It was time to get my traditional pre-Christmas haircut. The older I get, the quicker it seems to grow, and not always from areas where I am used to having hair growing.
My usual barber is three days away from retirement. In an American movie, that would only mean heartache, but, honestly, how dangerous can cutting hair be? Still, one last go-around seemed appropriate, so I wandered down to her shop for its 9am opening time, an hour before my shift was due to start.
It seems that when you’re three days from retiring from your own gentlemen’s hair reduction business, you’re less concerned about arriving on time. Ten minutes after the shop was due to open, it still had not, and my hair was still growing. I needed a barber, stat. I’ve got a large head, and I can’t have too much hair on it, or my Christmas dinner paper crown won’t fit.
I tried another nearby barber who was due to open at 9am. His shutters were also down. There must have been some sort of barbers’ Christmas party in Liverpool last night, where they swap gossip about men with nits.
The only other option was the Turkish barber down the road. I wasn’t sure about this. I’ve heard stories about singeing, and my earlobes are quite large, even taking into account the size of my enormous head, so if they caught light we could lose half of Allerton Road. On the other hand, I was at risk of looking ridiculous at Christmas dinner. Besides, I’d be the customer in this scenario. If the barber whipped out the flame thrower, I’d firmly, if squeakily, pass on the opportunity to have my ear hairs melted.
I sat in the chair, and told the barber what I wanted – “This, only shorter” – and he set to work. If you’ve never had a Turkish barber attack your head before, it’s less “snip, snip, snip” and more “extreme topiary with a chain saw”.
Before too long, he had shaved enough from my scalp, and I did have indeed “This, only shorter” on my head. Perhaps it was a little shorter than I would normally expect, but I’d rather get my money’s worth.
“Eyebrows? You want eyebrows?” he asked. If that’s not a loaded question, I don’t know what is. I’m not sure what eyebrows are for, other than to show how surprised I am, but I’d rather have them than not.
“Erm, do you mean you’ll trim my eyebrows?” He nodded and I agreed. My eyebrows, after 40-odd years of stasis, mysteriously decided to enter a hippy phase a while back, and I have to keep on top of them. He shaved a millimetre or two off them.
“I like this,” I told my reflection. “This is a good look for you. You look suave, Gary.”
And then the barber asked me, “You want wax?” Did I?! I routinely have gel on my hair, otherwise it sticks up so much that I look as if I’ve been startled by a ghost in a cartoon. Every barber I have had in the past 35 years has asked me if I want wax on my hair, and I always reply in the affirmative. This was the finishing touch. “Yes, please,” I said.
It will forever be a mystery to me how I failed to notice the bubbling vat of pink liquid on the barber’s shelf. It was right in front of me. And yet I don’t think I clocked it properly until the barber dipped two cotton buds in the cauldron, and then shoved the boiling wax UP MY NOSE.
And then, as I sat in the barber’s chair, the wax hardening on the cotton buds stuffed up my nostrils, he started painting my ears with hot pink wax. I had cotton buds in my nose and one hanging from each magenta-painted ear. I did not look suave.
“Ready?” he asked. I was and I was not. I nodded, the cotton buds swinging.
As he pulled them, along with a couple of dozen nasal hairs, out of my nostrils I made a speedy calculation: “Just how loudly can I yelp without lowering myself in the sight of the other men in this shop?” I settled on a strangulated sound which I can only describe as Mike Yarwood saying “Errr” in the voice of the future King Charles III.
As a tear trickled down my manly cheek, he stripped the wax from one ear. It felt like I had placed my ear against a frozen pipe, then ripped it away. It felt worse the second time.
I’ve never considered cotton buds to be threatening before. In fact, I used to scoff when the Gladiators used to fight each other with oversized Johnson & Johnson’s on Saturday-night telly. Now I see the error of my ways.