I shaved off my beard 18 years ago. It was a Wednesday. I know it was a Wednesday because it was the same day Mrs S visited her widowed aunt in Wigan.
Indeed, Mrs S used to visit her widowed aunt every Wednesday ever since her widowed aunt’s husband passed away and left her a . . . er, widow. Poor fellow, the uncle died of a — let me think — yes, he died of a Tuesday.
Anyway, on the Wednesday I shaved off my beard I woke up that morning with the appendage still fixed firmly to my face. Little did I know that my grand sacrifice would be taking place later in the day.
I could hear Mrs S clattering around in the kitchen as she prepared for her weekly pilgrimage to Wigan, bearing such gifts as replacement batteries for the hand-held fan which her aunt would clutch frighteningly close to her nose for hours on end.
It would have been easier for her to move her rocking chair further away from the imitation coal fire which the old dear kept switched on at full power all day long because it reminded her of those great days of real grates.
Apart from the constant danger of Mrs S’s aunt either spontaneously combusting or catching her wrinkled proboscis on the hand-held fan’s whirling plastic (but still sharpish) blades, there was the question of who paid the whopping electricity bills incurred by the old girl’s permanently switched-on fire.
I’m almost reliably informed that the aunt had a wealthy brother-in-law who supported her financially. I never met the bloke but I believe he’d named both his sons Robert to show the world that he had a Bob or two. (Sorry about that. I just couldn’t resist.)
‘Go figure,’ I mused as I tugged at my beard and waited for Mrs S to leave the house so that I could leap out of bed and act daft.
My day off from work always started with me reciting US President Abe Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in front of the bathroom mirror. Why I did that I’m not sure but it probably had something to do with the gravitas my beard gave me.
I was so proud of my growth. It had taken me six months to cultivate and was the first thing I had achieved in my life without engaging the help of others.
We had grown very attached to each other, my beard and me, since the very beginning when I had nurtured an undisciplined chinful of stubble into the mature and lovable set of whiskers that it was now.
Please don’t tell anyone but I was so enamoured of my hairy creation that I had even given it a name, Harry, after a favourite uncle of mine who, although clean-shaven, was a very nice man.
‘Don’t forget to eat or you’ll go dizzy and drop dead!’ Mrs S called to me upstairs before she departed for Wigan. That was a good sign. Her parting shot on a Wednesday was always a pointer to her mood. Today she cared whether I lived or died.
I should have known better. Having lulled me into thinking that all was bright and sunny in my world, Mrs S launched a thunderbolt. ‘Don’t forget to take the dog out . . . and shave off that bloody beard!’
I clamped my hands over my chin in the hope that Harry the beard wouldn’t hear any more. But the damage had been done. I felt Harry bristling with indignation.
‘But my beard gives me charisma and machismo and other high-scoring Scrabble words,’ I whined to Mrs S.
‘It makes you look like a startled lavatory brush,’ Mrs S shot back. ‘Just lose the beard!’ And I heard the front door slam.
Do any of you remember that bit near the end of The Magnificent Seven when the leader of the bandits takes away our heroes’ six-shooters and throws the Seven out of the Mexican village?
When they are far enough away, the Seven are given back their horses and weapons and are expected to return across the border.
But the Seven decide that they aren’t going to leave and the character Britt, played by James Coburn, makes a defiant little speech before they head back to the village for a final showdown.
Well, I echoed Britt’s words as Mrs S left the house. Walking over to the bedroom window (and making sure Mrs S was out of earshot) I declared: ‘Nobody gives me back my guns and says run.’
At the same time I realised that my declaration of resistance made little sense in the context of my current situation and that quite frankly I had sounded right daft talking about guns when all that was going on was a bit of a domestic between a bloke and his missus — which I was bound to lose.
And so half an hour later Harry the beard was lying in tatters in the bathroom sink. Tears rolled down my hairless face and mingled with the dollop of Aloe Vera I’d slapped on to soothe my savaged cheeks.
Six months down the plughole of life, I thought, and crawled back into bed to sob myself to sleep.
As usual I dreamt about Dolly Parton coming into my lingerie establishment to be measured for a new foundation garment and, as usual, I woke up just as I found the tape measure.
I tentatively touched my face — and felt whiskers! It was a miracle but it appeared that Harry the beard was back!
I gave my muttonchops a triumphant tug — and the hair instantly disappeared.
‘You!’ I cried. ‘Why can’t you sleep at the bottom of the bed like any normal dog?’