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Sunday, 12 October 2014

Male bonding, Scottish style

Photo by Andrew Huff
"I feel I should give you a cuddle," Al says, stepping close as we're walking down the drive of his Bearsden house, after he's presented me with his MP3 player, packed with great rock tunes from way back. 

Only ancient Scottish instincts to avoid any physical contact that doesn't involve punches save us both, by making me do a swift body swerve. For thirty years Al and I have worked, trained and showered together, without touching each other once, even accidentally. There is no need to start now, my instincts feel, just because one of us has a life-threatening illness and impending surgery.

"Look after yourself in Leipzig," he says, as we turn right along the drive headed for my car, which I've parked at the end to force myself to walk. Several months ago the doc had advised me to get fitter and lose weight, as this op is not an easy one for old, fat guys.

"Not that you're either of those," he had added tactfully, but too late.

"I'll be fine," I tell Al. "My main problem is I don't speak the language."

"I know only one sentence, which I'll tell you in a minute," he says. "Why are they taking your prostate out in German?"

"This guy Stolzenburg is one of the best," I say. "Trained a fair few UK surgeons. Been using the robots for years himself. Does frozen sections during the op, which show if he needs to cut out more."

"Take warm clothes with you," Al says. "Continental weather can get extreme. You know what a girl you are when it gets cold."

"Not at all," I say. "I just believe that losing toes to frostbite is a high price to pay to feel smug about global warming. That house of yours is the coldest place on earth. There are interstellar molecules warmer than the air in your living-room."

He shakes his head. "When you were a boy you had one coal fire to heat the whole house, right? And you weren't cold then, were you."

"I was bloody freezing," I say. "I used to huddle in front of a single electric bar before school, because the fire hadn't been lit yet. The bedrooms were sub-zero in winter, with frosted windows and sheep-skins piled on the beds. 

"Sometimes the sheep were still inside them. Tough times, I can tell you."

I feel him moving closer again as we reach my car, so I punch his shoulder and step smartly around to the driving side. "Thanks for the tunes," I say. "They'll keep me cheerful. See you in three weeks."

"Kann ich einen Kuss haben," he says and I figure I'll look it up later, if I can remember.

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