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Simon Loses it at the Barber's by SteDJ

This story is a follow up to "He Needs a Good Cut" and is a mixture of truth and fiction. Simon was a good friend of mine well into our teenage years, and as you will see, like me, he had a bit of "attitude" about him even as a 13-year-old. I wasn’t there to witness exactly what happened in the barber's shop that day and I don't really remember many details about the finished result - except that his haircut was unusually and drastically short. The description of Simon’s experience at the hands of Mr Harrison is therefore to a large extent fiction. The contexts, including the church choir, the frequent swearing and getting into trouble, however, are real.


Six days had passed since my encounter with Mr Harrison, the savage barber, and after the predictable hilarity my new haircut had caused at school, I had started to get used to my new look " horrible though it was - and the comments started to abate. As he attended a different school from me, I had not seen my friend Simon since he was being called to the barber's chair just as I was leaving Mr Harrison’s shop the previous Monday afternoon. Of course, there were no mobile phones or Instagram in those days, so I was left wondering if he had suffered the same fate as me whilst under the blue barber cape that day. That was about to change though, as it was now Sunday morning and we both sang in the local church choir, so we were due to meet for the first time since our respective shearings.

At this point, let me make it clear that firstly, being a boy chorister in a church choir in 1970s Britain was not all that unusual " there were several of us from my school who would faithfully turn up every Sunday to sing in the choir. Secondly, even though we had to wear the potentially embarrassing choirboy uniform of full length red and white robes along with a silly starched neck ruff, we gave it little thought, and were far from the angelic figures that that we might have appeared to be. Choirboys could be just as mischievous, ill-behaved and downright potty-mouthed as any teenage boys of the time, and we were no exception.

That Sunday morning, we had just finished getting dressed (and incidentally I secretly loved the tingling sensation caused by the ruff rubbing against my freshly shaved nape " it felt oddly exciting…) when I first caught sight of the post-haircut Simon in the choir vestry. It has to be said that our language might have been somewhat at odds with our sartorial appearance.

"Bl**dy hell Simon, what did he do to you? I thought mine was bad but that’s f***ing terrible…"

"F**k off Stephen and leave me alone. Have you looked at yourself recently? It’s not my fault that my stupid mother took me to that stupid f***ing haircutting shop…"

Simon could clearly swear like the best of us, but that did not go down well with the choirmaster, who heard everything and instantly reminded us of where we were and threatened us with expulsion from his choir if we continued with the foul language.

The service passed without incident, and back in the vestry as we were changing out of our robes, I asked Simon to tell me all about his encounter with Mr Harrison.
An audience gathered as Simon took up the story:

(Simon’s Story through his own eyes:)

"Next boy in the chair please," said the barber, already eyeing my overgrown mop as I hesitantly made my way to the throne of torture.

I cautiously took my place in the chair and gripped the arms as the royal blue nylon haircut sheet of doom was flung over me, and within seconds I was completely covered from my neck to my feet. There were no such things as neck strips, poppers or velcro fastenings on barber capes in those days, so the barber sealed me in by simply just tucking the back of my cape into my shirt collar, almost strangling me in the process. Securing the cape this way meant that you always ended up with itchy hairs down the back of your neck after a haircut, but that was life in the 70s. I then felt myself going up in the world as the barber worked the foot pedal and pumped the chair up to a suitable working height for him high above the ground. Once covered with the cape and raised up in the air, you always knew you were past the point of no return, and I helplessly surveyed my pathetic reflection in the mirror, looking sorry for myself and feeling like a lamb to the slaughter.

"What’s it to be?" asked Mr Harrison.

"Just give him a good trim all round please; make him look smart." instructed my mum, settling down to read a magazine.

"I don’t want it cut short," I protested. I was still reeling from seeing Stephen lose most of his mop to the destructive onslaught of the scissors and clippers.

"OK, one smart haircut coming up," confirmed the barber, ignoring my protestations. Mr Harrison then busied himself at the counter in front of the chair, before turning round to face me armed with a large pair of sinister looking scissors and a big black comb.

My wavy chestnut brown hair was slightly longer than Stephen’s had been earlier in the day, and Mr Harrison set about combing it out. The comb snagged painfully in the tangled knots of my unruly mop and as with Stephen’s, it completely covered my ears, extended down over my collar and fell into my eyes at the front, seriously obstructing my vision.

"I can’t see…" I protested, shaking my head to try and flick the fringe out of the way.

"You can’t see?" said the barber. "Well, we’ll soon take care of that," and to my horror, with lightning speed, clinical efficiency and three loud snips, he lopped off the offending fringe with the sharp steel scissors and reduced it to a blunt line high up across my forehead. I looked down to see the remains of my fringe sitting lifelessly on the cape in my lap. "Noooooooooo!!!!" I howled. "I don’t want you to cut my hair any more. I want to go home! This is not f***ing fair. It’s my hair and I should be allowed to keep it how I want. I hate you!!!! And Mum I hate you as well for making me come to this horrible dump."

I got my arms out from under the cape and covered my head with my hands, and with tears of anger streaming down my face, I then tugged at the cape to try and remove it and set about attempting to escape from the chair. Mr Harrison had presumably seen all this before though and was far too quick and I felt a heavy hand on each shoulder forcing me to keep still and remain firmly where I was.

"Simon!!!!!" screamed my Mum. "Mr Harrison, I’m so sorry, this is awfully embarrassing…"

"Sit still and let Mr Harrison cut your hair!" yelled my mother. Through a combination of fear and anger, tears still ran down my face as I reluctantly slumped back down in the chair.

"I think you owe an apology to Mr Harrison," said my mother. "Go on, say you're sorry."

"Sorry, Mr Harrison," I muttered through my tears.

"I didn’t quite catch that," said the barber. "Perhaps a bit louder and said as though you mean it…"

"Sorry, Mr Harrison" I said more loudly.

"That’s better," said Mr Harrison, as he straightened the blue cape once more making sure it properly covered me and the chair. "Arms in please and sit up straight. So, young man, what are we going to do with you?" Mr Harrison was now brandishing the scissors and comb in a most menacing way.

"I don’t know," I muttered.

"I think I know," interjected my mum. "As it’s clear to me that you don’t like coming here, we can make sure that you won’t need to come back again for a very long time, and ask Mr Harrison to give you a nice short haircut. Would you oblige, Mr Harrison? Nice and short all over please."

"That will be my pleasure," replied the barber with a cold grin on his face as he picked up a huge pair of black electric hair clippers. Before I could react, he quickly grabbed my head, shoved my chin down into the cape, and just as he had done with Stephen, started by burying the buzzing clippers into the long hair behind my left ear, proceeding to quickly and calmly mow off all the hair on the back and sides of my head. With a firm grip, the barber manoeuvered my head around to ease the passage of the clippers as they effortlessly devoured everything in their path, and mounds of brown hair tumbled down onto the cape. I watched helplessly as great chunks hit my shoulders before sliding down into my lap, some of it then hitting the floor at the base of the chair. The hot steel of the clippers dug into my neck as Mr Harrison ran them over and over high up my nape ensuring that he hadn’t missed a single hair. In the mirror, I could see that this was serious " I was as good as shaved bald a good two inches above my ears " and presumably the same around the back. After what seemed an eternity, the humming stopped, to be replaced by the noisy buzzing of the little clippers that he used to work around my hairline on my nape and high above my ears totally removing any remaining traces of stubble until the skin was white and smooth.

I sat there meekly and passively accepting my fate " I suppose I had been very rude to both my mum and Mr Harrison and I was now paying the price, but what happened next took me completely by surprise.

At this point, Mr Harrison had used his scissors on Stephen to cut the hair on the top of his head, but for me, he had something different in mind. With a loud ‘clack’ he switched on the big humming clippers again and I saw that this time they had some kind of black plastic toothed attachment on them. He grabbed my chin, and immediately plunged the machine into the freshly cut fringe at the top of my forehead and dragged it back across my scalp, causing whole curtains of long hair to cascade down onto my blue smock. To say I was horrified was an understatement. I had only ever seen these things used on the back and sides of customers’ heads, but never on top like this. I gasped in horror as I saw a stripe of velvety fuzz no more than half an inch long appear along the top of my head, and watched in wide eyed terror as Mr Harrison proceeded to remove the rest of the hair from the top of my head with his demented cutting machine. More and more long hair fell down onto the bright blue of the cape as I sat there frozen in disbelief. The barber went over and over my head with the clippers roughly steering my head from left to right, and up and down until not a single hair had escaped the onslaught before he finally switched the clippers off. Next, he removed the black comb attachment from the clippers and switching them back on again, proceeded to whizz them about over the comb as he blended the almost bald sides in with the very slightly longer hair on top. Lots of little hairs drifted down to the cape, some of them sticking to my nose and making me itch. Next, out came the big silver hairdryer to blast a torrent of hot air over my head and in my face, successfully removing any little lingering loose bits of hair that remained, as well as to clear the blue smock of the piles of my brown locks that had built up over the last ten minutes.

Finally, Mr Harrison untucked the back of the cape and administered a spine-tingling scrape with a cut throat razor to my lower neck, before proceeding to carve arches high into the stubble above my ears and shaving off the remains of my sideboards, level with the tops of my ears. He then finished off by dusting my neck with clouds of sweet-smelling white powder of some sort. "I think we can safely say that that is a nice short haircut," announced the barber, as he gave me a vigorous brushing down before waving his hand mirror behind my head. I dare not look, and kept my eyes firmly closed.

"Yes," agreed my mum. "Thank you so much for your patience, and my apologies once again. I don’t think he’ll be tempted to behave like that again next time he has a haircut."

"Madam, think nothing of it," replied Mr Harrison. "It was nothing that couldn't be dealt with... was it, young man?"

"Say thank you to Mr Harrison for your haircut, Simon," said my Mum.

"I think it’s horrible, everyone’s going to laugh at me. I’m not saying thank you to anybody."

"Sorry about this Mr Harrison. Simon, we’ll deal with you when we get home. Wait til your father hears about your appalling rude behaviour…"

The cape was then dragged off me, spilling the last of my cut hair to the floor, the chair was let down, and in a state of absolute shellshock, I climbed down, my Mum paid and I put my coat on. I dismally surveyed the mounds of cut hair - mine and Stephen's - all over the floor; there was more than enough to stuff a cushion. Finally, just as Stephen had done earlier, I pulled my hood tightly over my semi-bald head and stepped out into the street, my eyes still red and moist with tears.


"Good grief, did you really swear at the barber in front of your mum?" I asked Simon as we hung up our choir gear in the vestry cupboard. "Wasn’t that a bit of a daft thing to do to upset them like that, especially when you were in such a dangerous place as a barber's shop?"

Simon rubbed his shorn velvety scalp. "Perhaps it was, and my dad went mad with me. I felt like crap at first looking like this, but I think it’s growing on me " quite literally, and I especially like the feel of it. And let's look on the bright side - I'd be surprised if they ever make me go back to that crappy barber's place again after what I did there last week. In any case, I won’t have to have another haircut again for ages " this will take forever to grow back… if I decide to let it. You should get yours done, Stephen, it would suit you…"

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