Growing up in Norn Iron there was one constant ritual in my life and that was getting my hair chopped off. It was not a happy time. My brothers and I (all seven of us) would be marched down to the barbers beside the train station to be denuded. We’d all stand there in line, awaiting our turn with some trepidation, Roots was being shown on TV at the time and I knew exactly how Kunta Kinte felt, lining up with his fellow warriors to be circumcised..
The barber would always say ‘who’s the first victim?” not without some irony and no-one would step forward voluntary. It’s not like we had any sense at all about style or fashion, it was the 70’s after all, the decade fashion forgot, but it was always an uncomfortable experience and having no hair in the middle of freezing winter was no fun, we knew exactly how shorn sheep felt, freezing cold, teeth clattering away in unison like some Antarctic musical ensemble as we marched back home..
As I was nearly the smallest I’d be lifted up onto the barbers chair and sit on a plank of wood placed between the armrests so I was up high enough, a perilous place to sit without support and these days Health & Safety would go bananas over it but then the barber would push my head forward so my chin was on my chest and start shearing away. Of course he’d look at me Ma and say ‘the usual?’ and she’d acquiesce but really this barber need’a bothered his arse asking her because he only ever had one haircut in his repertoire and that was the skinhead. Oh yes, he had all these photos on the wall, enticing the gullible into his emporium, numbered one to twenty four but they were just there for show, everyone got the same haircut, we think he practised on us so during the quieter summer months he could go off and enter sheep shearing competitions.
Of course none of this mattered to us because we had one thought, and one thought only and that was ‘please don’t cut off one of my ears! oh please, please, please..” we’d sit there praying with the devotion of a saint and daren’t move an inch or do anything at all that would distract the Barber from his shearing or, in a misplaced moment, we would look like Van Gogh with one ear. There was a story about this particular barber, that he had a habit of gouging bits out of kids ears and of course in the school playground this was amplified to he chopped off someone’s entire ear and they had to go to a special school as not only could they not hear anything but they couldn’t wear their glasses any more as they kept falling off their face.. We absolutely believed that..
When I got older I got a part-time job and was then expected to get my own hair cut, of course being a teenager I wasn’t going to spend any of my hard earned cash on a haircut when there was so many other delights to spend it on, Airfix models, Meccano and chocolate, so I let my hair grow into the long lanky mop that the more braver of you can see in one of my photographs. I was a teenager and eventually even puberty hit me, and I had the oiliest greasiest hair in the neighbourhood, Exxon Mobil applied for permission to drill on top of my head because it I was so oily, I’m probably not painting the most glamorous picture here but it’s true, haircut or Cadburys Dairy Milk Chocolate…no contest..
Eventually of course I got my fat arse down to a (different) barbers and he too had the same photos of chisel jawed part-time superheroes with perfectly styled hair on the wall in black and white. Yes, sir (sir! I was soo important!) which cut would you like?…you could see him eyeing my mop from afar thinking “I’m going to need the hedge clippers for this one..” .. “and maybe gloves..” So I’d peruse the assorted photos on the wall and pick a number twenty four, he looked like a man’s man, square jawed and hair like the Fonz, hair that said “make way, I am The Main Man..” and no matter how many times I went to that barbers I never got to resemble the superhero that was number twenty four, I was always given a number twenty five, twenty five wasn’t on the wall but it was euphemism for ‘shit haircut..”
Now of course, it’s all completely different, it’s a pleasure to get my hair cut these days, I go the the ‘hairdressers’, the Lovely Lisa (ohhhh the Lovely Lisa) cuts my hair now and I sit there and flirt outrageously with all the hairdressers. I’m 48 now and the big change I have noticed is that there are fewer and fewer blokes with full heads of hair. Okay okay, I may look like Blake Carrington from Dynasty with my silver locks but I have a full head of hair and I appreciate it during the winter months, especially when it is raining. I remember my biology teacher, who was as bald as a coot complaining about being outside in the fields, he said, it’s all right for you young’uns but I feel every single drop of icy cold rain that falls on my head.. So I make a point of moaning (overly loudly of co) to Lisa about how fast my hair grows and how thick it is and please *do* chop off as much as possible… as I glance around at the other blokes having ‘just a trim around the sides please”.
I know, I’m evil and am going to hell but at least I’m taking both my ears with me:)