Category Archives: Keeping up appearances

Not a morning person

Getting up has never been one of my strong points. My mum had to threaten to pour a glass of water over me on numerous occasions in an attempt to get me out of bed when I was a kid, and I’ve overslept on many an occasion. I think it’s fair to say that I’m ‘not a morning person’. Compared to The Special One though, I’m a positive bundle of joy. That’s not difficult admittedly – the occupants of America’s high-security prisons are more approachable than my beloved wife when she’s not got a coffee inside her first thing in the morning.

As you can imagine, neither one of us particularly likes getting up at 6.30am to wake The Eldest (himself ‘not a morning person’) and get him on his way to school. Thankfully this week, schoolkids have been off on holidayvacation, which means a blissful extra hour in bed. Or at least it should be blissful. The truth is that the disruption to my routine seems to have made me more dazed and confused than ever before.

This morning, I turned the apartment upside down in an ultimately fruitless search for my watch. I never even used to wear a watch, but have somehow managed to train myself into putting one on in the morning, and felt practically naked for the rest of the day without it. Yet when I returned home this evening, there it was in the place that I usually put it, even though I feel sure I must have looked there at least seventeen times this morning.

On Tuesday, I managed to leave the house without applying Fudge. Now, any of you that have had the misfortune to inadvertently catch a glance of me in my pre-hair product application phase in the morning will know that I’m not a pretty sight without Fudge in my hair. To be honest, I’m not much of a pretty sight when I have got Fudge in my hair, but at least I don’t make young children point and stare in disgusted wonderment as I do when I can’t be bothered to use the sticky Australian hair gunk. I look approximately twelve when I don’t put Fudge in my hair. Admittedly I only look fifteen when I’ve got it in, but that’s a side issue.

[Incidentally, I must have been asked for ID on about six separate occasions in Tennessee this weekend. Which is pretty embarrassing for somebody who’s actually 34. Although not as embarrassing as watching on as The Special One was forced to explain what a British passport was to staff at an off licenceliquor store.]

I only discovered my lack of Fudge when I looked in the window of the local gym, rueing the $70 a month that I spend on membership without actually going inside the door, before finally catching a glimpse of my flat-haired reflection. Strangely, the speed that I achieved as I legged it back to the apartment was far in excess of anything I ever achieved on the treadmill.

My early morning confusion reached its nadir on Wednesday. One of the few joys of being a commuter is being able to listen to Russell Brand’s Radio 2 podcast. Back in London, I could generally spot fellow listeners by the otherwise inexplicable guffaws during the early morning rush hour. Here, rather than my laughter marking me out as a potential Brand listener, I rather fear I’m singled out as a possible escaped mental patient. So when I received a tap on the shoulder from a fellow A train passenger, I wearily removed one earphone and awaited a diatribe against care in the community patients.

Of course, it turned out that I had done my shirt up wrongly so that all my buttons were out of sequence, with the left hand side of my collar up near my eyeballs and the right hand side somewhere near my navel. In retrospect, I regret being forced to draw attention to myself by asking my good Samaritan to repeat herself three times in an attempt to understand what she was saying, given that it produced an even larger audience to view me shamefacedly unbuttoning my shirt to get myself back into some semblance of order.

I’m having a lie-in this weekend, I can tell you. Getting out of bed just seems too risky these days.

The first cut is the deepest

I’ve always had a bit of a phobia about having my hair cut. Back when I was living in a small town in North Wales, I guess I didn’t really have to worry about it too much, as I always went to the barbers shop owned by Chris Dawson. Chris was – and still is – a really good friend of the family, and going to see him was never a chore. But of course, Chris didn’t work alone, and I always lived in terror of getting Clive or any one of the revolving cast of co-barbers that Chris had at any point. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust anyone but Chris – it was just that I really didn’t trust anyone but Chris, and lived in perpetual fear of being given an accidental mohican.

So as a eleven year old boy, I used to sit one of the wicker chairs in the ‘waiting room’, trying to pretend to read the Daily Mirror, while all the time anxiously trying to work out whether I was going to be forced into having my hair cut by anyone other than Chris. Sometimes I’d be convinced that all was going to be OK, the numbers all falling into place at the right time. But then I’d realise that one of the customers ahead of me in the queue was actually waiting for his mate and didn’t need a hair cut at all, prompting a desperate mathematical rethink and further minutes of distress.

Of course, nothing ever went wrong. Although anybody looking at pictures of my hairstyle shortly after I left Buckley to head to university would surely disagree. At college I was out of my comfort zone, given that Chris wouldn’t travel 150 miles just to cut my barnet. Of course, I could (and probably did) try to last a whole term without a haircut. But having realised that girls weren’t particular fans of the moptop look in 1992, I knew that desperate times called for desperate measures. And that meant stepping into an American-themed hairdressers around the corner from college.

My theory with hair at that point – and it’s still true now – is that the more you have to pay, the less likely they are to make you look like Pat Sharpe. Back in 1992, paying the princely sum of £9.50 on a student grant was quite a stretch, especially as I was used to paying £1.50 (of my mum or dad’s money) for a haircut at Chris’s. But it was worth it, given that this was the first place I ever had my hair washed by someone who didn’t have the same surname as me. As I lay back, I always imagined it was Glynis Barber or Susan Dey from LA Law who was gently massaging my head. In reality, it was more often than not a spotty fourteen year old who picked her nose before she put conditioner into my hair.

Still, they at least managed to convince me to get rid of my floppy fringe, and from then on there was no stopping me. That’s a lie, actually. For about three years after I left university, I would travel back at great expense just to get my hair cut so that I didn’t have to pick a new place. When I eventually moved on, I found myself in a trendy place in Kentish Town called Kuttzone. Generally I live by a mantra that says ‘never trust any business that wilfully misspells its name’, but the fact that I remember Kuttzone’s name despite only living in Kentish Town for six months suggests that they did something right. It also suggests that I spent about four years going there, even after I moved to Wandsworth in South West London – a good hour or so away by national rail, tube and bus.

Since then, I’ve probably had about two more hairdressers, notably Northcut on Northcote Road in Battersea. The only time I ever freestyled with my hair was when I went to a place at the bottom of my road in Mortlake out of sheer desperation. So short was the haircut I received, that I barely required a cut for a good six months afterwards. Never again.

Of course, all this put me in a dilemma when I moved to New York six weeks ago. Clearly, I had my hair cut on my second to last day in the UK, to ensure that I was at least covered for a while. But with a wedding only five days away, today was the day to take my life into my own hands, and enter a hairdressing salon laughably known as a “beauty lab”.

When people say that Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language, what they’re actually referring to is the world of hairdressing. Asking for a “grade four” was met with a quizzical look, and a question about what a “grayfull” was. “Blending in” was off the radar, and I probably took my life into my own hands by talking about my fringe rather than “my bangs”. I guess I needn’t describe her face when I told her that the only product I used in my hair was Fudge.

Actually the haircut hasn’t turned out too badly. As Soon To Be Wife said when I returned home, it could probably have done with being a bit shorter, as it looks like I had it done about two weeks ago. Given that I generally hate the first two weeks after I’ve had my hair cut though, maybe that’s no bad thing.

At least I’ve made that initial first leap into the unknown. I just hope I don’t ever move to Los Angeles though – a trip to a beauty lab in Manhattan every six weeks could start getting pricey.