Andy Richardson: Hair today. . . new look’s a cut above
She wielded the clippers with the precision of a surgeon.
A serial homicidal surgeon, that is. The Scottish lady in the Edinburgh barber shop was what you might call clumsy. Or ham-fisted. She didn’t have fingers, she had big fat twigs that were as nimble and dextrous as girders.
I wondered whether she oughtn’t to have been joining the welders on the Clyde, rather than being trusted with a sharp pair of scissors and the neck of a customer.
She was short; so short that she couldn’t reach the top of this vertically-challenged columnist’s head. I imagined she might use the up-and-downy-thing on the chair to lower me closer to the floor. Not a bit of it. Instead, she placed her hands on my shoulders and pressed, squishing me lower into the seat. “Get down a bit,” she growled. I acquiesced, laughing inwardly at her gruffness.
I’ve never been to a Turkish barbers in Edinburgh before. And I’m not sure I’ll go to one again.
The woman resumed service; scratching at the back of my head and top of my ear with the clippers as though she were a drunk gardener using a rake to scratch up autumn leaves. My ears ached. I didn’t flinch.
A man next to me was having problems of his own. A brave soul, he’d opted for a blade shave and was wearing a large beard full of creamy-looking soap, just before the razor was applied.
He’d parked his sports car directly outside the shop, wrongly imagining that there wouldn’t be any parking attendants that afternoon. When an attendant appeared he hopped out of his street, comically running down the road with a beard full of soap so that he could drive away to park legally. When he returned, 15 minutes later, beard still full of soap, the barber resumed work, cutting him within 15 seconds. Ain’t no Turkish barber like an Edinburgh Turkish barber.
My red-faced clipper-wielding hair-cutter was intrigued by the other customer’s Nissan 370Z Coupe. Summoning all the gravitas she could muster and creating the image that she might just know what she was talking about, she asked him the most important question she could think of about his car: “What colour is it, Ken?”
Having learned that it was blue, she proceed to talk about her love of cars – even though she used the bus.
She learned that mine was white and then told me the thing she liked most about the automotive industry. “I like the cars that go peep, peep, peep,” she said. “Does yours do that?” Incredulous doesn’t come close.
I’d been at Edinburgh for the annual festival – an event that makes Glastonbury look like a vicar’s tea party. Gay gymnasts set fire to their own beards, plus-sized Nigerian drag queens reinvented Whitney Houston songs while wearing gold lamé dresses, the world’s best comedians vied to write and tell the best joke in the world – my favourite was about a trio of rock tribute acts: Jeff Leppard, Brian Maiden and PeteLoaf – and street food vendors offered tripled cooked chips and lobster rolls. Nice.
Before each show, a short announcement sounded telling punters to switch off their mobile phones. Like the other people assembled, I did precisely that as I settled in for a show. But what I failed to do was switch off the dramatic-sounding BBC News theme song that plays at the volume of the Edinburgh Tattoo every time a new headline breaks. And so, in the silence of an Edinburgh show, just when some comedian or other was about to reach the punchline, my phone exclaimed: Dun Dun Der Der Der, Der Der. Newsflash.
I left the marquee, embarrassed, and found a quiet place to sit solemnly while I spectacularly failed to switch off the BBC notifications. Grrrrr!
It’s not the first time my smart phone has out-smarted its owner. An app installed to warn of upcoming speed cameras was doing a brilliant job – until it failed to realise on one occasion I had stepped out of the car and was sitting at my desk.
My desk is approximately a quarter of a mile from a traffic camera and my phone assumed I’d driven the car into the office and was waiting for other cars to get out of the way before I continued my journey, as you do.
Every 15 minutes, at a volume that makes Megadeth sound like praying Buddhist monks, my phone squawked: “Speed camera in 400 metres. Slow down.”
I left Edinburgh with my phone intact and an exceptional haircut. But, in truth, as good as the comedians, musicians, drag queens and poets were, nothing topped the ham-fisted, seat-squishing, ear-scuffing barber of West Nicholson Street.
Hopefully next year she can get a show of her own or join in with somebody else’s act. I reckon she’d do a bomb with The Lady Barbers of Bangkok.