I HAVE become friendly with a neighbourly King
Charles spaniel. She obviously recognises one pure in thought, word and
deed and therefore fit to be a dog lover. A small, affectionate
creature, she reminds me of the days almost beyond even my recall when I
was attached to another small, hairy bundle.
When the flying scud sweeps across Edinburgh’s skies, when the
moon is a ghostly galleon, the wind keens around the traditional TV
aerials and satellite dishes and rain drums a tattoo on the ancient
mosaics of pavement chewing-gum, I summon up remembrances of things past
and, invariably, the image appears of something resembling the hair of
the dog that licked me - my long-departed wig.
Hark! Do you hear the windows rattling, chimney cans twirling
their threnody to the gale and the slates crashing and see the sodden
umbrellas being turned inside out to resemble broken bats’ wings? A bad
hair day, you say. Listen: those who have never headed into the wind on
the starboard or port tack or ran before the blast with a full head of
artificial hair billowing like a spinnaker have never known the agonies
of leaking self-confidence and the danger of running aground on the rock
of social embarrassment.
I had a wig. Why should I deny it? Apart from my
then-fashionable, clip-on tie, it was the only false thing about me and
was made by an Edinburgh firm that specialised in such head adornments
so that I could write about my experiences in the draughty city with a
top-line, firmly-anchored toupee. It came with another hairpiece that,
in a certain light, resembled a wombat’s sporran and was therefore
rejected for my head out of hand.
The one I kept was small and discreet. Fitted onto my scalp with
double-sided sticky tape, it was meant to remain in place even in the
face of extreme meteorological disturbance. It looked essentially
friendly except after immersion in a special cleaning fluid, when it
resembled a half-drowned, hairy tarantula.
I was attracted to the little chap who went with me everywhere
and kept my Miltonic mind cosy, and as I walked the wind-blown streets,
friends would wink, give me a nudge that was as good as a nod and say,
"it’s very good", or, "you would never know".
The former England cricket captain, Graham Gooch, is said to wear
a high-tech, breathable, synthetic scalp with human hair interwoven with
his own strands, an arrangement that would probably remain immovable
even if Mr Gooch took a headstrong plunge down the Niagara Falls. My
hair-mooring techniques were less certain.
I made a bijou wigwam for my friend - a cardboard box with air
holes - and when about to be taken for "walkies", it looked as if it
could leap onto my head and, after a few turns, settle down happily,
Tape was my undoing. The company big-wig said: "You should know
the score with toupees. Always use new tape or you’ll be sorry ."
A busy chap like me, head full of nominative and adverbial
clauses, has little time for hum-drumming headline maintenance. I often
forgot to retape and merely gave my top dressing a friendly, fixing
thump, moving off with a wig and a prayer and, thus, seldom had hair
At Beaufort Scale force 6 (wigs soar, eyebrows rise) the little
chap strained at its moorings and, at times, showed wave-like
undulations, suggesting an area of intense cerebral activity. On other
occasions - a favourite place was the city’s North Bridge - it would,
like a cork from a champagne bottle, shoot from my head, chase traffic,
snap at ankles or spread itself heraldically against lampposts.
Once, forgetting its presence, I plunged into the deep end of a
public swimming pool. Bubbled screams spouted from nearby women and when
I surfaced and looked round, I saw my detached wig, resembling a hirsute
kipper, bobbing briskly towards the shallow end.
After a few months during which it displayed incipient wig-slip,
indicating ambitions to become a beard, it was, in one of its madcap,
aerial moments, run over by a bike and suffered terminal hair-line
I gave it a simple but dignified burial and although it is,
perhaps, on some celestial wig-stand, it still sticks close to my
affection and will forever dog my memory.