Grooming in Bath

“Well, we use special razors, burn your ears, and do all the traditional cuts.”

“Come again?”

“I’m sorry?”

“It sounded like you said - burn your ears – what exactly does that mean?”

“Oh, we take fire and put it on your ears – you know, to burn off the hairs.”

“I ... ahhh ... don’t think I’d be up for that,” I said already sitting down and staring into a mirror with a white cape wrapped around my neck.

I realized that I would need to get a haircut during our extended stay in England this year.  But I have very particular requirements. The haircut has to be cheap.

So I put it off for a couple of weeks finally invoking the need for a trim on the day Michele wanted to attend a Regency Dance Workshop in Bath. I left her at the dance hall promising to be back within the hour looking neater and cleaner from the shoulders up.

Cheapness proved to be a difficult condition to meet in Bath City Centre, an area lined with shops flogging jewelry, chic fashion, and other posh commodities amid unisex hair salons that posted prices far beyond what my grey hair warranted. 

With time running out, I spread my search to other streets and came upon a place with an appearance and prices similar to those of my regular tonsorial service in Ottawa.  But I didn’t think to ask what a “Turkish Barbershop” was until I sat down.

After our ears-on-fire exchange and my comment about not being into it, I relaxed and pursued conversation with the smiling man holding the scissors.  He told me that he was not actually Turkish, but a Kurd from one of the many dodgy areas along the Turkey-Iraq border.  He had married a Brit, loved life in Bath, and accepted the trials of the Kurdish people with a modest kind of sanguinity.

Discussing his family experience and his take on global politics made the time pass quickly, and I liked the way my hair was shaping up.  Watching the mirror, I didn’t notice him dipping a cotton swab into alcohol and setting it aflame.  Still, when he flicked it at my ear and patted away the debris, I might have been cool about it  had the two guys on the bench not jumped back nervously.  

"Whoa !!" the one with a sideways Afro said. 

Before I could respond with words, the barber came at the other ear with flames and flicking fingers.

It was over in a moment and no big deal.  

Walking back to the dance workshop, I felt a little naïve for not knowing what a Turkish Barbershop was all about and for not having asked if my ears were going to be burned before I sat down.

But by the time I met up with Michele, I was laughing about the experience, thinking about the barber’s stories with a smile, and already crafting the one I am telling you here.

I also thought my ears felt pretty smooth.
October 2018