Posts Tagged ‘dialogue’


Posted 02 Nov 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Share


I hear the name twice, in the airport lounge, before I look up, not stirring because it is not my name.

A man is stood in front of me and the look he gives me as he says the name again is uncertain, although I do not know if that is because he doubts my identity or can not fathom why I won’t acknowledge it.

For some reason I find it hard to know what to say. Peter is my father’s name. “No”, I say at last, aware this is unsatisfactory, that it sounds more like a denial than a statement of fact.

He apologises for his mistake, backing away flustered, but I can see from his face that he is confused, and I know then that I have a doppelgänger.

A morbid girl

Posted 15 Mar 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

Between appointments at Bristol University, today, I found myself with a twenty minute window, so I walked round to the Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery, which is next door, and had a quick look at the stuffed animals in the Natural History section, before wandering through to the bookshop.

“What’s occurring?”, I heard someone say, in a soft, friendly West Country accent.

I turned round and saw that a couple of security guards had entered the room and were chatting with the woman behind the counter. I continued browsing idly, before crossing back towards the door. As I passed the counter, a book caught my eye so I lingered for a moment to leaf through it, earwigging on their conversation while I did.

“My daughter, she wants to see a pigeon in a bowler hat”, the woman was saying, shaking her head.

I didn’t turn to see the men’s expressions, but their silence implied they didn’t really know what to say to that.

“I don’t know why”, she continued. “She just thinks it would be the best thing“.

“Oh right”, one of the men said, politely.

“And she wants to see a fight between a pigeon and a squirrel. To see which would win. She keeps telling me this. She’s funny. A morbid girl”.

One of the men laughed. “Ah well. How old’s your little girl, then?”.

“She’s 22″, the woman replied, flapping a hand into the air. “But very immature”.

Preparation and prosperity

Posted 08 Mar 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Daft, General

There’s a lovely bit in the first series of ‘The Office’, where David Brent, in the middle of a performance review, is caught out by Tim, and accused of reading aphorisms from a carefully hidden piece of paper.

“If we’re facing in the right direction”, Brent advises, “all we have to do is keep on walking”

Tim: “Yep, very nice. You’re quite a philosopher”

David: “Well, it’s just that… I think that our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall”

Tim’s patience snaps. “Are you reading these?”, he asks.

David: “Am I what?!”

Tim: “Reading the quotes”

David: “Sort of…”

I was reminded of this watching football on the telly this weekend. I’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed this, but football commentators make quite a thing of dropping learned references into otherwise anodyne punditry.

On Saturday, I was idly watching Portsmouth – who are currently in horrific financial straits – playing Birmingham in the quarter finals of the FA Cup. Winning the cup nearly bankrupted the club last time they did it (because of all the stratospheric win bonuses in the players’ contracts) but it’s hard not to wish them well at present, given that their fans have so little else to cheer about. And happily, they were 2-0 up after about seventy minutes, at which point I enjoyed the following comment. It’s only really funny, I think, because of the way the sentence is constructed, as if part of a conversation, a spontaneous observation; when it is rather obvious that, in reality, Peter Drury had a few smart comments written down on a piece of paper, and was reading them out.

“I think…”, he said, as if he couldn’t quite remember, “I think it was William Hazlitt who said that while prosperity is a great teacher; adversity is a greater”.

You think it was? If only Gareth Southgate had done a Tim.

Gareth: “Are you reading these?”

Peter: “Sort of”.

out of proportion

Posted 26 Oct 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Uncategorized

Wonderful first episode of the new series of The Thick Of It this weekend; just watched it on iPlayer – super stuff. Still not sure what the best line was, though. Omnishambles, perhaps. Actually no, I think it’s the following exchange:

Nicola Murray: “You set this up didn’t you?”
Malcolm Tucker: “What?”
Nicola Murray: “To put me in my place, or get back at me for ignoring your advice, or some other weird perceived slight that doesn’t in any way merit this massive fucking out of proportion Israeli-style response?

geographical ignorance

Posted 10 Sep 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Daft

Overheard on the train this morning.

Tall, feckless youth: “Did you see the football? Fucking qualified for the World Cup!”
Short, feckless companion: “Did we?”
Tall youth: “Yeeeah. Thrashed Croatia. 5-1.”
Short companion. “Who are Croatia?”.

How do you answer that?

more naive kids on the train

Posted 17 Jun 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Daft

This morning, sat on the train, I’m joined by three young men who start an earnest discussion around me. It’s about moving to Brighton now that they’ve finished their sixth form.

“Seriously”, one says, “let’s do it. Imagine. Even if we were only there for the summer. We could easily afford it if we shared”.

“Do you think?”, another replies. “Brighton is WELL expensive”.

“It’d be amazing though”, the third chips in. “I’m totally up for it. If we can afford it”.

“Rent will be NO PROBLEM”, the first insists. “Credit crunch, isn’t it! All the rents have gone down MASSES”.

The others lean forward. “Seriously?”, they chime in?

He nods confidently.

I leave them to their planning.

one pub and its dog

Posted 16 Feb 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

Standing at the bar at my local the other day, I stopped to pat the head of Archie, the pub dog, who reacted, as usual, by going a bit mad and panting enthusiastically. Part of the reason I was paying him so much occasion, on that instance, is that I was aware that the woman standing to my left, drinking her umpteenth drink of the evening, was really sloshed, and putting them away with grim determination. By playing with Archie, perhaps I would avoid a conversation while I awaited my drinks.

Not so.

“He’s a nice dog”, my bar companion said.

I nodded. “He is”.

“Is he yours?”


Something about the way she received this information made me understand her to have taken my clearly enunciated ‘no’ as a ‘yes’.

She mulled it over. “How old is he?”

“I don’t know”, I said, as firmly and clearly as I could.

She looked surprised. She looked at me, and at the dog, then back at me again.

“Ten!?”, she said, clearly perplexed that he did not look it.

cash machine

Posted 19 Dec 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

I had to get some cash out last night and stood, bloody cold, outside the Co-op in Seven Dials waiting for my turn at the cash machine. In front of me stood a kid, perhaps twenty years old, who was pulling hard on a cigarette and kept glancing back towards me as he used the machine. I rocked back bored on my heels and tried to take my mind off the cold by concentrating on the music on my iPod. Then I noticed him saying something to me.

“Sorry mate?”, I said, removing my headphones.

He looked at me crossly. “I said do you wanna stand any closer?” he hissed.

I looked at him, suddenly aware that he had a shaven head, clenched fists and a tough, angry little face. He could quiet easily, of course, have beaten me up, and I wondered for a moment if that was a possibility. I opened my mouth to apologise for looking over his shoulder, despite the fact that I hadn’t been.

And then I laughed at him in a really condescending manner.

“I don’t wanna know your PIN number, mate”, I said, still laughing. He glared at me and called me a tosser. And oddly, I just chuckled and returned to my iPod. He narrowed his eyes at me, and walked off.

I say this only because I don’t normally have a reputation for facing down trouble. Ooh.

nearby children #2

Posted 20 Sep 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

I went down to the doctor’s surgery in Kemptown after work today and got the bus back up to Seven Dials. As I sat down upstairs I found myself behind a woman with two young kids, girls of around seven or eight, I guess.

Girl A: I used to have a parrot!
Girl B: A carrot?
Girl A: A parrot. I kept it in a cage.
Girl B: What happened to it?
Girl A: It escaped.
Girl B: Was it an english parrot?
Girl A: It came from abroad but I kept it here. My mum didn’t know I had it. When she came in the bedroom I put it in a box.
Girl B: Didn’t she hear it talking?
Girl A: No, because I put lots of boxes on it.
Girl B: (looks sceptical)
Girl A: I went into the garden and caught 21 worms and put them in a mug and brought them in and then she ate them all and then went outside and tried to find some more.
Girl B: (looks horrified)
Girl A: This morning I trod in the cat food and didn’t wipe it off my shoe.

At this point, with a great deal of regret, I had to disembark.

nearby children #1

Posted 20 Sep 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

Waiting for my train to be announced at Brighton station this morning, I note that two young families are standing nearby, two mothers and their respective children, one boy, one girl. The children are quiet, inspecting each other suspiciously. But one is more reluctant to speak than the other. One of the mothers moves off to WH Smith to get a paper.

The boy addresses the little girl. “I’m eight. How old are you?”

She greets his question will shy silence.

“You’re eight too, I can tell”, he says.

The mother intervenes. “Oh no”, she says, “she’s not even six yet”.

The boy furrows his brow.

“She looks eight”, he muses. “How old is she, then?”

“She’s five”.

At this point the little girl, by now looking thoroughly mortified, edges around the back of her mother, hiding. But the boy peers round.

“Five?”, he repeats, as if thinking about this for a moment.

“Have you got a boyfriend?”, he asks.

en route to dubrovnik

Posted 02 Sep 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

Because I fly about for work every now and again, I’m now so familiar with the procedure for checking in and passing security at airports that it’s a quick and painless procedure. So long as those in front of me are similarly savvy.

Just now I was held up coming through the baggage check system because a woman in front of me was repeatedly setting off the alarm. She must have been seventy years old, an aged and rather befuddled woman dressed, bizarrely, like a gereatric air hostess. Her husband stood by, his face twitching in annoyance. He was wearing an electric blue boating blazer. She had several big plasters on her arm and vivid brusing to her face and chest. It was a strange sight.

“Are you wearing jewellery, madam?”, she was asked.

“Fine welcome for a foreigner”, she replied, and obligingly removed about a ton of heavy gold jewellery, stepping back through the machine. It buzzed again.

Several further permutations of jewellery removal were then performed, over the course of ten minutes, until the woman was at last free of her hefty gold burden and, presumably, fine to go through. Not that the machine would stop buzzing. Her husband’s irritation seemed to have been replaced by a look of weary familiarity.

“Do you have any metal plates or medical pins?”, she was asked. She stuck her chin out and demurred.

I stood shuffling from shoeless foot to shoeless foot, wondering what would happen. There seemed no way through. Eventually a portable gizmo was brought out and the problem was, hilariously, traced to her, erm, suspender belt.

I darted through security without a hitch. Waiting for my plane now. Whee.

Hanover Day

Posted 09 Jul 2007 — by Jonathan
Category General, Observations

Each year Hanover, perhaps the prettiest part of Brighton – a series of colourful, narrow interconnecting streets which clamber up the east side of the city – hosts an event called Hanover Day. It’s a small, homely festival which plays on the strengths of the area, focusing on the bright and lively streetlife and the many awesome pubs. Two of the central roads are lined with small stalls, in effect a kind of outdoor jumble sale, and the churches and community centres are open and serving tea, cakes and unusual, spicy curries.

The stalls are always great fun, not least because Hanover residents often have a delicately bohemian bent, meaning their tables are laden with small surprises as well as junk. People seem to resist the urge to mark everything up, too, so the many boxes of books and records yield inexpensive delights – in the course of an hour or so’s browsing I’m able to pick up nostalgic treats by Dinosaur Jr, Teenage Fanclub, The Blue Aeroplanes and a great collection of early Creation Records stuff, paying no more than a pound for anything.

Lots of the stands specialise in home made, or home grown produce; clusters of white-green spring onions, jars of garlicky salad dressing or fairy cakes topped with hundreds and thousands. Along the way stands can be spotted campaigning for justice for Palestine and against US intervention in Cuba, alongside the usual Labour and Green Party stalls. More surprisingly, at one point, warm in the rare July sun, I gingerly approach a stand piled high with books. Then a logo, printed on laminated paper and pinned to a bookshelf, catches my eye.

I start to retreat, recognising it as the blue and green logo of the party now branded with a small c: ‘conservatives’. Rudely, I murmur, ‘Oh, fuck’, and instinctively give a filthy look to the blond guy standing there. The look he returns is no more generous, and we stand eyeing each other for a second, wrinkling our noses. I’m mildly offended by the way he looks at me, despite my initial rudeness. As we walk away Siobhán reminds me that he’s probably looking at my specs, floppy fringe and brown cardigan and thinking ‘fucking Guardian-reading liberal poseur’, just as I am thinking ‘disgusting Hanover-encroaching right-wing fuck’. Later, Siobhán sits bolt upright and cries ‘that Tory wanker is a TV doctor’, recognising him from sporadic appearances on This Morning.

We’ve retreated to the pub by then, alarmed by the unusual warmth and the prospect of getting caught up in a part of Southover Street which might spring to life with Morris Dancers at any moment. Cooled down a little, we take our beers out to the pavement and sit in the sun, admiring the many, grinning dogs climbing back up the hill as the party quietens. At one point a family emerge from the pub behind us and their little boy stands before us, smiling. He is wearing a t-shirt printed with a little waistcoat and a red neckerchief. Siobhán says hello to him.

‘I like your T-shirt’, I tell him, ‘I wish I had one like that’.
‘I’m a cowboy’, he tells us, earnestly.
We both laugh.
He furrows his little brow and rebukes us. ‘It’s not funny’.

This year’s Hanover Day has a Doctor Who theme. I bump into my friend Iain, who reminds me that the man who voiced the TV dog, K-9, lives on Washington Street. Perhaps it is his idea. We don’t see any Dr Who stuff at all, except for one stand which stands in front of one of Hanover’s pretty terraced houses. Hanging from the upstairs window is a sheet upon which a Tardis has been crudely painted.

The man running the stand looks disappointed that no-one else is getting into the spirit of the thing.

I really like Hanover Day.

expecting of hanover

Posted 08 Jul 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

Overheard conversation in the pub today:

Man in stripey jumper, spotting a friend with a toddler arrive at the bar: Oh hello, how’s it going?
Man with toddler: Oh, good, thanks – lovely weather. Have you met my youngest?
Man in stripey jumper: No, hello. I’ve got two of my own coming shortly.
Man with toddler: No, really!? Congratulations. Two, you say?
Stripey jumper: Yes. Due in about sixteen weeks.
Toddler man: Gosh. Twins?
Stripey jumper: No. (beat) Different mothers.

He was joking of course, and several people at the bar laughed. Good stuff.

we be the echo

Posted 29 May 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Daft

Went to the pub with Dan, Dave, Sam and Laura last night. Somehow we got to talking about serial killers.

Dave (looking closely at Sam’s beard): You know, Sam, you look a bit like Peter Sutcliffe.

[Peter Sutcliffe, for those of you who don't know, was The Yorkshire Ripper.]

Sam (amidst much laughter): Oh, thanks a lot!

Laura: No he doesn’t. Peter Sutcliffe was a bit more, er, rugged.

Sam (with his head in his hands): Oh my god, have you just compared me unfavourably to Peter Sutcliffe?!?

peter van poehl at the great escape

Posted 17 May 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Reviews

It’s so weird and so nice seeing Brighton overrun by attendees of the Great Escape. Truly a city has never known so many skinny jeans and asymmetrical haircuts, nor seen such a polite teenage revolution. There was no vomiting on doorsteps tonight, no breaking the no-smoking ban at the city’s venues. It was an evening of excellent behaviour and paperback novels, with hairclips.

My first show of the night was Peter Van Poehl upstairs at Audio. Me and Vic spent the afternoon shopping in town, which mainly meant traipsing around clothes shops, noticing that we were on a circuit with about fifteen other hardy customers who seemed to be trailing us shop for shop. Afterwards we walked down to the seafront and queued for our wristbands. I thought the girl dolling them out was quite pretty – afterwards Vic shook her head, saying “did you see her chipped nail-varnish…?”

Vic went home for a breather and I decided to stick around for the first show of the festival. Peter Van Poehl, from France, played mainstream, rather romantic rock alone with a guitar. He was beset by technical problems. The first song was brought to a premature end by a sudden, monstrous drone emitted from the speakers. He looked shocked.

“It makes me think”, he said, seeming nervous, “about something I read recently”.

He paused, as if wondering whether to continue. “It was about how stars are made. And when they’re made, it’s by an explosion”.

There was another pause. The audience began trading small talk and consulting their phones.

“And when the explosion happens”, he continued, quietly, “there’s a tone. And the tone is an F”.

I thought that was quite delightful – me and a few others laughed politely.

“That’s not all”, he whispered. “Preceding the F, there’s another tone. And that tone is a C”.

He wrapped his fingers around the appropriate frets, and strummed a chord.

“This is a C”, he told us.

“But that has nothing to do with this next song”.

He can come back to Brighton any time he likes.

what a bitch

Posted 05 May 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

Well, I was perhaps going too far lauding the notion of polite Americans. Yesterday, during my first foray through the city, I wandered up a block or so to Union Square, which is by no means the most picturesque part of the city but, it being the first I encountered – and impressively huge from my English perspective – I decided to take a few photos of the main area and the buildings. Having snapped three shots, taking care not to allow any cars to obstruct my view, I heard someone shout ‘hey’.

I turned to my left and saw a woman climbing out of a parked car just to my left.

“You want to explain why you’re taking photographs of us?”, she asked aggressively.

I glanced down – her mother, or an older woman, was sat in the passenger seat, looking tired.

“I’m sorry”, I said, a bit taken aback, “but I wasn’t – I was just taking a photo of the square”.

“You really wanna ask permission in future”, she barked, and climbed back in the car.

A bit stunned, I didn’t know what to say, but a pair of young men, strolling past, had heard the exchange, and one turned to me and said, probably loud enough for the woman to hear through her open car window, “it’s public property, you don’t need to ask anyone for permission”.

He glanced at the woman. “What a bitch“, he said, loudly.

My knight in shining armour! I could have hugged him!

everyone is so nice

Posted 04 May 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

I’ve said before that I find the overwhelming friendliness of people over here in the States quite amazing, and it’s hard to gauge how genuine it is. I think it’s pretty genuine – it’s not at all unusual here in the Silicon Valley to see a complete stranger stop another in a street and exclaim, “that’s a wonderful shirt!” – I’ve seen it happen twice. Amazing.

In shops and restaurants, it’s more excessive, but it still feels pretty genuine, despite all the cliches. Since I’ve been in the US I’ve been charged – dunno why – with static energy, giving myself shocks on every plug socket, escalator and door handle I’ve come into contact with. I think it’s because I’m walking round on trainers all day on the conference centre carpet. Just now I went into a shoe shop (titled ‘Shoe Palace’, no less), wondering if I should find some alternative footwear. I am immediately approached by a member of staff, who says something quickly which I don’t quite catch.

“No thanks”, I say, in a rather clipped English way, not meaning to be rude, and assuming he’d asked if I wanted help.

He looked at me with absolute astonishment.

“What?”, he said, disbelieving.

I tried to be a bit more friendly. “No thanks, not right now”, I said, smiling.

He still looked amazed. “No thanks to Hi?!“, he asked.

santana row

Posted 02 May 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

Urban Outfitters, a clothes shop for which I have a real and expensive weakness, cheats me out of more money, just outside San Jose.

Last night after work we jumped in a cab and headed over to Santana Row, which is the upmarket shopping district of the city, a taxi ride away. It’s a gorgeous area, centred on the Row itself, a street which bisects a few blocks of beautiful buildings and expensive stores. Most are too expensive for myself and Sam, who have in any case just been across the road to the budget superstore and are cursed with give-away carrier bags made of stretched thin plastic.

My target in Santana Row is to quickly locate the Urban Outfitters, which I do, rapidly disappearing into the changing rooms with an armful of ridiculous clothes; I try some daft skinny jeans, a pair of trousers so enormous they would do the Prince Regent from TV’s wonderful Blackadder proud, some t-shirts and a jacket which makes me look like a cross between a Beatle and Little Lord Fauntleroy. Obviously, I keep that one and hand the rest back, before scuttling off to try on more. This all sounds very extravagant, I know, but the pound compares so favourably to the dollar at the moment that I have decided that it’s permissible to spend a couple of hundred dollars on clothes while I’m out here and hang the consequences. So I mop up another selection of clothes and dash back to the fitting room, worrying that the shop will be closing in, erm, an hour or so.

Half an hour later I have remedied my rashest impulses, and put back the more expensive items in favour of bargains – nice Levi jeans which will cost me the equivalent of twenty quid, a shirt, stuff like that. I walk to the counter, proud of my prudence, and take my credit card from my pocket. Then, in a sensible and measured way, befitting that of the sensible young professional, I delicately lay down the items on a nearby table, run upstairs, grab an expensive shirt which I had earlier dismissed and the frankly absurd (and expensive) jacket, and hot foot it back to the till, launching the items, as well as the stuff I’d put on the table, at the shop assistant before I have time to reconsider. “This is a terrible idea!”, I think, happily.

In a sense I’m being logical – here in San Jose there aren’t so many shops and, by blowing my entire shopping budget for the week, I’m insulating myself against the possibility that when I arrive in San Francisco I shall spend even more. Now I won’t be able to, and will thus be inspired to spend my time there doing brilliant, character-building things like contemplating beat poetry, riding the trams and spotting seals perched against the cold rocks of Alcatraz. I am free from the curse of shopping, I think! This was a genius move. And best of all, I’ve done Urban Outfitters now, and Gap, so the temptation won’t even be so strong.

At the tills in America they still make you sign for credit card payments, rather than use a PIN, but you sign a little electronic screen, rather than a piece of paper.

“We don’t have these in England!”, I tell the shop assistant, cheerfully.

“Oh, really?”, she replies, “you’re from England, cool. There are branches of Urban Outfitters there too though, right?”.

“Oh yes”, I reply, “but it works out cheaper here at the moment, which is good”.

“Okay. Are you in San Jose long?”, she asks.

“Just a couple more days – but then I’m going to San Francisco. Thought I’d try to get my shopping done here first though”, I tell her, feeling expansive, “and then it’s done”.

“Right, San Francisco is amazing”, she replies.

“I’m looking forward to it”.

“And you know”, she says, leaning forward conspiratorially, “San Francisco has the biggest branch of Urban Outfitters in the world!”.

I consider this, and then say, in a frantic, high pitched voice, “Where? TELL ME WHERE IT IS FOR WHEN I GET THERE!”.


squirrels in a hearse

Posted 01 May 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

Yesterday myself and Sam took a bus out of San Jose into the foothills of the mountains which surround the city. American cities are always fascinating out of the downtown area, which for all their size and width of road, are broadly comparable to UK city centres. Not the suburbs, however, which feel profoundly different, locked with out-of-town chiropractors with gaudy signs, lot after lot of car dealerships, and gas stations with names like ‘Rotten Robbie’. Riding through a local college, we were delighted by the boarding of a gaggle of outsize Californian teenage boys, drawling loudly and talking in a way which reminded me of that phrase, “two nations divided by a common language”.

One kid, Spanish-American, but dressed all in black with a white crucifix hanging over his shirt, leaned over to his peer and slowly intoned the following.

“Squirrels in a hearse”.

His friend turned to the louder of the three boys.

“Dude, he just said ‘squirrels in a hearse’!

The other friend shook his head. “Man, I’m not even surprised that he would… that he would… I’m not even surprised… that he would say that”.

The other friend shook his head and turned to the original interlocutor. “Dude, you are not funny, you know? You know that?”.

Myself and Sam, surprised by this turn of conversation, stifled bewildered laughs behind our hands.

There was a long pause. The louder of the three, apparently addressing the entire bus, announced.

“Do you… do you, er… do you know what happened on this day in 1945? One of the world’s… the worlds’ most…. insane men committed suicide. On this day”.

Everyone looked up.

Adolf Hitler”, he announced, nodding wisely, and stressing the A.

the barber of seville

Posted 15 Mar 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

I’ve blogged before about the awkwardness of barbershop conversations. This time, sat waiting for my turn, I realised there’d be no escaping – there were three hairdressers, two women, broad and warm brummies, and a young Irish boy with a straightened mullet. They were putting on a real performance for their customers. I subtly eyed them, hoping I got the boy, who seemed a little quieter, and not the louder of the two woman who it seemed to me was talking so much – each word requiring the appopriate gesticulation – that she hardly ever seemed to be cutting hair, and the louder she got the more likely I considered it that she would put the client’s eye out. She finished first and called me over.

“Just a trim, please”, I said, sitting down. “Shorter at the back and tidy up the sides. You can pretty much leave the top as it is”.
“So what do you”, she said, ignoring me, “think about, y’know, supernatural stuff – do you believe in it?”
She didn’t wait for me to answer.
“Kathy” – she pointed at her colleague, “says that if you leave your front gate open you’re actually inviting evil spirits in!”.

I started to reply, but she continued. “Kathy, is it your front gate or your back gate? Only I haven’t got a front gate!”
“It’s the front gate, I think”, Kathy called over, “but I think either works”.

“Leave both open and maybe the evil spirits will just pass straight through”, I suggested.
“So. What do you want?”, she asked. “Just a trim?”.

“I’m a bit psychic, though”, she explained, once she’d started a little casual cutting.
“Hmm-mm”, I half-replied.
“There are some things I just know. I dreamed that Ellie – she works at the other shop – was really fat. And then a week later she told me she was pregnant. You do get some weird co-incidences, don’t you? How else would you explain them?”
“Well, we think about other people all the time, don’t we”, I replied. “It would be a bit strange if there were never any coincidences at all. Sooner or later you’ll happen to be thinking about someone who will happen to call you a moment letter. But that’s bound to happen occasionally. It doesn’t have to be paranormal”.

She pointed the sharpened point of the scissors at me, threateningly. “My little brother is 14, right, and I found out that he’s been messing around with a ouija board! I told him, you’re mad, don’t you ever do that again! You’re messing with forces way beyond your control”.
“When I used to play with a ouija board with my friends”, I told her, “we all denied moving the coin around ourselves. Much later I asked a couple of my friends whether either of them had actually moved it. Oh yes, they both said. I’d moved it too. We still allowed ourselves to get scared though”.

“A gypsy woman came in here a while ago. And I could tell that she couldn’t read me. But then my mum told me that there’s gypsy blood in me. Romany gypsy, apparently. Are they the ones with the crystal balls and headscarves?”, she asked.
“Yes, I think so”.
“So where would that be from?”
“Eastern European I suppose. Is it not just Romania?”.
She shrugged, excited. “Maybe it is, yeah. Romany gypsy”.

This was the best one.

“You do get poltergeists too, don’t you”, she said.
I looked non-commital.
“Once I was having dinner with my mum and dad, and my stereo suddenly came on upstairs, all on its own. I just heard this strange noise, this weird sound followed by a bassline – dur dur dur dur dur dur dur dur dur dur dur dur DUR DUR DUR. ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ by the Stone Roses. Trying to speak to me, see. Cause that’s not the first song on that album is it?”
Yes, it is.

“No”, I said, “I don’t think so”.
“At least your poltergeist has good taste”, I offered.
“That’s exactly what I said”.

The haircut cost eleven pounds and I left a big tip – amazing value.