WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward
It’s that twice a year feeling coming on again and by this I mean yet another trip -must mind that step - to the hairdressers for one of my usual half yearly trims. I tell myself that I am some sort of trendsetter when it comes to hair removal although in my, and a lot of others, it’s a basic strip down the middle of the head job and it does not involve these new state of the art hair removal devices. These devices are currently – if mains powered - the trendy thing to have it would seem although I note that one such device can occupy a full page in national magazines and newspapers and despite listing the merits of the ‘free gifts’ to enhance the supposed sale, there is nowhere a single mention of the actual price of the device itself other than send for a ‘free trial’ although a quick shufty on-line can require a swift sit down after seeing what it is.
The concept of selling something on a ‘trial’ basis has seemingly, as far as I am aware, never applied to petrol, diesel or foodstuffs oddly enough but back to the hair removal tackle as I was under the impression that this was a girly thing but no, it seems this can appeal to the bloke element I am informed although so far nothing of the male gender has reared its “smooth as a babies’ botty armpit” for a quick look at and those suggesting I am not getting out as much as I should may well be right.
Although the old method, so to speak, of basic hair removal is thus: (voice-over) ‘I no longer have hairy knuckles since I slipped with the blowlamp taking the paint off the front door and people are forever stopping me now to admire my hairless knuckies and I tell them it’s all down to the paraffin powered Acme Blowlamp that I tried to pick up by the wrong end’ (before you wonder, rest assured Health & Safety procedure was followed with filling in many Risk Assessment forms, wearing Hi Vis clothing, asbestos free underwear, goggles, ear defenders, hard hat, steel toe capped boots, St Christopher necklace, plus ‘lucky’ rabbit’s foot as added reassurance and this was just to fill it with paraffin as you can’t be too careful these days..)
It was while I was sitting in the chair in my hairdressers (they have asked for no publicity and I respect their wishes although the price remained the same – Search and Find: £4-50 – actual Cut and Trim: £1) that we were mumbling away about the above hair removal malarkey that it crossed my mind that when it comes down to the basic hair cutting process, it has not changed all that much over the years although I find it a bit of a tight squeeze sitting on the board across the chair armrests nowadays but I then realise there can be evolutionary changes involved and this is but a part of that ongoing change.
As a mere teenager I and my mates, friends, countrymen and well wishers used to visit any hairdresser, or as they were then, barbers, to get the job done as it was never a case ‘I only entrust my hair to so and so’, as it was who was available at the ‘right price’ without sitting it out in the waiting section and reading dog-eared copies of the Gardening World, The Exchange & Mart (I still have a fond spot for the gud ole Ex & Mt as they were the very first publication to accept any written material from me, although I think I had to pay them for it..) or wotever and one barber that springs to mind is the following as in the incredible Uneven Steven. He was basically the ‘end of the line’ when it came to haircutting in our area as he catered for a slightly older market normally than us teenagers as he dealt with those of “a certain age” as we say nowadays as in those who had fought in world wars, gate-crashed jumbles sales and created havoc at bus stops about wanting their pet corgi to have a seat on the bus as well as themselves. Uneven was in rustic terms to us kids “the last resort” as if all the other barbers were busy and in Uneven’s salon, a good (or bad..) sign was there was nobody waiting to be seen so you could get in quick.
Steven or “Mr Steven” as he liked to be called had acquired his name Uneven Steven by the fact when the victim, sorry, client was in the chair, with Steven clipping away and joining in singing along to the music being played on the radio in the salon, he could get carried away with the music or song being played – ‘Bolero’, made even more famous by ice skaters Torville and Dean, was one to be very frightened of if in the chair as it was playing and he joined in as his arms flew everywhere to the music.
In basic terms, if he was nattering away and due to his bad hearing, he would lean over towards the customer who might be sitting reading away but in the process, as he leaned over, his clippers or scissors or other carving equipment didn’t and being so close to the skull and hair section, thus cut lumps of hair out that were not supposed to be cut out, hence the ‘Uneven’ name he acquired.
As the end result on the victim, sorry client, could be quite life changing as folk wandered out after a session in the chair with basically wonky, crooked looking or deranged looking haircuts and in some cases rumours spread that some were wigs as they were cut so lopsided and this lead to people trying to twist real hair straight in mistake for it being a wig like: ‘It’s on crooked, Stan – now let me straighten it for you, luv’ sort of thing from wives, girlfriends and welfare workers as they were called then but despite this, he still could muster trade although in fairness he did leave a bowl of fresh water outside for some of his clients’ dogs.
One client/victim observed that they/we were grateful the Salvation Army Band played on Sundays only and so did not cause any undue mayhem on other days when they marched past at full blast (his shop was close to their hall) as the demand for second-hand, once used ear holes might well be unquenchable after their passing, with Mr Steven and his clipper or cut throat on the go and ‘joining in’ to the music and could well have brought a whole new meaning to “Onward Christian soldiers..”.
He retired when he was well into his late seventies, years not victims, and moved away to live ‘somewhere on the coast’, unspecified, but every time we went to assorted coastal resorts over the years, we always looked out for anybody sporting a deranged haircut as we would know, perhaps, he was still keeping his clippers a-clackering away.