Haircut

June feels more like November. I’m drenched after walking the dog and to make matters worse I have a hairdressers appointment.

Anyone that knows me will understand this last point.

Getting me into a salon is no easy matter.

Getting me into a salon when I’m bedraggled and battered and all scruffed up should be impossible.

But my hairdresser knows me and she is more determined than I am to ensure my personal grooming doesn’t fall by the wayside.

Each time I pay a visit she already sets me up for my next appointment and even prompts me by text message a few days before to remind me that she knows I am due in and that I’m not going to get away with not making an appearance. She knows where I live.

Probably just as well.

I think it all stems from the time, in my late teens, when my best pal at school decided to leave early and train as a hairdresser. My role in this scheme was to sit in the chair and be subjected to all manner of cuts and treatments and styles.

“You’re my model” she would explain to me firmly. As if this were some heightened state of being.

Who knows, perhaps it was. But it was the 80s and being someone’s haircut guinea pig was pretty precarious. All I remember is being back combed to hell and sprayed with lung clogging volumes of hairspray.

I think my moment of resolve came when I looked in the mirror one day and noticed I bore an alarming resemblance to Ian McCulloch. My modelling days stopped right there and then.

I think the trauma and memory of that particular haircut lay behind a rash decision a few years later to walk into a Glasgow salon and demand a slick red quiff of the kind sported by Edwyn Collins and Roddy Frame.

It suited them. It would suit me too. And one thing it was not was Ian McCulloch!

I suppose a part of me was secretly hoping that the hairdresser would see through my momentary lapse of hairstyling sense and convince me to stick to a trim.

But alas, no. She did it. And my mum’s dry coughed gasp when she first saw the be-quiffed me was all I needed to know. Roddy Frame be damned. What the hell had I done to my hair?

“Why did she not just say no?” That was what my mum demanded to know.

Why indeed.

Since then my suspicion of scissor wielding stylists has only grown.

And yet, here I am, decades later, safely ensconced in my swivel stool, enjoying a cup of coffee, and watching the rain battering the window, waiting for my regular haircut. Jimmy Cliff is on the stereo and the salon seems to be balmy and warm and happy. And bugger me, I’m actually feeling okay. Relaxed even. I even manage a quick peek in the mirror as I muse over what I should do with my unruly mop.

I laugh about it and then have to explain myself as my hairdresser sticks my head in the sink.

“What’s up?”

“Must be Jimmy Cliff. Listening to him in the rain. Its kinda funny.”

The girl beside me looks up from her iPhone. Jimmy Cliff? You can see her straining to listen to the music as if she is committing it to memory. “I can see clearly now the rain has gone.” Jimmy Cliff. Right. Got it.

She returns to her phone and tuts.

She’s trying to offload her tickets for a weekend festival. Gold Fish she explains. And I suppose I return her “Who the hell is Jimmy Cliff” gaze because she smiles at me, almost apologetically. But in truth, I think she’d have been pretty pissed if I had known what the hell she was talking about.

There’s an age limit on some of this stuff after all.

And as I say, my haircuts go back all the way to Ian McCulloch. Firmly rooted in the past, in other words.

She sighs. No takers so far for her tickets. No-one fancies heading to a festival when the weekend is going to be a washout.

I can’t help myself.

“Funny, I’d have thought gold fish fans would like all that water and rain.”

A pained groan fills the air as everyone in the room stops what they’re doing. Then they laugh.

“You have to stop doing that Jen. That was rubbish!”

“Yeah, I know, but I can’t help myself.”

I smile inwardly at the Edwyn Collins reference and decide to just shut up and get my hair washed.

“Anyway, everyone’s too loaded up on pills and coke at these festivals now. It’s no fun anymore.”

I actually have to think about that.

A young twenty something is bemoaning the drug taking that pervades a music festival. Did I hear her right I wonder?

Maybe they just take it to a different level in Amsterdam? Beyond the cheap lines of speed and poppers and alcohol I remember always doing the rounds at every single gig I ever attended.

It was included in the price of the ticket back then. Or so it seemed. Perhaps I just hung out with the wrong crowd?

Then again I never went to festivals. Camping in a field, in the summer. It always seemed like it belonged somewhere else. The great outdoors. Tents. Those are healthy pastimes. Invigorating endeavours that are supposed to build your character.

Music. That was a night time pleasure. Strictly to be enjoyed indoors, with the lights down, the volume up, surrounded by a nicotine haze. There were cows in the fields at some of these festivals! Seriously. That’s disjointed.

But I digress.

My hairdresser is now recounting the tales of one of her customers. An ambulance driver who has seen it all and who regularly picks up the detritus that fills the streets of Amsterdam every GHB stoked weekend.

“They have this one lad on the Czar Peterstraat that they pick up regularly by his front door. He loads himself with GHB but come the end of the night, when his adrenaline levels fall, and he’s putting his key in the door, the sedative effects of the drug kick in and he falls flat on his face.”

It takes a moment before we all giggle.

“Shit, you’d think once would be enough, eh?” the girl beside me quips.

“Well, he’ll grow out of it.” I offer.

“Nah” offers the hairdresser “Some of the old guys are just as bad.”

“What? Old guys are out there dancing on GHB? You kiddin’ me on?”

“There was this one time they were called to a hotel in the city. They get there and go up to the room. Open the door. The place tells the story. Trashed. Bottles on all the tables. Champagne and stuff. Clothes everywhere. The young girl is white as a sheet and can’t speak. The old guy is flat out on the bed. Maybe he’s dead. It’s possible. Pills are everywhere and when they ask her if she knows what he took all she says is, yeah, sure, all of it.”

“Well, it’s as good a way as any to go I guess. I mean, he probably had a grin on his face I would imagine.”

“No, he survived.”

And I wonder for a moment what that could have meant for the old bloke. A wife that’s mad at hell with him? Kids that are embarrassed and refuse to talk to him? His young nubile (if slightly pale) girlfriend too sacred now to venture into hotel beds with him for fear of killing him? Maybe it would have been better if he’d just slipped a few more pills under his tongue and gone for it?

“Wow. Poor guy.” is all I can offer. “There’s a whole load of stuff going on in Amsterdam that I just don’t know about anymore. I’m getting really naïve as I get older I reckon.”

“Well, just come in here more often and we’ll keep you posted then” the hairdresser offers.

“Yeah, I can experience it all vicariously and get a haircut while I’m at it. Not bad. I might take you up on that you know.”

It’s still monsoon season outside and my soaking wet tights have started to stick to the leather stool. I should be feeling uncomfortable, even a little apprehensive as the scissors snip away and my hair falls to the floor, but the unexpected tales have perked me up. I mean, really. I had no idea…

A tune I don’t know comes on the stereo. Fast, beeping, dance music.

“Is this Gold Fish?” I ask.

The girl beside me burst out laughing and just shakes her head.

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