This guy doesn't hide well in society.

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"So which is better: here or there?", asked the barber, predictably, as he skirted his large everything around the chair while sculpting at a painfully slow pace. "Well it depends...", launched my friend as I sat waiting behind him, having been fussed over myself just moments before. My glazed stare at the passing weekend-traffic outside gained focus as my friend had plucked some plausible response out of the hat. He was interrupted, "so where abouts in England did you live?", I knew how my friend was going to respond, and froze hoping he wouldn't; I mimed the answer in horror as he said it; "Brighton...". I had to check I was there; I could see my reflection; I could see my friend's face in the reflection, but in it my friend failed to register my rigid eyes aiming him up in disapproval.

I've recently extended a charitable hand to a dear friend; offering him the spare room in my flat for an indefinite period. In this deal, however, I had not offered him aspects of my life to merge with his for public amusement. Aside from that, this new living arrangement struggles to be mutually beneficial, as I am reminded once again of communal living; it's great for the company, but such arrangements bring tedious clashes. For a change I am the tidier party, and with patience I put food back in the fridge, turn lights off in rooms (not being used) and take cups and plates continuously back to the kitchen, where I find meals continuously in some state of being prepared or eaten. My method for confronting this difference has so far been to knock on the doors of the empty room with lights on, and say, "hello? hell-lo-o?", then turning to my friend, "Who's in this room?", I ask; this usually brings a laugh and apology. Gradually he's getting it, and gradually the phantom tenants are disapearing.

The incident at the barbers was part of an outing of exploration, to discover the other end of the neighbourhood. It proved a success, with the discovery of an excellent bakery, a well stocked corner-shop and a dry cleaners.

Back at the barbers:

one such case being the repeated situation whereby English written menus are automatically given to my friend, and the Farsi version to me

As our newly-found neighbourhood barber pranced around, I sat listening to my friend's (and my) semi-fictional life being unveiled. His mostly-correct answer about British life had me itching to jump in; to clear minor errors or elaborate. I didn't though; like the barber, I was absorbed, yet was struggling to track back when I might have said the words he was regurgitated. On reflection, maybe I was being a tad uptight about this; what does it matter to the barber that the minimum hourly wage is not 4-pounds (this one can't have come from me).

I guess I'm not in a position to complain though, I too occasionally adopt alternative presentations of myself for passing strangers, mostly to avoid the many personal questions brought about when my accent reveals me. In fact, this is something we both do together, mostly due us attracting attention as we jump between languages. Embarrassingly we are beginning to firm-up on these roles we play; becoming characters in the repetition. Amusingly though, words are not needed; we are recognised without them; one such case being the repeated situation whereby English written menus are automatically given to my friend, and the Farsi version to me. This - it should be added - is more likely due to him being 6'.4", blond and dressed like a marine - and now, sporting a kooky hair cut; he's not exactly inconspicuous.

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Me, before.

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"Did you do the back?", I asked as I lifted my hand from below the plastic bib to check for myself, "yes, it's just like that guy now", the hairdresser mocked, referring a passport photo I'd stood next to the mirror, one taken roughly a year ago, just after the last haircut. "Did I wear glasses in the last photo?", I then asked, referring to the 'before' picture I'd took before he began – I wanted consistency for the 'after' picture you see – "yes, with glasses", came an unamused response, almost like he'd expected me to ask.

Among all the events over the last year (marked with the unruly curls that were now scattered and sharing the floor) the local cheap-chops had had a price hike, what was the equivalent of 30p for your standard short-back-and-sides was now 40p! Another change that could've been found somewhere amid the arches of the curls would be my ability to grumble about this and be understood, which I didn't do, but I felt it illustrated an important difference made during the time between cuts, one maybe worth the extra 10p.

My recent visit to England was expected to be a little disappointing, I knew I'd have to condense too much of what was familiar and missed into a series of partly overlapping events. I'd expected an amount of adjustment in the plans and tried as best as I could to plan around the inevitable alterations. On the whole I'd successfully managed to spread myself thinly across as larger group loved ones as possible, I'd drawn up plans, listed must-dos and pretty much got there – it was all so unfulfilling though and didn't set a good mood for a return to Iran. Coming/going back, however, was not so easy, but it wasn't just the leaving all the renewed familiarity behind.

yet I'm too aware that I can only hold my breath for so long before needing to be in an atmosphere where I can breath once again

I've often found it an appropriate analogy to describe being in Iran as being underwater – it's like I've decided to dive down to the murky unknown seabed, curious as to what I'll find, curious as to whether it's like they say, yet I'm too aware that I can only hold my breath for so long before needing to be in an atmosphere where I can breath once again. This underwater analogy is often extended and ever more fitting, but I think it helps illustrate where my recent psychological retraction from Iranian life has come from.

When those curls were beginning their first curve so much of Iran was unfamiliar to me, I mostly received the place predigested, presented in English with helpful 3D renderings. Coming/going back last year was easy, the murky seabed still had so much to be discovered, this time around it's different, it's not that I've haven't discovered interesting things, more that the novelty has been lost. I have also now reached a standard whereby I can digest this place first hand, where I have an independence, where I'm able to communicate and where I can grumble about a 10p increase at the local cheap-chops. Yet the price hikes feature low as it is with each day that I discover another thing to grumble about and yet another thing to make me want to resurface.

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