I may have mentioned in passing (17 or 18 times) that this year I’ve been involved in the Movember charity cause…  So this year’s goal for me was to try to collect £1000 in donations, and to up the stakes a bit and encourage people into donating (because this is the 8th year in a row I’ve done Movember, so the whole moustache thing’s probably wearing a bit thin) I pledged that if I hit this 4-figure sum I would also get my head shaved.

Well, it worked!

On Tuesday night at Whisky Squad I was hovering around the £750 mark and the haircut was looking like a perilous reality, and when I awoke the next morning to see £841 staring at me on my MoSpace the realisation that baldness was now inevitable hit me.  Around Wednesday lunchtime the number ticked over into 4 figures, and so a quick visit to Murdock in Monmouth Street near the office and I’d scored an appointment with London barbering legend – Alex of Murdock Liberty!  No point in going to anyone but the best…

Accompanied by my colleague Jerome Jooste as photographer we high-tailed it down to Liberty’s and into the expert hands of Alex.  The last time I had any sort of drastic haircut was about 1998 when I went from having a mid-back-length Viking-style barnet into something a bit more sensible, and this moment held a similar sort of nervous frisson.  I mean sure, it’s only a haircut, but for a massively hirsute individual such as myself it’s a rare thing to see one’s own scalp.

Alex commenced with the clippering as Jerome buzzed about taking snaps, and Alex’s assistant offered me a drink – “what have you got?”, I enquired nervously (thinking that surely a place of the calibre of Liberty’s wouldn’t proffer me a cup of International Roast Caterer’s Blend with Coffee Mate).  “Juice? Coffee?  Whisky?”. “Whisky!”, I happily asserted, thinking with amusement that it was probably whisky that got me into this predicament.

That probably doesn’t quite sound right – I did Movember last year and was happy to collect a solid total of £644 for the charities that Movember supports: in this case, The Prostate Cancer Charity.  To provide a bit of “value” to the generous donors, my delightful but long-suffering girlfriend Liz helped my to dye my moustache blonde, to then try to dye it purple (Billy Connolly style).  Only we didn’t quite have our preparation down, and the results were somewhat less than spectacular.  Unless you’re a fan of chemical burns.  However because I was quite active with my canvassing (or, “harrassment”, as some might call it) I thought I might have a fallow moustache year in 2011.

I had obviously failed to communicate this to whisky-fuelled idea-smith Darren “The Whisky Guy” Rook, because during a recording of our whisky video podcast thing, Village of the Drammed, he announced to our viewership that he, Billy Abbott and I would all be participating in Movember again, and not wanting to be a wet blanket I figured I was now in.  I didn’t want to bother everyone for more money, but I figured if I could get 100 people to pitch in with a tenner then £1000 was theoretically possible, although statistically unlikely… so offering up a denuded dome to the cause seemed like a decent lark.

I mused upon this while sipping the Glenfiddich 12 year old that the barber had handed me, and thought to myself that had making the grand seemed possible I might have thrown the remains of my bottle of Movember whisky (cask strength 9 year old Glenfarclas – delicious!) into the bag to toast the moment with.

Alex buzzed away with the clippers, providing various progress mohawk variations for our amusement and I watched the folds of my cranium peep into view.  The risk here was that I’d never had this procedure done, and some people have heads not designed for display purposes.  My brother Tim had his head shaved after being the owner of a fine set of dreadlocks for some time, which he used to tie back to stop them flagellating his face every time he turned to answer a question.  The constant localised pressure on his scalp resulted in some very peculiar folding and once de-forested it resembled one of those foldy dogs (is it a sharpei?)… what if that wasn’t the dreadlocks?!  What if it was a genetic predisposition?  I didn’t remember feeling many scalp-folds on hair-washing outings (well, innings), but it’s one of those things you probably don’t pay close attention to.

The hair piled up on the floor and the sight that greeted me was vaguely reminiscent of my 14 year old self – back when competititve amateur swimming was one of the things that kept me busy and a low-hydro-drag haircut seemed important – only… errm… expanded & detailed. And with a dirty great mo on the front. Thankfully there were none of the weird ridges my brother had to contend with, and as Alex stowed his clippers and reached for the straight razor my gratitude at the lack of foldyness was doubled.

Beginning on a small patch at the top it was amazing to see how much difference there is between a Number 1 shave and a razor shave.

The concentration in the room intensified, as Alex set to on my melon with his straight razor, and my eyes followed Jerome around as he snapped away, getting ready to bark a “get out of the way!” should Alex want to move to where he was standing. Being the consummate professional though Jerome nimbly dodged out of the way as appropriate and the gradual follicular cropping continued apace.

In what seemed a fairly short time the operation was complete, and being the master razor-wielder that he is, Alex had only inflicted one tiny nick on the vast lunar expanse of my noggin. Amusingly, a fellow customer had arrived with a massive mop of hair, demanding an urgent wash & style for a film shoot – he’d brought his own conditioner too… not a consideration I’d be having to make for a good while now. Again, being the consummate professional that he is, Alex didn’t register even a modicum of malevolence although surely he must have been thinking of the joy in dispensing a head shaving to that little oik as well.

And with that, we were done! And what a weird feeling it is. To start with, because of the balms and whatnot that had been used in the process my skin felt incredibly fragile and cold, and to touch it had the texture of a Vietnamese cold roll. And speaking of cold – when people have helpfully suggested the need for a beanie, they’re not kidding! Not even in the comparative mildness of this year’s London winter. It’s remarkable how sensitive it all is, and I can actually feel the heat radiating out of the fluro-tubes in the office. I haven’t explored in any detail yet, but I believe you can now see the little scar on the back of my head from when I was bitten by a chihuahua at the ripe old age of 2. Errm, I mean, great white pointer shark. Not chihuahua.

So it only remains for me to once again thank everyone who’s offered donations and support for this lunacy. It’s still possible to make a donation if you’d like – I think the page remains open until some time in December. Thanks to everyone who’s donated whatever they could: I know there was a bit of jockeying to be the one who tipped me over the £1k mark, but when you think about it, EVERY donation pushed me over the £1k mark. It’s good to know I’m surrounded by caring people who both care deeply about prostate cancer research, AND who want to facilitate me making myself look a tit.

Big ups also to the rest of the Whisky4Movember team, in particular the instigator of it all – Darren Rook. Without his expert interference, there wouldn’t be an idiot walking around today looking like a former Victorian circus strongman who’d let himself go and gotten an office job. The team’s fundraising total so far stands at £2452, which smashes last year’s achievement for this excellent cause.

Also props to the team at Master of Malt for their support, and for joining our Whisky4Movember Network (along with the other whisky teams we’ve got on board) – bringing our entire group total to £9150 so far, which I think is a staggering effort.

Now, to see about getting this scalp-tattoo of a treasure map that I’ve always wanted…

The full gallery of shots from the afternoon can be found on Flickr for your viewing pleasure.

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