A stranger has just thrown a ball at me and asked me how my week has been. It’s Monday night, and I’m sitting in a circle of a dozen men in a chilly community centre. This ball obliges me to tell the gang about my current emotional state. I have spent my entire adult life carefully avoiding situations like this. I came to Andy’s Man Club with my eyes open, thinking I was ready to share. But that’s because I expected a different sort of group therapy session; a place where normal blokes could open up without the corny bullshit that puts so many of us off this sort of thing. No one said anything about a ball.

These men are mostly working class and middle-aged; a few are in their 20s. There is one much older bloke, who chuckles: “I used to deal with my frustrations by wrapping a pool cue round someone’s head.” When I tell them that I have travelled here from out of town to take part in the group, they seem touched (to protect their privacy, I won’t say exactly where the meeting takes place).

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Vijay Nanda

The author Vijay Nanda

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