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Donal O’donoghue tracks his own lockdown grooming fiascos

Behind many a good man is a great woman. And with barbers and grooming rooms closed across the country, this is exactly the position Donal O’donoghue found himself in


“You have a lot of hair.” My wife says this as if it is a challenge. It certainly sounds like that as I perch on a dining-room chair in the middle of the garden. A towel is draped around my neck, my head is slightly bowed and standing somewhere behind me is my significan­t other, armed (and that is the right word) with a scissors, a brush and a beard trimmer. Over the wall, my neighbour has decided it’s just about the perfect time to empty his bins. “Oh,” he says peeking over the divide. “My wife did that to me last week.” And the laugh that followed was ominous.

Male grooming was never top of my priority list. I occasional­ly use a facial rehydrater, have a bag of various shaving creams and balms and possess the standard electrical devices. Yet nearly a year on from The Great Lockdown, things were getting seriously hairy. In that time, there had been one visit to the Grooming Rooms in Dublin, a bespoke ‘grooming emporium’ where men say, ‘I’m here because my wife or partner or mother gave me a voucher.’ That day’s hair-cut was especially tight as there was no way of knowing how soon I might be back.

But time – and matters tonsorial –waits for no one. So trimmer, scissors, razor and balms were working overtime to keep the beard at bay. The head, though, was another matter. There’s only so many references to Worzel Gummidge that one can shoulder. So that’s how one mild day in February, I found myself in the garden for a bit of personal pruning. In those moments before the scissors engaged, I had a Proustian stirring, back again in a childhood summer, the younger brothers lined up behind me (there was a hierarchy) as my father opened up his clipper box with its razored accoutreme­nts.

I was nervous then. I was petrified now. “I know I’m laughing but it’s looking a lot better already” says my wife after a few tentative snips. The laughter doesn’t help. Nor does the attempt at humour. “Going anywhere nice on your hols?” asks my ersatz barber. Not in this state I’m not. “You know I have just six minutes to finish this” says herself, the snipping tempo upped. “Why? I ask. “Well that’s how much time is left on the timer before my lunch is ready.” And I’m thinking the barber never gave me a countdown. Nor did he ask if I had brought my own scissors, trimmer and brush. But this is life in the time of Comb-it 19, where it’s all about adapt or DIY. Last May, a friend sent me an image of his latest haircut. “I did this myself,” he said proudly of his handiwork. To be honest, it wasn’t bad. But then my friend has very little hair and there wasn’t too much that could go wrong. Despite my wife’s exhortatio­n, I do not have as much hair on my head as I once had. But I do have some and I want to hang on to it. Gives me something for my comb to do. Although there was a time – in the middle of the 2km restrictio­ns when we lived in our PJS – that I was going to get the razor out and go Full Metal Jacket. Fortunatel­y, sanity prevailed.

‘Short back and sides’ is still the standard request for many young men. My father, more avant garde in his approach, gave us the ‘short back and sides and front’ cut. I’m afraid to ask my wife about her preferred style and I keep the magazine picture of George Clooney circa ER in my pocket. As the shearing continues (‘Do you think the scissors needs to be sharpened dear?’) I close my eyes but can only see bald sheep hurdling a fence and images from that movie where a man shaves his head with a rusty blade.

An oven alarm wakes me from my reverie. Time is up. “It looks great,” says my lockdown barber. “Any chance of a tip?” On the far side of the garden wall I’m sure I can hear someone sniggering. I attempt to assess the damage from the wisps of hair on the paving stones. I wonder if I’ll be posting a triumphant image to my DIY mate tonight. Certainly I feel more streamline­d and I can only imagine the damage if I had attempted the act of attrition by myself. “What do you reckon?” asks the voice behind me. I can’t really answer. I didn’t bring a mirror with me.

“I close my eyes but can only see bald sheep hurdling a fence”

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