I'm back in Britain after two- and-half-weeks on holiday in the South of France. Having just done two months of solid filming for Fool Britannia 2, it wasn't just my mind that needed a rest. It was also my poor face, that had undergone about three hours of prosthetics every morning in order to transform me into whatever weird character we were filming that day. I was sick of putting stuff on my skin, so I decided to give it a total detox and not shave or do anything for the whole holiday. And so it began, my initiation into the world of the beard.
There must be something about this particular French house – it was here that I started alternate day fasting last year, and this year I was becoming Grizzly Adams. Not that grizzly as it turned out. My beard is a curious thing: it grows under my chin and along the jaw-line, but nothing appears on the cheeks. This leaves me with very limited beard-style choices – basically I can have the Jeremy Beadle or the George Michael, neither of which immediately attract.
Not only do I have limited style choices, but my beard is almost entirely grey. This means that I have a thatch full of black hair, with a dodgy grey undercarriage (under the chin … not anywhere else). It immediately makes it look as though I dye my hair to keep myself looking youthful. I don't. The last time I dyed my hair was when I was a Goth in the early Nineties, and it wasn't a pretty sight I can tell you.
So, faced with all these curve balls, I returned to London fully expecting to shave it all off immediately, and pass it off as a hirsute holiday fling. But I didn't. Something deep inside me made me want to take it further. I found myself Googling phrases like "beard care" and "gentleman's grooming parlours".
Had I become a ponce overnight? It appeared that way, as I booked myself into an old-school barber's, deep in the bowels of an illustrious London department store, and had a beard and moustache trim. I was offered a tube of "beard lube" and introduced to the world of clippers, beard conditioner, trimmers .… It was like when I took up golf – a whole new aisle of shopping opened up for me.
I have decided to keep the beard for another three weeks, just to see what happens. I rather wanted a full-on Captain Haddock style – one with its hints of nervous breakdown and confusion – but that is not an option to me. Soon I will doubtless tire of the whole look and return to my clean-shaven self.
What I'm looking forward to is the moment when I do get rid of it, and I can shave it off in increments. I can try a sharp little John Galliano, and then have a go at pretentious goatee bastard. Finally, when all that is left is the moustache, I can properly experiment. I will lock the bathroom door and give myself the Adolf Hitler toothbrush … just to see what it looks like. It would be just my luck to be then suddenly struck down with food poisoning and rushed off to hospital, and be snapped by the paparazzi in my experimental moustache stage.