A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Christmas has come and it's a busy time for churches the world over.


It’s the best possible time to be in the church, thought Josiah Pyke as he watched the attractive young vicarage lodger Ophelia as she carried a prickly bundle of holly towards the church and vanished out of sight. It would have looked a little more seasonal (or maybe even a little more Christian) had there been snow on the ground, but there wasn’t. The weather, for December, was remarkably balmy and he doubted Ophelia’s legs were feeling the cold despite their exposure well up the thigh. Ophelia liked wearing short things, dresses and skirts, and were it not for the way it made Josiah look at her for longer than most folks would have thought absolutely necessary he would have thoroughly approved.

Christmas in church, though, was going to be a busy couple of weeks, what with the Goosebury Primary school using the building for carol singing, the barely adequate church choir doing a great deal of practising of carols that were well known anyway, and endless praying that there be no rain because even though some of the leaks in the roof had been attended to, there were still two or three buckets where drips might land in a downpour.

What we need,” said Simeon, looking at Josiah critically, “is to touch up our own appearances somewhat for the services. I think I’ll buy a new collar.”

Meaning?” asked Josiah, knowing what was coming. His hair was fashionably long, and he was a curate and in Simeon’s opinion fashion shouldn’t enter into anything he did. But Ophelia had mentioned during one of her passing conversations that she thought long hair on a gentleman looked attractive, and although he had no intention of looking particularly attractive (at least he didn’t think he did) he did like the idea of the lodger finding him reasonable to look at. There was something about her that he wanted to please, a bit like a favourite pet dog pleasing its master. In truth he didn’t want to be seen as dowdy or old fashioned, though that was probably what described him best.

It might be an idea to visit the barber’s, maybe?” suggested Simeon, who wasn’t really the kind of man to issue too many orders.

You mean, get it tidied up?” asked Josiah vaguely.

That’s it. Tidied up,” nodded Simeon. “For Christmas. To show respect to our Lord.”

Sometimes Simeon could surprise Josiah. Sometimes he made no secret of the fact that he spent the occasional (and sometimes not so occasional) night with women a great deal younger than himself, obviously sharing the same bed, and those women were supposedly being saved by him, protected from the cruelties of a harsh world, and there was no doubt that his motives were initially noble and honest and his flesh only weakened after he’d seen too much of theirs, which was hardly his fault. But to make an issue of a man’s hair and relate it to the season and a holy birth? There must, thought Josiah, be some kind of contradiction there.

But he decided that compliance was better than argument, and he set out for Brumpton where the nearest barber had his shop. It wasn’t far on the bus and he felt he had earned a breath of air free from the pressures of the Christmas season as a curate upon whose shoulders a great deal of responsibility had already fallen.

To his surprise Ophelia was at the same bus stop going into the same town and he felt awkward seeing her waiting. Sometimes her conversations were embarrassing, as if she followed a totally different set of social rules to those he was supposed to follow. He had thought she might be at work but the realised she had mentioned that her office had given her a prolonged Christmas break in lieu of holidays they owed her.

She smiled a warm greeting when he joined her. Was it a bit too warm? The thought did cross his mind. It sometimes did with Ophelia, and probably rightly.

I thought I’d let the barber take a look at my hair,” he said when she asked where he was going.

She smiled candidly at him. “You mean Vic did,” she teased. Vic was what she called Simeon and Josiah had no idea what she called him. Cure he thought was possible, but he didn’t like it if that’s how she referred to him.

Josiah shrugged. “He did suggest it might be tidied up,” he confessed.

He’s such an old fashioned cove,” she said, “it’s your hair so you wear it as you like it and tosh to Vic!”

It might be better a little shorter,” he told her, not wanting to give the appearance of a man who couldn’t decide on his own appearance.

I don’t think so,” she told him flatly. “When you’re old and bald it might be silly to grow it long, but you … you’re young and there are loads of years in front of you before you need to be all old fashioned.”

It’s what’s considered acceptable in the church,” he said, slightly firmly.

How do you like your hair?” she asked.

I dunno,” and in all honesty he didn’t, because he’d never given it much thought. Hair was hair and as long as it felt comfortable, then that was good enough for him.

The bus arrived and they climbed aboard. The driver on the one-man operated bus issued them with tickets and they sat down next to each other.

It’s not long since we would have been served by a conductor with his ticket machine,” commented Josiah, not wanted to discuss his hair any more than he needed to and so changing the subject.

But things change,” agreed Ophelia, “like hairstyles,” she added pointedly.

He sighed. He didn’t want to disagree with her and rather suspected that it he tried he’d lose the argument in the end. She was a forthright young woman who, after all, had even alienated her own mother.

I’ll tell you what,” she said after a few moments, “you go to the barber’s and I’ll come with you! And when he asks you what style you want I’ll tell him!”

You will?” His heart sank. “What would you tell him?” he asked.

That you need a few split ends snipping off,” she said, “and not much more.”

Women don’t usually go with men to the barbers,” he said, sounding feeble even to himself.

There’s no law against it,” was her firm reply. “Come on, we’re in Brumpton.”

The barber’s shop she led him to an old and dusty affair with few hair products on offer, but then when Josiah was in his twenties and Ophelia was exactly twenty there were fewer hair products than would buckle the shelves of barber’s shops in future years anyway.

He doesn’t want it short,” Ophelia told the hair dresser, “he wants to look fashionable, like a pop star. He might wear his collar back to front but he’s no dowdy old man.”

Thank goodness,” muttered the barber, who seemed to be more flexible than most, “I’m fed up with doing short back and sides.”

He cut Josiah’s hair with both care and skill and minimal use of anything sharp, and when he was done he winked at Josiah, but turned to Ophelia.

Is this all right, madam?” he asked with assumed suavity.

She nodded. “It’s perfect,” she said, “I do hope Vic will like it.”

The barber dusted him down, removed the sheet that had collected stray hair and then looked at him quite firmly.

I hope you’re happy, sir,” he said, “and would you like anything for the weekend?”

Josiah had no idea what he meant by that, but Ophelia clearly did.

Yes he does,” she said, “a packet of three will do.”

© Peter Rogerson 24.03.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on March 24, 2018
Last Updated on March 24, 2018
Tags: Christmas, Josiah Pyke, Ophelia, barber, haircut, styles, fashion



Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 78 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..