One doesn’t much think of anything particularly exciting going on in Holborn, and with good reason. Holborn is the “small town” of lawyer-ville, a solicitor’s haven, if you will. Men and women carry black leather box-like briefcases. Assistants roll flight bags behind them and women wear sturdy shoes and clothes that make them unhappy. The Royal Courts of Justice live in Holborn and have done since 1882. Quaint streets are hard to find and the pubs and nightspots have serious names like The Knights Templar.

But there is a small plaza in the center of it all, an unlikely location for a very nice little hair salon where I go to touch up the roots with K. who survived a three-week tour of Mexico oblivious to the panic that surrounded her. She thought that for some reason everyone wore masks in Mexico, quite like the Japanese when they have colds.

I can’t read without my glasses and I can’t wear glasses in the salon or they’d look like a room full of infants had dragged them through brown paint. So I try to write. I’ve read that many writers can work anywhere. I can’t. I need a semblance of calm and most of the time the slightest whimper can blow my concentration to smithereens. And it is for this reason that I spend about a half an hour eavesdropping; although the falderal that takes place is so loud I can hardly be accused of being a nosy Parker.

A middle-aged woman bursts into the salon with a teenage girl trailing her.

“This is Lucy" (not her real name). She booms. “She’s just won a BIG talent competition and she’s going to be a BIG STAR. She’s down to London to record tomorrow and we want to make her look really, really rock and roll. We want her to look edgy, really trendy, and really rock.

K. smiles and nods, “Okay.” And then wisely asks if she has something particular in mind.

Oh yes. Oh yes.

The lady, who seems to be Lucy’s advisor, friend and expert, gets her arms and hands going and says extremely loudly, “I’m thinking purple tips. You know, put some layers in there, tip them with red or purple, you know, very rock and roll.” As if we needed reminding. “Yes, I think purple, yes purple.” Lucy, who looks very sweet, but not very rock and certainly not very roll, has not said a word. She’s very short and petite, and I’m wondering how long ago she gave up dolls.

K. nods again with a forced smile and I think is struggling with the idea of ruining Lucy’s gorgeous waist length, thick brown hair.

Next up, the stylist. He arrives quietly at Lucy’s side, makes mirror eye contact with her, says hello and asks, “So what are we doing today?”

The lady, horrified, says, “Oh! You haven’t been briefed?" He says, no.

“Lucy has just won a huge talent competition and she’s going to be a very BIG STAR …” Word for word she goes through it again – we all do.

The stylist gets the picture and goes away to leave K. to begin the process of livening up poor old Lucy’s dull hair, which of course is not dull at all. Meanwhile, the lady pulls out a bottle of makeup remover and cotton pads from her bag. She begins to dab at Lucy’s eyes until they’re smeared with the last traces of her mascara. Finally, after three dabs Lucy is without. I wonder if this was pre-planned. I carry a lot of things in my bag, but never a bottle of eye makeup remover.

“Promise me something Lucy.” The lady pleads confidentially.

“Okay,” Lucy speaks.

“No, really. Really promise me something.”


“Promise me that you will never, ever wear black eyeliner ever again for the rest of your life.”


“You’re going to be a BIG STAR. You have beautiful eyes and you don’t need black eyeliner.”

In comes lady number two with a camcorder.

Lady number one: “Okay Lucy we just want you to do a short piece about how you’re here at the salon and you don’t know what’s going to happen and you’re really scared. Ready? Go.”

Lucy: “So here I am at the salon with K. and I don’t know what she’s going to do to me and I’m really scared.”

And then - can you believe it - I have to have my hair washed.

Back at my station I hear lady number one say, “This is going to be very rock, very rock,”

In a small, soft voice that I think must turn into something unrecognizable when she sings, Lucy says, “But I’m singing pop songs tomorrow, not rock. I don’t sing rock.”

I’m always in such a hurry to get out of the salon, but not today, a day when I am desperate to see the purple tips, the layers and the pale eyes of Lucy, the young girl approaching BIG STARDOM. I’m done, blown dry as a bone, a dab of shiny product rubbed on to finish and I can’t think of one good excuse to continue to sit in their company without appearing to be the eavesdropper that I am.

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