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A Haircut Has Been Arranged by Snipped Sam


“So nice to see you again Nicholas, my haven’t you grown."

Mr Bray, my former piano teacher remarked shaking my hand enthusiastically, I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years, since I had given up my piano lessons when I was fourteen. He invited me to join him for a coffee which I was pleased to do. We went to a local café and the coffees soon arrived and we were chatting away, I was never his best pupil, but overall, I enjoyed my lessons with him.

“When I first saw you, I mentioned how much you had grown."

“Yes, I have shot up recently."

“Indeed, your hair seems to have grown a great deal as well young Nicholas."

Mr Bray favoured the very short traditional haircut and I sensed his disapproval as I was also aware that I had gone red. Just like I used to when he caught me out for not doing all my piano practise during the week.

“Yes, it has got even longer recently."

“I’m surprised that your father hasn’t sent you to the barbers?"

“No, I’m allowed a bit of freedom with my hair now I’m sixteen."

“A bit of freedom is an understatement, Nicholas."

“It doesn’t surprise me that you say that."

“Why do you say that?"

“I know that you prefer shorter haircuts."

“I certainly do, and the first thing which occurred to me when I met you earlier, was somebody needs a haircut."

“I was quite aware that you were looking at my hair Sir."

What I hadn’t mentioned to Mr Bray was that I had grown my hair long to see what it would look like, and to be like other lads my age who in 1973 also had longer hair. In one way I was more than curious to see how this conversation might pan out.

“As you know Nicholas, I am a firm believer in speaking my mind, and I think your hair badly needs cutting and sooner rather than later, sorry if that offends you."

“No, it doesn’t offend me."

“Glad to hear it, and to be honest I am not that sorry for saying it."

I nodded, and I wondered if Mr Bray was going to act on it, because at that moment I did not find the idea of him sending me for a haircut in the least preposterous. When he was my piano teacher, he had threatened to bring a ruler down hard on my knuckles when my fingers were too flat on the notes. Now I was getting a rap on the knuckles for the length of my hair.

“Well Nicholas, I do need to head off because I have an appointment, it’s very nice to see you again."

“And you Mr Bray and thanks again for the coffee."

As he shook my hand Mr Bray slightly hesitated for a moment before telling me;

“It may be of interest to you, that my elderly father doesn’t go very far these days and so we have a retired barber come to the house to cut his hair, he does mine too. I could always arrange for you to see him as well if you like, it would make a change from the usual trip to the gents hairdressers … I can highly recommend him."

“When you say retired how old is he?"

“In his sixties perhaps, but he certainly isn’t past it, if that’s what you’re thinking."

“No, I wasn’t thinking that Sir, I’m perhaps thinking that he won’t approve of my longer hair."

I wouldn’t worry too much about that, after all when he sees your hair, it will be because he is going to cut it."

Mr Bray and I parted with the understanding that I would call him if I decided that I would take him up on the offer. For the rest of the day, I thought of little else, as I mentioned earlier, I had not found the idea of Mr Bray sending me for a haircut in the least preposterous. Even if part of me questioned if it was a good idea, and so that evening I decided to call him. When he answered the telephone, he seemed surprised to hear from me.

“Hello Nicholas, what can I do for you?"

“It’s about what we were talking about earlier, you know…My hair."

“Oh yes, your rather long hair, so would you like me to arrange for you to have a haircut?"

“Please."

“Good lad."

Mr Bray then checked when I would be free, I worked in the afternoons as it was the summer holidays from school. Less than ten minutes later the telephone rang.

“Hello Nicholas, good news young man, you’re being done in the morning, be here for ten o’clock."

I hadn’t expected that it would be quite so soon, but I suspected that Mr Bray intended to strike while the iron was hot. His very words were a direct instruction and I knew that there was no backing out. So, the very next morning I got up early, got washed and dressed and headed over the Mr Bray’s house, he answered the door.

“Nice and punctual Nicholas, Mr Burrell is already here, you’re having your haircut in the sunroom, I have a pupil here so I will quickly take you through."

I was shown to the back of the house to where the lean-to sun room was, for the first time I saw Mr Burrell the man who was going to cut my hair. I was introduced to a rather smallish man, he had thick white hair, and was smartly dressed and already had on his white barbers coat.

“Hello Nicholas, let’s get you straight in the haircut chair."

He said pointed to the folding deckchair which was fully assembled in readiness for me. I sat down and he soon had fitted the white nylon cape around me, then snugly tucked in. The deckchair was quite low, so it seemed despite his lack of height Mr Burrel towered over me.

“Do you prefer Nicholas or Nick?"

“Nick."

“Jolly good, I’m Mr Burrell."

“I know."

“When Mr Bray made your appointment, he said your hair was very long, but I didn’t realise it was quite so long."

“It’s been a while since I last had it cut Mr Burrell."

“I’m sure it has Nick, but we don’t need to dwell on it."

Taking the comb from the top pocket of his barbers coat, he began combing my hair. It then struck me that this was something totally unique for me, a barber who had come to Mr Bray’s house especially to cut my hair. The other thing which was different was that there was no mirror, earlier I had noticed that he had a small case, with all his equipment in it.

“You realise that it will cost more than you usually would pay to go to a shop."

“Mr Bray said it would cost more than going to a gents hairdressers, because you were coming here, and I think I have brought enough money."

“It will be one pound exactly; I take it you have that much with you."

“Yes, definitely."

He tilted my head slightly forward and then I felt my hair being lifted at the back and there was a loud snip with the scissors, and then another snip followed soon after. So, there was to be no consultation with me about my hair, although I realised that maybe the consultation had already taken place between the barber and Mr Bray. I knew that it wasn’t my imagination that there were large pieces of my sandy coloured hair falling to the floor. In the background I could hear scales being played on the piano. I remembered my piano lessons there, being made to play endless scales, and now I had returned to this house for a haircut. I soon realised that the hair which had grown well over my collar had been taken, I decided to ask him a bit more.

“Without a mirror it’s hard to know how much you are cutting off Sir."

“I wouldn’t worry too much about that Nick."

“I’d still like to know."

“I’m sure, but I’ve got it all in hand."

For a smallish man, he was certainly a firm and no-nonsense barber. Shortly after he tilted my head forward and more snips happened. Now I could see the large chunks of hair fall in front of me, some which were now resting on the cape. Eventually the cutting all stopped and he brushed the loose hairs away.

“Quite a transformation young man."

“I expect it is."

“So, although you are sixteen, you are still at school?"

“Yes, I start in the sixth form next week."

“With a very smart haircut."

“Yes."

“Just so you know Nick, I didn’t bring my electric clippers with me, they would be quite loud and buzzy if I was using them to taper the back and sides of your head. And with a piano lesson going on in the other room, we don’t want your haircut to disturb them, do we?"

“No Sir."

I replied in one way being relieved that I wasn’t having electric clippers used on my hair. But Mr Burrell was looking inside his case, and then to my surprise he showed me some hand operated clippers.

“These will be much quieter, just a little click."

“I really don’t want those to be used Sir."

“But I won’t be able to get the hair on the back of your head as short as it needs to be without using them."

“But that will be drastically short."

“A few might say it’s drastic, including you at the moment Nick, but it needs to be done."

He looked determined, I sensed that there was nothing that I might say which would steer him off this course of action. My biggest concern was the reaction when I returned to school with an extremely short haircut, but I was aware that I had allowed myself to be put in this position. Right from when I was first told to sit down on the deck chair, I had not spoken up. He placed his hand firmly on the top of my head, he started to bend my head forward, my first reaction was to try and resist this. But his pressure was firm and having positioned my head, Mr Burrel wasted no time in starting clipping the back of my head. After the first journey up with the clippers, it was now futile to think of any resistance or even to protest. For a sixteen-year-old lad fast approaching six feet tall, I was no match for a strict elderly barber of about five foot tall. I also realised that sitting low down in a deck chair made me feel even more repressed.

Mr Burrell could certainly operate the clippers with speed and they clicked away furiously, it wasn’t too long before my head was tilted to the left, and the side of my head was being clipped. I heard the front door close, and I guessed that Mr Bray’s pupil had just left. Shortly after Mr Bray came into the sunroom, then I heard Mr Bray seniors voice and Mr Bray tell his father it was fine to come in. They were both in time to see the final stages of my clipping. As Mr Burrell brushed the hairs away, both Mr Bray’s expressed their approval of his work.

“There really is no better way to finish a boys haircut than with a good clipping."

“He wasn’t too keen on the idea, but I wasn’t going to be swayed otherwise."

Mr Burrell replied to Mr Bray junior, as he shaved my neck with a razor.

“Oh, dear Nicholas, I had hoped you had seen the error of your ways."

“I have Sir, I just didn’t want to be clipped, but I’m sure I will get used to it."

“You’ll have to."

Mr Bray junior replied, just as Mr Burrell announced that he would be putting some hair oil on my hair. He then vigorously rubbed in some hair oil into my hair, before combing it into place. Handed me a mirror so I could see what he had done. I could not remember when my hair was as short, but I had to admit it was very smart. The cape was removed and I was allowed to stand, I was then handed a brush and dustpan by Mr Bray and told to sweep up all my hair. It took two trips to the dustbin to dispose of my hair, Mr Bray senior was expressing his disapproval of the amount of hair that had come from my head. Once I had made sure that no hair was remaining on the floor, I handed over the crisp one-pound note to Mr Burrell. I thanked him for my haircut, and he suggested that perhaps I might join both Mr Brays when he came to cut their hair in just under three weeks’ time.

“No going back to long hair now Nicholas."

“No sir."

I replied to the younger Mr Bray, and so for the next two years whilst I was at school, the third Monday of the month was my haircut night. I especially remember leaving there on a January evening, the snow was falling and the icy wind chilled the back of my severely clipped head. These days I look forward to the winter, and when the snow falls and the wind is crisp, I head for the barbers. I make sure I get a severe haircut and would never dream of taking a scarf, so I can relive that memory.




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