More thoughts of beards

Prompted to action by thoughts of beards I found my finger hovering over the website of the British Beard Club. A few formalities later and I am now a member. and now have a badge as well as a beard.

It won’t make a big difference to my life – I’m not suddenly going to become sociable and attend meetings or become a real ale aficionado, which seems to be a feature of membership. Nor, after my recent experiment with moustache wax, am I likely to make much of an impact on the competition circuit. I have managed to produce a reluctantly curling  moustache, but until I can get both sides to curl in the same direction I fear I’m destined for ridicule rather than competitive success.

However, I have been using my beard oil and comb more regularly so I’m looking tidier.

That’s always been the problem with my beard.- tidiness. It’s OK for a bit after I trim it, starting off fairly sleek and modestly pointed. At that point I like to think I look rather like an Elizabethan sea dog, though a little older, fatter and balder.  A couple of months later it’s fuller and more bristly and I’m starting to look like the skipper of a tramp steamer. Shortly after that it gets a spurt on and overnight I find myself looking like I sleep in the woods…

I’ve left it to see if it will get even longer but it seems to settle at that level. I can scare children, but I will never play for ZZ Top.

The trouble is that despite all my good intention I always seem powerless to reverse the process, as both my appearance and character deteriorate until my wife puts her foot down.

Until now. With beard comb in one hand and almond-based beard balm in the other I am now taking back my life.  The I can feel a self-help book coming on – Zen and the Art of Beard Maintenance anyone? How I raised myself from Failure to Success by Beard Trimming?

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The Beauty of Blogging

Paperwork today, following up from two meetings yesterday. Also an email teaching me how to suck eggs.

Does glumness radiate from my words?

It’s certainly radiating from my person. That and homicidalness. I just checked the weband it isn’t a word. The word given as an alternative is homicidality, which seems a little neater but, on checking, isn’t a word either.

Now, I have a choice here. I could carry on, as I meant to do and say “Paperwork and meetings don’t bring out the best in me…”

But I’ve had another idea.

Back to my last sentence and start again, the new thought being more attractive than the old one.

“The word given as an alternative is homicidality, which seems a little neater but, on checking, isn’t a word either.”

Actually, that’s wrong.

It definitely is a word because it’s a string of letters that can be pronounced (though if I was writing this in Xhosa we could dispense with the pronunciation element of the definition, as we could for Klingon and Welsh). That fits my definition of a word. It fitted Shakespeare’s definition of a word too. It was easier for him of course, there were more words to be invented and no dictionaries. Today, if it isn’t in a dictionary it isn’t a word. On the other hand, all new words have to start by not being in dictionaries.

Now I’m glum, given to homicidal thoughts and perplexed about the nature of language.

I’m glum because I don’t like paperwork. Regular readers will know that. You need paperwork to run a country but you don’t need it to run a small business, unless you are a small business producing used paper. Governments and tax men disagree but that’s due to a lack of proper potty training rather than me being wrong.

My perplexity has already been explained. That just leaves the urge to violence, and I’m already finding that is reducing. There’s something about words, even made up words, that I find calming. And that is why the title of this piece is the Beauty of Blogging. 

Even when I have little to say, I find myself becoming calm. It’s like being in Church and though the language is less mellifluous there is no requirement to be nice to your neighbour.

 

Calculations

Thinking of my life, as I seem to have been doing yesterday. I began to calculate how long I have left to achieve something.

If I live to be as old as my parents and grandparents I have 30 years left. That probably isn’t going to happen because they are fitter than me, with lots of fresh food and walking to work, where I have relied on processed food and a car for most of my life. Let’s say I have 22 years left. That’s half a lifetime for  D. H. Lawrence, or an entire lifetime for my great-uncle(see below).

It seems like a long time, and for anyone in their twenties reading this it is a long time. For those of us with a few more years under our belts, it’s not long at all.  The last 22 years have passed without me really noticing, in fact I have found myself mentally ticking weeks off lately rather than trying to fill them with activity.

If my calculation is correct I have 1,144 weeks left to me. It seems a lot, but allowing for the fact that a considerable part of it will be passed in watching TV, snoozing in a chair and stuck in meetings it isn’t as much as you think.

The main problem isn’t so much the time I have left but what to do to fill it. I don’t really want to invade France and I don’t have the vision to be a great novelist.  I do have a few ambitions but they are getting less pressing as time goes on. Should be the other way round when you think about it, I should be getting more eager to do things as time goes by. It’s a bit like the Roger  McGough line in The Way Things Are – “No, old people do not walk slowly because they have plenty of time.”

I’m going to have to put some thought into this.

Elephants have it easier. according to a TV programme I’m watching right now – as they wear out a set of teeth they grow replacements. They have six sets then they starve to death. I’m not sure if they count them or not but if humans worked on that principle planning for the future would be easier. And dental hygiene would be a more popular activity.

Lots of life

I was going  to title this post “Too much life”and apologise for not being more regular in keeping things up to date. Then it struck me that as I am the same age as my grandfather when he had to leave work due to Parkinson’s Disease. At that point being busy suddenly didn’t look too bad. It’s a bit like getting out of bed in the morning and straightening a couple of reluctant joints (the little finger of my left hand is the latest recruit to the creaking joint club and is very reluctant to bend now things have turned cold) before I  sit on the bed to put my socks on. It’s not an ideal situation, and it isn’t how I envisaged myself ending up, but it’s a lot better than the alternative.

When you start comparing ages, I’m 12 years older than D. H. Lawrence was when he died. That’s a bit of a sobering thought as he’d done quite a lot by the age of 44 – accused of spying by both the Germans and the English to name but two of the more unusual ones.

It’s a dangerous game to start – I’m also a year older than Julius Caesar when he died and 21 years older than Henry V. They did so  much that they are still famous today. So, to “not writing prize-winning novels” you can add “not invading Rome” and “not invading France” to my list of non-achievements. On the other hand, I’m the same age as Adolf Hitler when he died so you can’t always measure yourself against others.

So, having covered everything from life to death, here’s my epitaph.

He wrote a blog of little consequence, he grew a beard and he never invaded anyone.

What’s yours?

 

Thoughts of beards

Recently I’ve been thinking about beards. This is partly at the prompting of the post I wrote about my great-uncle Bill and the safety razor the army returned in his personal effects, having recently been reading about shaving in the trenches. it was also partly in response to a present from my wife,who recently decided that our 25th wedding anniversary required a special present to mark the occasion. I now have a beard comb, bottle of conditioning oil and a pot of  wax. The comb and oil are great – the wax, when used to twirl my moustache, makes me look like a somewhat seedy cartoon cat.

I’ve had two beards in my life. The first was in the winter of 1981-2. It lasted until the end of the cold snap when the water pipes unfroze. The second lasted from the spring of 1982 until the present day.  Having once had a beard  it was hard to do without one.

This decision was helped by the number of people who seemed to be anti-beard in those days (when I was often asked what I was trying to hide) and I quite like being out of step. Shortly after that I joined the Sealed Knot and found myself in an organisation full of beards.

From there it was plain sailing and I haven’t thought about the beard for years apart from the odd bit of maintenance. It was good to be shown a few photographs of bearded family members from the 1890s because we had always seemed to be a smooth-chinned lot. It was also good to read in none of Francis Pryor’s books that he was told by a Scandinavian archaeologist that people with fair hair and red beards were descendants of  Vikings. So take that, all you smooth-chinned descendants of lesser races!

Now it seems that beards are respectable. I even saw a poster in Moss Bros this morning – a bearded and tattooed man modelling a green plaid suit. Not sure which bit seemed most wrong compared to the Moss Bros I used to know. Even the manager had  tattoos and a stubbly growth that often passes for a beard these days.

It’s a strange feeling, suddenly feeling fashionable in your 50s.

Remembrance Day

This is the war memorial in Slaidburn. It’s one of thousands spread all over the country but it has one feature most others do not.- it commemorates one of my relatives. My dad has a photograph showing the unveiling (sometime in the early 20s I suppose). It shows my great-grandmother standing in the front row as they reveal the name of her oldest son.

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She had a hard war – one son dead, two seriously wounded and a daughter widowed.

William Heseltine Wilson volunteered for service but was sent back to the farm where he worked as a horseman until he was required.  I’m not sure he was much of a catch for the military, being a bit on the short side with slightly flattened feet and another slight condition I can’t quite make out on his records.

By early 1917 the army had used up all its tall, fit recruits and William was called up for training, where he managed to qualify as a second class shot. He then had an active few months on the Continent, being mentioned in despatches and wounded three times. The third time proved to be fatal and he died in a Casualty Clearing Station on 14th December 1917.

The army, being meticulous about these things, returned his personal effects in two installments – a safety razor with blades and tin box on the 30th April 1918. Photos, wallet, cards, 2 cap badges, 2 numerals, a 9 carat gold signet ring marked WHW, a farthing and a bag followed on 4th May.

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There’s nothing special about the story. There were thousands like him – young men who weren’t meant to be soldiers who were sent away to fight. I know he didn’t want to go back after his penultimate wound because he said so in a postcard to my grandfather (who had been medically downgraded and posted to India after being kicked in the chest by a horse). And I suppose that’s the point – he wasn’t not a hero, despite the slack way we use the words these days: he was just one man among nearly nine million who served. It’s just that thanks to the chance preservation of a few of his army records and some letters his mother sent to my grandfather we can add a few details to his story.

Thanks to the internet I’m even able to access a photograph of his grave.

 

Lilac Wine

I’m definitely getting old. Just been listening to YouTube as I wrote and, on hearing Lilac Wine I couldn’t help myself – I stopped writing and looked up the recipe for lilac wine. You can find it here.

I’ve been listening to Elkie Brooks for years (seeing her in concert  on 5th April 1981 at Preston Guildhall according to her official website – I don’t get out much) but it’s the first time her singing has ever moved me to look up a recipe.