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Meeting Grandad's Barber by Snipped Sam
“This is my grandson, Simon."
Grandad said as he introduced me to his barber, who then held out his hand to shake mine which I politely did. He was a very smart man, perhaps in his early fifties, tall and stout, bald on the top of his head and the sides and back were cut very short, he wore round rimmed spectacles.
“Nice to meet you Simon, I am Mr Monroe, now why don’t you find yourself a seat over there in the waiting area, while I look after your Grandad."
I did as he said while he and grandad went over to the barber’s chair. With it being so old fashioned, I felt quite out of place to be there with my typical 1970s hair over my ears and collar look. The shop had a slightly overwhelming smell of hair preparations which I rather liked.I listened as the scissors snipped and Grandad and the barber put the world to rights, I was staying with my grandparents for a few days during the school holidays. By all accounts Grandad always went to have his hair cut on the fourth Thursday of month and nothing must get in the way of that routine.The barber asked me if I was enjoying my stay, to which I replied that I was, as he continued with Grandad’s hair and he was soon was busy with some clippers. I could hear Grandad saying that he had to go to the bank and then to the post office, and it was a bit of a nuisance that they were opposite ends of the High Street.
“Why not leave Simon here, he seems happy enough and then pick him up when you have finished."
“That’s an idea, especially as I have to talk about a private matter with the bank."
“You’ll be okay with staying here won’t you Simon?"
“Yeh, I can stay here."
I replied to Mr Monroe, although I wasn’t too keen on the idea, but Grandad seemed to think it would be ideal, and once he came off the chair, he paid the barber for his haircut and off he set. I sat here whilst the barber busied himself with tidying up and sweeping up the hair that had fallen on the floor. Whilst I felt that this place was so old fashioned compared to the gent’s hair stylists that I went to where I lived, on another level I thought it would have been exciting if Granddad had decided to have my hair cut as well. Soon after that a very well-dressed gentleman came in and took his place in the barber’s chair, he was very grand in the way he spoke.
During his haircut I heard him ask the barber why I was there, and he told him that I was waiting for Grandad who was attending to some business. Soon after that he said that he had probably left me there in the hope I got a haircut to which the barber chuckled. He didn’t have the greatest amount of hair and after a few minutes stepped out of the chair. As the barber held his sports jacket for him to put back on, he looked at me and said;
“I think you should cut this boy’s hair next."
I felt very uncomfortable, this really wasn’t the place to be with hair the length that mine was, and the gentleman clearly thought that I should be heading in the direction of the chair.
“What do you think Simon?"
“Grandad didn’t say anything about me having a haircut."
“Why else would he leave you at the with a barber?"
The gentleman asked, clearly not about to abandon his quest.
“So, he could attend to his business a bit quicker."
“I’m quite sure he would be very pleased to return to find a smart young man waiting for him, don’t you?"
Mr Monroe the barber was quite correct, it was a certainty that Grandad would be happy.
“Yes, I suppose that he would be pleased."
“I could cut it short, just the way he would like it."
“Do I have to have it cut short?"
I replied with a mixed range of thoughts whirling around in my head, especially with the barber having teamed up with the gentleman.
“The barber just said that your Grandad would like it to be short, and now I suggest that you let the barber take care of it."
“This way Simon."
He said firmly, and I nervously stood up and followed the barber to his chair, we soon reached it and he removed the cape from the back of the chair and I sat down. He unfolded the white nylon cape and with a quick flick, it fell into position, to be quickly fitted around my neck and fastened at the back. After this a small white cotton towel which was more like a soft linen napkin was tucked in at the back. Having prepared me he used his foot on the pump to raise the chair up much higher. At this point the gentleman said good bye and left and after selecting long pointed steel scissors and a comb, the barber bent my head forward. I felt some of my hair that fell over my collar being lifted with the comb and there was a large snip, then again and then again, and I felt the soft haired brush move across the back of my neck where there had once been hair. He then wasted no time and took away the hair that had once covered my ears. He then lifted my head up combed my hair forward and snipped along my fringe.
“That wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought it would be, was it Simon?"
“I suppose not."
“I’ll use the clippers next, so hopefully your hair will be nice and short before your Grandad returns."
“Nothing to worry about Simon, it’s going to get hotter as the week goes on, you’ll be much happier with the sides and back shaved."
“What do you mean shaved?"
“Oh, I don’t mean shaved bare, just nice short bristles."
“No, I really don’t want that done."
“Don’t you want to look really smart and make your Grandad proud?"
“I really think he will like what you have already done."
“Oh, he will Simon, but he will like this more, and I’m sure once you have got used to it, you will too."
I watched him pause over the three different clippers which were hanging from hooks in front of where I was sitting, before selecting the Brown Bakelite clippers. Mr Monroe appeared to be a really nice man, but as a barber he seemed uncompromising, and as far as he was concerned this clipping was going ahead. I knew that there was nothing that I could do to stop it, he was Grandad’s barber and it wasn’t as if I could get off the chair and make a run for it. Added to this it was a one-off haircut, I wasn’t a regular customer that he might have wanted to keep happy. As I mentioned earlier, on one level I had thought that it would have been quite exciting if Grandad had left me to have my haircut. Although in one way I dreaded the consequences of what Mr Monroe was about to do, I also remembered the first ever haircuts I had at the barbers. Being excited about having my hair cut very short with the clippers, being told to keep my head still, I had liked it then and I realised that part of me was going to quite like it now if only I would let myself.
Mr Monroe turned around with the clippers in his hand, the long lead followed him as he moved to the back of the chair where I was sitting. The sick feeling I had in my stomach was partly due to the dread of what my friends would say when I returned home and they saw I had been clipped. But more so of being excited at what the barber was about to do, by heart was racing when I saw him lift his hand and place it on the top of my head. His firm hand guided my head right down, the tightening of the grip ensured that he pushed it down as far as he could.
“I want you to keep your head very still for me Simon, you mustn’t be tempted to try and look in the mirror at what is happening, is that clear?"
I managed to reply, struggling to talk clearly with my head bent right down, I had never called a barber Sir before, so I was a little surprised that I just had. I heard the switch on the clippers being flicked and immediately there was a loud buzz. The clippers touched my neck and soon that loud buzz sounded different as the clippers munched their way through the hair on the back of my head. I felt the hair fall away as he guided the clippers high up the back of my head. These had looked big bulky clippers compared to ones that I noticed at the gents’ hairdressers where I usually went. The clippers had just completed their fourth journey up when I heard Grandad’s voice.
“I’ve been to the bank and I just popped in to see if Simon wanted to come with me to the post office, but I can see that he isn’t free right now."
“You could say that, although I’m sure he would rather come to the post office with you than what’s happening to him here."
“I’ll head off to the post office and collect him on the way back."
Grandad left and the barber continued with his clippers, working above my ears. I smiled to myself having heard Mr Monroe say that I would rather have gone to the post office than what was happening. I supposed that most boys my age would have hated what he was doing, but I was enjoying it so much I thought I might wet my trousers with excitement.
“I think your Grandad was very pleased to see I had got you in the chair."
Mr Monroe said as he brushed away the loose hairs, and then took different clippers, and worked away on the lower area of the back of my head and then above my ears. When the clippers had been returned to their hook, and my head brushed down, he lifted up my head.
“A big improvement what say you young Simon."
I looked at my reflection in the mirror, it was like another boy had taken my place.
“I look very different."
“But in a good way."
He remarked picking up some scissors and a comb and starting to cut the hair on the top of my head.
“With any luck I should have you near enough finished by the time your Grandad gets back."
“It’s been a while since he has seen me with my hair this short."
“It really suits you so much better shorter, and I do know you probably think that I have been a bit heavy handed with the clippers."
“Well, I haven’t seen the back yet, but I’m guessing that it’s going to be really short."
“You could say that."
Having placed the scissors back he visited the remaining hair on the top of my head with the thinning shears for a final chop-chop of my hair, then a good brush down of my head, face and neck. He then dribbled some hair oil from a chrome dispenser from the side onto my hair and after rubbing it in combed my hair into a precise parting. Having placed the comb on the side he picked up another chrome dispenser which looked like a spray.
“Just shut your eyes for me."
I did and he lowered my head slightly forward
“This may tingle slightly"
He said as he sprayed the fine mist on the sides and back of my head, it was very cold and did tingle a bit and smelt a bit like TCP.
“Just in time to give us your verdict on your Grandson’s haircut."
“Just in time for Grandad to pay for it as well."
“Don’t wash your hair today Simon, so the antiseptic can do its job, you have a touch of redness from all the clipping, which is why I have sprayed your head."
Mr Monroe said returning the sprayer, then then returned and lifted my head up, Grandad was standing there and was smiling as he looked at my haircut.
“I really like the way you have done the back and the sides; it really is the best his hair has ever looked."
“Well, I think it’s a hit with Grandad."
“Yes, I think it is."
Mr Monroe held the mirror so I could see his work on the back of my head, the clipping was severe and I truly believed at that point in time, no other fourteen-year-old boy had a haircut as short as mine. Once the mirror had been returned, he proceeded to powder dust my neck and down the back of my shirt. After removing the cape, he dropped down the barber’s chair and I stepped off, as I wiped my neck, Grandad paid him for my haircut.
“Hopefully we will meet again Simon."
“He usually comes to stay for a couple of days at half term in October, I expect he will need a haircut then."
I certainly did need a haircut then, and whenever we visited my Grandparents for the day on a Saturday, I would be dropped off at Mr Monroe’s on the way through the town. I would then catch a bus to my grandparent’s house following a short back and sides scalping from him. With the very short haircuts which he now gave me, I very rarely had my hair cut in the town where I lived.