To begin with, apologies. I broke the habit of a lifetime five months or so yesterday and let a Sunday go past without a blog post. While I know my legions of fans will be devastated, you couldn’t possibly blame me as much as I blame myself. I mean, I can take the abandonment of discipline, the self-loathing which this engenders, the spiralling lack of control which will surely follow. Small beer.
What I cannot forgive myself for is beheading the #blogsnake.
Naturally, I have an excellent reason for this near-unforgivable (right, cutting the hyperbole now) transgression (okay, now): I was really lazy. Last week was my first since going full-time, making this my first two-day weekend since moving down to London. Accustomed as I am to having a whole four days at the ‘end’ of the week to mooch around in, potter about and eventually write up my blog, I completely crumbled at the notion of mooching, pottering and writing in a mere 48 hours’ respite from the working week.
It was a pretty quiet week, too. I went to work. I went home again. I caught up with friends: on Wednesday I saw my housemate Kelpie’s band ZOO play an energetic set at the Fiddler’s Arms. On Thurs I saw my mate Cam who’s back home for the first time since moving to Australia a year ago. On Sat I went to my mate Chris’ birthday party where I found out that I’m not very good at lying-and-backstabbing-based card game Coup. Ro, on the other hand, is a natural and won her very first round. She claims this was down to blind luck. Which is exactly what I would say if I were a devious liar and backstabber, too.
Oh, and I got my hair cut. For people who go and get their hair cut more than twice a year this probably doesn’t seem like a particularly momentous event.
I am not one of those people. Twice a year is pretty pacey follicle-mowing in the housed of AWS. One result of this is that I can look back on my occasional nervous visits to the Scissor People as a series of snapshots, tying together the thread of my adult life in exactly the way that snapshots don’t. Without further ado – there’s been a surfeit of ado – here are some of the more memorable knots in the thread.
1 – Wellgate Centre, Dundee. Late 2006?
This place was probably called SuperCuts or A Snip at the Price or Dirty Hair Cut Dirt Cheap* or We Will Cut Your Hair Ineptly in Return for Comparatively Modest Renumeration, or some other name highlighting the fiscal benefits of choosing this particular barber. It was on the top floor of the Wellgate Centre in Dundee, and is almost certainly closed down now like everything else in the tragic, badly-lit Wellgate. When I started school in Forfar at age 14, my hair was pretty long, and I just let it get longer and lanker as the school years passed until a fit of self-preservation one weekend led me to seek a barber and a simultaneous fit of financial prudence led me to Discount Do’s of Dundee. I asked for something confusing involving layers and shoulder-length hair and a side-fringe, and the extravagantly camp bloke with the shears did his best.
I rocked up** at school the following Monday to a deeply gratifying chorus of acclaim and abuse. “Cool haircut, Aran,” noted one generous wag. “I’m gonna recommend it to my mum.”
2 – Cameron Toll Shopping Centre, Edinburgh. 2008?
Over the next couple of years I returned to Bargain Barbers on the top floor of the Wellgate regularly***. One time they tried to charge me extra because I’d had more than an inch taken off and I’m quite pleased looking back that I refused to cough up the extra quid or whatever it was.
Then I moved to Edinburgh and the Wellgate was out of reach. Having literally never gone for a haircut anywhere else under my own steam, this forced me into trying something new. Or it would have, had I not spotted another branch of the exact same chain – Cut-Price Cuts, or whatever – in a very slightly less depressing shopping mall in Edinburgh. I went in and once again asked for something baffling involving layers and fringes which went far beyond the pay scale of the hassled employee within. Sadly, she didn’t have the resourcefulness of the camp bloke in Dundee, and proceeded to make a pig’s ear of my poor, abused hair****. The two of us stared at the strange, spiky, semi-mulleted creature in the Reasonably Priced Coiffeurs mirror, and quietly agreed that maybe she should take a bit more off and sort of neaten it up a bit.
4 – Medusa, Bristo Place, Edinburgh. 2009?
There’s a thing called a SnapFax, which exists in Edinburgh and I imagine other UK university towns. It costs about £3 though you can normally blag one for free, and it’s a sort of elaborately-folded pamphlet of student discounts across the city. You used to be able to get 40% off at Mamma’s Pizzeria on Grassmarket with one, which was a ridiculously good deal especially considering that you could get a chocolate and cactus pizza there. Apart from bars and restaurants, the SnapFax is (was?) mostly full of one-time only deals at hairdressers. As a result, I found myself making an appointment at a proper, actual hairdresser that wasn’t called Cheap Joe’s Cheap Barbering for Cheap for the first time ever. I went in and sat down and they offered me a coffee and I was so terrified that I refused.
5 – A Place Run By A Chinese Man With Limited English, Indooroopilly Shopping Mall, Brisbane. 2010
I went in, motivated as usual by the low prices advertised in the window, and also by the extensive range of men’s haircuts displayed on a rotating display of postcards outside the shop. The barber bustled me into a chair and rather worryingly started to approach me with his scissors before I had even said what I wanted. I gabbled out a set of suggestions as the blades came closer. The barber paused to listen, but words such as layer and choppy and about this long didn’t seem to inhabit his vocabulary. I tried more descriptive language: in desperation I hit on rock ‘n’ roll. “Ah, yes!”, the man said, beaming and starting to cut off large chunks of my hair. “Very sexy, you want to look sexy, all of the girls will want you.” I smiled without nodding and wanted it to be over.
6 – Dukes, Marchmont, Edinburgh. 2011-15
Duke’s is great and I recommend it wholeheartedly. The Marchmont branch and the Tollcross branch are lovely places run by friendly people who cut hair better than they ought to at the price which they charge.
That said, one of my first experiences at Duke’s of Marchmont was the most uncomfortable experience I’ve ever had in a building with a red-and-white pole outside it. I arrived; there was only one hairdresser working that afternoon and as a result there was a bit of a queue; I sat and waited and eventually it was my turn. I moved into the barber’s chair by the mirror and let the hairdresser, a chatty Edinburgh woman, get to work. At some point during this, a woman with two small children came in and sat down to wait. Duke’s has a dedicated wee play area and the kids were happy enough to amuse themselves, although their mother took it upon herself to interrupt their fun frequently with exasperated scoldings in a strident, upper-middle sort of voice. After a few minutes of this, she started to demand how long my haircut would take. The hairdresser replied affably that it might be a wee while yet, would she like a magazine, it was just her on today so sorry about the wait; that sort of thing. The atmosphere became tense as Increasingly Frustrated Waiting Customer started to hiss at her reasonably well-behaved kids for perceived misdemeanours, working them into the sort of highly-strung state where they were likely to misbehave. It was mid-afternoon and the hairdresser pointed out that if she didn’t want to wait she could always make an appointment for the next day.
This caused IFWC to throw a tantrum entirely unbecoming of anyone over the age of five, or anyone under it who has had any opportunity to become accustomed to hearing the word ‘no’. She used her children, pathetically, as gambits, pointing out that they wanted to get their hair cut today and they’d been waiting forever and it was such a hassle to— after a while of this, I started to worry not only for the poor hairdresser who really didn’t need to take that kind of shit from a middle-aged entitled brat of the highest order, but also for myself. You really don’t want somebody who’s holding sharp scissors an inch from your eyeballs to be reduced to a nervous breakdown by a nightmare customer. So I asked the IFWC, quite politely, if she would let the hairdresser finish the haircut she was halfway through. This outrageous suggestion was a bridge too far for the poor soul, who stormed out of the shop in a blizzard of indignation and now-bawling sprogs.
I’ve been back to Duke’s several times since, and even if it’s been a year since I last went in, the hairdresser always recognises me and we have a nice bonding moment over what a right rancid cow the ol’ IFWC really was.
7 – Kings of London, Greenwich, London. May 8th 2016.
I don’t frequent aristocratically-titled barbers on purpose, it just seems to happen. This place offers a beer while you wait and is less than a minute’s walk from my front door. I mentioned to the barber how every male over the age of majority in London seems to have that sides-of-the-head-shaved-up-to-the-parting thing, and he said yeah, half the guys who came in wanted something like that. Do you get sick of doing it, I asked, and he nodded emphatically.
Oh, yeah, he said. It’s a terrible haircut.
Hopefully, what I wanted wasn’t quite so terrible. I got what I asked for, at least, so any fault lies with the request, and not the execution.
* Can I just take this moment to confess that I’m quite proud of Dirty Hair Cut Dirt Cheap. AC/DC themed barbershops needing a name, hit me up and let’s talk shop.
** No I didn’t. I arrived. I was never remotely cool enough to rock up at school. What do you think I am, Australian?
*** About twice.
**** Back then I was still in the habit of regularly back-combing the whole lot up into a sort of 80s-glam-metal explosion. I occasionally miss these days and think that I should get back into doing this, so I will for all of one night out before lapsing back into low-maintenance. Like I said at the outset, I’ve gotten lazy.