Ryanair, you might not think it as a passenger on their planes, are probably one of the coolest acts to work with. They accept some really leftfield pitches, and so long as you don’t mention anything dropping out of the sky or the brace position, they let it through. When they heard about our book, they went straight ahead and offered us a few pages worth of space to try and sell it. They did however run this photo. Now, small as it is here, you can’t tell what came before. So here’s a little Top 20 style rundown of how bad a shape we were in before we got the pic taken.
5 days before: London, Free Bar at the Movember Launch.
4 days before: Dublin, home where you’ve about as much a chance of avoiding a big night as you have avoiding conversations about the recession.
3 days before: Edinburgh, Movember Launch involving a bar bill that listed 99 drinks and a knife fight outside a 24hr shop.
2 days before: Berlin, back in the thick of things in the city that doesn’t let you go home to bed.
1 day before: Frankfurt at the Moustache World Championships where we had to sleep in a car then drive through the night to get home.
Anyway, we weren’t looking our best when we took the photo that morning when we arrived back. You can’t see that so much in lo-res but when Ryanair blew it up on a double spread we looked a fine pair of dipsomaniacs. Plus we both had ketchup stains on our shirts.
EUROTASH – A Journey to the ends of the Upper Lip
Ryanair regulars Steve Ryan and Conor Creighton spent the last three months travelling Europe writing a book. The book takes Europeans and moustaches as its themes. They put it together on such a shoestring that they now look on a bed in a home as about as necessary as a Jacuzzi. This is the story behind Eurotash – a journey to the ends of the upper lip.
Eurotash began one day in inner city Dublin when we ran into a kid called Jason. Jason was still too young to have covered algebra at school, yet he already had two girlfriends. We didn’t understand how until we got up closer and noticed that Jason was wearing that earliest symbol of manhood: a ratty, bumfluff moustache. Clearly, his power over the ladies lay beneath his nose. It set him apart from others and gave him a bearing that raised him above his peers. Jason sparked an interest in moustaches. We researched a little and discovered that the Moustache World Championships were being held in Germany only two months later. With precious little facial hair between us and not much to go on we decided that day that we’d enter the championships. But before doing that we’d travel around Europe and try and find out what sets moustache wearers apart from the baby faced masses. Packing small rucksacks and no shaving foam, we set course for our first stop, Edinburgh.
The Handlebar Club is the oldest moustache club in the world. It was founded in 1947. Simon Whitby Brown (23) is its youngest member. On the day he was conferred to the honorary group, he got a tattoo across his midriff. His girlfriend loves it, he assured us. He also assured us that fat genes didn’t run in his family, so there was no chance of his ink moustache becoming an ink elephant one day.
Down in London we met the president of the club, Rod Littlewood (54). He was also going to the World Championships in Germany. “The Germans take it too seriously. They’re up at 6am with their own stylists getting ready for the competition. I got a German badge made saying ‘I’m only here for the beer’”
But we weren’t quite. We came back to Ireland and flew straight out to Sweden. We were on a tough Ryanair assignment. For five days and five nights we’d have to chase aging rockers in hotrods from one small town petrol station to the next and get their story. But we also had an ulterior motive: we were looking for the legendary Dan Sederowsky (45), a man who had clean shaved just once in his entire life. Dan has the most famous moustache in all of Sweden. Once he fell off the back of a truck and skinned the whole side of his face. “Save the moustache,” he told the doctors before they put him under for the operation.
Unbelievable as it may sound, in Berlin, we actually managed to convince girls to rate our moustaches based on how well we kissed with them. Steve got a phone number, I managed to make my girl sneeze. One of them claimed to able to grow a moustache larger than ours so we set our sights on finding a moustachioed lady in Germany. Many, many lesbian bars later, we stumbled across a straight woman with a pencil moustache.
Tatjana Bergius (36) is an artist who once worked with the Berlin police force. She looks on her moustache as a way of telling men “Anything you can do, I can do better.” And that she can. She’s very proud of her moustache, as is her boyfriend. One day she envisions a world where beautiful girls will work down the street with fine-waxed moustaches displayed.
On a quick trip home to procure fresh clothes we visited the most advanced waste water treatment plant in Europe. The affectionately named ‘stinkhouse’ sewage plant in Ringsend. We wanted to find out what happens to stubble when you shave.
“Working here doesn’t always make for the best dinner conversation,” say Ciaran O’Ruanaidh (52), chief engineer at the plant. Hair, and various other solids we’d rather not mention on this page, are processed and turned into some of the most potent fertilizer known to man. “It’s all about sex,” he told us. “We need to keep the bacteria at an ambient temperature so that they keep having sex and eating the solids.” They may be simple wastewater treatment operatives to you, but to bacteria they’re no less than love gurus. The fertilizer is then distributed to farms around Ireland. What’s your unwanted stubble in the morning could well be your dinner that night.
David Richardson (54) invited us to his farm for the day to see how the stubble went to work on his cornfields. Human fertilizer while unappealing to the ears or the belly speeds up plant growth like steroids.
Far away from the farm we returned to mainland Europe and ended up on the Polish German border in the company of Estonian truck driver, Aksel Sepp (60). He’d grown his moustache in honour of Lech Walesa. He was the first hippie in Tallinn and used to play a game with friends where they’d sneak across the borders of the Iron Curtain, into West Germany, and bring back Emerson Lake & Palmer records with them.
“Back then there was Russian Mafia at every border with Kalashnikovs,” he says, “It was really dangerous. But back then there was also no such thing as tachometers. You drove until you saw double, and then kept going until you saw triple.”
We didn’t do that. While we may have had to sleep a few nights in cars, we never wound up driving until the two lanes in front of us turned to six.
Our adventure ended one day in September, in a small town outside Frankfurt. As usual we were waking up in a car park. The location for the Moustache World Championships.
Under the hastily constructed banner of Club Ronnie, we’d be competing against 150 of the best facial hair constructions in the world. Our opponents had been up since 6am spraying and blow-drying giant constructions beneath their noses. They had personal stylists on hand. We were also up from 6am, trying to get the heater in the car working so we’d get some feeling into our toes again. In the race to make it on time, we’d both remembered to pack eye masks, but forgotten the more essential sleeping bag.
Seven men entered our category. Wolfgang Schneider (47), the world champion was first onto the stage. He scored a perfect ten. We scored considerably less but Steve did manage to pip the president of the Handlebar Club into fifth place. After all, he was only there for the beer.
Somehow the rumour was spreading around the tournament hall that we’d offered to host the next round of the world championships in Dublin. I blame the Weiss beir. We decided it was high time that we left before we were roped into catering 150 moustache champs and their WAGs. We tucked our fifth and seventh place certificates under our arms and split.
Putting this book together we ran out of petrol, got lost and lived mostly off the food available in petrol stations. We learned a few things. Moustaches get you searched a little more diligently at airports. One in every two girls will probably take you for a gypsy and food will always worm its way north to hide beneath your whiskers. But for all the disadvantages of growing it, we have to say that we never met a bad man, or woman for that matter, with a moustache. That said, we can’t wait to lick our lips and not taste carpet again.