on attendance at GUM clinics, to see if there is any particular problem with men getting themselves checked. I couldn’t really find anything, so I can’t comment on that, but I do know that I hear plenty often about an ‘epidemic’ of STIs, so of course it wouldn’t hurt for men to go do their bit like everyone else. I did find plenty of very good resources, such as this fact sheet from Whittall Street Clinic in Birmingham. Interesting now, but essential half my lifetime ago (if you could have got me to read it). I also found that amusing poster there on Wikipedia – thankfully things have moved on a little since then. My sense of humour has not.V2

It’s suddenly occurred to me sexual health could easily be part of Movember in future years. Maybe it’s a little less appealing, less sympathetic and a bit more about nagging men than asking if they’re OK and getting them to grow fun facial hair. Nonetheless, there seems adequate force behind the movement to do it.

Going to the GUM clinic is fun, anyway, isn’t it? You get to wee in a tube. You get to get manhandled by a gruff German (no one else? Oh. Just me then). You get to look at all the other people and wonder what the hell they’ve been up to, and presumably have them return the favour.

Yeah, I miss it! Sort of. It isn’t part of Movember official, but I’ll try in the next few weeks to make it unofficially part of mine.


Please feel free to donate to my Movember campaign – all donations very much appreciated!

U is for…Urine

UYou can learn a lot from your wee. It contains lots of things your body doesn’t want anymore, all dissolved in water. For example, as our bodies can’t store amino acids, these are got rid of in urine (and in sweat!) as urea.

I often hear people say that urine is sterile. This seems to be sort of true, but sort of not. It is sterile when it leaves the kidneys, but picks up bacteria on the way out of the body. Bacteria in urine are then what makes it smell later on. This is why you need to flush the toilet, even if it’s 3am and you’re afraid of waking everyone up.

What else can we learn?

#1: it hurts to wee! Ouch! Could be a urinary tract infection, enlarged prostate, kidney/bladder stones, and – of course – STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes. What have you been up to, eh?!

#2: there’s blood in it! Not good. Various unpleasant possible causes, including cystitis, kidney infection, kidney stones, enlarged prostate gland or bladder/kidney/prostate cancer. Go see someone.

#3: there’s protein in it! You wouldn’t easily tell this one, though you might notice a sort of ‘frothiness’. Proteinuria (protein in the urine) can be a sign of various things, including diabetes, urinary tract infections, various kidney conditions, or even just stress. Go see someone.

#4: it stinks! You’ve been eating asparagus.

#5: I can’t go! Again there are various reasons for this. You might just be pee-shy. Otherwise it could be a sign of various bladder problems, prostate cancer, or the result of – again – a sexually transmitted infection.

So plenty to see, then. Make sure you keep an eye on what’s going on in that bowl!

U is also for…Upper lip

AKA the victim and perpetrator, all in one.

All through Movember, men all over the world have been deliberately and determinedly trying to cover up their upper lips, to replace the skin there with hair, aesthetically-pleasing or otherwise. Poor thing, to be persecuted so.

No. Yes, it seems innocuous. But don’t forget its penchant for going stiff from time to time. For example, when a man feels pain and then can’t admit it. Or when a man discovers something strange and worrying about his body, but decides not to go and ask a health professional about it.

No. You deserve it, upper lip. I hope you itch too, you bastard.


Please feel free to donate to my Movember campaign – all donations very much appreciated!