I sat in a barber’s chair in Paisley the other day. I am a guy that keeps his hair short, so that is an almost monthly occurrence.
Roberto had messed with my head by changing his premises around and moving. I like familiarity so that was slightly more uncomfortable than it should have been – barbers – number 1 back and sides with scissors and thinners on top. I order the same every time. Yep, I still have enough hair to require thinners.
Anyway, here I was November 2018 in the upstairs unit in The Paisley Centre with Ali snipping away at my hair. I like Ali, he is very chatty and friendly and asks a lot about Jesus and the church.
This time, as I looked at my reflection in an almost vain sort of way and I saw the silver (I prefer silver to grey) hair standing out, my chair became a time machine.
It was Partick, summer 1988 and I was in a hairdressers getting my hair done. It wasn’t a number one, not even scissors or thinners. Nope, a lady was pulling my hair through a rubber thing over my head. Individually. Tugging. It took hours. I was getting my hair dyed – silver fine. Here I was paying (a fair wee bit) to get my hair looking like it did over 30 years later.
Now if you are a regular reader of my memories, you will be aware that my mid-teens was not an especially happy or productive time. In fact, I was screwed up – badly. In some memories, I talked about my mum’s search for respite and a break. Well, there is a place in the West End of Glasgow where I used to go for just that purpose. It was like a wee piece of heaven on earth in the early days. Many times I went to stay with Aunty June. Whiteinch was council housing. It was still tenements – BUT – it was another world from Easterhouse. Bright white modern looking flats. The old railway track, the Clyde only a stone’s throw away. The high flats (Curle Street) Victoria Park – and Partick and Byres Road. They were all fantastic. But that is not what the attraction to Whiteinch was. My wee cousin Paul, and my big cousins Lynn and Karen were always so good. I had a great friendship with Paul, it was not long after this though when I made one of those long-term consequences choices though that included Paul.
There was Aunty June. The oldest of the Kiernan siblings. The sweetest woman you could or would ever meet – and I have her for an aunt. She would always bring me to hers from trips to nanas. I loved the bus out to the West End. Or the train depending on how she was feeling. It was like a trip to the twilight zone. Partick just seemed so different. And memory being what it is, these trips always seemed to be at night. I remember times staring open-eyed at Partick Library’s beautiful stone building. So different from the bland Easterhouse structure that was part of the shopping centre.
Then there was Uncle John.
Uncle John was the man that taught me to shave. To have some self respect, and treated me with repsect, even though I did not deserve it. He got me a job with Smith & Son Haulage contractors (steam cleaning curtain side trailers – a gloriously filthy job). He gave me a bed. During a very difficult time in my life Uncle John was like a surrogate dad to me. He was that good.
Uncle John was a quiet man, which was unusual for a shipyard welder, but quiet he was. He enjoyed a wee drink in the house on a Friday night, wasn’t a pub man. He enjoyed the football, especially taking Paul (occasionally me as well) and coaching him from the side lines.
He was a fiercely protective family man. For brief periods in my madness, Uncle John and Aunty June allowed me to be a normal teenager.
I could not handle it. I was just out of prison after being on remand for the drug offences when I went to stay with them for six months. I had a beard and long wavy, dark brown hair.
It was John that suggested I do something with my hair. He suggested streaks or something. Just for a change. “A new start, Stuart. Time for a change.”
So that was how I found myself sitting a barbers shop, 30 years before Roberto, Ali and Paisley. Four hours in a chair, having individual hairs dragged through a rubber cap and dye applied to them. Four hours sitting there waiting on chemicals doing the work that age and experience have taken thirty years to replicate.
Four hours and then my silver fine hair, much shorter as well, was revealed. I have to admit, I think it suited me.
Until today, I don’t think my hair has ever looked as good as it did in that moment.
I couldn’t wait to get back and show my Uncle John and Aunty June.
This POST is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.
Alternatively, you can visit the Media Links page and see a short visit done by BBC Radio Scotland for an interview I did there.
If you or someone you love, needs help with the Christian response to addiction, or if you would just like to know more or need hope, please click on one of the following:
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Bethany Christian Trust
Jumping Jacks Outreach
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
Easterhouse Community Church
Shop through Amazon Smile and Amazon will donate 0.5% to Easterhouse Community Church, costing you nothing.