A Hyena's Head, Explosive-Sniffing Bees and the Nudist Lightning-Botherer
‘Why don’t you get a haircut? You look like a chrysanthemum.'-P. G. Wodehouse
In some societies it was believed that evil spirits were able to enter a person’s soul through their hair, and that only a haircut would drive them out. With this in mind we decided to pay a visit to the finest chirotonsor (an early 1900s word for barber) we could find.
Outside Mr Swanton’s barber shop there is a large clock, and on its face is written ‘Remember time lost has gone for ever; is this a Benjamin Franklin quote we wondered (as we expended non-regainable time)? We couldn’t remember, but it seemed somehow familiar. On the subject of the nudist and lightning-botherer Mr Franklin, it is encouraging to know that he suggested that his own gravestone should read:
‘The body of
Benjamin Franklin, printer,
(Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents worn out,
And stript of its lettering and gilding)
Lies here, food for worms!
Yet the work itself shall not be lost,
For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more
In a new
And more beautiful edition
Corrected and amended
By its author!’
But we have been distracted; let’s get back to Mr Swanton’s; a sign in the window states ‘Hairdressing for Gentlemen and their Sons.’ As you walk in you are greeted by a wall displaying stuffed animal heads (is that a hyena? Oh yes, it is) and what must be the biggest collection of china shaving bowls in existence. The shop does not seem to belong to the modern world, or to the past for that matter, but instead seems to operate in a blissful state of Tralfamadorian space-time. And we meet Mr Swanton himself, wearing an apron as immaculately white as a ghost-bride on her wedding day.
Whereas barbers of the past have offered leeching, surgery and fire cupping, we are relieved to find out that Mr Swanton only offers haircuts and traditional shaves (‘a quick one suitable for work or a longer ‘luxury’ one appropriate for weddings or dates’). As the Unusual Times’ intrepid reporter was having his hair cut, the Edwardian telephone on the wall began to ring, further confusing the observer as to where in time he is (or was, or will be).
When not cutting hair, Mr Swanton likes to attend to his animals which include a hive of bees. A bee is a wonderful animal; did you know that bees have been trained to sniff-out explosives? Also bees have a rate of perception seven times faster than humans so would be unlikely to enjoy television.
After a superb haircut we left Mr Swanton’s feeling inexplicably happy, maybe it was the bright spring sunshine or the bullishly pink blossom on the trees, or perhaps just a tiny smidgen of evil had been removed from us that afternoon.
Mr Swanton’s Barber Shop, 3 Park Pl, Bristol BS8 1JW, Great Britain