Feel free to ignore the links - they're mainly there to help me focus my mind while I was doing this...
1. What made you decide to grow the beard, and how did you put up with all the ribbing before it got less straggly?
Lazyness really. I started off having to shave during upper sixth, and because my hair wasn't really sufficiently bristly ended up wet-shaving, which I found to be a lot of effort, and occasionally pain. Also, I realised that eventually I'd have to do this daily in the mornings (rather than twice weekly whenever I felt like it) and the idea of holding a sharp piece of metal near my chin in the early mornings didn't appeal. So, when I'd sat my STEP papers, I just stopped shaving. My father's always had a beard (I can't find any photos on the web of him), so I've never felt beards were particularly unusual.
I guess I found the ribbing about the beard reasonably easy to take because it was a lot better than a lot of things I got (in a friendly way) at school, where I was your typical geeky, non-sporty type, so got teased about not being good at sport, and being a swot (I wasn't, I didn't need to) and what have you. The beard, at least, was something I actually had control over, and even I could see the ridiculousness. That's just a guess though, I can't remember what it felt like at the time. The beard's sort of become notorious over time
2. If there was one thing you could change about your appearance what would it be?
Difficult. Difficult. There's very little I'd actually like to change, particularly since it doesn't look like my hair is going the route my father's did and turning black. I would, at some point, like to have a long white beard, but I don't think that's a likelihood given how my beard seems to work :-). I think generally getting rid of the trend of my hair (top of head, and chin :)) to become unruly mere minutes after I've attended to it is probably the best I can come up with.
3. How much are your not-drinking and not-smoking related to your religion? Is it simply just a dislike of them?
Non-smoking first, 'cos that's easy. The first time anyone offered me a cigarette was at the alt.fan.eddings meet in Badby in 1999 (which IIRC had some variety of drugs in it, but it's too long ago to remember). By that point in my life I was quite happy with the list of mood-altering chemicals that I was willing to let into my body, and didn't feel like changing it, so I declined. I never really went through the traditional 'teenage rebellion' phase, so hadn't sought cigarettes out on my own.
Non-drinking involved a little more thought. Methodism had a tradition of preaching abstinence from alcohol, as it was easier than preaching moderation. Also (to my knowledge) alcohol isn't kept within my parent's home -- as far as I know they're practicing teetotalers1. So, I was brought up teetotal, within in a tradition of teetotality (although Methodism has since moved on on that line). Again, I didn't do rebellion via drink during my teenage years, and neither did any of my friends at school (some of my cohort did, however). So, before I came to university I thought that this was an issue that I ought to consider in advance. I weighed up my finances (near-total grant, little else), my upbringing, and my personality. At the time I was identifying obsessive tendencies in myself (I still do), and feared a bit that I would be unable to maintain a moderate drinking style if I did indulge (my liaisons with caffeine do little to reassure me on this with hindsight). My conclusion was that it would be easier to start drinking than to stop, and I resolved to start off my student career teetotal and see what happened. Some of my new friends were very supportive of this choice, and it's a lifestyle decision that I have yet to regret during the light of day.
1 My mother comes from an Anglican background, so I believe may not have been teetotal before marriage.
4. Suppose you believe in the afterlife, which one person of all your friends do you think is most likely to go to heaven? What about hell?
My theology of hell is confused, and hence so is my theology of heaven. The God I'm currently capable of believing in wouldn't send people to hell for things like homosexuality, or having abortions, or any of those kinds of things. On the other hand a lot of the people whom I would place in the 'likely-to-go-to-heaven' camp don't believe in God, and that's a harder question.
On the third hand (and I'm sorry if I'm stretching your usage of the word 'friends' here a bit), while writing that I've realised that I know whom of my current-and-once-friends I'd most expect to go to heaven -- namely my grandfather, the Rev Frank Amery. It wasn't until his funeral (a few years ago now) that I actually realised how many lives he had touched, and made better.
Hell, though, that I wouldn't want to commit too. By the strictest reading of John 14:6 I could place a probably majority of my friends in Hell. But I am more than uneasy with that strictest reading. My feelings (more so than my theology) say that the prime criterion for going to Hell should be a failure of Love, and one that outweighs any positive acts of Love accruing to that person. And even then that sin can be forgiven through Grace. And I can't be a judge of that. Indeed, I am commended against judgment (Matthew 7:1-2).
5. What's your favorite place, to visit or to sit in or whatever?
Ahh, an easy question to end on. The place I have felt most at home, these last 7 years, is Ely Cathedral. There is almost always somewhere quiet I can find there, and I find it easy to concentrate my thoughts there.