Sweeney Todd of Kathmandu I love not shaving. I associate being clean shaven with work so when we travel I tend to ‘forget’ the razor. Sadly in recent times the beard has developed a rather nasty grey streak, to which I like to blame on Natalie and she likes to blame on Trafalgar! The beard was also a major fascination for many locals through China and Tibet. People would stop and stare or point at it and smile. For some reasons many Chinese assumed I was from Spain because of the beard and I was constantly greeted with “Hola Amigo!”. The highlight came when we visited the Summer Palace in Lhasa Tibet, where one little boy was in awe of the mighty testosterone fuelled shaggy beard. We let him touch it and he screwed up his face and ran off!
I don’t know exactly when I mentioned it, whether it was after a few vodkas on the Trans Siberian or when I was suffering from a chilli induced brain meltdown somewhere in China but I had promised Natalie I would shave it off for her birthday, and she never let me forget that promise!
Fast forward to Kathmandu and as we walked down one of the Thamel district streets we saw numerous hole in the wall barber shops. As we approached the third or fourth one Natalie suggested that if I was going to shave, now could be the opportunity, and we decided if anything else it would be an experience. This is where we met the Kathmandu Sweeney Todd.
Wearing a blue balaclava ( this should have set off warning signs immediately) he left his client sitting in a chair with a half finished “do” as we discussed, haggled and agreed fora haircut and shave for the equivalent of about three British pounds. Lets be honest I don’t exactly have the fullest head of hair and anything more than that would have been a little excessive. We waited for him to finish with his current client with both of them telling us, “one minute, one I minute” and then I was subjected to one of the weirdest, most uncomfortable and probably most unhygienic experiences of my life. I had already put my body on the line for The Smart Way Round with the ear cleaning incident but this was a whole new level.
Let’s set the scene, the barbershop, if we can call it that, was little more than about two meters wide, the walls were covered in a mixture of mildew, mould, dirt and car exhaust fumes, in fact it reminded me of the setting of the horror movie “Hostel”! Sweeney Todd then grabbed a pair of clippers that still had hair from his last victim on them and proceeded to do a fairly decent job of shaving my head. My biggest concern was the smell of his hands, let’s just say I’m not really sure when he may have last washed them, I think you get the picture!
The head shave was followed by a shave of the beard, a rather traumatic experience for me and one probably met with some joy by Natalie. So after about ten minutes that felt like a lifetime I thought my ordeal was over, but then he started massaging my head! Headlocks, twists, earlobe pulls some random clicking thing started to make me more and more uncomfortable, he then started on my neck and shoulders.
This was followed by twisting my arms in a manor where I thought I was being arrested and my shoulder was about to pop out its socket before Sweeney then yanked and cracked every finger, even the one I broke just over a year ago that has never healed properly!
Before Natalie knew what was going on she was also subject to a massage by Sweeney’s mad assistant. Natalie had hurt her neck somehow in Tibet and all I could think was I hope she was ok. As it turned out the impromptu massage actually fixed her neck!
Thankfully the ordeal came to an end and all of a sudden Sweeney Todd could no longer speak English, all he could do was give a sinister evil laugh ( I may be exaggerating here) and write down that we now owed him three times the agreed amount! Sweeney and the mad assistant just looked at us and laughed pointing to the figure. We said no, threw them slightly more than we agreed upon and left feeling slightly violated a little dirty, but sporting a fresh daper new look and a fixed neck for Natalie. We made a B-line for the hotel and once safely in our room Natalie (my normal hairdresser) grabbed some scissors and took care of all the bits Sweeney Todd missed.
While it does feel great to be cleaned up a bit I do miss the beard, but as we are still only half way to Australia it should be back in all it’s grey flowing form by the 1st of March. If I learnt anything from this experience it is next time, Natalie can put her body on the line for TheSmart Way Round!
– (the new look) Dean