by Anura Guruge
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>> — December 27, 2013.
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Well I wrote about the toy tin train, the Queen’s coronation cover, the big Poppy Pin from the U.K.
and a Jensen record player (turntable) that I got for Christmas — as part of new, ‘now that I am 60‘, nostalgia kick.
I then decided to go and get a Double Edge Safety Razor. Wasn’t nostalgia per se because I really can’t remember the last time I owned such a razor or used one! Old age. Of course I know that I must have owned a few over the ages — given that I started shaving, in anger, when I was about 16 in 1969. I know that I have owned quite a few electric razors. Yet another perk, like caviar from breakfast, of being a Diplomat Brat as opposed to an army brat. I think, in the 60s and 70s, in Europe, electric shavers, especially Philips (Norelco here), were quite cheap if you could buy them at a PROPER, duty-free shop — such as those that proper diplomats have access to.
I know that people will find this hard to believe given what appears to be my very thick skin, but my face is ultra sensitive. I have struggled with shaving for 45 years. Up until the last 7 years or so, I used to shave every day — sometimes twice a day if I was going out in the evening. I use all sorts of magic portions to ease the task. Now that I am retired I try to just shave on days that I am going out. Yes, I still have an electric shaver, plugged in, fully charged and ready to go. I don’t use it often. I used disposable multi-blade razors, that I buy in bulk, at Walmart. Then I started seeing these ads for old fashioned double edge safety razors. I kind of worked out that over a 2 year period that it would be cheaper to get one than continuing to buy a never-ending supply of disposable razors.
So I did about a weeks worth of research, off and on, usually around 1 am just before I would turn off my PC and head for bed. Very early on I decided I would, of course, prefer a good, solid British designed and British built razor over anything made in Germany, India or China. That was easy enough to achieve and the Sheffield-based Edwin Jagger I chose got rave reviews. If you know your history you know that you can’t beat Sheffield for any steel products. Plus I like Sheffield. Very friendly place. Went to a Polish wedding in Sheffield, c. 1982. Can’t remember a wedding that was so righteous. I think it ended in a food fight out in the street — and nobody minded. Par for the course for Sheffield.
I decided to go the whole hog and get everything bar a stand. That can wait. I did have some shaving soap, but couldn’t resist the Sandalwood from Bond Street (a street that I am very familiar with).
I used the razor this morning. Very satisfying. It makes a very manly rasping sound as it cuts your bristles. I had missed that sound.
I did screw up slightly because it didn’t occur to me that they made anything else! I just assumed that it would be a BUTTERFLY design — i.e., top opens, like a butterfly, and you load the razor in. No big deal. I can live with the older, more conventional design.
Safety blades reminds me the MOST of growing up in Ceylon, 1959 – 1967. This was when there was a severe ban on imported goods. That also meant no safety blades from Britain. Just poorly made imitations cobbled together in Ceylon. Though we had very ingenious folks in Ceylon at the time, like mechanics who could create a new car out of spare parts, we had huge problems getting our quality right. Tomato sauce, ketchup to you, was a case in point. I am a ‘tomato sauce’ aficionado, have always been since I was 2 years old. My ‘go to’ meal at rest-houses and restaurants, in Ceylon, when growing up, was fish-and-chips with ‘tomato sauce’. Since we travelled a lot and ate out a lot — and also went to the same places over and over again — most places knew my ‘order’ even without having to be told. It would be: ‘… and fish-and-chips, with sauce, for the baby’. An affectation from Ceylon. There are people who still call me baby. Multiple reasons. That I was ‘Baby Lactogen‘ for 9 years was a part of it. Since I was in the papers, everyday for 9 years, as ‘Baby Guruge’ or ‘Baby Lactogen’ many continued to think of me as ‘baby’. Anyhow … it took Ceylon more than 10 years to get the consistency and taste of tomato sauce right! Don’t ask me why. Still a mystery to me. Ditto with chocolate. Over a decade to get it right. Once they got it right, they were golden. But, those early days.
So blades from abroad, like ANYTHING from ‘abroad’, was golden and much sought after. Well our family travelled abroad a lot and we, weekly if not daily, had to meet with visitors from abroad. Many knew of the import restrictions and brought the appropriate gifts: apples, grapes, chocolate, blades, ballpoint pens, transistor radios. So we did quite well.
Safety blades were a kind of currency. Much sought after. I used to be coerced my one of my teachers to provide him with blades from abroad on a weekly basis. Corruption was rife at every level in society. This teacher would say something like …. “I know you have good blades at home. Can you bring me a few?” I did. I didn’t steal. I would say that I needed a few blades for my master! What is really strange and weird. My adoptive father was the ‘Acting Secretary of Education’ for Ceylon. So he was this teacher’s ultimate boss. But, the teacher had no problem coercing me to keep him supplied in blades. No, I didn’t get better grades because of it! I got TOP grades, best in grade (i.e., highest marks among 360 students in the grade), for all but one year of my time in Ceylon — because I was forced to study like there was no tomorrow.
So, that is what the blades remind me. Carrying safety blades, in my front shirt pocket, for this master who expected me to supply him with free blades — because he was a teacher. Yes, one of these days I will write a book about growing up a Buddhist in Ceylon in the 1960s — the Buddhist part is key. Even the school I attended was Buddhist.