By Two Legs Good

So you may have noticed we've only just returned after a while away. Sorry we've not written for a while, we've been growing a beard.

Oh, all right, it's not just been that. And yes, we did already have one, but that was a passive beard, a non-active beard, a beard-by-default. The difference was that we decided that at some point in the future we might not have a beard, and in so doing we realised, therefore, that the last beard before beardlessness would in effect be our ultimate beard.

Our Ultimate Beard. Hmmmm.

Quite apart from the fact that Our Ultimate Beard was already the name of a semi-good semi-famous indie band that once had third billing below The Jesus And Mary Chain and Half-Man-Half-Biscuit back in the 80's, the idea of growing Our Ultimate Beard tickled our fancy.

There are so many to choose from, after all...

With so much choice available, only a fool would plump for one alone, so we decided to test drive a variety of beards. Over the heavy winter growing period when our pelt thickens we merely gave an occasional cursory trim to the outside edge, allowing the beard and moustachios to bush up nicely in preparation for the topiary work to come. Membership of the fine British Beard Club was obtained, and suppliers of wax were sought in preparation for the first of the possible ultimate beards - a combination of Petit Goatee, with Handlebars for garnish.

Now normally we use a local friendly Italian Barbershop - Franco & Pino's on the Wickham Road in Shirley, and never have any complaints; they're clean, fast, very friendly and best of all they give a damn fine haircut - the sort of haircut you just can't refuse.

Good Barbers!

However, this time, this time the other half suggested that what was needed was an old-fashioned gentleman's barbers, something a bit more Hercule Poirot than Al Pacino. And as luck would have it (bad luck, as it turned out) such a place had opened nearby, The Valet in Addiscombe.

Bad Barber! Bad, BAD Barber!

It took a bit of convincing for us to agree to the change, but eventually we did and off we went. And before the first hair was cut we'd made sure we'd briefed the barber. We were growing the beard and moustaches for length - did he understand? Yes, he says, he understands. We're wanting to grow out a goatee and have long droopy handlebars. Yes, that's fine he says. Look, just to make sure, let me sketch what we want... ah yes, you see that, you say you understand that. Fine.

And to be fair it all started well with a decent but unexceptional haircut, but after that it all went wrong. Deeply, badly wrong.

Head back, tilted back, eyes closed head massage... relaxing... the snip-snip-snipping as he trims the beard. And then the tilt forward and




And all the while for the next few minutes he just stands there inanely, barely doing more than smile while we rant and rave and froth and bubble. For some reason there was very little reaction, as though he still didn't understand - or care - what he'd done.

All we were left with was a little tufty chin-cover. Months upon months of growing gone. His suggestion? Maybe that if he trimmed it even narrower it would be the right shape. Oh yes, the right shape - as seen from a long way away through the wrong end of the telescope!

How he could take the idea of something - and the picture was drawn in front of him, mind! - something that was drawn as twice- to three-times longer than wide, and then cut it as something twice- to three-times wider than long is beyond us. There's only so far down the Stupid Scale we can go before we get headaches and the bends.

The length went from about 4.5 inches full stretch to 1.5 inches. The moustachios similary lost about 2 inches of wingspan.

He "misunderstood", he said.

Just how bad a barber do you need to be for that to happen?

You just can't make this sort of stupid up. If it happened in a television sit-com you'd probably think it was lazy writing - no-one could really be that inept. Wrong! At The Valet, they really CAN be that bad!

The Valet claim that they are "for those guys who want that little bit more" - they just couldn't be more wrong if they tried; in our case we ended up with much, much less than we wanted.

"So whatever your style requirements are, they will be satisfied here at The Valet." they claim. Ha! Piffle! Utter nonsense!

And as for "we stand for the provision of a quality service to the everyday man where they can escape, relax and enjoy proper male grooming services", BE WARNED! This was the worst barbering experience we've ever had.

So, thanks to Bodger the Barber at The Valet, I haven't been to a meeting of the British Beard Club for months. I wouldn't be able to look the other members in the eyes. I've been living in fear in case a crack squad of Beardy Ninjas come to expose me as a non-beardy, and take my prized club badge away.

Oh, the shame of it.

So now you know why we haven't been around, why we haven't shown our face for a while.

In the meantime we've been reduced to the "Oor Wullie" method of beard growing - rubbing salt into our chin to make the hairs thirsty, then tying a knot in them when they come out for a drink.

* - I hope that The Justified Sinner doesn't mind me borrowing the old tag-line from his excellent blog. Have a gander if you can, he creates some of the most beautiful, unique and surprising jewellery you're ever likely to see.

And he has a beard.

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