Had a close shave yesterday - well almost: I went to a local barbing salon in Sabo-Oke for a haircut. I am a firm believer in contributing to the local economy so I chose this rather nondescript little hut just off the dirt- road- with- no- name. I chose the 'New Ventures' salon because I could get there early before the sun reached full strength and arrive withour being bathed in a film of sweat and my hair dripping onto my increasingly damp shirt.
The barber was a Chelsea supporter, nevertheless I offered him my custom even though the thought crossed my mind that this might be a bit risky - would he avenge himself of Liverpool's magnificent win over his team last week-end, I wondered, as he attached a razor blade to an ancient brick-sized shaver that was crackling away as he heated the blade with a naked flame. I asked him if he had every shaved an 'oyinbo's hair before. He hadn't, and looked decidedly nervous as he approached the task. I assured him all would be well as I wanted to lose most of my hair anyway but then had doubts as I felt the edge of the blade nick my left earlobe. I thought I might be emerging with tribal scarring but felt no blood, so in true stiff upper lip style, allowed him to proceed.
A friend of his was watching amusedly and started to translate from Yoruba the words of an obscene song being played on the MTV - a diversionary tactic, no doubt. After a few seconds of allowing the razor to drift tentatively across my scalp, he was clearly uncertain as to how to deal with the whispy hair left on the top of my head - a feeling I once shared! His confidence grew, however, as he attacked the thicker growth at the back and sides, and great clumps fell away. Stray hairs that had been cut and lingered around my eyes and ears he removed with great gusts of breath. After taking time out to find a huge pair of scissors, he said 'I will just cut through this!', as though he were about to machete his way through tropical undergrowth. As I didn't have my glasses on I thought he meant my neck, as all I could see in the mirror was the steel blade pointing directly at it. If I hadn't been sweating when I entered the salon, I was starting to now. But then, I reassured myself, this is a Christian neighbourhood and they have their salvation to consider so I am probably safe to continue.
Soon the ordeal was over and I leaped from the chair, asking him how much I owed him. 'Small money!' he replied, rather unhelpfully. I gave him what I thought was a fair price for not taking my life and tried to walk nonchalantly out into the street. He was clearly delighted with my contribution to the local economy and invited me to call again soon. The noun 'hell' and the phrasal verb 'freeze over' came quickly to mind!