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I've just written a piece as homework for Egton Bridge Writers' Group. Theme: a visit to the hairdresser's. It is nautical, and mostly true.
I peer through the window. The barber’s shop in York Road looks not too busy this Friday morning.
‘Excuse please’ -- that’s a voice at my elbow. ‘Which is best way back to dock?’ He’s Danish – I recognise the accent – probably a seaman. Platinum blond hair and thin beard.
Directions are easy from here. ‘Turn right and straight down Church Street. All the way to the bottom, then turn left at The Shades pub. It’s a great spot for a beer.’
‘Thank you. I was there last night. Have headache today. Now I get lost doing shopping. You are seafarer, like me?’ says the Dane. He’s probably noticed my bridge coat; I should really have it cleaned since I spilled Guinness down the front. The Dane seems a decent sort.
‘Yes. Just enjoying a spot of leave after a long sweat in Calcutta.’
He nods. ‘I like town. This West Hartlepool. I understand people. They speak like Dansk. In London, I can never tell what they say.’ He wanders off, and I think, ‘A pity – he’d be a good shipmate.’
There are just two customers in the barber's. Heads are deep in papers, picking out horses. Acrid Woodbine smoke drifts around. From my rickety chair I admire the three barber thrones. They are stainless steel and white porcelain. Massive and imperious things with hydraulic mechanism; a bit out of place in this gritty town. On the porcelain base is the word, ‘Berengaria’, in ornate script. I’ve seen that name somewhere.
The barber runs a lighted taper around the back of a chap’s scrawny neck. He's ordered a short-back-and-sides with a singe. I wrinkle my nose at the odour. The barber then rubs pomade into the fellow’s scalp; it’s fruity and ripe. Yuk!
Soon, I settle into the capacious black leather embrace of a gorgeous chair. It feels like I'm in the arms of an Antwerp madame.
‘You’ve got a healthy tan, sir. Been to foreign parts?’
‘Yes, Liverpool to Calcutta and back, and sundry cess-pits in between.’
The barber prattles on -- as they do. I get bored hearing about his week in Scarborough. ‘Tell me about Berengaria and how you came by this handsome chair.
‘Glad you like it, sir. You’ll have noticed we have three in a row. All from Cunard’s RMS Berengaria. The old boss bid for them when she was scrapped at Jarrow, back in 1939.'
I enjoy the sensation of the warm electric clippers on the back of my neck. Just a gentle purr. So different to the blunt, hair-ripping-out, hand-operated clippers Dad used to torture me with. 'She was a three funnel liner, wasn’t she?'
'That’s right, and about fifty-thousand tons. German. Began life in 1913 as the Imperator for Hamburg-Amerika Line. Four-thousand passengers and a thousand crew. Never ventured out of Hamburg 1914-1918. The Allies gave her to Cunard when the bloody affair was done. Renamed Berengaria.’
'And who, or where, is Berengaria?’
'Ah, well now. My mate has a full set of Arthur Mee's Children's Encyclopaedia. So, I looked it up.' He stops snipping, to hold forth. ‘Berengaria, princess of Navarre, daughter of Sancho the Sixth, wed our King Richard the First, known as Lion-heart, whenever it was. Well before my time . . . fourteen hundred and summat.’
Arthur Mee's! I smile to myself. That's where I’ve read of Berengaria, Princess of Navarre. I wonder what she looked like. I muse on a dark-eyed maid possessed of long, gracefully curved neck, who moves like a swan.
As I pay the barber, he asks conspiratorially, ‘Anything for the weekend, sir?’
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11th November 2018, 10:28 PM
#15 Yes John agreed, the wife does mine has for many years not much left to cut alas. We were flying up to Edinburgh several years ago and needed a trim. usually have a grade four. Well the wife forgot to put the comb in the cutter by mistake. Went from the base of the neck straight up through to the forehead and then shouted out "oh hell" what, what have you done?, I'll pass you the mirror, she says, well I looked like the last of "The Mohicans" in reverse, we were flying in four hours , it was on a Sunday, so plan of action shave down to almost the same level and buy a "Meat loaf and scarf" at the airport. Think I kept it on for most of the time when out. Bit embarassing but hey had worse air cuts at sea when we use to do each others after a few beers lol
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12th November 2018, 11:34 AM
There was a winger on the Windsor who for a small fee would cut your hair.
But he was odd, kept a big bag with all the hair he had cut off.
Told us he had been cutting and keeping the hair for about three years.
never did find out what he was going to do with it.
Happy daze John in Oz.
Life is too short to blend in.
John Strange R737787
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