(Apols to RZ, like, 50 yrs ago)

Like, 06.40 or something – he’s guessing – and lazy Henry is waking up in the bathroom the morning of the Grand Male Grooming Treat Birthday Present Spectacular (Guaranteed Hot Towels, Face Massage, Flame On! &c), bought with love and deep meaningfulness by Alain ‘Sipping’ Bull and Mike O’Trophy, his two favourite correspondents and long-term advocates of the entire removal of the large beard growing like tubers since about November 2011.

‘Y’know,’ Henry says aloud in the bathroom mirror, contemplating his features, ‘I read in the Kindle Sunday non-papers that facial hair is what all the A-list boys are sporting, so my first reaction was predictably contrary…’ He percusses out an over-elaborate laugh for every syllable of the last two words, wide-mouthed mugging, then his shoulders and features relax. ‘Plus it’ll be a weight off my face. So that’s one of them taken care of!’ His knowing asides into the electric toothbrush twitch his mouth again briefly, and he grabs a pad and pen for the rest of the revelation, seeing as he’s just off the john, letting it all fall out… ‘As above, so below… little high, little low, and today lazy Henry don’t need anyone’s help to know which if any way the wind blows, no sir, no,’ he thinks, wafting a hand, striking a match and trying not set his pad alight. ‘I’m blaming it on the Chinese food or the boogie or the Queen and her Government or anyone but me… Trumper for Men! Hmmm, bring it,’ he says as he reads off the bottle of scent, pondering his imminent future, soon to be fresh faced and full of wonder, heading out the bathroom door, intent.

‘December was fine,’ he thinks, chewing his pen and sat in his best seat by the window, ‘winter beard has been keeping us warm, but then January swept in the new, and February has come and nearly went…’ and in a sudden deceleration, his anxiety parachuting out behind, he thinks ‘Here we are, now, again.’ Teeth set and brow knits. Sat looking at his netbook, Henry gets all performance anxiety, beside himself, running his fingers through his beard, twirling. Feeling the whole instantaneous digital age imminent singularity blues thing, he instead falls to reading Tarantula, half-vaporised contrails, spidery handwritten notes from the jet age, and its 10,500 resonances help reassure him a bit. Like, a bit.

‘So,’ he says, nodding, breathing shallow, ‘so, j’essaye un essay on the single transferable thought… okay, Ray K, ok,’ Henry acknowledges over his shoulder, cracks his knuckles, ‘okay, digital love, but… no, no, no, no, no no NO! Mama mia.’ He seizes up. ‘Too little to say, too much time, too much time to be without love, not enough reason to give it all up.’ And then all of a sudden the group finger seems t’be pointing in his face and he’s batting it away shrieking, right clicking but there’s no more new tabs opening, no way out, and ‘I’m a man, not a mouse!’ he squeaks feebly, but they carry on a pointy pointy anyway, til Henry falls to his knees for shrieving, trapped, 100 years behind a thicket of accusatory digits… ‘Free me!’ he wheezes, but time bends, his back creaks, his bough breaks and any day now he’s suddenly imprisoned, trombone shot of him clutching the bars at the window while Laughing Miss Prision and the Agley Gang ride off, having tricked him into taking their place in the cells.

Right Now! With a whoomph of breath Henry shakes his head and he’s awake, not in gaol but still on his knees, praying in front of a glowing screen and curling a finger round his chin feeling all pre-shave and ready for the shearing. Getting to his feet, lips pursed slightly, he thinks “Well, what about this writing, then?” and lets the little thought storm break over his parched brain, lines jag out and discharge into the parchment, fingers, nibs and typewriter hammers sparking, forging something, finally, about something or other.

Later, dapper, showered and shaved and sitting over a more relaxed fifth double espresso, he reads somewhere else about time crystals and the idea seems to make sense in his head – yes, he strokes a ghost beard, yes, his eyes narrow, yes, crystalline rhizomes in the 4th dimension form in seconds/millennia, of course, – but strikes him as being very difficult to make clear when all he has are the insubstantial hieroglyphs bequeathed him by his Uncle Geoffrey. ‘Even words, especially words, especially these words, aren’t helping,’ he explains on a postcard sent in duplicate to Mike O’Trophy and Alain Bull, timed to arrive also by simultaneous teleportation link.

While the little ring tone boops hoopily, the green tea-drinking native American says deadpan ‘You know, I actually never met Mike O’Trophy, but he sounds like a real fun guy.’ Henry rolls his eyes and says ‘Jesus,’ without heat, and Mike nods his head, sliding into shot, one-third split screen, with that Robert De Niro lower lip. ‘Yeah, Him too,’ he says, and him and Bull virtually high five as Henry’s putting his coat on, now just a little embarrassed by it all, reaching for the Further On switch and saying ‘Please can we go now please?’

This episode has been brought to you by Curzon Cologne.