I went to my local barbershop this lunchtime for a trim. It’s an old fashioned sort of joint; those parts of the walls not painted in chartreuse have affixed to them wood paneling that seems to have been untouched since the 1970s. What it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up in price – and character. A trio of elderly barbers sit there all day waiting for customers to enter – though they seldom do. The shop being already empty when I show, I invariably feel like I am intruding, momentarily interrupting their conversations on how to put the world to rights. To see to me, to spruce me up, one of the three has to commit to getting out of his chair, and, worst of all, leaving the conversation; I am always left with the feeling that the one who volunteers to cut my hair is the one who last lost at cards. His punishment is showing me to a chair and placing a barber cloth around me while his two friends remain in their comfortable seats opining.
Their Eastern European accents mean their conversations are often hard to follow. I can make out snatches of sentences, but often just that. There was some Brexit talk today, however, before it then descended into rants against Obama and Bush. In fact, maybe it isn’t the accents that is the problem to understanding, but that political rage, no matter the speaker or side, always ends up coming across as incoherent. The only phrase that I could understand without straining was “when Reagan died, America died.”
I’m not sure if anyone in the future will be so elegiac about today’s departing Prime Minister, though there is always something moving, even melancholic, about the handover of power from one PM to another. There really is nothing quite like humanizing a Prime Minister as the manner in which we make them leave. For a nation that sometimes lingers too much on the Pomp and Circumstance, the appearance by number 10 of a removal van to cart off the PM’s personal belongings is refreshingly quotidian. All political lives end in failure, remarked Enoch Powell, a man whose own ended more in infamy, but that waiting removal van, the engine already running, is a perfect emblem of it.