Monday, 13 January 2014

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

At various times in my life I’ve been a bearded gentleman, a pub regular and an allotment-holder with a shed. It’s just dawned on me that I’ve never been all three of these things at the same time. Therefore, technically speaking, I’m not much of a man. You know, a proper manly man. With terrible tusks, purple prickles and a poisonous wart.

The latest research on men in pubs is worth raising a glass to, although it must be noted it’s about the mental health value of friends having conversations. While that’s great, and for many years my Friday night routine involved pints of Red Kite in good company in Hootannany in Inverness, I do also value those moments where you can have a quiet half and a read of a paper. A sort of mindfulness, if you will, but with IPA instead of Tibetan prayer flags.

Meanwhile the internet literally went on fire a few months back when top TV question-asker Jeremy Paxman appeared on TV asking questions while wearing a beard. It wasn’t a cunning disguise designed to wrong foot his victim but was in fact his own facial hair. The other day he announced he’d shaved it off.

RIP Paxman’s short-lived beard. I was intrigued by the reaction, as over the Christmas and New Year break Wife-features and the Bairn gave me permission to grow a beard for my birthday in February. Another short-lived beard for our seemingly pogonophobic times.

The Pax reax included some flibberty gibbet fashion type saying beards are like friends. I’ve never knowingly talked to my beard but I have taken a bath with it. Friends take note.

The Bairn would always comment on my “prickles” if I hadn’t shaved for a day or even just a few hours. A close shave never stays smooth for long on a monkey man like me. The last time I had a beard was before the Bairn was born. I whisked my whiskers away for various reasons: I was about to become a dad so felt old and began to notice the white hairs emerging in the beard; I’d just finished five years of running a big annual event and felt a load lifting from my shoulders, signalling a fresh start; and a colleague said I was starting to look a bit like Bill Oddie.

Wife-features seems to think the face fuzz suits me but it’s zanily springy to the touch and the current version is even whiter than before.

I can’t help thinking about the great beards I’ve admired over the year. Would the voice of Berk in Trap Door have been as funny without the rustling of Willie Rushton’s facial hair? Globbits only knows.

Paxman may have ditched his but there have been some great facial hair-sporting anchormen. Who remembers the day Angus Simpson shaved off his moustache, rendering whatever he was saying on Scotland Today meaningless? My earliest memories of the news involve Alan Douglas presenting Reporting Scotland, introducing serious reports about industrial decline. Would I have paid attention to a clean shaven host? Is it any wonder Eddie Mair went and hid on the radio?

Toby Ziegler from the West Wing of the White House, who I’m pretty sure is a real person and not at all made up, helped inspire my move into politics. I too have a “watchable quality” and like pie.

Of course some beards have malfunctioned and been used for evil. Take Noel Edmonds for example. In fact, please just take him.

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