Lockdown

Lockdown. Difficult, isn’t it? It can monkey with rational thought. Today I suffered one of those moments of decision-making brilliance that occasionally get the better of us when we have been left home alone. I had an online meeting lined up and, wanting to look my best I decided – against my own principles and considered better judgement – to cut my own hair. Yes, I know. You don’t need to tell me.

The thing is, my father used to cut his own hair. I’ve seen the results. Sure, he was supremely proud of his auto-coiffing capability, and nobody had the heart to tell him the truth (that his head looked like it had been involved in a farming accident). But this is all by-the-by. The seed was planted years ago, when father passed down to son the key secrets regarding how he does the back. Using the carefully adapted principles of prisms and angles of reflection, a specific arrangement of five mirrors gave him, he claimed, the ability to work his scissors on the back of his own head — follow me closely here — as if he was working in front of his own face… on the back of someone else’s head. Are you with me? It’s brilliant, right?

It’s simply not possible to resist trying out a thing like that.

Let’s all stick together and be honest here. We all find ourselves, at some point or another, doing something we kinda knew deep down wasn’t very clever. Fate awaits us, hiding around every corner, slapping a baseball bat into its hand and waiting for us to decide that everything will be fine. Empowered by Rioja the other evening, I thought it would be a good idea to leap-frog a line of concrete bollards along the pavement. Exactly. I knew it was stupid. Did it anyway. I’m actually wearing, right now, a pair of lime-green loons with a 28-inch waist and 30-inch flares that I found whilst clearing out the wardrobe. I know they don’t fit. You don’t have to tell me, but they are OK for hairdressing, and nobody’s going to see me. Lockdown, eh? A friend of mine once indulged an ill-advised romantic liaison with a running vacuum cleaner. He knew it was a bad idea (having failed to learn from an adventure with a milk bottle that resulted in a visit to an emergency ward run by a nurse who needs to learn the basic professional decency of keeping a straight face) and yet he did it anyway, and I know – I just know – that one day I’ll be at a loose end. The vacuum cleaner will be sitting there looking at me as if butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth. Multiple attachments. The teasing appeal of the term ‘blow setting’. It has an air of tragic inevitability to the point that I probably shouldn’t be telling you about it in case I’ve planted a seed with you, so to speak. I read about someone who thought she was seriously unwell when her vagina started producing stamps from Costa Rica. That same nurse gave her the medical truth: They were the stickers off bananas. You see what I mean? The power of suggestion. Now you’re going to do it too. I don’t think the Accident and Emergency Department has the capacity to deal with lockdown behaviours like these. They are busy with other things at the moment.  

But I did it anyway. Not that. The haircut. If I’m being honest, the mirrors didn’t really work as I hoped, and apart from giving me a surprisingly magnified view of the mess I’d made, they caused me to snip the fingers on my other hand three or four times, adding blood to the hair I was trying to cut. I had to push on, though. Can’t stop half-done. So I shredded the rest of my head from the back forwards, and washed it thoroughly with a pint or two of blood, all observed in mirror-writing at times-5 magnification. My head was like a close-up tour of a fly on a windscreen that isn’t quite dead yet.

But I wasn’t done yet. Oh, no. Every other mirror in the array was a view of my face. The magnification provided by mirror 4 on level 3 gave me full insight into a significant nasal hair problem I hadn’t previously appreciated. Whilst I had the equipment around me, I decided to coif my nose, too. The back of my head was remarkably reminiscent of a Klingon that had been smashed against the wall with a frying pan, so to reduce the potential for similar damage round the front, I decided to set about the proboscis without the scissors, and pull the nose hairs out one by one. Gripped firmly between two fingers, I got a good hold on the first candidate and spent a few minutes turning circles in my office with my lip curled up at the agony I was imposing on myself even before The Pull. A weaker man may have abandoned the project at this point, but we Baboulenes are made of stern stuff, and I was proud to be following in the footsteps of my ancestors who fought the great battles at Hastings, Dunkirk, Rorke’s Drift and Yorktown. It would take more than a stubborn nasal hair to turn me. I steeled myself, breathed in… and pulled as hard as I could. I felt the hair uproot from somewhere up behind my left eye, waggle out along a path down behind my face, and a root like a stalk of cauliflower emerged from my nostril and into the sunlight. For a moment I stood stunned. Surrounded by white light, I couldn’t breathe from the totally unique agony I had inflicted upon myself.

Sneezing continuously and screaming for help, I felt my way back to my chair and sat down, but the sneezes kept on coming. The presence of the desk stopped my knees from hitting my ears on every eruption, although repeatedly sneezing all over the desk and kneeing it from below did set up a sort of production line for losing the loose-leaf pages of my latest book: I made each sheet of paper all wet, then bumped it off the desk with my knees so the next sneeze neatly blew it out of the window whilst simultaneously wetting the next one. I also broke five mirrors, a mug and a paperweight, and the postman, observing an alien presence in my house roaring and blowing sheets of paper out of the window, ran off without leaving the mail.

So I didn’t bother with the online meeting and have cancelled all appointments. In fact, my red nose, black eye, cauliflower ears, bleeding hands and startling hairstyle mean I wouldn’t leave the house for the next month even if it was allowed. That is, of course, providing I can resist this vacuum cleaner. I’m half tempted to get it all over with today, in which case, if you work in Brighton ER I should be with you by lunchtime… and fairly easy to recognise, not just because of the injuries, the haircut or even my presence in the queue of men who have read this column and are now wearing vacuum cleaners and waiting for a nurse, but my 28-inch-waist, flared lime green loons do make me stand out a tad.

David Baboulene – April 2020 – in Coronavirus Lockdown.

If you read this far, there’s a chance you might enjoy more of the same in my first book of global travels, working on ships back in the day – Ocean Boulevard.