Ever since I can remember, I have been concerned about my hair. Even in early childhood I battled to tame my mane of dark, thick, wavy, curly hair that was so unlike the straight, fair hair I so admired on the heads of my friends at school and in the London neighbourhood where I grew up. My mother claimed that she used to find clumps of hair that I had cut off and stuffed behind the mirror in the bedroom I shared with my sisters, but I have no recollection of abusing my hair in this way as a child.
As time went by and I grew up and, with the help of various hairdressers, became more able to manage and accept my hair it ceased to be the bane of my life and was even considered attractive.
But now that I am in the sere and yellow leaf of my life (to crib from Macbeth) my hair has assumed a less prominent role in my daily existence, though I generally do my best to keep it clean and tidy.
Easier said than done. When I’m at home I have my hairdressing routine with the tried and trusted hairdresser who has attended to my recalcitrant curls for many years now. But spending two months away from home creates problems in the hairdressing department.
When we first spent time in rural France I went to the hairdresser in the nearby small town (or large village), where an energetic lady of middle age supervised two beautiful young ladies who washed customers’ hair while she attended to the more complex tasks of the hairdressing profession. There I sat alongside the wives of the local farmers and tradesmen while the owner conducted lively conversations with everyone around her. Whenever a customer paid at the desk it was customary for her to drop a few coins into a glass jar placed adjacent to the till. At the sound of the tinkling coins the two young ladies would chorus ‘Merci Madame,’ to everyone’s gratification. Unfortunately, the efforts of the hairdresser to produce a satisfactory result on my head by means of what she called ‘un petit brushing,’ left me almost in tears, and after I’d had to wait for an hour to be attended to even though I had made an appointment I decided that this establishment would no longer enjoy my custom.
But getting to a hairdresser in rural France in the middle of summer is no light matter. Another local establishment told me they were booked up until mid-September, by which time we would no longer be in the area. The mobile English hairdresser who travels around to attend to ladies’ hair in their homes informed me he works on the basis of a wait time of between four and five weeks. So no go there either. This is the time of the year when almost all French people, including hairdressers, go on vacation.
The last resort was the rather formidable establishment in the nearby town which is considered the regional metropolis, with several large supermarkets, shops of various kinds, a garden centre, and a number of restaurants, cafes and bars. I managed to make an appointment over the phone and duly turned up as arranged.
I was treated in an efficient and professional way. I did not have to wait. The establishment was spacious, clean and aesthetic, and my hair was cur in a way that seemed to me to be satisfactory. I may have had to pay more than I bargained for as I was treated to a very pleasant) head massage, probably because I hadn’t quite understood the relevant question. But at least I managed to refuse ‘un petit brushing’ and emerged with my head feeling lighter and my appearance less akin to that of the Wild Woman of Borneo than before. I won’t call it Parisian chic, but at least I feel normal again at last.