Monday, 9 April 2012

A tale of power, revenge, barbers and broken ribs!

Power is a funny old mite. We aspire to have it over ourselves; some seek it for its own sake; others enjoy using theirs over others.
Some people have a very particular power over you and generally it’s best not to upset them. Dentists and barbers spring to mind, yet in my own inimitable fashion I’ve managed to upset both over the years.

So here I am, walking towards my barber in the Westside. He’s outside, talking into his mobile, but as he sees me he raises a finger at me and slides himself the other side of his shop door, whereupon he flips the hanging sign from OPEN to CLOSED.

A few second later he deigns to let me in, giving out something rotten about how I should never have sent him the link to this blog; how I had made a big big mistake in writing bad things about him; how revenge is a dish best served cold.

I’m clutching at straws to remember what terrible things I might have written about him. There was that colyoom about himself and my previous barber, dead footballers and the law being an ass. I’d sent him a link to it because I feel it’s a courtesy to let people see what I’ve written about them, but I don’t remember having said anything nasty about this man, standing behind me now, pointing a pair of sharp scissors to my head.

“Best served cold you said. So I’m safe today, right? So what’re you so upset about?”
“Oh I dunno, maybe being described as the lowest form of human life…”

As soon as he uses the phrase I instantly recognise it as my rote description of Arsenal fans, or Gooners as they’re known amongst footballing cognoscenti. Jeeze, oops and corblimey missis, my fingers must have typed the words powered by pure muscle memory and instinct.

I like my barber. He is one of only 4 people ever to have found a way to tame the prolific shapeless Yiddish tide pool that is my barnet, for which I am truly grateful. Equally good, we enjoy a decent bit of banter, slagging and nonsense.

“Oh yes, the Gooner thing. Whoops, sorry about that. But you know where I’m coming from.”
I look at his reflection in the mirror and wonder why I’d ever upset a man with two blades and power over my hair. My mind wanders back to 1986, when I was sitting in a dentist’s chair in a plush posh dental practice in Hampstead.

As the dentist fired up his drill and raised it above my mouth, he coldly calmly stated
“So now you’re a struggling writer you can come to me on the National Health, but when you’re famous you can see me privately.”

Power. The man had the power to inflict pain on me. He had the power to destroy my teeth, to cause injury or just zip that shrieking drill bit straight into a nerve.

But that didn’t stop me. God knows why, but for some reason, through spittle, broken tooth chips and cheeks stretched by dried out swabs, I replied

“Gno sobby, buck I won’t. See, I donpt peleef in brivate mebdicime.”
He took a sharp intake of breath and told me I was a brave man to challenge him while he was drilling.

Brave ? I don’t think so.
Stupid? Most definitely.
There are times to expound your personal and political ideals, but that was not one of them, and an exceedingly painful 20 minutes later I left that dentist, never to see him again. Why oh why can’t I keep my trap shut or, for that matter, my typing fingers?

“Oh, I know where you’re coming from alright!” says my barber, in reply to my long lost question

Long pause.

“Cold …” he says, finally. “… best served cold.”
“Oh, so each time I sit in this chair I’m going to have to be a little bit scared about whether this is the day you take your revenge?”
“Exactly. Lovely!”
“And one day I’ll walk away from here, ignorant of the fact that you’ve shaved Chelsea Cunt onto the back of my head?”
“Oooh, there’s an idea. Now you’re talking.”

There are political and personal ideals, and then there’s pure tribalism. My love of the enigma that is Chelsea FC transcends all threats, especially from Gooners.

“Cold you said. Not today then?”
“No. When you least expect it.”
“Oh, so if I’m going to tell you my dream outcome for the season, then you won’t mind today?”

“Go on then.”
“Well, Arsenal finish fourth under Spurs but ahead of Chelsea. So we don’t qualify for the Champions League while you do. You’re all happy and excited but then we win the Champions League final, thus qualifying for next year’s competition as incumbent winners, leaving Arsenal disqualified, as we’ll be the 4th Premiership team allowed in it.”

Oops. There goes my mouth again.
He laughs out loud and steps back.

“So you’re going to beat Barcelona and then either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich?”
“Dunno. Might do. Could do. We are Chelsea, after all.”

As he snips away my mind goes over the fantastically typical season Chelsea have had. We started with yet another exciting new manger who sold some our best players, alienated the rest of them and was promptly fired by our trigger-happy Ahab of an Oligarch owner. Our aging lads have invariably played with gusto and gumption, grit and determination, apart from the times when they’ve run out onto the pitch and decided not to play at all.

To support Chelsea is to catch a zephyr, to encase an emotion, to hug a boulder of granite only to see it crumble to dust under your body.
Yet somewhere out of the mediocrity, apathy and mystery, we are in an FA Cup semi final against Spurs and a Champions League semi final against Barcelona.
Nobody but a true Chelsea fan could possibly believe that we can beat Barcelona, the best club side the planet has ever seen. But as a Chelsea fan I know we can. We have not lost to them in our last 5 meetings. There is a tiny place in Barca’s psyche that fears Chelsea

Okay, more minuscule than tiny, but it’s there.

I know that we might crash and burn against them, losing 10-0 over the 2 legs, and equally we might beat them. The only thing I don’t know is which. I have no power over the outcome which is part of what I love about football.

But power is the name of Chelsea’s game. At our best we are not a beautiful team to watch but we can overwhelm any club in the world, if we want to.
John Terry, the Chelsea captain, has severe injuries to his ribs. As he explained after he was substituted in the game against Benfica

“I was having trouble breathing.”

The man should lie down for a very long time. He should certainly not go anywhere near a brace of Catalan central defenders eager to elbow him sharply in his damaged ribs.
But will he play?
Will he want to?
Will he be asked to by the club who should be nurturing him?
Because he has the power. He has power over his own pain. He imbues his power in the other players and uses his power to shut out the opposition.
A very flawed human being, John Terry has the power of belief that allows victory to be a permanent possibility, and that’s my kind of power, thanks very much.

And anyway (squeaks he in cowardly fashion), if you lose against Barca, there's no disgrace in it.
Now I’m off to find a new barber.


Skybluestratocaster said...

Who'd have thought? :-)

Charlie Adley said...

“Dunno. Might do. Could do. We are Chelsea, after all.”