The Nose

My mother has a long nose and my father had a wide one, and I got both of them combined. It's large. The only person I ever knew with a nose substantially larger than mine was a master at my prep school who also had tiny little eyes, hardly any chin and was ludicrously thin. He resembled a cross between a flamingo and an old fashioned farming implement and walked rather unsteadily in cross winds. He also hid a great deal.

I wanted to hide too. As a boy I was teased unmercifully about my nose for years until, one day, I happened to catch sight of my profile in a pair of angled mirrors and had to admit that it was actually pretty funny. From that moment people stopped teasing me about my nose and instead started to tease me unmercifully about the fact that I said words like 'actually', which is something that has never let up to this day.

Hiding was never really an option for me, though. Unlike my prep school master I'm a big person and anything large enough to conceal both me and my nose is usually rather prominently obvious itself. My nose, therefore, tends to be a monumental adornment to something that's fairly monumental to start with and if it has any effect on the way I walk it's a steadying one. It cleaves the wind ahead of me like the keel of that yacht the Australians won the Americas Cup with.

One of its curious features is that it doesn't admit any air. This is hard to understand or even believe. The problem goes back a very long way to when I was a small boy living in my grandmother's house. My grandmother was the local representative of the RSPCA, which meant that the house was always full of badly damaged dogs and cats, and even the occasional badger, stoat or pigeon. Some of them were damaged physically, some psychologically, but the effect they had on me was seriously to damage my attention span. Because the air was thick with animal hair and dust my nose was continually inflamed and runny and every fifteen seconds I would sneeze. Any thought that I couldn't explore, develop and bring to some sort of logical conclusion within fifteen seconds would therefore be forcibly expelled from my head along with a great deal of mucus. There are those who say that I tend to think and write in one-liners, and if there is any truth to this criticism, then it was almost certainly during the time that I lived with my grandmother that the habit developed.

I escaped from my grandmother's house by going to boarding school where, for the first time in life, I was able to breathe. This newfound blissful freedom continued for a good two weeks, until I had to learn to play rugby. In about the first five minutes of the first match I ever played I managed to break my nose on my own knee, which, although it was clearly an extraordinary achievement, had the same effect on me that those geological upheavals had on whole civilisations in Rider Haggard novels it effectively sealed me off from the outside world for ever.

Various ENT specialists have, at different times, embarked on major speleological expeditions into my nasal passages but most of them have come back baffled. The ones that didn't come back baffled didn't come back at all and are therefore now part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

The only thing that ever tempted me to try taking cocaine was the dire warning that the stuff eats away at your septum. If I thought cocaine could actually find a way through to my septum I would happily shove it up there by the bucketful and let it eat away as much as it liked. I have been put off, however, by the observation that those of my friends who do shove it up their noses by the bucketful have even shorter attention spans than me.

So, by now I am pretty much resigned to the fact that my nose is decorative rather than functional. Like the original Hubble telescope it represents a massive feat of engineering but is not actually any good for anything, except perhaps a few cheap laughs. Maybe NASA could help me out?