Tuesday, 23 December 2008


On 22 December 2008 I went for a haircut. Even for me this is not a remarkable experience. It did however lead me to reflect on a lifetime of tonsorial activity. In composing it I have been astonished at the trivia I have been able to pull out of my mind: there is a warning in that for the alert, and time deprived, reader. I hope these memories haven’t occupied space that could have been put to better use!

My first memory of such things places me at around 7 or 8 and riding a pushbike with my father from Mayland, Essex to Southminster in the same County. I think I was taken to the salon of one Wally Gooch who provided the required facilities to my dad. Later, the word got around my school that Mrs Cant, also in that village, did a better job: with hindsight, I suspect this meant she used a range of pudding bowl sizes, rather than the ‘one size fits all’ approach that Wally used. I have tried to get a Google Earth image of these establishments but the Poms don’t seem to have the street view available.

High school haircuts pass in a blur. My memory is that most of the conversation at school about such matters was about the prominence or otherwise of adverts for what Rimmer (from Red Dwarf) refers to as a ‘packet of three’. The same blurriness applies to Uni: since this was the ‘60s the trend was for a bit of length in the locks so I recall having a haircut at the end of each term and perhaps an extra one after the long vac. Primarily the latter was to give less grip to opposing forwards while playing for the Wye College Rugby Club.

On moving to Adelaide in 1970 my only memorable haircut was at the salon owned by one Glynn Pretty - a jockey. It was in the back of his boutique in Gawler Place, and they did a good job until the day Glynn won some big race (by Adelaide standards - the Balaclava Plate perhaps). He celebrated by putting a fair bit of champagne around the shop and I scored a haircut from his newt-like barber. A colleague fixed up the worst of this in the office.

I don’t remember having a haircut in Denver (1981). Possibly this was one of the areas in which I overacclimated, in the Grizzly Adams direction.

Getting to Canberra it was mainly a matter of trying to get some stability so that I didn’t have to explain every time why I had a huge scar on my scone (answer – a bike prang when I was 12). I recall the initial treatments were administered by a nice young lady named Sabrina: she was about a foot shorter and differently complexioned to the British ‘actress’. But she moved on and haircuts were boring until 1997.

That year we took some leave and toured Europe. After 8 weeks learning Italian it was time to get scalped in a foreign (to me, not the Italians) language and thus mistakes could be very embarrassing. Whatever, it all seemed to work OK and we made it through a whole lot more countries until we got back to Canberra. 4 more years of boredom, until I got to Tanzania.

As with everything else in Tanzania it was a matter of finding out the right place to go to get a trim. In Scandinavian circles the answer was a salon, the name of which I can’t remember, on Haile Selaisse Road. Rather close to the Karibu Hotel (where we stayed), the Morogoro Stores (purveyors of booze and Tinga-tinga art) and the Q-bar Guest House and brothel (which we didn’t go to for anything). They did what was needed every few months and were so unremarkable that I didn’t refer to them at all in my trip reports..

I think when we had left Canberra we were using Just Cuts, a very cost and time effective place in Belconnen Mall. We certainly went there on our return, until we headed for the Great S@t@n of New York City.

Having heard many stories of how expensive it was to live in NYC I was surprised to find a great number of barber shops around the place offering the basic ear-lowering services for about $10. I used a place on Second Avenue at about 45th St, where a nice lady looked after me for the going rate. She was somewhat older than me, and far more comfortable speaking Russian than English, but I was there for a hair job. About 6 months before we left the business changed hands so I got haircuts in Yiddish. They even trimmed my sideburns while muttering sotto voce about meshuge goys. Oy vey: they should take my money and kvetch.

Returning to Canberra we moved to Carwoola, and found a Just Cuts in Queanbeyan. They now charged a good but more than $10 and never seemed to have enough staff to keep up with trade. This culminated on 22 December 2008 when I fronted for a trim – it being about 2 months since the last and I was starting to look like Harpo Marx. Although there were only two people waiting , and there being two boganesses nattering on the counter they couldn’t offer a cut as they were fully booked that day.

So off I go to find the other barbers I recalled seeing advertised on Monaro St. This turned out to be called Tony’s. They had a small wait, but Tony (I presume) got to work and did what was needed. They will be getting my future business.

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