A Visit to the hairdresser
A gadget was on the street, abandoned by someone who had no love for such
things. Electronically, the day began but ended unexpectedly because there
was, let's suggest, no interest. A hairdresser arrived at the shop and found
people queuing, waiting. But where was the desire? As the street sweepers
reached the end of their shift and turned homeward, some people were just
waking up. This world is exquisitely so extremely full of difference.
Quietly, as if by suggestion and not by wish, someone who cannot sing to save
their life begins to sing. It is during the time of hanging washing out on
the line, to catch the few moments of winter sunshine. God redeems vouchers,
or promises to do so. And thick pants, they take so much time, don't they, in
And a long, long walk awaits those who want to go further than their
ancestors. If it's as far as you can see, fine. If it's further than anyone
can imagine, even finer. If it's off the face of everything, you will be
happier than a pug in sunshine. Where the water ends and the water begins is,
as if you need telling, where nothing matters any more. Listen, and shadows,
even shadows have voices. It is a season of mystery, but rather be there than
elsewhere where meaning is so clear you fall asleep with knowing.
At, meanwhile, the hair salon, where Donna is still looking for her scissors
and Craig, the new shampoo boy, is checking for one last speck of conditioner
in the hair of a girl who thinks of herself, only of herself (assumption)
it's coffee time. If Coffee, a girl who thought only of herself (proven) were
here now, what would happen? Rhetorical question.
Names mean nothing. Once, and this could not happen long ago in the time of
mythology or even before that, before people had the wit to make up stuff and
pre-empt the movies, an orchestra was travelling a lonely stony road. The
back row of the orchestra, which even in those days consisted mainly of
drummers and rarely called upon but nevertheless indispensable percussionists,
some of them were eager for haircuts. Hair is important for some people. It's
not how you look, it's how you think you look that matters. Such was, in
those days and even now, the Wisdom.
And teeth, those shiny things, those false things, they matter too. An age
passes and even as we drift beyond ourselves into history some of what we
care about will remain. Don't sing if you can't. Shout if you can. Of
the myriad wanderings that will be written about, only a few of them really
matter. That walk to the hairdresser was not one of them. And when the boys
call out from the shelter to see if you have any money to spare, don't turn
around. Or do turn around. It makes no difference to the outcome, to be
The floating ideas are. They simply are
To start with there were the floaters, then there were the sinkers. After
that there were those who simply lounged around and watched the show. They
swam around before our very eyes, and were the cause of almost as much
surprise as dismay. On the days when the electronical engineers filled the
lane with their pyrotechnical displays, and the strange shapes of new
technologicals were somehow crammed into Victorian boxes, it was somehow
fitting that any tensions that arose from this somewhat misaligned meeting of
minds should be filmed for posterity. It's a shame it wasn't. It should have
been. It's so normal now to be out of tune with one's time that it's become
worth examining from the point of view of one who is in tune with their time.
Perhaps then everyone would discover something they thought they knew but
didn't, or didn't think they did, but do.
As for the sinkers, they were doomed from the start but there was some kind
of happiness and satisfaction to be had from the sinking. And anyway, sinking
is another form of flying (according to some theorists; cite reference). From
atop the newly constructed archetype of our future shopping habitat, one
could look down into the pit, and see from a startling perspective the
sinkers and, strikingly, the floaters, too.
Both form a kind of vitiating filter through which all else is viewed, which
brings to the fore the subject of spectacles. In these days of endless
narrative and constantly shifting points of view, it's good to stand in front
of something (or on top of, or beneath, or even next to) and not move, and to
straightforwardly look. The musicians who have just pulled up outside in
their van and who are right now lugging their equipment into the hall in
readiness for tonight's show will, probably, look different from the back or
the side than they do from here in this casement window, but does that in any
way change radically who or what they are? They are musicians, bogged down
with all the usual grievances and torments.
In the 19th century it was common for what had to be said to be concealed
beneath ornamental covers, out of sight of polite society. In more recent
times, anything goes. And so, as the floaters and the sinkers eventually
become one and the same, if one hangs around on the end of a rope for long enough,
then too do differences of perspective also merge, and some simply disappear
altogether, because they prove, or history has proved them to be, fatuous.
And the charming thing about fatuousity, as is apparent from a vantage point
that has recently been accorded overwhelming critical adulation, albeit an
adulation not backed up with concrete financial reward, the charming thing is
how one's sense of the seriousness of the trivial is confirmed. There goes,
look at him! a man who does not care about anything at all.
Shopping on Sundays is a sin
The wind outside the Victoria Centre was cold and cutting. A doubtful
character who looked as if he had been raised in the shade was collaring
people and asking if they had a spare cigarette. He may have been a writer,
and using the cigarette as a metaphor for spare change. It was impossible to
tell. The beggars have been cleared off the streets now. Or, at least, they
are not allowed to sit down and beg. Now they walk up and down instead. The
sky darkened. A surprising flock of owls passed overhead as the clock struck
four. Anyone with any sense was in the gun shop.
Fright is not a good expression to wear on your face these days. In Boots,
they have a cream on the cosmetics counter that can turn even the slightest
expression of fear into the look of a girl just turned twenty and up for
anything. There are always gangs of cleaners in that shop, so well
disguised as customers that you can't tell them from the real thing. If the
fire alarms go off they know it's a drill.
Last Tuesday was not a good day for anyone. When the beer delivery truck
pulled up outside of "The English Duck" it was not a moment too
late. The people in the flats opposite were at their windows, lined up like
snipers. The rents are cheap and the death rate is quite high. The park,
which is only a short walk away as the crow flies, there is a duck pond
there, and the local authority guardians of the rolling pastures and public
toilets have reported a sudden decrease in the numbers of mallards and
Canadian geese. The smell of cooking wafting from the tenements nearby is
The taxi cabs line up outside the shopping centre of an afternoon and one
cannot help muttering to oneself about the hole in the sky, and harking back
to simple times when taxi cabs were made of horses and if you wanted to go
anywhere further away than very near you either had to make a huge and
long-drawn out fuss and expedition of it, or you simply didn't go. There are
men and women who are dead now but when they were alive they never went
anywhere at all. Some of those people, just think what they could have done
if things had been different.
Time is beyond everything, but it doesn't matter. Ask the owls. Actually,
don't ask the owls, because they only come out at night or in the afternoon
and, at times, the morning if it's quite dark. Instead, ask yourself a
question. Here is one to choose from: if you knew you were going to disappear
off the face of the earth pretty soon, and were given a chance to say
something but you only had five hundred words in which to say it, what would
you say? Alternatively, what are five sevens?
The root cause of the thing itself
If only there had been a railway to the town, but the town moved and the
railway had no choice to but to be therefore abandoned. A chunk of wisdom
handed across the breakfast counter to a man in a hat too small for his head
is worth more pennies than, let's see, a cliff-top cafˇ that's seen better
days. Theatres are where people who collect insects look at the insects and
give them names.
In part, when men are men and women are, not to put too fine a point on it,
men, who can adopt the most fearsome mask, and who can rip off the ears of
the boy behind the donkey? There's no answer to such a decisive, or rather
The water is contaminated, but by what or whom remains a mystery the depths
of which only detectives can plumb. What was wanted was in the box outside
the room, and the slim teenager (it was impossible to tell if he was ten or
nineteen) didn't care a jot. When the police examined his CD collection they
were appalled by his taste. It was apparent to them all that one of the
things they don't teach in the academies these days is good taste. If they
did, the kids wouldn't wear those dreadful tops that pretend to be
camouflaged but stand out in crowds like vomit on pure white marble, or drag
their hair into those shapes their reflections shrink away from.
At the cake store, meanwhile, Mrs Ogden was sifting flour in the bake room
and Shirley, the girl who worked with her (mornings only; a student) was
sipping from a mug of hot coffee. Neither of them knew that outside the rain
had turned to snow. February comes and goes but cakes go on for ever. Shirley
had just bought a new cellphone, and wanted to work some overtime. But there
is no overtime in the cake trade these days. Everything is in recession.
Suddenly stopped in her tracks, the actress was mad for something fruity. The
first time had been the best, but the subsequent occasions were pretty damn
good too. Regular attendance at rehearsals was necessary, however, and the
great philosophers, the greatest thinkers of all time whose lives are, now,
being relived episodically in a diluted form, are at the window, looking in.
A part is only a part, and we all play one.
When the curtain at the entrance is pulled back, a pair of eyes peeps around
to see what they can see, and a policeman is walking by. His uniform is,
today being a special day, made of glass, and this is mistaken by some as a
metaphor for his fragility. They're wrong. When he looks into the sky and
sees the face of a panting puppy in the cloud formation up there, he knows
that, when it comes to vision, law enforcement is the best job in the world.
© Martin Stannard 2008