ME AND THE KURDS
I’m not sure what Confucius was thinking about when he said that ‘everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.’ Probably not my hair.
To be honest, I think less about my hair than the Duke of Edinburgh does about the Highway Code, which I think we can agree is little or not at all.
But, just as there is that moment when someone throws open a door and you see the rest of your life for the first time, so there is always a specific day when your hair goes from being respectable to problematical, like an avocado goes from bullet to squashed mess in the blink of a fridge light; that moment for me was this morning. It stared insolently back at me from the mirror like an unbiddable child, and defied the comb completely. For many years I have shared that bit of my patronage with my town’s two barbers where, for £8 and £9 respectively, I can listen to ten or fifteen minutes of refreshingly robust views on immigration, the Rotary or the iniquities of the business rates system. Plus, of course, the haircut.
Suddenly, however, the pace of life has quickened, and a Turkish barber has opened up at the other end of North Street. Being in that stage of my life where only experimentation can keep me from being an old git, I decided to give him a try at lunchtime today, and see what he could produce out of my £11 investment. Quite a lot, as it happens.
Everyone round here knows it as the ‘Turkish’ barber, but I had been tipped the wink, and, knowing that the Turks are about as popular to the Kurds as basic maths is to Diane Abbot, I began by saying that I had been searching for a Kurd to cut my hair for years, and was truly delighted to have found them. Not as delighted as he was to hear it.
‘How did you know? He asked.
‘It’s my business to know these things.’ I replied, fraudulently.
The hair bit was easy. He just asked me what or who I wanted to look like, and then cut and bullied my hair until it was as close as he could reasonably get, which, to be fair, was pretty good given the raw material he had to work with. I asked him about the PPK, but instead he told me of the sweet rhubarb fields of Northern Iraq, and the delicate asparagus from the gardens of his mountain village. He said I should stay there one day. ‘You can stay in my house,’ he added.
Then he said: ‘And the eyebrows?’, and I didn’t know what to reply.
‘What about them?’ I asked.
‘I should trim them,’ he replied, and did.
‘Am I that sort of age?’ I asked.
‘Not at all. You have good hair, and much of it.’ He made it sound like I was Casanova. ‘But they are hair, too, and some must go’.
‘And the nose?’ He was working his way downhill from my scalp, and had the air of a man who had only just started.
‘What do you think?’ I asked. He set to work with his wax, and told me of the beauty of Eastern Anatolia, of the Syrian brown bears and the golden jackal. ‘Come and see them for yourself,’ he urged me.
‘And the ears?’ This was like a church song cycle, and I found myself vaguely hoping it would stop there. This was becoming less a haircut than a full on hair-themed experience.
‘And the ears,’ I confirmed. He set to work with an electrolysis machine that sparked gently as he warmed it. In anyone else’s hands, I would have fretted, but in his, it was simply an excitement to come. As he did it, he gently told me about the goats on Mount Ararat. ‘No ark, you see,’ and he smiled at the thought.
After fifteen minutes, with more razoring of my neck and sideburns, we were done, and I asked him what I owed him, nervous that those extras would rack up like in a BMW showroom.
‘Eleven pounds, please’, he replied. The basic cost covered everything, and I told him how rare that was.
‘It is my job to send you out into that street looking as good as you possibly can.’
By a distance, it is the most enjoyable haircut I have ever had.