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Watch your face - or it may say things you don't want said!

Byline: The Bard of Birkenhead David Charters

IT WAS a clear evening made for hoot-owls and high-stepping young people, who believed they had all the wisdom needed to check the world's crazy spin. My friend, Brian, was approaching in his new suedette coat, which from a distance of no more than 620 yards could have passed for the real thing..

Your perambulating pensioner, who then had to shave at least twice a month, was advancing in a black corduroy smoking jacket of the sort worn by never-to-be-published poets.

Our destination was the Flamenco Cafe, popularly known as the "cow". It sat near Charing Cross and was the closest our crusty old pie of a town ever came to a Bohemian joint in the left-bank style. If possible, we made one coffee last all night, as we discussed art, romance, poetry, the form of Tranmere Rovers, politics and philosophy. And Brian was looking over the froth on his glass cup, when his eyes met those of another chap on the opposite table.

"What are you starin' at, pal," said the other chap in a tone colder than a penguin's tail. Now "Pal" could be used in a friendly way, but this wasn't one of those times.

Brian looked away and our group talked on, until we stepped into the night. A single punch cut through the dark and landed on Brian's cheek, leaving a fracture, the need for treatment in the old Birkenhead General Hospital, bandaging - and a temporary end to his love of treacle toffee.

I don't know what triggered the anger - style of dress, overheard opinions, or, maybe, class difference, the biggest divide here then, as it is now.

But at its root were two faces. With a swift change of expression, our faces can reveal everything or conceal all.

A few years later, when I was an obituarist on the local paper, the chief reporter told me to get all the details about the dead man or woman - and a photo.

Often people would say afterwards: "You know, I knew that face. But I never knew his name or that he had a trial for Everton as a boy or was awarded a medal for bravery in a dock disaster".

The mass media means we all know the names and faces of, say, Paul McCartney and Holly Willoughby. And, though he's long dead, many would recognise Elvis by name quicker than people in their own neighbourhoods, All our faces tell stories. Don't punch them.


Coffee bars could be dangerous places in the 1960s - although not this one in Maghull, pictured in 1966

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 5, 2019
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