I’LL NEVER SPORT A BEARD

Milan, 1 March 2017

My wife and I went to see a small exhibition a few days ago, on cartoons drawn during the First World War. They were from Italian, Austrian, German, and French magazines and newspapers, and of course all showed the other side as stupid, nasty, brutish or all three (there were also cartoons against profiteers, censorship, international capital, and other sundry topics of interest to countries at war). All in all, they were interesting and sometimes really amusing – the short, rather stupid looking Italian king, Victor Emanuel III, was the butt of many a hilarious cartoon.
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This being an Italian exhibition, many of the cartoons focused on the Italo-Austrian front, but some of the German/Austrian cartoons also lampooned the enemy on their eastern front, the Russians. As might be expected, Tsar Nicholas II came in for his share of ribbing. The jokes about him were good, but what struck me looking at the cartoons of him was the thing that always strikes me when I see pictures of him, namely his beard.
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Such a great beard! The man may have been a dolt but he was well-whiskered, no doubt about it. Beards such as these were definitely in vogue at the time, as this portrait of his British cousin George V shows.
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If the hirsute young fellows I see about me on the streets are any guide, beards this luxuriant are back in fashion, as attested by this photo which I recently took of an ad in the Milan subway.
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Sad to relate, I cannot be part of this renewed fashion trend. My genes work against me. Were I to attempt to grow a beard, I would simply look like a mangy dog. My problem is that I have a significant number of places on my cheeks where nothing grows. I can’t even adopt that other novelty of male facial hair, an attractive stubble, like Ryan Gosling’s for instance.
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After several days of not shaving, I simply look like a homeless person.

I know I could manage to grow a mustache, having had one luxuriate for a year or so on my upper lip some thirty years ago. I thought I looked a little like Clark Gable.
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(My wife clearly disagreed and finally told me it was time for it to go.) I think I could also manage a goatee. So I sometimes daydream that maybe I could manage to look like my French great-grandfather, a photo of whom lorded it over my grandmother’s living room. In it, he looked just like Napoleon III, who was Emperor at the time the photo was taken.
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Alas, a few years later, France’s armies were thrashed by the Prussian-led German armies and Napoleon went off into exile and death. For his part, my great-grandfather changed his look, as documented in another photo which lorded it over my grandmother’s living room. He adopted the short back-and-sides and soberer mustache of the enemy, looking very much like Kaiser Wilhelm II.
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I’m sure many Frenchmen changed their look at this time. Out with the foppish Napoleon look! The French needed to stiffen themselves with some Prussian iron to beat the hated enemy the next time round!

But coming back to my possible goatee, I think realistically the best I could manage would be something like this.
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Which is really pretty sad. Maybe I should just resign myself to being clean shaven for the rest of my life.

My wife would certainly agree.

_______________

Cartoon Victor Emanuel III: http://milano.corriere.it/notizie/cronaca/17_febbraio_19/caricature-vignette-d64e1cca-f601-11e6-a891-35892eecc6d0.shtml
Tsar Nicholas II: http://pixelrz.com/lists/keywords/tsar-nicholas-ii-quotes/
George V: http://hotmonarchy.com/gallery/monarchs/qf_v1/
Ryan Gosling: http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/67828132/Whats-happened-to-Ryan-Goslings-beautiful-head-of-hair
Clark Gable: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clark_Gable
Napoleon III: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Napoleon_III_cph.3c31393.jpg
Kaiser Wilhelm II: http://erhj.blogspot.it/2014_07_01_archive.html?m=1
Pathetic goatee: http://jefffsbeardboard.yuku.com/reply/159820/Re-21-yo-Am-I-just-screwed-Might-CP-Serum-help

 

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Abellio

I like writing, but I’ve spent most of my life writing about things that don’t particularly interest me. Finally, as I neared the age of 60, I decided to change that. I wanted to write about things that interested me. What really interests me is beauty. So I’ve focused this blog on beautiful things. I could be writing about a formally beautiful object in a museum. But it could also be something sitting quietly on a shelf. Or it could be just a fleeting view that's caught my eye, or a momentary splash of colour-on-colour at the turn of the road. Or it could be a piece of music I've just heard. Or a piece of poetry. Or food. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’ll also write about interesting things that I hear or read about. Isn't there a beauty about things pleasing to the mind? I started just writing, but my wife quickly persuaded me to include photos. I tried it and I liked it. So my posts are now a mix of words and pictures, most of which I find on the internet. What else about me? When I first started this blog, my wife and I lived in Beijing where I was head of the regional office of the UN Agency I worked for. So at the beginning I wrote a lot about things Chinese. Then we moved to Bangkok, where again I headed up my Agency's regional office. So for a period I wrote about Thailand and South-East Asia more generally. But we had lived in Austria for many years before moving to China, and anyway we both come from Europe my wife is Italian while I'm half English, half French - so I often write about things European. Now I'm retired and we've moved back to Europe, so I suppose I will be writing a lot more about the Old Continent, interspersed with posts we have gone to visit. What else? We have two grown children, who had already left the nest when we moved to China, but they still figure from time to time in my posts. I’ll let my readers figure out more about me from reading what I've written. As these readers will discover, I really like trees. So I chose a tree - an apple tree, painted by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt - as my gravatar. And I chose Abellio as my name because he is the Celtic God of the apple tree. I hope you enjoy my posts. http://ipaintingsforsale.com/UploadPic/Gustav Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg

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