With occasional remedial work by my sister during visits to Somerset being necessary, haircuts have become mainly a DIY affair. Clippers bought in Boot’s with a Number 2 blade attached save a lot on barber’s bills.
Looking in the mirror this morning, I thought the time had come for another trim, and the music of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes came to mind.
Don’t Leave Me This Way by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes was on the barber’s radio when he was paying his once a term visit to our school at the beginning of 1977.
It is not just the fact of the song being played, even the room remains clear in the memory: an ante-room to one of the classrooms, perhaps a departure from his usual location in the main building of our school; his transistor radio playing BBC Radio 1 (what else was there to play?); his completion of hair cuts every five-six minutes, clippers up the back and sides and a quick hack at the top (he was particularly skilled at creating curved fringes).
Was he in particularly destructive mood that Dartmoor winter’s day, and did the encounter with him after darkness had fallen, create a sense of apprehension that caused a seeking of solace in the music played? Or was it something more positive, was there a realisation that my time at the school was drawing to a close and that this might be the final indignity to be suffered at his hands?
Whilst there is clear recall of the moment, it is hard to be sure it is not imagined, in whole or in part. In memory, a friend at the school was a fan of Harold Melvin and had a copy of a 7″ single of the song, which is impossible because he left the previous summer.
But why does the memory behave in such an odd and arbitrary way? Why recall a single moment in such detail, while everything around is, at best, no more than a fuzzy sequence? It is not as though the memory is of any significance. There are important times that have disappeared entirely (I have no recall whatsoever of opening my A level examination results), while trivial, inconsequential stuff, like what song was playing during a haircut, remains.
Perhaps in years to come there will be memories of a teacher who cut his own hair. and there will be a musical accompaniment to the recall.