Ed Sheeran and I have had our beef. The multi-platinum singer-songwriter is, to date, the only celebrity to whom I’ve been compared, even as I puffed out my chest and tried in vain to pass for that ginger bloke in Love Actually. It’s not a striking verisimilitude but thanks all the same, local gym receptionist.
Like signs of the zodiac, celebrity lookalikes are the baggage we don’t ask for but which define us nonetheless. Some are lucky — I have a friend who looks like Leonardo DiCaprio. Others get Sheeran.
So it gave me pause to hear Sheeran talk about his own body image issues on George Ezra’s new podcast, comparing himself unfavourably with One Direction and Justin Bieber. “Beer belly”. Check. “Ginger hair”. Check.
“I didn’t care,” said Sheeran. “But as soon as you enter the public eye and people start picking holes in you, you start thinking things are bad for you. Like, ‘Am I fat?’”
Megabucks aside, Sheeran and I have more in common than I thought. Whatever they say, you’d be hard pushed to find a man who hasn’t had at least a fleeting moment of doubt about the way he looks.
While most of us don’t have One Direction to compete with, social media is its own crucible. We all grow up and most of us grow to like how we look, but the gamut run by teenagers — boys and girls — is an increasingly image-conscious pressure cooker.
Sheeran is a good role model, largely, and more men should discuss their vulnerabilities in the open — or do their thinking out loud.
Hello — is it me you’re looking for, or is it the fake me?
Roses are red, Avril Lavigne is dead and Sam Smith is Adele in disguise. The latest whacko craic internet-born conspiracy theory, coming soon to a mobile near you, concludes mischievously that the two Academy Award-winning singers are, in fact, one and the same person (Lavigne, meanwhile, was apparently replaced by a body double called Melissa in 2003).
If you slow down Adele’s Hello on vinyl to a crawl — and why wouldn’t you? — it sounds, um, mistakably like the In the Lonely Hour singer. And have you ever seen the two in the same room? Not on this Flat Earth, you ain’t.
Human brains, as the US President knows all too well, love a conspiracy theory. Research suggests that, in the UK, 30 to 40 per cent of people believe in them, a creeping truth decay that set in for real in the Sixties.
Which is fine when, as in this case, it’s all a bit of fun. But with the looming horizon of computer generated “deepfakes” — AI-generated videos that face-swap celebrities and, for instance, porn stars — the line between reality and fiction is blurring.
In this tangled web, a lie travels around the globe while the truth is looking for evidence of Photoshop. Who can you trust when anyone can be made to say anything and the Adele-Smith myth is in the ascendancy?
Maybe I’m Ed Sheeran after all. Someone tell whoever’s making out his pay cheques.
The too-brief grief of the English
My family spent Sunday packing up my late grandfather John’s clothes. He died aged 96 just before Christmas. A soldier and a diplomat, he was one of the kindest men I’ve known, with, among other eccentricities, a penchant for rolling up his hosiery and challenging you to a “sock fight” on the spot.
The English are too brief with grief. We’ve yet to have a memorial service — and I was reminded of Caitlin Doughty’s fine book, From Here to Eternity, in which the author travelled the world experiencing other cultures’ death rites.
I’d draw the line at Japanese “lastels” — last hotels where you stay with the mummified body — but hope to walk many a mile in my grandfather’s brogues.
We’ve retired the socks in memoriam.
When in doubt, sock it to them
Valentine's Day is tomorrow and I am not in the country — but my girlfriend is. What to do?
Fortunately, US sitcom Friends, the blueprint for every millennial’s formative years, is showing on Netflix.
A mix tape was Chandler’s choice in inauspicious circumstances — but does a Spotify playlist carry the same analogue charm?
There’s always Friends’ Plan B: a sock bunny, essentially a DIY puppet.
To the drawing board or the drawer? Maybe I will need those socks.