It was a Saturday, I remember because I was back at the Manic Street Barber's.
The fittings were the same: the car on a stalk for toddlers, the missing ceiling tiles, one fluorescent lamp out, the wretched Radio One music, the chequered lino on the floor, the tubular steel chairs, the smell of detergent and hair dye, and the solitary hairdresser.
She was very slowly cutting the hair from the head of a youth who had some strange writing tattooed from below the lobe of his left ear to the nape of his neck. He was having most of his hair shaved off. Given that his head was shaped like an anvil, which, added to his beak nose and protuberant teeth made him look like an iguanodon, this was perhaps not the wisest choice. His father was sitting sullenly in a chair, watching. He had a copy of ‘The Sun,’ folded at the racing page, in his lap.
I took my seat and observed the hairdresser. She was young, blonde, dumpy and short. She wore spectacles. She had her hair tied back in a pony tail. Every now and then, as she came across a stubborn nostril hair or a particularly uneven part of the skull, she shook her head in anguish. After about forty minutes, during which time she chopped away at Anvil-head one hair at a time, she suddenly whipped off his smock, flicked a brush in the general direction of his neck, and announced that she was finished. She picked up a mirror and gave the youth a view of the back of a neck that was shorn but not particularly clean.
‘’Ow much is dat?’ the youth said.
‘Six pounds fifty’ she replied.
His father stood up and wandered forward with the requisite money in his hand.
‘Took yer time, dinchew?’ the father said.
‘If a job’s worth doin’’ she replied and called me up to the chair.
‘What’s yours?’ she said, laconically.
‘An eight on top and a four at the sides,’ I responded.
She picked up the electric shaver, unclipped the end, spent twenty minutes selecting a new fitting, and then started on my hair.
A long time later, she said: ‘D’ya want yer ears done?’
‘Yeah, yuv got hairy ears. Do yer want them done?’
‘Does it cost more?’ I asked. She laughed uproariously.
‘Does it cost more?’ she replied. ‘Yer a comic, you - nah, iss all in with the service.’
‘How much?’ I asked.
‘Yer a pensioner, aren’t yer?
‘I’m not drawing my state pension yet.’
‘Well, yer look like a pensioner, so I say yer a pensioner – that’ll be three quid.’
I stepped out onto the street amazed that anyone could cut hair for three pounds. When I saw how long it had taken her, she was working for four pounds an hour, give or take a penny or two.
Two weeks later, I moved a hundred miles away.
I don't go there on a Saturday.
© R.T Hardwick