Salisbury is middle England to the power of ten – half-timbered, half-baked, half-asleep, but it still has the odd local quirk. On Fisherton Street there’s a barber that opens at 7am most mornings and 6.30am on a Thursday. I’m not sure I want my hair cut by somebody strange enough to keep those sort of hours; he’s at best an insomniac, and potentially has an amphetamine problem. And what’s with the earlier start on a Thursday? Is that the day that milkmen round here traditionally get a trim before they start their rounds?
I was in town for the city's annual cultural festival, but there wasn’t much going on. I was going to put off going into Poundland until the Sunday so I’d have something to look forward to, but in the end I ran out of other options and relented just before closing time on Saturday.
Boredom does strange things to people. The local remedy for ennui seems to be body modification. There were three tattoo studios within sight of the train station. A piercing salon had prime position on the High Street. Its prices were listed outside. One nipple was £25, both nipples were £45. As quantity discounts go, that's nothing to write home about. A Prince Albert was £50. If pub signs moved with the times, there's one that’d get people talking.
Having holes drilled into themselves didn’t seem to leave the locals much spare energy for taking an interest in culture. As part of the festival, guitarist Pete Aves was playing at the Old Ale House on Crane Street. I was curious to see him as he’d previously played in the High Llamas, whose keyboard player used to work at the same library as me. He was flogging a dead horse and then some.
The pub was full of people, all bellowing at each other and ignoring Aves completely. At one point he introduced a song with the statement, ‘This next number’s about a prostitute I caught clap off in Hamburg. It’s not really, but at this point I could say anything because you’re obviously not listening.’ The braying of the punters surprised me. I couldn’t believe they weren’t stunned into silence by the bar prices. Foster’s was £2.90 a pint! I’d want it poured over me and licked off for that price. This seemed typical. It cost £8 to get into the city’s only cinema. If you’re going to pay London prices you might as well move to London; we’ve got piercing shops here too, you know.
For those whose interests in life have narrowed to charity shops and sarcasm, head for Catherine Street. You’ll have to bring your own sarcasm, but this back road’s blessed with an Oxfam, Cancer Research, Barnardo’s and South Wilts Mencap. This last one's presumably some splinter faction that broke away from Mencap proper. Continuity Mencap, if you will. Splitters!
The train back to London had to stop at Whitchurch so pigeon debris could be cleared from the couplings. I can't vouch for whether this was debris left behind by pigeons, or debris consisting of pigeons.