In the mid 1990s my main client was based in Edinburgh, and I drove between there and Glasgow day and night, usually in the dark because it was winter.
One particularly cold day, on my way to get a sandwich for lunch, I spotted a brightly lit barbershop. Through clouds of my foggy breath and the condensation streaming down the barber’s window, I could see no queue – an ideal opportunity for a quick haircut. I entered on the spur of the moment, and was shown a chair by the traditional old-man barber wearing a grey dustcoat.
His shop was very warm; on full-blast was one of those large portable Calor Gas bottle box heaters, in front of which lay a large Alsation dog fast asleep. I was draped in a large black sheet, and the barber set to work.
I nearly dozed off due to the heat and the gentle humming of the clippers as the barber defined my hairline. Suddenly all hell broke loose.
The dog had caught fire and jumped to its feet, wide awake and yelping in fear and pain. My reflex action was to sharply move away from the barking dog. This motion, together with the barber being himself startled, caused the clippers to shave a trough across my head. I looked bad.
The barber was in a panic in case the hair on the floor caught alight. Trying to put out the fire on the dog involved beating the dog, and the dog was now in a biting mood. He bit the barber’s leg, and I grabbed the animal while the old man – through clenched teeth – put out the smoking pelt with a bottle of spray water.
This large German Shepherd urinated onto the hairy floor, and we had trouble stopping the animal rolling into the mess. It’s feet were sliding and clawing as it retreated into the corner under the customer bench, whimpering.
While the dog calmed down, we fixed up the barber’s bitten leg, brushed the hair away from the heater (which we turned down) and mopped up the urine-soaked hair at the doorway. Finished with our exertions, the barber looked at my hair and muttered, “Mamma mia!”.
Seeing myself in the mirror, I agreed to getting a “Number One All Over” – my head was shaved as close as a Chinese monk. He said there would be no charge as he helped me on with my suit jacket and coat.
Outside, it was even colder now. I had to go to Woolworth’s to buy a woolly hat.
Apart from being cold all winter, and having to wear an ugly hat, I was the subject of great mirth back at the office. It started as soon as I returned from Woolworth’s – Security didn’t recognise me, and I looked nothing like the photo on my ID pass.