I once had great trouble accepting that barbers could charge ten pound for a haircut. Add insult to injury he didn't even bother to wield a pair of scissors. What craft is there in electric shears with plastic size guides? My heart went out to Srikanto-da and his brother Prohllad toiling in the Calcutta summer sun with their little tin boxes and scissors that got flimsier with each sharpening on the whetstone. He once snipped off a bit of the top of my left ear. But still he practised an art. Give me a pair of scissors and I can still mimic the snip snip-snip music from my boyhood.
Naturally I went through a phase of rebellion. Bought my own electric razor attachment, then even my own hairdressing kit. I learnt the numbers 3, 5 and 7 have special resonance with the shape of my head. Learnt why poor Srikanto had so much trouble with me in the distant past - it took an English woman barber in south west London - I have forward growing hair -- a fact unacceptable among Bengalis of course where the only approved alternate to left parted is back brushed. My wife also reminded me how much of a mess I made in the bathroom every 3 weeks or so. I am intrinsically lazy, so I went back to the professionals.
Settling in, settling down - a process I understand very little of. Yet somehow it crept up on me. This December we will have lived in Kew Gardens for five years. And Al's Clip Joint has become a mainstay of my settlement. I happily shell our twelve pound and engage the polite artisan in small talk. A thousand yards, a thousand miles, Manicktolla or Kew, the barber's shop remains the hotbed of local news, gossip, sport, interaction. A veritable information exchange. Older than the internet.