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The New Regime by Snipped sam
It was the winter of 1972, and in England, due to a miners’ strike we were having regular electricity power cuts .I had recently moved to a new town and started at a much stricter school. I had been summoned to the headmaster’s office. On entering he looked at me with distaste, and pointed for me to stand in front of his desk.
“You were told last week to have your haircut, White, I have sent for you to hear your explanation of why this instruction has not been carried out”
“I have tried sir but its difficult because the hairdressers have been closed after school because of the power cuts” “what about the weekend White”
“The queues were a bit too long sir; I went again yesterday but was not successful”
“long queues are not a sufficient excuse White, you should have waited your turn or got up early to be there when they opened, you may have got away with long untidy hair in your previous school but I will not allow it here do you understand”
“Now I have spoken to Mr Wright on Carlisle Road, and understand that he will not under any circumstances be closing, he fortunately still has his original gas lamps which still are working, so you will report to him immediately after school today”
“I don’t know where that is sir”
“Rest assured White, I will give you directions2
“It is very clear to me White that you have a problem with having a smart respectable haircut and conforming to the rules of this school, is that not correct”
“This is very different to my last school Sir”
“Clearly young man, I can see that I need to help you focus more clearly on the standards expected from you in this school, how long have you been here now White?”
“Three weeks Sir “
“Enough time for you to settle, now things need to get serious, six stokes of the cane for you now and if you fail to have your haircut this afternoon or I hear from Mr. Wright that you have misbehaved in any way or not done as you were told by him, you will be back here tomorrow for a another caning” he said taking a long, thin bamboo cane from the shelf””
I left his office with directions on where to go after school and a card to give Mr Wright which said my name and a space for any comments by him, which I had to report with to the headmaster the next morning.
I was in a state of shock and felt very sorry for myself, as the caning he had just given me was very severe and really, really hurt “
At the end of School I made my way to Mr Wrights, my heart sank as saw a very old fashioned barbers shop although was not really that surprised .When I went in Mr Wright the barber was a very thin, stern looking elderly man who wore a long white barbers coat, he looked at me coldly,
“By your school uniform I would say you are White, is that correct”
“When you speak to me, you will call me sir, take a seat there” he said pointing, so I sat on one of the hard wooden chairs”
He was in the middle of giving a boy a bit older than me a really severe clipping with his electric clippers, there was a man in his late thirties who was before me in the queue and I would be next. I remember thinking when the boy came off the chair that a power cut would be really good. to put a stop to his clippers The man, as I thought was in the chair next, he was in the chair quite a while having a rather short haircut, once the barber had shown him the back of his head in the mirror and he had approved it, the barber turned his attention to me,
“Hang your blazer up White and stand over there, when I call you, its straight in the chair”
I hung up my blazer on the peg, and went to where he had indicated I was to wait, he then attended to the man, once he had paid and put on his jacket , I was summoned to the barber’s chair , as I sat down I handed him the card,
he soon had the white nylon cape installed along with a thin cotton towel at the back, he combed my hair
“What a lot of hair you have White
“Yes sir “
“Good job I am going to cut nearly all of it off, what say you boy?
“Yes sir “I replied resigned to the fact that there was no point in saying anything else
He took the scissors from the side and started to cut away at my hair without any ceremony, he just seemed to be cutting away regardless of working on one area at a time, eventually after several minutes of chopping off my hair; it was cut very close to my head, what had once been thick, blond very well kept hair now rested on the white nylon cape which I was wearing for my appointment with sir. Next came a pair of very old thinning shears, he worked with them quickly ,causing me to almost squirm as they banged my head, every so often he stopped to pull clumps of my hair from their nasty sharp teeth.
After a good brush down of my face and neck, he tightened the cape at the back; at that point the electricity suddenly went off.
“Just as I expected White, a power cut, it’s usually about this time of day on a Tuesday “he said as he lit a taper and then lit his antique gas lamps, which had been left in his shop since the days before electricity
“ now I can see what I am doing, which means your haircut can continue”
“Very good Sir”
“Had we had electricity, I was about to strip down the back and sides of your head with my electric clippers”
“Leave you looking very bare”
“What a good job I kept these isn’t it boy”
He opened his drawer and took out a pair of manual hand clippers; he proudly showed them to me.
“Do you see what sharp teeth they have boy “
“you are going to bend your head down ,right down as far as you can, so I can get at your hair, is that understood?”
“Bend your head down boy...I said right down... just a touch further..... That will be fine “
It felt really uncomfortable to have my head in this position
“Now remember White you must keep your head perfectly still for me, you must not move your head even a fraction of inch and if you do not keep your head still, I will report you to your headmaster”
He started to manually clip me, click, click the clippers went, this went on for ages and ages, eventually he lifted up my head and brushed me all down, he applied a small amount of white hair crème and gave me a parting, this was followed by lots of dusting powder”
“Right White, I have to fill in your haircut card “he said reaching for it
“When your headmaster telephoned me this afternoon he said he has already caned you is that correct”
“a wise decision judging by the length your hair was”
“now I am going to put that your behaviour and cooperation today was an acceptable level as this was your first visit, your headmaster is of the opinion that as you are new to the area, I should become your regular barber, which of course is now the case, you will come to me every two to three weeks without fail and I will keep your hair very short”
“you will soon get used to it White’
“I shall start as I mean to go on, so I think we will have you back here in two weeks from exactly today”
“Excuse me sir, that’s my birthday that day”
“try and get here as early as possible then White, that way you won’t have to wait too long, but I certainly am not letting you off having your haircut on that day“
“I was supposed to be going to the cinema sir, but I probably won’t be able to now sir”
“At the moment White, the most important thing is giving you very short haircuts and you getting used to having them”
He removed the White nylon cape and let me off the chair, as wiped the back of my head with the tissue he had handed me, the back of my head felt very bare, I remembered Neil, the trendy guy in his late twenties who has previously cut my hair
“come along White” he said pointing for me to put the tissue in the bin, I realised then that it would be seventeen months till I left school, that meant a lot more haircuts from this very strict man.