The girl who cuts my hair is called Trish Brown. When I say girl, she’s more of a woman these days as I’ve known her a long time; time she’s spent gaining experience with one of the best hairdressing chains in the land before, a couple of years ago, opening her own salon in Darlington and charging realistic prices. She’s become a successful business person in her own right and that’s in part because she knows what she’s doing and, therefore, gives her customers confidence.
What she doesn’t do is cook up her own shampoos and other hair treatments. Apart from being extremely time-consuming – what with crushing the eye of newt and mixing it with Himalayan spring water – she’d be rubbish at it. I know that because we can’t all be good at everything. She’s good at styling your hair so leaves making hair products to the experts.
But it’s taken me a good few decades to discover the same thing for myself. Never mind the choice between Jack of all trades or master of none. I always thought, though maybe not admitted, that I could be the master of anything I put my hand to. For instance, I haven’t headlined at Glastonbury yet but only because I haven’t got around to it.
So, sheep shearing should be a doddle then, shouldn’t it? I mean, it’s only an addendum to farming; a service that’s contracted in every now and then. A bit like the Pick Your Own malarkey, anybody must be able to do it. Yeah, right.
In my quest to be able to talk on a level with all the farmers that supply Oldfields Eating House directly, I’ve convinced myself that whatever they can do, I can do it too – albeit on a much smaller scale. The theory being that if I have a little knowledge of what they have a lot, we’ve some common ground for conversation and the prospect of a smidgen of respect from those with generations of experience to someone who’s spent the last few years learning at speed.
So, rearing my own animals for supply to our own restaurant is part of that plan. And cutting the woolly stuff off the back of some recalcitrant adolescent castrated sheep should easily be within my ability. And I’m sure I can make them look as good as if they’d been sent to Trish Brown.
Sometimes I think I must have the mind of an 18 year old because the confidence of youth seems to run through my veins while the evidence of my efforts demonstrates how useless I am. I ended up as the proud possessor of a flock of punk sheep. While commensurate with my adolescence, punk is not my favourite era but the sheep didn’t know that. They even flaunted safety pins in the form of ear tags to complement the disaster of a haircut I gave them. They’d had the tags a while; long before the makeover from the Malcolm McLaren of the smallholding world.
Ok. While this was been an interesting experience – for both me and the sheep, it demonstrates that in my ambition to understand the whole process, there’s a necessity to leave certain things to the experts. However, I’ll always argue that it helps to have some knowledge or experience of all the necessary processes in life. And the whole food chain thing is one of those.
So the theory is that by if one does things like shearing ones own sheep, rearing animals for food in general and butchering ones own meat, confidence is given to everybody that eats the result; because there’s a resultant faith in the quality of the raw materials and the ability that’s gone into the food.
That’s why we go to such lengths at the restaurant. Now, can my hairdresser say the same?