Saint Wendy, the Elephant Gun and Fishtail Beer
Andy mistakes the Compere for an Elephant - Specsavers?
North American Beard and Moustache Championships 2008 Report

Andy Lear


Seattle - Fish throwing capital of  Washington State, USA

I WAS OFF to a slightly iffy start at Heathrow because I did not have the zip code of where I would be staying. North West Airlines were about as unhelpful as they could possibly be, and I ended up accidently referring to the check-in girl (or in my case the won’t-check-you-in girl) as a bolshy old sow, and consequently when it was all sorted out, I had been put on the worst seat in the plane, wedged between two rhinoceri and the toilet. I touched down in Seattle on time and after being fingerprinted, photographed, retinal scanned and electronically tagged, I was finally allowed into the Land Of The Free. There 'Whiskers' Roe and my hosts for the first three days, Greg and Wendy were there to meet me, and ejecting Whiskers at a petrol station en route, drove me the hour and a half or so to their house.

Greg and Wendy's place from the spare house next door

Greg has a great house and all the toys a fellow could possibly wish for. I was not particularly shocked at this since in reply to one of the emails I sent, he did say that I could sleep on the couch if I particularly wanted to but they did have a spare room, a camper in the garden, a boat that would sleep four and a spare house next door. We spent the first night just chatting and boozing and playing the guitar. Greg's wife Wendy was an early riser and got up at five in the morning, but even so and in spite of the fact that she did not even drink coffee, the coffee machine was always primed when I surfaced, and all I had to do was press a button. This is one of the (many) reasons she was referred to as Saint Wendy as I got to know her.

You can take a boat to water...

On Sunday we swabbed the decks of the speedboat, filled it up with petrol and plopped it into the water in a place called Port Orchard. The tourist bureau was clearly on good form when they called it that, when they are on bad form it shows. There were certainly less touristically named places than Port Orchard, such as 'Depression Cove', 'Misery point', 'Oh God I wish I had never been born Bay' in Kitsap County (variously known as Catnip County, Ketchup County and later when Rodders had arrived and was complaining about one of the breakfasts in the hotel even Catsick County) but getting back to the point, the boat did not start. It transpired that the reason it did not start was that the battery was flat, and though we had some jump leads and could have jump started it, the only way to get to the battery was to raise the hydraulic hatch which would not raise because the battery was flat. We hoicked it back out of the water and drove back home and did some more drinking.

Greg orders up more drinks

The following morning Greg had somehow managed to break into the battery hatch but it was still going to take quite a while to charge them up and he asked what I wanted to do that day. I don’t know if he expected me to say that I wanted to make an elephant gun, probably not, but he had a big old woodworking shop, clearly had a passion for woodwork (and made all the plaques for the competition) and for some time I had taken the view that my ‘competition costume’, a safari outfit with pith helmet, would be much enhanced with the addition of an elephant gun. We spent a happy afternoon woodworking and by the time the elephant gun was finished the boat batteries were charged so we plopped the boat back into the water where it started first time and we took it out for a spin. I don’t care what anyone else says, fifty five miles an hour is fast for a boat - certainly too fast for a baseball hat to stay on a fellow’s head as I discovered fairly quickly.

Julie shows Andy the extent of her lock

Another thing that I had done that day was to have a drive on a tractor and the following day their neighbour Julie asked to borrow it back (it was her tractor). I was also going horse riding with Saint Wendy. Whilst Wendy had at least half a dozen horses, the plan was that I drove the tractor to Julie's house Wendy rode there and then borrowed one of Julie's horses. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, driving the tractor on the right (wrong) side of the road and all but I guess I was too excited to have been paying much attention to the directions because I delivered it to entirely the wrong house. Fortunately the house owner knew where the tractor was supposed to be, and by the time I got there the horses were all ready. With a few 'Yee Haahs' we were off horse riding.

Andy rides a proper horse
PHOTO © 2008 Greg Smith

The weather was perfect, as it was pretty much all week, the forest was beautiful and there is absolutely no better way to see it than on horseback. I have ridden a bit before but only on old stable nags that were trained to ignore the rider. This was a proper horse. I was not confident enough to really open it up through the densely forested trails but when we came to a clearing it was straight into fourth gear and 'zooooom'. In a trip crammed full of highlights, the horse riding was for me the pinnacle. I left Saint Wendy hosing down Julie's horse and rode back to Greg's place. I knew which turning I wanted but the horse assured me that it knew a shortcut and foolishly I believed it. Ten minutes later I heard Greg yelling "Hey Andy, you are in the wrong house!", which I was well aware of. Fortunately it was only next door. I declined Greg's dare for me to try and jump the fence and rode it back to the right house properly. There was barely time to hose down the horse before we were off to visit another member of the Whisker Club, called Ed and his wife Oneater for sausages and home made sangria, where I was transferred into the custody of Whiskers Roe. He, Mrs Whiskers and I drove to the Airport to collect Rodders, Jörg and Margit. We looked up the flight details on the internet at Ed's house and had to leave somewhat prematurely, as their flight was an hour early and even allowing for the time it took them to be processed, put in a nuclear resonance machine and have their genetic codes computerised, we were only just in time to meet them. I would imagine that this is the only time that you will ever hear me say that Rodders was responsible for me NOT getting steaming drunk.

On the way back from the airport we stopped off at a McDonalds car park to get something to drink and to have a smoke, and witnessed a minor fracas in the car park which caused Whiskers to phone the police. As the tale was retold by Rodders, it grew to become a full scale gangland shooting with thousands dead and wounded, but I am not one to exaggerate. It was still about ten in the evening by the time we got to the hotel where I would be spending the rest of the trip. Whiskers had very thoughtfully made sure that there was plenty of beer in the fridges and we stayed up in Jörg and Margit’s room till late polishing it all off.

Larry's beautiful wooden cruising boat on Lake Union

The next morning we drove to the banks of Lake Union where a friend of Whiskers called Larry had a beautiful wooden cruising boat. Whiskers, Mrs Whiskers, Greg, Rodders, Jörg, Margit and I cruised about on Lake Union drinking, eating, drinking, chatting and drinking, with me doing a fair amount of the driving which I thoroughly enjoyed.Cap'n Lear at the helm When we had finished we went into Seattle proper to watch the fish throwing. Depositing us back at the hotel Whiskers went back to the airport to collect Bo and the rest of us. I ended up in a restaurant in Bremerton. Rodders has an unerring talent for selecting the most noxious alcoholic beverage on any drinks list. I am not at all sure that his first choice, one of the local brews which was called 'fishtail', was not made with real fishes' tails. Frankly it would not have tasted much worse if it had have been. Even he, however, had more sense than to order the beer called 'root canal surgery'.

Thursday was shopping day where we went to try and find a jacket for Jörg. Soon losing interest in this I concentrated my efforts in trying to help Bo buy a hat. Bo himself was being totally uncooperative claiming that he did not want to buy a hat. This was a great shame because I found a large green flowery affair that I feel would have suited him down to a tee. I did however buy a pair of binoculars for the baseball game we were going to see on Sunday and an external hard disk so that I could make free with the photos that Rod, Dan, Saint Wendy and Margit had been taking. We spent the evening in the town square drinking beer. Whilst we were boozing, a fellow with a grey moustache came up to the table. I don’t know how old he was, certainly no more than eighty, and he greeted Mrs Whiskers with a cheery smile and said 'I remember you, you used to babysit for me.' I will not be thanked for recounting that story. Finally Dan and his Brother Sam arrived. They had had a totally torrid time flying in, with their original flight being cancelled and the next one delayed for six hours.

Seattle's landmark Space Needle

Friday was the 4th of July, Rodders' birthday. The ever-expanding party had absorbed another member of the Whisker Club called John and his wife and sister, and we took the ferry into Seattle again. Whilst the others were faffing about John made some enquiries and took me to the first ever Starbucks coffee shop, where I had a cappuccino and bought one of those huge American beakers with 'first ever Starbucks shop' written on it, to drink it in. Somehow the group reunited and after a bite to eat we went up the Space Needle. John and Co. had presumably been up it plenty of times before, so before they wandered off I took his mobile number and said I would call when we got back down again. It was a good job I did as well because as soon as I was past the ticket place I realised that I had left my beaker in the restaurant. I do not know if it was his wife or sister that answered the phone but which ever one it was I would like to thank them for going back to the restaurant and saving my beaker and returning it to me when we got back down from the Needle.

There was also what they called a music project which was a sort of museum where there were things like a few of Jimmy Hendrix’s (yes THE Jimmy Hendrix for anyone that has just finished reading the Antwerp write up) bashed up guitars but even better than that, from my point of view, The President's Cake was that the ticket also let us into the science fiction museum where they had one of Captain Kirk’s chairs from the Enterprise, and phasers and tricorders and Robbie the Robot out of Space Family Robinson (or a pretty good replica of it), and all sorts of other stuff. We went back to the hotel and Connie had got a birthday cake for Rodders and we had a Scotch whisky tasting session run primarily by Dan who is some sort of international judge on the subject. A decent collection of Single Malts Whiskers (who is also a bit of a Scotch connoisseur) had rustled up a decent collection of half a dozen bottles of different types of single Malt, and I have to say that Dan did a pretty good job of getting us to really think about what we were drinking, rather than just glugging it. That’s not to say we (or at least I, Scotch is not really my drink) did not end up sloshed though. At dusk it was time for the 4th of July fireworks. Grieg had parked his boat in the marina just outside so some of us stopped off there for a few beers before the fireworks started. Others were watching it from the restaurant that sold the fishtail beer; I am told that a pretty good view was to be had from the swimming pool in the hotel.

Andy's wooden Elephant Gun fools the compere Saturday was the day of the North American Beard and Moustache competition. It was not a vast event but I would say there were about fifty competitors and maybe the same number of spectators. For a hoot Rodders decided to enter as many categories as he could. He was Rod Littlewood for the Natural class, Ronald Kleinwald (Kleinwald being the German for Littlewood) in the Hungarian class, Rodriguez Bosquecillo (Spanish for Littlewood) [Grove, actually! Ed.] in the Dali class and Roland Smörgås (which for some reason he believed was the Swedish for Littlewood although it actually means sandwich) in Freestyle. This was also the category I had been put in because it was somewhat under strength. I am pleased to report that after the completely justified disqualification of Roland Sandwich I managed to maintain my unblemished record of coming in last place but since there were only three undisqualified contestants, I still got a wooden plaque.

Everyone gets a certificate

There were still some impressive beards and moustaches there. One of the chaps that was to join us at the baseball, Michael, won the Natural Moustache, Leo (a fellow handlebar club member from America) won the Dali class, Bo won the Hungarian and Paul Slosar the Moustache Freestyle.Dennis Simpson with Ed, as Neptune For the Partial Beards Greg won the Natural (with JJ, the saviour of my beaker coming second), Paul Mullen won the Fu Manchu, Tyler Campbell Musketeer, Jörg won Freestyle Sideburns and Gary Johnson won the Partial Beard Freestyle. For the full beards Steve Soli won the Garibaldi, M. P. Singh Natural Beard with Styled Moustache (he was really great, his English was not good but the compere asked him the same question twice and he indignantly explained that he had already answered), Craig Lundvall got First Place Full Beard Natural. Ed was dressed up as Neptune with a wooden trident that Greg had made for him, and missed out winning the Freestyle Beard by half a point to his nemesis Dennis Simpson.

Seattle Mariners play the Detroit Tigers

On Sunday we went to a baseball game. Whiskers had got us all tickets to watch the Seattle Mariners playing the Detroit Tigers. Leo was from Detroit, so was supporting the enemy. I already knew all that I needed to know about the game having been briefed in a bar some days ago by the locals. There are supposed to be nine innings and they stop selling beer after seven.Snapper Littlewood's picture of the pitcher There does, however, need to be a winner so if the game is tied after nine innings, which it was, then they keep going until one team is ahead. We had to leave after about the thirteenth innings to catch the ferry and it was still one all. Eventually Seattle ran out of pitchers and Detroit won but by that time we were on our way back.It does not help that they do not know the rules themselves. The pitcher is supposed to have his foot on the rubber when he throws the ball. This picture of the pitcher (taken by 'Snapper' Littlewood) demonstrates that they don't.

After the game we went back to the restaurant near the hotel for dinner and I seem to recall that the usual suspects went back to Jörg and Margit's room to polish off any beer we had left.

Monday we were due to fly out in the evening. Greg popped round for breakfast and we chatted for a while. Dan, Sam and Bo had gone to the Olympic mountains and at about mid day Whiskers turned up, and we said goodbye to Leo who was going back to Michigan. Then Whiskers drove the van to a very nice Italian restaurant in a place that considered itself to be more Norwegian than American, whilst the rest of us went in Greg’s speedboat. It was a wonderful ride and there were some very picturesque places that we took in en route. We flew out that evening, but because of the time-difference did not arrive back in England until Tuesday quite late and Dame Judy was good enough to pick us up from Heathrow. We dropped Jörg and Margit at Terminal Five and I went back to Dame Judy and Geoffo's house for spaghetti and buckets full of red wine, before Rod dropped me off home and I slept for sixteen hours straight.

These were just some of the highlights of an excellent adventure; there is plenty that I have left out for lack of space such as me learning some Swedish (hedge hedge). Meeting up with old friends and making new ones is really what it is all about and I would like to thank everyone that made it such a blast, particularly Greg, Saint Wendy and Whiskers but everyone there was such fun. I hope to see them all next year in Alaska or even the European championships in Stuttgart in November. I don't imagine that many people read these reports but if they do and are thinking 'What Stuttgart? What Alaska?' then contact Rodders (a.k.a. Rod Littlewood The President) and come and join in the fun. End of text moustache

Text © Andy Lear MMVIII - Images © Andy Lear & Greg Smith MMVIII