I was ripping out a kitchen in a house in Camberwell.  It was easy, mindless work removing worktops, cupboards and appliances down to the bare bones.  I just had to cap off the plumbing and try not to damage the walls.

The client, a quiet, artistic woman who worked with her husband in a design business, had cleared away the items she didn’t want disturbed by the dust of my dismantling.  Mostly cook books and framed art.  She placed them on the floor on the other side of the long, open-plan kitchen.

Nothing in particular caught my eye until near the end of the day.  On the top of her pile of salvaged items was a small, gold frame around a field of black velvet.  From far away I thought it might be some ‘Elvis art’, all fuzzy paper and brightly coloured lines of Vegas-inspired cheese.  But when I got closer I saw that it was a comb.  Not a picture of a comb, an actual, plain black hair comb like the one Fonzie used to carry in his back pocket.  There was no inscription or commemorative plaque of any kind.  It was mounted proudly on the rectangle of black velvet behind glass as if it had been presented to someone as the key to a magnificent, follicularly-chic city.  I imagined a Dr Seuss-like town of jolly citizens with fantastic hair-dos frolicking merrily among brightly-coloured trees and towering houses shaped like salon tools.  But this was Camberwell.

Neither of the people who lived in the house worked in the hair industry, as far as I knew, nor did they have unusually impressive hair.  I must have been missing out on an inside joke.  Because the comb had been hanging in their kitchen, maybe it was in regard to the preparation of their morning ‘coiffee’.  Perhaps the husband was constantly teased about his exceptionally hairy back.  I suppose one of them could have been a champion comb player in the local Bluegrass band.  The curiosity was agonizing.

I regret now that I didn’t ask about it.  It stands alone as the single greatest mystery of my entire handymanning career.  If I ever work for these people again, I simply must find out.  Stay tuned.

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