This is a one off Saturday morning archives special because the spirit came on me mid-week and I just had to write about brothel creepers.
Normal service will resume next week. Or not. The joy of a blog – I’m appreciating more and more – is that I make up my own rules. Huzza!
Anyway, this one from 2001 seems particularly appropriate for the tennis fever which currently has the world in its grip courtesy of the Australian Open. When I went down to the corner shop to buy the paper this morning, five people were huddled round a tiny TV watching Andy Murray thrashing it out with David Ferrer in Melbourne.
But wth darling Rogie Feds out (I am so with Anna Wintour on that front…), I don’t give a toss who wins it. This is a memoir of an earlier tennis heart throb.
For the first time in my life, I have recently found myself attracted to a man with a beard. And it wasn’t just that he was so gorge generally that you could forgive the follicular indiscretion – on this bloke the face fur is a total part of the look and I like it.
Mind you, his other attributes don’t exactly detract. He’s 193 centimetres and roughly the same span across the shoulders, has long, strong legs the colour of a freshly baked loaf, slightly sad eyes (ooo-er), a ravishing smile, and I’ve only ever seen him in shorts. He can hit a tennis ball at 200 kilometres an hour.
Have you worked out who my bearded Mystery Man is yet? It’s Goran Ivanisevic, the heavenly Croatian tennis ace. Hubba hubbic. And quite apart from revealing my pathetic immaturity by sharing this latest teen crush (I’d give anything for a poster of him plus info ‘n’ pix), I realise I risk being banished by my recently adopted homeland [Australia] for fancying someone who denied our darling Pat Rafter that elusive Wimbledon title.
I will also probably be tried for treason by my birth nation, because I first fell for Goran the Snoggable when he was playing British hope Tim Henman in the semi-finals.
As charisma-bypassed Henman was the first Pom to have made it that far in the great grass-court championship (“Timbledon”‘ as the ever-witty British press dubbed it) since about 1066, barracking for the conquering Croatian would have been grounds to have me immured in the Tower of London. (And I would have been forbidden to watch the final, which would have been much worse.)
But while it is nothing new for me to have a childish infatuation (I average about two a week), fancying a geezer with a beard really is a first. (And I must say that I’m not sure that Pat’s face ponytail – which seems to have replaced the one formerly on the top of his head – enhances his boyish good looks particularly.)
Neat beards like Pat’s and Goran’s (sigh) are a lot less repulsive than the Rolf Harris bush, the revolting Rasputin dangle, or the full-on ZZ Top mat (shudder), but they still give me the creeps. It’s the Trevor Nunn factor. Show me a close-cut beard on a bloke and my eyes automatically pop a black poloneck underneath it. All men with neatly trimmed facial hair look like resting Shakespearean actors. After all, take the “e” out of beard and you get “bard”. The mental leap from thatched face to doublet and hose is completely unavoidable.
But I think the real problem I have with beards is the pubic factor. Call me prissy, but it’s just too close a reminder of the hair down there. I thought pubic hair was the most ridiculous thing I had ever laid eyes on when I first saw it, and I still do. It’s so weird and beards just remind me of it. Yukky.
Of course, if I were a chap I would often grow a beard just for the hell of it over several days, or perhaps just one afternoon, to entertain the family. But having a beard as an everyday thing is quite another story. A fully unrepentant Grizzly Adams-style facial thicket denotes a total rejection of normal grooming that would make me very unwilling to approach the beardee’s naked feet. But neatly shorn jaw topiary, like George Michael’s, is almost worse, because it signals an unhealthily high level of ongoing self-absorption, equivalent to women who get their nails done every morning.
So on second thoughts I might give Goran the tennis elbow in favour of John McEnroe. He used to be quite a whiz with the racquet himself, but it’s as a seriously hilarious commentator that he won my heart. And as far as I know, he’s never had a beard.
P.S. Another reason I adored Goran during that Wimbledon season, ten years ago. On the morning of the final he was asked how he prepared for the match. He replied: ‘I had breakfast. I watched the Teletubbies…’