Would YOU let a friend trim your lockdown locks? MAUREEN LIPMAN had her hair cut by her trusty PA… but did their relationship survive?
It is an accepted fact that many of my friends and colleagues will emerge from this lockdown less surfer-blonde than checkerboard grey.
I, on the other hand, have never felt more smug – because way back in the brunette ages, I decided to let my 100-quid-a-month, chestnut hair dye grow out.
I am so happy with my stripey grey hair. It gets compliments I have never had before.
Actress Maureen Lipman was in desperate need of a haircut that she asked her PA, named Nats, to cut her hair
The look is somewhere between the late Anne Bancroft and a badger. It works really well with black and brown clothes and scarlet lips and, though coarse in texture, it’s springy and soft to the touch.
It works on the red carpet (chance would be a fine thing) and, pinioned with hairgrips, blends seamlessly into the Dobbses’ house in Coronation Street.
It goes without saying that to achieve this level of naturalism I have to resort to falsehood. Every 12 weeks or so I visit Reluca in Notting Hill and get contrasting dark streaks popped in.
In fact when my old friend, the actress Julia McKenzie, last went to the colourist and demanded dark streaks in her grey, she was asked: ‘Just a few lowlights dear, or do you want the full Maureen Lipman?’
Trending darlings, trending!
The Coronation Street actress confessed that her hair – which has been given so much praise in the past – was in desperate need of a cut after 50 days of lockdown
Of course, it goes a bit sepia after 49 days of lockdown, and Lord, it could do with a cut. I suddenly look like the Pardoner in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, whose hair hung ‘in colpoons, oon by oon’.
At such times as these, I’ve often resorted to hanging my head over the waste bin and snipping into the length with the kitchen scissors. It ends up more Jo Brand than Joanna Lumley.
So yesterday, with a Charity Zoom to 400 folk of all faiths, all tuned in to watch me make bean and barley soup for a needy soul in a pandemic world, my thoughts turned to my Worzel-like appearance. I was needy myself – for a salon cut.
Except there are no open salons in West London and, if there had been, just how near could your average masked and gloved crimper get to my head? The exercise would have to involve telescopic shears.
So I asked my trusty PA, Nats, to cut it. She refused. She rooms in my house so it would be perfectly possible for her to do it but no, she was just too chicken.
‘You won’t like it,’ she said. ‘You’ll get all spiky.’
‘Fine,’ I said huffily, ‘I’ll do it myself,’ and headed for the bathroom.
I put a tight rubber band around the tail of hair, as I’d read on YouTube, and prepared to twist, angle and slice, but as I grasped the scissors I could feel her presence.
Nats is an artist by vocation and a dab hand with a Stanley knife. And she could see that even if the dog bit off my hair, it would look better than what I was attempting.
‘Go on then, I’ll do it,’ she said, ‘but it’s not my fault if it goes wrong.’
‘Just cut it up a bit at the bottom,’ I said, airily, ‘it only needs about half an inch.’
‘Mmmm,’ she murmured, tail comb in teeth, ‘and do you want to keep the tufty bits underneath?’
‘Tufty bits? I wasn’t aware I had any tufty bits.’
‘Well, like… on your nape… thick bits under the length…’
‘Yes all right,’ I barked. ‘Well, I don’t know, do I? I’ve never seen my nape. When they show me the back view in the hand-mirror, I’m usually scrabbling around for cash in my handbag.’
She started snipping. A tiny pile of hair fell. She snipped again. And again. The bathroom fell silent but for the snipping.
‘Is that it? Haven’t you done it now?’
The snipping had turned to sniping. ‘Are we nearly there?’
‘One side is longer than the other. I’ll just even it up… this side’s a lot longer… I’ll just take a bit more from here… and here and where it’s all jaggedy…’
Peripherally I could see the pile of hair building up, rug-like, on the bathroom floor. I put my hand up to my neck. I could feel naked nape.
‘Er… don’t take too much Nats, will you? I’m due back in the Street in June, you know and Evelyn can’t have turned into a flapper.’
Ms Lipman will resume filming with Coronation Street in June and prayed her PA did a good job on her hair for the sake of her character Evelyn Plummer (pictured)
But she was too busy being a seasoned hairdresser to respond. ‘Oh, I see now,’ she whispered. ‘If I just layer this bit… slant the scissors…’
The pile on the floor was big enough to silently subside into itself. So before she could say: ‘Any plans for the weekend?’ I stood up.
Another pile of hair fell from my collar. ‘Right. That’s great, thanks.’
‘Wait, it’s not even,’ she said.
‘No, I like it on a slope… ’
‘Yes, but it won’t match up… sit down!’
I sat down. She returned to her snipping. I gazed out the window at the mother blackbird pushing masticated worm into a fledgling’s open beak.
I’ve been riveted for weeks by the whole building, brooding, birth and empty-nest syndrome. There was just the runt left now, Betty, who refused to fly and huddled shakily in one corner of the flower bed.
I snapped back to the snipping.
‘Thassit… enough!’ I barked, becoming, as predicted, all spiky. ‘This bathroom ain’t big enough for the both of us.’
From the glint in her eye I could see she felt bereft, as if she’d found her vocation and been denied the scholarship. If I’d let her she would have ‘even’d it up’ – until I just had the plain tonsure, as modelled by Friar Tuck.
I looked in the mirror. Front – good; right – good; left – good; back – level. It was a bloody good haircut.
Ms Lipman said that she was very pleased with the job her PA did on her hair despite the stress and drama that came with the haircut
I should have given her a hundred quid and a fat tip instead of a cup of tea and an anti-bacterial wipe.
This lockdown has shown me many new things. I’ll never forget the male bird’s dance of joy when the first baby hatched, nor my own jump for joy when the fledglings appeared on the flagstones.
It knocked Killing Eve into a cocked hat for drama and had a catastrophic ending. In the morning, when I crept out to look for Betty, she was lying face down in a pot of rainwater.
Miserably, we buried her and I admit that I actually stood there with the Hebrew prayer book and said Kaddish for her. Listen, it can’t hurt.
So here I am, one old Baby Boomer, over-Zoomed and under-groomed, stuck indoors for the duration, literally caught red-handed from all that hand-washing, marooned with only my acrylics, my crochet hook, my intermediate French audio, my iPad, my bronchial dog, my yoga mat and my trusty PA/hairdresser for company.
‘Time is the devourer of all things,’ said Ovid. And that was a few thousand years before Covid.
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