“So what part of America do you live in?” asks Tony while he chops my hair.
“Is it that obvious?” Since I came back to Ireland I have been trying to purge my speech and spelling of Americanisms. I thought it was working. I’m wrong.
“Ah no, it’s not too bad as I’m listenin’ to you. There’s only some words are fucked up, like,” he says kindly.
He’s around my age and works for one of the posher salons in Limerick. They seem busy. He says it’s quieter than it used to be; they notice the slow-down. The haircuts (US$60) are still regular enough, but business has dropped off on expensive colours. Where clients used to come in six times a year, now they might see them four times.
“Still, some of them can’t live without their highlights and that’s that. They don’t seem to be affected by any downturn at all. Some people never are.”
He lives twenty miles out in Killaloe, on the banks of Lough Derg. It’s beautiful out there, though the lake is now choked with expensive cruisers and poisoned by agricultural pollution. He’s thinking of selling his house. Herself insisted on moving out there, but it’s too far out. They can never go out for a pint in town and he’s getting sick of it. He thinks he’ll get about $850K (US) for the house. Clare County Council has brought in new Planning Permission requirements that mean you can’t build certain areas unless you’ve lived in Clare for ten years. His place can only go up in value, he says.
He wouldn’t dream of living in a housing estate again. He wants a house on its own land. He has his eye on a place in Parteen that a client tipped him off to. Your man wants $625K for it, though Tony thinks he’s asking too much. He was thinking about paying cash, but it probably makes sense to take out a mortgage since the borrowing is so cheap. Then he’d put the rest of it into another house. Like most Limerick people I’ve talked to, he would never consider going back to Dublin. “It’s no life up there. Half the day trying to get to work, and then no one wants to go out at night because the mortgage is so high.”
Last week there was a news story about Irish hair salons going to South Africa to recruit staff. Slowdown or no, they can’t meet demand now that Ireland has discovered grooming. I ask Tony if he’d think about setting up on his own. “Sure why would I do that?” he says, looking at me in the mirror with an eyebrow raised. “I’ve a great life as it is.”
I can’t afford to live in my own damn country. I drink my hairy coffee and nurse my injured sense of entitlement.