The author. Photographer unknown.

Portugal — Growing up, Part 2

Nello Consoli, the Italian Connection

So now that I was officially a hairdresser's apprentice, I felt all grownup. I had to get up very, very early, feed all the animals, then get ready to walk to the village and catch the rattle-trap bus to the station. If I missed the bus I would have to walk to the train station that was about 2 km away. I never missed the bus.

I would buy my return fare at the train station and when the train arrived, get on and find a nice window seat. I seem to recall the trip was about 30 minutes. Once we got to Lisbon I would catch a tram car up to the Salon.

Part of the journey was close to the seashore. In the Google map pic below you can see the name Avenida da India, that road was basically beside the tracks. You can see how close we were to the water at that point in the trip.

Section of Map of Lisbon and the coastline. Image credit Google Maps.

It was a bit intimidating the first few times I made this trip, but I soon had it figured out.

I did a quick Google search and found that the Salon Tabot is still where it always was. Not changed at all. Even the sign on the wall is the same.

Captures from two Google Streetview images of Salon Tabot in Lisbon, Portugal. Image credit Google Streetview.

Working at the Salon was a real culture shock for me, but also rather amusing.

Some of the side effects to becoming a hairdressers apprentice were:

  • My introduction to associating with other young people in my age group
  • My introduction to a really dirty old man (my boss)*
  • My introduction to several rather wild young women who worked there
  • My discovering that my annoying curly hair COULD be totally straight
  • My learning about “the Facts of Life” as understood by several older hairdressers, and some of the other “more experienced” apprentices
  • Realization that I could spend time with new friends without fear of detection by my Father. (Out of sight …etc.)
*M. Tabot chasing a young apprentice. He had horrible yellow-dyed hair. Computer art by Louise Peacock

A day at the Salon started at 8 in the morning. A long lunch break. at 12:00 noon, the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Tabot, and their hairdresser son, Alcino would all go home and the Salon would be closed for two hours. We would then work from 2 until 5, except for Fridays and Saturdays. Fridays we started at 8 and finished at 6. Saturdays we worked from 9 til 3.

The long lunch breaks gave me ample opportunity to hang out with some of the other girls. We were supposed to use our lunch breaks to practice what we had learned on each other. Some horrible haircuts, dye jobs and perms came from these “learning” sessions.

From time to time, some of us would go to a nearby cafe and sit around one of the big tables. We would order the “lunch special”, often Fried Cod with Frites. We would wash it down with the house wine and then sit around with our expressos (laced with brandy), gossiping and giggling.

The goal was to attract the attention of any reasonable-looking males in the place. This was generally pretty easy and a great deal of (usually) harmless flirting took place.

It is truly amazing that we didn’t get into serious trouble.

Queen Rosie Gets a Rich Suitor

It was during one of our lengthy lunches that I met the rich and well-dressed Nello Consoli. Nello looked a great deal like the then popular Italian actor Rossano Brazzi, you can check him out here. ( File:Rossano_Brazzi.jpg). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rossano_Brazzi

I had seen him at the Salon when he was dropping off and collecting his Mother for her weekly hair and nails appointment. (He was well known to the Tabot family and his Mother was a respected, long-time client. She was always attended to by Madame Tabot.) One day he showed up at the restaurant, noticed us at our usual table, and came over to introduce himself.

He was charming, and very courteous to all of us, but paid special attention to me. Naturally, I was flattered. The oldest apprentice, (in her third year and almost ready to become an assistant hairdresser) Maria Joao, was both impressed and jealous. She told me I should be as nice as possible to Nello, because rich, good-looking guys were not a dime a dozen. (Her “steady” boyfriend was young, well off (we all suspected from some criminal activity), drove a low-slung sports car and was a total sleaze — a good match in my opinion.)

The flirty Maria Joao, sporting the popular beehive hairdo of the day. computer sketch by Louise Peacock.

Nello began to show up at the restaurant frequently. He would courteously offer to buy dessert for everyone, and would always manage to squeeze in between Maria Joao and me. He was always very careful to be equally nice to her and me, complimenting us on our hair, or clothes. Maria Joao flirted outrageously with him, but Nello, although always charming, remained particularly attentive to me.

One day Nello asked if it would be possible to meet my parents. A consultation with my colleagues after work revealed that this was an indication of serious intent on Nello's part and that I should be very flattered. They figured that this clearly mature, rich man asking to meet my parents showed a desire for a serious relationship. I liked Nello, but was not convinced about a serious relationship … however, my fertile mind considered that perhaps a real-life rich suitor would put a stop to my Fathers’ ceaseless efforts to match me up to rich elderly men, and would as well buy me some more freedom.

This meeting with my parents would require some careful planning. My parents were unaware of our long boozy lunches, and all Hell would break loose if they found out that was where I had met Nello. I approached Nello and told him that it would be more acceptable if Mr. Tabot (respected business connection of my father) were to introduce him to my parents. Mr. Tabot was very helpful when approached and said he would be delighted to make the introduction, and contacted my parents to that end. And so it came about that Mr. and Mrs. Tabot, their snooty son Alcino, and Nello Consoli all arrived for tea at our home.

The occasion went off quite well if incredibly dull and boring, and after tea, I was invited to take Nello on a tour of our garden under the benevolent eyes of the rest of the party. Nello was polite and indulgently nice about the garden and all my animal friends, but I’m pretty sure not too impressed.

After that, life changed a bit for me. I continued to work at Salon Tabot (and kept on having those long lunches), but now Nello would show up at our house quite frequently. He invited my parents and me to dinner and the theatre a few times. He got on well with my parents, making every effort to be nice to my Mother and always very deferential to my Father. My Father seemed comforted that I had a “mature boyfriend”.

Nello travelled on business quite a lot, so there were long stretches when he was not in town. With nothing to stand in my way, I continued to flirt around with my Salon pals. I found that some of them had ties to the area we lived in and I met some kids who were actually neighbours. We chummed around after work, and that led to my meeting them in nearby Estoril for meetups in Cafes and parks. My father was blissfully unaware of these meetings, which I would disguise as visiting Florindo and his Mom, etc.

My annoying hair. Computer art by Louise Peacock.
The manicured gardens near the Casino in Esotril. Us bad kids used to hang out in that park. Photo by author.
Much nicer photo of the Estoril Casino and grounds from 2018. Capture from Google Streetview.

To be continued …

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Louise Peacock

Louise Peacock

Louise Peacock is a writer, garden designer, Reiki practitioner, singer-songwriter & animal activist. Favorite insult “Eat cake & choke” On Medium since 2016.