Summer is just about over, and the last few days of Paralympic competition in London are coming to an end. My highlight so far has been David Weir's epic victory for GB in the 5000 metres T54 wheelchair event, followed later by his similarly impressive 1500 metres victory. But soon, this second chapter in London's glorious Olympic and Paralympic adventure will be complete, and already an inevitable normality seems to be returning to this big and bustling town.
This was exemplified by conditions on my train into the office on Monday this week, which felt genuinely busy for the first time in months. There were people everywhere, presumably all gloomily returning to the office with their sunny poolside adventure disappointingly over for another year. No more sandcastles 'til 2013. But something's happened. Something is different about the returning throng. They've all grown beards.
Not just the odd bit of stubble here and there. There are so many beards. Everywhere I look I seem to be greeted by a jungle of face furniture. I am struggling to imagine what might have provoked this phenomenon. Are razors a casualty of the current economic gloom? Has there been a big foamy explosion at the shave gel factory?
I first saw a significant collection of face fuzz when I attended the Great British Beer Festival in my alter ego as mild mannered roving beer reporter, documented in my other hugely entertaining beer blog (not that I'm biased, but you are either reading it or you're a sherry drinker). At the festival, you always expect to see a few choice specimens; this year I noticed a finely waxed moustache on a big round ruddy face sat atop a cheery mountain of a man. But at the beer festival you know you will see a few of these and I thought little of it at the time, instead indulging myself in the liquid treasures on offer.
But the sproutings have spread. On the train around me, right now, let me describe what I can see. Opposite, a mainly bald chap, probably in his early fifties, has a finely trimmed neat and tidy affair. It's basically grey, and surrounds his mouth carefully. Next to him, a guy who looks like he works in a physical role for a living (my bet is electrician, as he seems to be fiddling with what look like some specialist pliers) sports a general and scruffy growth dating back to the end of last week. To my right, there's a red headed guy, looking like a hairy scary biker bloke, and he's generally unkempt and seems to have allowed his mane to grow unchecked since 1982.
Amazing manes, a jungle of them. A new guy in the office has a wiry black number over a swarthy face which makes him look like a bank robber in a balaclava. A guy I know in his early fifties from the Caribbean has decided to "try out" a new chin carpet, and he has previously been a smooth cut and well presented Lothario, dark eyed and smouldering.
Of course, it's likely that Don Quixote's seducer would have been a bearded gentlemen, although I'm unsure if Cervantes ever helps us discover this in his entertaining but rambling discourse. But everyone was facially hirsute in those days. This suggests perhaps the point I've been fearing to reach while I've been creating this blog post. It's not them -- it's me. While fashion, in its cyclic way, has decided it's high time that we sorted the men from the boys and furried their faces, I am stuck with a boyishly charming but otherwise bald chin (well, these days, chins). Can I emulate Bradley Wiggins' awesome Olympic sideburns? No. I can just about manage a fluffly tash and a bit just underneath my bottom lip, approximately in the middle, which if left unchecked would make me look a little like a second rate B movie d'Artagnan.
This is all deeply frustrating, but we all are who we all are, and when Mo-Vember (the annual autumn fund-raiser for men's health issues) comes around, I shall once again observe wistfully, wishing I could play my part. Maybe I should start growing now.
As I finish this blog post, a tad behind schedule due to laptop problems, I can report that the PC Support chap appeared at my desk and set to work on my dead machine. Happily he breathed life into the ailing (and frankly ancient) device once again, and as he sat there, warming my chair up and basking in the glory of another job well done (I imagine he'd like to have his underpants outside his trousers and a big "S" on his chest), I managed to observe his face full of unkempt whiskers. There were clearly unidentified deposits of who-knows-what in his beard, and its strands looked so long around his mouth that it would be impossible to avoid the ends getting in as he ingested beer, pizza, or other nerd-sustenance. Really, not nice. Perhaps I should take heart from this. Not all beards are desirable or cool. This one is a disgusting mess. My chin at least remains relatively unstained after a meal. On the other hand, at least he won't be hungry later.
Urgh! Now that I've observed that, nor will I. Gag!
** This blog post was first published at http://siddienam.blogspot.com **