Dragging a brush through my hair sent screams of agony ringing through the house. Nothing was worse than the sharp bits of the brush tangling my hair until it wrapped into one huge mess. My Long ringlets became one big ringlet, a scrambled mess after a restless night’s sleep. Those mornings following a few drinks at the pub the night before were even worse.
Staring in the mirror with my hair caught in the spikes of my brush made me madder than having to be up out of bed. Sometimes I was tempted to take the scissors to it and cut those tangled bits out. I don’t do that. Would it matter if I had a chunk of hair missing? Not if I couldn’t see it.
I manage to get the brush free before I need to find any scissors. Scissors are kept out of reach in case the children of the house run with them or stab each other. Most likely stab each other in friendly fire. If I dare ask my mother, she will immediately offer to cut all my hair not just the bit where the brush is stuck.
This is true. One night while I was sleeping, my mother did just that, she cut my fringe because she was sick of seeing it hanging in my eyes. I bet Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones never had his mother sneak into his bedroom and cut his hair. I modelled my fringe on his fringe. I thought I looked pretty.
“Why couldn’t I have long straight hair like other girls?”
I knew why.
I only had to look at my father’s hair before he lathered the Brylcreem onto his hands and rubbed the greasy mixture into his hair. Curls everywhere.
He often sang the ditty” A little dab’ll do ya” as he completed his morning ritual.
A little dab never did me, I needed the whole damn tub.
My mother on the other hand pinned her curls close to her scalp for fear they may escape. She looked neat and tidy rarely with a hair out of place.
My older brother, who professed to be a cool Bob Dylan fan sported a mass of curls in the style of an afro. Various items were often found deep in the curls .Lost combs, pens and the odd cigarette not lit!
My hair was capable of swallowing hairbrushes. I could have small birds build nests and lay eggs and only I would know.
Scorch marks can be found on my scalp from many attempts to iron my hair straight. What was the point? Two minutes outside in the fresh air and whoosh each strand sprung back into curls. My hair was telling me it would do as it pleased. The seventies were not a time to pull my hair back in a ponytail, that would not be cool at all. It had to fly all over the place, in my eyes, in my mouth that was the style.
My hair and I were fighting for the same thing in nineteen seventy. Independence.
This was my year to break free or stretch my horizons further than had been possible.
I have taken up studying to be a Primary school teacher at Melbourne Teachers college in the university suburb of Carlton in Victoria Australia fully supported financially on a government studentship.
I had money in my pocket, smokes in my coat and my new boots, blue Kicks. I loved my boots paid for with my money. I looked cool in blue suede ankle boots, laced up at the front.
I wore my jeans, my kicks and my red lace shirt almost every day. Washed and clean.
It was a Monday morning when I was standing in line at the cafeteria, waiting to get a cup of tea made with a teabag, which was new to me. I watched in anticipation hoping that a tea bag dangling on a string might spark my enthusiasm for the day. At home, our yellow enamel pot held enough steaming tea for seven cups, one each, made with Lan Choo loose leaf tea and not with one of these things dangled in the cup.
I am snapped out of my thoughts by a voice behind me saying something to the effect of
“God your hair is as bad as Janis Joplin’s.”
How should I respond to that? The owner of the voice has no idea the lengths I have gone to today to get it this nice.
Despite his lack of knowledge, I feel quite chuffed as I recently bought Janis’s latest album, and I have been humming my favorite song, the one about “taking another little piece of my heart.”
“Didn’t ya hear me? I said your hair was a mess.”
“No ya didn’t. You said it was as bad as Janis Joplin’s.”
“Yeah right, a mess.”
When I flung my hair over my shoulder and turned to look, I saw Patrick standing behind me grinning.
“Think you’re bloody funny, don’t you?”
“Not really, your hair is wild from behind, but I guess you can’t see that.”
“Who cares. Not me”
I watched the steam coming from the top of the cup as the staff member handed me my tea. I wondered what to do with the string from the bag which was now stuck to the side of the cup. I decided I would deal with the string when I was sitting down.
“Thanks” I said pushing past him and making my way to a table near the windows with a view into the courtyard.
Patrick joined me.
“What are you doing later?”
“After bloody Math.”
“Well, I’ll be over in the pub having a well-deserved beer. I hate Math and I hate it even more now we are doing statistics. What the hell is that all about?”
“I have no idea, none of it makes sense to me. I look around and no one looks like they have a clue. Bit funny really Do you think we will ever teach statistics to any grade six kids?.”
“Damn long three hours sitting in that lecture theatre. Thank goodness we can smoke in there.”
“We better get going. Leave that stupid tea bag there. Maybe it will get used again.” Patrick laughed.
I found a seat towards the back of the lecture theatre where Sue and other friends were spread out so they might be comfortable for the next three hours.
The voice droned from the front “now what is the probability of flipping this coin to land on heads every time I flip it?”
A smart comment flew back “if I knew that I would win every time. Does it work for two up?”
Some of the students must have been listening as a ripple of laughter moved around the room.
“I suggest in pairs you flip a coin and map the results on a probability tree, then we will discuss whether we can determine when we can win. Or if we can win.”
“What the hell is a probability tree?” I muttered.
“Who’s got a coin?” yelled Patrick from the end of the row of seats.
“We have, come over here and join us. You can write down the results and make the tree thing he was talking about.” Sue hinted.
For the next couple of hours, the coins were tossed, dropped, rolled up and down between rows of chairs until trees as tall as a pinus radiata were drawn. Names were written on the bits of paper, signatures added and handed to the owner of the voice that droned out the front. His task was to assess how well we performed.
Good luck with that.
I was pleased the lecture was finished. No more Math until the following week when our results would be handed out. No point worrying about those now.
I struggled staying focused knowing there was celebrating to be done once classes were over.
“Okay see you over at the pub.” Was the shout between us.
Crossing Gratton street became challenging as the peak hour traffic sped past. Down to Bouverie Street and we were there. In nineteen seventy young women drank in the ladies’ lounge of a pub entering through the side door on Bouverie Street. The public bar remained a man’s domain unless a challenge had been set for the pool table. Twenty cents on the edge of the pool table claimed the next game.
Today our group sat against the far wall of the ladies’ lounge. With the juke box playing tunes in one corner and a tall fan in another the room was perfect for a session of drinking.
The toes of my blue kick boots hit the front of the bar as I lean up against it waiting in to be served.
Graeme, the bartender, walks towards me sporting his widest grin, he is tall and handsome and enjoys the company of students in his bar.
“What can I get you?”
Á beer please. A glass of beer. My day to celebrate.”
“What are you grinning about and celebrating?”
“I turned eighteen. Yep, it was my eighteenth birthday, cake and candles. Legally I can drink in the pub.”
The expression that crossed his face could easily have chilled the beer he was about to pour.
“Do you mean I have been serving you all year and you were underage?”
“Umm yes you have, sorry.”
My next beer he made me wait until he had served the men standing in the public bar. I could see them through the opening from my side of the bar. Some waving or lifting their glass in a toast.
There was a sudden silence. The juke box was turned off.
Graeme reached his arm above the bottles of spirits hanging upside down. With a quick action he turned the radio up and called for everyone to be quiet.
My hair was as wild and untidy late in the day as it was this morning before lectures started.
It was my eighteenth birthday.
Janis Joplin has died.
The silence fell louder. How could that be?
Overdose, they said. Heroin overdose in a hotel room.
October the fourth nineteen seventy, my eighteenth birthday was the real day the music died.
About the author
Here I am writing stories about my travels back when I was young. I still love live music despite my creaking bones. I have both heels dug in deep raging against the aging of the body and the mind. I refuse to give in without some dancing
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