The ladies hairdresser ’59

This is in part from Shindig Returns.

As soon as I hit Soho all doubt leaves me, it feels as if she has taken me in her arms and holds on to me. She is glad to have me back I know, I am home. I walk down Berwick street to the hairdressers I open the door and the same old aroma hits me. Lacquer rises highest in my head with the pissy smell of bleach hot on its tail, then the undertones of armpits and a vast variety of manufactured scents run along with the scent of woman a deep base line. Helen screams my name and Rae leaves her comb wedged in a half constructed beehive while she comes to give me a hug. I feel the tears coming up into my eyes. ‘We heard you’d run away with Tiger!’ the outrageous idea straightens me out and saves me from embarrassing myself with undue emotion. ‘You’re fucking joking!’ ‘That was the word on the street darling, and watch your bleeding language!’ Says Helen but she gives me a squeeze as she says it. ‘I never believed that darling.’ Says Rae. ‘No, she reckoned you’d gone off with a bleeding bird!’ Helen laughs, Rae shrugs. The girls in the shop are the same in type as ever but not a single face I recognise. One particular young female looks out at us from under the massive dryer that hangs over her head, her entire face is taken up with the chewing of gum, not just her mouth, her entire face is involved and her eyes are as blank as a ruminating cow. She stirs herself: ‘Miss, I think I’m dry miss.’ The word miss has the two syllable singsong sound of the schoolroom. They both ignore her.

Rae leans back to look at me and Helen touches my hair and sniffs: ‘Where you been getting your hair done darling?’ She is shaking her head and Rae joins in poking at my nut and making sounds of disapproval. ‘Tangier.’ I say and now that I am no longer there it is recovering its exotic sound and I feel rather proud to have been there. ‘Well, I’ll tell you one thing, they can’t cut hair’ and both shake their heads. That’s Tangier dismissed. ‘Come over here Shindig.’ And the ruminating girl is left to bake.

Helen stands behind me and we look in the mirror. We both smile and now I know I am really home. Soho has accepted me back. ‘Do your worst darling.’ I say and she begins messing with my hair and I am entranced almost literally. I bend over the sink while she washes my hair herself, tutting, though it is just a formality now. When we are back at the mirror and she has finished cutting and is putting in huge rollers, she talks. ‘So who have you seen?’ and without waiting for an answer she tells me about various faces that have no interest to me but I am so happy to be here that I don’t interrupt her soliloquy.

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