“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there” wrote LP Hartley. In “normal times” I’d muster up a bit of small talk and visit the barber every six to eight weeks. My last haircut was 28 February and on a personal level I recall it as the weekend of visiting Bletchley Park and you may remember it as a very rare occasion – Liverpool lost (to Watford in case you’re interested). That weekend was very chilly and now we’re in a heatwave which means an expanding thatch is the last thing you want. Human hair grows about half an inch in a month and my couple of inches is clearly apparent. In fact if I were blonde then I could be mistaken for BJ…..from the eyebrows upwards; yes, it really is that bad.
Which begs a question – if all the barbers and hairdressers have been closed, presumably furloughed and thus banned from any work then how come so many of the politicians and footballers look like they had a haircut just last week? And Pritti Patel living up to her homophone with not a hair out of place. Are they all that skilled with the DIY clippers or married to frustrated tonsorial wizards? In the absence of Wimbledon we could perhaps ask a past master of the shaggy barnet and headband what he thinks. “You cannot be serious!”. Credit where it’s due though – this could be a dictum that Dominic Cummings hasn’t breached – either thro’ lack of need or his impaired vision giving false reassurance.
But the good news is that relief is on the horizon and for this year only July 4 has been called UK Independence Day and amongst the “freedom package” on that day will be reopening of the hair salons. But another question occurs to me is the rather illogical way in which aspects of the lockdown have been relaxed. Why have we had to wait so long especially as dentists resumed action in early June. The hairdresser mostly stands behind you or at the side unlike a dentist peering directly into the potentially virus-ridden oral cavity. And if hairdressers are opening then why not nail bars or massage parlours (not that I’m rushing to patronise either)? But there’s a silver lining to most things and it’s back to the weather – not the heatwave but I’ve watched with a blend of amusement and fascination as to how weatherman Tomas Schaffenaker looks as his bouffant evolves.
I’ve just watched Marr interview Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, and what a breath of fresh air after listening to politicians because he clearly knows what he is talking about and is definitive in what needs to happen. Based on the timing of relaxation he predicts a second wave of infection starting late June / early July and if we don’t act swiftly and proactively then this could get worse as the winter progresses. This of course coincides with the multitude of winter viruses and ubiquitous coughs and colds which may be difficult to differentiate in the early stages of infection. Three key things he advocates are that we trust the Government (the track record doesn’t inspire confidence – my words not his), availability and reliability of testing and protecting the vulnerable especially the elderly and BAME. He stresses that particular caution is needed indoors and especially when mixing with a lot of people. So that underscores my dilemma – I really feel the need for a haircut….. but despite the relaxation of lockdown and initial tentative casting aside of our shields old habits die hard and rightly so in the light of Sir Jeremy’s comments. Anxt and alertness underlie my every move and decision despite the false sense of security engendered by some government policies and observing public behaviour. We children of the 60’s can vouch for a haircut being non-essential as I wistfully recall Beatlemania and Woodstock. Enclosed space, high rate of throughput, close contact with the hairdresser – is that a risk worth taking? Prima facie it seemed like an easy decision, now I’m not so sure. Like it or not for the foreseeable future our every action, previously taken for granted, needs a risk assessment both to ourselves but also to society in general.