‘You first, Eat the frog!’ I teased Darragh, perched timidly on the hair salon’s wobbly waiting chair on Av. Perito Moreno, El Calafate.

‘I’m not going first, I’ll watch you’, he insisted.


Our’s was not one of Patagonia’s poshest parlours, I told Darragh that a back-street barber would provide a more authentic cut and a better story to tell his friends.

Braving a haircut abroad is one of those roll-a-dice, rollercoaster travel experiences, a great source of stories.

For years, I’ve entertained and frightened Darragh and his cousins with my hairdressing escapades.

Like the Bangkok Barber who zero-bladed my head and the twitchy Turk who scorched my ears with flaming paper.

Their favourite is my Hondurian haircut, when I was swivelled about in a dentist’s chair, spouting Spanish instructions as if my life depended on it.

‘Si! Si! Si! ‘ The barber nodded, before dispensing his usual haircut. The same for every client.

Nan fell about laughing at my new duck-like-look, with one big curl left in the middle of my forehead.


Today Darragh was a really reluctant participant.

In front of us, a white-coated lady with penciled brows and huge hands and feet chopped busily; a younger assistant finished off a head to our left.

‘She’s just like Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber!’ I joked. ‘Watch out, that looks like a trap-door under her chair!’

‘Can’t it wait till I go back to Mary Joe?,’ he suggested.

His regular spot, Mary Joe’s in An Cheathru Rua is a very pleasant experience, good chat as Gaeilge, and of course a great haircut.

‘Eat the frog Darragh , get it over with!’ I encouraged .


Mark Twain said that if every morning, first thing, you eat a live frog, then the rest of your day can only be better.

Eat it early! Tackle unpleasant chores fast, don’t sit worrying.

Darragh, who was very nervous about the cut, had a different take on Twain.

‘You eat your frog. I’ll watch!’

I stepped up to the vacant chair, noticing that the young hairdresser was even more terrified than Darragh. 

Mine must have been her first foreign head.

The trim took an age, she sought reassurance before each painstaking snip.

By the end I was exhausted and covered in hair; she had forgotten to cover my clothes.

Darragh dodged Sweeney Todd too and the young apprentice was more relaxed with him, chatting to him about school in Buenos Aires.

Darragh, pleased with his trim, laughed at my patchy head and hairy clothes.

‘Nice hair cut, Froggy!! he teased.

Maybe, it’s better to go second.


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