Updated: Nov 4, 2019
I visited the barber’s today, which is an extravagance as I have no hair to speak of. I find I have missed those conversations one can only have in a barbershop, not that the conversations are particularly lewd or blokey, but that they are there. Middle England, bless her, isn’t the chattiest of places, and as an Irishman who works at home I miss the Cut and thrust and the craic (the Irish kind).
As Kate Fox notes in her Watching the English, places where you can chat to strangers in England are limited; front gardens, at the bar in the pub, during some kind of public transport misadventure and to these I’d like to add the barber shop. There is something about these places that encourages conversation, it could be that male grooming (to continue Fox’s theory) creates a kind of liminal state in which communication is allowed or it could be that the sudden cold round vulnerable ears that sets jaws jawIng.
In any case today’s visit was no exception with our young scissor-smith jumping heedlessly into the most taboo of subjects, Brexit. He’d been too young to vote in the referendum. He admitted that he didn’t understand it and had only recently discovered that David Cameron was no longer in charge of running the show. We three customers eyed each other carefully before committing to any comment. Were bearded pseudo-hipster types more likely to be remainers or leavers? What would severe disagreement look like in a place with so many sharp objects? Was the barber subtly winding us all up? I settled for a neutral ‘it’s been going on a long time’, the chap waiting in the leisurewear said he thought lots of people were confused by it and the guy in the chair said it was like betting on a two-horse race and you could easily lose your money. We nodded sagely at the wisdom of the last comment and congratulated ourselves on having said nothing. The topic thankfully then turned to leisurewear guy‘s recent Croatian holiday, Game of Thrones and whether there were any hotties there (Croatia), how all the ‘theeing‘ and ‘thouing‘ in GOT made it difficult to understand and how one person’s ex-colleague claimed he was baptised on a nightly basis by aliens, just your regular barbershop chat.