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People Watching by Sean O'Hare

I enjoyed sitting on the terrace at the Mall Wine Bar, partly because of the wine but mostly because it gave an excellent view of the Image Hair Salon. For reasons I have never been able to fathom, I simply enjoyed watching hairdressers at work, seeing hair fall and seeing their clients transformed. I have long hair, all one length, and would never contemplate having it cut - call it a phobia if you like - as I always get an incredible mixture of excitement and fear when I have my hair trimmed - but I loved watching!

Other than that I considered myself fairly normal. A well-paid city job, nice flat and good friends. I dressed the city part well - expensive black suit with very short skirt, silk shirt, and neatly French-braided blonde hair hanging down my back or tightly pulled back and fastened in a bun at the crown.

So, for yet another lunchtime, I sat with my glass of wine and salad. A magazine rested in front of me but my attention was mostly drawn to the activities the other side of the large glass window.

Image was a high-class salon, catering mainly for women such as myself. A few succumbed to the latest styles - one regular, currently sitting in the chair had had her one length hair layered at the front and encouraged to flip out at the sides. It may look fresh and fashionable but I can't say I cared for the look. However many clients went for more classic looks, keeping their hair long like my own or conservatively bobbed. Also, many of the classic career women types kept their hair short - rather boringly short, I called it, longish layers and touching the collar. However many now seemed to be adopting short bobs with the very short nape - for some reason this was a look of which I did approve. Was it the contrast in lengths perhaps, or the nerve of the women to have their bobbed hair cropped even further. I don't know!

This lunchtime was pretty much business as usual. The four clients filling the chairs were all having straightforward trims and, while good to observe, I preferred the more dramatic cuts or changes. My eyes strayed to the receptionist, a young girl who had only started the previous week. For a couple of days she had arrived with her permed and highlighted shoulder length blonde hair neatly, perhaps even elaborately, curled. And then, during this Monday, which was always their quiet day, I arrived for lunch and saw the receptionist being beckoned over to her chair by one of the senior stylists. She came over and sat down. There was a great deal of talking as a haircutting cape was draped over her. The talking continued for a good five minutes and was accompanied by much pulling and combing of hair and study of magazines. The receptionist mostly shook her head as if to discourage any of the suggestions made. A couple of the other stylists came over and all 3 perused a magazine and at one page all nodded in agreement. The page was shown to the receptionist who looked more than a little unsure. However she seemed a little overwhelmed as one of the stylists brushed her hair, fastening the top section in a top knot at her crown while another picked up an item from behind her and handed it to the original stylist. The stylist grabbed the topknot and used it to push the receptionist's head forward and then lifted the item handed to her, which turned out to be a set of hairclippers. These were used to quickly remove all the curls that hung around the back and sides of the young girl's head. An adjustment was made to the clippers and they were used once more, this time appearing to reduce this area to a negligible length. In turn the topknot was pulled down and, briefly, the appearance of longer hair returned until this too was reduced with scissors to a much shorter length. The final result closely resembled a young boy's mushroom cut. It was precisely cut and very short, and I thought it looked superb. The receptionist was clearly uncertain, running her hands though the longer top and up the back and sides - perhaps to confirm that the bare reflection in the mirror in front of her was indeed herself. She seemed to quickly grow accustomed to her new look, and was positively beaming as she walked past me on her way for her lunch.

Returning to today, just 3 days later, the cut still looked sharp - perhaps the cropped areas had been clippered once more. Whereas she had spent much of her time looking for, then attacking, split ends with a look of sheer exasperation on her face she now spent as much time passing her hand through the crown hair and over the clippered back and sides with an expression of sheer enjoyment. A great advert for precision haircutting and one which now appeared to be paying off. I had noticed a woman with longish, straight brown hair in a ponytail walk slowly past the salon 5 minutes ago. She was clearly staring straight at the receptionist. She walked back and entered the salon and was clearly admiring the receptionist's look. The back, then the sides. She was led straight to a waiting stylist and hastily gowned. The stylist appeared to just say "Sure?" There was a brief nod from the client and without further ado she snipped off the ponytail and dropped it into the woman's lap. And then in a scene similar to that with the receptionist a near identical style was carved out and looked stunning.

It had been a good week. I wondered what next week would bring.

TO BE CONTINUED