Monday 26th September 2011
HAIR was problematic from an early age. If everyone loved those tight, blond curls, why must I have them cut off so often?
“Short back’n’sides for him too.”
Father was obdurate, the barber keen-edged. A shearing cost 1s 6d, of which thruppence was the customary tip. You could get a dozen chews for that.
Later came the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Woodstock. That was it. Never again the humiliation of exposed ears, the strangulation of that cloth under the chin. I left home for university determined to grow both beard and pony-tail.
Only once since then have I paid a professional to trim my mane. Kind girlfriends, partners, daughters and granddaughters have indulged this onerous idiosyncrasy. Employers responded with shrugs, pupils with nicknames, their parents with frowns.
On a few occasions, I have shaved everything off, to combat infestations of nits: effective, but a drastic measure and not popular with young offspring: tears for fears.
Time is known to wait for no man. Like my father, I have entered my seventh decade with a head of hair, but plantation has given way to clearing, thick thatch to thin veil. This summer, on the beach, I was advised to apply sun-blocking lotion to the barren wastes between.
Pepper-and-salt is the polite term for the ashen grains that remain on pate and chin. They are now more coils than curls: wisps that wouldn’t look out of place on the grass by a pond where fowl feed, or ascending from the bowl of a meerschaum briar in some gentlemen’s club of yore.
Which brings me to the question of texture – and herein lies the rub; or, rather, the itch.
Beard and moustache are beginning to lose their softness. Will the bristles of lip and cheek soon become hard wired? I find myself wanting to trim and truncate with increasing regularity. Where once flourished a pillow of feathery down, there now dwells a feeling of tangled undergrowth.
The lion would be lying if he didn’t admit that he may shortly be heading back to short back’n’sides.