The Great Barnet Fair Tragedy


I’ve never had good hair.

All my life I’ve been aware that, no matter which cut I was sporting at the time, or how much I spent on haircuts, or how many times I’d plead with my mum not to go berserk with her new trimming tool, I’d been born with a sad, bad Barnet. Several attempts at the hairstyles of the day had proved that whichever cut I had, I looked like a chubby bloke being attacked by a large badly-coiffured hamster.

Luckily, growing up in the early 1970s no-one had a decent haircut, so you could get away with pretty much anything.

What I had to smile about, Christ only knows.

As the 80s arrived and adolescence dawned on me, it was obviously more important to look presentable for the swathes of babes lining up to throw themselves on me. They were all gagging for it. Just not from me, for some reason…

…and no matter how I grew it or cut it, (or how much weight I lost) I stood out from the crowd, like bloke with a dodgy wedge and a burgundy, waffle box-jacket.

In truth, the 90’s were no better. Settling down and having kids, climbing up the professional tree, with all the pressure that brings and, let’s be honest, the odd pint of Vitamin G every now and then didn’t lend itself to furthering my attempts at haute couture above the eyebrows.

Throughout my thirties, it became clear to me that, whatever the state of my rug, one thing was for sure: I was developing more and more face to wash. It wasn’t exactly falling out on the pillow, or escaping down the plughole in the shower, but there was no doubt that it was receding, no matter how long I grew what was left of it.

So by the time I was 35 I decided enough was enough. I took myself off to an UNNAMED barbers (hairdressers) in Blackheath and told the girl to shave it off. I no-longer wanted to look like Ralph Coates, Arthur Scargill or Rab C Nesbitt: NO COMB-OVER FOR ME. Get it off! Now!

She offered another approach: “Well, I could brush it forward and across over here so it looks like….”
“No, no, no, NO!!! Get it off!!” I demanded.

I left there with what was called a “number two” (no relation), or an 8mm trim and there was a skip in my step and a load of itchy hair down my back as I wobbled off, big baldy head an’ all, to work.

And that’s how I stayed. Balding, but reasonably neat and tidy as I plunged headlong towards my forties and early dotage. Realising that if I kept it too short I looked like some sort of Illinois Nazi (little did I know that THAT would come back to haunt me) I kept it trim, clippered but not too skinhead-like. In 1994 I even purchased my first set of home clippers: well worth fifteen quid of anyone’s money. Ever since, like many of my follically-challenged brethren, I’ve been trimming my bonce, with the help of housemates or the Incumbent to get rid of the straggly bits at the back. Occasionally I’d splash out and visit a barber shop (if only for the close-harmony singing) but 9 times out of 10 I’d do it myself.

So when I woke up yesterday morning, aware that my moptop needed attention, I thought nothing of it. My clippers (mark IV, cordless) were in the bathroom cabinet, I turned the shower on in the bath, aligned the mirrored bathroom cabinet door to the correct ajar angle to where I could stand in the bath (the shower jet pointed at my feet) and get a good view of my head (in case I forgot what it looked like) and proceeded the hum-drum process of cutting my own hair.

All went, well, ok I suppose, although not as much was coming off as I’d hoped. I’d been long overdue a trim and we were in danger of entering comb-over zone again so I wanted it trimmed and tidied up, but I must have had the wrong clipper-guard on, because it wasn’t making much of an impression. If you’re gonna have a haircut you may as well have one that people will at least notice, and this wasn’t any good at all. Probably 2mms were coming off and it wasn’t the desired effect.

So, stark bollock naked, I got out of the bath and started hunting for another, shorter guard. Nothing. Bugger. This wasn’t good at all. Then a brain wave came over me. I resumed my position in the tub, this time holding my beard trimmer. It only has a head of about an inch wide, but you can set it anywhere from 12mm down to 2mm. Guess what? I set it to the wrong length. As I made my first, long, slow pass though my hair swathes of greying locks poured off the back of the trimmer. Shit, that was a lot shorter than I’d intended. Never mind, there’s no going back now. I proceeded to carefully go over my head with this mini-trimmer and shave it, if not to within an inch of its life, then to with 1mm of a 4mm haircut.

All done, I directed the shower hose through my hair and across my lithe, muscular body and watched as 8 weeks growth wiggled its way down the plughole. I stared at the mirror. Fuck me! that’s short! Bouncer/copper, copper/bouncer it was pretty scary. Oh well, it’ll grow back.

Out of the bath I dried myself off, applied just the correct amount of Lynx to the oxters, and turned my head to try to see how the back of the bonce looked. Being a one-mirror bathroom, I had to image most of it was ok, but I could see tufts of untouched hair protruding from where the top of my neck joined the bottom of my hair. I was alone on the house. No Incumbent to call on to tidy it all up. I’d just have to do it on my own. So using my left index finger as a guard (it seemed a perfectly reasonable idea at the time), I placed it along where I perceived I wanted by neck hairline to be, and in my right hand the beard trimmer, now without guard, ran it’s way along the bottom edge of my finger. I switched hands and did the same in the other direction. Perfect!

I wasn’t happy though. I needed to see it from myself. so I spent 10 minutes which I didn’t have ( I needed to be o that DLR) looking for a hand mirror. A HAND MIRROR? Fat chance? Never had one, never bought one. Never seen one since my nan’s house. So, in a flash of brilliance I took hold of my phone and photographed the back of my neck. Oh bollocks!! There on the screen I saw a large, ugly, triangular gash in the middle the hairline, where a straight edge should have been.

I can’t go to work looking like that !!!

I actually contemplated calling in sick. I certainly felt sick. But trying to keep my panic at bay, I reached for the bread trimmer again. Replaced the guard and set it to it’s shortest setting, hoping to blend the stubble from my neck into the short hair on the back of my head, in a seamless, professional-looking styling. All of this to be done without a mirror, and half of it left-handed.
Well I could right put half of that ! I went next door to my bedroom and liberated the full-length mirror from the wall. I returned to the bathroom, mirror under my arm.

So now I’m standing in my bathroom, still naked, still damp, late for work, a full-length mirror in my right hand, a beard-trimmer in my left, and my back to the bathroom mirror, confident of emulating Trevor Sorbie and Vidal Sassoon.

I took it gently, and nip, nip, nipped away at a tuft here, a strand there. After ten minutes of this I stood back and decided that unless I was gonna audition for the starring role in Hobson’s Choice, I best leave it as I was. My rear hairline was nearly higher than my front. I’d butchered myself. Fuck it !

It was the warmest day of the year so far. But I wore that scarf high and proud as I made my way into work. If I could have convincingly feigned flu I would have worn it all day.

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11 thoughts on “The Great Barnet Fair Tragedy

  1. I really hadn’t noticed before but in your, erm, more youthful comb-over days you really had a look of Nick Berry about you …

  2. Quit being such a wimp and go on the fecking offensive, yeah? Each time someone gives you a glance–or even looks as though s/he’s considering a comment–nail that look to your face you used to get when yer man explained why jobs needed to be cut (though not his expense budget), let your upper lip tremble in fury, and say “the effects of chemo are both horrid and unpredictable, n’est pas? Another side affect of mine may be you losing your favorite fur when I excise your goolies with a rusty paper clip”. A Neanderthal threat like that would probably be convincing–especially from a guy with a coif like yours. (You other option is you got it at a King Kurt gig: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bj9bDHxAUsw)

  3. S’a pity you didn’t wait until today. It’s much warmer.
    Incidentally, you should go with the “Illinois Nazi” look. You might get cheaper sausages at the farmers market.

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