Sleeping, but not with the enemy…


The weight of the dog is a welcome weight, thrown across my thighs, waking me in the morning, or crashed on my chest, the warm dog tongue in my ear: every morning the dog face saying hello, hello, hello, hello. The weight of his body, his wiry hair, the black pads of his paws, his thrashy tail, his breath, his crooked lower teeth, his dogness, walks over me.
The weight of the dog says: James, you have made one more night, one more day, we have made, we welcome, we who have not been apart. It says we shall step and leap to the floor and dress or not dress and squat and lift our legs and do downward dog, we young dogs, and stay strong and eat and drink coffee, water, croissant, leftover sausage, meat from a tin.
The weight of the dog says: James, soon we shall smell the air, inspect trees, posts, fly failing at squirrels, leap away from passing busses, meet others of our kind, shit on a gravel driveway, walk in wet grass, run wild in circles. Our day will be one of dashing and lying, of rising and falling, avoiding loud noises, assessing those we meet, ready for the chase of those we can chase.
Going to bed he flops on my feet, rising, turning in circles twice, three times, looking for snakes, then settles. I am trapped: he is pinning my feet, pinning the bedclothes, lying in the space I want to turn to. I will make no move to disturb him, for the weight of the dog is a welcome weight, the welcome prison of love, a feeling I call love, and am happy with that mistake. Perhaps it is no mistake.

The beards that mattered…

The cultivation of chin fur is a long and sometimes fraught process. We all may need encouragement along the way. These have been some of my influences. Maybe.



Opie. Opie Winston. Deceased, of Sons of Anarchy. Don’t tell me it’s not real. This Charming man, all 6ft 4ins of him, beaten to death in jail. No, I haven’t spoiled it for you. It’s all been on Netflix for ages. You get black leather too with Opie. What’s not to like? An influential beardsman from beyond the grave.


zztopTexan guitar doodlers. Frank Beard, the one who doesn’t have a beard, on the right. Never mind Legs. It’s a beard for the Sharp Dressed Man. Zoooom…. hand wavey shake….



Hemingway said that all writers tell the same story over and over. We don’t all grow the same beard over and over. Nor did that old repulsive, animal hunting, tiny-todgered nutter, but he did once grow this fine specimen of whiskerhood. In this condition he should have been shot and the head mounted.





John Bell Hood

General John Bell Hood. OK, he was a Confederate. None of us is perfect, even great beard-growers. He’s here as representative of all the great beards of the American Civil War. That’s when one set of great US beards fought other great US beards. We have to face facts here: the south, whatever you think of them, had better beards. That’s a fact. We have to confront it.


Speaking of which….

Selby Foote

Shelby Foote, the finest historian of the American Civil War, a Mississippian-accented raconteur who described incidents and battles as if they happened half an hour ago, delivering anecdotes dead-pan, then breaking into a sudden chortle. Once I saw this as quite a full beard. But it’s still a damn fine, graceful, southern-gentlemanly Gone With the Wind ‘let’s have the ball at Tara and the Tarleton twins will be there’ set of facial hair.


jeff-bridgesJeff Bridges, the Dude, Rooster Cogburn, and a few dozen other great parts. Now giving the beard gravitas. No. It’s the other way around. Gravitas can be yours, ladies and gentlemen. Beards for all. Conchita Wurst cracked it.








And if it’s greying a little…

Roy Oraschin

Roy Oraschin, model, sometime actor, going thorough the world giving the greying beard a good name. You can watch him on YouTube getting this trimmed, a little… just a little… don’t worry… it ends happily. Relax.



sam elliot Sam Elliott.

OK, I know it’s not a beard. It’s the damn-finest mustache you will ever see. This man could grow a great beard probably in a couple of days. Half an hour maybe. I grew one of these once. Big. Almost this good. Then I shaved it off. The next day I was in the library and saw the DVD of Tombstone. He’s in that. On the cover, with this thing on his face. I could have wept.



Iain Watters

Perhaps a warning for all of us:

Iain Watters, sometime contestant on The Great British Bake-off, famous mostly for having his baked alaska left out of the freezer by a rival.

Nothing wrong with it being ginger.  It’s that it’s the beard as a hipster accessory, instead of the fine thing it is in its own right. And it’s all that stuff on the top of his head.






But, if I had to pick one of these as my inspiration, well, no contest really: Finn, role model for all of us well-haired ones. Whiskers as they were meant to be.






And mine.