Mum’s the word on my first won­der­ful mem­o­ries of a salon

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - FASHION/BEAUTY - PaulStafford

It’s a dark, wet and windy day in late No­vem­ber and I’m al­ready on to my fifth client of the day, there are Christ­mas lights re­flect­ing in the sta­tion mir­rors and the low hum of soft con­ver­sa­tions and hair dry­ers is drown­ing out the sound of the Agnes Obel Late Night Tales com­pi­la­tion play­ing in the back­ground.

It’s a funny time of year. The reg­u­lars are in for their reg­u­lar thing and the first timers are tak­ing in the en­vi­ron­ment, watch­ing the team cre­ate lit­tle pieces of ge­nius and try­ing not to no­tice the odd lo­cal celeb who is happy in their own world ig­nor­ing their phones and lap­tops.

There is a mel­low mood and a sense that ev­ery­one knows ex­actly what to do in a quiet, ef­fi­cient way. Then, the calm is tem­po­rar­ily bro­ken by a client who is con­sid­er­ably late and is apolo­getic and ob­vi­ously dis­tressed. Mark, a sea­soned salon as­sis­tant and newly ap­pointed tech­ni­cian smiles, eases the lady into her seat and sug­gests a cof­fee.

“I’ll be look­ing after your colour to­day, I’ve got your notes, so let’s get you a drink be­fore we start and you can re­lax,” he tells her.

The calm is re­stored and the lady al­most melts into her chair.

It’s just a nor­mal Wed­nes­day in a Belfast city hair salon. Out­side, Brexit breathes its toxic breath, hur­ri­cane Diana is ground­ing flights and down­ing trees, Belfast city cen­tre is feel­ing a lit­tle sorry for it­self and the ubiq­ui­tous Christ­mas mar­ket will soon at­tract the once a year city rev­ellers who will even­tu­ally turn our city hall into a daily stag and hen party.

The salon is now op­er­at­ing like a smooth ma­chine, there is an air of ac­tiv­ity but no ur­gency or panic and there is a lady be­side me talk­ing to her stylist: “I’ve never been to a fancy salon.”

Zara, her stylist, replies: “I’ve never worked in one.”

They both laugh and the lady shoots me a look. Zara winks. The lady could be my mum, in fact I’m re­minded of her, and the salon she used to take me to when I was a young boy and maybe where I first got the taste for this at­mos­phere.

It was a brightly coloured brown and cream shel­ter from the storm in 1970s Belfast with loud laugh­ter and over­flow­ing ash­trays and end­less cups of tea where I learned that women say bad things about the men they love — or not, as the case may be. It was a place that looked out over a grey cold world, yet I re­mem­ber only hap­pi­ness and a man in a very loud green shirt and scarf who wanted to know would I like a “wee perm” and, be­cause I went so red, gave me di­luted orange and Jam­mie Dodgers to com­pen­sate. My mum opens her purse to pay the man in the green shirt. “Oh you’ve been paid for love,” he says. My mum looks shocked. “Stan — wasn’t that his name, Katie?” My mum is red now, she checks her hair and pushes a pound note into Katie’s hand. We walk out on to High Street. “We’ll pop round to see your Da and maybe he’ ll take us for some chips.” My mum is quiet now but she’s smil­ing. Stan is wait­ing out­side his work for us. “Who wants chips?” he says.

Zara is fin­ish­ing her client. The salon is quiet now. John Len­non is singing Happy Christ­mas, the lady is smil­ing and del­i­cately touch­ing her hair, al­most in dis­be­lief. “Oh, I can’t be­lieve it, it’s so lovely.” Jimmy, our salon di­rec­tor, walks past. “It takes years off you, I hope he’s tak­ing you out to show it off,” he says. The lady beams: ‘Oh yes, I’ve been go­ing to the same salon for years but I think they were a lit­tle tired of me so Stan, my hus­band, treated me to a voucher for here and I’m ab­so­lutely thrilled.”

Jimmy’s client, a mid­dle aged man, quips: “Maybe I’ll get my mis­sus a voucher and if that’s the re­ac­tion I’ll get...”

“Good idea,” I say. “Is your name Stan, by any chance?” ÷ Paul Stafford, 671 Lis­burn Road, Belfast, tel: 9066 2554

FAN­TAS­TIC FEEL­ING: All women, like Dame He­len Mir­ren (be­low), love the look of a sen­sa­tional new hair­style

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.