Before I lived in the UAE, getting my hair cut was not an activity I approached with any degree of forward planning.
Generally speaking, I'd walk past a shop window, snigger at the reflection of the man behind me with the rather wild, flailing locks, realise there was nobody else on the street, and immediately shuffle off to the nearest hairdresser with my head down.
But over here, as ever, things are different. Just as I now eat more sushi than I do baked beans, I have also had a regular men's hair salon (yeah, that's right, "salon") that I have been frequenting every six to eight weeks. And, get this, I have a particular stylist there that I use each time. I know, I've changed.
Now, let's call this stylist Dave (it's not Dave). Over the past couple of years, I feel I've come to know Dave rather well. As he's attempted to reshape my barnet into some semblance of acceptability, we've deliberated over politics, music, film, sport and countless other subjects. We've chatted about his home country. I know that he likes to play the guitar, especially the work of Bryan Adams. And I've heard about his wife, who runs a beauty salon.
I'd like to think that, over the course of around 20 trims, 40 washes (pre- and post-cut, naturally) and several tubs of wax that he uses to shape my hair into bizarre angles that I brush out immediately after leaving, Dave now views me less as a client and more as a brother.
Sadly, this relationship turned sour the last time we met. Unable to make my usual appointment in the quiet part of the day, I was forced to go for a slot seemingly in the peak time for haircuts, where every man and his dog (not really) was wanting a trim. At first it was fine.
Dave and I discussed his recent trip back home, in particular his cousins whom he hasn't seen for over 20 years. But then, more customers started to pour in. And most of them, it seemed, also knew Dave.
"Hey Dave, how was the holiday?" one floppy-haired chap enquired as they exchanged a high-five. A high-five? It's always been a firm handshake between Dave and me. I just figured he was a handshake kind of guy. "Yo Dave, good to see you back," came another shout-out, piercing my heart like an arrow. It quickly became apparent that while for all this time, I had thought myself Dave's favourite customer, he had actually been spreading his friendship rather widely.
I shan't be seeing Dave again, nor returning to that salon. There's a hairdresser closer to home where I'm unlikely to have the same experience. Last time I checked, none of them in there spoke English.