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The Travelling Barber by Snipped Sam
During the 1970s when most lads of fifteen wanted their hair as long as possible, I secretly hankered for really short hair. At that time, I was fascinated by anything connected with traditional barbers and haircuts. I knew that it was unusual for a lad my age when going anywhere new to look out for barber’s shops rather than record shops but that was me.
It was on a holiday in Scotland when we were returning to the farm bed and breakfast, we were staying in for a few nights that I noticed a caravan parked with a board sign saying barber in town today. When we got to the farm knowing it was just a short walk back, I said that I wanted to go for a walk into the village on my own.
I felt quite excited at the prospect of having a look at the travelling barber’s caravan, of course although I wasn’t setting out to have my hair cut, I had made sure I had sufficient money funds on me to pay for a haircut should the need arise. As I approached the layby which was on the outskirts of the village the sign was still there, I walked on the opposite side of the road and could see the caravan parked which was attached to a car, a man sat outside reading a newspaper, I walked a bit further on before crossing the road to come back. My heart was racing, as I passed the man looked up from his paper and spoke to me,
"If you’re wanting Mr Jimmy, I am not waiting to have my haircut son, my boy’s in there having his done…and it’s a wee bit crowded inside otherwise"
"Is Mr Jimmy the barber?"
"Aye, he is son"
At that point a man appeared at the door of the caravan
"Did I hear my name?"
"Aye, you did Jimmy, I was talking to the laddie here"
"Hello and what’s your name?"
"That’s a fine Scottish name, are you here on holiday"
"Yes, staying just down the road"
"Do you want to have a wee look Greg? see if its short enough for you"
The man went in and had a look and then came back out
"No quite short enough but it’s getting taken care off"
He remarked as he sat back down,I could hear clippers buzzing away and getting more curious to see the finished haircut, Mr Jimmy was probably in his forties not very tall at all, but a bit chunky, quite red faced with dark eyes with a glint in them and he had his dark hair in the style of a teddy boy complete with Brylcreem. Wanting to see the finished result I carried on talking to the man, who had gestured for me to sit down on one of the other stacking chairs outside the caravan. After another inspection from his father, the boy who was just a bit younger than me emerged from the caravan with a very traditional short back and sides. I thought his haircut looked excellent; it had been a long time since I had my hair cut that short.
"Now it’s no good looking so glum young Hamish, you’re back to school soon and I want you to go back with it short"
Hamish did not look that convinced but no boy liked being taken to the barbers by his father to have his hair cut short, well there was one boy I could think of who would. Mr Jimmy once again appeared and the father stood up so I stood up as well
"We will leave you with Mr Jimmy son, you’re a lucky laddie, he’s the best barber in Scotland"
"Aye, so I am…in you come young Stewie"
This was the moment of truth; did I really want a haircut from Mr Jimmy? yes, I though Hamish’s hair looked excellent but in reality, it was so short
"Oh, I was passing by and stopped by to talk to this gentleman"
"Aye, and do you think I provide seating for people to stop and chat outside me wee caravan?"
"Well no not really"
"It might just put customers off, thinking there was a long wait to have their haircut...is that no right young Stewie?"
"It might, but I didn’t see anyone come along"
"We were talking son so we might have missed them, and I did think you were waiting for Mr Jimmy"
"But I never said"
"That’s enough young Stewie, you’re having it short so you are"
The man put his hand on my shoulder and said "you heard what Mr Jimmy has said" patting my shoulder, he and Hamish walked off having said goodbye to Mr Jimmy
"So are you gonna be a good lad and have your haircut?"
"I think so"
"In you go"
I went into the caravan which was small, there was a small bench seat at the back of the caravan with a tartan covered pad, a red leather barber’s chair which in front of it had shelves a tall cupboard and on the floor were three car batteries. The caravan smelt of hair spray and Brylcreem, I noticed hair swept to the side in the corner. The floor was had green vinyl tiles and their was a listed of prices pinned up
"Sit you down laddie"
He already had hold of the cape which hung from a peg by the door, I liked the fact that he was swiftly moving things along, I did as he said and I was quickly caped with a burgundy nylon cover
"So, you on holiday Stewie?"
"Yes, up here for a few days then moving on tomorrow a bit further up"
"So, a nice wee haircut before you go"
Mr Jimmy had combed my hair and had begun cutting it with scissors
"Yes, and I have never had a haircut in a caravan"
"Have you not? it will be a nice wee treat for you won’t it?"
"Yes, I suppose it will, you said I was having it short"
"Aye so I did Stewie, perhaps I said that to make Hamish feel a wee bit better cause his father made him have it short"
"Oh, I see"
I wasn’t sure what I thought with that, as a clipping would take some getting used and I wasn’t that sure I wanted my hair so short. Mr Jimmy was very quick with his scissors, snipping quickly
"I was only kidding Stewie, I don’t really care if Hamish doesn’t like it, I am a hard-wee man so I am"
"But what about me?"
"What about you Stewie?"
"Am I having it short?"
"What would your daddy say if you go back with it cut really short"
With the amount of hair that Mr Jimmy was cutting off it looked a certainty that I would be going back with it really short, I surveyed my hair in the mirror, where he had already cut it was looking very short.
"Oh, I think he would be very pleased"
"Only think Stewie?"
"O.K he would be really happy"
As I said that I felt myself relaxing back into the chair slightly more, this was really giving him the green light to give me a really short haircut, certainly Mr Jimmy was quite a character
"So, are we going to make him happy Stewie?"
"Yes, I think we are"
"Aye, you’re not wrong there Stewie"
It was quite warm in the caravan and quite a lot of the smaller hairs had stuck to my face, which he eventually brushed away. He then took a white cotton napkin type of towel and placed on my shoulders and tucked it in at the back.
"Now don’t you worry Stewie, I have enough power in those batteries to give you a wee clipping"
"Well maybe not so much of a wee clipping if we want to make your daddy happy Stewie"
I watched him attach electrodes which were connected to his clippers to the car battery
"All very safe Stewie, so don’t you worry yourself"
Part of me really longed for this to be done, it was exciting, another part of me knew that this haircut would be so noticeable. Everyone at the farm where I was staying especially the other guests would see that I had been given such an old-fashioned haircut.
"Is there any chance we might skip this bit? because I think my dad will be very pleased with what you’ve done already"
"You’re just a wee bit nervous that’s all Stewie, don’t you worry about the batteries"
"But they’ll make it so short"
"That’s the idea son, because that’s the haircut we agreed on, to please your daddy, trust me Stewie its going to look grand"
I knew I would probably regret it either way but more so if I left without a clipping,
"I know it’s got to be done"
"Aye, so it has wee lad"
Mr Jimmy put his hand on the back of my head and bent it right down, soon those clippers were journeying up the back of my head. It was an amazing feel and sound, I realised how much I had missed this. It had been two or so years since I had stopped going to old Mr Sayers who had always cut my hair, his clippings were legendary especially when he would take them almost to the crown of your head. Mr Jimmy worked away smoothly removing the hair leaving a clipped finish sides and back, once this has been completed, he detached the clippers from the battery before shaving my neck with the razor.
"Anything on Stewie?...may be a little spray or a touch of Brylcreem"
"May be have the Brylcreem bounce"
I was referring to an advert on television for Brylcreem
"Brylcreem it is Stewie, but those guys have much more hair than you…no much hair to bounce here laddie"
He said applying a small amount of Brylcreem to my hair and combing it into place, I left his caravan thrilled but very self-conscious, my hand explored the back of my head, wow bristly once again. When I got back my father was indeed delighted to see I had been to have my haircut, he was a big fan of Mr Sayers and still went to him regularly.
"I have to say it’s as good as Mr Sayers used to do it Stuart, well done son"
"I thought you might say that dad"
"Perhaps when we get home, I can persuade you to start going back to him again for your haircuts"
Not only did dad persuade me to go back to Mr Sayers, he swiftly reinstalled the strict short back and sides policy for my hair which had been abandoned when I first became a teenager...no complaints with that !!!.