Hair today, gone tomorrow*

When I’m at the hairdressers, I always instinctively try to put my arms the wrong way through the protective outer garment they give you – so the jacket is back to front – a throwback to Jeremy: The Early Years, when I regularly got my hair chopped at the Barbers. I always feel like I’ve dropped a clanger and revealed my true colours when I do that, like someone saying Versace phonetically in front of people who care about that sort of thing.

This morning I travelled back to the old place to see Davy, the handsome Jean Dujardin lookalike and star of previous blogs, who is the only man in Paris I can trust not to make me look like Geert Wilders. As every male under 50 looks like one of Harry Enfield’s Double Take Brothers these days, it’s actually a taller order than you’d think. I say << court et le bordel s’il tu plait, Davy >> and he gets to work. Court et bordel seems to mean short and like a whorehouse, but I’m assured it’s accepted parlance in Paris these days.

I get a haircut about once every 4-6 months, usually when I start to resemble a Lego Terry Wogan. It also gives me time to save up, because after a disastrous visit to Mr Toppers in my 20s which was meant to be a money saving exercise, I’ve never got my hair chopped by anyone for less than £30 ever since; reassuringly expensive, as an old advert for wife beater had it. Given that my trips are so infrequent, it’s a chance to see how my French has improved, and today proved to me that it has got a lot worse, or perhaps I was just tired.

You can’t really fake it when you’re sat in a chair for 30 minutes, even if the interrogation from hairdressers isn’t exactly taxing. And it occurred to me that I would rather do anything in the world than be a hairdresser. Just imagine having to make the same awkward small talk with the same people for years on end as you witness their barnets thinning or their grey hairs slowly increasing as their faces sag and their teeth decay.

And you send them out into the world with a haircut they’ve asked for that doesn’t suit the shape of their face, as they get ready to jet off to somewhere a bit warmer for their two weeks of scheduled fun that year. And they sound excited to be getting away, but by now you can’t even remember where it was they said they were going. I used to think snakes were my biggest fear, but not I reckon small talk is my true bête noire. I suppose the upside is at least you get to look at yourself all day.

When I told Davy I’d moved and where to, he gave me that mildly suspicious look that everyone does that kind of implies, “oh, you’re a moneyed wanker are you?” I’m quite possibly oversensitive about this – not that I really mind when the Louvre and the Pompidou are 10 minutes away in different directions. We genuinely lucked out with this place, and we’ve probably been due a little bit of luck, if you believe in such nonsense.

I enjoyed the stroll back to the new flat, as I’ve enjoyed all of my peripatetics of late. Moving to a new part of town makes you see the city through fresh eyes again. On Rue Reaumur I noticed a beautiful building at 61-63 that has a wonderful art nouveau facade, and after looking it up on the internet, it appears that much of the street is fin-de-siecle and came by the order of the prefect of the Seine, Georges-Eugène Haussmann (so I may well have to pay closer attention from now on). It’s fascinating to imagine the widespread chaos caused by the Baron, and perhaps it was such a shock to Paris’s system that it has been obstinately set in its ways ever since. Haussmann was bald on top, so he probably only went to the Barbers once a year to get a trim and edge, and I doubt he spared much thought regarding which way round one puts the protective garment on either. He’s in Père-Lachaise now, where I expect his patch is well looked after.

*The title is a shit hair pun, in keeping with hairdressers everywhere. It too is de rigeour here for hair places to name themselves something painfully punny, like Couiff1rst, which is not only a terrible pun but also a terrible franglais pun, and what’s more they’ve even managed to sandwich a number in the title.

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