Roy, Joe and Stanley cut my hair by Snipped Sam
Having just spent a lovely week in Ambleside in the lake district and following a recent comment on a story I wrote a few years ago called The Holiday, I felt inspired to write another story with a similar theme.
In the 1970’s no teenage boy liked to hear that he was going to the barbers, it was a very rainy week in the lake district. We were sitting having breakfast in the lovely guesthouse built of Lakeland stone we always stayed at, and the other guests were discussing what they would be doing with another wet day.
"It’s supposed to brighten up later" said the lady on the next table
"That’s what I heard" replied my father
"Its knowing what to do this morning" said the same lady as she was busily buttering her toast.
Mr Wiseman, the guest house proprietor was clearing some of the breakfast plates, Mrs Wiseman always saw to the cooking, he looked over at our table
"The barbers will be open today, so maybe that’s something that could occupy young Nigel this morning"
I nearly died of embarrassment, with a couple of people giving approving nods, and my father seeming to think what a good idea it was, I felt very uneasy the rest of our time in the dining room. On the way out, Mr Wiseman spoke to us in the hall
"Hope I didn’t cause any offence Mr White, it’s just Nigel’s hair is quite a bit longer this year, and I’m afraid its longer than we like to see at The Ivydene"
"No, it’s a valid point and with school the week after next it will work out just right"
So, it was all decided, I protested saying it wasn’t fair as I was on holiday but to no avail. We walked into the town and dad clearly had it worked out because we turned into a street and there was the tell tail red and white striped pole. We went through the door and the first thing I saw was that it was a climbing shop but looking towards the back I could see what looked like an area that hair would be cut. There were two men serving in the shop one was a bit older than the other but both appeared to be in their forties.
"How can I help Sir?" said the younger of the two.
"I was hoping to get Nigel’s hair looked at"
"Yes, we can do that, unfortunately one of our assistants is off sick today so we are a both trying to cover the shop and the barbers, so whoever is cutting his hair might need to break off to serve, so it won’t necessarily be an in and out for him"
"That’s not a problem, we won’t be going far this morning"
"Do you want to leave him with us?, we have this order to sort out and unpack, say come back for him in just over half an hour"
"Yes, that’s a good idea"
"How do you want his hair done Sir?"
"I’d like him to have quite a bit taken off, if that’s not a problem"
"Not a problem for us Sir"
"Tell you what,I’ll leave it up to you gents, be a good lad Nigel you know the drill"
Dad left me with them and I stood there feeling award while they unpacked the boxes and then the older one took me over to the barber’s chair and I was installed, with a navy-blue nylon cape tucked in tightly. He then combed my hair and then the younger chap came over as well, then I noticed that they were both holding scissors and combs.
"Quite a mop of thick hair you have there young Nigel" said the younger barber
"Yeh, I quite like it how it is"
"Ever had two barbers cutting you hair at once Nigel?"
"No, I haven’t but can you just give me a trim please?"
"The boy wants a trim Roy, what do you think about that?" said the younger barber
"There’s more chance of Carlisle United winning the Cup final next season Joe, there is no way we are letting this young rascal off with a trim"
"Brace yourself laddie"
Then to my horror they both started cutting my hair, the older barber who was called Roy at the back of my head, whilst Joe snipped away at the front. They both worked their scissors very quickly so the sounds of my hair being snipped off was very loud. After a few minutes a customer came in and Joe went to serve him whilst Roy carried on cutting my hair, then a couple of minutes later few customers came in and I was left while Roy took care of them. Then Joe came back and started cutting some more hair off at the back, I was feeling very anxious now because he was cutting away at an area I thought Roy had taken care off. Then off he went again, I was sitting there feeling really embarrassed when an elderly man came in and looked at me, I would have imagined he was well into his seventies. He then went over and spoke to Roy and Joe and then came back to me. He had a carrier bag, I watched him hang up his jacket and then he put on a long white coat, oh no I thought not someone else who is going to cut my hair.
"How are you today young man?"
"I’m alright thanks, apart from having to have my haircut"
"Oh well the cavalry is here now, I will finish your haircut without any more delays"
He picked up a comb and some scissors, after having a look at my hair started to cut it
"So, they have both been cutting your hair?"
"Yes, that’s right"
"And your father wants it short"
"He didn’t say he wanted my hair to be cut short"
"Oh, I think every father wants his son’s barber to cut his hair short, the shorter it is means more time till his next haircut, so it saves money"
"But I don’t want my hair cut short"
"I know lad, but young Mr Roy over there tells me it’s got to be short, makes me piggy in the middle doesn’t it"
"I suppose it does"
He carried on cutting with the scissors and eventually put them down, then adjusted the cape at the back making it very tight, he then took the powder blower and a soft brush and started to dust me neck and the back of my head with powder. He then placed his hand on the back of my head and bent it right down, the next thing I heard the hum of some electric clippers, the cold metal blade touched the back of my head and he started to run them up the back of my head, he had his spare hand on the top of my head to keep my head down, he seemed to be go frighteningly high as well.
"Oh no" I said really upset,
"No need to worry lad, I’ve done this thousands of times, you’re in good hands"
After completely massacring the back of my head he turned his attention to above my ears, after a good brush down, I heard an older man’s voice.
"I see they have got you in today Stanley"
"Yes, Douglas is off Sick today, I just have to put a few finishing touches to this young man’s hair then we can have a good catch up Cyril"
I felt his hand back on the top of my head that heard the sound of some different clippers, these had a shriller sound, he was pressing them very hard as he ran them up the back of my head and then above my ears. After another brush down, he took a cut throat razor and scraped the back of my head and above my ears, then a lot of dusting powder applied with the soft brush. He lifted my head up and then dusted my face with the brush, I noticed that on the cuffs of his white barbers’ coat were quite a few very short fair hairs obviously from my head. He then vigorously rubbed some oil into my hair on the top of my head and combed it into place, he showed me the back in the mirror. He had more or less taken the clippers all the way up the back of my head bar about an inch and a half, the lower part was bare skin as was the sides.
The next morning at breakfast my haircut was a topic of conversation much to my embarrassment. The following year we returned to The Ivydene, dad not wanting a repeat of the previous year had arranged for my hair to be cut fairly short the day before we arrived. During my time at university I got a job as a waiter in a hotel in the lakes for the summer season. Thanks to a very strict manager who insisted on a smart appearance at all times, I got to know Roy and Joe quite well, Stanley remained a legend occasionally coming out of retirement to help out.