As anyone who has seen me out and about will know, I have a beard and have had one since I was 19-years-old.
It isn’t a particularly nice beard – it’s like a garden broom with half its bristles missing – but when you’ve a face as unattractive as mine it is wise to cover it, so my beard is effectively a disguise to mask the fact that what lurks underneath is really quite unpleasant.
I have shaved it off only once– for my mother’s 60th birthday party.
‘Just for me,’ she pleaded, before adding with her usual tact, ‘because at the moment you look like a tramp’. (My mother appears to judge people solely on their appearance, so if someone has a nose-ring or a tattoo they are bad, whereas anyone sporting a tie and shirt - even if they have a bloodied axe in their hand and have just committed a murder - is respectable, good and to be trusted).
However, for my mother’s sake, I did what she asked and shaved - and immediately regretted it. On my first public outing without facial hair, I walked to the shops and a young child passing by physically recoiled, began crying and had to be comforted by his mother. I believe he required counselling for the following two years.
So you get the idea – I have a beard and always will.
Or at least that’s what I thought.
On Saturday morning, a little bleary-eyed and tired, I picked up my beard-trimmer. I use it every three weeks or so to tidy my facial hair up, just like one would trim a privet hedge when it becomes particularly unkempt.
I always have the same setting on my beard trimmer – 8mm (my, this is exciting detail isn’t it) – which means when I run the razor over my face, that is the length of hair left on.
So, with a graceful sweep of my hand I ran the razor over my left cheek … only to see, with a mixture of surprise, confusion and horror, a huge chunk of hair drop off and land with a plop in the sink.
I glanced down at the razor and saw the safety setting had been knocked off and was now zero. I looked back to the mirror to discover the left side of my face was clean-shaven.
I charged into the bedroom where Mrs Canavan was midway through changing the nappy of our daughter, Mary.
“Have you see this?” I screamed hysterically, like I’d been the victim of a knife attack.
‘What?’ said Mrs Canavan, completely unconcerned, not even glancing up from wiping a large chunk of faeces from Mary’s left buttock, while Mary was crying and repeatedly shouting ‘Peppa Pig’ (she is obsessed with this children’s TV programme and would, if she was in charge of the remote control – which she pretty much is these days – be content watching it on repeat for 12 hours).
“This”, I cried and pointed at my bald face.
Mrs Canavan finished dabbing Sudocrem on Mary’s bits and looked up. ‘Why have you shaved one side of your face? You look stupid,’ she said, helpfully.
I explained, slightly impatiently and angrily, that my current look wasn’t intentional and asked who the hell had been fiddling with my razor.
‘Ah, that’ll be Mary,’ said Mrs Canavan, without the slightest concern in the world, ‘she was messing about with it this morning.’
I wanted to scream at the top of my voice, “why on earth didn’t you tell me?” but it didn’t seem right to chastise Mrs C about something she wasn’t really responsible for and I sensed lecturing a 23-month-old child on why it isn’t acceptable to adjust the safety setting on a Braun XR215 Beard Trimmer might go over her head.
To cut a long story short I spent the next 45 minutes trying to even up the damage by shaving off roughly the same amount of hair on the right side of my face, so that, eventually, I was left with a kind of odd-misshapen goatee beard that no man – well, no man who wasn’t suffering from a severe mental health issue - would ever sport.
When I went for a family meal later that day, the first thing my sister said on opening the door was ‘wow, what have you done to your face? You look like George Michael in 1988’ – which isn’t exactly the kind of comment that instils confidence.
I am hoping my beard grows back very quickly. Until then I have taken to wearing a balaclava in public, which doesn’t, let me tell you, go down very well at the local bank.
So glad I didn’t fly to Belfast
I was asked to go to Belfast this week, as part of my day-job as a lecturer at a university, but, after discovering the outward flight from Manchester airport was at 6am, I duped a colleague into going in my place instead.
Confirmation that I did the right thing came when she rang me to tell me that, after waking at 3am in order to get to the airport for check-in, once on the plane the captain announced there was a delay because the autopilot wasn’t working.
Two minutes later he came back on to tell the passengers – with these very words – ‘it shouldn’t be too much longer - we’re going to try hitting alt, control and delete to get it working again’.
If I was on an aircraft about to transport me at 30,000 feet I’d want something a little more reassuring than to be told that they were using the ‘alt’ key to sort out a mechanical issue.
Thirty minutes after this – with my colleague one of 200 very tired passengers still sat on the runway in the plane – the pilot’s voice came over the intercom once again.
“Ladies and gentleman, we still can’t get the autopilot working. We could fly without it but there are a couple of other issues with the plane too so we’re just weighing up whether or not we can go for it”.
My colleague tells me that other than a few mildly surprised looks among the passengers, not a single person expressed any concern or alarm. I can say with some certainty that had I been on that plane I would have shoulder-barged the door open and jumped off headfirst.
After two hours, the passengers were transferred to a different plane, one that was working, and landed in Belfast a short while later.