Alfie with a straight razor

Normally I’m all in favour of making a bad impression, since it saves you the trouble of being discovered as a fraud later on, but job interviews are a notable exception, and I had one a few weeks back, so I went to the barber. And trips to a barber are always an adventure.

My hairdresser has an excellent full name. Obviously the curse of Google being as it is, I can’t actually write it, but it is only one letter off that of a famous Jewish hero with superhuman strength relating to the length of his hair. This tickles me in some small way, (for those of us without much nobility or ambition, a sense of humour makes as good a guiding force as any other), and is probably a large part of why I go there. Sammy (for short), is neither the closest nor the cheapest scalper in the hood, but he is a cheery, worldly-wise fellow (and, by the by, international martial artist), unfazed by requests for a haircut ‘like a Spitfire pilot’. His shop is decorated with the usual black-and-white sample photographs of absurd-looking Italians taken in the mid-1980s, and in summer a cat that looks like a crumpled up feather boa sometimes slinks in from the yard and sweeps itself through the piles of hair.

On this particular occasion I wasn’t the only one with grand ideas about my own projected appearance. Just ahead of me was a small black kid, at a guess somewhere around six, who clambered up onto the board that Sammy puts across the arms of his chair for little people to sit on, and coolly demanded a flat-top. Any child whose style icons are Grace Jones and the Fresh Prince deserves to be applauded.
‘Just a grade one as usual please’, whispered his mum.

Later, as Sammy was working in silence on my Flame and Citron look, a story came on the radio about Ashley Cole’s philandering ways.
‘Everyone says he’s a fool, right,’ observed Sammy in his distinctive Cockney-Cypriot accent, ‘but I don’t think men are designed to stick with just one woman. It’s just not how we naturally are, you know?’
I regurgitated a half-remembered theory from a book that Laurence had once read with a chapter about the relative promiscuity of different primates. I don’t exactly remember the details, but anyway it had something to do with us being apparently naturally inclined to be rascals because we are closer to chimps than gorillas. Lozzer reads lots of interesting things.
‘Makes sense to me’, said Sammy, which surprised me, because I wasn’t sure whether my garbled, second-hand account could have made any sense to anyone. He continued.
‘Most I ever had on the go at one time was sixteen.’
‘Sorry, what?’
‘Yeah, sixteen women at once, all over London. Mostly West London though.’
‘Nice. Did they not, erm… did none of them find out?’
‘Oh they all knew mate. I was working as a personal trainer for all these bored housewives. I used to go over and we’d do some training, then a bit more on the side, you know. They used to recommend me to their mates.’ I wasn’t exactly sure what to say.
‘Suppose all jobs have their perks. Some people get private healthcare and free food and pensions and all that.’
‘Oh it wasn’t a perk, they paid me extra for the sex. I was a… what do you call it? A… a gigolo. That’s it, a gigolo. You know, male prostitute.’ He paused a moment, and grinned at himself wistfully in the mirror. ‘I was 20 years old. Time of my life.’
We lapsed back into silence and listened to another news story about a freak accident involving a falling lamp post in Chiswick.

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