It’s been a busy pre-Christmas saturday in the RPS household and I’ve finally come to rest. Don’t worry I won’t replay my shopping triumphs. Naturally I don’t do any Christmas shopping until the rosy red glow of Rudolph’s nose can be seen in Shetland some time around the 22 or 23 December. Why shop in leisure when you can shop in haste and great stress?
Any way I have managed to squeeze in a haircut which I will tell you about. Not because of the quality of the haircut – although it is very good. No, because of the conversation I had there with the clientele and the owner.
When I arrived there was no queue so I was ushered straight into the ‘hot seat’. I specified my requirements. (How hard can it be to make me look like George Clooney?) And, of course, we began to chat.
About the weather. Cold. About business. Slow. About what I did. Hmm.
In these circumstances I have decided not to equivocate or muck around. It’s interesting to see and hear the reactions you get.
‘Actually, I work in the public sector but I’m just about to be made redundant so I’m planning for what I what to do next.’
I looked into the mirror for the reaction from the owner and from the two older gentlemen now waiting their turn.
They looked startled slightly. She paused for a moment and tipped her head on one side and looked at my reflection.
‘Not you too,’ she said. ‘My sister’s in exactly the same boat. It’s really crappy isn’t it?’
‘My oldest has been laid off from a council building job,’ this from the gentleman sporting the impressive facial hair sitting in the corner by the door.
The other gentleman said nothing but looked a little shifty I felt.
Oh dear, I said to the owner who was now snipping with intent. I asked if it had taken her sister by surprise. It had it seems. The woman in question headed up a small team of social workers dealing with domestic violence. Their funding had been cut and that was that.
‘You know the worst thing about it?’ she asked between the snips. ‘She says they have never been busier. With so many out of work and Christmas coming up this is their busy time.’
We went quiet for a time. Then she asked what I was planning to do. I explained the line of work I’m in and said that what I was looking for was possibly something a little different. But, I added, I will have to go where the work is. I then mentioned that I was thinking of starting a business but it was a bit worrying thinking about that when the recovery was so fragile.
‘Oh you’re right to be cautious,’ she said. ‘My brother’s a bank manager. He says they are busy planning for what happens next summer when all the budget cuts start and councils lay people off. He says we haven’t seen anything yet.’
It was at this point where I started questioning my commitment to transparency. I’d only come in for a haircut and I’d been quite cheerful when I arrived. I was beginning to feel decidedly gloomy.
Fortunately, she was at the stage where they hold the mirror up. I nodded my satisfaction in what I hope was a suitably manly and assertive manner. Then it was time to pay and head off.
I was heartened when all three – even Mr Shifty – wished me success with my job hunting.
Walking back to the car I couldn’t help but ruminate. This was one of three barbers in this sleepy country town. I had ducked into this one because it was closest to the car park. But in amongst all that randomness I had happened into two other stories about the impact of the deficit reduction.
Either it’s some dark force at work (no not George Osborne) or you could stick a pin into any high street map and generate a similar result. That is pretty scary.
I was so distracted by that thought that I only noticed I still looked nothing like George Clooney when I got back in the car.
Damn. It’s a different barber for me next time.