My hair is so naturally poker straight that I’d make a reasonable replacement for a ruler. Thus I spent my entire childhood lusting after curls.
My friend’s mother – a teacher – had hair I’d long lusted after. Almost straight at the top it then fell into wavy curls, like a boisterous sea. It was just enough twenties to ignite my inner fantasist. But also gloriously eighties. I longed to look like a lost member of Bananarama, or as if I should be presenting Children’s Television.
When I was eight, after a concerted programme of hinting, my mother relented and agreed that I could have a perm. Not a salon one though. To accompany my home cut hair, I could have a home perm.
I don’t recall the time of year, day or how much debating it took. I do recall the frankly terrifying looking perming rollers and the awful awful stench. I still cannot imagine how people happily and willingly take up hairstyling as a career when faced with the smell of perming lotion.
My perm was not to be administered by a qualified stylist, but by a middle aged woman with a fondness for completely matching outfits, whose previous hairdressing form included cutting the top of my ear.
My hair, it should be said, was not long. My mother has a life long distaste for long hair and accordingly I sported a pageboy or bob until the age of 15. I’m not sure which I had when we started the perming process, I can only remember the outcome.
We lived in a small town squashed between two villages that had, until the late seventies and early eighties, been solid mining towns. Forlorn looking men attending the equally forlorn looking Job Centre in town had a couple of years ago been standing on picket lines. Protesting the closure of their mines, and ever regarding the Prime Minister as an enemy of their world. So it was far from ideal that I didn’t end up looking like some kind of sophisticated pop star, but rather like a miniature Margaret Thatcher.
There exist no photographs of me during this period. Even childhood me was sensible enough to know that this shouldn’t be committed to film. And I was a child who would pose for almost any reason.
The one benefit of the, fortunately short lived, curls was that they made me fastidious about brushing my hair in the morning. In some vain hope that they might drop out. They did not. They lasted for three miserable months.