I've just returned from a long weekend in Dublin. It's a strange place to go for a weekend retreat away from it all considering that I just left Ireland six months ago on the grounds that I don't want to stay in 'that hole of a place' anymore.
But Dublin was being its usual seductive self. The sky was blue, the streets were getting ready for Christmas and there was that buzz about the place that you just don't get anywhere else. When you've been away for a while you begin to see things with different eyes. And when you've been living in Germany for a while, you begin to value things like chit chat and common courtesy. You don't mind that the guy in the O2 shop who's title, I swear, is 'account guru', does not have a clue on how you can reactivate your old account and scribbles down some vague phone number of a place to call, no, you only care that he was nice about his incompetence, and you leave the shop feeling good about yourself.
And you are more tolerant because it's Dublin and Ireland is supposed to be a bit higgeldy piggeldy anyway.
So I did the shops, buying a heap of things that I can get over here or online, but still having the feeling that I couldn't, and managed to end up like I always do in Dublin, sitting in a dingy little cafe with my shopping from Pennys spilling out of damp paper bags that were slowly disintegrating. One fish and chips later and I dragged myself along the quays heading out to see my friends.
But then I saw it - the sign: 'House of Colour'. Jeez. Would this be one of these Head Shops that they got closed down a few years ago? Turns out it was a hair dresser, and on the spur of the moment I decided to see if I could get an appointment. I needed to get the roots done, and if I was going to invest two hours telling my most intimate personal details to a total stranger, the dingy house of colour seemed like the perfect nirvana. And it's a cultural thing. Look, let's face it, if I go to a german hairdresser I'm going to get a german haircut, and the hairdressers will be honest and say things like 'your hair is not ze best' or 'i tzink that style vud not suit your age'.
But this was the house of colour and yes, they could take me. I just needed about 3 or 4 minutes in total to tell the girl at reception that I'd moved to Germany six months ago, that I had 3 teenagers, that I was divorced, what the set up was with the ex and all about our new apartment. She told me about her one daughter, the ex, the schools and why she would or would not think of leaving Ireland. You see this is why you need to go to hairdressers. They are all secret therapists.
My next therapy session was with the girl who put the colour in my hair. She was a young girl expecting a baby and I got to hear about the whole family from grandparents to siblings, let's call it happy therapy because I got to peep in at somebody else's life situation, and to do so was uplifting. Recently a woman I know in Germany was expecting and the only talk was around brochures on what the best wheels are for prams, and the colour coding of the baby room. But my hair therapist was all about people. I could almost pictures banners up in the house with 'Welcome' up for the baby.
So this is it, I thought, the house of colour, the house of real people who make you feel a warm fuzzy glow about life. Well, the fact that this place served rose wine for free probably contributed to the warm fuzzy glow, but still.
Then another girl washed my hair. She was going on about the amount of washes and rinses and conditioners and all that blurb that she was giving to my hair. I kinda switch off at that kind of thing, because no matter how kind anyone is to my hair, it always comes out looking the same: short, thin and a bit grey. But this girl was not only a hair washer, she asked me if I'd like a head massage. Would I what? This girl was Indian goddess with the head massage and gave me some little cold eye masky yoke for my eyes. I felt like an aging prima donna in the afternoon. I imagined that this was how royalty spend their afternoons. With about ten years of stress rolled off me it was back to the chair.
This was the cutting session.
"Would you like another glass of rose?" The receptionist wanted to know.
"Hmm, maybe a tea, I might get a bit tipsy with another glass." (See, I'm already becoming German).
But then the cutting therapist took over. This session was about learning that in order to relax, you must allow others take over.
"Ah no, she'll have a glass of rose for god's sake." (Never argue with a woman with a scissors in her hand).
I succumbed, hoping that this lady could cut hair as confidently as she could make decisions for weary aul wans getting their hair chopped.
She asked me if I was going out tonight, and I told her just visiting friends.
"Ah, but you'll go out after that, right?"
"Em, I don't know." I was very much looking forward to the night in, which to me was still a night out.
"Ah, you will, you have to."
"Ok, I will." This was the kind of lady who you don't mess with. If she decided that we were going to get up from the roaring fire and leave our 1995 Barolo wine in order to head off to the pub, well then we were going to do just that.
"What about yourself?"
"Nah, I'm not going out tonight, just going to the cinema with a friend."
Well like, hello, is that not going out? She explained to me that it wasn't going 'out out', and whatever 'out out' was for this beautiful dominant lady whose hair was Cleopatra meets Granuaile, I would have definitely left the fire and the wine to be part of her 'out out' night.
I rolled out of the place about a bottle of wine later. My hair was like it always is - short, boring and kind of greyish, but I was richer for the experience. The whole thing was cheaper than a session with a shrink, and I already had some great tips and ideas on how to change my life for the better.
One of them was rose wine, and as for the flex styler and rugged fix, can you only apply that stuff to your hair?
I'd grown up with tales from the house of the rising sun being the ruin of many a young man, but now I had experienced the house of colour, and as I walked up the quays, the all too familiar grey clouds that had come out just held off the rain for a short while and started to wink at me...