by Robert Williams

Des walked into the cafe one afternoon with his face aghast. This was quite unusual, because normally he didn't look aghast until he had seen what Mrs Greasy had cooked for him.

"It's bad news!!" exclaimed Des. "I've just been to Sid Snipton's barber shop to get my hair cut! But guess what?! He's closed down!! He's retired!! What am I going to do now, he's been cutting my hair since 1974!!"

"Which presumably explains why your hairstyle hasn't changed since 1974," said Clive.

"Correct," said Des.

"Sid Snipton??" said Mrs Greasy. "Never heard of him, he didn't operate round here, did he?"

"No, his shop was in Chelmsford," said Des.

"You mean you went all the way back to Chelmsford every time you needed a haircut?!" said Mick.

"Yup," said Des.

"So where are you going to go instead?" said Mick. "There's loads of hairdressers round here!"

"That's right!" said Clive. "Why don't you try Tim O'Tei's hair salon?"

"Tim O'Tei?!!" said Des. "He's all youthful and trendy!! I don't want youthful and trendy!! He won't be able to do me a 1970s haircut, I don't think he was even born in the 1970s!"

"Well I could always do your hair for you," said Mrs Greasy. "I've been told that I'm almost as good at cutting hair as I am at cooking!!!"

Everyone shuddered.

"Thanks...but no thanks," said Des. "No, there's only one option available. I'm going to have to go and get myself a DIY haircutting kit."

Three hours later Des returned to the cafe having cut his hair using his new DIY haircutting kit. Everyone stared at him open-mouthed. Des's hair was now even more of mess than usual. He had been through half of it with an electric razor and hacked off random bits of the remaining hair with some clippers.

"Looks great, don't you think?" said Des.

The others didn't think so.

"Did you even use a mirror?!" said Mick.

"I tried one at first but I got rid of it, because it made me look back-to-front," said Des. Clive raised his eyes to the ceiling. "Anyway, I reckon I've done an excellent job! Any of you lot want me to have a go at your hair??"

There were cries of "NO!! NO!!" from everyone as Des wielded his scissors in their direction.

"Oh, don't be such spoilsports," said Des. "What about you Mick? Actually you've hardly got any hair left anyway!!"

"You leave my hair out of this," said Mick.

"Hey, I think I've uncovered a hitherto undiscovered talent of mine!!" exclaimed Des. "I reckon I could make a whole career out of this!"

"I don't like the way this is going," said Mick.

"I've decided I'm going to open a barber shop!!" declared Des.

Everyone groaned.

Before long, Des had once again acquired the leasehold on the empty shop next door to Mrs Greasy's cafe.

"Why does he always have to set up his daft shops right next to mine?!" moaned Mrs G. "It causes everyone to avoid this whole street which has the effect of driving away all my customers!!"

"You do a perfectly good job of that by yourself," muttered Clive, as Mrs G plonked a nasty-looking and even nastier-smelling plate of brussel sprouts in front of him. "Ugh."

Clive and Mick decided this would be a good point to pop next door and see if Des had finished setting up his barber shop yet. They peered through the window and saw that Des had acquired a barber's chair, some mirrors and some scissors. The shop was complete except for one thing...

"Why is the sign above the door blank?" asked Mick.

"Because I haven't thought of a name for my shop yet!" said Des, coming outside. "I've been trying to think of a hilarious pun, but I can't think of one!"

"Naming a barber shop is the easiest thing in the world!" said Clive. "'A Cut Above'. 'Cutting Edge'. 'Hair Apparent'. 'Prime Cuts'. 'Cutting Crew'. 'Hair Port'. 'The Final Cut'. 'Shear Elegance'. 'To Dye For'."

"Hmmm," said Des. "No, I don't like those. Anyway, while you were droning on, I've thought of my own one."

Des dipped a paintbrush into the paint pot that he happened to have with him, walked up the ladder that was leaning up against the shop front, and started writing the name across the sign.

"'The Hair-Raising Experience'," read Mick.

"That's right!" said Des. "What a great name! Because anyone who comes into my barber shop will be guaranteed a hair-raising experience!!"

"That cannot be denied," muttered Clive.

Once Des had finished painting the sign, they went inside the shop. Mick and Clive noticed there were large photographs of various celebrities on the wall, including Noel Edmonds circa 1978, Limahl, the bloke out of A Flock of Seagulls, and Elton John.

"What are those for?!" said Mick.

"What have all those celebs got in common?" said Des. "It's obvious - they've all got stylish haircuts! These pictures will give customers an idea of the kind of classy hairdo they can expect to get!"

"Oh yes, because I've heard the Noel Edmonds-circa-1978-look is really 'in' these days," said Clive, with a heavy dose of sarcasm.

"I've heard that too," said Des, with no sarcasm whatsoever.

"And what's Elton John doing up there?!" said Mick. "That's not even his own hair!!"

"Whose hair is it then?!" said Des. "He should let them have it back, he can't go round stealing other people's hair!"

"What's this?!" said Mick, noticing a piece of paper stuck on the wall with blu-tack next to the mirror. "A certificate claiming you've passed your hairdressing qualification - from Val Doonican?!?!"

"What's wrong with that?!" said Des.

"It's a fake!" said Mick. "The only person's hair you've ever cut is your own!"

"And Val Doonican has got nothing to do with hairdressing!!" said Clive.

"Eh? I thought he did!!" said Des.

"You're thinking of Vidal Sassoon!!" exclaimed Clive.

"Who?" said Des. "Wasn't he in 'The Dukes of Hazzard'??"

"Vidal Sassoon is a famous hairdresser," said Clive.

"Oh, I see," said Des. "Well, I don't suppose it matters, no one will notice. Anyway, decide who wants to go first, and I'll be with you in a moment."

"Do me a favour!" said Clive. "We haven't come for a haircut, we've come here for a laugh! Actually, I've got an appointment at Tim O'Tei's salon for a wash, cut and blow dry!"

Clive left the shop, while Mick sat down in the waiting area, mainly because it was either that or going back next door to Mrs Greasy's cafe. Des stood about, waiting for a customer to come in. And before long, someone did. Unfortunately, it was Mrs Greasy.

"Hi you two!!" greeted Mrs G.

"Mrs Greasy, what are you doing here?!?!" exclaimed Des. "This barber shop is for men only!!"

"You chauvinist!!" exclaimed Mrs G. "Anyway, I'm going down Tim O'Tei's salon later on for a cut, blow dry and manicure!"

"Tim O'Tei, Tim O'Tei, everybody's going down to Tim O'Tei," said Des. "What's so great about Tim O'Tei?!"

"The fact that he's an excellent hair stylist?" said Mrs Greasy.

"Well... apart from that," said Des.

"A superb manicurist," said Mrs G. "And a great conversationalist, always interested in what you have to say!"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," said Des. "Look Mrs G, what did you come in here for anyway?!"

"I thought you might be getting a bit hungry, so I've brought you some homemade chocolate mousse."

"Oh... thanks Mrs G..." said Des, looking in horror at Mrs G's revolting-looking concoction. Mick sniggered.

"And here's some for you Mick," said Mrs G. Mick stopped sniggering. "Hope you don't have to wait too long for your haircut."

"Hey, I'm not waiting for a haircut!!" exclaimed Mick, leaping up from his seat. "Not from him!!"

"Okay, see you later," said Mrs Greasy, leaving the shop.

"I'll be off as well then," said Mick.

"Where are you going?!" said Des.

"I don't want any more people mistaking me for a customer!!" said Mick.

"I can't understand this, why does no one want me to cut their hair?" said Des.

"Try looking in the mirror," said Mick. Des did so.

"I don't get it!" said Des.

"Goodbye!" said Mick.

Half an hour later, he returned.

"Had any customers yet?" he asked.

"Well...not exactly," said Des.

"I've got you this," said Mick. He handed Des a trilby hat.

"A hat?!" said Des. "What do I want with this?! I don't wear hats!"

"Just put it on," said Mick. "Trust me."

"Right, so putting this hat on is going to get me some customers is it?" said a confused Des.

"Yes," said Mick. "Now I've got to go, I've got an appointment with Tim O'Tei."

"Coh!" said Des. "I think that Mick's finally flipped." Shrugging his shoulders, he put the hat on.

And sure enough, just a few minutes later, in walked Des's first customer. Unfortunately, it was Farmer Files.

"Farmer Files, what are you doing here?!?!" exclaimed Des.

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!! What do you be thinkin'?!?! Oi be comin' 'ere for an 'aircut!!"

"Oh no," said Des, his heart sinking as he looked at Farmer Files's dreadfully messy hair. "What about Tim O'Tei? Why don't you go to his place?"

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!!" said Files. "Oi've just been there, it be much too busy!!"

"That doesn't surprise me," sighed Des.

"Anyway, oi don't moind waitin' a little bit, after all, you were 'ere first!" said Files, sitting down. "Where be the barber, anyway?!"

"Eh?" said Des. "I'm the barber!"

"Oooooh arrrrrrr!!!" exclaimed Files, incredulously. "You be the barber?!?!?! That be ridiculous!!!!"

He got up, walked across the shop and peered at Des's fake certificate.

"Oooooh arrrrr!!! A certificate of 'airdressin' from Val Doonican?!?!?!?!?!"

"Ummm...yes..." said Des, nervously.

"Well oi be sorry for doubtin' you!!" said Files, sitting down in the barber's chair. "You be obviously passin' your qualifications!! So start snippin' away!!"

"Ah, okay then," said Des. He gingerly took Files's hat off, revealing even more tangled, messy hair. "Blimey, I wasn't hoping for this much of a challenge for my first haircut!"

"Oooooh arrrrr!!!" said Files. "What be that you say?!?!"

"Oh nothing, nothing," said Des. "I hope you don't mind me commenting, but you don't seem to get your hair cut very often."

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!!" said Files. "The last toime oi 'ad moi hair cut was in 1957!!!"

"1957?!?!?!?!?!?!" exclaimed Des. "Why have you decided to get it cut now then?!"

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!! Because oi be nominated for top proize in the prestigious Farmer of the Year awards!!! So oi be needin' a super smashin' haircut to show off when oi collect moi award at the ceremony at the Dorchester 'Otel tonoight!! This be very, very excoitin'!!"

"Farmer of the Year?!?!" said Des. "Blimey... So what hairstyle would you be thinking of then?"

"Oi be needin' a youthful, trendy 'aircut to in order to impress those there judges!!" said Files. "Something along the loines of...Richard 'Ammond from 'Top Gear'!"

"What?!" said Des. "Sorry, I'm afraid I can only do you Limahl, the bloke out of A Flock of Seagulls, Elton John or Noel Edmonds circa 1978!"

"Hmmmm," said Files, stroking his beard, looking at the photographs on the wall. "Oi think oi'll be plumpin' for...Noel Edmonds!"

"A very wise choice," said Des. " where do I start...oh yes, the scissors... Gosh, I dread to think what's lurking in here..."

Des took a deep breath, picked up the scissors, and started hacking his way through the jungle that was Farmer Files's barnet. Twenty minutes later, he was still going.

"Ooooh arrrrr!!! Oi've been thinkin'!!" said Files suddenly. "Didn't that there Val Doonican used to be on that there television set?! Singin' songs and that?!"

"Well...yes," said Des.

"So when did 'e be foindin' the toime to become an 'airdressin' expert?!"

" his holidays," said Des. "Tell me Farmer Files, where are you going on your holidays this year?"

"Ooooh arrrrr!!! Clacton," said Files.

"Oh," said Des.

Another twenty minutes passed. Des was still rummaging through fifty-one years' worth of Farmer Files's hair.

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!!" exclaimed Files. "This be takin' a very long toime, 'aven't you finished yet?!"

"Well..." said Des. "It's difficult to know exactly when to stop, really..."

"Your other customers must be gettin' very bored waitin'!!" said Files.

"Other customers?" said Des. He looked round, and there was no one there. But then he noticed the clock, and gasped. "The time! Of course, it's back to front in the mirror!! Oh my gosh, I'm missing 'Balamory'!! Well I think that's just about done, Farmer Files, what do you think?"

Files peered at himself in the mirror.

"And that be supposed to be lookin' loike Noel Edmonds circa 1978?!?!?"

"Yyyyyyes," said Des, not very confidently. "Well you've kind of got the beard"

In reality, Files's hair looked nothing like Noel Edmonds's did in 1978. In fact in was in about as much mess as it had been in the first place.

"Oooooh arrrrrrr!!!" exclaimed Files. "Well oi think that it be absolutely..." Des looked at him, shaking with fear in anticipation of the verdict. "...excellent!!"

"What??" said Des, amazed.

"You be doin' a superb job on moi 'air!!" said Files. "Oi think oi be definitely in line for the Farmer of the Year award now!!"

"That'll be £12.50 then, Farmer Files," said Des.

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!!" exclaimed Files. "Let me tip you!! 'Ere's £12.60!"

"You're too kind," mumbled Des.

"Oooooh arrrrrr!! Just one other thing," said Files. "Would you be 'avin' any products oi could be usin' to make moi 'air look even better?! Loike gel, or mousse??!!"

"Gel or mousse..." said Des, thoughtfully. "Oh yes, I've got some mousse!!" He gave Files the chocolate mousse that Mrs G had left him earlier.

"Perfect!!" exclaimed Files. Des charged him another £15.27 for the mousse, and Files left the shop. Shortly after, Mick walked back in following his session at Tim O'Tei's hair salon.

"Des, what's that mess on the floor?!"

Des looked down, and he saw that in amongst the strands of grey hair were twigs, ancient bits of food and an expired mouse.

"The contents of Farmer Files's hair," said Des.

"Farmer Files has been in here?!?!" exclaimed Mick. "But he never gets his hair cut!!"

"For some reason I can't fathom, he's been nominated for Farmer of the Year," said Des.

"Gosh, there's live coverage of that on BBC4 tonight, I'll have to tune in then!" said Mick. "Will you be watching?"

"I don't think I've got BBC4," said Des. "Thank goodness."

The next morning, everybody gathered in the cafe as usual.

"Mick, can I take this hat off yet?" said Des.

"Take it off one moment," said Mick. Des did so. Everyone started sniggering. "No, put it back on."

"Did you watch those Farmer of the Year awards then?" said Des.

"Yes, I couldn't understand why his hair seemed to be covered in chocolate," said Mick.

"Never mind that, did he win???" said Des.

"Umm...I think it might be a good idea if you went into hiding..." said Mick.

Just then Farmer Files burst into the cafe.

"Too late," said Mick.

"Ooooooooh arrrrrrrrrrr!!!!" exclaimed Farmer Files.

"Did you win then?" said Des.

"No oi did not!!" exclaimed a furious Files. "And there be only one man responsible for moi lack of success - you!!" Files pointed his finger in Des's face. "With that mess of an 'aircut you be givin' me, oi clearly 'ad no chance of winnin'!!"

"Haircut?!" said Des. "You liked it yesterday!!"

"Ooooooh arrrrrr!!! Oi suppose oi will be 'avin' to get one of those there DIY haircuttin' kits to sor' out that mess you be makin'!!" exclaimed Files. "Let me tell you, oi am not goin' to let you forget this!! Oi am goin' to ruin you, Des Wednesday!!! Oi am goin' to ruin you!!!!"

"What's he going on about?!" said Des.

After spending the rest of day in his barber shop without any customers, the next morning in the cafe Des found out.

"Look at this!!" said Clive, gleefully waving a copy of the Tolworth Bugle in Des's face.

"Oh look, it's Farmer Files," said Des, looking at the picture on the front page. "Was that taken before or after he cut his hair with his DIY haircutting kit? I can't tell the difference!"

"Read the story!" said Clive.

"'A Tolworth pig farmer has slammed a local barber after a disastrous haircut led to him losing out on the top prize at the prestigious Farmer of the Year awards. Farmer Files' - cor, I thought we might actually have found out his first name there! - ' was given what purported to be a Noel Edmonds-circa-1978 haircut by barber Des Wednesday, who recently opened the Hair Raising Experience salon in Tolworth. But the haircut, which took over three hours to perform, left Files looking embarrassed and nothing short of a dog's dinner on live national television'. Pig's dinner, more like! 'The hapless farmer is now urging people everywhere to boycott the barber.' Cor, the cheek of it, I can't believe him!! 'Wednesday, 64...' 64?!?! How dare they?!?! '...declined to comment.' How can I have declined to comment, they didn't even ask me!!"

"What would you have said then?" said Mick.

"Umm..." said Des. "I would have declined to comment. Anyway, that is sloppy journalism of the highest order! The haircut didn't take three hours! And it actually did make him look like Noel Edmonds, sort of."

"Why did he want to look like Noel Edmonds?" said Mick.

"I can't believe he's trying to drive away all of my customers like that!!" exclaimed Des

"It's not going to make any difference, you didn't have any customers to start with," said Mick.

"Well I can't stand around here chatting all day," said Des, "I've got a barber shop to open!"

Determined not to let Farmer Files ruin his business, Des went straight next door to open his barber shop. Unfortunately, as he was unlocking the front door, he noticed that the shop next door was no longer empty as it had been for several years. Instead, to his horror, he saw that a new barber shop had just opened in there!

"How dare they!!" exclaimed Des. "I'm going to give them a piece of my mind!!"

He went into the new barber shop, and was surprised to see Farmer Files in there. He was also surprised to see that he still had chocolate mousse mixed into his hair.

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!!" exclaimed Files. "Mornin' Des, come for an 'aircut?!"

"No I haven't!!" said Des. "I want to know why this barber shop has opened up right next door to mine!! I demand to speak to whoever's in charge!!"

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!! Oi be in charge!! Oi be the barber!!" exclaimed Files.

"You what?!?!" exclaimed Des. "What on earth gives you the right to become a barber?! What makes you think you can cut people's hair?!"

"Oooooh arrrrrrr!! Because oi reckon oi made such a good job at cuttin' moi own hair with that DIY haircuttin' kit!!" exclaimed Files.

"Eh?" said Des, staring at Files's barnet. "I can't see any difference!!"

"Oi reckon oi be uncoverin' an 'itherto undiscovered talent of moine!!" exclaimed Files.

"This is ridiculous," said Des.

"Oi be tellin' you Des, oi be out to ruin you!!" said Files.

"Well I'm not going to take this lying down!!" said Des.

"That be roight, oi can't be cuttin' your 'air in that position!!" said Files.

Des stormed out, went back to the cafe and explained the situation.

"Any ideas then?" he asked.

"No," said Mick.

"Good thing I've got one then," said Des. "An exciting, fresh, totally original idea." He got onto his mobile phone. "Hello, is that the Tolworth Bugle? I've got a story for your front page you might be interested in..."

A brief conversation ensued, and then Des put the phone down.

"Cor, can you believe that?!" he exclaimed. "They weren't interested!! All I was trying to do was discredit Farmer Files!! Any other ideas?"

"No," said Mick.

"Lucky I've got one then," said Des. "Anyone good at singing?"

The others groaned.

Later that day Des, Mick and Wayne were standing outside Des's barber shop.

"All got your song sheets?" said Des.

"Do we really have to do this?" moaned Mick. "This had to be your worst idea yet. How on earth is forming a barbershop quartet supposed to drum up business?? It's not even a quartet, there's only three of us!!"

"Not my fault if everyone else refused to take part," said Des. "Now stop complaining and start singing this song that it took me over a minute to write. Remember, harmonies now!"

And Des's barbershop quartet-minus-one began caterwauling away, extolling the dubious values of his shop. It wasn't long before Farmer Files came rushing out of his barber shop.

"Ooooh arrrrr!!! Shut your traps up, you be droivin' away potential customers!!"

But they carried on with their racket regardless. Finally, someone came past and stopped. The singers stopped singing.

"Can I help you?" said Des.

"Hello, you probably know me, I'm television's James May," said James May, the untidy-haired 'Top Gear' presenter, for evidently it was him. "I've enjoyed your singing, I wonder if I might pop in and get a haircut." Des looked in horror at James May's excessively long, messy barnet. "I'm after a haircut that'll make me look youthful and trendy - something along the lines of Richard Hammond."

"Oh my god..." said Des. "Errr...I would just like to announce that The Hair-Raising Experience is to close with immediate effect, and myself, Des Wednesday, am to retire from hairdressing!"

"That's a shame," said James.

"Why don't you pop next door to Farmer Files's hair salon, I've heard he's a whizz with the scissors," said Des.

"Okay, thanks!" said James.

Some while later, when they had returned to the cafe, they saw James May walk past with a shorter, but even messier, haircut - plus, for some reason, his hair was now covered in chocolate. Just afterwards Files walked into the cafe, who also still had chocolate in his hair.

"Oooooh arrrrr!!! 'Ere Des, 'ave you got any more of that there mousse, oi appear to 'ave run out!!"

Mrs Greasy looked askance at Des.

"Ummm..." mumbled Des.

Copyright © Robert Williams

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