The Price of a Haircut

As a young man, my husband was in the sort of way of business where a good suit, polished shoes and neat hair were regarded as essential (by his employers, at any rate).

He thus made frequent visits to a local barber’s shop, where more often than not he would be attended to by an even younger Greek Cypriot chap, not long over and working in his uncle’s business.
They chatted in the desultory way you do when someone else has clippers and scissors near vital parts of your head and when the chap started his own shop my husband followed him there.

The business prospered until, still a young man, he could fulfill his dream.
He sold the shop and returned to Cyprus to build a house for himself and his family, investing the proceeds to ensure he would never have to work again.
He sent a letter with photographs from time to time….he was living a happy life in the sun while my husband, having returned to the ministrations of uncle, was still elbowing his way on and off the Tube to the City.

Then a few years later the chap was back in the uncle’s shop, plying his sharp implements.

The Turks had invaded northern Cyprus…he had lost his property…lost his dream… and had been forced to come back to London to start all over again, living in a little flat on a busy road.
His children had to learn English, start new schools…his wife worked as a cleaner part time, and him?
He worked for uncle.

But only for a couple of years.
He saved his money, took a loan from uncle and started his own business again, building it up into a chain of shops.

My husband did not see him so frequently then as, having started his own business, he could avoid haircuts unless about to go fifteen rounds with the bank manager, whose complete ignorance of the field of business involved did not hold him back from telling my husband how to run it.
My husband’s uncles did not have the same philanthropic streak as that of the barber, unfortunately.
However, when he called at the main shop this man would always cut his hair…as an old client…and they chatted as they used to do years before, keeping in touch off and on when my husband moved away from London.

Then he did it again.
It took him longer as he wanted to be sure he would have enough to retire properly, but he once again sold his business and returned to Cyprus.

He built his house, he invested his money, his wife and children had a good life and he could relax.

The odd letter with photographs would arrive over the years showing the happy picture of a well deserved early retirement, though none since we moved to Costa Rica.

But today we had an e mail from an old friend of my husband….with news of the barber.

His money is, of course, in a Cypriot bank.
Almost sixty per cent of it has in effect been confiscated….thirty seven and half percent under one legal scam and another twenty two percent under another.
And the remaining forty percent?
He can have a few Euros at a time….can’t transfer it abroad….his dream of security for his family shattered yet again.

He’s no longer a young man yet if he has retained anything of his indomitable character he will be be trying once again to pick up the pieces….

But why the blazes should he have to?


42 thoughts on “The Price of a Haircut”

  1. How tragic. To think one could work so hard to build up a prosperous nest–twice–and have so little left to show for it. And through no fault of his own. Very sad.

    1. Sad if it were only unkind fate…but the people responsible for ruining his life a second time are the EU governments – and I’m damned sure people didn’t elect them to protect greedy, incompetent, money laundering banks at the expense of the ordinary citizen.

  2. Bloody hell, these governments and their bankster buddies need to be overthrown and chucked on the rubbish heap of useless rubble. Seeing as most of them have never done a hard day’s work in its life, stories like this of courage and determination destroyed just make me spit. The ones whose bank accounts are robbed are the ones who got us into this mess in the first place!

    1. The problem is that all we have is visible….their wealth is well tucked away out of sight…not that governments would touch it if they could…they seem to have complete immunity.

  3. What has been done In Cyprus is quite shocking and could have ramifications for the rest of us in Europe. The people who got the economy into such a mess and allowed the banks to behave irresponsibly don’t have to face the consequences.

        1. They are realistic…they know that the police are not there to protect them…but to protect the powerful and that protest falls on deaf ears, while the extent of lawful protest is being steadily eroded.
          All one can do is to talk to as many people as possible…allow people to discuss what is happening to them to serve the interests of others….and encourage tough minded non party people to stand for elections as the political parties are nothing but front men for the banks.

    1. Academics decry the use of anecdotal evidence….to me that is what history is and the tale of this man shows us that what we assumed only hostile governments would do is now being condoned…and encouraged…by our own.

  4. I think it is disgusting but the people in the street have no say in the matter. Perhaps hiding your money under the mattress is a better idea and hope that you don’y have a fire! Take care Diane

  5. A tragic story, but probably not an isolated one.

    The fact that Cyprus allowed itself to become a tax haven (mainly for Russian money) and hoped to live off the proceeds without doing anything constructive in other areas is now the cause of its economic downfall. It is to be hoped that Cypriot banks rediscover their purpose and put some effort into reinvigorating tourism, for instance.

    But, until then, it’ll be the little man who pays the price. It was ever thus.
    (yes, I am a cynic)

    1. And what does the U.K., through the City of London, live off?
      And why is it that a man who oversaw…or failed to notice…massive money laundering by Mexican drug cartels on his watch at HSBC is now a U.K. government minister?

      We have nothing about which to feel superior to Cyprus and its little banking ways and can go down the tubes just as easily.

      Nothing wrong with being a cynic…but don’t suffer in silence.

  6. Tragic. And, the authorities exist only to protect the strata above, not that below. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. No, nay, never. To mix a couple more ethnic metaphores.

  7. So sad. Who knows the ramifications of Cyprus on the Europe and the rest of the world has the shock waves (large and tiny) ripple about. Many can’t comprehend the magnitude of it all from a big picture perspective but write about this guy and we all get it, right in the gut. Thanks, Helen. Paulette

    1. Events involve people….while the newspapers burble about the big picture…the Eurozone…and whatnot we can all see the sheer injustice of it by looking at what happens to one person.

  8. Such a sad story and one that I’m sure isn’t rare. It’s always the hardworking man who suffers. What spirit and determination that barber has, to pick himself up and try again. And why the hell should he have to?

    1. A war is one thing….but to be shafted by your own government is something else and unfortunately that is what is happening more and more and more and more blatantly.
      After all, they think, what can the plebs do….

  9. Sad story, but trust in money doesn’t work.
    I used to know a similar Cypriot in London, I hope he is OK.

  10. All sense of protection and “rights” is an illusion. We strongly believe in them in the UK. Others know how easily banks fail, governments seize assets, earthquakes swallow up loved ones. I wonder how UK life will change when its citizens grasp that fact.

    1. They’re not likely to grasp it unless people start talking to each other about it as the media do a fine cover up job.

  11. Heart-breaking, Helen. So much determination and sheer guts and for what? So that an inefficient, not to say corrupt, system can leech off him to make good the mess it has caused.

    1. Yes indeed! When reading the statements from the ECB, the Troika and national politicians about the need for the measures they impose we need to have the picture of this man…and all those like him…before our eyes to make clear the injustice of it all.

  12. This has me sitting here with goose bumps Helen…absolutely heartbreaking, bringing the reality home to those of us that have sat and sympathised without really thinking of the consequences. Just awful J.

    1. I have a friend who has suffered at the hands of RBS and its crooked schemes….she, like this chap, is resilient, but it has come close to breaking her and her family. Through absolutely no fault of their own.

      These real events are the inevitable consequence of us allowing politicians to forget to whom they owe their duty.

      What do we do about it? Try to encourage decent, strong minded people to stand for election to escape the corrupt party system.

  13. Poor guy. I was watching someone yesterday on the news who had completed the sale of their holiday home in Cyprus on the day this all hit. The poor woman looked as though she’d been hit by a truck. It’s not in the same league as this poor barber, but nevertheless, how can anyone absorb the fact that they have suddenly lost a significant amount of their life savings and there’s nothing they can do about it?

  14. Poor man. What is happening is unspeakably disgusting. How did “the ordinary man” become so disenfranchised? And how much further can it go before people start sharpening the knitting needles?

    1. A long way, I reckon….people all think it can’t happen to them…or that people with over 100,000 are rich and deserve all they get….
      Our masters play divide and rule with much skill.

  15. Yes, it’s outrageous. But it must be said that if I lived in Cyprus, it would be obvious (I think) that the banks would have exposure to the Greek mess and thus would be affected at some point, although not perhaps to this extreme level.
    Hindsight mind you, is a wonderful tool.

    1. Yes…hindsight is wonderful, I agree!
      I have the impression that most people think that the money they put in a bank is safe – after all where else can you keep it?
      And in today’s world of rampant inflation, the sums governments guarantee in bank accounts are hardly enough to keep you for the rest of your retirement
      I’m worried about the French exposure to Greek debt….if Greece defaults French banks go down the tubes on the grand scale…so I keep as little as possible in my accounts there.

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