Anne Hailes: Siobhan McLaughlin wins, moustaches not beards & farewell to Belfast's Bank Buildings

Siobhan McLaughlin (centre) with her legal representative Laura Banks (right) and Denise Forde, Citizens Advice..

IT’S over. Since appearing before the Supreme Court at the end of April, Siobhan McLaughlin waited patiently for the verdict: would the law be changed in this landmark case?

It centred on the rights of children to access much needed benefits at a time of bereavement, free from discrimination on the grounds of their parents' marital status.

This is a devoted mother of four children who loved their father, John Adams; although they never married, when he died she was denied the benefits which would have automatically gone to a widow or widower.

She took on the legal system as a matter of principal. When I interviewed Siobhan four months ago, she was apprehensive – last week, she says, was a nightmare.

"I didn’t sleep on Monday night worrying about West Ham United’s match on Tuesday – and they won, so I hoped that would be a good omen," Siobhan tells me.

"I didn’t eat or sleep on Wednesday thinking about Thursday."

This verdict will impact on thousands of families throughout Britain and the north. Siobhan McLaughlin highlighted a situation which needed addressing and, thank God, she won!

:: Have you heard the news?

Apparently beards are out! A blow for men but a lot of women will be glad because, according to my own survey, facial hair isn’t very popular.

"They make men look old."

"They are dirty. I sat opposite a man in the train and he had a piece of bacon stuck in his beard. It wasn’t very nice."

"Ugh!," said another young woman. "When I kiss a man with a beard I get spots."

I don’t have such strong feelings, depends on the wearer: some are luxuriant and loveable when worn with aplomb, as with journalist Rowan Hand.

However, we don’t boast any in the family and designer stubble is as a result of a relaxing holiday. Yet, just look at Sean Connery. I can’t imagine him without his facial hair, very smooth and sexy.

Some of the women I talked to favoured a Jamie Dornan type beard, but didn’t care for Rylan Clark-Neal: "Too perfect on his face and frames his awful teeth," said one.

Why do men grow beards? For other men? Laziness? Maybe to disguise a weak chin? Do they think it’s attractive and want to make a statement, or simply say to the world "look at me, I’m macho."

I think beards are becoming so common you can’t distinguish one from another, so they become boring. The peacocks of the past, like prime ministers and kings, in reality or on playing cards, had a look of power about them: immaculately dressed and poised, they demanded respect and probably had someone to wash and comb their hair no matter where it was on their body.

Not a king, nor indeed a prime minister – although there are those who still hope he will be – Jeremy Corbyn and his rather baldy style is not applauded. "Scrawny", was one comment!

Much more important is the moustache. All my father’s generation seemed to wear one, certainly in my family. Today, maybe not so much, but there’s a very good reason to persuade your significant male other to have a go.

The Movember Foundation originated from a conversation in an Australian pub. Two men were talking about their health and the need to raise funds and highlight the importance of watching out for male cancers, mental health issues and for signs of suicide.

They decided to get sponsored and hit on the idea of growing a moustache before and during the month of November.

'Changing The Face of Men’s Health' became their buzz phrase and they signed up 30 mates to become 'Mo Bros'. Today, this initiative has become a worldwide club across 21 countries, the largest men’s health movement in the world.

This is the time to start, boys! Apparently 90 per cent of you shave once a day, so why not stop over the next few weeks and see what happens. That stubble might become a luxurious growth and a moustache could raise much needed funds.

Invest in a special comb and trimmer, get advice from a chemist or a barber on the best shampoos and oils and then sign-up on the Movember Foundation website at where you'll find more details about fundraising.

:: Another Blow to The High Street

It’s ironic that last week I was writing about the demise of the high street in favour of online shopping and then came the devastating fire which totally gutted the Bank Buildings.

Robinson & Cleaver, Anderson & McAuley, Robb's and Bank Buildings were all part of my childhood.

Remember the metal containers which whisked the money up a couple of floors to the accountant, who would put the change and receipt back into the tube and send it whizzing down again?

Lovely wooden floors and mahogany counters, ladies wearing gloves getting things out on 'appro' (approval) to try on at home before making a decision (such trust in the customer) and frocks and coats being adjusted on the spot by a lady with pins and needles sticking out of a little cushion on her wrist.

For some reason, I remember shops with awnings so you could walk from one end of the street to the other without getting wet or frazzled in the sunshine.

Elegant days for those who had the money to shop in upmarket stores, where you could swan down a marble staircase like a lady!

Service with a smile was all important, especially the shop on the Shankill Road where the owner collected false teeth from people who had passed on and didn’t require them any more – if you needed new gnashers, that’s where you went and tried on, or in, until you got what fitted you! Something for everyone.

The Bank Buildings were the last of their kind; the cheery staff, the iconic facade, inside bright and modern and being fitted out for a grand opening in a few weeks' time.

Hopefully, this will still happen some day.

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