At the barber’s for a haircut. Luckily there’s only one person ahead of me, a large, silver haired man with huge red ears and a booming voice.
‘Oh yes, I was a referee for fifty years,’ he says.
‘It’s not something I could do,’ says the barber, gently combing the strands around, snipping the ends. ‘I don’t have the temperament.’
‘Nonsense!’ says the man. ‘Although I’ll admit you do have to have a measure of control. The players can become quite – how shall I put it? – excited about your decisions, and you have to exercise a certain amount of diplomacy and common sense.’
‘I bet you do,’ says the barber.
‘Take swearing, for instance. Now – I fully understand that in the rough and tumble of play you can forget where you are and say this or that and turn the air blue. But I was always very clear. And when the captains came together to toss the coin, I would say to them: You know me, gentlemen. I am perfectly fine with a little rough language now and again, but if there’s one word directed straight at me it’ll be out with the red card and off you go. I earned quite a reputation.’
‘I bet you did’ says the barber. ‘How much off the top?’
‘Oh – do what you can with the bald patch. I’m not expecting miracles.’
‘Right you are.’
‘I remember one particular match. It was a local derby, very heated. Quite a bit of needle between the players. Towards the end one of them went in for a particularly positive tackle and his opponent took a tumble. But it was clear to me that he’d played the ball and not the player, and as such there had been no infringement of the rules. The next thing I knew the captain came running up and he said Where’s our penalty, ref? So I explained to him why it didn’t warrant one, and signalled for play to continue. Unfortunately the poor chap couldn’t help himself. You’re a fucking idiot he said, straight to my face.’
‘I’m afraid so.’
‘What did you do?’
‘Well – what d’you think I did? I said to him: Oh? So I’m a fucking idiot, am I? Well – d’you know what this is? That’s right! It’s a red card. And d’you know why I’m showing it to you? Because you are out of this game, mister! I bid you good day!’
‘Eyebrows. D’you want me to do your eyebrows?’
‘Oh. Yes. Well. Could you? They’re getting a bit wild.’