The Barber

I remember meeting Leroy in his salon in Harehills Leeds, at the beginning of lockdown. The salon was empty, three big black chair where clients use to sit, were swinging around, as if inhabited by ghosts, as Leroy brushed past them. There is something about being in an empty place that once used to be buzzing with people and banter, it almost infects you with its own emptiness. I genuinely felt the sadness of it all as I sat down with Leroy for the first time. He was in a deep kind of shock. He was speaking words to me but his eyes were so distant.

I’m not sure he could quite believe what had happened to him and the world around him. It had taken a while to connect with him because he was on his electrician course, as he kept saying “I have to find other ways to put food on the table” He had a real sense of panic about how he was going to feed his family. “When the government says you have to stop work, you have to stop work, then what do you do?”

Despite the feeling that he was in shock, I also sensed a firm resoluteness in him. A steely determination to just get on with it and do what he had to for his family and himself. Make the best of things.

As time went on and we began to open up, I still sensed a fear and distrust in Leroy’s words. He didn’t trust the opening up even though he was getting the salon ready. He kept saying to me ‘we’ll see, we’ll see”

I felt so privileged that Leroy took me back to his mother’s house where it all began for him. He would cut friends and families hair, as a teenager in his mum’s back room out of boredom! He painted this amazing picture in my mind of people playing Ludo in the back garden being fed with his mothers chicken if they were lucky!

As things opened up properly Leroy introduced an appointment system for the salon that he told me he would keep as it worked better for him and his clients. Something positive had come from it all.

The banter had returned. People were off loading their woes again with the man that had been cutting their hair for years, and Leroy told me it felt good. You can feel the energy again he told me.

He had managed to see his children, and I think that was the worst part of it all for him, being separated from his children. Being one of nine kids himself family is everything to Leroy.

He told me as well as always having a plan B from now on as to how he puts food on the table, He will never spend as much time at work. Being with his family is everything and he says among other things Covid has taught him that.