“Hands up whose hair drives them mad when it needs a cut,” I said, showing the kids I teach my latest sketch of a barbershop.
I had explained that I had been there for two and a half hours, and they had asked why my son needed to go to the barbershop when it was that busy.
A flurry of hands went up and a chime of 10 and 11-year-old voices asserted that yes, their hair drove them mad sometimes. A young lad at the back with a good head of hair groaned and said that right now his fringe was driving him nuts.
“So that’s why we had to go then,” I continued, “but it gave me lots of time to draw. Afterwards, in the car, Paddy – that’s my son – asked me if it had been for sketching, would I have strangled him? I said yes, I would.”
Paddy used to go to one of two other barbershops, Professional Barbers and Fat Tony’s, both in Oranmore. He liked the cuts he got in both establishments but he really liked the cut that Ali, one of the barbers in Professional Barbers, did. Ali was very forthcoming with Paddy and unselfconsciously complimentary. He told Paddy that he had fantastic hair and that it was always clean, which made it a pleasure to cut. He told him to get his hands on a certain hair fibre product, which had a retro label that Paddy loved. In short, he acquired a loyal customer, so when Ali opened a premises of his own, Paddy would brook going nowhere else. The fact that Ali was the only barbers open on a Monday evening was another reason to go.
The queue was long when we arrived. I got sketching, although it wasn’t easy with Ali’s hands flying over the heads of his clients. After two hours Paddy’s turn came but I had long since finished my sketch and wandered off to the supermarket next door. Every time I checked back into the barbershop to see if Paddy was finished, he wasn’t. Each young customer took an average of twenty-five minutes for a cut, and Paddy’s was slightly longer. At €13-€15 per cut, that’s only a little over €30 per hour. Paddy was extremely impressed by Ali’s work ethic and we talked about it on the way home.
“Nine to seven,” he kept repeating, “but it’s really eight to do the people who arrived before the shop doors closed. Seven days a week.” Paddy hadn’t even done the maths for how much money could be made. I wondered if that incredible dedication would impress itself on Paddy’s psyche. So far, nothing…
Meanwhile, Olivia has been having a creative time in art class at school. Recently, a gifted puppeteer visited the school. He made a big impression on the kids, his hands bringing actual life to his beautiful creations, and when the First Year art class were asked to make a puppet, Olivia went a little further than most of the other kids in her class. She decided to give her puppet an articulated jaw…
I was so impressed with this.
“She’s called Áine,” said Olivia. “She will have glossy black hair and some great clothes.”
Olivia insisted that the puppet was very robust. So robust, she said, that she could handle her as roughly as she liked. After a while the little ledge that the forefinger and middle finger rested on inside the head began to crumble. I rang the puppeteer, who had become a friend due to the fact that his daughter and Olivia were close friends, to ask him what could be done.
“Muslin soaked in wood glue,” he said.
We did as he suggested and it did the job well, although left to the last minute meant it was still wet when it was brought to school. I realised this morning was my last chance to sketch the puppet. Unfortunately I had displeased Olivia over the the one clean lunchbox and she snatched away the puppet and stuffed her in her schoolbag a good ten minutes before she had to.
“When will I get another chance to finish my sketch?” I asked.
“In about a year,” she said.
Oh well. Luckily I took a photo…