Sunday, 26 February 2012

78 Caledonian Road

On a recent foray I had noticed a new barbershop at 78 Caledonian Road, opposite the Vegan shop (73) and a few doors north of the Mosque (70). Returning from grocery shopping in Islington, I stopped in to try it. A man was having his hair cut, and he and the barber were talking a language I could not recognise, and in which neither of the men seemed fully fluent. The barber seemed to work slowly and very carefully and the customer seemed very particular about his £4.99 cut, also after leaving the chair, standing at a mirror studying all the details of his haircut.

c.2008 (Google Streetview accessed 26 Feb 2012)

The shop had been open two weeks and the sign on the shopfront still said internet cafe - the letting agent's signboard was also still attached above the shopfront. In the window were some flyers advertising introductory offers, and there was a new-looking but inexpensively built set of three workstations with cabinets and mirrors. The packaging for three types of electric hairclippers were displayed on a high shelf alongside some computer-printed photographs of men modelling their haircuts, from the conservative businessman to the sculpted 'Turkish' style to the Anglo-student.

The barber Rajesh* explained in basic English that he was Nepali from Kathmandu, and had established this shop over the last fortnight with daily opening hours of 10.30am - 8pm. He explained that the previous customer was a Bengali with whom he had been speaking Urdu. The barber was a Hindi, the other man a Muslim, who appeared to me to have been testing the barber's abilities. I found Rajesh to be thorough and skilled. He enquired about my background and family and he explained that he had been living in East London for two years, while his wife and son were in Kathmandu.

There was a regular passing footfall on the pavement outside and occasional glances through the glass shopfront on this sunny Saturday. Outside the shop was a sandwichboard stand with four colour A4 flyers advertising the shop. I promised to mention the shop to friends and neighbours.

70 Caledonian Rd. c. August 2008 (Google Streetview accessed 26 Feb 2012)

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