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"You're only 11” and Peter and Simon by Thebarbered1
James was an 11 year old. It was 1975, and he lived with his Mum and his 15 year old brother, Joe at their home in Dorset, on the English south coast. They'd had no father since he left when they were infants.
They were a close family, all pretty content with life, and James and Joe were typical boys of their age - well behaved and good natured, but excitable, fashionably dressed, and, with long (over the ears and collar length) hair.
That summer however, things were about to change, as a new man came into their Mum's life. Clive his name was, and she was absolutely taken with him. He used to come over and stay every now and then, and one thing they soon found out – he was very strict and a stickler for good manners. This often called friction between the boys and their Mum, and one day, she even said to them "Well, I like him a lot, and anyway, it's about time you two learnt some manners”. They were generally good boys, and had never heard her speak like that before and were shocked, not to mention beginning to get very concerned.
Eventually, it got to late August, and one Wednesday evening, James and Joe were watching television, when their Mum walked in. "I have some news for you” she said "Clive's moving in with us”. Looking shocked, "When?” they asked. "He'll be here at the weekend” she said. They knew what he was like, but did want her to be happy. They knew though, things were going to change, and they were very worried. The thing is, little did they know really how much things were going to change.
He moved in on the Sunday. The first few days were fairly peaceful. The following week though, while sitting over dinner one evening, he said it was now time to lay down some "ground rules” – saying firstly, that from now on, he was to be addressed to as "Sir” by them, and when at the dinner table, they were to be no raised voices – Finally he declared their new bedtimes – much earlier than they'd ever had before. "Joe will be 9.00 (he said), and you James only being 11 (something, it wasn't the last time he was going to hear), you will be in bed by 8.30” He was horrified, his mates stayed up much later than that, but he dared not argue.
They did hope their Mum could say something to him about not being so strict on them, and later on, when he'd gone out of the room for a short while , they appealed to her, but she actually approved of his demands, saying it was good for them.
Things had changed, and changed big time.
The following week, on the Friday before returning to school, they all went into town as the boys needed new jackets, and there was a nice blue one, James had had his eyes on for quite a while. On pointing it out to Clive, he responded however "No. For school. You're both going to have proper boy's duffel coats”. Joe pleaded with him, saying "But Sir, hardly anyone have those now”. Clive retorted "Don't you argue with me. For school, it's a duffel coat, and that's final”. In the shop, as they stood there trying one on, and having to do them all up, Clive surveyed each of them, before saying to the assistant ""They look fine. They'll have those”, and that was that.
As they were about to return home (or so they thought they were), they realised worse was to come however….. much worse.
Walking back to the car, Clive suddenly declared "Right, school on Monday – Haircuts”. Joe and James look absolutely mortified. (Theirs was over the ears and touching the collar, but wasn't unkempt. It was pretty much as most boys of their age had theirs in 1975). "We can go where I go (Clive continued). It's a proper barber shop, not one of these "modern places” that seem to be appearing everywhere these days”. That sent alarm bells ringing through Joe and James. The alarms bells rung even louder when he said "We'll go there now, it should be quiet”.
They thought they knew where it was he was talking about, and they were right.
Mr Johnsons' was a very traditional barber shop, not far from where they lived. They'd never been in there, but they'd heard that Mr Johnson was very stern, and was the sort of person that, like Clive, demanded respect. On getting there, Clive parked the car up in a space over the road. They all got out, and crossed the road.
As they opened the door, a bell tinkled. There were three chairs in there with mirrors facing them. Next to them, on a shelf, and hooked up on the wall next to it, were a large selection of haircutting implements – clippers and attachments, scissors, combs, brushes, and bottles and pots of lotions and hair creams. All around the walls, there were pictures of men with short haircuts.
As they entered, there weren't any customers in there, and Mr Johnson was sitting at the back reading the newspaper.
"Hey, Clive!!” He looked up and cheerily called out. Clearly, they knew each other. "How are you? (Mr Johnson continued). These must be the boys?” "Yes (Clive replied) This is Joe and this is James. They both badly need haircuts for school on Monday”. Mr Johnson smiled and, looking at them, said "Oh yes, they do don't they?”, before walking up to the chair nearest the window. "Joe?” Clive said, pointing to the chair. He reluctantly stepped forward and sat down. Mr Johnson picked up a white, pinstriped cape and, with James looking on, very worried, shrouded it over him, and, wrapping a neck tissue around, clipped the cape into place. Clive then said "His hair just needs tidying a little. A bit of a trim and tidy up”. "Right you are” Mr Johnson replied. Joe was expecting much worse – something quite severe, but Mr Johnson, cut away a bit with scissors, and the clippers came on for not much more than a matter of seconds. 10 minutes later and it was over, and he was being de-caped again.
Joe was relieved really. "I liked my hair, but I suppose I can live with this " he thought.
Clive then ushered James to the chair. Once again, Mr Johnson took the white, pinstriped cape and shrouded it over him, and, wrapping a neck tissue around, clipped the cape into place. James was thinking that his haircut will be much the same as Joe's, but then, came the bombshell. Clive said to Mr Johnson, repeating those words from before, "Right, James here, only being 11, needs to look smart - a proper short back and sides I think here. James look horrified, but Clive just looked back at him and said "It's going to be short back and sides, and no arguments”. Even Joe looked shocked. Mr Johnson then said to James "About time you had a good short back and side's my lad, and that's what Clive's said to give you”.
He continued "Right, young men, you need to bend your head right down”. James, reluctantly, did as he was told "I said right down.... (Mr Johnson responded)….. that's more like it”.
He chose a pair of clippers from the wall, clicked on an attachment, and then started to clip the back of James' neck and then up the back of his head. James could feel his hair falling away. Mr Johnson then started taking care of the hair at the sides. He tilted James' head each way in turn, so he could go around the sides, clipping above and around his ears, also making short work of the sideburns. Eventually, he returned the clippers to the hook where they had been hanging. After lifting up James' head, he took a comb and some scissors and started to cut the hair on the top of his head. Snippets of his hair were raining down as it got increasingly shorter. Next to go was the fringe, and then after that, he started to blend in the hair on top, down to the much shorter hair at the bottom, including all the way around the ears
James thought it was then over, as Mr Johnson then loosened the cape at the back, and brushed him down. However, he clipped the cape back into place, and then tucked in a large neck tissue at the back. "Nearly done now." he told James, as he lathered shaving cream along his nape and up to his ears. He made quick work of shaving, scraping a neat outline around his ears and cleaning up the back. He wiped the excess shaving cream off and brushed him all down, and then took the mirror and showed him the back of his head.
James nodded, knowing there was nothing else he could do, but he was trying his hardest, not to burst into tears.
"Well young man (Mr Johnson said) I don't think we can improve on that”. Clive spoke up "Thank you, we have one very smart looking lad here”.
Despite knowing he eventually would, James thought to himself "I so hope none of my friends see me like this I must really look like a idiot." As they got in the car, James and Joe's Mum said "Oh, that's much better”. James, as earlier was still trying his best not to burst into tears.
While they were on the way home, their Mum suddenly announced "Oh, by the way, Auntie Janice, Peter and Simon are coming for the weekend” James was mortified. They were his cousins who were 10 and 8. They had thick bushy hair and were quite mischievous and noisy. "What are they going to think when they see me like this?” James thought.
Later on, the doorbell rung and they'd arrived. As Peter and Simon walked in and saw James with his brand new haircut, their jaws dropped. Later on, as James went to bed, their cousins both chucked at the time it was. Their Mum looked at them with a very angry stare.
Later on, when James was in bed, he could hear voices outside his bedroom door. It was his Auntie Janice talking to Peter and Simon – or, more like sounding very annoyed at them. He could just make out what was being said "You two are a disgrace, it's about time you had a bit of discipline too. Do you know what? I think a trip to Mr Johnsons is in order for you two as well. James looks very smart” "Noooooo” they both squealed. "Yes”, she responded As he heard them go into the spare bedroom, obviously being sent to bed themselves, James turned over, and a smile spread across his face.
In the morning, they'd all had their breakfast, and were going out. Auntie Janice announced, before we go anywhere else, can we just take these two to see your Mr Johnson. Clive has only too happy to oblige.
"Clive!!! James and Joe!” Mr Johnson greeted them as they entered. "… and this is Peter and Simon” Clive told him. While waiting and watching there, although James knew he'd be back in the chair again himself before too long, on this occasion, he could relax. In contrast, Peter and Simon looked very serious. They were about to get some serious treatment.
A short time later, there were two more perfect short, back and sides', just like James'. Also, at 8.30 that evening, two others went to bed.
James didn't feel quite so humiliated now.
Two years or so later, when James reached being a teenager, and was now staying up later, Clive said that for his haircut, he now just needed it "tidied up a little”, like Joe's.
As for Peter and Simon though………