Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Two: Smooth Egg Intact

These trousers will be forever associated with an enlarged scrotum.



Welcome to Part Two.

I'm discovering that writing this down is more of a therapeutic release that anticipated.

Reminder: ladies - get the gentlemen in your life to check their testicles regularly.


Here we go...

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2: Smooth Egg Intact

Tuesday 1 September I went back to school. It was 'teacher training' day and I was delivering  a session (yeah I'm that kind of employee/ teacher).

The mood at school was nervous and pretending not to be. A combination of COVID-19 restrictions, risk assessments, masks, clearning products, hand-gels, seeing colleagues/ friends etc.

After that it was back to 'COVID-19 normality'. I pretty did my thing as normal: starting teaching as I always did - planned out my timetable, got my books, replied to emails, set up lessons, did photocopying.

I hadn't really thought about the ultrasound - until I got the letter 'Wednesday 16 September'.

'Oh ok' I thought.  'That's good - it's in the afternoon on my least-busy teaching day. I can be back in school on Thursday no problem.'

Coming back to school, I had some new trousers and shirts to wear as I'd lost weight over lock-down.

My swollen testicle still felt like a smooth egg. No bigger.

But I was more aware of it in wearing new clothes.

(It's got to the stage that whenever I wear these trousers, I'm immediately reminded of how it felt. Our brains are fascinating.*)

A slight, fleeting, but ever-present discomfort.

Men reading this will know what I mean when I say - I felt the need to adjust myself regularly.

I liken to things like this:
- waking up in the middle of the night, and taking a while to get back to sleep
- leaving the house and remembering that you needed to bring something...but you're not sure what
- starting a conversation with someone intending to ask a question, and getting off-topic

I remember on Tuesday 15 September, I really had a go at a student. They were not organising themselves at all: not communicating about losing books, they had left their work on the train more than once, they were moving house...there was always some ridiculous story going on. And they were moaning about having some serious stuff to deal with.

I said something along the lines of, "I'm have a hospital appointment on Wednesday for something that is potentially challenging - but I've organised the teaching for you guys. As long as you're in communication, you can sort out anything."

I taught my usual lessons on Wednesday in the morning, and left after lunch to get to the hospital on time. I arrived in good time, and waited.

Then waited some more.

Then I had the ultrasound. This involves a gel being put on the area, smoothed on, and then a machine being placed on the gel, and moved around.

I've seen my wife get ultrasounds in the course of our fertility treatment.

Despite possible suggestions for me to have an ultrasound as part of checking me as part of the fertility treatment, I'd never had it. No other examinations had necessitated it.

Until the smooth egg-sized thing in my scrotum.

The guy doing my ultrasound said the gel would feel warm (it did) and he was going to move the machine around a bit (he did) and that it might be a little uncomfortable (it was).

He then said "I can see there is something there. I need to speak to my manager about it."

That was the first time where the smallest alarm bell began to ring in my head.

As I cleaned myself, I breathed deeply with my mask on, and lay back. I began to count the ceiling tiles. And notice the cracks. And then count the lights. I then closed my eyes and began meditating: noticing my breath, feeling my heartbeat, observing the thoughts coming and going.

After what felt like ages, he came back and said "I've made an appointment for 11am tomorrow. Just come to this ward and ask for urology".

I listened, repeated back what he'd said to ensure I'd understood it, and left.

Smooth egg intact.

I got home and drafted emails to work explaining they'd asked me to come back to hospital on Thursday, and it was in the morning, so I'd need cover for my lessons.

I thought I'd be back in the afternoon for my lessons.

As it turned out, Wednesday 16 September was my last day at school until Monday 2 November.

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*It would be remiss of me if I didn't say how good these trousers are. I have such trouble finding things that are short enough in the leg with the right waist. Frustration abounds. So when I discovered Spoke trousers I was blown away. So I do tell everyone about them. Click here to find out more and get a discount - and if you buy - I get a discount too! Win/Win!

Saturday, December 12, 2020

One: I'm Not In Any Pain

My Mask Has Been My Constant Companion

This is the first in a series of posts writing down what I've told a large number of times.

So much so my wife has started to roll her eyes when I tell the story.

Hence me writing it.

It's pretty real. And somewhat graphic. By that I mean - if you're a guy, you might find yourself squirming a little.

If you're woman - then tell the men in your life to check their testicles.

Ready?

---

1: "I'm not in any Pain" 

This had all started in July.  School had already been out for a week. Not that it meant much - I'd been teaching both online and in-person and was particularly tired (more so that most years...nothing like a pandemic to really mess things up). I was spending time reading and relaxing. Not really waking up any later. My wife was working and we were both at home.

One weekend I noticed my right testicle was beginning to swell. It had happened gradually. A slight feeling that something was off. A different sensation wearing underwear. Subtle, but unmistakable. Men reading this will know how a few millimetres can make a difference. My initial reaction was no reaction. Except I after feeling it, I knew something was off. After a conversation with my wife, she confirmed what I thought:

"Book an appointment with the doctor tomorrow".

Wednesday 22 July, I saw my GP. I was in a mask. He was in a full hazmat suit (yes Covid Times). He examined me fully - and whilst uncomfortable, it wasn't painful.

I had wondered if it was something to do with fertility. Having been through (and continuing to be on) a proper roller-coaster with attempting to have our own family, (three failed rounds of IVF, lifestyle changes, supplements, and an eventual diagnosis of endometriosis and adenomysis for my wife...we were left with 'unexplained infertility'. A whole other story.) I wondered if it was varicose veins in the scrotum. My doctor said:

"If it was - for want of a better phrase - it would feel like a bag of worms."

"I'm not in any pain" I shrugged. It was probably more to reassure myself than I realised.

I felt as if I had a smooth egg in my scrotum. Zero discomfort.

He wasn't sure what it was, so wrote a referral for me to have an ultrasound.

The next week I went and picked up the form and drove to the ultrasound department at St George's hospital. I had been under the impression from the doctor that it would happen relatively quickly.

The receptionists felt they had to repeat themselves to me about how I would get an appointment when my details were entered on the system.

Looking back, I appreciate how challenging their job is. Clarity is sometimes favoured over a polite demeanour when dealing with the public. Especially during a global pandemic.

I realised there was not much I could do - other than be patient.

---

PS Looking back, my red mask has felt like a constant companion. The way it felt on my face. The sound of my breathing through it as I sat in waiting rooms, or had my testicles examined by a doctor. It's become a reminder of the journey.

Friday, June 05, 2020

A Moment Of Clarity - An Autobiographical Reflection About Race



Those times don’t happen often. Actually those moments don’t happen often. You know – where you remember some incident, some happening, some past life event that seems to hold the key to understanding your present predicament. 

Some people are constantly searching for these moments. For me – I feel as if they come after me. Perhaps having been a psychology student is the explanation, or maybe an unhealthy interest in the philosophy of Star Wars. Whatever it is – I think those moments happen to me (or maybe I’m making them happen to me) fairly regularly. 

The interesting thing though, is the extent to which those moments are life altering. I read somewhere that there are ‘no ordinary moments’ – each one is unique, extraordinary and represents my life ending as each one passes by (to paraphrase something I heard in a film once). Seriously though I think it’s possible for something to be revealed in a moment of clarity the seeing of which changes everything. I’ve heard that somewhere before too…Yoda? Or Buddha? 

Anyway, this particular realisation occurred in my mid- to late- twenties. I think it was something that was creeping up on me. It was something I always knew and was deeply aware of – I just never quite joined the dots. 

Now some people would have you believe these insights come only when one’s mind is calm and in a space of deep awareness and meditation; when one is seeking enlightenment and presents one’s question to the Source; when one is open and ready; when one is in solitude and at peace; when one is contemplating the oneness of everything – only then do moments of clarity happen. 

What a load of fucking balls. 

I think they’re happening all the time – we’re just too fucking dumb to realise. Not that I’m saying I’m the person who knows everything or has the answer. Don’t shoot the messenger now – there are enough people who’ve said the same thing as me. 

I just feel that I’ve learned to appreciate things for what they are – and then make connections in interesting ways. 

So anyway – I was in my mid- to late- twenties: a time of the quarter-life crisis perhaps (just ask Hendrix, Joplin, Cobain, Jones and Morrison). I’d finished uni; I’d done some soul-searching; I’d awakened my sexual self and lost my virginity somewhere (finally); I’d read lots of very cool literature covering new-age spirituality, self-help, traditional literary greats; I’d even got drunk and done drugs for fuck’s sake! 

Yet amongst all that, hidden within the really cool things I’d achieved and experienced I still felt something was unexplained. A nagging doubt that chewed and nibbled at the back of my mind like a tiny stone stuck in my shoe. I likened it to the feeling I had of not being able to sleep after eating something in bed because of all the crumbs: individually small enough to go unnoticed but collectively big enough to prevent me from falling asleep. 

Taking this metaphor further, I think a lot of my experiences until that point were crumbs in the bed. Only when they reached a critical mass was I compelled to take action and sweep out the bed. 

Actually, the depth of the insight was more like stripping the bedsheets and getting a new bed – such was its revelatory nature. 

So yeah – this nagging, gnawing sense of I-don’t-know-what was my constant companion. I mean I knew it was there – I just didn’t know what it was, where it started or why it existed. I think I just learned to live with it. I buried it. It was only at a certain age that I noticed it. I think what started the search was leaving uni and starting to work. I was in the space of just beginning to earn money. I had finished ‘being a student’ I was in a job I enjoyed and I was newly single. Part of me not only felt as if the world was my oyster, I also felt as if the world had better watch out. 

Ah the arrogance of youth. 

My friends would sometimes ask me where I got my energy. I would say I didn’t know and go on to explain that one of my nicknames at uni was ‘Duracell Bunny’. Friends who had known me a bit longer would ask if I ever got tired. I would ask them: tired of what? They would reply tired of being a rebel. I would just shrug, smile and find something else to wind them up about. 

My family too worried about me. My dad was convinced I was suffering from manic-depression. (It does happen to be quite prevalent amongst men. Symptoms often reveal themselves in the individual’s mid-twenties; that and a high incidence of schizophrenia). Again I shrugged it off. Looking back I suppose my behaviour was a little erratic and puerile. I would vacillate from being at home lots, to being out and coming back late. I would spend a lot of my time in my room and treat my parents’ house like a hotel. I mean, I paid rent and did my own washing and ironing but I think my parents (perhaps my mum more) missed the experience of me actually being there. 

So yeah – friends, family all just got a bit weary. That’s the best word. I mean I guess I was tiring to be around: ‘intense all the time’ as my sibling and first girlfriend use to say – much to my annoyance. 

But as my twenties moved on I’d begun to have enough of everyone giving me their opinions – solicited and unsolicited – so much so that I started to wonder and question myself. Was I a manic-depressive? Should I go to the doctor, psychiatrist or whatever and be assessed? Why am I so over the top? Am I always going to be like that? Why do I feel the constant urge to make fun of others around me and monopolise the attention? Why do I have to be at the centre of the crowd all the time? Was I just coming across as desperate, vacuous and just a drama-queen? 

None of these thoughts were new to me at this point. I’d always known I was an ‘attention-seeking, loudmouth big-head’ as someone in sixth form had characterised me. By that time I’d become adept at manipulating myself to get people to like me. Essentially that was it: I was desperate for people to love me. I was basically screaming to all and sundry: ‘please love me’. 

I took to not drinking at university and found it to be an incredibly effective way of getting and keeping people’s attention and ensuring I was memorable. I concocted a story about me getting drunk and committing acts of vandalism as a reason for me being tee-total. I told it so often in sixth form and at uni I began to believe the incidents happened. 

On balance it wasn’t that surprising I was pissing people off. This I knew. 

But all this wonderful self-awareness means fuck all if it changes nothing. I’d read and heard that enough times. And in fact through my early-twenties I went a long way to clearing up the bullshit I’d created. It had given me some sense of calm. 

Yes the breadcrumbs were being seen for what they were. Yes they were being cleaned up. Yes moments of clarity had happened along the way. 

But after all this soul-searching-and-finding I was still left with: why? Why had all this happened? Where and when did it all start? 

It felt like the ball of wool was finally becoming unravelled. It was as if the photographer of my life had been adjusting his lens closer to the point where every facet of reality would be brought in to startling sharpness. 

And I remembered. 

I remembered something from nursery, something simultaneously innocuous and profound. 

There we are sitting around a table on our little chairs. The table was that hardwearing, cheap plastic. They type you see in nurseries and schools all over suburbia. I remember it was light blue. We were having the time of our lives playing a very simple game, one that we played all the time. I don’t even know if it had a name – we were so young that our linguistic prowess probably didn’t stretch to more than the scream of delight a child has when engaged in almost anything novel. 

So the game went like this. Someone would put one of their hands in the middle of the table. The person next to them would put one of their hands on top of the first person’s. The third person would put their hand on top of the hands on the table, and so on until everyone had one hand in the middle. 

The first person would then put their other hand on top of the growing pile of hands. Everyone else would follow. By this time there were a pile of hands in the middle of the table. The person who had initiated the hand-placing would now have to pull their hand out from the bottom of the pile and put it at the top. The next person would follow, as would the next. From there it would descend into a wonderful cacophony of childish screams, smiles, hand-on-table-slapping and general noise. 

Once we’d calmed down  - we’d do it again. And again. And again. This is just a simple, harmless game that represents the innocence of children growing up in the late-seventies early-eighties right? 

Of course it is! I’m not going to say it’s anything more than that, except to say that we human beings are wonderful. Our minds work in very simple yet very profound (and complicated) ways. 

There’s a reason I remembered this game: my moment of clarity. I remember putting my hand down on the cold blue plastic of the table. I remember my hand standing out in sharp relief against the table. The way the branches of a tree stand out in fierce contrast against the sky on a warm, clear sunny winter’s morning. I not only noticed how cold the table was and how someone else’s hand felt on mine. I noticed something else that day. 

My hand was not like the others. 

I was not like the others. 

Uh-oh. 

My moment of clarity that crept up on me; that chased after me in my quiet moments; that remained with me like so many crumbs in the bed – it was remembering the first time I realised I was brown. 

And so life began.

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Photo by Maddy Baker on Unsplash

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

How To Change Your (Writing) Life In 30 Days

30-Day Challenges - from Ben Hardy

The Internet is a big place. I am one of those people that read a lot of different articles about a ton of different topics and ideas that I find interesting: from fake news and media manipulation through to why schools are prisons. Frequently, I save the links to read later - and then don't always get around to looking at them.


Writing materials in place...now what?


However, one person's writing kept appearing in my news feeds, suggestions, and in Medium - Benjamin P Hardy. And what a character he is! His meteoric rise using Medium; his suggestions for action; his ideas on self-development, and his ability to collect ideas and assemble them is masterful. It's also totally accessible for anyone interested and willing to put in the time. His post “How To Change Your Life In 30 Days” sets out "30-Day Challenges" that invite people to cause their growth.

This post is about my 30-Day Challenge. I took on writing 30 blog posts in 30 days for one of my projects - goodmanplan.com - where I help single women attract a great guy, so that they can share their life with someone

I currently work full-time as a teacher, and I have a middle leadership position* (where I'm also trusted by the senior management team). I was hesitant about taking on this challenge: how would I find the time? What would I write about? What would my wife say? Would it all be worth it?

From completing the 30-Day Challenge I've discovered eight things that could be useful for you - or anyone writing.


1. Separate Planning and Writing

Thinking and action are different. They are different skills. I first discovered this when teaching my pupils about writing essay questions. In the UK for Economics, Business Studies and Psychology A-levels, students need to be able to write answers to essay-style questions - against the clock. I found that they would write answers that were often disjointed and unfocused. The examiners' reports and mark schemes state that the highest marks come from writing that is coherent and structured. I would find that students were writing long sentences - which reflects attempting to think and write at the same time. Or they put arrows or asterisks to paragraphs they added in at the end of their answer - which reflects attempting to plan and write at the same time. Keep in mind also that most of my pupils are not using a computer. For exams they have to handwrite their answers.

No wonder their answers were disjointed and incoherent.

My solution is to plan out your answer, then write it. (Of course the problem then becomes how do you plan an answer - and my frustration with teachers who say this, but then give no guidance about how to plan an answer. I will be writing about a suggested planning process in another post). This is not a revolutionary idea - I've come to the same conclusion from over ten years of teaching.

In my 30-day challenge, I would splurge out all my ideas for a particular topic. From this mess some kind of idea for a title would emerge.

Do the thinking first to make your actual writing easier.


2. Structure

Over the 30 days of the challenge, I needed to find ways to speed up my writing - if I wanted to get to bed at a (relatively) decent time. So, I would always choose the ending insight of each post before I started writing. Again my experience with teaching hundreds of pupils to improve their exam answers, suggests that structuring - in advance - helps writing. I have been telling my pupils for years to choose an overall answer to the question before writing, because this would give their writing a natural direction, purpose and flow.

However, I found myself writing a short paragraph to begin each post that detailed the main point. On the surface it helps focus the reader. In reality, it helped me focus my writing. This was a revelation for me: clarifying the point of my writing in the introduction. On reflection, the reason I needed to do this, was because I was generating content from scratch. I didn't have an exam question to answer. Writing is so much easier when there's an exam question.

On deeper reflection, different media for writing require different structures: the proposal I gave to senior management was put together differently from the essay for my Sixth Formers. I also realised the same is true for a blog post - a blog is a medium unto itself - where there's much more room for providing value (see 3. below) and expressing my unique voice (see 4. below).

Create a point and the insight for your posts to speed up your writing.


3. Provide Value

Not rocket science this one - but as I wrote each post, I became more and more focused on giving something valuable to readers. I would link to my free downloadable material; I started to add Amazon affiliate links for the books I mentioned; I always ended with a question to which you could respond.

It also became natural to link to other posts I'd written. Writing 30 posts in 30 days had me create a body of work. I realised after downloading Hardy's free ebook that it was a collection of his blog posts. Regardless of how I got the material it was valuable - and he has a clear focus on giving us something useful.

This can be very difficult when there's no exam question. In truth it's about creating ideas...actually creating is the wrong word - collecting, finding, discovering, stealing...whichever way I could (see 6. below). In focusing on providing value for readers, I had to hone my ideas. I learned to trust my instincts and the creative process. As I practised, it got quicker.

Identify the value you provide, and plan for it to emerge in your writing.


4. Discover Your Voice

I've been blogging on an off for over ten years. I've been teaching for over ten years. Marking work and teaching is a constant process of reflection, writing, testing, communicating, discussing, measuring, judging...which means over time, I've discovered (some) of what works.

One thing I've found from doing a lot of writing in different ways, is learning to trust my voice. However, the 30-day challenge focused my thinking - because I was writing about a specific, chosen topic. By writing a lot in a short space of time, I got to discover my style, and my voice. When I first started the challenge, there was a big gap between creating and planning the posts and actually writing them. After 30 days of posts, the gap got smaller (that practising thing again). I move from a title to completed post smoothly.

And - it's a constantly evolving process. Like learning, the more you learn, the more you find there is to learn. The more I write, the more I find out about what I like; the more freedom there is to explore. Writing daily means I have experimented with different writing styles and structures to do discover my voice. There is no shortcut to achieving this.

Your voice could grow in all sorts of ways if you embraced a 30-day challenge (i.e. write a lot!)


5. Let Go Of Thought And Opinion

Once I started this challenge, it did get easier...for a while. It became more and more difficult at all stages of the process: creating titles, ideas, structuring - all of it. What I realised was that this happened mostly because I listened to my thoughts including: "I don't want to", "I'm tired", "why did I do this?", "I don't have time","I won't have  time to do anything else" - and many other ruder things.

I started to get that my opinions were actually no different to my thoughts. Opinions don't necessarily make the difference to the actual process of writing. Neither do my thoughts. Letting go gave me a bit of room - a bit like separating planning and writing (see 1. above).

This relates to trusting the creative process (see 8. below). Without letting go of my thoughts and opinions, I couldn't get creative. Of course this is easier said than done because as much as I might tell myself "they're only thoughts" - letting it go is really difficult, because the very fact I'm telling myself "they're only thoughts" is thinking itself. (Mark Manson calls this "The Feedback Loop from Hell") I realised that my head is a dangerous wild-west type place.

How to get round all this? To be honest - I couldn't. And didn't. The phrase "the way out is through" expresses my view. I kept going - and practised. I have a joke with my wife about thoughts: "thoughts are like farts - they leave a whiff, but they pass". As they pass, a bit of space emerges - and that's where I was productive.

Practise letting go of your thoughts and opinions to give your creativity some space.


6. Be Ready To Collect Ideas...But Organise Too

Inspiration can strike at any moment. Ideas seem to come to me wherever, whenever. I've found that it's not that I run out of ideas - it's more that when I sit down to write, I suddenly run out of ideas. A quick internet search of "carry a notebook" will bring up a load of material on the importance of being able to write down ideas as and when they happen.

This is because the brain works partly on associations so anything goes, at any time. Getting them out of your head and into a notebook or onto some mobile version.

I read somewhere (although I'm not sure where - and it kind of relates to Daniel Kahneman's work in Thinking Fast and Slow) that you could approach our thinking as conscious and subconscious parts. The conscious part takes focus and energy; it's linear. The subconscious part is free-flowing and associative; it's non-linear.

The non-linear nature of the subconscious can explain why we suddenly get the answer to the problem we were thinking about yesterday - today - perhaps after a night's sleep. (This idea of conscious and subconscious relates to separating planning and writing, and the actual planning process itself - which I'll write about later).

It's those moments of inspiration that need collecting and capturing. However, that's only half the story -  because I had to find the ideas I'd collected to make them usable.

When I was completing my 30-Day Challenge, I collected lots of ideas and started outlining them in single posts in Evernote. I then used a tag 'blogpost?' to be able to find them quickly. This meant I could get down to writing quickly, or make the most of my lunch hour by planning a post (see 1. above) in 20-30m.

Whatever method you use to collect your ideas - ensure you have some way of organising them for later use.


7. Develop Habits

Speaking to a friend recently (she blogs here with a really cool Instagram @birdflyingsolo) she mentioned that I come across as very disciplined.

I said that I struggle with time sinkholes too (I'm looking at you Reddit/ YouTube/ Facebook/ Instagram) - especially during the holidays. And then my mind kicks in with all its negative thoughts "I should have..."/ "Why did I...?"/ "It would so much easier if could just..."/ etc.

I've found that understanding habits and setting up effective routines helps me. Again, this is something that written about loads. I know I'm at my best in the mornings. And if I'm going to work at other times, I need to complete plans first.

During my 30-Day challenge, I would sometimes be writing sitting on a bench in our bedroom, with the bedside lamp on, with my wife asleep. I couldn't write before bed like that unless I had some kind of plan to follow (see 1. above) which meant I could just focus on writing.

To get to that stage, I had a set morning routine I followed. All ok -  but people often forget the importance of an evening routine too. I had one of those as well (which included completing the washing-up in the sink...sadly it's got to the stage where I can't go to bed unless the sink is empty).

Charles Duhigg's material about habits is brilliant. Setting up these habits meant I could find where I worked best and make the most of my time. I completed my challenge during the school year from February to March. Setting up the habits was so important.

Work out when you work best and create a strong morning/ evening routine to get into writing.


8. Trust The Creative Process

Again there's so much written about the creative process. It's a bit like that phrase I mentioned 'the way out is through'. But at some point during my challenge, I learned to trust that something great would emerge from the chaos.

This trust didn't come from nowhere - a plan helped, structuring helped, finding my voice helped, letting go of my thoughts helped, collecting and organising ideas helped, setting up habits helped - kind of obvious.

But as I wrote a post, day after day, sometimes I would start of with one idea - and keep trying to push through writing. Then this (almost) strange thing would happen - I would let the idea evolve and the post would end up somewhere even better than I could have planned.

Over the 30 days, I learned to go with it - to trust the creative process. I've had a more visceral experience of this (that might have supported me in the 30-Day challenge) when collaging (my collage blog is thismanscollages.wordpress.com)

Plan, structure, let go of your thoughts, collect and collate your ideas - then as you write - start to trust the creative process.


What I Really Got - Action Matters

What I really got from completing this challenge is that action matters. Until I start writing or typing - nothing happens.

I'm also glad I did it because it reminded me that I do have something to offer, and affirmed that I can write. I'm still pleasantly surprised when I go back to old posts and re-read them.

I invite you to choose something and complete your own 30-Day Challenge
---
Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Friday, November 10, 2017

Why Movember is Failing (One Part of) Men's Health

Before and After - Movember 2017

Movember starts today. As it does every year.

The charity bringing awareness of, and raising money for men's health, started with cancers and have expanded to include men's mental health. This is commendable. As much as this charity does the most - globally - for men's health, they're still failing men in one area. And that area is a blind spot for the medical profession too:

Men's fertility.

I will still participate in Movember. I will grow a moustache every year. Yet as the hairs grow on my upper lip through the month of November, I still feel let down by the charity that states "we're addressing some of the biggest health issues faced by men: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention."

I consider myself lucky that I've not been around much conversation with friends and family about cancer - let alone male cancers. But, I've got four people I know (three close friends) whose fathers died through suicide. Movember has done something. People's awareness of men's cancers and men's mental health has increased.

But the silence about male fertility is deafening - even though it's becoming a bigger problem - see here and here. The deeper issue is that the experience of having children has traditionally been associated with women. The medical profession has focused its research around female fertility. Male fertility lacks the funding for research - which therefore means less is known.

My personal experiences reflect this: I almost felt like an aside during our three rounds of IVF. From the lack of support available to men, through to the conversations nurses and consultants had with my wife and myself (most of their attention was on my wife - unless I made my presence felt with a question).

I've written repeatedly about it on this blog and on Good Men Project and Huffington Post. I've even been on a BBC Breakfast News segment and on live radio. I posed the question 'Are you less of a man if you can't have children?'

My friends and family all know why I grow a moustache for November.

I've been in touch with Movember on several occasions about men's fertility. (This is my fourth consecutive year of participating in Movember and about about my seventh or eighth overall).

I've heard nothing back.

Whilst I still participate, my aim is to get Movember to add men's fertility to their list of areas.

My mum thinks I should stop talking about our fertility journey. I can understand why she feels this, and I know she's looking out for me. But she also knows that I'm a loud mouth.

Hence this controversially-titled post.

If Movember claim to be addressing men's health, they need to consider men's fertility.

I invite you to:
1) sponsor me, and
2) share this post.

Thanks.