When I was young, I hated the dentist. It was never as bad as this
but bad enough. Drills were fearsomely large on ungainly arms - attacked the teeth with the amiable precision of a bee seeking honey, and made a very loud noise.
My other bête noire was the barbers – or hairdressers as we metropolitans have gotten use to call them. I was thinking of that during my last hair-cut, watching drifts of what was once plentiful fall on to the floor. The hairdresser had soft, fragrant hands, and whilst she was busy with my hair I slipped into day-dream – why bother with meditation – and wondered why I was so scared of the barbers as a child.
It may have been the ‘ceremony’ attached to it all, the overheard discussions between my parents as to whether I was ready or not. I’d been happy enough with the home haircut involving basin and scissors, now I picked up on their worry.
In those days, barbers smelled of tobacco and sweat, burnt hair, talc, various weird pomades - and Brylcreme of course.
I flirted briefly with Brylcreem when older, but was never able to hold a telephone so convincingly - nor with such a menacing sneer
I sat ensconced between two old men, one of whom lacked a leg. It was my first experience of the peculiar British queuing experience, where everyone observes each other from the corner of the eye to make sure no one steps up out of turn. I was also obsessing on the large sinister chairs, elderly necks, and feeling a terrible fear.
Every neck there was dry and red, and creviced like World War 1 trenches. Shears buzzed over them, alien doom-ships blasting the skin. Worse was to come: the singeing of hair, a burning taper that frizzled the neckline into shape. I wanted to run out – as I had with the dentist – convinced that I had entered this place with a smooth neck, and would leave with one dry and red and deeply lined. Five year old boys can be stupid.