Today, I am feeling even more guilty about not having visited the Grayson Perry exhibition when it was on my doorstep, as he has been on the radio talking the sense which he is become renowned for. In my own defence, I don't think that his artwork necessarily has everything to do with his written stuff, so I don't think I have to like both.
He has written something about what it is to be a man - or, more precisely - what it is to be masculine. I would not have thought that anyone - particularly a man (even a cross-dressing one) could come up with anything original to say about the subject these days, but G.P.'s clear-thinking and rationale actually has.
He got me remembering how - as a young boy - I always had a makeshift 'survival kit' to hand when I was not at school. It consisted of (amongst other things) Elastoplast bandages, face-paint, some sort of small knife and - get this - water-purifying tablets! When do you think that a small boy living with his parents in the heart of stock broker-belt Surrey would ever have a need to purify water for drinking?!
All these years later - thanks to Mr Perry - I now understand that the desire or need to own a survival-kit was all to do with the insecurity of a little boy in the big, bad world. It made me feel better about my chances of survival if I were ever to be abandoned. How sad, that I could - coming from a reasonably well-off family as I did - make some truly pathetic allowances for the possibility of being left alone, outside, by my caring family.
I now understand that I was asking myself what it meant to be a man in a boy's world, and the fear of imminent abandonment did not leave me until I truly grew up on an emotional level - if I ever did.
Then I remembered that spate of 'Survivalists' - all those men who went up into the mountains alone with camouflage, guns and knives - mainly in America, but we had a few. Some of them are probably still up there.
They had a distinctly military, 'special forces' look to them, and - indeed - some of them were not only ex military, but Vietnam vets as well.
The army had been their family, and they could not cope when it let them go - out into the big, bad world, like small, frightened boys.