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The Barber On Devonshire Road by Snipped Sam
Mr Peterson had a barber shop on Devonshire Road, his haircuts were by reputation extreme. A couple of boys from my year at school went there and they always had such very short haircuts, along with two or three of the older masters. I had walked past his shop more than a few times, but I had never gone inside, although was more than a little curious about it. At this point I would like to advise readers that the year was 1974, and short haircuts were not popular with lads my age.
One evening my parents were hosting a coffee evening, which was to raise money for a local charity, I was roped in to help, taking coats, offering round biscuits. Mr Peterson along with his wife came to the event, I recognised him from having seen him standing in his doorway, plus of course knew his name. Mrs Peterson was really nice, she was also involved in the same charity, which is why they were there, she was very chatty with me. She asked me if I knew her husband to which I replied that I didn’t, soon after that, I fetched her a glass of water to take a pain killer. When I returned with the water, she introduced me to him.
"Yes, we met briefly when we came in, didn’t we Mark?"
"That’s right, I took your coat."
He then launched into conversation with me, being really talkative, asking what I wanted to do when I left school and the other usual things that adults ask teenagers. He was quite a distinguished looking man, probably late fifties with his greying hair cut short sides and back, and neat waves on top. After a few minutes I was released from the conversation, to attend to some guests who were leaving, which required me to fetch their coats. A bit later it was time to get Mr Peterson’s coat, which I noticed smelt of mothballs, having helped him on with his coat, he shook my hand.
"Nice to have met you Mark, by the way did I mention that I have a barber shop?"
"No, you didn’t Sir."
"On Devonshire Road, I’m open every day apart from Sundays and Thursday afternoons, should you ever like to pay me a visit."
The Peterson’s left, as did the rest of the guests soon after, that night I dreamt that I went to Mr Peterson for a haircut. In fact, I woke up with a nice warm feeling and soon realised that it had been a wet dream. The same thing happened a few days later, l realised that in the dream I was sitting in the barber’s chair with my hair cut very short. I knew that I had for a while been interested with his shop on Devonshire Road, now made all the more interesting with him having told me the days he was open. The truth also was we had got on well when he came to the coffee evening, in that conversation was relaxed.
I wondered if he would be any different to me if I was a customer, apart from his short haircuts he was supposed to be strict. I asked one of the boys who I knew went to him what he was like, he replied that he was pretty strict, he said that he makes you sit up straight. He also said that he sometimes gives you orders like he was a sergeant major.
"I go there because my father makes me, he cuts my hair the way he wants it done, so that’s why I go to him. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t horrible just a bit strict, why is your father thinking of sending you to him?"
"It could be on the cards."
Not the truth by any means, but a way to answer Nigel’s question, although my hair was by no means anywhere near as short as his, my dad didn’t let me have my hair as long as a lot of the boys in our year. It was just before my fifteenth birthday and Mrs Peterson was organising a bazar on a Saturday morning, which I was volunteered to help set up and assist during the event. So along I went and Mrs Peterson then put me on the tombola selling tickets. At the end of the bazar, she was very grateful for all my help and when we were clearing up, Mr Peterson appeared having closed his shop for the weekend. She told him what a great help I had been.
"That’s nice to hear Mark."
"It’s all for a really good cause, so it’s no problem."
"If you wouldn’t mind helping Mr Peterson load the boxes in his car, he is going to store them at his shop."
So, I helped him load up the car, and he said he could drop me home after we had taken the boxes to his shop. So, off we set after we loaded up his estate car, and we soon had the boxes in the store room which was behind a curtain in the back of his shop. We stacked the boxes up so they didn’t really take up much room.
"They won’t be any problem there, then Mrs P can use them for the next fundraiser."
"Good thing you have the storage space, much better than a garage."
I tried to discreetly glance around the shop, it looked quite similar to the shop in the dream
"What time are you expected back home?"
"Any time really, I said that I didn’t know when I would be back, but I’d probably be helping out all day."
"It will be ages before Mrs Peterson finally gets home, so I. have plenty of time on my hands, time which could be well spent tidying up your hair."
"I didn’t think my hair was especially untidy Mr Peterson."
"No, it isn’t untidy, but just an expression I used."
"Oh, I see."
"But a few snips wouldn’t go amiss."
"Sounds like something that my dad would say."
This was like the moment of truth, he was wanting to cut my hair, of course I had considered that this might happen on the way there. What did he mean by tidy me up? Most likely do what he always did to Nigel’s hair.
"This way Mark."
He said gesturing with his hand for me to walk with him to the barber’s chair, his tone was firm, and I followed like a lamb. The white cape was neatly folded on the back of the chair, he quicky removed it, then nodded for me to sit down. I lowered myself into the barber’s chair.
"Sit right back in the chair, up nice and straight, with your shoulders back."
He certainly was stricter than the average barber, I thought as I sat up straight for him, he unfolded the cape and fitted it on me very snugly around my neck, then tucking tissue into the back.He left me for a moment and soon returned in a grey barber’s coat, with a smile on his face, I had seen him wearing this when he had been standing outside his shop. I was looking around the shop when he returned and he quickly took hold of my head and moved it so I was directly facing forward. He then picked up a comb and after wetting it under a tap, used it to run through my hair.
"When did you last have a haircut?"
"About three weeks ago."
"I expect your father keeps a close eye on the length."
"Yes, he does."
"Just so you know, this haircut is on the house, a little thank you for helping out today."
"Of course, that does mean that I’m I.C of the haircut."
"You don’t know what I.C means?"
"No, sorry I don’t."
"I.C is in charge, it just means that I’ll be cutting it the way I think it should be done, which is good for you because all you have to do is sit nice and still while I take care of the haircut."
"So, you won’t be asking me anything about my hair?"
"I don’t think I will need to, as I know what needs to be done."
"A couple of boys I know from school come here, you cut their hair very short."
He picked up some thinning scissors from the side, and began to cut away at my hair with them, my dark brown hair was quite thick. So, it seemed he had begun by thinning it out on the top of my head, shaking the thinners regularly so the hair could fall free of the teeth onto the cape.
"There I was thinking I had finished for the week; I always close at four o’clock on a Saturday, not that I’m complaining."
I thought to myself, well I never asked for the haircut, but although I was feeling anxious about how short it was going to be, it was thrilling too. I had been one of those who had taken the micky out of Nigel and Robin’s haircuts, going to school on Monday would be a challenge because it would be my turn to be joked about.When he said "This way Mark." I had allowed myself to be taken to the chair, I could have refused, I could have said I did not need a haircut. Butif I was totally honest, I had known for a while that sooner or later I would come here for a haircut. Now after just a few minutes in the chair, my hair lay much flatter on top, as he combed my hair forward and snipped along the fringe. Having then combed a side parting, he opened the drawer and took out some hand clippers.
"Don’t look so worried Mark, they are well oiled so they will cut the hair and not pull at it, and operating them by hand means I can guide them exactly where I want them to go. Much quieter than the noisy electric ones too."
"I haven’t been clipped for a long time Mr Peterson."
"That’s a shame, because you have a good shaped head, it’s going to look so smart and really suit you."
"Not too much though please."
His left hand was on my head and he bent it forward, then held it in place firmly.
"You just concentrate on keeping your head very still for me, and not be trying to look in the mirror to see what I am doing."
The cold metal teeth touched the back of my head, and I heard the clicking of the blades coming together as he brought the handles together. He gently and smoothly took them up the back of my head, I was loving it, as he worked away on the back of my head. I sat behind Nigel in class and had studied his haircut, so as the clippers went higher up my head, I had a very good idea what my hair would look like. As he took care of the sides, I felt a bit sad that my haircut was coming to an end. After a while my head was restored to the upright position, with the loose hairs being brushed away. He then busied himself with a shaving mug and some water along with a shaving brush and some soap. Mr Peterson then applied some shaving cream to the back of my head roughly where my hairline was and a bit more in the area close to my ears. Taking a flat razor and releasing it from its guard, he shaved then area at the back, then tidied up around my ears, where I had up to a few minutes before had sideboards. He then wiped the area with a towel.
"I just have to put the dressing on your hair and you are finished."
He picked up a jar of Brylcreem and took off the lid, then taking a generous amount, he began to smooth it into my remaining hair on top, then combed it into place. Mr Peterson held the mirror to show me the back and sides, tilting the mirror at different angles.
"What do you think your dad will say when he sees it?"
"Oh, he will be really pleased, no doubt about it."
After getting me to sweep up my hair and put it in the bin in the yard, he dropped me home. School on Monday was a total humiliation as I was laughed at and my hair the butt of loads of jokes. Nigel was very supportive, saying I would get used to it.
"Is that the jokes or the haircut?"
"You’ll always get the jokes, you just have to accept the haircut, well that’s what I do anyway."
"I can’t believe how short he cuts it."
"Must have been a shock with it being your first time, is your father going to be keeping it short now?"
"I think that’s the plan."
"Well, if you like, maybe sometime we can go together, that’s if you want to,"
"Yeh, that would be good Nige."
"I’ll probably have to go in about three weeks’ time, but it depends when my father decides it needs cutting."
I couldn’t help but feel more than a little excited at the idea of Nigel’s father deciding the timing of my next haircut. Especially as he warned me that it could be at very short notice.