Written by Erskin Quint
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Monday, 9 May 2011

image for Life Sentences: More About Barbers Engelbert Humperdinck was never cut out for it.

Odd business, barbers, and what they do.

What is that they do, eh? Barbery? Barbering? Barbing?

See now? I told you it was an odd business.

The barbers themselves, as well, eh? Queer kettle of fish altogether. Take this barber I once had. He shall remain nameless, mainly because I can't remember his name. Whatever his name was, he was a queer fish, even without taking the kettle into account. When you did bring the kettle into the equation, well, he was a pretty rum sort of cove to be found in an accountable fishkettle.

So there he was, this barber. Once played rugby for the Barbarians.

We called him "syllabub".

I don't know why we called him that. A rum baba isn't a syllabub.

Mind you, he wasn't really a barber, or a rugby player, either.

He would keep you talking about the weather and your holidays and the Arsenal while a trained pygmy perched on your shoulders and gave you a short back and sides. It was all done by mirrors.

It's odd having your hair cut in reverse, but you get used to it in time. "It's like reversing with a caravan", he would quip, rumpling the pygmy's hair.

That was what first alerted my suspicions. The rumpling. If there's one thing likely to alert my suspicions, it's the tousling of a pygmy's hair. Have you seen them in the wild? Well, I have. And you can take it from me that they don't go in for tousling or rumpling.

No. Shooting poisoned darts into the shuddering flanks of tropical fauna is more in their line. That and lurking in the undergrowth. No self-respecting pygmy would have tolerated that constant rumpling. It was tantamount to fondling.

Scalping, yes. Short back and siding while having his own hair fondled by a bogus barber? Hardly.

And I'm almost certain that this pygmy wouldn't have been 1965 High Jump Champion at Aldburgh College either. That certificate was a forgery. The real Aldeburgh has an "e" in it.

See how it pays to be observant?

I have always thought - and I don't think I am alone in these conclusions - that this so-called pygmy was in fact a child labourer in pygmy costume.

He'd only have to pay child wages then. It all makes sense. The tousling would fit in with that hypothesis too. So long as the child was his own flesh and blood. The alternative does not bear thinking about.

One day I was sat there waiting to be called, reading an article about the Pan Borneo Highway in the Reader's Digest. And before you ask, I know that there is no Pan Borneo Highway running through the Reader's Digest. I mean that the article was in the Reader's Digest, not the actual road.

After that, I read another article about the football in Sheffield. I glanced at the calendar too, I recall. It was Wednesday. Or was it United? 'Tis all shrouded in Time's dense mist.

The customer who had just got into the chair was saying, as the smock was draped over him, "Can I have my hair cut like Engelbert Humperdinck?"

"Engelbert Humperdinck can't cut hair to save his life young man", said the barber. "You wouldn't want to hear my rendition of Les Bicyclettes de Belsize, now, would you? I thought not.

"Engelbert may be able to hit notes that a bank could never cash, but you'd look like you'd been fighting with the Apaches if you let him near your head."

I always think about that when I hear the Sheffield Wednesday result. Curious thing, memory. I never think about it when I hear the Sheffield United result.

The "pygmy" had an Irish accent, as well, having been adopted by a family from Drogheda, according to the barber.

He told me that one day. "Oh, really?" I said. "No, O' Reilly", he corrected.

Which explains the brass instruments under the barber's chair.

Apparently they're really - or Reilly - big in Drogheda. Brass bands, I mean, of course, not pygmies.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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