the state of things
Uncovered Barbershop Scene Revealed To Be Authentic Barney Thomson
by Elvis Shackleton - 12:59 on 06 July 2012
There has been speculation for some time about the authenticity of the Genoa Barbershop Scene, so-called because it was uncovered beneath a 19th century painting of Christ on the wall of a crumbling chapel in the Italian city. In this week's edition of the New Scientist, however, Professor Nigel Connery of the Paris Institute of Barbershop Research, provides clear evidence that the scene, first discovered more than two centures ago, is classic Douglas Lindsay, and bears all the hallmarks of the author's work.
'Some say the timing doesn't really work,' said Connery, 'what with Lindsay not having been born until 1964. But those who rely heavily upon time in order to construct their arguments, are fools who know nothing of the eddies of the stream of life.'
Despite Connery's assertions, it seems likely that debate will continue. The scene is printed here in full so that the reader might make up his own mind.
The barbershop was buzzing. Barney Thomson, renegade barbershop legend, was cutting hair; Keanu MacPherson – Luke to Barney’s Yoda – was cutting hair, Igor, the deaf mute hunchbacked barbershop assistant was sweeping up, and there were three customers waiting. The air was filled with inane conversation, as the men discussed life, love, football and chips.
Across the road, Barney’s usual seagull of impending doom was watching them, but Barney had learned to live with the seagull of impending doom and generally ignored it, apart from when he offered it the occasional piece of leftover fish supper. Sometimes he even wondered if perhaps it wasn’t a seagull of impending doom at all, but just an everyday seagull of no more impending doom than any other seagull. Yet, deep down, he knew this particular gull foreshadowed doom in a way that regular seagulls rarely did.
‘According to this,’ said the middle customer of the three in a row, holding up the Daily Mail, ‘the reason that Gordon Brown and Tony Blair never got along was because one time in early 1996, Blair caught Brown knobbing Cherie with a loofah.’
‘Holy shit!’ said Keanu. ‘Really?’
Igor offered a desultory ear at the conversation, then turned his back. As an oppressed minority he had suffered enough at the hands of Blair and Brown, and wanted to hear no more about them.
‘They’re making that shit up,’ said one of the others. ‘That’s all the newspapers do, make shit up.’
‘It quotes sources,’ said the first bloke indignantly. ‘Look. Sources.’
‘Who’s the source?’ asked Barney’s customer.
‘Two sources,’ said the bloke.
‘All right, two sources. Who are the bleedin’ sources?’
He ruffled the paper a little more and said, ‘An insider and a friend of Cherie’s. See. Proof.’
‘The only thing that’s proof of is that they made that shit up!’
‘What d’you expect?’ barked the first bloke, as the discussion began to get heated. ‘Some bloke knows intimate details of the weird sexual fetishist love trysts of Cherie Blair and Gordon Brown and you think he’s going to give his name to the paper? He’d have the security services up his arse quicker than one of they enemas they talk about on Hollywood Makeover Tragedies on BBC3.’
‘You know what they say,’ said Keanu, who was frequently first to fall on the loose ball of cliché, ‘there’s no smoke without fire. The papers, they may exaggerate, they may emphasise aspects of a story to suit their own narrative, while deemphasising facts which contradict their story, but they don’t just plain make shit up. There’s an underlying truth in every story.’
The argument had been quashed, there were a few grudging nods around the shop. Silence once more came upon them, scissors clicked and hair fell noiselessly to the ground.
‘Barney,’ said Keanu, ‘what d’you think?’
Barney glanced over at Keanu, then returned to the head of hair before him. He was giving an old fellow an Amalgamated Take That, and was aware that at Keanu’s words a particular expectation had fallen over the shop. These days Barney didn’t say much in the midst of the general barbershop banter, but when he spoke others listened. He didn’t think he was as perceptive as everyone else seemed to think.
The word around town was that Barney was the go-to man for all your philosophical and lifestyle needs. Talk to the barber, they said to each other, he’ll know what to do. Barney the Sage. The only thing separating Barney from Yoda was that Barney knew how to correctly in a sentence order the words.
‘I think,’ he began, because he always gave Keanu the benefit of his opinion when asked, ‘that the newspapers play mercilessly on what you just said. The no smoke without fire thing. They make shit up, and they think, well people might be a little sceptical that Tom Cruise is a woman or that Colin Firth was arrested for urinating on a sheep on a transatlantic flight, but they know that the public still think, hmm, that was in a newspaper, so there must be some element of truth about it.’
‘Colin Firth pished on a sheep?’
Barney stopped cutting for a second and turned and looked at him.
‘I made that up,’ he said, ‘as an example. Colin Firth did not urinate on a sheep.’
‘Barber Denies Firth In Sheep Urination Shock,’ said one of the customers from the back, and the others laughed.
‘Yep,’ he said, ‘that’s how it works. They make shit up, they attribute quotes to people who don’t exist, then for a real quote they go to a real person and get a denial, and as soon as someone denies something, the ever sceptical British public think, Aha, he denied pishing on the sheep, he must have done it.’
There were a few sage nods around the room. Barney hits the nail on the head once again, they all thought. Barney returned to cutting hair, thinking that stating the obvious wasn’t really all that sage at all.
‘So,’ said Keanu, ‘did Colin Firth pish on the sheep or not?’
‘You can’t blame the papers,’ said Barney, ignoring the Colin Firth remark, as he worked his way calmly around the left ear with a razor.
‘Just serving the public need,’ said the middle customer.
‘Exactly,’ said Barney. ‘Market forces control everything. It’s what people want. They don’t want to know about starvation on the Horn of Africa or crumbling economies or people trafficking. They want to know who shagged who, and who got drunk and which celebrity or politician it is that they need to be morally outraged at today. The tabloids just give them what they want. They print shit, because society demands it. Newspapers full of shit for a society that’s full of shit.’
‘We get the press we deserve,’ trumpeted one of the customers glumly.
The two barbers continued to cut hair, but a peculiar sadness had fallen over the shop, as the eight men contemplated the bloody awfulness of British society. Yes, there were good things – although just at that moment none of them could think of any of them – but the good was far outweighed by the completely shit.
‘I can’t believe that about Colin Firth,’ said Keanu. ‘I mean, you just associate him with being Mr D’Arcy and all that, don’t you? Now he’s pishing on sheep. Shame. Must be the booze.’
‘Colin Firth’s an alcoholic?’
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