Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Hair Today......

I never attended Sunday School as a boy. But at my Grandparent's house, 'The Laurels', I could witness a gathering of story-telling men whose expressive,  weather-beaten faces should have lit up some ancient illustration or other.

The Laurels

On the 'day of rest', Grandad took to wielding a comb, scissors and clippers instead of his billhook, axe and adze. Sunday mornings were for tidying the heads of farmers, dairymen, thatchers and labourers who came in dribs and drabs to a ramshackle shed, propped up by an aged apple tree and smothered in 'plums and custard' honeysuckle.

I'd sit on a broken bale of hay with one arm around the neck of a chocolate mongrel called Sally, whilst the clientele sat as squarely as was possible on a lop-sided kitchen chair.

In the summertime the men would be mere silhouettes against the bright morning, framed in the gaping doorway. Everything drifted; the smoke from hand-rolled cigarettes and pipes, the hair and the conversation. All fell softly and steadily.

In winter the door remained firmly shut to the elements. Grandad snipped away under the flickering illumination of a weak bulb and a woodchip burning stove offered a little warmth when the wind was in the right quarter.

When things became quiet, I contented myself by driving old nails into a log or maybe Grandad would seize the moment to sharpen hooks or shears. As showers of sparks rained down from his grindstone I'd be poised with my magnet, knowing I could make the filings dance and stand on end when the job was done.

No permanent damage done to my curly locks

Out of all the regulars I had my favourites; Bill Burrows, for instance. There was a big man with a beer-barrel body who, after succumbing to Grandad's scissors, would immediately try his great brown trilby on for size. After the usual, "That's a better fit, Jim'' he'd take out his snuff box. Where most men would merely take a pinch, Bill Burrows tipped a mole-hill of powder on to the back of his thick wrist and sniffed the entire lot up in one go. A minute or so later he'd sneeze into his red and white spotted handkerchief with the force of a hurricane. A broad smile followed, and with an expression of relief on his shining, red face, he'd sit astride his ancient creaking bicycle and wobble homeward.

Old Charlie Page, was a hard working farmer, but his overgrown white moustache and frail, steel-rimmed spectacles somehow made him seem more suited to the part of a telegraph operator in the wild west.

Echoes of Alf Churcher's squeaky laugh, and the grace of Fred Gray's laconic smile. These characters, all trussed up with sturdy braces and leather belts strong enough to hold a shire-horse, coloured my early years with their wonderful yarns.

What would they have made of today's barbers? Well perhaps an old farmer of the Carpenter family summed it up on the day when Charlie Randall brought his long haired, teenage son along for a trim. While Grandad stood looking bemused, having never been confronted with such a mop before, old man Carpenter removed his long dead and crusty pipe from between his lips, adjusted his battered hat and suggested quietly, "Bess thing t' do there Jim, is sling 'alf a gallon o' parfeen on, an' set light to it ."

© 2009, copyright Martin T. Hodges


  1. The Laurels looks and sounds like such a delightful place. I'm glad your grandad left your lovely curls intact!

  2. You're an artist with words as well as with your camera, Martin. Wonderful memories!

  3. What a delightful story you paint with your words. I can picture it all in my mind's eye.
    Sunny :)

  4. Willow

    Someone once said, 'all things must pass'. 'The Laurels' sadly slipped from the family after the passing of my Grandad. The curls, too, have long since departed. Can't take the memories though!


    Thank you for those kind words. It means a lot. I count myself fortunate to have had such characters in my childhood.


    Thank you.

    If I've managed to convey a sense of what that time was like, I am very happy.

  5. wonderful! I hope there'll be more of this to come.
    painting pictures with words, bringing the past to life in our hectic world where the attention span gets ever shorter (so I hear) story telling is very important.

  6. Friko

    My Grandad was a great story-teller. I was so lucky to have had him in my life for so many years.

    Yes, I intend to post along these lines from time to time. And I'm truly pleased that you enjoyed this post.

  7. Lovely story - and pictures :o) My two sons still let me cut their hair (they're 18) and I cut my husband's too, but sadly there are no bales of hay or snuff boxes involved these days.

  8. Karen

    Thank you. You must be doing a good job on the haircutting front. Although they probably wouldn't admit it, men are pretty particular about their hair.

    No bales of hay or snuff boxes, but still the odd character pops up here and there....thank goodness!

  9. I so enjoyed this post. Wonderful.

  10. Dreamfarm Girl

    I'm glad you dropped by for a little Square Sunshine.

    Thank you for your kind comment. It means a lot.


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