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Just right by Snipped Sam
I was not that happy when Mrs Jones changed my evening paper round in fact, she gave me extra deliveries to do without any increase of pay. There was however one plus to it, I had a barber’s shop to deliver the evening newspaper and any magazines that were to be delivered. I was fascinated by barbers’ shops and old Mr Hall’s was a very old-fashioned shop, I had to deliver every weekday. When I first started, Mr Hall told me he liked the paper brought in and placed on the table with the other magazines and papers
Mr Hall seemed a really nice old chap, he had never cut my hair but I had heard that he had a reputation for giving really short haircuts. Mrs Jones had warned me that the previous paperboy had missed his delivery a few times so there must be no mistakes and I had to get his paper there as soon as possible which was not a problem for me to do. After a few weeks he had told Mrs Jones that the deliveries had much improved, which seemed to please her which was good for me as she had recently put me on a warning for being late for my morning delivery. As time went on, he called me Nick and we had conversation although brief as I needed to get on.
One Saturday morning Mrs Jones was not at all happy because the morning paperboy had messed up Mr Hall’s delivery, he had telephoned to complain. As I had finished my round and had already been paid, I offered to drop round the forgotten newspaper as well as the replacement for the torn one, Mrs Jones was pleased as was Mr Hall.
"Thanks ever so much Nick, I know it wasn’t your mistake"
"Not a problem Mr Hall, I know you like to have all your papers ready for when you open"
I replied as I placed his newspapers on the table
"I tell you what Nick, as a thank you why don’t I cut your hair"
I was rather taken aback, although I had thought about the possibility of Mr Hall cutting my hair at some stage, the fact was my hair was ready for cutting, and my dad had reminded me to get it taken care of.
"Oh, you don’t have to Mr Hall, I was happy to help"
"I know that Nick, but if you don’t mind me saying it’s getting a little untidy"
I felt the back of my head where it was just beginning to touch my collar, for a teenager in the 1970’s my hair was certainly not what you would call long. But there was a generation of older men like Mr Hall who favoured much shorter haircuts, and I had seen quite a few of them in his shop when I’d delivered the newspapers. To them anything which did not meet a strict short back and sides criteria was untidy and this was the perfect place to bring such anarchists for a shearing.
"I know that is due for a cut, but I usually go to Neil’s on Northumberland Road"
"I know where you mean Nick, but why go there and have a long wait when you can be straight in the chair and I am not going to charge you"
He was right, there usually was a long queue on a Saturday at Neil’s, straight in the chair was appealing, and if I was honest, I really liked Mr Hall a lot more than I did Neil.
"I would need to put the chain on my bike Mr Hall"
Mr Hall nodded and I went and chained my bike up, when I went back in, he said I should put my newspaper bag in the corner, I did as he said then hung up my parka coat on the peg. He was already standing by the barber’s chair holding the navy-blue cape in readiness, when I reached the barber’s chair, I was a bit surprised to see that he had placed a leather pouffe on the barber’s chair to raise me up higher when I sat down. He saw that I was a bit surprised but he said that I just needed to be a bit higher up on the seat as his back was playing him up a bit that day and he wanted me at the right height. For me it was a bit of a novelty and I sat on the chair, and it felt quite good to be up higher. with my feet off the floor and less support for my back, it made sense with Mr Hall being a very tall man.
He placed the cape around me and tucked it in nice and snugly, he then selected a comb and began to run it through my hair
"I’ve noticed you don’t usually have your hair cut especially short do you Nick?"
"No, I suppose I have it quite short but not very short Mr Hall"
"But I’d like a little leeway with your hair today Nick, you know what I am saying"
"I think I know what you mean"
"That way I can cut your hair just right"
I had a pretty good idea by what Mr Hall classed as just right, but he did not know just how exciting I was beginning to find it all. As I mentioned earlier, I had a bit of a fascination with barber’s shops going on especially the more traditional ones like Mr Hall’s. Whilst I knew if I went back to school on Monday with my hair cut really short, I would be in for a lot of jokes and remarks but just now it didn’t seem to matter. I had Mr Hall standing beside me, holding long steel scissors and a comb ready to cut my hair, I could ask him to give me a trim, which of course would mean fairly short. He was such a nice old gentleman, bald on top with thick white hair sides and back, tall and very smart in his long grey barber’s coat over his black trousers, white shirt and green tartan tie. I knew that I was excited about having my hair cut shorter and that I should seize and enjoy the moment.
"It’s very nice of you to offer to cut my hair Mr Hall, I’m sure you know what needs to be done"
"Indeed, I do Nick"
He started to cut my hair, after a couple of minutes or so, rain could be heard outside, he stopped for a moment and went and opened the shop door and looked out and quickly closed it.
"It’s coming down heavily out there, quite a down pour"
"Looks like I’m in the best place"
"Yes, you would have been soaked out there and it’s not so bad in here is it Nick?"
"Not bad at all Mr Hall"
He carried on lifting my hair with the comb and snipping in a calm, unhurried way, of course my hair was beginning to look really short. After a considerable amount of snipping with scissors he took some thinning shears and started to thin out my hair, thick clumps of my fair hair were trapped in the teeth of the shears and he stopped regularly to remove them dropping them onto the cape which covered me. Once this had been done, he took a spray and sprayed my hair at the front of my head and combed my fringe down, he picked up his long steel scissors once more and snipped my fringe, after telling me to close my eyes. When he said I could open them and he stood away from where he had stood in front of me to cut my fringe, I noticed that he had cut my hair at a slight angle, he then combed my hair into a neat side parting.
"Now that all looks rather smart doesn’t it, Nick?"
"Certainly, does Sir"
Next he took a piece of tissue and tucked it over the cape at the back, and then with his soft nylon brush and the powder blower began to dust my neck and above my ears with powder, in fact rather a lot of powder was used. He then pondered briefly over his clippers as if deciding which were the best to use, but I felt certain he knew which he would use for the job. It wasn’t any big surprise to me what was going to happen next, he was an old-fashioned barber, and that’s what old fashioned barbers did if they were going to cut a boy’s hair short. Other than the first year and a few of the second years, just a handful of boys in our school still had their hair cut like
this and I was about to be one of them. Did I mind? I was now a little apprehensive, but I did not want to halt the proceedings even if it was possible.
"Right Nick old son, down you go"
He said placing his hand on the back of my head and bending it forward
"You just need to keep your head nice a still for me"
My head was right down, the clippers began to hum, and I felt the cold metal blade touch the back of my head, he began to clip the back of my head. It was done smoothly and slowly, I could feel the hair falling away after a few runs with the clippers he reassured me
"It’s all going well Nick, you just stay keeping your head still for me"
After completing the back of my head, he tilted it to the side and did above my left ear, then moved around to the other side. Once this had been done and the clippers returned to their resting place, he brushed my head down, telling me to remain with my head down just a little while longer. He then shaved my neck with a razor, and then did a little work above my ears.
"All done Nick, lift your head up son"
I lifted up my head, I could see that above my ears looked almost bare, with the clipping, I moved my head left and right to try and see but he placed his hand on the top of my head and held it for a moment.
"You still need to sit to attention Nick, so I can dress your hair"
He picked up a jar of white hair cream removed the lid and took a small amount and applied it to my hair adding a touch more before combing my hair.
"What do you think Nick?"
"It looks really smart Mr Hall"
He picked up the mirror and showed me the back of my head, it was exactly as I had expected it to be, so bare and short, I was thrilled and happy. He loosened the cape and put loads of powder down my neck before removing it and inviting me to step down from the chair. As I wiped my neck with the fresh tissue, he had given me, my hair was swept up.
"So, do you like your haircut Nick?"
"Yes Mr Hall, I really do"
"I thought you did, and it looks like the rain has stopped, off you go and enjoy your Saturday"