Yesterday, I believe that Rhys and I came the closest we have ever been to a relationship-jeopardising episode.
I don’t really like to share the particulars pf our relationship, but I feel I have learnt some valuable insights from it, and these are worth sharing.
But before I come to these insights, let me expand on the afternoon’s unfolding…
In truth, the episode had been brewing several weeks.
Indeed, its seed was germinated months ago, on a very a specific Sunday afternoon shortly after lockdown began.
Rhys moved out of London at the beginning of March when his boss announced the decision to let the team work from home. I’ve mentioned before how we – the Simons’ – set him up an ‘office in the front room, and closed the door for him to get on with whatever it is that he actually does under the steady surveillance of Ron the cat. His commitment to keeping his work-life ship shape meant he wasn’t as ready as the rest of us to embrace the joggers and hunker-down in the most dishevelled of states. And no sooner was he getting used to lunches of pineapple with mashed potato than he needed his haircut.
Now, I consider myself something of an expert when it comes to hair-cutting. As a wee dot, I accompanied Mamgu as she cut almost everyone in the community’s hair. I assisted Maggie with her efforts to cut Dadcu’s while he slept, and later cut jaunty layers into her hair, as well as experimental angles into my own fringe. I am also really quite handy at trimming ponies, and Betty’s haircuts have improved significantly. In fact, they’ve improved so significantly, my little pup no longer fears a massacre when I wield a pair of scissors, but rather sighs and slinks of quietly, aware it might be a very long afternoon. So, there you have it: I’m practically an expert.
Therefore, it did irk me ever so slightly when he requested that my mother cut his hair rather than me. Unlike Betty herself, he was less likely to forgive-and-forget my early attempts at grooming. Still, I never said a word and rather I enjoyed the spectacle: here was the man who, just weeks before was getting his hair cut in funky barber’s in Notting Hill, sat on a haybale in shorts and wellies whilst my mother cut his hair with some clippers we pretend are dad’s, but were actually bought for the horses.
Having gained confidence from this experience, he bought himself some brand new hair clippers when we moved to Usk. They sat in the cupboard for a while before I decided that they really should be put to good use and clipped Betty. I eschewed the combs in favour of a naked blade and Betty went from fluffy to sleek in just under an hour. I probably could have made it a 45 minute job if she hadn’t kept wriggling. Watching the blade work magic through the tangled knots in her coats, it was my turn to grow in confidence.
Skip forward a few more weeks, and Rhys felt an unfamiliar sensation, one that he’d previously never felt: his hair was curling, and it was, by now, long enough to tickle his ears.
‘This weekend, maybe you could cut my hair?’ he suggested.
‘Sure,’ I replied, nonchalantly. It was time for my skills to come into their own.
And so it was that yesterday, he sat on a different bale in a different stable block, and I began to cut his hair.
Now, it should probably be noted at this point that he, and he alone, chose the comb to place over the blade. He, and he alone, placed the comb over the blade and fixed it into place. On the back of the comb was the number 9. Only, Rhys never read the leaflet that accompanied his new clippers. No, he assumed the numbers would be universal. He did not assume that the numbers may not be the same barber’s numbers as he’d experienced countless times before. He certainly didn’t expect that the numbers may be millimetres.
Up the back of his head I ran the clippers. He winced and berated me. Fancy letting his hair get so long he needed to comb it first, I thought. Then I carried on.
It was probably as the amount of hair on the floor came to his notice that Samson first felt the need for concern. Then, as I rounded the second ear, he stood up and ran his hand up the back of his head, but he never voiced the angst written on his face. Instead, he then changed the number 9 comb for the number 12 comb, handed me the clippers, and sat back down: time to do the top.
And then. Voila, I thought, My work here is done!
But my client was not impressed. Up he got again, but by now it was too late, the hair was gone. He was in fit of rage. ‘What have you done?’ he asked, running his hands backwards and forwards over his head. ‘You’ve scalped me!’
Betty was at first unable to see what the fuss was: he had an even cut and I hadn’t taken the clippers anywhere near his paws. But sensing his dark and brooding mood, she moved to sit at my feet, staring up at him, her big brown eyes wide. As far as she was concerned, if he didn’t like it, it was his own fault, and she’d be sticking with the one that feeds her shortbread.
Incredulous, unable to believe that he could accuse me of wrong-doing when he himself had prepared the equipment, I made a fatal mistake. I laughed. With that, Goldilocks grabbed his clippers and stormed off, announcing that he would be going out for the rest of the afternoon.
He left on foot, so I knew he wouldn’t be going far. Still, it did take him a few hours to calm down. It’s just as well that he did as he was ‘in-charge’ of supper. For a while that had me worried that I’d have to step into the breach and with my track-record for burning, there’s no telling how it could have affected the already tumultuous atmosphere.
A shepherds pie later and all was forgotten. It was time for reflection. And so now let me impart what lessons I have learnt from this incident so that you may enjoy more harmonious Sundays:
- Always use a qualified barber.
- Should you find yourselves in a similar situation, whereby you cut your partner’s hair only to find they could now mistaken for a skin-head, DO NOT LAUGH. Whatever you do.