Monday, February 11, 2013

The awesome Tony Francesco

The last few days over here have been great.

On Friday I went to my first real Ice Hockey game. It wasn’t the Jets, but the Gimli Wolves, who play about an hour north of Winnipeg and have Buffy’s brother ‘Pat’, playing in goal. So we hitched a ride up there with Jon and Susan and sat watching a good game of hockey inside the cold rink. There was lots of action as The Wolves started well, leading 2-0 not long into the game. But it all went tits up at the start of the second period – I actually missed two quick goals from the opposition as I was getting myself a fresh beer. The Wolves were now down 4-2 and couldn’t find a way back into the game – eventually losing 5-3. I enjoyed the game though – with a few broken sticks, some good hits and some good goals- It was also good to see Pat play in goal, even though he ended up on the losing team. 

Entry ticket!

Buffy, Jon and Susan enjoying the game

Pat, making a save!

Pat in goal.

During the interval - the ice being prepared.

Friendly handshakes afterwards

Saturday was a lazy day – but a mad night. I had a good chat with my mum and dad and brother Chris on Skype before I watched Man City get beat and The Winnipeg Jets win (Plus Bournemouth had a good win too.) We didn’t do much after that until we went around to Walker, Barry and Evans new place in the early evening. They moved in just last week, with a little help from us and this week we went to give them a house warming present – a number sign for their front door, as the week before we couldn’t find the right address! Then we went out to ‘The Toad’, a local pub that is the closest thing to a proper real English drinking establishment. It has the dingy lighting, the cheap pints and a good band was also playing – so we stood around the pool table drinking and having a laugh till well after midnight – when Buffy decided she needed to lie down before she fell down!! 
Bacon and egg breakfast buttie

Pub band

Sunday morning and we were still up and down at ‘The Grove’, in time for United’s kick off against Everton. A good 2-0 win for the reds, complete with a good grove breakfast sandwich made it a perfect weekend of sport. I was on a high, so after a rest at home I went out for a short run on a lovely sunny afternoon – the warmest day in ages at just minus two degrees Celsius. I ended up doing my longest Canadian run so far at 8.25 miles!

A good evening in watching a couple of movies was just what I needed on Sunday night – Surprisingly, Buffy’s movie choice – ‘Moulin Rouge’, was a really good musical  with Ewan McGregor and I really enjoyed it!

Now its Monday lunchtime and it’s already been a great day. I walked to work with Buffy as I normally do on a Monday, but we took a new route and shaved 10 minutes off the usual time. A big shop in Walmart and I still managed to grab the early bus home. So the day was going well, but got even better:-have been unable to find a ‘mans barber’. I don’t mind the modern styling salons, apart from they can be very un-personal and I prefer to get a haircut from a bloke – I don’t know why. Just around the corner from where we live there is a little barbers shop - but it has been closed for months and I thought it would never re-open. The sign in the window stated that the barber was off because of ill health and it seemed to me that it was more likely to stay that way – but every Monday, after doing the weekly shop, I have been passing by with ever longer hair, in the hope that the sign would be taken down and I would be able to get a decent, reasonably priced haircut by a bloke. Not a bloke in a pink shirt, with designer shaped stubble and skin tight jeans, but a decent  hard working old fashioned barber, who can give you a simple haircut using the same pair of hand sharpened scissors he used when he started as a youngster. Today, the sign was down and I can tell you that I have had the best haircut I can remember, by an awesome Old Italian barber called Tony Francesco.
Tony Francesco

Tony Francesco is a lovely man. He talked with me for about 30 minutes whilst skilfully cutting my hair and told me how he ended up in Winnipeg. His grandparents moved to Chicago before he was born in Italy and his own parents followed a few years later – but found the process of immigration easier if they moved to Canada. He came over just after the Second World War and started cutting hair at aged 16. He is now 82. You don’t get 64 years of experience at these tacky modern grooming palaces! 
Awesome chair

Tony with his old radio and till in the background.

I asked him about his family, and he was happy to share all his stories with me about them as well as show me the photos he proudly has on display of his youngest grandkids getting their hair cut - by Tony of course. He showed me the amazing chairs he bought for $1000 in the 1960’s and still used today – complete with in built ashtrays in the arm rests. I wouldn’t like to say how much these chairs cost today, but it’s fair to say he should have them insured! We spent ages talking about his shop, his family and how he can only work a few hours a day nowadays because of the surgery he had recently on his wrist- an injury probably caused by 64 years of cutting hair. But he loves his job and it shows. He uses his own had sharpened scissors and shaves expertly with a cut throat razor and alcohol, whilst berating the young whipper snappers who lazily use cheap electric razors. 
My favourite shop in Winnipeg!

The shop too has its own personality – notwithstanding the awesome big red leather chairs, there is an old radio sitting on the counter top, playing music that takes you back in time to the 1950’s and 60’s which probably would refuse to play Lady Gaga or any other modern rubbish. Then on the rear counter is a hand pulled till straight out of the 70’s with big push buttons and a huge handle that you use to generate a sale. The shop is immaculate with lovely floorboards and not a hint of hair anywhere as Tony cleans up immediately after every customer.  He doesn’t get many customers and Tony is happy with this as he can’t work the long hours he used to and just enjoys the opportunity for a chat and to do the thing he loves most before going home in the afternoon to relax with his wife. 

The customers who pass through have been doing so for years and travel from all around the city to see him. I don’t blame them. I am lucky and live just a few hundred metres away. I know for sure though, that I will be going back to see him again in a few weeks.  Like I say he is a lovely man, with a sense of humour and I could have spent all day chatting with him. He allowed me to take a few photos of his place and was extremely proud of every bit of it. I can’t wait till my next haircut!!

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