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His Worship The Mayor by Snipped Sam
Yesterday I came across an article on line about Mr Frederick Arnold, who was mayor of a particular town in East Anglia back in 1973. There was a photograph of him in his mayoral robes and chains and there were a number of comments by those reading the article who remembered him. One of the comments was one of the best mayors we ever had, another said he was a fine public servant. Rather than comment I decided to write my account of when I encountered him.
I had been reminded by both my headmaster and my parents that my hair needed cutting and of course they were right. It always seemed to me to be such a chore getting a haircut, it was the half term holidays and I knew that my haircut was on everyone’s agenda. Well not quite everyone but those whose instructions I had to follow. I had been swimming that afternoon and during the journey there on the bus I had seen a barber’s shop just before the stop for the swimming pool.
After swimming I decided to check it out, there were green and white gingham curtains at the window and the door had a blind on it with the open sign. I could just see the barber’s head just above the curtains. As I opened the door it rang to announce my arrival. A man perhaps in his sixties was in the chair and a boy and a man sat down waiting, the barber looked at me at smiled and greeted me with a friendly hello as I sat down.
I had never been in such an old-fashioned barber's shop, the furnishing and especially the barber’s chair looked positively antique. The barber too seemed a good age, bald on top with neatly cut white hair back and sides, smartly dressed in a shirt and tie and black trousers along with a navy-blue barber’s jacket.
I picked up a magazine to read, well actually it was a supplement from a Sunday newspaper. As time went on the boy replaced the man in the chair and it was soon apparent that he was having a severe short back and sides, part of me felt I should stay and another really wanted to get up and leave. As there was a man in front of me also waiting, I decided that once he was installed in the chair, I would find an excuse and leave after all it had taken a while to get my hair to a length where it was not a very short back and sides, and it had taken a lot of persuading my father. Yes, what I would do is say that I was stepping outside for some air as I felt a bit queasy. Good job I had kept my Harrington Jacket on and not hung it up, then once outside I could just walk away never to return. Soon after the boy came of the chair severely barbered, he quickly wiped his neck with tissue before he went with the barber to pay for his haircut.
"You go next young man, I’m not in any hurry"
I looked at the man who it seemed was throwing a spanner in the works regarding my plan to escape.
"But that wouldn’t be fair, I came in after you"
"Only by a minute or two so it’s fine as I say I’m not in any hurry"
In normal circumstances I would think it was great that someone was offering me his turn, it was a nice thing to do.
"That’s very nice of you Sir, but I should wait my turn"
I heard the door close and the boy had left and the barber was on his way back to the chair
"Take the young man first Albert, I’m in no rush"
"If that’s what you want your worshipfulness but he did come in after you"
"Don’t forget I won’t officially be mayor until Saturday and I think the young man is in more need of a haircut than me"
It was then I realised that the man was going to be the new mayor of the town, and it seemed even the new mayor thought my hair needed cutting. I knew as tempting as it might be to try and make a run for it, there was only one place I was going and that was the barber’s chair.
"Are you sure Sir?"
"I am young man, now your barber is waiting"
I stood up then I slipped off my jacket and went and hug it on one of the pegs on the oak coat stand. I then made my way to the barber’s chair with its wooden arms and back and worn brown leather padding. I lowered myself into the chair, this is very comfy I thought as my heart was racing. Soon he was tucking a white tissue over my collar at the back, this is it I thought, no escape now, as the white nylon cape was fitted tightly round my neck. After smoothing the cape on my shoulders, he lightly dampened my hair and began combing it.
"How are you today young man?"
"Jolly good, looking forward to getting a haircut?"
"No not really, but it’s got to be done"
"Your first time here I think"
"That’s right, I saw you were here, when I was on the bus to go swimming"
"Boys who come to me usually have their hair cut short"
"I’d prefer a trim that’s what I really would like"
"I’m not too sure that I should give you a trim lad"
"But I only want a trim"
"Do you mind if I tell you what I think young man?"
Whilst I knew that I probably would not like what I was about to hear, I must be polite and respectful to the future mayor.
"No Sir, I don’t mind"
"A few minutes ago, whilst we both were waiting, a lad quietly went to the chair and had his haircut without any fuss and left here looking very smart indeed. He may have been a bit younger than you, but you might do well to follow his example"
I had to agree that what the mayor said was true in that the boy had gone quietly to the chair to have his haircut without any fuss. The question was should I aim to follow his example, maybe he even hated the haircut but was following his father’s orders. Even if he loved that sort of haircut why should I have it, after all that wasn’t what I had come for. I needed to answer him, the barber was poised with scissors and comb ready to make a start.
"I agree with you about him having his haircut without any fuss Sir, and yes I agree that it did look smart, that is if you like very short hair"
"Excuse me boy, you either agree that it looked smart or you don’t, keep your answers short without unnecessary embellishment"
"It looked smart Sir"
I was not exactly happy with the mayor’s tone and him calling me boy, but I had been brought up to respect and be polite to all adults especially those in authority. The mayor was the ultimate of someone in authority who commanded respect.
"I repeat what I said earlier, you might do well to follow his example"
"Yes Sir, I think that I would"
"Perhaps I should liaise with the barber for you boy, that way you will be spared having to be involved with the details of your haircut"
"You don’t have to Sir"
"But I insist"
"Fair enough Sir"
This haircut was not going at all how I had envisaged it would, but there really was no way out of the situation.
"Right Albert, we now have a plan, please cut this boys hair so that it’s a similar standard and length as the last boy’s haircut"
He started to snip away at the hair on the back of my head. he chatted to me and as I mentioned I had been swimming we then talked a little bit about swimming.This was exactly the type of barbers that my headmaster would have on his list of preferred places. If unlike me, a boy continued to ignore an order to have his haircut, he would be sent to one of the preferred barbers. In my case when my headmaster had told me "your hair is in need of attention Baker before you return after the half term break" I did not intend to ignore him. Looking in the mirror I could see that Baker’s new barber had things well under control, I was just glad no one else was there to see what was being done. He then took some antiquated thinning scissors and thinned my hair all over; it was very uncomfortable as they tugged at my hair. With the thinning completed he used a shorter pair of scissors to snip my fringe, he then brushed my face and head down with a soft bristled brush moving it briskly from side to side.
"That looks a bit neater and tidier now, doesn’t it young man?"
"Well, there’s not much left now"
"Yes. there’s more on the floor than on your head, but that’s the way we like it here lad"
To the right of the chair were three different electric clippers all plugged in and resting on the wooden counter. He picked up the ones he had used on the boy and as I was to have a similar haircut, I knew what was about to happen to me.
"No need to look so worried, it’s just going to be a little tickle"
"I wish you weren’t going to do what you’re going to do; I’ll be laughed at next week at school, I’ll just be a joke"
"I know lad, kids can be really mean, say unkind things, but it won’t be the end of the world"
"Oh, I think it will be"
He placed his left hand on the back of my head and pushed my head down to the required position. With his hand still resting on my head, he switched the clippers on, this time their shrill seemed so much louder as they were closer than when I sat on the other side of the room, they were a good age. He moved them slowly but firmly up the right side of the back of my head, I think these were the noisiest clippers I had ever heard. I imagined all those cogs inside working to make the teeth operate to get my hair so short. If ever you wanted a really short haircut this was the place to come, of course I had been given these sorts of haircuts when I was much younger. Having watched him in action I could picture exactly how this looked, my hair falling from my head as my barber skilfully used his clippers.
"It’s all going really well lad"
He said as he moved my head to the side to tackle above my ears, once my sides had been clipped, he returned the clippers their resting place. Following a vigorous brush down he stood back and surveyed his work and invited the mayor to take a look. He stood up and came over to where I was sitting, the barber stood back so he could inspect my hair. He smiled at me and asked how I was and then proceeded to walk around me looking at my hair.
"Very good indeed Albert, quite a transformation, but I think maybe a bit shorter above his ears, see a little skin perhaps"
"Very good Sir"
I was horrified by this, this was really going too far I thought, the mayor caught sight of my look of displeasure.
"Got something to say?"
"No…I mean no Sir"
"Very wise, keep your thoughts to yourself"
The mayor went and sat back down while the barber wet some cotton wool and dampened the area above my ears. Then opening out the flat razor, he shaved the hair above my ears, it felt a bit uncomfortable but that wasn’t my biggest concern, which was of course the results of this cruel Mayoral instruction.
"While you have the razor Albert, you might like to take a touch more off the back"
"I was thinking just the same"
Having completed the work above my ears, the barber wet the hair at the back and then shaved. Having wiped the sides and back with a white cotton napkin like towel, he dribbled hair oil from a chrome dispenser as he combed my hair and then combed my hair precisely in place with a severe left-hand side parting it lay flat with a shining finish.
"How’s that Mr Mayor?"
"Exactly how a boy should look after a visit to his barber"
"Would you like to see the back young man?"
The barber held the mirror with both hands, the back of my head looked so short, the hair had been cut and stripped well above my hairline. As he moved the mirror each side I could see that the razor had made half inch of bare skin above the tip of my ears.
Having loosened the cape at the back he dusted my neck with powder with the aid of a soft brush. Once the cape was removed and I stepped off the chair, I put my hand on the back of my neck it felt so bare, as I ran my hand up it felt rough and bristly.
I followed the barber to pay for my haircut, as he handed me the change, he whispered for me to thank the mayor and wish him all the best when in office. I wasn’t thrilled at the idea but as I went to collect my sports bag and looked directly at him.
"I wish you all the best for your year in office Sir and thanks for your input on my haircut"
"I’m sure you’ll get to like it and hopefully be back here soon for another one"
"I’m sure I will Sir"
I made my escape from the barber's shop, every week that year I would be reminded of this haircut, because there would be photographs of his worship the mayor in the local newspaper.