Whilst Zambia is a land of stunning natural beauty, wonderful people and amazing wildlife, it is not a place where utilities can be considered what you might call ‘reliable’.
Both water and electricity were capricious beasts during our stay in Zambia. Pretty much coming on and going off as they pleased and with very little in the way of predictability. The water especially was a pain in the rectum.
Having as I do a complexion somewhere between an anaemic vampire and an unbaked gingerbread man, I was often required to put on suncream before venturing outside. Considering that much of our work in the field required us to ride on the back of a motorbike to reach the villages and the fact that most roads and tracks in Zambia are covered in red dust, I came home most nights looking like a donut.
Unfortunately, any dreams I might have had about washing this muck off were usually dashed, by a tap that refused to even drip - the water having usually been on for only a few hours that day, often during the periods in which we were out in the field. Great.
Electricity was equally unpredictable and would dip or go off with little or no warning whenever it felt like it. What does this have to do with my hair or ruining photographs? Well…
Up until the point Sasha and I left for Zambia in 2010 I had only ever had my hair cut by my Mam. I should point out that this never bothered me in the slightest. My Mam having been a hairdresser for much of her working life always did a good job and invariably saved me the hassle of actually making any decisions regarding what kind of haircut I wanted. I’d sit down and she’d start cutting. Perfect.
Years later when I finally went to a barber for the first time, by which point I was already in my thirties and living in Malaysia, I was completely at a loss as to what to ask for. How do you ask for a ‘make it look like it usually looks’ at a barber you are visiting for the first time?
Luckily, the barber saved me the trouble by taking my Mam’s approach and just starting to cut before saying “England haircut yes?” and shaving me near bald. ‘England haircut yes’ is actually the style I ask for at that barbers now.
Rewind back a few years to Zambia and after a month or two my hair was beginning to get stupidly long.
There were a few local barbers (one of which was named the ‘Cheap and Best’ barbers, not because it was either cheap or the best, but because these were the names of the guys who owned it) but I decided in my infinite wisdom that buying a pair of hair clippers and doing it myself (by which I mean getting Sasha to do it) would be a much better option. As long as I let Sasha do it, it was.
Unfortunately at one point, a few years into our stay I decided that rather than trouble Sash with the haircutting, I would simply surprise her by cutting my hair with the clippers myself. Bad idea.
The impetus to do this, unbelievably considering how it turned out, was that I actually wanted to look half decent in the photos I knew we would be taking in the following days during our holiday to the Victoria Falls and Livingstone (for more on what to do in and around Livingstone, check out our ultimate guide to the area).
I cut my hair in an attempt to achieve this aim and failed miserably.
Sasha’s parents had come to visit us in Zambia and we had planned to visit the Victoria Falls together. So far so good. As my hair looks ridiculous when long, forming as it does into a single helmet-like piece that appears as if it could be lifted off the head in one go, like the hair on a Playmobil or Lego figure, I resolved to tame it.
After all, this was an opportunity to have some nice photographs taken at a stunning location. As it turned out the location stayed stunning. I did not. This then, dear reader, is where the electricity comes in.
Initially, my hair cutting efforts seemed to be going well. “I’m a natural” I thought, blessed with a haircutting gene clearly passed down from mother to son. It was at this point that I realised that the further into the haircut I got, the less and less the hair was actually being removed.
It turned out that the wattage was so low at that point, that the clippers refused to work as clippers at all and instead decided to pursue their ambition of becoming a shit musical instrument, doing little more than make an annoying but persistent buzzing noise (incidentally the only other time I heard a noise like this so close to my ear was the time in Zambia that a wasp got stuck in my crash helmet. That made for a long journey I can tell you).
Having failed in its aspirations to be a ‘buzz machine’ the clippers decided to rely on their back-up career plan of being a paperweight and promptly gave up the ghost completely. Having already started the haircut I decided there was nothing for it but to try to finish the job with some round-edged kid’s scissors. As Sash and her parents happily chatted away in the lounge, blissfully unaware of the hatchet job I was doing in the other room, I set about cutting the remaining hair with all the dexterity and expertise of a cow fixing a car engine. The result looked like someone could play chess on it and I was forced to tentatively call to Sash and explain the disaster.
The only way of resolving the situation was clear. A full on head shave and Bic razor job, right down to the skin. A job which Sasha’s Dad expertly, (if a little too enthusiastically for my liking) took up.
If you ever wondered what would happen if Phil Mitchell had sex with a potato, I can happily reveal that the answer looks a bit like this. Jesus God, kill it before it spreads.
So. Rather than having a nice fresh haircut and looking decent in the photos, I instead ruined every photo by sporting a haircut that made me look seriously ill and like I was on the trip as my last wish.
The only photograph featuring me from the whole experience that looks even remotely good is the one of Sasha’s father looking for all the world like an experienced barber and grinning with delight as I sit pensively awaiting my fate.
“England haircut yes, please”.
Have you ever had a bad haircut right before an important event, holiday or trip? Or maybe there’s one haircut that stands out as just being terrible? Let us know in the comments below!
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