With the advent of the single parent family, a phenomenon that has gone from shameful (or sad) to ubiquitous in a few short decades, many a ritual commonplace among my generation is practically unknown to youngsters of today: Riding on dad’s bicycle crossbar, a kick-about down the park and the steady hand of quiet masculine discipline. So Tony the barber was delighted when a man and boy entered his salon together one sunny Saturday morning.
They took a seat and waited patiently as the queue slowly progressed, accompanied by the snip of scissors, the buzz of clippers and the reassuring manly fug of old cigarette smoke, aftershave and proprietary hair dressings. The little boy studiously examined the fading style posters and the advertisements for grooming products long since defunct as the man flicked through the ancient magazines. Tony observed the sacrament as he recited the holy words to his current customer, “Anything for the weekend, sir?”
As the shop door tinkled closed, Tony swept the clippings into a corner and the man took his place at the tonsorial altar. He winked at the lad as Tony adorned him with the holy vestment of the faded and well-worn cape and applied the comb. “How do you like it, sir?” he queried and then set about the man’s head with the practised ease of a skilled artisan. In no time the job was done and with a flourish of his brush Tony flicked away the fallen curls and presented the man with the back-of-the-head mirror in the time-honoured fashion. Satisfied, the man stepped down and beckoned the lad to take his seat.
As Tony pumped up the chair to working height the smiling man said to the young lad “I’m just popping out for a few things. Be a good lad and wait for me here when you’re done, okay?” The shop door tinkled as he left and Tony set to work initiating the youngster in the ancient ways of barber lore, enquiring “Been on your holidays, yet?" as he began to snip away. Soon the job was done and the lad dutifully took a seat on the bench as Tony welcomed up the next customer.
Morning turned to afternoon as Tony plied his trade and soon a couple of hours had passed, during which time the man had not returned. Not wishing to worry the youngster, who seemed quite happy with Country Life and three-week old newspapers, Tony said nothing but as the clock above the big mirror struck two he judged it time to make his concern known. Bidding his last customer farewell and in a lull in trade he and the boy were now the only people in the shop. Tony took a seat beside the young fellow.
The Brylcreem Boys are back!
“I don’t want to worry you lad, but it looks like your dad has forgotten about you." The boy put down the magazine he had been flicking through and replied “Oh, he’s not my dad.” Tony was taken aback at first but of course, these days it was exception rather than the rule that a boy should be accompanied by his own father. “Who is he then?” asked Tony, “your step-dad?” The pause seemed to last for an age as the boy took a steady breath, “No” he said, “I just met him outside and he asked me if I wanted a free haircut.”
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