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Rab's Week: Why the beard bashers really make me bristle

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeill

MONDAY: A brief encounter still chafes our Jamie

Jamie Dornan has been talking pants. The Belfast actor rues the fact that every time he tries to discuss acting the subject returns to his previous career modelling undergarments.

As the final episode of New Worlds aired on Channel 4, he told The Guardian: “I think I've done two shoots in my underwear ever… but that tag — underwear model — I just can't get rid of it. And it's such a bizarre, specific thing — underwear.”

It is indeed.

Jamie meant that he also modelled other clothes. It matters not. The pants, like mud, have stuck.

Young men, heed the warning: trousers on at all times.


TUESDAY: There’s more than meats the eye with kebabs

I've only once ever had a kebab. Do not be unduly alarmed. Regular readers will recall that, at the age of 50-wibble, I only recently had my first pizza.

Not culinarily adventurous, d'you see? My first kebab came in the traditional manner, after a bucketload of beer, and I remember little about it or anything else. But I'm sure I didn't think it that bad. It came with bits of salad that must have made it healthier than fish and chips. Kebabs have a rotten reputation, however, largely due to the mysterious nature of the meat.

A consumer study found that seven lamb kebabs or curries sold at food outlets in Birmingham and London contained no actual lamb.

Now food watchdogs (contain no actual dog) in Northern Ireland are set to begin their own investigation into the mystery meat. Sometimes I regret going vegetarian. But not right at this moment.


WEDNESDAY: The very second I see a spider I know it's time to fly

Big spiders are coming! Women and children last! I'm outta here.

Actually, I'm not that scared of spiders. But I am moderately terrified of them.

If they're small and still I can cope. Large and fast, and I'm up on the sofa screaming.

There's a reason for this. It's because spiders are evil.

And the wickedness is growing. A massive spider was found in a Belfast eatery, causing four chefs to cower in terror.

True, it was just a house spider. And, true, it was technically harmless.

But it was big and it was leggy. And it makes you feel sorry for flies.


FRIDAY: piglets so cute, warts ’n all

Warty piglets! You don't get many of these to the pound. But Belfast Zoo got two baby ones.

They popped into this peculiar world shortly after some African pygmy goats arrived.

All together now: aaaww. Even wee warty things are sweet. And in the zoo they'll be safe from their main enemy: er, man.


SATURDAY: Dancing makes you happy, says coalition. I'd be happier if coalition danced off a cliff

Keeping fit is making us miserable. But dancing is the way to happiness.

The disturbing news comes in a bizarre sounding study commissioned by the UK Government as part of its ongoing obsession with wellbeing. Here's how the coalition could improve our wellbeing: resign. Instead, they asked 40,000 people to rank different leisure activities in financial terms.

Thus dancing was linked to the happiest people, with a financial value put at £1,671 a year.

Swimming came next on £1,630. And, more sensibly, borrowing library books was worth £1,359.

Conversely, going to the gym equated to taking a £1,318 pay cut, while performing music was similarly deemed a £1,248 loss.

I possess few scoobie-doos as to how they arrived at these figures. But I understand the link between gyms and financial misery: substantial outlay for little return.

As for dancing, it would take more than £1,600 before I could be persuaded to shimmy.


SUNDAY: Why the beard bashers really make me bristle

The debate on beards continues to bristle. Female journalists, like women generally, are opposed to the phenomenon for reasons that aren't clear.

I suppose they like men to be clean in a general sense, which extends to shaven of phizog. And they don't like the rough tickliness, which can bring them out in spots.

Hard cheese, I'm afraid. Beards, they say, maketh the man. But I accept you're either for 'em or agin 'em. I've admired them ever since I was an ineptly shaved adolescent. However, the equation of the beard with manliness is profoundly false.

Exhibit A: moi. Exhibit B: loads of men I know who can't grow full beards but have big biceps and stern brows and do manly things like make decisions.

I was struck — luckily not by one of those manly, clean-shaven men — by remarks attributed to female blogger Nicki Daniels

She claimed she'd liked beards ever since she was little, when we look up literally to manly men. But wimpy poseurs making fashion statements had ruined her “fetish”.

She wrote: “The beard has turned into the padded bra of masculinity. Sure it looks sexy” — eh? — “But whatcha got under there?” Good, unwanted question.

She wasn't finished there. Here's the painful pay-off: “There's a whole generation looking like lumberjacks and most of you can't change a flipping tyre.”

Ouch! And she didn't say “flipping”. This tyre-changing allegation hurts. It's all part of the well-observed phenomenon that we're not as manually skilled as our dads and grandads.

My clean-shaven dad was a case in point. He fixed stuff. The only related attribute I inherited was a penchant for swearing while doing it.

As for changing a tyre, I've done that twice, but would have been lost without the manual.

In France, the overly proactive bird I was with immediately went to the boot, as I — who was to do the actual work — tried to read the manual in French.

This led to a moustachioed barber running out of his shop to berate me. It was one of the most humiliating moments of my life, made worse by the fact that I merely returned a simpering smile, not knowing what he was saying until the translation was provided later.

My beard was of no use to me then. The proof of the pudding is in the doing, and not in the pudding you have in your beard.

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