Friday, February 8, 2008


A winding street near the harbour, its broken gutters splash water on the passers by. In the damp westerlies the door sticks. Push hard. The old shop bell gives a cheerful tinkle. Scents and lotions waft on the warm air.

“Bore da, cariad ! Nadolig llawen !"

It is Buddug, with her bouffant display of henna’d hair. Like everyone else here she is a woman of strongly voiced opinions.

Gossip of scissors
the combs parting
sheep from goats

As I settle myself on the end of the bench Modlen appears from behind a mysterious curtained recess like some houri, bearing a tiny tin tray.

Shortest day balancing
a sherry
on a cinnamon cake

Buddug and Modlen combine repartee, mime and therapy – and you get a haircut. A racy mix of Wenglish and kitchen Welsh crackles round the little salon. Under the dryers ancient ladies sip tea. They are the kind you see on Sunday mornings, in their court shoes, clutching their prayer books as they hasten to chapel, all twt a thaclws. Yet the bawdy banter here would make a strong man blush. The few men who do venture into this lair exchange their knowing nods and winks.

Modlen beckons me to her chair and swathes me in the National Flag. Some skilful flirting goes with the haircut. “Now how would you like it this time, dahlin’, with that designer stubble of yours ?”

Recalling the beards
she has known
her fingers

I tell them about how my old professor of ethnology would spend his summers in Fenland barbers’ shops. Measuring the customers’ heads, he was. To see if there were any Cymry Cymraeg heads still there after all that time.

Buddug responds with a play on my name – Ken, the Gaelic for a head, and hence Cen in the Welsh form. Not for the first time, they get into phrenology. Modlen feels my shorn cranium and speculates as to which bumps where might give some clue to the size and potency of the natural member.

Plaster head of painted numbers.
its face
.............. gives nothing away

I entice them away with a titbit about the bend sinister in my Anglesey pedigree.

Modlen whisks away the flag and holds up the mirror for my approval. From Budddug a farewell Christmas kiss – full on the lips. “And another on St David’s day. Twice a year is enough for a married man, cariad !”.

Worn linoleum
she sweeps away my hair
across the cracks and continents

by Ken Jones
Aberystwyth, Wales
December 2004

“Bore da, cariad ! Nadolig llawen !" -- Good morning, darling ! Merry Christmas !
Buddug – Boadicia (still in use)
Modlen - Magdalene
“Twt a thaclws” -- Neat and tidy; prim and proper
Cymry Cymraeg – pure Welsh

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