Monday, December 30, 2019

Hard paper round
















‘How old do you think I am?’
This struck me as an interesting departure from the usual: 
‘Going anywhere nice on your holidays?’
To which I inevitably answer:
‘No…...I’m going to Northern Ireland (sad face)’
I looked at my new barber in the mirror.
The salon owner is my usual barber. The salon has a big TV permanently tuned to MTV. There is also an alcove in which a very large bird cage houses half a dozen canaries. The canaries seem to sing along to the music on the TV. When there is a gap between music videos the birds seize the chance to entertain the customers on their own.
The owner is Omar and he is not much over five feet tall. He calls me over to a chair and avoids standing anywhere near me. Omar is in the habit of giving me manly tips: a very convincing hair transplant in Poland for only £200 or a happy finish at the massage parlour over the road (fee negotiable).
‘I’m single – always horny innit,’ he said in his defence.
Omar was chuckling as I pondered how old his apprentice was. I suspected that this was a routine designed to break up the barbers’ day and that it was very probably a trick question.
‘I’m not a good guesser of ages,’ I said, ‘I tend to cause offence.’
He was smiling and told me to go ahead – he wouldn’t be offended. He was stocky, hirsute and what can only be described as very ‘Turkish’ in appearance. 
He looked at least 30, so I thought it best to shave a few years off (excuse the pun). 
‘I’d say about 26…’
Omar laughed wholeheartedly. This joke clearly never got tired. The junior barber laughed also.
‘I’m sixteen,’ he said. ‘I know I look much older. I’m a boxer you see. I box when I finish in here.’
He paused and assumed a south-paw stance.
‘To get anything in life, you have to fight and work (left jab) hard! (right upper-cut).’
I could see that he was looking me in the eye (in the mirror) – waiting for some kind of reaction. I felt slightly uncomfortable being given life advice by a 16 year old - even if he did look much older. I could see that he was sincere, though, and he certainly had a point.
I just smiled my best smile of admiration for his youthful bravado. He then guessed at my age and prudently went for 44. 
‘I’ll take that’, I said and then told him I was 53. 
‘I’ll make you look 48,’ he exclaimed and the very brief glow I had been feeling quickly subsided.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Charity Case













As a teenager I would get the bus into Manchester city centre on a Saturday and return with some ill-advised 'fashionable' clothes and some records.


I would buy at least two vinyl LP's a week – based on recommendations in the NME - which arrived through my letterbox every Thursday morning.
On moving to the north east I would buy records and cd's in Newcastle in much the same way – but a little less frequently to allow for social expenses. I even remember pre-ordering the first Daft Punk single for collection on release date. Who did I think I was? Maude hated it and would say ‘please don’t play Daft Cunt again.’ 
Now I buy second-hand cd’s from the charity shop across the road from work - as my Honda 'people carrier' has a cd player. They cost £1 per cd and occasionally I find a gem: the first Arctic Monkeys album for instance. Last week I bought a Bob Dylan box set for £3 (3 discs and I was honest about that when the elderly volunteer asked). I then found it new online for £80. It’s been knocking about the car now though – so it’ll not go on ebay.
The cd’s in the charity shop seem to arrive in clearly discernible batches.
Harry Secombe albums and collections of marching band music say ‘house clearance’ and ‘dead senior’.
A dozen or so indie albums from the 90’s will often appear in one go – usually on a Monday, after a weekend donation. A batch like that makes me think that a spurned woman has found petty revenge on the boyfriend or husband of 20 years who has suddenly told her that he needs some space. Things have come to a head over the course of a weekend. His return to their flat to pick up the ‘last of his stuff’ would be fruitless. The lock would be changed and the voice from the letterbox would offer the following advice:
‘Try the fucking charity shop!’  
Or perhaps a widow can’t bear the sight of her prematurely dead husband’s cd’s anymore and has plucked up the courage to donate them to the hospice charity which did, after all, look after him as he ‘lost his brave battle’.
There is also the possibility that a forty something guy or woman has decided to Marie Kondo or ‘Queereye’ themselves and clear away all physical media they own. ‘Haven’t you heard of streaming!’ one of the Queer Eye guys exclaimed recently as they boxed up all of the dvd’s and cd’s which had dominated a slovenly middle-aged man’s trailer home.
I realised I was becoming a shop regular when I didn’t have the £1 required to pay for my single cd selection last Monday. I couldn’t pay on a card, as it was below the shop limit for cards. The nice volunteer lady just said:
‘Don’t worry, just pay next time you’re in.’