Insider Magazine – The One Where I Tell You To Get Rid Of Your Beard

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Men of Dublin, please feck off and stop growing beards. Thanks.

You mean I have to fill this with another 800 words and in some way explain myself? Apparently that’s the difference between good old-fashioned standing in the street and yelling stuff at randomers and having a national newspaper column. Fair enough.

Once, beards were a sign of radical left-wing politics, a love of folk music, an earth loving hippy sensibility or not giving a shite about your personal appearance. Occasionally all of the above. These days it’s like pregnant women. You don’t notice one for ages until someone points one out to you and then they’re all you see.

I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day (not a hipster in sight) and every man there bar one had a beard of some kind. Every last one. As a bearded man for the last 5 years it’s a disturbing trend I’ve noticed on the rise in for the last while now. First it was the trendoids, not long after it was the Mumfordpocalypse, George Clooney even caused a spike in interest and now, post-Hozier, there are hoards of facially hirsute young lads everywhere you look. It’s not fair. That used to be my thing.

Not that I’ve had a beard forever, or even for that long a time. If there was one thing I was sure of when I was a kid (besides a future career as an astronaut, the invincibility of Liverpool FC and just how cutting edge computer games that loaded on cassette were) it was that I was never going to have a beard. My dad had one for all of my childhood, thus if there was one small act of rebellion that was going to be mine, it was that there was no way I was going to have one too. Yet, here we are.

First it was just laziness, letting the stubble grow for a few days because I hated shaving, next thing I knew no-one could remember the last time they’d seen me clean shaven. It’s been over four years now. I’m so attached to it now that I won’t even do Movember because it would mean shaving part of it off for a month and flapping my clean-shaven chin to the world. What happened to me?

One of the things I liked about it in the early stages (apart from it hiding a multitude of sins when it came to having a fat face) was that few men my age around had them. No, I’m not one of those “I liked the band before any of you guys had heard them so now I don’t like them anymore” merchants of the personal appearance brigade. Well, maybe a little. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life observing what goes on in the middle of the motorway, quietly, from the pathway on the side. Well, more from a nearby hill really. With binoculars. Then running away. Now I’m smack bang in the middle of the white line and people think I’m a beardy bandwagon jumper.

But why do so many lads have beards and why now? I’m the sort who asks that question of colleagues at random, say 9.30 on a  Tuesday morning in the canteen whil they’re eating breakfast (they’ve come to expect it now). One of them gave me the theory that Irish men are bearded by default and that we only get rid of them in times where we lose the run of ourselves with money, comfort, vanities and notions of clean-shavenness. It would explain Peig Sayers. Thus in the 80s, when I was growing up, lots of men were unemployed and bearded. The Celtic Tiger saw that off for a while but fairly soon our natural hairy chins returned.

According to that hypothesis, if you believe all the post-Budget hype you just need to leave it another 6 months and beards will be only for trad bands again. I’ve already instructed my broker to invest my extensive portfolio in Gillette. It’s only a matter of time before they invent something with one more blade than the last one. Again.

Actually, now that I’ve written all this out, I’m not sure what the problem is that I have with so many men 25-45 having a beard. In fact, maybe I’ve even been a trendsetter in this regard. If you could see the slap I just gave myself for typing something that stupid, you’d laugh. The beard did cushion the impact, though.

 

(This column originally appeared in Insider Magazine in the Irish Independent)

Lingo Festival 2014

Again my odyssey into the world of books, reading poetry and literature takes me somewhere stranger than the last time…

Saturday night I was honoured to be asked to be on the panel you see below for a Radio 1 Arena special called the Hero Hour. We all picked one poem we adored, talked about it and performed it in front of an audience in Smock Alley Theatre all for Childline.

It included, as you can see, Senator David Norris, Mary Coughlan, Sinead Gleeson, myself, Aengus Mac Grianna, Temper-Mental MissElayneous and Donal Ryan.

While it was lovely to meet new people (and I know Sinead and Sean well), I had more than a small fanboy moment chatting to Donal Ryan before and after. You might have seen my reviews of The Spinning Heart and The Thing About December.

I’ll let you know when it’s going out on the radio, it’ll be a very entertaining hour of radio…

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Book Seventy Five

Book Seventy Five 2014:

The Second Half by Roy Keane with Roddy Doyle

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A book of two halves. Now that I have that cliché out of the way…

The first is worth your time – the fallout from the first book, the end of his time at United and his brief-lived trip to Celtic.

It lost me later on when he started in management for the first time. At that stage large tracts of the book are taken up with week to week results, transfers, points earned and lost and all gets a bit stats heavy after a while.

I would have liked to get inside Keano’s non-football head more, I suppose. Even at the end of this there are huge parts of his life (home, family, friends) that are entirely opaque.

For the footy-obsessed.

Octobeer…

And yes, I’m conscious that title makes it sound like a beer and an octopus mated.

About time for another one of my rambling “here are a few new craft beers that I’ve had recently that i think you might like too” posts, no?

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Although, to be fair, it’s far from the first time I’ve had a Sierra Nevada…

As well as that I was in P Mac’s pub over on Lower Stephen’s Street for the first tim q couple of weeks ago. Love what’s n offer, nice vibe and the snugs on the left hand side as you go in are perfect for a quiet pint or 2…

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All the old posts on craft beers adventures are HERE.

Book Seventy Four

Book Seventy Four 2014:

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

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I’m of a sufficient vintage that I first saw Stanley Kubrick’s movie of the book when it was still banned in Ireland (on a pirated VHS with Dutch subtitles, now that you ask) but I’ve never made it to Anthony Burgess original book until now.

What kept me?

It’s a towering masterpiece of SF (unlike so many reviews I read, I tend to never use the “M” word). A tricky, slippery cavalcade of partly made up language with bastardised Russian telling the compelling story of 15-year-old Alex and his droogs, and asking the grand existential question of whether it’s better to have a human with free will you can’t control (and all of the uncertainty that entails), or one with none who is little more than a drone but behaves himself.

From the absolute top drawer of SF and a piece of genius.

Book Seventy Three

Book Seventy Three 2014:

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

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I’ve read, enjoyed and gotten enraged by all of Naomi Klein’s books over the years.

This is the first one that terrified me. It should terrify you too.

In it she starts from the same point many of us are at:

(1) Climate change is terrible.

(2) Something will have to be done.

(3) My kids will probably be the ones who’ll have to sort it out.

(4) Sure what can I do about it anyway, governments will have to save the day.

(5) Even if that doesn’t happen I’m sure science will swoop in at the last-minute with a miracle machine to make sure we don’t all collectively live in a poorly shot remake of Mad Max or Waterworld.

She then works through point by point showing us that not only are we screwed, we’re all screwed NOW, the path capitalism has taken in the last few decades is a massively contributing factor and that fossil fuel companies will do everything in their power to keep on making money no matter if it means that the rest of us will all die in the next couple of decades as a result.

Everyone needs to read this now. And then do something big. IMMEDIATELY.

If not, the planet will boil and drown before the end of our own lifetimes and we will have no-one else to blame but ourselves.

That’s it.