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A Shout From The Attic: Work -5

"My regular barber was just round the corner from Westgate, opposite Sparrow Park on Upperhead Row. There was one style, and the coiffure was topped-off by a generous helping of ‘Fixative,’ an early type of epoxy resin that set the hair like Welgar Shredded Wheat. Nor rain, nor hail, nor snow, nor any wind could move the hair dosed with this primitive super-glue,'' recalls Ronnie Bray.

… Like characters in Beckett,
We've convened on pneumatic thrones, all head,
Our bodies checked in a checkered cape. We heed
The quick scissors, the length of a snippet
Our covert fingers coax from tent to floor.-
Aidan Rooney-Cespedes

Having My Ears Lowered

On the right side of my neck is a small pimple that has always adorned it. I can not feel it, so when I can not get my hand to it I am never sure exactly where it is. Visits to the barber’s as a lad were always nerve-racking affairs, because the haircut was finished off with an open razor shaving the neckline. I was terrified that the blade would slice off the pimple, and so shrank visibly under its advancing stroke.

I never dared mention this to the barber. In my antique period, I remain nervous when the hair stylist – all the barbers are dead – gets out the open razor. However, since few still resort to this method of clean finishing, there is less need for my historical anxiety.

Sykes and Tunnicliffe laid on a shooting brake, driven by Harry, which left the junction of New North Road and Westgate each morning, Saturdays included, at 7 00 am. It was parked the other side of Westgate opposite my barber’s shop, and took workers right into the mill yard, saving us having to walk from St Michael’s church in Almondbury, which was the trolley terminus, a good mile or two from the mill, overtaking Vincent as he crawled carefully and illegally up Ashes Lane.

It is told that when the local Bobby happened on the same stretch of road that Vincent was criminally traversing, something right inside the Bobby’s collar required the urgent insertion of his stubby forefinger to claw away at the manifestation, and also involved the rotation of the Peeler’s head away from the scene of the crime.

One of the warehouse men cut hair as a ‘short-back-and-sideline.’ For the princely sum of one shilling - an hours wages for me - he gave a haircut that was pronounced by another worker to make me look like ‘the Duke of Windsor.’ Despite the unique absence of Fixative it was a shilling well spent. I had been paying one shilling and sixpence for what seemed like forever.

The extra sixpence was probably for a bottle of Fixative. Barbers may well have pre-empted car mechanics who charge every customer for a full can of Plus-Gas and a box of sterile hand wipes. These fall in the category of ‘life’s little extras’ that help grease the wheels of commerce. Of course there is more – much more – but who remembers?

If I had known that I would want to remember all the details someday, I would have taken more notice and might even have made notes.


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