By Nick Barraclough
Nick is a Cambridge-born musician, broadcaster and writer. His musical career began in the seventies as guitarist and singer with Telephone Bill & the Smooth Operators. Thirty years in radio followed. In 1992 he founded the independent radio production company, Smooth Operations with a weekly show, on Radio 2, which ran for fifteen years. He has produced and presented numerous documentaries for Radio 4, Radio 2 and the World Service, on music, travel and social commentary.
Today Nick has resumed his musical career in a number of ventures. He continues to make the odd specialist music documentary for Radio 4. Nick is currently working on a romantic novel, with the working title 'Going Live', set in a Cambridge radio station in the eighties. This is an extract from his first, 'Kin, based on the life of the artist Wesley West.
Every other day he comes in, buys a stick of liquorice, waits until I close up, then walks me down to the canal. Arm in arm, like we’re a proper couple. Though proper couples don’t only meet every other day. They meet when they want to. And sometimes I want to meet him two days running. But he won’t have it.
“Can’t tomorrow.” He says
“Seeing a man about some work who’s got a barber’s down Doon Street.”
He’s always seeing a man about something. If there was many barbers as he says, there must be just about one every other shop in Southwark.
He says he loves me but there’s something, or someone, else. It’s like in that book I read by Georgette Austin, Thundering Hooves, Beating Heart, where Jane forgets her old boyfriend with the bad leg, Thomas, and has her head turned by the Captain who is dashing but turns out to have a wife and five children. The bell tinkles as he opens the shop door and there he is. Jet black hair, Brylcreemed back, flashing eyes, his overcoat buttoned right up. He always wears that, rain or shine. I have to shake my head because I always go a bit silly when I first see him.
“Hello Gladys my love. Nice stick of liquorice, pl…”
“That’s enough, Donald. Before we go any further there’s something I must know.”
He looks a bit startled, but I carry on. “Every other day, Donald. That’s when I see you. Regular as anything, but a bit too regular, I reckon. What’s going on?"
“Gladys, love, you know I’m looking for work as a barber. If we’re to have a future…”
“Don’t you ‘if we’re to have a future’ me. Donald, are you taking me for a fool?” I didn’t know I was going to say that, I think Jane said it to the captain.
Donald looks at me for quite a long time. Then he looks at the floor, then at me again.
“Glad. You know I live with my brother Arthur?”
“Well we’re both looking for work.”
“And.” He coughs. “We’ve only got one pair of trousers between us, so we take turns. And…” he unbuttons his overcoat. “Arthur’s quite a lot bigger than me.”
There’s this huge great pair of trousers hitched up round his waist and chest with bits of string.
“I’ll get your liquorice.”