They also say that when in Turkey you should have a Turkish Shave. At least if you are a man. As it turns out I am a man, and I am in Turkey. So a few days ago I had a Turkish Shave.
I chose the friendliest-looking barber shop, which we had walked past several times on our way to and from the town. He enthusiastically waves us in, and offers us tea. I had read in the guide book at the hotel that the Turkish are especially proud of their hospitality and that it is considered rude not to accept tea when offered. So we accept. We drink tea as we watch the World Cup on the television. Portugal are beating North Korea 4 goals to nil. As we sip our tea, Portugal score a fifth.
Eventually, the barber gestures for me to lay my head back and the shave begins. He applies a smooth coating of shaving cream to my face, taking care to ensure that there are no gaps. Then the razor appears. Now, my concern with the cut-throat razor is, and always has been, the name. Cut-throat razor. I would have thought the last thing you want to be reminded of about a razor is what it is capable of doing when it is in the wrong hands! Fortunately, this particular razor is in the right hands as he deftly scrapes away the three or four days' worth of stubble that I had been growing in preparation for today's event. My face now feels as smooth as the rest of my body had felt after the hammam the day before. Anywhere else, and you might think that was the shave over with. But not in Turkey. Noticing that Rachel was looking a little warm while sipping her tea he picks up some lemon spritzer spray and sprays her face to cool her down, before doing the same to me. Next, large cotton-bud type things are dipped in lighter fuel and set alight. These implements are used to singe away any unwanted (and, no doubt, unsightly) ear-hairs. I didn't realise I had any, but I definitely feel them singe as they are gotten rid of.
At this point, by way of advice, my barber gestures to the cafe next door to his shop. "Omar's...", he says, "dirty. Don't go there." We hadn't planned to, but I had wondered why there had been a large picture of Omar Sharif in prominent place at the front of the cafe. I assumed it might have been because Mr Sharif himself had once eaten there. I doubted this now, especially if he'd been to this barber first. As I turn to look in the direction of the cafe, I notice the man turning the kebabs on the grill. He bears a striking resemblance to Omar Sharif. "Is that...", I begin to ask myself, but I stop myself. Of course it isn't. As we ponder over the dirtiness of the neighbouring cafe, and as I silently ponder the fate of Omar Sharif, North Korea concede a sixth goal.
As I turn back to look into the mirror ahead of me, I am taken aback by the sudden appearance of the tips a sharp pair of scissors at the end of my nose. He is now removing unwanted (and, no doubt, unsightly) nose-hairs. "Massage?" he asks. Before I can respond he is massaging my shoulders and arms. At one point, he even gets out a large electric massager to run across my back. The offer is extended to Rachel, who gratefully accepts her part in the proceedings. Meanwhile, Omar next door continues to turn kebabs in his decidedly empty cafe, and Portugal put a seventh goal past the Koreans.
"You look ten years younger!" the barber assures me, as we prepare to leave. I smile and ask him how old he thinks I look. "Ooh, 35?" he ventures. I give him a thumbs up, as though to indicate I am happy with that assessment. Not surprisingly, he takes my gesture to mean he has guessed correctly. "Yes, same age as me! 35!". I am surprised. I would have said he was nearer 45.
As we walk away, making sure not to make eye contact with the man in the neighbouring cafe, I feel thoroughly refreshed. And I feel confident in the knowledge that no unwanted (and, no doubt, unsightly) ear or nose-hairs are causing any offence. It then dawns on me. If he thought I looked 35 after my shave, and the shave made me look ten years younger, then he actually thought I was probably around 45.
Oh well, same age as him, I suppose. Same age as him.