So I went for a hair cut today. Tommi, the wisest friseur* in Bavaria had many questions.
“What length? What cut? any layering? Colour? I don’t think we should do highlights as it weakens your hair and makes it frizzy. It’s so fine, you don’t want to damage it”
Then, fixing me with a mischievous look in the mirror he merrily flicked a strand of hair over my face and said,
“Sooooo…..the big question”
“In or out?” I conjectured.
“Oh I don’t know Tommi. It’s all just so sad. I feel so ashamed. I don’t really know what to think about it all at the moment.”
“Shall I tell you what I think?” No choice – he had a pair of sharp scissors in his hand.
“ I think it is a very difficult thing to ask a whole nation something like this. It would be the same here if we were to have the vote. There are farmers in Southern Bavaria for example who want to leave because of the milk prices but people in Munich have no problem.”
And so it began. The de-construction of Brexit events over the past couple of weeks from a German hairdresser’s perspective.
“Your politicians? All that matters to them is to be seen in the streets. You know that Boris Johnson?”
“I am a hairdresser and I know how long he spends on his hair every morning. He spends a lot of time on that look.”
“The UK has never liked the EU” I ventured, “Probably because we didn’t create it (unlike the empire). And unlike all the other member states, we do not have living memory of our land being invaded. We lack that incentive to avoid confrontation and friction between each other. No one thinks about the benefits of peace. The last time an enemy force actually set foot on our land was in 1066.” I quipped, feeling I was making a good point about borders.
“Yes and talking of William the Conqueror (seriously) and the different borders in Britain, at the moment you are united with Ireland and Scotland but how long will that last?”
(Good question, Tommi, good question I thought.)
“Have you heard of the town of Boston, Sarah?”
(Uh-oh – I know what’s coming next…..)
“Yes Tommi – I’ve heard of Boston. Flat town. East of England. Lots of cauliflowers.”
“The people are saying all the immigrants should leave. But who will do the work? And why should the UK be the only country not to take economic migrants and refugees? We have opened our doors to everyone. They arrive, they work hard, they pay their taxes. The country gets richer. What’s the problem?”
“And the Rascist attacks? People being spat on in the street and told to go home?”
“ I know it’s appalling. This vote has unleashed a lot of Xenophobia”
“We had a similar thing here once” and he caught my eye in the mirror.
“There are some good things of course. There is always another side.”
(Please tell me something good Tommi – I need to get out of this chair and take my embarrassment with me)
“Well democracy did win. It was the vote of the people and this must be accepted. And whenever you start something new you really have to get away with all of the old. And there were some things in the EU that the people did not like and maybe we have to change it a little bit”
“I’m a bit worried I may not be able to keep my job. I’m looking into what applying for German citizenship will involve.”
“Oh you’ll be able to keep your job – you will just need a work permit, that’s all. Like the rest of the world”
Sine qua non.
July 5th 2016
∗ German for Hairdresser