Living a nomadic life has many drawbacks, not least of these being the difficulty of finding a decent barber. A recent experience of mine will I think support this claim.
Combing the streets (no pun intended) of a small town upwards of Manchester, I was pleased to see several barbers almost neighbouring each other, and as I was on a budget I plumped for the cheapest (a dry cut for less than a tenner) and as I was eager to move on, I chose the quietest (only one other client inside). But as I ventured in, I almost immediately began to regret my decision.
There were two crimpers on duty, one called Trudy, a peroxided Mancunian, the other named Liz, a Bolton brunette with an orange flash to the fringe, who was behind the counter making use of the quiet period by having a very loud conversation with her husband. I say conversation, let’s call it a row, because that’s indeed what it was, and while I say husband, let’s call him a bastard because that’s indeed what she was calling him.
Now at this point you’d think that while Liz’s issues clearly needed addressing, she might’ve put them on hold to greet a new customer, namely me. But no, she merely looked me up and down and pointed to a chair to indicate that I should wait, then deftly took her ‘conversation’ into the back.
Here was my chance to leave the shop instead, but part of me wanted to stay, because even though Liz was now ‘offstage’ I could still hear every word. As could Trudy and her gentleman client, and things were clearly hotting up out there. So I chose to hang around and listen to a conversation that went something like this:
Liz: (OFFSTAGE) You’re a bastard!
Bastard: (UNHEARD) …
Liz: How can you say that when I have proof!? You bastard!
Bastard: (UNHEARD) …
Liz: No! You’re a liar, a fucking liar and a bastard!
And so on and so forth.
Now while all this was beginning to tickle me and I was thinking I’d spent more than a tenner on lesser entertainment, I might be excused for expecting an apology from Trudy for noises off. So imagine my surprise/horror/delight when Trudy herself began to chip in…
Trudy: You tell him, Liz!
Liz: (STILL OFFSTAGE) You’re a bastard!
Trudy: You tell the bastard!
Liz: You’re a bastard and a shit!
By now the tears were rolling down my cheeks, not just because of these two angry women ganging up on the bastard, but also because of the poor client sitting in his chair terrified he was going to lose an ear or even get decapitated. The more Trudy chucked in her oar, the more erratic became her scissor-work and the more nervous the poor bloke became. And then his face turned even greener as she shook with rage while taking a cut-throat razor to the back of his neck…
Trudy: You tell him, Liz!
Liz: (STILL OFFSTAGE) When I get home I want you gone! You’re a bastard and you’re out! It’s the last straw this time!
And then there came an eerie silence followed at last by the sound of Liz’s nose being blown, while Trudy reached for the mirror to show the client her handiwork.
Trudy: Will that do you, love? Or d’you want a bit more off?
Client: (EAGER TO ESCAPE) No it’s perfect thank you.
Soon after, Liz returned, tears evaporated, nose blown, lipstick smile re-applied, and ushered me to a chair. Again this was a point at which I could’ve politely taken my leave, but somehow and ominously I felt duty-bound to do as I was told. Admittedly I had grave reservations as she fastened the gown around my neck, but admittedly she demonstrated an impressive gear-change of professionalism as she proceeded with the “consultation.” Admittedly also, my voice trembled a little as I asked for a short back and sides, No2, tapered at the neck.
But the saga didn’t end there, because now the other client had coughed up his eight quid and beat a hasty escape, Trudy was now idle and therefore able to bend Liz’s ear on what precisely the bastard had said in his defence.
Liz: Denied it all, didn’t he?
Trudy: What!? When you’ve had it from the horse’s mouth!?
Liz: Yea. Typical of the cowardly bastard.
And so on and so forth, until I plucked up the courage to ask Liz if she’d kindly take a bit more off the top. So as Liz duly obliged, she seemed to glean that I was tiring of the performance and finally calmed down.
Liz: Bet you think it’s a madhouse, this?
Me: (PERHAPS UNWISELY) Not at all. I’ve seen Sweeney Todd and this is a picnic compared to that.
Liz: You watch a lot of telly then?
Me: Yes. It’s my job.
Liz: So what d’you do?
Me: (DEFINITELY UNWISELY) I write soap operas.
Liz: Never! Here Trude, he writes soaps!
Trudy: Yea? We could give him a story or two!
Me: You don’t say.
And so on and so forth. Now while I’ve confessed to reservations and in fact sheer terror of ending up with no hair (or even head) I have to admit that Liz didn’t do a bad job, and I was more than prepared to part with my eight quid. We’d also had a constructive and intelligent conversation or two about what Liz and Trudy think is wrong with Coronation Street at the moment.
So having been suitably crimped and happily entertained, I offered a two pound tip and as Liz called me “a true gent” I gathered the confidence to offer an opinion of my own.
Me: True gent, eh? Unlike your husband.
Liz: Too right. I wouldn’t call him a true gent. Know what I’d call him?
Me: A bastard?
Liz: Got it in one.
Me: I hope you don’t mind me saying, but things aren’t always quite as bad as they seem.
Liz: They are this time. He’s gone too far this time.
Me: (UNABLE TO HELP MYSELF) May I ask what he did?
Liz: I don’t even wanna think about it!
And with that the poor girl scuttled into the back, three steps nearer to a breakdown. I felt terrible, voyeuristic and horribly cruel to be so eager for the story. And I said as much to Trudy.
Me: I’m sorry, I think I’ve upset her. I feel a bit of a bastard now.
Trudy: Not your fault, love. You’re not the bastard who shagged his wife’s sister.