Mrs. Hancock.

It’s funny, you know…; the image of adults one has as a child, compared to the actual reality known by the adults of the time around you. Mrs. Hancock used to cut our hair when we were children…the four of us ; from the oldest brother (about 10 yrs) , down incl’ to my sister, then myself (the youngest about five yrs). We would be marched down across the railway-line by the eldest (“hup-two three four”), each clutching a bob (one shilling) in our sweaty little hands to get that one generic haircut for which Mrs. Hancock was infamous..: “The Baseoh”…about once every couple of months, it seemed, most of the kids in the district would sport a Mrs. Hancock “special”…and we’d be lined up on the railway station going to school, looking like a lot of miniature “Moes” (as in The Three Stooges!) waiting for the train….girls incl’, you know!..I wonder that some social science person didn’t do a study on ; “Demographic by haircut” kind of thing for those days?..there must have been a “Mrs. Hancock” in every suburb…truth be known, I believe most barbers..like most architects, have one basic style..and everything else is a derivative there-off.

The image I had of Mrs. Hancock as a child was of this frumpy old lady, dressed in ‘lop-sided’ cardigan and dress, living in this dreary old fibro house, with creepy shadows and dull lighting…she would sit us in an old stuffed, armless chair next to one of those “side tables” of dark timber and curved legs and armed with scissors, a smelly fag and the endless glass of water, she would attack our tangled locks with all the tactics of “Tojo in a Zero” coming out of the sun!….the fag-end would send an endless swirl of smoke past her wincing eye…she’d take a gulp of water, vice-clasp our head unceremoniously with her left hand and her right hand would start with the then continuous…”snipsnipsnipsnip…snipping” as she dove into the job, to come out the other side in an undisturbed arc, the arm ascending upward to hover above our heads somewhere “sit still child!”..mechanically, continuously, snipsnipsnipsnip snipping !….one sat in a horror of anticipation for the next “strafing” (and you know, I can’t stand being “dive-bombed” by mozzies to this day…I don’t mind so much the bite…it’s the hovering, whirring, buzzing that drives me crazy!). Her house was the last one on that side of the road..behind the train station…I think it was called “Cygnet Terrace” before it was pushed through and became “The Cove Road”…a cold wind would cut down through the barren gullies there in winter.

But it wasn’t till years later, when I first started going to the pub as an older youth, that I realized that the “glass of water” always at her beck, was gin and tonic…..Yes, poor old Mrs. Hancock was a gin-soak….and , going by her familiarity with her fellows in the front bar of The Seacliff Hotel ; an old hand at the game. I suppose that is why her front parlour where she “scalped “ us kids always had the curtains drawn…but , you know…my mother would have heard of that..but then again, many in that “fringe district” where we lived were escapees from reality….my old man bought there because it was cheap land…not now though!….It was at the end of the railway line…hang on, that’s not quite true…there was one more stop..”Hallett Cove”…but that place only got two or three trains a day then and it was the refuge of bankrupts, hermits and criminals….I got to meet quite a few in later years, so can confirm the statement!

Back to the mistaken image of adults one has as a child…I remember also being taken into the front-bar of the Brighton Hotel by my dad as a very young boy..he having a beer and me a raspberry..and this man bending down to me and saying in a beery voice..” hello little fellah..what’s your name…eh? eh?” and I got real scared, but my dad was just smiling…I couldn’t then understand why he didn’t chase the ugly man away!…poor old bastard was just another drunk saying hello to a kid……but then..I was a sensitive child!………………………….still am!

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