Hair today…

Peter Lathan, Close the Coalhouse Door (St David’s Arts Festival) 1974
Peter Lathan, Close the Coalhouse Door (St David’s Arts Festival) 1974

Oh God! Another downward step in the aging saga; another physical deterioration brought about by advancing years, joining the long-lasting bruises that happen so easily that you don’t even notice them, the clumsiness, the sudden discovery that you no longer enjoy food that you’ve loved for decades, the night-time stumbling to the toilet every couple of hours, the lapse into vacancy for fifteen minutes or more. And now…

And now the curl has gone!

I know that actually losing your hair as you get older is a common thing for men, but to keep the hair and lose the curl…

Early days

There used to be a photograph of me, sitting in my pushchair at the age of about three, with loads of blond, curly hair. I don’t know what happened to that pic. I know my mother had it but I hadn’t seen it for decades before she died. Like so many things, it obviously vanished into the dark backward and abysm of time.

Just like my blond hair.

By the time of my first school photo – taken in the Infants (or maybe first year Juniors) – that blondness had vanished, replaced by the ordinary, common-or-garden brown. The curls took a backseat, too, for those were the days of the short…

Oh, shorter than that!

…back and sides.

Probably 1950, aged about 7
Probably 1950, aged about 7

Age 15: onstage in Skipper Next to God by Jan de Hartog
Age 15: onstage in Skipper Next to God by Jan de Hartog

Teenage years

In my teenage years (the fifties, mainly) I abandoned the SBS and – Shock! Horror! – the curls came back. At that time a wave was OK, but curls…!


How could I be fashionable with hair like that?

Easy! I became one of Brylcreem’s most loyal customers, with shining hair perfectly in place. It’s a damned good job antimacassars were commonplace or I’d probably have been made to sit on the floor or on a stool. What all that greasiness would have done to the backs of armchairs, I shudder to think!

I don’t think it did pillowcases much good, either.

My father was bald and my brother too young to worry about his hair, so I was the household’s major threat to the furniture.

Actually, on reflection I probably wasn’t, for I seem to remember a lot of my parents’ male friends having shiny hair. Even the grey haired Methodist Minister, who really should have been above all that, had plastered down hair.

From the North East

Then came the early sixties and I was off to university where I grew my hair long. Not hippy long, but around the collar long, and so the curl returned. It was just at the collar not all over, but it was enough.

“Enough for what?” you ask. Well, one day I was walking along King’s Parade when I heard someone shout “Excuse me, madam!” behind me, followed by the sound of running feet. I turned round to see what was happening just as this bloke reached me. He stopped short. “Oh God! Sorry, sir!” he said and turned and ran off.


By the seventies my hair was well below the collar and very curly, and I sported, variously, a Fu Manchu style moustache (but never extending below the chin) and a beard and moustache full set, looking much more hippy than I did in the sixties. A wee bit behind the times, I think.

The eighties

As we moved into the eighties and my forehead grew (euphemism), I shortened my hair so that it (what was left, that is) curled fairly tightly. Then – I think it was in the early nineties (it may have been a bit earlier) – a kid in one of my classes (I taught Drama so lessons were pretty relaxed) asked me if I’d had a perm.

“Do you think I’d pay good money to look like this?” I asked.

“Nah, s’pose not,” he replied.

How I restrained myself from kicking him all round the school I do not know!

1979: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
1979: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
2012 Performing Going Gently at The Jazz Café, Pink Lane, Newcastle
2012 Performing Going Gently at The Jazz Café, Pink Lane, Newcastle


After I retired from teaching in 2003, I fell into the way of going to the barber’s once every two or three months. Eventually, however, along came Covid and with it the self-isolating/shielding of those who, like myself, were Clinically Extremely Vulnerable, so it was May 2021 before I went again.

You should have seen Dawn’s face when I walked in! “How long since you were here?” she asked as she swapped between laughter and shock at the length of my hair. I told her I was last there in October 2019. So she set to and I ended up probably half a stone lighter! You could have stuffed a mattress with what she cut off.

Well, a single mattress anyway.

Peter Lathan now

And what happened just a month or so ago? Curls vanished. Grey almost completely taken over. Don’t know whether my hair’s got thinner or there’s just less of it. And yes, the forehead’s grown more.

My teenage self would certainly approve of the straightness; my aged self definitely doesn’t. And thus, as Shakespeare said, the whirligig of time brings in his revenges!

Oh bugger!

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