Men talking…



Tea and Tolerance were guests at the Men’s Room. The Men’s Room group –  run by Space2, meets every Tuesday from 10.30am – 12.30pm at Denis Healey Centre in Seacroft. It’s a regular, welcoming safe space for local men to come together and chat, drink tea and take part in all sorts of activities from playing pool to painting and woodwork.

Every week they share a meal and those who wish can join in the cooking. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people, share stories and experiences, gain skills and build confidence.

It was great to be their guests on tuesday…wonderful people who spoke honestly with humour and heart.

We talked with many of the men about all sorts of things….. boats, sofa surfing, mobile phones, the right to disagree…. did we put the world to rights? Maybe not entirely…but perhaps we made a start? Here’s some of what we chatted about…from my recollection of what was said….I remember some things..I will for sure have forgotten other things….feel free to add your perspective if you were there…or even if you weren’t.

What makes you angry? Many things. Far too many to remember. Sometimes the more I think about this question, the more things I get angry about. When I see young children with their parents and their parents are on mobile phones, not playing with them at all. Those kids are little for such a short time, and they are just missing the whole thing. It’s a loss.

People coming in here and telling me they are going to vote UKIP….like thats going to make anything better! It just makes me so angry….I want to explain to them how they aren’t going to be better off the way they believe they will, ….that there aren’t people from other countries coming in and stealing ‘their’ jobs. I mean, how can you have your jobs stolen when you aren’t even applying for jobs….but you can’t change people’s minds…their views are set.They’ll just look at you like you’re mad and think what they think.

People being harsh and angry with others….I saw a woman in a supermarket and she was chatting to the woman at the till and taking her time and the person behind her just ‘lost it’. of course THERE are two sides to every story….it was supposed to be a fast till, but still. there is just no need to shout at people. It’s abusive. Perhaps the check out assistant could have managed it better…but for some people, coming in and talking to someone at the check out maybe the only conversation they have all day. You think about that and maybe being slowed down a little bit, losing a few minutes, doesn’t seem so important.

What makes you happy? Family makes me happy. Sometimes. When we are not arguing. I love my family. Good food. These guys….that come here make me happy.

How does it feel to be right? People can have their views even if you don’t agree…everyone has the right to have their own views. I have the right to have a different view. Is that respect?

What would you step into?  I am ready to have somewhere to live. Homelessness isn’t nice. I’ve done a lot of sofa surfing and I’m ready to have my own place..not living in someone else’s home. I am ready for more income. I am ready for better health.

Are you entitled? Funny question. We decided in the end a great question. What are we each entitled to? What is entitlement anyway? Are we entitled to love? safety? …a home?…to a kindness and support when we are vulnerable…being looked after and cared about irrespective of what we earn or have? Are we entitled to respect and compassion?

What makes you stand up? I usually stand up for people. I hope I would anyway. Sometimes you have to weigh up if you are strong enough and able to make a difference if you stand up. I have been in a position where I didn’t feel I could and that didn’t feel nice at all. I felt weak. When I was younger it was easier, i would think more now before getting involved. Once I heard this teacher shouting at these kids and i just had to say something. it’s not right speaking to people like that. He apologised to me after.

If you could change anything what would you change? Like what do I want most…..? I want a job. I would be healthy and fit….able to work….pain free. You can’t do anything without health. Money doesn’t buy health either. Well, I guess it can help…. can’t it…it’s not the money itself but what it gives you access to. Sometimes I just sit in my house and I feel sad, you know. I give a lot when I am out with people and I get home and I’m exhausted.

How much are you worth? Is what we are worth based on how much we earn? Could it be another way? Where what we are worth isn’t connected to our income. How else do we contribute to be valuable? I want to contribute. I want to be able to contribute. I do my best to be there for people, to listen to them, inject some humour.

What stops you in your tracks? Nothing. Nothing stops me. If there is a wall in my way I’ll just find a way to go through it or over it, but i always keep going….keep moving forward. What else can you do? ……Death….maybe that stops me….when someone you love dies that’s hard. I guess extremes whether good or bad stop us…..a beautiful moment..a sad moment….something that arrests the senses….yes its the extremes that stop you.

Conclusions. It was lovely to be the guests of The Men’s Room on Tuesday …wonderful people who spoke openly with humour and heart. It was great to be around the hustle and bustle of setting up for the meal as well….large tables, chairs, bowls, cutlery for twenty plus people ( almost exclusively men). Then we all proceeded to eat delicious ‘orange’ soup together. Like being part of a huge family except there really was plenty of food to go round. We think this is a wonderful project and hope to visit again!

We leave you with a question and comment from the group…. (feel free to comment on the question, add your own questions ,or offer an alternate contribution in the comments box below.) You can also follow us on Facebook.

“Do you think we have the right to end our own lives?”

“I really enjoyed myself…. just to have a discussion about things was great. I really do believe the more we talk the better understanding of one another we get!” D.G.