Sinking down into exactly four inches of hot water, Randall Brown tried his best to wash himself and prepare for work.
The amount of water wasn't a thing.......no, it was the limit of the antiquated Ascot Water heater, suspended on the wall over the bathtub.
It groaned and clanked when he turned on the taps, like a sick steam engine. Anything more than four inches and the water ran cold.
A tepid bath just did not cut the mustard.
Soaping vigorously with Wrights Coal Tar, a scum soon formed on the surface.
Time to get out!
Enveloped in a towel he shaved, working the badger hair brush into the shaving stick to form a lather. Pulling the skin taut and then gliding the blade of his safety razor over his chin and cheeks.
Lines in the soap like a sleigh through snow.
Patting a little Old Spice onto the newly raw flesh, he hissed, as he felt the familiar sting.
Reaching for the Brylcreem and his comb, he unscrewed the lid.......empty!
Never mind......he had some Brilliantine somewhere, although he seldom used it now.....but, alas it was dried up and crusty in the jar.
Randall huffed, crossly.
It was Sunday.
No shops were open, and Anthony Eden was coming into the studio in less than two hours time, to be interviewed on the Suez crisis.
Why it had to be today Randall wasn't sure.
It was bad enough that he hardly seemed to have a day off, but this particular Sunday he actually made plans.
A walk, then lunch at a little Trattoria that had newly opened in the High Street.
They did spaghetti!! It was so.....so......Renaissance!
Ah well, maybe another time.
His hair was an annoyance, but he'd have to make the best of it.
Wet combed, it laid flat.
Satisfied, he went off to dress.
Three shirts were soaking in Robin starch, but he had a clean one.
Socks, underwear, suit trousers, braces fastened.
Back to the mirror as he tied his tie.
A neat Windsor knot.
Then he caught sight of his reflection......his hair was now a mass of steel grey curls, standing at least two inches up from his scalp.
For goodness sake!
He had a quiff!
Randall frowned, he looked like an ageing teddy boy.
Wet combed once more, the curls ironed out. He finished tying his tie, donned his jacket, overcoat and trilby and set off for the BBC.
The moments spare, while he waited for the Prime Minister to arrive were spent rearranging the magazines in the reception area and carefully prising each individual drawing pin from the display board before forming them into a geometric pattern in the bottom right hand corner.
He was sipping a cup of Bovril when Lix entered his office, sheafs of notes tucked under her arm, a Players Weight dangling from between her lips.
Puffing out a cloud of smoke, as she closed his door, she took the cigarette into her outstretched fingers nonchalantly, and turned to speak to him.
Her expression registered genuine surprise, then amusement.
"God lord, Randall, you look like a fluffy chick, what the hell happened?!!"
Peering at her over the rim of his spectacles, his eyebrows creased in frustration.
"Shut up!" He barked.
"Darling, it takes ten years off you! You look adorable!"
"Again, shut up!" He retorted, rising and pushing an ashtray towards her before the long ember, precariously balanced on the end of her fag, fell off and marred his floor.
Running his hand backwards through the hair, making it stand to attention, so endearingly.
"Is Eden here?"
"No, a call came through, he's held up in a Treasury meeting, he'll be along shortly."
"Is Bel here? And Hector?" He tucked some papers into his top drawer and began methodically arranging the pen holder, folding ruler and other comestibles on the surface of his desk.
Lix watched with a wry smile, before replying.
"Yes, she's here. They both are. And he's sober, which is a miracle! She needs some comfort, Randall, she's hurting over Freddie. You need to talk to her."
"Me? Why me? I'd have thought she'd rather speak to another woman, you, or Marnie maybe?"
"Don't be silly Randall. She looks up to you, you represent stability, order, calm.....you need to talk to her.....take her out for a Babycham.......tell her he's going to be alright, and it wasn't her fault."
Randall turned, and sat down heavily in his chair.
"Alright, we have time now, if Eden isn't turning up yet awhile. Ask her to come see me."
Stubbing out the butt of her cigarette, Lix left the papers with him, and made to leave.
"You should seriously consider keeping that look darling, it's really quite alluring!" She teased.
"As I said before, shut up!" He shot back.
A light tap on the glass of the office door, followed shortly after.
Opening just a crack, her blonde head peeped through.
"Come in, Bel."
Her curvy frame slid inside, closing the door gently behind her.
Hair in a French pleat. Dressed in an aquamarine costume; dress and matching jacket.
Broach at her throat, expensive Elbeo nylons with the seams dead straight, black court shoes.
A whiff of 4711.
Randall pushed his specs up from his nose and pinched his fingers into his eye sockets, rubbing them, before removing the glasses completely and commencing to clean them vigorously on a white handkerchief square which he took from his top breast pocket.
She was staring at him, mouth slightly agape.
He glanced up.
"What?" He challenged.
Bel seemed to snap out of a distant reverie and come back into the room. She was visibly flustered.
"Er.......nothing!" She exclaimed, "I......er.......you wanted a word?"
The bloom on her cheeks was scarlet, she shuffled her feet slightly, looking pointedly down at them. Before finally letting her glance travel slowly up and back to focus on his face.
"I called you in to ask if you would care to come for a drink later this evening." He enquired, replacing the specs on his nose casually.
"I thought it might be an opportunity to talk about things, would that be acceptable?"
"Yessss, I guess......" she demurred, her eyes never leaving the area of his head.
"Of course, if you'd rather not.....?" Randall backtracked quickly.
"No, no, it's fine.....really!" Her head tilted to one side, with evident curiosity, as she continued to scrutinise him.
Randall felt an uncomfortable prickling on the back of his neck.
"Right! Well! Shall we say six?"
She smiled then, a dazzling smile, which quite unnerved him.
"Six! Yes!" She replied more firmly now.
Another knock came at that moment.
Hector entered, looked at Bel, then at Randall, eyes darting from one to the other, his eyebrows almost disappearing into his hairline at the sight of the latter.
Doing his best to disguise a smirk, and quite sure he'd disturbed something, he announced,
Randall reclined on the couch.
His knees lifted, feet flat on the velveteen surface.
Eyes closed. Brow furrowed in meditative contemplation.
The interview had gone well. Hector had been nothing short of magnificent.
He sighed, folding his long fingers contentedly across his middle, relaxing them there.
The rap on the door made him jump, he sat up hurriedly.
Bel walked in, then immediately glanced quizzically at her wrist watch.
"You did say six?" She questioned.
"Forgive me!" He replied, "time ran away with me!"
"If you're tired, we can......."
"No, no! It's okay. I'm ready."
Swinging his long legs round, he stood, crossed to the hat stand to retrieve that, and his overcoat.
Then held the office door back, for her to pass through.
"What are you having?"
A fug of cigarette smoke and the stale smell of bitter, greeted them as they entered The Duke of Wellington public house.
Finding a table in the Saloon side, Randall pulled out the chair for Bel, then went to the bar.
"I'll have a G and T. Make sure it's Gordon's!" She smiled.
"Thought you'd prefer this side to the Spit and Sawdust," he remarked when he returned, placing the drinks on the somewhat sticky, much ringed table top.
"It's packed through there," she replied, "quieter here. Easier to converse."
Again he found her eyes scanning him, with a faint air of amusement, he found it difficult to ignore, and swallowed pointedly.
"I love it." She whispered, leaning in, her Congo Crimson coloured lips close to his ear.
"The hair!" She continued, "you look dashing, so handsome!"
Randall sat back, dropping his coffee cup into its saucer with a clatter.
"I.......I'm......." His voice trailed away.
"Let's drink this and go to my place." She moved closer again, so as not to raise her voice over the hubbub. "It's too noisy here, too many people."
Her flat was close by. Within walking distance.
She threaded her arm through his as they walked.
It felt very comfortable.
The street was a pleasant one. A Morris Traveller parked outside.
"Yours?" He asked, as they walked up to the front door.
"Yes! It's my little run around, I only passed my test last year. But I love it, it gives me freedom.
Shame petrol is 4/6- a gallon though, still, I don't go far, but it's nice to know I can!"
They entered the hallway.
Bel took his hat and coat.
Suddenly he seemed ill at ease again.
"Tea? Coffee?" She walked through to the kitchenette, and he followed.
"Tea I think!"
"I have some Bourbons......or Rich Tea if you prefer a plain biscuit."
"Just the tea thank you."
Seated side by side on the sofa in Bel's living room, they sipped appreciatively.
Both placing their cups down on the little occasional table simultaneously.
"So, what did you want to talk about?"
She was suddenly very close, Randall was nonplussed, by everything about her, the scent of her, her general proximity, the way she'd been looking at him since this morning.
"I......." He stammered, then looked into her beautiful face, a film of Honey Beige powder......from a Max Factor compact, he knew it, recognised it, Lix used it too.
"I.....I don't remember!"
Lost......he was lost in her eyes, those lips, full and succulent, the steady rise and fall of her breast as her breathing quickened.
"Kiss me Randall!" She whispered, a ghost of air from her parted lips, tickling his face.
He leaned into her obediently, hand resting on her forearm, touched his mouth to hers, very gently.
She moved in closer to him, as if she were melting, deepening the contact, their noses brushing, eyes shut tight.
After almost a whole minute, they separated, he pulled back.
Pupils blown, breathing ragged. She smiled at him, knowingly.
"You are a very accomplished kisser, Randall Brown." She trailed a finger down his nose and onto his swollen lips.
"It has been said!" He murmured, moving in to repeat the exercise.
"Just a moment!" Bel placed her hands against his chest, holding him at bay.
"There's something I've been wanting to do all day......apart from kissing you, that is!"
His eyebrows arched, asking the silent question.
She bought both her hands up, tangling her fingers in his curls, teasing through them, combing them back and away from his face, her nails brushing against his scalp.
He hummed with approval, eyes fluttering shut with the glorious sensation.
"It's as soft as I thought it would be.....and it's beautiful."
She captured his mouth with her own again, and he sunk her backwards gradually along the length of the sofa as their second joining became ever more passionate.
Her hands continuing to rifle through those salt and pepper locks until she could no longer suppress a giggle.
"Why did you suddenly change it......go for the soft look, rather than your usual slick back? It looks so good on you Randall, it really is very sexy indeed!"
He stared at her......his look confused, unfathomable.
"Seriously?" He said, with just the smallest hint of mirth.
"Oh! Absolutely and totally!" She rejoined.
He considered a moment.
"I ran out of Brylcreem!" He grinned.