The Alternative World Beard and Moustache Championships 2009
The Throng of Interested Spectators
The Handlebar Club Non-Alaska Awards
Report by Tom Cutler

Those handlebarbarians unable to attend the WBMC in Anchorage in May, and being within reach of Cranbrook, were fortunate to receive an invitation from Secretary Steve Parsons to his Kentish dwelling-place for an alternative celebration. And so it was on 25 May that John (‘Reds’) and Kate, and Marianne and I got into our cars and headed for the Garden of England for a lunchtime barbecue, non-Alaska awards ceremony, and general knees-up. It being a bank holiday, it was raining, but as we motored through the leafy lanes of Sussex and Kent the sun came out and sunroofs were deployed.

As usual, I’d left the address details on the table so I had to follow my nose. Reassuringly, the occasional oast house soon became a heavy sprinkling until we pulled up finally at the one I believed to be the Parsons residence, out of which strode a two-hundred-year-old homunculoid lady with a face like a walnut, a prehistoric straw hat, and a trug of knobbly bulbs. Wrong place! Seeing the moustache, she realised where we were trying to get to and sent us down an adjacent lane, where we were shaken hands with and kissed by Steve and Keri, and licked by their large and friendly dog.

Steve showed me round his home, inside and out. His extensive library was packed into every cranny and shelved up to the ceilings. I spotted facsimile first editions of Agatha Christie, everything and more by Kipling, some non-Holmes Conan Doyle, a fair dollop of poetry, and much else of interest. In the bedroom, there was photography equipment, including umbrellas; I didn’t ask questions.

We went outside. The white cowl on their oast chimney, Keri told me, is made not of wood, but asbestos. At least that’s what I remember. Steve lit the Barbie and while it got under way gave me a tour of his garden while Keri and Marianne did female-type things in the kitchen. Reds had apparently spent the previous day/night humping things around for a band so he and Kate promised to be a bit late. The Parsons ‘garden’ consists of a vast lawn, a large and fecund vegetable patch of onions, garlic, spuds, beans – you name it, not to mention a home-grown meadow full of painted ladies and peacocks (the butterflies). It lookede specially nice in the sunshine. Steve introduced me tohis chickens, rescued from one of those egg factories. They live in a nice henhouse, and seemed pleased to see me, donatinga handful of newly laid eggs for me to take home for my breakfast. These turned out to be uncommonly good and consequently didn’t last long.

Hoping the bees in the beehive will behave Learning that I was interested in bees, Steve dressed me up in one of those radioactive suits with a veil and showed me his hive. First thing was the lighting of the bellows-thing that makes the smoke. This (apparently) tricks the bees into thinking their house is on fire. They then eat so much honey in preparation for flight that they go all sleepy. Steve took out the frames and explained everything to me, identifying the male bees by their large – wait for it – eyes. There was plenty of honey, and there were plenty of bees, but no queen and no young. The Parsons didn’t like the look of this, and reckoned the bees were ‘acting funny’. I learned that bees have been under siege from, mites, viruses, and pesticides. At this point, Reds arrived, carelessly waving a can of bee-attracting ginger beer all over the place.

The Beemaster

We peeled off the Sizewell-B suits (you get hot in there) and went to check that the Barbie was actually cooking things. Keri, assisted by Marianne and Kate, had made a feast. On the menu were two trout, the size of medium-size dolphin, which had been fished out of a local pond, lake, stream, brook or river – I forget which, along with chicken and sausages and stuff (the chicken and sausages weren’t fished from the pond – do try to keep up). All was delicious, and for pud, Keri had conjured a huge meringue, topped with a Mount Fuji of fruit, including a freshly-cut pineapple the size of Belgium.

We ate the food in the sunshine and I took a few snaps, though, unlike General Custer, Keri didn’t want to be photographed.

As the afternoon wore pleasantly on and I drank all Steve’s beer, he suggested a game whose name escapes me, whereby you get into two teams, a bit like cricket.Reds hard at it But instead of the bowling team hurling the ball at the other team’s batter, the batter puts the ball on one end of a tiny seesaw sort of thing and wallops the other end of the seesaw with a stunted half-bat, half-tennis racquet thing, sending the ball a couple of feet into the air, where he or she then whacks it towards the fielders. The rest is more like cricket – catching out and so forth. The fielders may throw the ball at a black blob on the front of the seesaw device, which collapses if hit, meaning the batter’s out. Can’t remember how other points are scored, but that’s not really the idea. The best thing is, there’s no running to be done. I can’t remember who was in what team but I think it was boys versus girls for a bit.

Rain and bad light stopped play, so we went in for the moustache awards. There were three categories: Most Despicable, Hairy Bear, and Not Arsed. All three of us came first in our own category.

The Hairy Bear Winner
The Hairy Bear  Winner
The Top Three Winners
The Top Three Winners
The Despicable Parsons receives the Queen's Award
The DP receives the Queen's Award

Following the acceptance speeches, in which rude comparisons were made between the fine English, and dodgy Alaskan, weather, various bottles of Scotch appeared: everything from Lagavulin to something sinister in a five-litre plastic vessel. I’m afraid I sampled these too enthusiastically and it all goes a bit dim and confused from there. I know Reds and Kate departed, shortly before Marianne told me to shut up and get in the car; I recall Parsons and myself putting on a rather fetching wig at one stage. This had the effect of making me look like an ageing rock star nobody’s ever heard of. Not sure what it made Steve look like?

Ageing Rock Star?Very Frightening

Please send your answers on a postcard to him, not to me: I have my own problems! End of text moustache

 Tom Cutler

Text and images © Tom Cutler MMIX