Friday, February 26, 2016

In praise of...

"Twice a week I go to a beauty salon and have my hair blown dry. It’s cheaper by far than psychoanalysis, and much more uplifting.’  Nora Ephron

I went to the hairdresser yesterday. When I arrived, I was tired and slightly anxious about something. Nicky came over and sat down on the sofa next to me and looked me in the eyes and asked me how I was, and I don't know I responded, but she, being a sensitive woman who has been cutting my hair for 25 years, could tell anyway. Then she asked me what I wanted her to do to my hair, and got a minion to wash it before the cutting began.

I have been going to Nicky for all this time because she is such a good cutter, but also because she is sensitive, fun, and I can have a conversation with her that isn't about meaningless trivia. 

At the end of the trim and the blow dry, when she'd shown me the back of my head in the hand-mirror, as they do, she put down the hand mirror, stood and looked at me in the big mirror with her hands on the back of my chair and said "Right." 

And I found myself saying - without thinking -  "I've got to get up, now, haven't I?" 

I said this because it seemed like such a shame to be leaving the company of someone so amenable (as well as skilful) whom I only see for 45 minutes, every seven weeks. And also because I felt so much more cheerful than when I'd arrived. 

"Yes, you've got to get up," she said, laughing. "You're done."

Oh, these wonderful people who are trusty landmarks in our daily lives. Dave and I have a local optician and a car mechanic, both of whom we like and rely on, and it fills us with mild panic that they are both on the brink of retirement.

When I was 15, I remember a friend's mother asking me what I wanted to do when I left school and I said "Something useful." She said "Every job is useful if it's done well." And I, in my idealistic world-changing mode, said with disdain: "What? Even a hairdresser?"

Oh, how little I knew back then. 

How would I respond to my friend's mother now?

"What? Even an arms dealer?" 

As I don't have a photo of Nicky, here is another of my personal heroines, the writer, Nora Ephron:


Anonymous said...

I've just read this lovely piece because this morning I did something I've long meant to, which is to see if I could find out who had written an article in the Times in 2002. It was called 'A voyage round my father''.

When my father died aged 89 in 2003, my sister Susan sent me a photocopy of that piece. She had written at the top, 'I saved this because I thought it was a good and lovely piece of writing, and would be a comfort when the time came.' She was right on all counts, and I too have saved the cutting all these years.

So many things struck a chord, not only because our father had his own large store of anecdotes from farming ancestors; a love of Stilton cheese, and a temper that could be wounding when things were being difficult on the farm, but because in his unwavering love for us all, he had created a fine and sturdy family ship.

I still find comfort in that piece of yours, even now when my sister's idiosyncratic hand at the top brings tears to my eyes. (She died three years ago aged 61 of pancreatic cancer.) The ship I sail in now is different: I have my own children and a grandchild; how I hope that the tales I tell them from my own childhood and from the store passed down to me will be family anchors for them, and that no matter how irritating my foibles may be to them, that they will feel that the love steering the ship makes it a good one to be in.

I hope this is not too long to write on a blog comment - I have never done this before. But it comes because I wanted to say thank you to someone who has touched and comforted my life from time to time over the last decade and more.

Sue Hepworth said...

You've reduced me to tears.
Thank you so much for commenting on my blog and telling me all of this. It makes all of my writing life feel worthwhile. I don't know what else to say. But I may say more tomorrow. Friends are arriving for lunch in ten minutes, so I must put the iPad away.

Sue Hepworth said...

It's Sunday and I've now blogged about this.