All posts by Grant

The full ZZ Top

Shaving is a genuine pain in the neck.

I can get away with doing it every other day, but as I am the proud owner of a beard I have to maintain the beard on my jaw as well as deal with the stubble that surrounds it.

I’ve had a beard as long as I’ve been able to; having worked at McDonalds for four years during my college years, I had to be clean-shaven, as if some designer stubble was going to fall into a burger and affect the flavour or something. As soon as I left that job, I had the Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Craig David, the Ed Norton in American History X – variants on goatees that steadily morphed in to scruffy beards.

But in 2015 I don’t think designer stubble is even a thing any more – we now have designer beards. Everyone who didn’t have beards last year now has a thick, black beard. Watch an episode of Emmerdale, and you’ll note that hairy chins are no longer confined to tramps and lumberjacks – they refuse entry to The Woolpack if you aren’t packing the full ZZ Top. It’s a trend that’s taken over from sleeve tattoos and blokes getting both of their ears pierced (what the fuck was that all about?)

You know what started all of this off? Movember. Ever since some charity worker mis-spelt the eleventh month of the year and tried to convince us that “moustache” and “November” makes Movember, it’s become an annual event for bald-faced bell-ends. One that I can’t actually get involved with, because if I didn’t shave or trim my top lip over the course of 30 days, I’d look like Yosemite Sam.

And that’s the beauty of a beard – they give your face character, but also have character themselves. Some sections grow faster or thicker than others, some look lighter or have ginger patches. You can customise them, much more than you can with pubic hair.

And yet we’ve got men in their twenties dying their beards. There’s men putting gel and softener on their faces. What the fuck are they playing at? They want women to play with their beard like a fucking Yorkshire Terrier or something.

This is the reality of living with a beard. Have you ever used an electric trimmer and found you spend the rest of the morning picking bits of stubble out of your eyes? I have, and it’s twice as bad when you have contact lenses in. I find myself closing my eyes when trimming in an upwards direction, for fear of wasting a weekend plucking hair from my pupils. Being blind and hairy is the worst combination since fat and ugly.

Shaving in the bath, a technique commonly practised by ladies, is a fucking nightmare if you wear glasses. Spectacles and hot water just don’t complement each other – because of this I’ve had to give up reading in the shower. Your lenses get steamed up instantly, leaving you with worse vision than not wearing any at all. So unless you wear contacts in the bath (which is oddly frowned upon by opticians), shaving may as well take place with a potato peeler.

And yet, I still do it. Blindly dragging a Gillette across my neck just because I’ve always believed that steam and hot water “opens the pores”. It opens something, and something pours, but I’ve always felt that a neck full of razor bumps still feels smarter than scruffy stubble when working in an office, even when colleagues point out the blood on my collar like we’re in a scene from Shaun of the Dead.

I blame my dad. Growing up I sat through many a family dinner with my father bleeding profusely whilst we ate, patched up with tiny pieces of toilet paper. To be fair, my dad would buy the cheapest blades in the store – he would have shed less blood unscrewing and using a pencil sharpener blade. Now that I’m a father myself, I can only imagine the horror my daughter sees every time she dries her hands on a white towel.

My neck may look like the nozzle of a watering can, but at least it’s smooth. Until tomorrow that is.

Thanks for helping me check my brakes

Honest driving is a dying art. Not that it was ever really an art, but it’s certainly going to involve some dying if you lot keep it up.

It’s stressful enough driving on Britain’s roads without having to calculate the probability of which direction a driver will suddenly turn without warning. A drive to the shop to pick up some bread suddenly turns into a game of poker, where you have to watch every little movement other cars make. I’ve enough on my plate avoiding reckless cyclists and twats that decide to walk out on zebra crossings without having to make eye contact with every driver on the road.

I’m convinced at least 70% of drivers suffer from broken indicators. Whoever drafted the MOT check-list needs to make sure garages are checking them, because EVERY time I take on a roundabout, there’s some prick going around one without indicating. “Look at me! Where will I go, who knows?!” You’ll be going home in a hearse mate, one that probably doesn’t indicate either.

It’s plain laziness – those who are taking the first exit on the roundabout and feel that it doesn’t justify warning other road users that they are suddenly veering off left. Thanks for helping me check my brakes and whether my daughter’s neck can withstand whiplash. Increasingly, cars will pull up to junctions and just not bother with a left or right signal – you have to assume which way they’ll go by how many degrees their front tyres are turned. Cars don’t need cup-holders these days, they need protractors and a fucking trundle wheel in the glovebox.

I’m just too honest a driver to accept this kind of behaviour. I’ll be the only mug on the motorway indicating when overtaking an artic crawling at 60mph. Everyone else just weaves in and out of each other, like some tarmaced slalom from Mario Kart. Society isn’t legally obligated to just drift between lanes like an episode of Top Gear – tell us where you are going.

It’s not limited to motor vehicles either, with cyclists now deciding to turn 90 degrees without signalling. As if joining pavements, ignoring red lights and failing to wear a helmet aren’t enough of a risk, you’re now throwing suicidal Lycra men at my bonnet? I’m not calling for bullbars to be legalised again, but don’t be surprised if you see a Yaris driving round Bristol with a Dick Dastardly “point” welded on.

The worst offenders make their way in to a little black book; that’s right – I’m taking down registration numbers. Soon I’ll have a list as long as Schindler’s, and they’ll meet a similar fate. If I’m ever struck down with a life-shortening disease, I’ll be the head-case showing up at roundabouts with a sniper rifle.

If you can move your hand to put your wipers on, you can do the same for indicating. Nobody is too lazy to ignore rain on their windscreen, or so self-obsessed that they won’t put their lights on in the dark. It wouldn’t surprise me if most accidents stem from a lack of signalling. Traffic flows through anticipation, made infinitely easier to judge when we all know where we are heading. It’s a virus infecting the UK, and it’s as bad as speeding, if not worse. All joking and violent road rage aside, if you’re guilty of it, please refrain from doing it in future.

Batman or Hannibal

As a Jones, I’m blessed with a name that’s common as muck. There are thousands of us, enjoying the simple life alongside the Smiths and Johnsons of this world, never having to care how we spell our surname until a lengthy, rage-inducing conversation with an Indian call centre is necessary. It’s great. I’ve no need to ever explain my name, or explain to others why we chose that name – it just is.

But for some reason there’s an ongoing trend in Britain for the double-barreled/worded surname. Once meant for royalty, to establish one’s poshness, we’ve now got surnames coming out of our ears. Most of them aren’t even natural fits, as if a rampant four-year old has run through the Deed Poll offices with scissors and a Pritt Stick.

I don’t have a problem with wild or interesting names; I love that a guy I know is named after his father’s favourite metal (Steel) and there’s no doubting I might actually like Iggy Azalea more if she’d kept her birth name of Amethyst. But a surname is sacred and a mark of honour. It’s a membership, a display of allegiance, a nod to families old and new steeped in tradition and value. There’s no need to fuck it up with hyphens and mashed-up concatenations.

If you’re inflicted with a crap surname like Cockshaft, simply take the other person’s name when you marry. Why claim to be married when you both have different surnames? You’re supposed to be unified, not just a big fan of that person. Every time I see a double-barreled surname, I know that there’s an awkward woman somewhere loving that she got her way. She’s playing havoc with record keepers. She wants to remind everybody that she’s still the same person yet slightly more fancy, as if changing your last name alters your personality. Simultaneously acting as a middle class wannabe and subconsciously preparing for divorce already, it isn’t far removed from the Mrs Bucket/Bouquet of Keeping Up Appearances.

You’re not Oprah Winfrey and you don’t need a stage name to maintain your ‘brand’. Why not go all out and do a Cher by dropping the last name entirely? It’s already in effect, with the queen of chavs herself (Cheryl Cole) refusing to go by her current name Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, instead asking to just be referred to as Cheryl as if it’s unique enough to work. If your music’s not unique enough to stand the test of time, a name like Cheryl won’t either.

What happens when double-barreled adults get married a second time – do we end up with triple or quadruple barreled surnames? Do we go the way of the Brazilian footballers and incorporate seven or eight names, and just give ourselves one-word nicknames to simplify things?

Naming children is one of life’s greatest freedoms yet I’d rather we named our kids Batman or Hannibal than see them suffer the indignation of a Smith-Ramsay hybrid. Be unique, but don’t be pretentious. Names are there to identify us, but also to confirm the union of two people and assign the offspring of those two people with a family name. Not names, name. Unless you’re Greek and suffer from dyslexia, there’s no need to have a surname that has to bend on the back of a football shirt. Nobody needs hyphens or spaces in their surname. It’s a surname, singular. Stop fucking with our heads.

Corpses on the commute

Dodging traffic isn’t one of my favourite hobbies, nor is counting cars or observing Britain’s pollution in full effect. Traffic lights exist not only to control traffic and reduce how often we witness fresh corpses on our commute, but also allow us to access other areas of the country without drilling under the road or attempting the world’s most dangerous long jump.

Pedestrians lose all logic when arriving at an obstacle that messes with their complex plan to put one leg in front of the other for five minutes straight. They’ll stop immediately in the middle of a busy high street when deciding they are going in the wrong direction, then moan when the pram I’m pushing takes the skin off their legs. Oh I’m sorry, next time you want me to predict what you’re thinking, weld some fucking brake lights on to your back.

These people will walk in groups of four, but in a sort of hand-in-hand fashion that means you have to either walk up the wall of the adjacent building, or break through them by initiating an informal game of Red Rover. Worst of all, these pricks feel the need to press buttons, like those twats who call all five of the lifts just to go up one floor in the bloody car park.

The worst offenders are the cocky late arrivals at pelican crossings. You know the crossings, where you press the button and wait for the green man to appear, so that when you cross you don’t end up looking like the red man. A great piece of kit that’s present on the pelican crossing is the red light that turns on, or the yellow “Wait” wording that lights up when the button is pressed. Yet, no matter how many times I arrive first at a pelican crossing, some dickhead will appear shortly after to press the button.

Now look, I’m not one to have a go, but what you just did there was treat me like this is my first time crossing a road. Up to this point I was fine just working my way through the underground sewage network to get across Bristol, but you’ve opened my eyes to a whole new world. You mean to tell me that I’ve been stood here, expecting the hundreds of cars on this road to somehow simultaneously grind to a halt just for me? I ought to kiss you for enlightening me and my journey from here on in.

But I won’t, because I really want to grab you by the groin and remind you that you that all you’ve done is wasted two seconds of your life by going to press that button. Two seconds risking your life by touching a button that’s gone unwashed for years, having been used by thousands upon thousands of commuters. I had to touch it, because I was here first, but you didn’t need to – you didn’t just lose two seconds, you also gained germs and the disbelief and disgust of everybody else patiently waiting for the lights to change.

You’re an idiot. And next time I might be eating Wotsits, or sticky toffee, or I could have been playing with dog shit, and you’ll be none the wiser.

You can’t fake a suplex

My understanding of suspending disbelief covers everything from traditional cinema, theatre and even the circus, but one remark that really riles me is “You do realise that wrestling is fake?”

Really? You’re telling me that WWE is marketed at children and isn’t real? The handsome young fellow that has shoulder muscles up to his ears didn’t just slam the naughty man through a plywood table? Of course he did, but it wasn’t a proper table was it? Even IKEA have tables you can fall through. Why is this failed bouncer scared of The Undertaker, yet the scrawny referee is unperturbed?

Wrestling isn’t real life, but I know you can’t fake a suplex. “Yeah but it’s fake isn’t it?” OK, I’ll jump on your head and you tell me that didn’t just happen. Get the fuck out of here.

Sure, it’s predetermined, but if it wasn’t surely all of these self-professed wrestling gods would be tearing it up at the Olympics, trying to win a gold medal rather than a belt that doesn’t even hold up jeans. If I thought wrestling was real then I’d expect Motorhead to be playing on my front lawn every time I left the house.

Of course they aren’t actually hitting each other in the face; bare knuckle boxing is frowned upon before the watershed after all. You may still be reeling from the fact you sat through ITV Sport in the 1970s believing Giant Haystacks genuinely didn’t get on with Mick McManus – grow up and get over it. Hulk Hogan came along and made that shit glamourous. It’s now a huge market for both children and adults, just like Christmas is, and just don’t tell me Santa isn’t real when I mention I like Christmas.

I don’t sit through an episode of Eastenders and question why nobody is swearing, or why people in 2014 still use a fucking launderette. How can these people in low income employment be in the pub every night drinking pints, or eating breakfasts in cafes each morning? It’s no surprise everybody is sleeping with someone that lives three doors down when each resident steps out of Albert Square once every five fucking years – and that’s just to die.

It’s entertainment. I’m not comfortable seeing men in trunks at the local swimming pool let alone making it a regular part of my television schedule, but I somehow get taken away to this land of flashing lights where gladiators do violent choreography with each other, all the while contemplating why I never tried waxing my chest. If I wanted to see two sweaty blokes actually hurting each other, I’d nip down the local on a Saturday night – but their tables don’t seem to break so easily.