In dire need of a haircut – it is so lengthy someone at work mistook me for Nana Mouskouri – I headed to my usual barbers, Greasy Jim’s in South Shore.
Jim is known as Greasy because the £6 he charges for a haircut includes a free bacon sandwich. It makes his barber shop very popular, though on the downside you have to pick at least four or five hairs out of your sarnie before it’s edible.
Being a slightly impatient chap, what I won’t do is wait to get my hair cut, so if, as I walk past, I spy more than one other person in there waiting, I’ll stroll on by and call in another time.
Unfortunately this happened several days on the trot and all the while my hair – as it tends to do unless you’re Greg Wallace or Duncan Goodhew – continued growing.
On Tuesday I gave Greasy’s one last try but there were three other men in there (remarkable, as once you’ve had your hair cut by Greasy, you don’t usually go back) so, in desperation, I walked on to have a look if there was any other establishment where I might get my barnet trimmed.
Almost immediately I stumbled upon a place. It was a hair salon rather than a barber’s but it looked quiet and didn’t have a silly name (you know, like The Cutting Lounge or Hair Today Gone Tomorrow), so I nipped in.
“Do you do men’s haircuts?” I asked, nervously (I felt oddly anxious, like I do if I accidentally wander through the lingerie department in Marks and Spencer, especially if it involves passing a mannequin wearing a suspender belt).
A woman behind the counter with a touch too much make-up on and hair swept dramatically across her forehead as if she’d ventured outside in a force 10 gale, looked at me with borderline hatred and said ‘yes’.
Suddenly I noticed there were pictures of trendy-looking models on the walls and, on a shelf opposite, tubs of wax and gel for sale. The price label on the nearest one said £39.
Alarm bells should have rung. I should have muttered something about missing my bus and bolted out of the premises. However, she was still staring at me, like a boa constrictor eyeing a mouse, and crumbling under the pressure I instead said ‘great, thank you’.
If I’d have been at Greasy’s, this is the point he’d have said ‘sit down lad, I’ll just put the bacon under the grill’, before returning with tomato-ketchup stained hands to start hacking at my hair in haphazard fashion.
But here was different. The woman gestured towards my hair and barked ‘it needs a wash first’.
Given the way she said it, I half expected her to put on a boiler suit and mask before she dared touch me.
It was annoying because I’d already washed my hair that morning – my pillow case had begun to reek and turn an odd off-yellow colour so I knew it was about time – but I was too scared to protest and so did as she said, sitting on a chair and allowing her to push my head backward at a very uncomfortable 90 degree angle while she poured water over it.
All I could think of was how exposed I was if she planned to slit my throat.
“Is the temperature of the water OK?” she asked. When I replied that it was I swear I detected a hint of disappointment in her face.
There were further warning signs throughout the haircut that followed.
“Do you want it textured?” she asked at one point.
I have absolutely no idea what textured hair is but trying not to sound too ill-educated I replied, ‘no, just a short back and sides please’. She let out a slight tut.
After around 10 minutes of cutting she did that thing where they hold a mirror behind your head so you can see the back of your hair (a bit that always annoys me as it allows you to see just how big your bald spot is getting).
‘Blimey, I’ll be bald within five years,’ I quipped, trying to lighten the mood.
“It’ll be sooner than that,” she replied.
The haircut, textured or not, looked exactly like it did every time Greasy has cut it for the last 10 years.
But, then, the bombshell. Taking me to the till, she said ‘that’ll be £27.50 please’.
I had to grab on to the counter to stop myself tumbling to the floor. I only had a £10 note on me.
‘Erm, do you take credit card,’ I stammered, trying so hard to keep the shock out of my voice that she could clearly tell I was in shock.
It was the first and only time she smiled during my entire visit.
£27.50 for one haircut. What is the world coming to?
Greasy, I swear I’ll never two-time you again.
Shorts shrift & sparing modesty
I narrowly avoided being arrested for indecent exposure this weekend.
Before you rip up this page in disgust and report me to the appropriate authorities, it was, I hasten to add, accidental.
I found myself at a place called Centre Parcs in Penrith as part of a family get-together to celebrate my aunty’s 75th birthday.
It is essentially a huge purpose-built resort in the middle of a forest, made up of hundreds of log cabins, a huge sports centre where you can play badminton, squash, table tennis and so on, and an equally huge swimming pool compete with wave machines and water slides. It’s like Butlins for the middle class.
Much to my amazement I right enjoyed it and, carried away by a rare display of enthusiasm, found myself queueing to go on the water slide with my young nephews and nieces.
Alas I was wearing a pair of swimming shorts I’ve owned since about 1997 and halfway down the slide, the popper-button on the shorts came undone and they started falling down my legs.
They were below my knees by the time I realised what was happening...
What happened next was a kind of desperate attempt to grab at my shorts and pull them back into place before I dropped out of the end of the slide and into the swimming pool where about 250 people, mainly youngsters under the age of 12, were happily frolicking. Thankfully just in the nick of time I managed to yank the shorts back over my most valued parts, though the sharper-eyed folk in the pool may have wondered why a middle-aged man exited the water slide tightly grabbing on to his crotch. Disaster averted, just.