Saturday, 31 May 2014
The squeezed bottom
When a barber asked a curmudgeonly customer how he would like his hair cutting the response is said to have been, "In silence." I had the opposite experience earlier this week when the customer in front of me didn't seem to mind revealing details of his circumstances, without any sign of rancour or self-pity, to the chatty barber and the rest of us in the queue.
He was having his hair cut ready for going on holiday. This was the first holiday of any kind he and his wife had had for ten years. No, they had not even been away at weekends as he usually worked at least one of the weekend days, and often both. He worked as a fryer in a fish and chip shop and had worked every day for the last past three weeks. When he did manage a day off his fellow fryer had to do a double shift, and he had to compensate accordingly to give his colleague a day off.
He and his wife had long planned a major holiday when they reached 40. There had been visions of a month or so in America or Australia, but they had had to cut this back to a week in Majorca.
He was very proud of his son, aged 17, who had a apprenticeship and was the envy of his mates at college as he was paid £1 over the minimum wage. (He seemed to think that this was over the £3.72 per hour minimum for under 18s , though the minimum for apprentices is £2.68).
The son was not going to bother to find a girlfriend until he had finished his apprenticeship, when he would emigrate to Australia or America. (It was not clear whether the lad would choose his girlfriend before or after emigrating.)
I have no idea for which party he had voted in last week's elections, or whether he was one of the two thirds who didn't bother to vote at all. His lifestyle contrasts starkly with that of our political class: think of those selected for the House of Lords, and their £300 per day just for signing in. And he is not really at the bottom of the pile: at least two members of his family are in work..
He and his wife should be in Majorca now. I hope they're having a good time.