Let me tell you a story. You may not want to listen to me, an old man in a pub, cursing under his breath and smoking. But listen to me... please... I want to tell you...
"One foggy December morning in 1917, the men and women fighting the gender wars emerged from their trenches. They were cold and soaking wet. Both sets of soldiers laid down their guns.
One man spoke. His words were soft, haltering. He was waving a white flag.
'Let's not fight today. It's Christmas Day. This is no time for violence.' From under his trenchcoat, he pulled out a battered round object. He placed it on the mud at his feet. 'Let's play football instead.'
The women gawped. Their faces were drawn and haggard.
'Football?' they jeered. 'All year we are waiting for some token... some gesture of affection... and this is all you can manage? Football? You play football every bloody week. Honestly... if you're suggesting that... we may as well leave you boys to it. We'll go shopping instead.'
Tired and disorientated, the man hesitated. 'I... we... we're trying to be nice. To do something that involves you. If you're just going to throw it back in our faces...'
The bickering continued until nightfall. The men never did play football, and the women never did go shopping.
And when Boxing Day arrived, hostilities had resumed. Words and insults were hurled over the trenches, as the terrified children huddled together in no-man's land. The adults fought all day, and have been fighting ever since.
So where does that leave men and women nowadays? I don't know. I am sick of this war. As a child, you think you can stay neutral... but soon enough the hormones kick in and you find yourself forced onto one side or the other, reluctantly flinging insults at the enemy. Some people seem to enjoy the war... but not me. I know that war is hell."
"Like any wartime reporter, I try to stay above the fray. I try to look at the merits of both sides without getting too closely. But as every reporter knows, you can't stay neutral forever, and sooner or later words will always be twisted to suit the propaganda needs of whichever side gets hold of them. Anyway, I am not much of a reporter... my camera is broken and my pencil isn't quite so full of lead. I don't really care who wins... I just want a bit of peace and quiet. I get to thinking about men and women and when the fighting will end. Will one side drop a metaphorical atomic bomb on the other? Or will they dispense with metaphors and drop an actual atomic bomb?"
"I'm a man, and so I guess I find myself on the side of men. In a different lifetime maybe I would have fought alongside sisters and mothers in the great pornography wars of the 80s. But no. I fought the battle that genetics assigned me, at first with hesitation and then with grim acceptance. I guess the funny thing is that when I think of women... of the women I have encountered and locked horns with in the bedroom, the all seem to be the same person. They have different names, and sometimes different bodies, but it's as though they merge into one talismanic foe. One threat to be neutralised and disposed of. One fear to be defeated"
"So... I meet a new woman in a bar and I find myself reminiscing about old evenings with her, oblivious to the fact that my memories are of a different woman in a different city. Like any old soldier, I slip into a routine of quick-fire quips, forced laughter and defensive shrugs. The body does not forget the basic training. And as the dust settles after an epic battle (or hapless skirmish), I light a cigarette and think of all the faces I have glimpsed in battle... and how after a while they all look the same."
"One day this war will be over, I hope. It will be over because someone will win."