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Yes Pwime Minister

By

Sabrina S. and Sean O'Hare

 

 

Chapter 1

The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Norbert Sorbert, Member of Parliament for Clipping Shortbury, leaned back in his chair, and, in the privacy of his office, put his feet up on the priceless antique desk. He contemplated the report in his hands.

It reeked of the Secret Style Service. Who else would have the audacity to write:

"Years of observation have led us to conclude that in order for Britain to become more efficient as a whole, a new Workplace Standard needs to be put into place.

"This Standard, we would recommend, be called the Total Quality Professional (TQP). It would cover the dress and personal appearance of all workers. Currently too much valuable time is lost by employees fussing with their appearance. Female employees are taking longer breaks than necessary to fix their makeup and, particularly, their hair. They use the excuse of "bad hair days" and the necessity to make their hair look satisfactory to explain lateness to work. They spend longer than the specified lunch breaks in buying new clothing to wear to work to impress other female and particularly male employees. TQP would take care of that. In essence, it would mean the following for every employee in Great Britain.

"Male employees would be given the choice of three easy care short haircuts, with styles revised and updated annually. They would be given a choice of clothing appropriate to their career."

Christ, thought Norbert, are we in the UK or bloody Albania? He read on, disbelievingly.

"Female employees would be given the choice of six easy care haircuts, the majority of them short. Only in religious circumstances would long, fussy hair on women be permitted. Styles would be updated twice a year. They would be given a coordinated wardrobe, depending on their chosen career, which would also be updated twice a year.

"All hairdressers and barbers in Great Britain would be trained on the cutting of the allowable styles and fined or imprisoned for failure to adhere to the set style guidelines. A team of top British hairdressers and image consultants would be approached to produce the styles of hair and clothing on a contract basis.

"We do concur that the imposition of TQP on the British workforce may cause an upswing in the percentage of unemployed people, particularly those attached to their long hair," Norbert wondered here how you could NOT be attached to your long hair, literally speaking "but suggest that the Government offers every employee a rebate on their clothes and haircuts to encourage them to embrace TQP and become more efficient and effective.

Norbert snorted. Just where did these people think the money was coming from? But he was interested nonetheless. After all, his brother Trevor Sorbert was no doubt one of the "top British hairdressers" the SSS had in mind.

What was the best way to approach this? He wondered. But he didn't wonder for long. The solution was obvious. He needed an Adviser on Hair. Trev could probably point him in the right direction; he was bound to know somebody who'd do the job. If it wasn't for nepotism, he'd offer it to Trev himself, but anyway Trev was making a fortune. Why would he want to work for the Government?

***

The phone trilled loudly in the salon, barely heard over the thumping house music, the gurgling cappuccino machine, the roar of blow dryers and the growling hums of clippers. Charlene the receptionist inspected her nails - nearly dry! - and took her time to answer.

"Hello, Cwopped By Fwitz. Oh! Oh, certainly sir. One moment sir." Her eyes widened and she absently smudged every single nail on her right hand as it trembled against the phone. "Ere, Fwitz! Phone!"

Fwitz said, "Sowwy, sweetie," to his client, and tittupped across the elegant Italian tiles to the reception desk.

Charlene watched as Fwitz almost stood to attention, his cropped red hair scarlet under the downlights. "Ooo, weally? Ooo, sir, I'd be delighted to. No, no twouble, the salon just about wuns itself these days." He glared at Charlene who was desperately reapplying Chanel's Rouge Noir to her right hand. "Er, Monday's fine. Yes, weally, it is. Okey dokey, Mr Pwime Minister, see you then. Byeeee!"

He put the phone down slowly. "Cwikey," he exclaimed. "That was the Pwime Minister. He wants me to be his Adviser on Hair."

"That'd be a small job," snorted Charlene, "He's nearly bald."

"But, ooo, sweetie, it's so exciting. I'll have to go and work in Westminster!"

"Don't be too disappointed when you find out Big Ben's only a clock," Charlene said archly.

***

The conservative halls of Westminster weren't quite ready for the vision that almost skipped down the corridors on Monday morning. Dressed in a startling white suit with a pale lilac shirt and dark purple tie patterned with scissors and combs, Fwitz's bright red hair made the final statement on his ensemble. Had he known he was walking into the brave new world of TQP, where white suits and lilac shirts were about to be outlawed, he may well have turned tail and bolted.

"Coo-ee," he called as his escort dropped him at the door to the PM's suite of offices. "I'm heeere!"

He peered around the corner to see a tall, slim woman with cropped, tousled blonde hair leaning against the wall looking very bored.

"Don't tell me," she said, "You're the fairy who's going to wave a wand and make the PM appear as if by magic."

"I'm not a fairwy," snorted Fwitz, considered this comment and decided not to say any more in case he wound up in deep water. "Who are you, anyway?"

"My name is Blond, Jane Blond, Secret Style Service number 000, licensed to clip." She blew a smoke ring from the Silk Cut held elegantly between her long fingers. "And you're the famous Fwitz, Trevor Sorbert's recommendation as Adviser on Hair. Thank God you're not Adviser on Clothing! Fag?"

"I am not!" blazed Fwitz, then noticed the pack of Silk Cuts she was holding out. "Oh. Oh, cheers." He took one and lit it up before remembering he'd quit years ago. Jane waited until he'd stopped coughing.

"What did the PM tell you about the job?" Jane enquired.

"Not much weally. Just to come along here on Monday morning weady for work." Fwitz took off his jacket and hung it over the nearest chair.

"Well, we'll be doing a feasibility study together to see if the Total Quality Professional proposal will actually work. We'll be taking a cross section of people and asking them to comply to TQP and seeing the reaction we get from them, and, if they agree to do it, the reactions of their co-workers."

Fwitz got lost after the words 'feasibility study'. Jane took pity on his confused face.

"What it means for you, Fwitz, is helping the six top stylists to come up with short haircuts, and then training some average net-curtain salon stylists in the haircuts so that in turn they can give a bunch of women the appropriate short haircut. You have to help decide whether the scheme can be implemented, I mean, whether it will work and the Government will pass a law and put it in place. Like, can the average stylists be trained easily? How will they cope when they encounter a woman who doesn't want her hair cut? Will the chosen haircuts suit all types of hair texture? You'll have to get out in the field and do some cutting yourself, of course."

Fwitz had a vision of himself, an explorer of the unchartered backwaters of Britain, clad in a white hairdresser's smock with a carry case of haircutting implements, teaching hairdressers whose skills until now only culminated in a simple bob or a wash and wear perm, cutting the hair of the unwilling and changing their image and appearance. He'd be a lumberjack lopping the hairy trees of deepest suburbia. It was a job for a visionary, for a selfless human being who could only see the good it would ultimately do Britain. Ultimately it was a job for someone who liked whacking off long hair with clippers or scissors. Which suited Fwitz perfectly.

Caught up in his fantasy, Fwitz didn't notice his cigarette burn down to a dangerous level until it singed his hand. Yelping, he dropped it in the nearest bin where it set fire to a wad of papers. "Oh, weally! This is too much!"

Jane calmly upended a vase of flowers into the bin and waved away the smoke. How on earth was she going to work with this creature?

The PM strode into the office heartily, seeing a leather clad Jane standing over a smoking rubbish bin and Fwitz doubled over in pain wailing, "My scissor finger!"

"Ah," Norbert Sorbert boomed, "You've met! I'm sure you'll get on fine!" He was a solid man, Fwitz saw, with wavy receding hair which he wore far too long at the back.

Fwitz smiled through tears of pain and stood up, hoping the PM's handshake wouldn't be too rough.

Jane hissed at him, "Your shirt's lifted!"

He hissed back, "I'm NOT a shirtlifter!"

"No, you idiot! When you were bending over it got all crumpled. Here, let me." Jane tucked the back of his shirt down. Together they followed the PM into his office.

Fwitz couldn't help but wonder what the PM would look like cwopped and dyed wed.

Jane couldn't help but wonder what would happen when she and Fwitz went on the road together; she had a feeling she wouldn't be following her usual pattern of seducing her hapless working partner and dragging him into her bed. They'd be fighting over who had the prettiest nightie.

Norbert couldn't help but wondering whether a bloke in purple and white with dyed red hair was quite the right person to advise on style.

 

Chapter 2

"OK Fwitz let's get started on choosing some appropriate styles, and some stylists we can consult. Let's draw up a short list."

"Tee hee hee, a short list. How appwopwiate!"

Jane turned her eyes skywards in their centre of operations to which they had retired. In fact a pokey little office above a pub in Covent Garden which afforded a good view of the stylish cross-section of the capital's beautiful people going about their business, not to mention being within walking distance of many of London's top salons.

"Hmmm, yes, very good. So do you have any other ideas. Naturally I think my current style should be top of our list," Jane said, running a hand through her short crop, tousling it more than ever.

"Well, p'waps sweetie it's a bit Shawon Stone-ish isn't it? Dyed wed it would look much better, and cwopped a little shorter ..." Fwitz crooned, but then abruptly trailed off under the wilting gaze of his colleague. "B- b- but it suits you perfectly of course, and isn't Shawon a lovely actwess. So that's our first choice. And how about a nice short wedge, in honour of the Pwime Minister's bwother?"

"The Pwime Minister's brother isn't called Reg, it's Trevor," said Jane, looking down and trying hard not to snigger.

"No, the WEDGE cut Twevor pioneered when he worked at Vital Macaroon's in the seventies!"

"Oh I see. Well I think we agree on that. But not too long on top, and a clippered nape I think to keep the overall cutting time down to 20 minutes. Remember, salons are going to be much busier when this becomes law."

Fwitz's eyes sparkled at the thought of more business, but even more at the thought of clippering the napes of many more women clients. "Vewy well. So who else should we consult. Nicky's wecent styles have been a bit on the long side. And as for that Toni guy, some were almost mullets. And there's always Tewwy at Tingles. P'waps I should get out all my back copies of hair magazines and we can spend some lovely evenings going thwough them all together. I've hundweds and …"

Jane had no objection to this in principle but much preferred to do this in the privacy of her own apartment. "No time, Fwitz. We need to complete the feasibility study by the end of the week. Let's just find four more acceptable short cuts. We can think about style a bit more with the next update. Are you a hacker?"

"NO! I am an artiste!!" Fwitz bellowed.

Jane sat down at one of the computers in the office. "Give me strength," she mumbled under her breath as she fired up the Internet. "No, I meant do you have IT skills that allow you to get around firewalls of Internet servers, bypass any security controls and FTP directly from protected databases?"

Fwitz looked hopelessly confused. "Er, no … I don't think so …"

"Oh well, I better do it then. Look out ToniNet!" She furiously pounded the keys, and amongst the clicking and several painful sounding pings light eventually appeared, or rather images. First a beautifully photographed mullet-like style.

"Yuck!" they exclaimed together. "Search 'archive' for 'short' or 'ultra-short'," Jane murmured, echoing the characters she typed.

"But what about the consulting with the clients? Weighing up the pwos and cons of vawious styles? Deciding whether styles are appwopwiate? All the wesearch?"

"What a load of bollocks. Have you started working for one of those big consultancy firms or something? Oh that reminds me I must give my sister a ring. She's HR Manager for Delight and Touch - they're wan… er, bankers or something like that - and she has a new intake of bright young things this week … ideal material for TQP."

"But …"

She hit a button and the images of three very stylish and very short, cuts appeared on the printer, To this she added a picture of Sharon Stone from her personal website, a very short wedge cut and lastly a very short crewcut from some hair enthusiast site. "Not much else you can do with those silly women who have had wash'n'wear perms. Shame about those who are naturally curly I suppose."

"That's vewy twue. But the Pwime Minister said …"

"Bugger all that, we want to see hair start to fall, don't we? We need wesults!" Jane giggled.

***

"He's got to be kidding of course" exclaimed Charlie Gayle the leader of the opposition, to his wife as she handed him his second gin and tonic of the evening.

"Well I can see some merit in the idea …" Christine replied meekly, running a hand through her own ample, lustrous locks which tumbled down her back and which Charlie insisted she always wore loose at home.

"Yes, yes, yes," he interrupted. "Perhaps. But a law? And the offer of free clothes would be a vote winner for that ponce Norbert. And, just as seriously, it would mean you have to cut your hair short. And we don't what that do we," he stated matter of factly.

"No dear," she said, as she recalled her frequent daydreams of sitting in the styling chair of some young stud, and having him insist that she relaxed as he lovingly cut her hair short. A smile crossed her face. "No dear, I know you wouldn't want that."

He picked up the phone. "This needs to be cut short straight away." His attention turned to the phone. "Good evening may I talk to Mr P. Antene please. Philippe, I need a favour …"

"Yes dear," Christine said quietly as she gathered her hair in a thick ponytail over one shoulder. "I agree" as she mimed a cutting action level with her left ear.

***

"OK people, you will be pleased to know that having completed your initial 12 weeks training you are now ready to provide assistance on assignments." The bright young things - 21 year olds … going on 40 - sitting up perfectly straight, looking expectantly and seriously at Miss Brooke Blond as she addressed them. She stood in front of them wearing an immaculately tailored trouser suit, and with each hair cropped to no longer than half an inch on top and graduated to invisibility down the back of her head to her nape. It was cut stylishly, no doubt, but was a look any slightly effeminate marine would have been proud to sport.

"And, before that happens, you will be proud to know our firm, and each of you, have been chosen to be part of a feasibility study being conducted by the government." The upturned faces continued their serious gaze. "I would like to introduce Jane - who incidentally is my sister - and Fwitz who you may know is one of the country's leading hairstylists," and who could be someone else's sister she wanted to add. Jane marched on stage and stood next to her sister, while Fwitz tittupped behind carrying a large canvas bag.

The trainees had been trained well. Their expressions did not change. They had been through so much over the past 12 weeks - from romping over the moors - as a team - to deciding how they could escape from a burning house with nothing but a length of string, two pieces of chewing gun and a safety pin. As a team, naturally. Individually and collectively, they were ready for anything a client could throw at them.

Any one, or indeed all, of them may have thought it odd to see a civil servant and a hairstylist before them. But their expressions didn't change. They were like Androids. The unexpected was expected and was no cause for concern.

"OK people, I want you to watch this short presentation, please."

The lights dimmed and the multimedia projector burst into life and the wall was filled with swirling colours, which became images of people and then dispersed into more swirling shapes. This was accompanied by a rousing techno soundtrack which suddenly stopped and six images were left on the wall. The photos of the six styles selected by Jane and Fwitz earlier, each with a number from 1 to 6 underneath. Hmmm, amazing what the dumb looking blonde down in the DTP department can achieve in such a short space of time.

"OK, all you men to the back please," ordered Brooke. Each stood up promptly and smartly and marched to the back of the room, although a few looked with some concern at the women they had been sitting next to. Clearly within 12 weeks some relationships had been formed. "Women, number from 1 to 6, starting with Miss Fawcett-Gush." There was a rapid call of 12 assorted voices carefully enunciating their respective number, although their expressions remain fixed and serious.

"Thank you sis. Thanks ladies and gentleman for taking part in this study. You may have heard of the government proposal for TQP - the Total Quality Professional. Delight and Touch pride themselves that they employ TQPs and wish to be associated with the introduction of the programme. Your images will be used in the publicity material when the programme is launched. OK, Number 1 step forward please."

Brooke stood back, ran her fingers through her brush-like crop, each hair springing back to attention afterwards. She crossed her arms, smiled broadly and waited for the action to begin.

Obediently Miss Fawcett-Gush jumped up and marched towards the styling chair that Fwitz pushed forward. Her long-layered hair which curled artfully around her face and tumbled over her shoulders, followed.

He threw a cape over the non-dissenting victim and worked a brush through the mass of hair several times. "Dearwy me sweetie, it must takes ages to blow-dwy all this thick hair into shape. It weally has to go."

"45 minutes, sometimes twice a day. Very well, Mr Fwitz. Thank you Mr Fwitz.," she said unemotionally, but with more than a slight flicker of concern in her eyes which was quickly quelled by Brooke's steely gaze.

Jane piped up, "yes, and all that time is totally unproductive." She looked at her own photograph on the screen, where she was doing a passable imitation of Sharon Stone, and added, "this look takes less than a minute to style each morning. OK Fwitz give Miss Fawcett-Gush a Number 1."

"Number 1," he said dreamily imagining the clippers with their smallest guard giving this attractive young girl a stylish, and very short, crewcut but knowing he needed to settle for a style the same as his colleague's, or perhaps a little shorter …

Jane watched as Fwitz picked a large pair of scissors - they could almost be dressmaking scissors she thought, but refrained from making any comment.

Fwitz began whistling tunelessly, placing the scissors just above the left ear of the young woman. "OK hair we go," he giggled. The steadfast look on most of the young lads at the back of the room began to crumble as they sat to attention in their current uniform of black suits, blue shirts and yellow ties. One in particular - the one who had been sitting next to her - appeared to have a tear rolling down his cheek. The other young women tried to maintain a dispassionate interest in the proceedings - and failed dismally as their gaze alternated between their colleague, their selected style on the large screen and the smirk on their boss's face.

As the scissors closed the artfully crafted layers caressing the cheekbones, slid down said cheekbones and bounced on the cape on their journey to the floor. Fwitz continued to work the scissors around her head and they munched away at the heavy glossy locks which followed the now established route to the floor. "Oh yes, looking better alweady," trilled Fwitz, as he surveyed the pudding bowl bob that now sat atop his client's head, which he then sprayed with water to begin the style in earnest.

He looked up at the picture and then at his colleague, to remind him of the finished result he was striving for. He placed the scissors on her forehead, barely half an inch from her hairline. "Byesy-byesy fwinge," he shrilled, as a few more inches of the girl's thick hair slid past her eyes and hit the floor.

He then combed up a section at the crown, twisted it around and around, and snipped it off at barely and inch and a half. Now in his stride he repeated the process throughout the crown and shorter and shorter snippets rained down. Then with practiced skills he lifted the hair at the left and worked the scissors through the hair, over the comb, graduating it to barely nothing around the ear. He did the same on the other side. He then began a similar operation on the hair at the back, running the comb up the nape again and again, each time reducing the hair until nothing remained but an even bristle effect. Clippers would have had trouble cutting it closer. It was shorter than his colleague's, who looked on admiringly. The hair was nearly dry as he rubbed a little serum into his fingers and worked it through the girl's short crop - spiky perhaps, although any degree of tousleness had been ruthlessly cut away by Fwitz's scissors.

"There we are sweetie, I hope you like it. NEXT!" It was unlike Fwitz to have this barbershop mentality to haircuts, but he could see another 11 heads of abundant hair sitting above increasingly worried expressions.

"Hmmm, you're going to have trim that Fwitz," Jane piped up.

Both Miss Fawcett-Gush's and Fwitz's eyebrows rose up - the former's now clearly visible on the vast expanse of her denuded forehead.

"Well OK, but I thought I had twimmed it enough," miffed at his professional judgement coming into question.

"No, no, no - you took 23 minutes 40 seconds Fwitz. Remember, 20 minutes is the target."

"It takes as long as it takes, dearwie - I'm an ar…"

Arsehole, Jane was about to interject but remembered where she was. "Artiste. Yes I know. Well you need to be a quicker one. OK Number 2, I think it's your turn."

Nicola Cruise was already seated and looking extremely worried, despite her attempt at calmness. Both Fwitz and Jane looked at her and then at each other. And both smiled. Jane said, "I think for the purposes of this exercise we can assume you have swapped places with Number 6." And she ran her hands through a riot of abundant red curls, as Fwitz plugged in his clippers.

"OK Miss Cwuise. Weady?"

Shocked gasps were almost - but not quite - audible as the clippers surged through the very composed Miss Cruise's hair. Like a cruise missile, Jane thought with a hidden smile.

The well-trained graduates stifled their horror as their team mate's hair fell away to leave a velvety pelt on top of her small, well-shaped skull. Jane noticed they all paled, even the blokes. But they didn't dare say a word.

"Ooo, Nicola," enthused Fwitz. "You have such sweet little ears. All pwetty and pink." And with a swift flick of his wrist he let them see light for the first time in years. Acres of curls dropped down Miss Cruise's elegant shoulders.

Fwitz bent her head forward, ready to attack the back. A quick glance at his watch told him he was making good time on THIS haircut! If hairdressers were running behind schedule Cut Number Six was their saviour.

The luscious curls that sprang like springs from Nicola's nape quivered at the clippers crept closer. Fwitz sighed in satisfaction as he nuzzled the blades up the back of her head in long, practiced strokes. His trusty clippers wailed - or Wahled - as they nipped off Miss Cruise's locks. Three minutes later the haircut was finished. Miss Cruise's head looked several sizes smaller, her pale face several shades lighter, and the floor several inches deeper in red curls.

Miss Cruise ran exploratory fingers over her head, gulping as she realised her fingers would, in fact, only run OVER her hair and not THROUGH it any more.

"Nine minutes fifty seconds," murmured Jane approvingly. She said to the room, "Miss Cruise now has the ultimate easy care haircut. She won't even need gel or other product to make her hair stay in place. She can simply wash it, rub it dry and run her hands over it to smooth it down. See how you can see her beautiful face now without all that hair hiding it? Who else would like to try this haircut?"

The room was silent. Jane sighed. "Okay. Just remember volunteers actually get a choice. Now who wants to try number four, a short wedge with a clippered nape?"

Three hands rose tentatively. Jane and Fwitz smiled approvingly.

***

Jane and Fwitz sat in Norbert Sorbert's office. Jane leaned back in her chair and, totally relaxed in the presence of the Prime Minister, put her feet up on his desk. Since she was wearing one of her fake leather mini skirts, the PM said nothing but simply enjoyed the view of her endless legs. Fwitz sat primly in his chair with his knees together. He was wearing an ice green suit today with a pink shirt and looked like a gelato on legs.

"As you can see by our report, the feasibility study went very well," Jane stated. "We took thirty young trainees, seventeen women and thirteen men, all with initially varying hair lengths, and performed the six female styles and six male styles on them. All haircuts, with the exception of one - " she looked meaningfully at Fwitz - "were completed in twenty minutes or under. We believe that with the inclusion of short clippered styles such as female number six, hairdressers will be able to allow a little leeway - say five minutes - on the more labour-intensive cuts. While our subjects were initially reticent about their haircuts, they gave in gracefully for the most part."

Jane and Fwitz pondered this. There had been one trainee, Gaynor Gilbert, who had burst into tears when she was told her waist-length brown locks were to be reduced to the Number One short crop style in an effort to see if Fwitz could produce it in under twenty minutes. He could and did, once Miss Gilbert had been handcuffed to the chair.

"And they all looked faaabulous after," Fwitz put in.

Norbert looked uncertainly at Fwitz. Every time he met the creature he felt that Fwitz would, at any moment, produce a pair of scissors and instant red dye and go to work on the PM's hair without a word of warning. "What do you recommend next?"

"We start training stylists in the cuts," Jane said. "We train a core team here in London who then start training in the country. Of course, we'll be going on the road too to see how the training is going and to do a bit ourselves. We'd like to bring in an audit team, too, to check on the stylists' work in a few months."

Norbert said, "You think this will all get passed through Parliament, then? You understand it's a very radical move and we already have stiff opposition to the proposal."

"We're talking about a country that rallies in times of need, Prime Minister," said Jane. "Remember the Second World War? Land girls? The Spirit of the Blitz? Our nation is in another time of need. We HAVE to become more productive as a nation or being part of the EC will cripple us."

"Er," said the PM, who wasn't used to being spoken to like this by anyone who wasn't a politician or a member of the Royal Family. On the other hand, he could use her to write his speech.

"And PM, I suggest you set a pwecedent," said Fwitz eagerly. "One of our male styles would suit you just perfectly!" He whipped out the portfolio and showed the PM the styles. They had been selected to suit all age groups and male baldness patterns. The PM's trademark long waves would be whittled down to a number two all over according to Fwitz's pointing finger.

Norbert Sorbert shuddered.

"And you could weally get away with a tint," Fwitz continued. "A nice wed would weally make people take notice."

Norbert's nightmare came true. Fwitz opened his handbag and whipped out a cape, a pair of clippers, scissors, comb and a tube of dye.

***

Christine Gayle said casually to her husband, "What about I do some work for charity, dear? That would look good for you. I wouldn't be taking the bread and butter out of someone else's mouth, and I'd be giving something back to the community."

Charlie sipped his Chateuneuf du Pape thoughtfully. It was his sixth drink of the night, and there were typically another three to go.

Christine had timed her question nicely. At drink six Charlie was always mellow and remembered what he said the next day. After drink six his memory went, and he'd argue with her about agreeing to her demands of the night before.

"What, you mean ladies' lunches and high class raffles?" he snorted.

"No, dear, I mean, actually going to a charity office and giving my time for free. Remember, I was a secretary when you first met me."

"Hmm. Well, as long as we don't have to have unwashed, badly dressed hippies to dinner. And make sure it's a local charity. Something British. I don't want you working for some buggers who send money to Africa or somewhere wasteful like that."

Christine winced. She never dared tell Charlie she privately supported a whole bunch of charities - Save the Children, Amnesty, World Wide Fund for Nature, Freedom Against Hunger. He'd hit the roof at the thought of some poor little starving child in Central America getting the benefit of the Gayle housekeeping money.

She said, "It'll be something appropriate Charlie. And think of the good press you'll get."

Charlie felt happier then. "I'm sure you'll do us both proud, darling!" He kissed her, stinking of wine and cigars, and stroked the long hair he so adored.

Christine hoped he'd pass out before sex. She had a charity in mind. One in London. One that had offered its services as a volunteer to try out the new Total Quality Professional program, if Charlie's private papers were to be believed.

 

Chapter 3

The Halls of Westminster were thoroughly divided about the TQP program, and Norbert considered dropping it altogether in case passing it resulted in a hung Parliament. But Jane's words, reconstituted in a speech, had had the effect the PM wanted, with bluff "hear hear"s echoing around the chamber. It was agreed that TQP would be trialled in three places initially to ascertain if it had an effect on the local economy and productivity. A borough of London, central Manchester and rural Somerset were the chosen ones, Manchester with its industrial core and rural Somerset as the home of cottage industries and the commuter belt.

Norbert Sorbert's glaring face defied anyone to giggle at his much-publicised, front-page auburn crewcut. The Sun had gone to town on it, with a lovely picture of Norbert's bulldog features with the caption "Our bovver boy PM." His new look was the subject of many sniggers behind closed fists in Westminster. Many cartoons of Norbert's severe new look had been passed from hand to hand like official papers that morning in Parliament.

Jane and Fwitz would visit all three of the chosen areas as TQP was being trialled.

"Ooo, Manchester," sighed Fwitz. "I might meet some nice wough twade."

Jane giggled. She was getting used to her new workmate now. "Seriously, Fwitz, I think you'd better tone down the clothing or you'll be in serious trouble. Could you bear to wear grey or navy or black?"

"Darling, I LOVE black. Soooo slimming."

"Nice shirt, Fwitz. Oh! It's all silky," Jane purred. "Can I borrow it sometime?"

"Only if I can bowwow that sweet leopard pwint top of yours."

***

In deepest Somerset, Jenny had just finished sticking the last of the posters on the wall of her salon. She had no idea what her customers would think of them. She'd had a lot of questions for the TQP people.

For instance, did someone working on farm have to have one of the haircuts? Yes, they did, they were employed so therefore they were part of TQP. And what about if someone lied and said they were unemployed? Well, that wasn't really Jenny's fault. Their employer was obliged by law to report them and ensure their hair was cut.

It all sounded pretty grim to Jenny but she had to admit it would increase business. She ran her hand through her own hair.

It felt odd having it short for the first time ever, but she was getting used to it. The TQP team had given her a choice of haircut from the six, and she'd chosen the Sharon Stone look. It didn't matter that Jenny was a size sixteen and the only things she had in common with Sharon were eye colour and streaky fair hair.

It had all happened very quickly. She'd sat in the chair and TQP1 had taken out the stopwatch. TQP2, a London stylist with spiky hair that had been dyed more colours than Jenny had in her entire salon, had gathered Jenny's hair into a ponytail and before she could say "Cider" had lopped it off.

The rest of the cut proceeded with equal speed. Jenny was used to chatting with her clients as she cut their hair. It was usual for her to stop mid cut and sit down with a scone and a cuppa and talk about the world.

Not in the new regime! TQP2 barely said a word as she sectioned the back of Jenny's hair and began to snip it closely at the nape. Wordlessly she worked up the back of Jenny's head. Jenny couldn't see what was going on. She did notice when a lock near her crown was sawed off to such a short length it stood up by itself though.

"Why do I have to hurry the haircuts?" Jenny asked plaintively as TQP2 wordlessly scissored off the hair in front of her ears to textured points.

"Because you'll be so busy cutting hair there won't be time to chat," was the reply.

"Ooo, I doubt that, luv," Jenny responded. "I only get about three clients a day here. Right peaceful it is."

The TQPs grinned at each other. "Your takings are about to hit the roof then," said TQP1, looking at the stopwatch. "We anticipate you'll do about three haircuts an hour on average. And that's with one stylist."

"Ooo, my aching feet," Jenny said, watching her fair hair get lifted and sliced away with amazing rapidity. "I can't stand up for an hour without a nice sit down."

TQP2 moved in front of her, lifted up her fringe with the comb and lopped it off to somewhere under an inch long. Jenny watched it fall in front of her, as if it were slow motion. She'd liked her fringe nice and long. The scissors moved rapidly over the top of her head, snipping off all her hair to a tousled crop. All Jenny could see was the slick black apron TQP2 wore. TQP2's fingers tugged lightly at her hair as they held it taut, very close it seemed, to her scalp.

Finally TQP2 moved away and Jenny gasped as she saw herself in the mirror. I've been scalped! she thought. Her once long hair now stood up in wet spikes. The rest of it lay in coils on the floor.

"Five minutes to style it," TQP1 said, and TQP2 went to work with styling wax and a blow dryer.

"How's your finger drying technique?" TQP2 asked Jenny.

"Eh? I always use a brush. Not much call for punk haircuts around here."

"There will be. We'll have to give you some training then."

The full force of the blow dryer felt like the exhaust from a fighter plane as it blasted Jenny's hair. TQP2 pulled her hair this way and that until the messy crop of Sharon Stone mysteriously appeared.

"Nineteen minutes and thirty five seconds," crowed TQP1 triumphantly, clicking her stopwatch as the hysterical whine of the blowdryer faded away.

Jenny had to admit her hair looked great short. That was yesterday. Today she'd struggled for twenty minutes to dry it as the TQPs had, but only succeeded in covering it with wax and turning it into the kind of style a hedgehog would fall in love with. Never mind. She'd learn.

The door to her salon opened and a slim girl dressed in dungarees with straggly long hair walked in. "I've got a notice," she said, waving a piece of paper. "I've been picked for some trial scheme what means I've got to get my hair cut."

She didn't look happy about it. Although Jenny did. That straggly long hair should be cut anyway, TQP or no TQP.

"Come over to the basin," Jenny suggested. "What do you do for a living?"

"I work in the cider factory, me," the girl said. "Why on earth I've gotta get my hair cut I don't know."

"In case it falls into the vat?" Jenny suggested.

"Flippin' 'eck, we had a family of field mice fall into the vat last year. 'S'no big deal. Fred said it made our scrumpy even scrumpier."

Jenny decided she'd never drink cider again. Those TQP girls had introduced her to a nice new drink, Bacardi Breezers. And the ingredients on the bottle were mercifully free of animal products.

"The good news is I get free clothes out of it," said the girl, "but what I'm going to do with mini skirts and fancy shoes in the factory is beyond me."

Jenny didn't know either. Presumably put them into the scrumpy to add fibre, she thought with a giggle as she shampooed the girl's oily hair. "See those haircuts on the wall? They're your choices. Which one d'you want?"

"Which one have you got?"

"The first one."

"Why doesn't it look any good on you then? Give me the last one. The really short one. The one like a bloke's. May as well get my money's worth."

Jenny didn't know how to tell her she wasn't much good with clippers. Running a ladies' salon rather than a unisex, she rarely used them.

She sat her client down and put a cape around her. Picking up a large pair of scissors, she said, "Well, I'll cut most of you hair short with these and then clip it."

Which she proceeded to do. She lifted up all the dark straggly locks and gathered them on top of the girl's head, and whacked into the ponytail with the scissors. Unkempt short hair flopped around the girl's head, and Jenny was left holding a handful of what looked like Medusa's snakes.

Clippers cut hair dry, Jenny remembered, so she blasted the short hair with a blowdryer and it stuck out in all directions in marvellous disarray. "Hey, that's a great style," said the girl. "Can't I keep it like this?"

"Er, no," Jenny replied, "It's not one of the official styles." She fixed a number two guard to the clippers. "Can you put your head down for me?"

Biting her lip, Jenny flicked the clippers into life and hoped she didn't sound nervous. Placing the blades against the girl's neck, she drew them up into her hair. The blades were sharp and oiled, and mowed through the hair like a hot knife through butter. It fell away in soft clumps, dropping onto the girl's shoulders and knees. The fine pelt left on her head was almost see-through.

"That tickles," said the girl, her voice muffled as her chin was on her chest. "It's rather nice."

Encouraged, Jenny buzzed the back of her head as closely as a man's, keeping an eye on the clock on the wall. She tipped the girl's head back up and began to shear the sides.

"Ooo, it's short, isn't it?" remarked the girl as she watched her hair get clipped to almost nothing. Far from crying, she seemed interested in how quickly it was falling from her head. Jenny moved to the side and shaved in front of her ears, nibbling up the side of her scalp.

Jenny buzzed away the other side, tossing the cut hair away from the blades with a careful hand.

She spun the chair around to face her. Then pushed the clippers into the girl's fringe, and slowly eased them over the top of her head.

The girl giggled. "That feels so funny," she shrieked as her hair was shorn off. Sighing with relief, Jenny made the last couple of passes over the top of her scalp, and the last of the girl's long hair was gone. She had a nicely shaped head and wore the severe crewcut very well. Jenny spun her to face the mirror.

"Ooo, I looks like me bwuvver!" The girl collapsed in peals of laughter, stroking her hand over the remains of her long locks. "Old Fred won't be chasing me around the vats now, trying to get into me knickers!" She grinned. "Thanks, Jenny. This'll look right funny with me new mini skirt, it's a real giggle."

The girl was still laughing and touching her clippered hair as she paid Jenny and walked out.

Jenny wrote in her nice new TQP ledger: One number six style. She cross-referenced it to the form the girl had left behind. She'd barely finished when two more women walked in brandishing similar forms and looking apprehensively at the six official styles on the wall.

Jenny supposed the full till would make up for the aching feet. She put on her most welcoming smile.

 

Chapter 4

"Well Jenny seemed to be getting on very well didn't she sweetie," Fwitz said to Jane, as she drove them up the M5 towards their next port of call in Manchester, having completed a review of the activities in Somerset.

"Yes, not bad at all. I'm surprised the whole cider factory had agreed to having their hair buzzed though."

"When we went on the tour the managerwess said sales were incweasing as the taste had impwoved. She put it down to that young girl we saw in the pwessing shop no longer moulting her long hair into the vats!"

"Whatever, it shows the plan is working. More efficiency, better profits ..."

"And lots of nice haircuts awound the countwy!" interjected Fwitz. "My, that cider is nice though isn't. So sweet, sweetie. I feel wather mewwy."

"Not too merry I hope - I understand there's problems up in Manchester. You're going to need your wits about you to handle those northern women, and you'll need balls! Got any ..."

"Of course! I'm fully equipped ..." Fwitz responded.

"Please to hear it. I wanted to know how you are on the tool front," Jane continued in her attempt to confuse Fwitz. It was so easy.

"I, er," Fwitz blustered, not sure if Jane was winding him up or not. "I have my Wahls with me," he said rather pompously. "Those Manchester women won't know what's hit them."

An old Steppenwolf song started playing on the radio that both of them recognised and they both sung along to the chorus. Fwitz shouting 'Born to be Wild' in his high falsetto voice. As well as being rather incongruous it was also excruciating. Jane winced and tried to divert his mind from singing. "I love this song" - I used to, Jane thought - "and I've always seen myself as a bit of a webel. But a webel with a cause ..."

"The Manchester women - they're born to be Wahled are they?" she said jokingly.

"Tee-hee-hee - you're so funny, sweetie. Born to be Wahled indeed!" Fwitz giggled. There was a pause - Fwitz appeared to be thinking - for which Jane was thankful. And then it started again ... sort of ...

"Get your clippers wunning

Head out on the highway

Looking for some long hair

And we'll cwop it all away

Yeah sweetie let's make it happen

Take the hair in a ponytail

Clip all of the hair at once

See it fall into capes

You're born to be Wahled!!

Born to be Wahled!!"

Jane looked at him astonished, as much by his inventiveness as much as his incredibly high singing voice. So much so, she almost drove into the car in front. But a smile, almost of fondness, flashed across her face. And then he continued

"I like smoking clippers

Shiny blades asunder

Racin' up nice napes

And the feelin' of great wonder.

Yeah sweetie let's make it happen

Take the hair in a ponytail

Clip all of the hair at once

See it fall into capes

With clippers without a guard

You were born, born to be wahled

Clippers climb so high

You'll just wanna sigh!"

Jane giggled, she just couldn't stop herself - and joined in with the chorus and they merrily continued their way to Manchester.

"Born to be wahled

Born to be WAHLED!"

***

"Well Mrs Gayle you'll be joining us at an exciting time. CHUM, the charity for unmarried mothers, has been around for many years. Some of the staff are volunteers, and some work for CHUM although we can't pay them that well unfortunately. But they're all dedicated. But we also need cash to help these unfortunate victims of society. Help them with their children and help them integrate back into society by helping with their appearance and teaching them new skills. One of our key edicts is that our staff are always well turned out and give a professional image as an example to our mothers - no social worker jeans and T shirts here. But there's the dilemma - it costs money for clothes, nice hair and makeup, and sadly this is money that our staff can ill afford these days. It's been tough managing this organisation for the last several years," Mrs Pomeroy reflected.

Christine Gayle thought, well not too tough for you!, as she took in the well fitted Chanel suit, a good selection of gold jewelry and expertly applied makeup. The hair slicked back from her face into a neat bun looked severe but matched her overall appearance. "Well, I think you do a wonderful job and I'll be very happy to help out where I can," rather worried by the prospect of ministering to a bunch of Essex girls with their offspring. But she knew more - from her husband's private papers - and she had a plan outlined in her mind.

"Excellent! Your presence will certainly raise our profile and we have just received some more good news. We are to receive a grant from the government to take part in a new scheme they are piloting called Total Quality Professional. Have you heard of it?"

"I might have - not sure ..." Christine replied vaguely, her heart automatically going into THUD mode.

"Well it is a plan to ensure all employees maintain a smart and professional appearance at all times. Which of course is exactly what we want to set examples to our mothers. And this afternoon all our head office staff are to receive their makeovers by a team from a top salon. There'll be a TV team here to film it. And some of our mothers will also be receiving makeovers. And we're hoping to train some of them as stylists. Oh, it's all very exciting."

"Yes it is," replied Christine truthfully, with an anticipatory smile on her face.

***

"Well Jane, this salon looks much more inviting that that one down in Somerset, doesn't it," Fwitz said as they walked towards the site of their next inspection. It did look quite trendy ... from the outside.

"Don't get your hopes up Fwitz - we're in Corrie country."

"Corwie?"

"Coronation Street. A soap opera. You must have heard of it!"

"No, I don't watch soap operwa's. Shampoo operwa's would be much more interwesting."

"Yes, well, Now take a deep breath."

"Why -" Fwitz started to say but, as the door opened and they were hit by the concentrated fumes of perm lotions and hairspray he understood. "Oh no, this weally is too much!"

"Hiya. You must be the two from the government, coom to snoop on us. Right?" said the large woman sitting behind the reception desk.

"Well we're here to see how the pilot scheme is going and offer any help we can," replied Jane.

"Well lasses up 'ere are gonna take a lorra convincing to change their ways, you mark my words luv." As Fwitz took in the salon owner's shoulder length mass of bleached and permed straw-like hair he could well believe it.

"Well it’s up to you to do it. Your were randomly selected as part of the pilot scheme and are therefore bound by law to make it work. We'll look at your register of cuts performed under TQP later," which led to the woman's eyes being diverted to a pristine and untouched ledger under the desk, "but firstly we would like to see how your stylists are coping with performing the approved styles. Lead the way please."

They were led slowly in to the salon proper. One wall was completely filled with hairdriers, many with clients having their hair baked, with a cup of tea in their hands or old copies of Woman's Own.

"Oh, how twagic!" This was a sad sight for Fwitz - he hadn't seen so many women having sets for years - but all the worse because they weren't just pensioners but women of all ages. This was clearly how they did things - still did things - in the north west.

They were brought to a halt by a stylist who appeared to be creating a passable replica of St Paul's cathedral upon the head of a woman in her late 20s. Both Jane and Fwitz were looking at each other and thinking such styles had surely disappeared in the 1960s. Fwitz said as much.

The owner replied. "No, not 'round these parts. We still like a bit of glamour."

Fwitz only just managed not to choke and Jane asked the young client, with a sympathetic air, "do you actually like that hairstyle?"

"Yeah course I do. Worn it for years, just like me Mam. I loves it all pulled back tight like this and then fixed up high on me head. Really practical - stays in for days what with all the hairspray and pins - so I only has to coom in here twice a week. Sexy too - shows me neck off to the lads. They likes that, they does." As they spoke, the stylist - almost a mirror image of her boss - continued to tease strands of hair and inject vast quantities of hairspray into the concoction before them that would single-handedly destroy the complete ozone layer if it weren’t for the salon ceiling.

Other than the exposure of the nape, Jane was dumfounded. "So you like a high and tight look do you?" she managed to ask. Fwitz's eyes brightened considerably at this phrase. "Well, this isn't one of the approved TQP styles. You must waste an awful lot of time in this salon, not to mention the cost in hairspray. Didn't you get a form requesting you to receive one of the new styles?"

"Yeah I did, but Doris," she said, nodding towards her stylist, "told me to forget it when I arrived today. She said it didn't apply to me. Only covered short styles," she sat back satisfied as Doris appeared to be applying the top coat of varnish to her quite remarkable edifice.

"Well it certainly does apply to all the clients of this salon," Jane said emphatically, "and you are lucky that my colleague Fwitz, a world famous stylist, will give you an example of his work for you to follow. So young lady, you like a style that is tight to the head, high off the ears and which shows your neck to advantage do you?" The girl nodded, her top heavy hair making her head rock back and forth almost maniacally. "Excellent, then Fwitz please give her a high and tight special - I think it will be the kindest thing for her."

"Well yes, I agwee, but it's not one of the appwoved -" Fwitz started to say.

"I know what you're going to say," interrupted Jane. It was clear none of the other women present had a clue. "Just adapt one of the others. Style number six perhaps?"

Light dawned in Fwitz's mind, which seemed to help his red crop glow even brighter. He smiled and opened his bag and retrieved his set of trusty Wahl clippers

"'Ere what are you doing bringin’ them in here?" snapped the salon owner. "This is a ladies' salon not a bleedin' barbers. I've not seen them for years."

"Well I suggest you trade in those driers for a set of clippers for each of your stylists. It'll make room for more styling stations too as you'll be inundated with new business once TQP takes off," recommended Jane.

On hearing this, the salon owner's eyes lit up at the thought of increased profits. "OK, well bleedin' well get on with it then!" Her stylist companion Doris was about to say something - no doubt in relation to the potential destruction of her remarkable feat of engineering - but she was silenced by the steely gaze of her boss.

Fwitz started his tuneless whistling once with an occasional interjection of 'Born to Wahled' as he placed his buzzing clippers on the client's nape and pushed them effortlessly upwards. He looked in amazement at the fact no impression had been made as they skidded off the varnished surface of the woman's hair. A hammer and chisel might have been more use. "Oh weally, this is TOO much!"

He returned the clippers to the woman's hairline and, cuppng her forehead with his free hand, slowly but surely forced the blades of the clippers into the hair which began to peel away.

"Look, are you right sure you know what you're doing? I like to be in fashion I do. All nice an’ sleek, like," she said in a slightly concerned tone.

"Oh, it'll be sleek all right and you'll be leading the fashion," replied Jane, watching Fwitz as he was now in his stride and forcing the clippers into the depths of the rats’ maze still perched on the client's head. On hearing this the client relaxed a little.

Fwitz had now peeled away all the hair at the back and sides and placed the clippers on the woman's forehead. With a few more strikes of the clippers the whole edifice fell away and bounced on the floor, like a guardsman losing his bearskin hat outside Buckingham Palace on a windy day. "Ah, that's much better. Now the artiste can work pwoperly."

And so he did the clippers flew backwards and forward over her head reducing all the remaining hair to a uniform 3/8 inch. He then flicked off the plastic guard and proceeded the shave the back and sides to nothingness. Using his comb with the clippers what little hair remained was brought to smart attention giving her a look any marine would be proud of. He picked up a mirror and showed her the back. At first she looked shocked. "Bleedin' 'ell it's short innit. But, cor, look at my neck ain't that just a picture. I'll have all the lads after me ..."

"Right, stop work, all of you!" commanded one of the two men in suits who had just stormed into the salon.

"'Oo the bleedin' 'ell are you then?" asked the salon owner.

"We're auditors appointed by the independent government watchdog overseeing the implementation of TQP. We have had had your salon under surveillance as you appeared not be conforming to the standards laid down. We had you under most sections of the standard and finally we have you under Section 4, design control - failure to comply with the standard hairstyles that have been approved," he announced smugly. "And Section 13 for disposal on non conforming product," he added, looking at the beehive still on the floor. We'll revoke your license for this! You'll never even shampoo in Manchester again!"

With that he pulled delicately on his pin striped lapels, making sure that after this remarkable, breath-free speech his suit still sat perfectly over his chest.

"No, it is to acceptable standards," Jane said carefully. "It is an acceptable contractual variation, brought upon the client herself requesting a high and tight style. In accordance with Section 3, sub-section 4 of aforementioned standard such varietal requests are fully in accordance if agreed beforehand with both contracting parties provided the basic style is maintained and may be attributed to one of the aforementioned styles." The chief auditor raised a finger as if to speak. Jane ignored him and carried on in her best Governmentese. "The high and tight flattop is a variation of Style 6 and shall be viewed in total concordance with aforesaid style. In pursuance of such varietal agreement we gave agreement that the agreement could be varied," - he raised a finger again - "by agreement!"

It was difficult to know who looked most confused by Jane's announcement. Fwitz was probably slightly ahead of the others. However Jane was as confused as everyone else by her nonsense ... but she was just much better at hiding it.

"Yes, but -" responded the chief auditor grabbing papers from his sidekick and angrily flicking through them, nodding occasionally, and then dropping the lot on the floor.

"Besides, we are the woving artistic team appointed by the government who established the standards in the first place," added Fwitz to the smokescreen of confusion established by Jane.

Jane grabbed Fwitz by the hand and made a quick getaway, hopeful that she hadn't jeopardised the plans of her own organisation, the SSS, by the desire to see this woman have her beehive replaced a high and tight flattop.

"Yes, well I guess that's OK. How were we to know - we normally audit plastic dustbin manufacturers!" Suit Number One finally looked up from the vast sheaf of papers in his hand.

But Jane and Fwitz had gone.

 

Chapter 5

"So Mrs Pomeroy, are your staff pleased to be taking part in this government study? Not to mention the live broadcast to the nation," asked Kate, the TV reporter, as the cameraman panned along the line of six extremely worried looking faces seated and caped before them. Behind each stood a fashionable looking stylist from one of London's top salons.

"Oh yes, we're all extremely pleased. It's such an excellent scheme - we'll save such a lot of time and money for our charity. And of course we also hope that the attention you are bringing to CHUM will bring in additional support from your viewers. Thank you providing us with such exposure."

"That's no problem at all. OK, I think the stylists are ready to start. Let's go to speak to one of your staff before the scissors fall. Hello, what's your name?" asked the reporter.

"Er, it's Jill," replied a young woman surrounded by a mass of corkscrew curls which the blonde cropped stylist standing behind her was fingering eagerly. "I only had this done at the weekend. Cost me eighty bloody quid."

"Yes, and it looks very nice. How do you feel about having that all cut short?"

"It's very impractical!" interjected Mrs Pomeroy. "You can't even tie it back sensibly now. You'll save a fortune on conditioning products once you have your new style and it will only cost five pounds whenever it needs a trim. Will you start please stylist," commanded Mrs Pomeroy.

"And which of the styles will you be giving Jill?" asked the reporter.

The stylist flicked on her clippers and shouted above their roar, "shame she had it permed as there's only one style that we can give her now." She eagerly pushed the clippers into the bouncy hair at Jill's forehead, and corkscrew curls began to bounce down the cape. "A nice short crewcut - shorter than mine!"

"Phew, that's a lot of hair to come off then. How do you feel about that Jill, losing all your lovely bouncy curls?"

Jill gave her a sad stare and, as her head was pushed down and the smiling stylist began to denude her nape, a few tears were gathering on her cheeks. She was beyond speech as she watched her perfectly conditioned, perfectly permed locks drop onto her knees.

Christine Gayle was watching the events unfold with mounting excitement. Seeing the young woman's curls fall to the floor caused a tight knot to form in her stomach as she tried to imagine just how she was feeling. Even admiring the stylist's blonde crop was enough to encourage the butterflies to mount in her stomach. Why she was so affected by haircutting in this way she didn't know. She kept it to herself of course but always made a date with Richard and Judy on TV every morning to see if any dramatic makeovers would take place. Now she had the chance to watch young women receive major haircuts and was savoring every moment. A fine, blonde pelt now covered Jill's head, so fine she almost looked bald. She remembered back to the Sinead O'Connor gig that he had persuaded her husband to take her to when he was PM, and the few moments she spent alone with her backstage afterwards when she didn't ask any questions regarding her music just about her hair, or rather lack of it.

The other stylists had now all started work and had quickly reduced the length of all of the hair to a shortness onto which one of the acceptable styles would be fashioned. She squeaked in pleasure as she saw the waist length braid of the CHUM accountant get snipped off at the nape, and Christine received a very odd look from the Mrs Pomeroy

She wondered how the woman was feeling, and tried to imagine - without much difficulty - how she would feel if she was sitting there. But of course it couldn't happen, as her husband would never agree to it. What a lovely way to spend the day she thought. She would have to tell Mrs Pomeroy at the end of the day that the charity was not for her - and rifle through her husband's private papers to find when the next charity were being targeted for the TQP process.

As the clippers and scissors fell silent and the last snippet of hair hit the floor the capes were pulled away and the staff stood up. There was no doubt they all looked very different and mostly more attractive. They certainly looked more efficient. Without thinking Christine stepped forward along with others for a closer look at the finished styles. Suddenly she was grabbed by Mrs Pomeroy who was talking to the reporter.

"... and here is our latest member of staff, Christine Gayle, the wife of the Leader of the Opposition," Mrs Pomeroy said by way of introduction to Kate and the viewers. Not that she needed introduction as the image of her classic beauty was well known to the nation, and one of the key assets in her husband's armoury.

"Well, this is a surprise," said Kate. "And how are you enjoying working for CHUM, Mrs Gayle."

Christine, given her lack of composure inside over what she had been fortunate enough to witness, was caught unawares but her well-honed media persona automatically came to the fore. "Good afternoon Kate. It is a most worthwhile charity and I am very pleased to lend my full support."

"And, as a member of staff, does that mean you will be asked to adopt one of the styles we've seen performed on your colleagues this afternoon?" Kate asked jokingly.

I wish, thought Christine to herself. "Well I -" she started to say, but was interrupted by Mrs Pomeroy.

"That's correct. Mrs Gayle has offered her full support as a member of staff." Mrs Pomeroy didn't expect to be able to take this very far but was sure that the increased publicity arising from this confrontation could prove extremely beneficial to her charity. "So may I introduce the head of the salon who so kindly helped us out this afternoon - Trevor Sorbert - who has personally agreed to style Mrs Gayle's hair this afternoon."

What! Christine's knotted stomach did a double somersault in anticipation of this guy cutting her hair - someone even she, with her contacts, couldn't get an appointment with. But this couldn't happen of course - her husband would be furious. But the publicity! She had promised her husband publicity and this appearance on live TV, and no doubt repeated throughout the news bulletins during the evening, would certainly secure that. And the thought of his hands directing scissors or possibly even clippers, through her abundant, lustrous, long locks was a feeling she was finding difficult to contain.

"Hello everyone. And hello Mrs Gayle, this is indeed a great pleasure," he said, as he lifted the hair from one side of her head, made an imaginary snip at ear level, and let it fall back to her shoulders with an audible thump. There was just a little hint of malice there, the kind of joking malice that occurs when the PM’s brother has the chance to cut off the hair of the Leader of the Opposition’s wife.

"Hello Trevor, what a lovely surprise to see you here." Her mind was racing. What was she to do?!

"Really, I thought you knew I was coming." He looked pointedly at Mrs Pomeroy. "Well Mrs Gayle, shall we get you seated and prepared for your haircut?"

She felt him place an arm around her - an arm that trapped the hair against her back. A feeling she would no longer experience if it was cut, a realisation that caused her to allow a slight moan of pleasure to escape her lips. "Well I'm not sure now would be the best time. Not at this juncture. Perhaps in the fullness of time."

She couldn't be rude - not on live TV - but clearly she had to put him off and was trying to recall all of her husband's talent for procrastination. But she was also fighting the strong urge deep within her to experience that longed for feeling of clippers sliding up her nape. A feeling heightened by the almost non-consensual element that was being brought into play.

"Nonsense Mrs Gayle, I have given up an afternoon of my valuable time to support your cause. And it is unlikely that I will be able to find room in my diary for some considerable time. It's now or never!" exclaimed Trevor, rather forcefully.

Now or never is what Christine was also feeling. This was her best chance she was ever likely to have to cut her hair short, without upsetting her husband - or at least giving him something in return. Her excitement was mounting at the thought that it may just happen and, as she thought back to the cuts she had watched earlier, her stomach gave a flip. But she mustn't act too eager.

She was standing in front of one of the chairs, a mound of hair from earlier around her ankles. Trevor's hands dropped heavily on to her shoulders and she sat down. "Yes I understand that but it rather a big step you are asking me to take," she said, as unemotionally as she could. This was difficult as one assistant threw a cape over her and Trevor was handed a set of clippers by another. She tried to appear nervous, and to ensure the extreme pleasure she was feeling didn't manifest itself in any way - visible or vocal.

Mrs Pomeroy whispered in her ear, "But it has been decreed by the government and surely you, in your position, wouldn't like to be seen flouting the law."

But she barely heard. Her position was sitting in a barber's chair, a cape enveloping her and a top stylist with now buzzing clippers standing beside her. She was in heaven.

"So, shall I proceed," asked Trevor, with a touch of artistic exasperation showing in his voice. "It's just hair after all."

"This is a big sacrifice for me," she announced straight to the camera in a deadpan voice. "But it is such a good cause" - yes, my fulfillment, she thought to herself - "that I shall agree. Do you think I could have the number 2 style please Trevor - the wedge that you made famous."

"Well, yes of course you can my dear. It will be my pleasure." And mine too Trevor, and mine!

With that, he nodded to a blonde cropped stylist who briskly marched forward and expertly seperated the crown hair from the bulk of the rest, making a clear and distinct parting around Christine's head about two inches above her ears. She smiled broadly as she held the crown hair firmly in a ponytail. She was a little surprised to see Christine, head slightly bowed, smiling broadly back at her.

The abundance of pristine, wavy hair below the parting was brushed a few times to cascade like a waterfall in full flow down Christine's back. She then felt the cool metal of the clippers finding a path through this hair and touching her nape. She couldn't help herself - she let out a small moan of pleasure - as they begin to slide up her nape and into the hairline.

Ever the professional in front of a TV camera, Trevor started a commentary on the proceedings. "The foundation of a first-class wedge style is the elimination of bulk below the occipital bone and, to this end, because Mrs Gayle's hair is so thick I shall be clippering it without a guard." A louder moan escaped Christine's lips. "No, don't worry Mrs Gayle, there'll still be plenty of hair to work with. Now, as you can see just a dark shadow of fine stubble remains."

Wow, who's worried, thought Christine! This was surpassing her wildest dreams. He's shaving my nape and, as she felt the clippers move to the side of her head, the hair over my ears too. "Mmmmm, I ....". Oh sod it, she thought, I better keep quiet. This is just too much fun to share.

"Phew, Trevor, there's just so much hair collecting around the chair it's difficult to believe that you aren't shaving her bald," exclaimed Kate the reporter.

Oh please, please, thought Christine in her high state of excitement.

"No, but the back and sides are very short of course - almost shaved." Sigh! "Now to work on the top." He retrieved the still thick ponytail held by his assistant, combed it straight back from her forehead and snipped it straight across a little above the top of the ears. "No more long hair now Christine," he added gleefully as he spritzed the top and he layered and shape the longer hair remaining on the crown.

Feeling the last of her long hair slide down her neck, onto the cape and then to the floor was slowly bringing the wife of the leader of the government opposition to orgasm. On live TV! She had to control herself, but made a mental note to herself to procure a copy of the tape for later viewing.

"There, all done," announced Trevor, as he added a little of his proprietary serum to make this perfect cut shine.

Yes I am nearly, mused Christine. Mirrors were held up so she could see the front and the back. The crowd was silent, fearing her reaction.

She took in the almost shaved back and sides. The glossy sweep of side parted hair back from her forehead. The precise line of the longer hair contrasting with the clippered nape. Most of all she noted the virtual absence of her trademark long, luxurious hair.

"Yes that's most acceptable. Thank you Trevor," she said evenly, and planted a peck on his cheek.

The crowd visibly relaxed and started murmuring their acceptance of the style. There was more than one woman saying "I would die for a cut like that."

The cameras were turned off. "Actually Mrs Gayle, I think it could do with the hairline being shaved down to nothing using these edging clippers. Would that be OK?"

A big smile spread across Christine's face, and she nodded. Inside, she exploded!

 

Chapter 6

Charlie Gayle was waiting, most uncharacteristically, just inside the front door when Christine, on a high of clipper oil and serum, floated through the door.

"Just what the hell were you thinking?" Charlie roared at his wife as he slammed the door shut on twenty eager reporters. "Getting your hair cut on national TV! And by Sorbert’s brother! Do you know what kind of a fool that makes me look?"

Christine took in Charlie’s purple, apoplectic face. "Charlie, sweetums, I think every man in Parliament is probably envying you right now. Firstly the publicity, FREE publicity, is something you just can’t buy, secondly, half the women who were in the live audience were begging for my haircut once the cameras had stopped rolling and thirdly, it feels sexy as hell!" Christine had primed herself with a stiff scotch at The Bald Nun on the way home, and ran a finger up her neck tantalisingly, loving the bristly feeling of the stubble left there and the way her wedge above it felt so thick and lush.

"I HATE short hair on women!" growled Charlie, stomping down the hall.

"Methinks the laddie doth protest too much," mocked Christine. "Charlie, you’ve never been with a short-haired woman, you told me so yourself."

"Reminds me of bloody Eton and buggery in the bathrooms," came Charlie’s muffled voice from the drinks cabinet.

Christine felt a surge of electricity run through her slim, almost androgynous frame. "Oh Charlie! You poor darling! Tell me more…tell me, were you buggered by the boys or did you bugger them? Did you run your fingers into their neck hair and feel it all short like this?" She grabbed one of Charlie’s hands and pressed it against her neck.

The combination of her shaved nape and sweet perfume was too much for Charlie. Unrepressed teenage memories of some seriously good nights in the dorm flooded into him and before he knew it he and Christine - cropped, wedged, shaved Christine - were at it like knives on the drawing room floor.

Charlie, panting in triumphant exhaustion, propped himself up on his elbows and looked at his wife’s sleek, satin back, her hair clipped as short as any boy’s. "Must get a publicity shot. Us and the Sorbert brothers. How well the Opposition and the Government work together to pull the UK back on its feet."

Even in his most heightened sexual moments, Christine reflected, her husband was the consummate politician. She bent her head forward so he could see her skin through her shorn nape, and politics were, at last, blissfully forgotten.

* * *

"Roll up, roll up, roll up and get yer ‘air cut off! Ly-dies, ‘ave I got a deal for you! Bee-yoo-tiful ‘aircuts, your choice of six, only a fiver each! That’s right! Ferget yer Trevor Sorbert and ‘is ‘undred quid ‘aircuts, come ‘ere and get the same cut! Not for a ‘undred quid, not for ninety, or eighty, or seventy - " Red Ken, the spruiker for Hair We Go, took a breath and recommenced his pointless shouting at the women walking past him with disdain. "Not even a paltry fifty quid to you my luv!" He pointed to a gorgeous girl with waistlength, rippling locks. "Only a fiver for you to get the new happroved ‘aircuts, the TQP look! Not twenty quid, but a fiver! Can’t say fairer than ‘at, can I?"

No takers. He wiped his brow with a large, dirty handkerchief.

"Bleedin’ ‘ell Ken, we’re bored soddin’ stiff in ‘ere! Get some business for us, mate!" Frank, the chief stylist – or haircutter as he really called himself – poked his head out of the salon. "I’ve lost fifteen quid at poker to Jackie, we’ve both drawn our new TQP haircuts out of the sweepstake hat, and she’s ready to shave me ‘ead to give ‘er somefing to do!"

"I’m bleedin’ tryin’ mate!"

"I know you’re bleedin’ tryin’, I been sayin’ that for years!" Frank’s disembodied head disappeared back into the salon. Ken caught a glimpse of Jackie’s bright red sleeve tugging at Frank’s arm and then heard the buzz of the clippers.

"Jesus, I’ll be next!" groaned Ken, fingering his rather overlong curls that reached almost to his collar.

"And so you should be!" said a stern female voice beside him.

Ken turned and found himself staring at a pair of black-vinyl clad knockers which redefined the word "pert". His eyes travelled up to an ivory face, bright blue eyes and a smashing blonde crop that perched magnificently on top of the beautiful face.

"Who the ‘ell are you?" he gasped.

"My name is Blond, Jane Blond," she replied with a twisted smile that seemed somehow familiar. "And this is my colleague, Fwitz. We’re here for TQP and guess what? You could call us the Sweeney, you know, the Sweeney Todd. You’re nicked, sunshine!"

"Hi sweetie," carolled Fwitz. "My, what pwetty curls. Shame they’ll have to go though!"

"Eh?" Red Ken tugged his trademark red cloth cap further over his head. His curls were his pride and joy.

"Yes, they will," confirmed Jane. "They’re not TQP standard and you ARE a working person in this borough. We’re here to ensure the rules aren’t being broken and I see a big misdemeanour growing on your head. We’ll be generous though, you can keep the curls on top. Who do you think you are, anyway? Del-Boy?"

Ken grinned. "Got it in one, sweet'art. ‘E’s my hero, innie?"

"We’ve go’ a right one ‘ere," Jane said to Fwitz in perfect glottal cockney. "Look, mate," she said to Ken in her normal voice, "here’s how you do it."

Jane walked up to the first woman she saw, a business woman in her early thirties with a polite, collar length bob. "Excuse me, do you work in this borough?"

"I work in the next street," the woman confirmed, slightly unnerved by Jane’s air of authority and the incongruity of her vinyl catsuit and devilishly high heels.

"Are you aware that the TQP Project is being trialled in this area? That is, Total Quality Professional?"

"Oh, we all got something on the email but you know how it is. Urgent business comes first."

"This IS urgent business." Jane took her arm in a vice-like grip. "You’re responsible for setting an example to the rest of the country and getting the UK economy back on track. If they can do it in Somerset and Manchester then London has no excuse. Off with her hair!" she cried dramatically, and pushed the woman in through the door.

Frank was rubbing his now-bald head and Jackie was blowing his hair off the clipper blades.

"Trade!" cried Jackie joyfully. "Come over ‘ere and sit down, luv! Which style you want then? I reckon you’re a number one or a number two, eh? The crop or the wedge, luv?"

The hapless woman had been pushed into a chair, her mouth opening and closing in disbelief. She found her voice. "But I don’t WANT a haircut! I only had a trim last week!"

"Bleedin’ borin’ style if you ask me," said Jackie, who’d dyed her hair jet black and opted for the crew cut. It set her elfin bone structure off perfectly. "Wiv your face, I reckon the crop. Serious, luv, you’d be a dead ringer for Sharon Stone wiv the crop."

Sharon Stone…Hollywood…Power…Sex On Legs. The businesswoman dreamed for a moment. She was walking into the tower block where she worked, wearing a black dress that almost but not quite showed knickers ordered from Frederick’s of Hollywood. If she wore any at all, that is. She carried a Prada bag on one slim arm, and her head was that of Sharon Stone’s, crop, face and all. Yes!!!

"You’ll need a streak job," said Jackie.

"No time," said Jane, getting out the stopwatch. "You have twenty minutes to cut her hair into the crop, Jackie. Starting from now."

"Blimey!" Jackie flung the cape around her victim and while the stars of stardom were still in her eyes the woman felt her hair getting spritzed and the back getting pinned up. As she came back to earth and realised she was sitting in a cheap haircutting shop she felt Jackie’s cold scissors remove the first of her bob, cutting her hair barely longer than her hairline.

"Did you see Sphere then luv? I loved Shazza’s hair in that, didn’t you?" Jackie gabbled. "Well, that’s the haircut you’re getting’ now." Briskly she combed and snipped. Hair flew in all directions as the mouse brown locks were reduced and the shiny bob consigned to history. Or hairstory.

"Shorter thwough the nape," Fwitz advised, "It does look just a teensy bit better with a bit of a weightline."

"And here is your new wardrobe." Jane threw a colourful brochure onto the woman’s lap. "Have a glance through it and make your choices, then email them in."

So engrossed was she in her potential new wardrobe (would Shirt A and Skirt B be very Sharon? She wondered) the woman didn’t notice her hair being shorn away around her ears.

Jane did. She watched in satisfaction as inches fell away under Jackie’s flying, nimble fingers. Now here was a stylist who’d go places with TQP. None of that daft chatter about what-are-you-doing-tonight, or are-you-married-and-what-will-your-husband-think-of your-new-style. The girl cut hair, and cut it well. She watched as Jackie reduced the sides to layers and drew what was left of the top up taut and cut it off to just over an inch, twisting it into a spiral and snipping into it to make it chunky and tough.

Fwitz, meanwhile, was desperate to transform Red Ken to something approaching his nickname. He’d hauled the terrified spruiker into the salon and sat him opposite the female client. In the mirror he could watch the back of the Sharon crop take place. When he wasn’t watching the terrible things happening to his own hair, that is.

Fwitz was gaily chattering away as he plugged in his favourite Wahl Super Tapers, the custom made hot pink ones. "Definitely a number thwee look for you, sweetie," he carolled.

"Number three?" howled Red Ken. "I don’t want a bloody number three all over, me curls’ll all be gorn!"

"No, silly, a number thwee style fwom the TQP book. Shorwter at the back and sides, and I’ll be weally kind and leave your curwls on top. Although I shall pwobably dye them wed."

Red Ken sighed with relief. "That’s fine."

"Yes, it won’t be a number thwee at the back and sides," Fwitz said soothingly, attaching a guard to his clippers and flicking them into grumbling life. He placed them at Ken’s neck, under the soft tumble of curls that touched his collar. Then he pushed them up into the hair. "It’ll be a number two!"

Over the other side of the salon Jackie pushed some wax into the woman’s hair and styled it into tousled spikes. Despite its mousy colour, it very much resembled Jane’s look. "Perfick!" Jackie exclaimed, and her client jumped, startled.

She saw her face in the mirror. "Oh, my goodness!" Her bob had completely disappeared and she looked about twenty, all fresh faced and big-eyed. "That’s incredible! How much do I owe you?"

"A fiver," Jackie said promptly.

Jane was about to remonstrate and point out that there was indeed a recommended subsidised price list along with the TQP styles, but the woman handed over the note with such a glowing smile Jane shut up.

The woman almost danced out of the salon, clutching her brochure, almost sliding on the remains of her bob on the tiled floor. "Look at my hair!" she shouted. "It’s great! And it only cost a fiver!"

Unlike Red Ken’s attempts, it brought a queue of women into the salon, chattering and pointing to the approved TQP styles displayed on the walls.

Jackie and Frank were run off their feet, and Red Ken was employed to sweep the hair from the floor. He was so busy he didn’t have time to spruik, and the long line of women queueing outside the door did his job for him far more admirably than a man with a previously bad haircut and a red cloth cap ever could have done.

Jane and Fwitz surveyed the salon proudly.

"High five?" suggested Jane, holding up her hand.

"Don’t you mean high and tight?" grinned Fwitz.

* * *

Norbert Sorbert surveyed the chamber. The men were all trying to keep straight faces at the sight of Norbert’s red crewcut slowly being replaced by its native brown with grey growing in. The female pollies were all sporting identical haircuts to that of the Leader of the Opposition’s wife, and every single one of them was fingering her nape absently.

"Ahem," said Norbert.

"Hear hear!" cried an ancient member who’d been dozing for the last fifteen minutes and thought they’d passed a bill or it was time to go home, whichever came first.

Norbert glared and continued. "We’ve now been trialling the Total Quality Professional, or TQP, project for some four months. The project appears to be an unqualified success in the regions in which we trialled it: Somerset, Greater Manchester, and parts of London. Reported increases in efficiency have been reported by over 70% of companies and businesses in the trial regions. The economy, particularly in the hair industry, has improved dramatically. Figures show that some people have had their first haircut in almost three years. Can you imagine what the lack of haircuts has done to the economy? Think about it…in every town, in every village, there’s at least one hairdresser…"

"Hear hear!" shouted the female pollies, tossing their wedges joyfully.

"May I quote from a report from the TQP Evaluation Team," continued Norbert, and immediately Parliament began to drift collectively to sleep. The word Report produced a Pavlovian response. But they all perked up at the very original words from Fwitz and Jane: "The option of subsidised haircuts and clothing has prompted many long-term unemployed to seek employment in the three regions in which TQP has been trialled. This has resulted in a drop in unemployment and a rise in the general economy…."

TQP was passed through Parliament in record time.

* * *

Christine Gayle looked at her photo on the cover of "Hello!" God, she looked sexy! Those smouldering eyes of hers and that wedge, recently trimmed, with not a single hair visible behind her ears….even to her own eyes, she’d like to take her to bed.

Obviously the women of the UK thought so too, with the Christine Gayle cut being the most clamoured-for in every salon across the land, and Charlie’s popularity soaring so high he presented a very definite threat to Sorbert in the next general election.

And God, she felt sexy too! Christine’s fingers travelled her newly shaved nape and she groaned with pleasure. From behind her, inside her, Charlie groaned with pleasure too.

* * *

Jenny in Somerset sat back with a cup of coffee and the telephone. She’d employed three new staff to cope with the rush and her aching feet could enjoy themselves, propped on a chair while she manned the reception desk and the phones. She’d never been so busy! She’d lost several pounds as a result of being on her feet so constantly, running back and forth across the salon, picking up scissors and clippers. Her salon was making an unprecedented profit and she realised she could, for the first time ever, afford a nice week in Ibiza this August.

And the best thing about it was that she had finally mastered styling her Sharon Stone crop.

* * *

Up in Manchester Doris had been promoted to Chief Stylist. She’d finally agreed to losing her perm, that tribute to eighties styling and hair spray. She now sported the shortest of crew cuts dyed a becoming Nordic blonde. Certainly it was cold in the northern winter, but who cared? She saved almost an hour of time every morning in styling, and could now disco till the wee hours six nights a week (the seventh was reserved for herself. She got out the clippers and ran them over her head, marvelling anew each week at the perfect shape of her skull).

The hairdryers had, as Jane predicted, been made redundant. One was left for pensioners, but the employed population of Manchester had embraced the short, easy-care subsidised haircuts. Wedges flounced from previously long-haired heads; bobs had succumbed, giggling in pairs, to the severe crew cut or the Sharon crop. Discos were crowded with young men and women with such fashion sense as Manchester had never seen. The trend had moved of its own accord to Leeds and Liverpool, where bewildered stylists, still yet to feel the strong hand of TQP, were being asked to lop off the longest of hair. The more enterprising sold the cut hair for wigs; the more sensual took the ponytails home and stroked them. Northern England had become the Carnaby Street of the early twenty-first century.

To cap it all, Manchester United won the FA Cup. And every single player had a TQP haircut.

* * *

Fwitz and Jane waited outside the PM’s office. It was going to be dodgy, the next election. Either Sorbert would win because of his brave innovation, the Total Quality Professional program. Or Charlie Gayle would win because his wife, with her smouldering eyes and peerless wedge haircut, was so sexy. It could seriously go either way.

And either way, they had succeeded. Both of them felt a peculiar burst of pride. Jane because she’d been in the public eye rather than the Secret Style Service, Fwitz because he’d been on a sponsored project and had had his styles promoted.

Jane had a passion for electric guitar, and had actually laid down a track on her PC with Fwitz singing vocals to Born to be Wahled. It was truly horrendous. But it brought back memories of those days on the road, belting down the motorways to introduce short haircuts to the masses.

"So this is it," Jane said, almost sadly. "After this it’ll be out of our hands. Some Government department will be set up to handle TQP and we can go back to our lives." She thought fleetingly of her real world. Of fighting the insidious encroachment of the Mullet into society, of dragging virile male hairdressers (when she could find them) into bed, of cutting off long hair so illicitly (would it still be illicit?). And sighed.

Fwitz thought of his salon. Of Charlene lazily manning the phones. Of his stylists, Gwaham, Twent, Wobert and Wayne (her real name was Raine). Of being cweative, of attending hair shows and watching his models parade down the catwalk to screams and applause which echoed for minutes. God, he’d missed it! He’d had fun, especially in Manchester with that big crewcut biker he was sure Jane never knew about, but he’d missed the joys of real life. But sewiously…

"I wouldn’t have missed it, Jane," Fwitz said seriously, "I feel we’ve been a part of histowy." He grabbed her hand. The first time he’d willingly held a female’s hand since he was a child crossing the street.

Jane returned the awkward gesture with a squeeze. "Nor I, my friend. I never thought I’d get on with you, but it’s been good. By the way, that pink catsuit of mine fits you a treat."

"Thanks!" Fwitz grinned and smoothed down the vinyl over his sunken chest. He’d read that red-haired people shouldn’t wear pink but he was determined to prove them wrong.

The door opened. "Would you come in please?"

Norbert Sorbert looked at the unlikely team: Jane dressed like a man, but exuding femininity, Fwitz dressed like a woman but also exuding femininity. Together they had somehow managed to start a turnaround in the British economy.

"Well," said Norbert finally, "I’m pleased to say you’ve both been recommended for a gong. Sorry Jane, but yours will have to be a private ceremony owing to your status."

Jane bowed her cropped head politely. She’d always fancied the guy that handed the gongs to Her Maj.

"And Fwitz, yours will be far more public."

"Ooo, goody!" Fwitz mentally planned his wardrobe for the occasion, and almost missed the next words of the PM.

"- And we’d be pleased if you’d accept the position. Perhaps with Jane as second-in-command? If, Jane, you could feel you could work under Fwitz?"

"WORKing under Fwitz wouldn’t really present a problem," Jane grinned, "but I doubt I’d be needed to do anything else."

"Eh?" said Fwitz.

"I’m asking," said the PM, "Whether you’d consider taking on the post of Minister for TQP under the current government." He wondered privately, taking in the very zippered and extremely pink catsuit, whether it was really the good idea his advisers had so strongly recommended.

Fwitz forgot his salon. He thought of true creative freedom. Of deciding the haircut of every single woman in Britain. Of ensuring they were implemented. Of travelling Great Britain with Jane by his side, both of them belting out Born to be Wahled. It almost made him faint.

"Ooo," he gasped. "Ooo, ooo, yes, Pwime Minister!"

THE END

© Copyright 2001, Sabrina S and Sean O’Hare.

Comments welcome to sabrina.s@zdnetonebox.com and psharp55@altavista.net