the shop was called ‘the end’ and had been for twenty five years. i remember though, in the beginning, for the five years before that, it was called ‘scratch’. one warm evening in 2015, george, i & two former colleagues, both called philip (but known, separately, for reasons long lost to me – but peculiar to the hairdressing trade – as charles & basil) opened the door for one last time, & dismantled the shop within. everything –
washbasins, worktops, computers, appointment book (a ring-bound, large format thing that had seen us all through almost three decades), till rolls, pdq machine, 8 chairs (identical to this one), a sofa built (by george) from old chevrolet seats set on scaffold, three stools (the casters rendered solid with hair), a once-straight ‘spike’ for receipts, a till (now ‘retro’ – or ‘vintage’, no doubt – but dating back to the 1980s – when it was considered, I remember, quite ‘tech’), brushes (denman, round, paddle), combs (cutting, afro, pin-tail, wide-toothed), extension hair (of every shade: it was, bizarrely, human in origin although, after many thousands of heads had been weaved with it, i can only recall a handful of clients actually asking from whence such a thing came; i always took delight in telling them that it was from horses!), glue gun & mat, a plastic ‘practice’ head, straighteners & tongs, bags of diy tools, neck brushes & clothes brushes, a hand crafted reception desk (george, obviously), huge bags of cotton wool, perm rods, papers & lotions, waxes, putties, muds, clays, gels, mousses, hairsprays, shampoos, conditioners, tints, bleaches, a bench, a microwave, a fridge, tumble drier, stereo system, trolley (“get the trolley!”), a clock, an office cabinet & files, wifi router & whatnot, some led lights, a flat screen tv, a large back mirror (“let me show you the back, so you get the whole picture.”), towels & gowns, some cushions (for children & short people), cleaning products, paint, an umbrella, a bucket, magazines, christmas decorations, leaflets, appointment cards, the stump of a log (coveted by many, oddly), several phones (“good afternoon, the end…” despite it often being the morning. also, with receiver held aloft, occasionally, wonderfully, “george, michael’s on the phone!” – some jokes just keep giving.), a cork pinboard, artwork (produced by george’s kids – when they were kids – & various members of staff, friends & clients, etc), cutlery, cups, saucers, coffee machine, coffee, kettle, tea, sugar… a broom (“take the room around a broom!”)
– familiar things, life, memories, were loaded into a rented van. the mirrors, six foot by two, nine in number, framed in stained pine & made (again) by george, remained, too long rooted to the walls of 1076 whitgift centre, & far too cumbersome to pull from the brick work. they are there still, in reflection. we bought some bottles of beer from bishops wine bar & laughed, almost bravely, as we took apart this part of our lives. at some point toward the sad, sad end i asked, i seem to remember, almost jokingly, if i could have one of the chairs &, to my surprise, or not, george said, of course. it was then just a matter of getting a cab to take me, & it, to crystal palace where I, was renting that summer (through a scheme called global guardians, a near derelict, ground floor victorian flat at the bottom end of the rather swanky belvedere road, a stone’s throw (albeit, an olympian, superhuman chuck!) from the crystal palace park where the concrete dinosaurs still reside near the boating pond & the 1977, jubilee, competitors’ sports arena & pool– all of which (apart from the dinosaurs) resemble something salvaged from the eastern bloc – the last of the good times!
for over thirty years, on occasion, people would ask the meaning of the name of the shop. there was no real answer; none that i ever heard, even from george, that completely satisfied my mind. the general accepted answer was that it was ‘the end’ because it was situated at the end of the shopping centre. only so many remembered it ever being called ‘scratch’, what with that being so long ago – although, those that did and do remember, will sometimes speak of it as almost legend : and rightly so; they were different times.
sitting in the chair one night an infinitely better reasoning for the shop names suddenly appeared in my head:
with any story you start from scratch and finish at the end.
the realisation of this was so shocking, so genius…so obvious to me that i was astounded that it had never been heard or posited as a reason in over thirty years! i thought that, for once, i had somehow seen inside the workings of george’s mind. the notion was still with me the following morning and so i sent him an email to tell him my thoughts. when he replied he wrote,
‘brilliant! i never thought of it like that before!’