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Bringing light to darkness...
Written by Malcolm Robertson, founding partner
14 November 2020
Like most men, I have tried to grow a beard from time to time. I’d like to do it, but I just can’t. The last time I tried properly, I was feeling good about it until I met my dad for a drink in Edinburgh. He looked at me for a while and with no emotion at all, he said: “why have you done that?”
The following morning, I attended to the mess but not before I’d scared my wife and children by leaving a moustache behind.
This is Movember, the month most of us still call November. Movember is a brilliant and now mainstream global campaign that highlights mental health – some men grow moustaches in a show of support, but few come close to the magnificence of Burt Reynolds or Graeme Souness on that front.
In this year of all years, it feels more important than ever that these moments exist to reflect on what might yet become the next pandemic – one that will be as deadly and indiscriminate as the one we are living through now.
I guess we all like to think we’re stronger than we really are, but that is rarely true. I have struggled with my emotions over the years. I grew up in Dunblane and may never comprehend what happened there and how it still makes me feel, and this year I have on too many occasions fallen short of what one of my closest friends describes as ‘the best version of me’.
I admire people who can talk about their struggles openly and I am slowly learning to do it myself, having for years put on a mask before scuttling off to a cold and lonely corner of my mind. Earlier this year, I joined the Strong not Silent campaign by posting some honest thoughts on Instagram. Within minutes, some of the best people in my life had sent me just a love heart or a text. Sharing your troubles is good for you and asking for help brings some light and warmth to the darkness.
This week, we’ve brought together some pieces that made us think about these important issues. Have a good weekend.
1. Silence in a special place
My friend Gordon Smart has endured a more miserable 2020 than many of us – he is a broadcaster who lost his voice. As this pandemic took its deathly grip, he was reduced – literally – to silence, though we managed a few calls and Zooms to share our frustrations and our feelings and all kinds of nonsense in between. In this powerful journal, Gordon writes beautifully about the restorative qualities of the game of golf, and the love he feels for his hometown of Kinross.
Read in Sounder
2. Childhood in the time of corona
In the midst of this pandemic, more time spent together as a family will be the force that shapes the youngest generation, for better or worse.
The bitter truth? The fundamental divide between children whose family structures nurtured them during the lockdown, and those whose circumstances exacerbated the crisis and compounded their disadvantages, will only grow clearer and more evident as time goes on.
Read in Unherd.
3. An ode to leather trousers
I’m sure many of us look back at the living arrangements of student days and the early parts of our careers with rose-tinted nostalgia – co-habiting with friends and other assorted flatmates in less than luxurious, but usually fun abodes. However, this lifestyle has a shelf life. As Megan Agnew highlights, millennials are being forced to endure it longer than their forebears, as members of Generation Rent move from temporary home to temporary home, making it difficult to put down roots and find much-needed stability.
Read in The Times.
4. It is so good to see your face!
What do we miss when we are masked? This insightful article by Mary Laura Philpott sheds light on the reasons we crave face-to-face social contact in this era of massive face deprivation. And while nobody knows how long we will continue to see only digitised versions of other people’s faces, we could take some comfort from the unusual practice of looking closer at ourselves.
Read in The Atlantic.
5. How are you?
This year of rules and restrictions has exerted considerable pressure on our collective psyche – and Alastair Campbell is no exception. His conversations with well-known people – Ben Ainslie, Gary Lineker and Nicola Sturgeon, to name a few – about mental health are a must read for anyone who struggles to answer the simple but worn-out question: how are you?
Read in Tortoise.
And finally… We are all in this together
This is another powerful articulation of the importance of sport and friendship in helping those struggling with depression. It is the story of 38-year-old Leon Cerrone, from Birmingham. He remembers hearing his dad say: “he’s not depressed, he’s just sad. Pull your socks up and get on with it”. Since then, he’s tried many times to take his life, but in this short film and journal published by the lifestyle brand Mr Porter, Leon explains his journey away from depression, much of which has been on his bike.
Watch and read in Mr Porter.