My Sixty Eighth Week as a Budding Author
In an idle moment this week I was reminded of one of my heroes. Everybody needs their heroes as without aspiration none of us would ever do anything remotely interesting. Heroes drive us on in the belief that “if they can do that, well maybe I could do this” and hence are responsible for all the men in bras running the London marathon. This particular hero of mine is an odd one, both in the fact that I have selected him and also the fact that he is distinctly odd.
It’s Brian Blessed.
Now you immediately think that I idolise Brian because of his seminal performance as Prince Vultan in the film version of Flash Gordon. I must admit that this certainly did have a profound impact upon my life. My student digs resounded to guttural shouts of “Gordon’s Alive!” every time any one of us emerged into the breakfast area before 12noon. However, whilst Brian’s Vultan was definitely Oscar material, it is not the reason for my own personal adulation. I’m a huge fan of Brian simply because he is a dreamer.
Immediately all three of you reading this will chorus back, “But so are we Dave, idolise us as well”. And I will, as long as like Brian you actually act upon your dreams. You see Brian is not only a rotund, shouty, very hairy actor, he’s a climber as well. In fact he’s been climbing since his youth and from an early age dreamt of setting foot upon the summit of Mount Everest. Many of us would have left it at that, but not Brian, he had a bloody good go at achieving his dream, culminating in a age/height record when he hit 29,000 feet in 1991 at the grand old age of 55. This was his third attempt.
And that’s what I love about Brian. He is probably one million miles away from the standard Himalayan climber profile. For a start, he’s a big lad and hence has a distinct disadvantage in comparison to the whippet like sherpas who seem to commute to the summit on a daily basis. Then there is the lack of oxygen at high altitude. With a voice like Brian’s you need all of the air you can get to power your way past those massive vocal chords and create the bassoon like sonic boom that accompanies his every word.
But Brian “pooh pooh’d” these clear disadvantages and had three determined attempts at the summit before calling it a day and retreating to Satnav voice narration instead. In my view being a trier holds so much more credence than making the cut, and serial trying at the same thing after failure shows proper character. I have to say this as I’ve made double figure attempts over double figure years to wrap bar tape onto my handlebars and consistently failed every time.
Brian has even given me some personal advice after my sister asked him to autograph his book "Blessed Everest" for me. He wrote "Dave, follow your dream".
So recently I have taken great inspiration from my hero Brian and put up with weeks of tribulation, adversity, discomfort and derision. Sadly my own assault upon Everest remains a dream instead I’ve attempted to grow a beard. The attempt stems from an idle conversation with the kids. Whilst away on holiday I couldn’t be arsed to shave for a few days and some feeble blond stubble was the result. The kids did the usual point and laugh, then asked if I’d ever grown a beard. My repost was “no”, with my hair and hormones you’d end up with the incongruous sight of an ageing face smattered with bumfluff. As if teenage Dave and his granddad had melded into one.
You can never argue with kids though, as they replied with “How do you know” and I didn’t really have an answer for that, so stupidly stated that I’d let it grow for a month and we would see. I am now over twenty days into the experiment and like the vast majority of my spoken words, regretting their utterance.
Firstly, let’s tackle the appearance. Here is a photo of the three week’s growth. As you can see I am the polar opposite of my hero in every single way. He could encircle fingers round my waist, my voice has something of the soprano about it and the only bush that could possibly describe my beard is the biblical burning one after it had been put out.
Suffice to say that in ten days time this feeble gathering of hair shall be removed and donated to a charity specialising in making scatter cushions for door mice. I reckon they might get two or three out of that lot. Every time I meet someone new I have to advise them of “the dare”, just in case then wonder why on earth I have this pre-pubescent growth dangling off my face. To make things worse, half of it is grey, a stark reminder of the point of life I have reached.
Next there’s the itching. How on earth do proper beardies cope? I am scratching at the bloody thing every waking hour. One fellow facerugger suggested conditioner, I applied it liberally and it improved the smell but the non-stop itching persisted. Even when the itching subsides, the urge to play with it doesn’t. My fingers find themselves stroking all sorts of patterns around my face as if I am perusing important works of art or pondering deep philosophical questions. Neither is true, all I’m thinking is “Hmmm facial hair, how novel, how annoying”.
Finally I have to mention the subject of food. This is probably my prime motivation for despatching my chinmuff as soon as we enter May. Every single thing I eat leaves a little message behind on my face. I’ve had to adapt my feeding schedule to include a post nosh mirror inspection followed by extreme towelling session to remove the post dinner detritus. And this is with a beard as pathetic as mine, I bet there’s more growth on Brian Blessed’s arse.
Nope, beards and me are clearly incompatible. However, my respect for Brian has gone through the roof. Not only is he a great actor and dream follower, he does all of this encumbered by the biggest bloody beard in the world. The man pushes physical suffering to new levels and I offer him the largest salute possible conveyed from these paltry few words.
Now there’s a cryptic picture above. It’s responsible for the greatest productivity loss of the week. My friend Andy posted this up as a recent Facebook status:-
“so I've got Bernie Eccleston on the phone when Boris Johnston saunters up with some junk mail. Bernie's trying to buy his way onto some "Into the Alps" bike ride that a business parter has organised. Every time he gives me his number Boris starts yakking and I can't hear him. Beats naked exam revision I suppose.”
Now Andy has a PHD in Chip Design, which I think is pretty damn impressive as I’d thought they were either rough cut or formed into thin fries. Clearly there is a whole science that I am not aware of. Anyway, seeing as he posted what appeared to be an incredibly cryptic message and is also very clever, I thought it was a puzzle challenge for us mere mortals so set about the task.
I spent hours picking the words apart and looking for hidden meaning. A breakthrough was made when I realised that Bernie Ecclestone was “Mr E”, or “Mystery”. I then turned to Boris, or “The Mayor” or “May your” and carried on working with “junk mail” (spam), “naked revision” (cram barey - cranberry). I was convinced that Andy had cryptically buried the lyrics of a song in his message. Mel C became a candidate as she had “May your heart” as one of her songs but sadly no “mystery” or “spam”.
I trawled around google further, wrote combinations of words on paper and finally on Friday I cracked and asked Andy to tell me the answer. “It was a dream I had” came in reply. Fantastic. Nearly half a day lost to following Andy’s dream. There’s definitely a moral here isn’t there? If you’re going to follow a dream, make sure it is one of your own.
20th April 2012
ps. I’ve managed a whole blog without banging on about my book. So as an end note can I mention that I am now booked as an after dinner speaker for one of the most innovative and progressive cycling clubs in the country. I’ll not embarrass them online but will definitely embarrass myself as I chunter on to a room full of cyclists (hopefully) about Tommy Godwin. I’ve done this once before to the Swindon Women’s Institute and pride myself on a single statistic....only one sleeper.