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  • Philip Bryer

Venus and Mars

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

Men are from Mars and women are from, no, not Venus, that book was inaccurate. Women are from Alpha Centauri or possibly the Crab Nebula – the tattered remains of a star which was seen to explode in the year 1054 – a supernova which is either 2000, 4000, 6000, or perhaps 7000 light years away. You can see there’s some confusion over the mileage. So much so that one tormented soul on an internet forum poses the question about distance and then adds the conditional entreaty: Please give me a straight answer.

Crab Nebula

Anyway, distance doesn’t matter, the point is that the gulf between men and women is so vast as to make one wonder how we ever got together in the first place, well, apart from the obvious. So, the base urges explain how we got together, but what keeps us there, patiently putting up with each other year after year without going ever so quietly nuts?

Sandra and I both love The Beatles, she likes The Stones and The Who, but not as much as I do. Occasionally we meet somewhere in between the opposite poles of grimy old blues rock and the power ballad. We went to a Jimmy Page and Robert Plant show at Wembley Arena some years ago, on their final tour, I think. The last performer Sandra had seen at this venue had been Whitney Houston. My last had been, well, Page and Plant on their previous tour, the one with the Moroccan orchestra and the hurdy-gurdy player. Tonight, however, was to be a simple 4-piece band. Sandra’s fear of kidnap by the Hell’s Angels who had annexed most of what the vultures who run this frightful concrete dump comically refer to as “bars”, was matched only by her wide-eyed look of alarm during the opening number. Until she realised that what she could feel in her chest was not a cardiac arrest, but a rhythm section.

She likes all of those American cop-on-a-loop and TV-lawyer-wallpaper shows. Law and Order, CSI, NCIS, Special Victims Unit. Shows where middle-aged blokes are seemingly responsible for all of the ills of society. We used to get the blame as teenagers too, and it’s like the guilt’s moved along with us as we’ve aged. It’s so unfair. I like 24 Hours in A&E and Have I Got News for You and not much else apart from reruns of Rising Damp and Frasier. She likes skiing, but we’ve never been together as I can’t abide the cold and can’t see the point.

Lately, every time The Stones’ She’s A Rainbow comes on the iPod, I have an overwhelming urge to pass on the interesting fact that Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones arranged the strings. But I have resisted. Because I can picture the look that will be tossed in my direction. A look which says, “And you think I’d be interested in this because…?” Total incomprehension.

We have some friends who we see a couple of times a year, Malcolm and Helen. Malcolm and I will be almost bursting with anticipation and excitement as the dinner date approaches, mainly because one or other of us will think he’s got a great new story about Ike Turner or Phil Spector or Arthur Lee that he reckons will be new to the other. Once Helen remarked: “What are you two on about now? All of these stories you swap, just because you’ve read them in some book by someone who wasn’t even there. Probably never happened anyway.”

Some book? SOME BOOK? No, no, no. We’re talking about White Bicycles by Joe Boyd, it’s not some book. It’s one of THE books. Cue blank looks in stereo from the female contingent at the table.

But what do women talk about? Sometimes I overhear bits of it, while Malcolm and I talk of the Ajax side of the 70’s and the invention of total football, or what a pity it was that Mick Taylor left The Stones. They talk about families and relationships, death, health, happiness and fear, about life and its trials. But I bet they don’t know the story about the bass line on The Beatles’ I Will.

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