Isn’t it funny that women get their hair done. Men get their hair cut. I hate getting my hair cut. But I wouldn’t mind getting my hair done. The problem is that no matter what you tell them most barbers seem afflicted with a desire to cut as much hair as possible.
When you wear glasses as I do you have to remove them for the shearing session. So things are a bit of a blur until the process is concluded and then what can you say? Nothing, except, that’s grand.
I’ve known many barbers. Some of them talk incessantly. About everything. Especially politics. I hate that.
RG hates that also. He confided in me one time that as well as being short sight he’s becoming slightly deaf.
So not only cannot he not see what’s happening to his head he can’t hear what he’s being interrogated about.
Although I don’t think he’ll have to worry about the barbers for too long!
The worst barbers I ever met were in Long Kesh.
I think some of them did it as a joke. Or as a protest against internment.
That’s why my hair and beard were shoulder length.
And then there are other barbers who flit in and out of your life. Cutting your hair almost on a whim. These are usually nieces or other female relations who dress hair for a living or as a hobby. Usually they don’t charge you.
Anyway I am drawn to this subject because of a recent experience and because I don’t want to write about politics at the beginning of the year.
I had managed to avoid getting my hair cut for a long time – well longer than usual – when I was pulled in by the Sinn Féin style police.
Your hair and beard are too long they told me. Get them cut I was instructed.
Getting a hair cut in Dublin can be a bit of a challenge.
“I wouldn’t mind going to a Turkish barber,” I said to RG as we sat gridlocked along the Quays in early morning traffic.
“There’s one at the corner of Holles Street,” he said.
So we meandered our way in that direction.
I told RG about the Tyrone woman’s husband going to a Turkish barbers because for every three haircuts you got the fourth one was free.
We both agreed that that seemed like a good deal.
But when we reach Holles Street the Turkish barber’s was closed.
Getting parked was another problem.
It wasn’t long passed nine o clock.
“I’ll drop you off” said RG. “It should be opening soon.”
“Where will you go?” I asked?
“I’ll drive round” he replied. “See you back here in half an hour”.
So that’s what we did.
I felt a bit conspicuous standing outside the shuttered shop with its posters proclaiming hot towels, shaves and other mysterious procedures.
So, I went for a walk.
A homeless man hunkered down in a doorway greeted me cheerfully.
He was wrapped in sleeping bags.
“Do you know when the Turkish barbers opens?” I asked him.
“No” he replied. “I haven’t been to the barbers in years.”
We talked for a few moments about the recession, the Taoiseach and the peace process before I wandered back.
Still no sign of the Turkish barber opening.
I loitered for another while until RG pulled into the kerb.
“Maybe it’s closed” he suggested.
“Of course it’s closed” I said. More sharply than I intended.
“No I mean closed – closed” he said.
“Check it out in that supermarket” he instructed me.
“I’ll do another circuit” he said driving off with great patience.
The supermarket wasn’t really a supermarket. It was a corner shop.
The young woman behind the counter looked as if she was Polish. She was tall and angular and she had a nice smile.
“Do you know when the Turkish barbers opens?” I asked her.
“It’s closed” she said.
I thought I noticed her eyes misting over slightly.
“Abdullah has left. He said he couldn’t get enough customers” she said.
I imagined Abdullah being drawn from his empty barber shop to the young Polish woman with the nice smile. I imagined him confiding in her about difficult things were. They were both exiles. I presumed Abdullah was young. She obviously missed him now.
“Where did he go?” I asked.
“Why do you ask?” she replied, as her smile faded.
“Oh just wondering I stammered. Thank you.”
“Have a nice day” she concluded, smiling once again.
Afterwards as we made our way to Leinster House I told RG about the beautiful Polish shop assistant and her Turkish lover.
“A real delight” he said. His patience finally evaporating.
Later that day I surrendered to a barber’s chair. I noticed how white my shorn locks were against the darkness of the cape that I was draped in. Not just white – Persil white. And that was only the beard.
“Could you cut that bit here?” I asked.
“It always grows in a big clump.”
“Someday you’ll be glad to have a big clump to complain about”, my tormentor gruffly responded.
There was no answer to that.