It’s been a strange week. A lot of sadness, a fair amount of anger, a few laughs, many tears, and a few moments that were totally madly surreal.
I clocked up a few firsts this week, like doing push-ups and shuttle runs in church, having my arse appear in the media (twice on one page), sharing a bath with a photographer on a ladder and giving Liz Jones feature ideas.
But above all, one encounter stuck in my mind. Yesterday I drove down to Minehead to the college. The omens weren’t good. Solitary magpies kept flying across my path and my head jumped into my mouth (interesting typo there) when a blackbird (male) suddenly flew right out and under the car, like he was hurling himself into oblivion.
I couldn’t really afford a makeover (even at the college’s crazy low prices) but I figured what the hell? I’m off to London for a week and I don’t want to scare the horses. So I looked at Visa, raised my (unshapely shaggy) eyebrow and said ‘You up for it?’ And Visa winked. So lovely Charlotte gave me a facial and a massage and then we howled with laughter as she rolled up her sleeves and attacked my bodily hair.
‘I’ve become obsessed with my right armpit,’ I told her. ‘I mean, look at it! The photographer yesterday said you’d have to trim it before you waxed it.’
‘Actually, I think I might,’ she said, with awe. ‘That’s a first. Unless you want it plaited of course.’
‘With beads?’ I said with a grin. Then sighed. ‘Honestly, I don’t care. I’m in your hands – do with me as you wish!’ Her eyes gleamed. The little sadist.
But then, funny thing. They had to switch people around and it transpired someone else was going to do my tinting and manicure. And this ghost came in and started silently fixing my eyelashes. And my antennae went up; there was something there. At first I thought it was typical teenage ‘can’t be arsedness’ but then I stopped thinking and started feeling – and the feeling was utter total desolation, way beyond sadness.
When we moved from the couch to a table for her to fix my manky hands, I got to look at her and she was the most beautiful girl ever. A pure pixie with a heart-shaped face, almond eyes and a short dark crop. ‘I like your hair,’ I said softly, to break the silence. ‘I used to have mine like that when I was young.’
‘Well, it’s easy,’ she shrugged. Oh, that sadness again. Waves of it. The ‘I don’t care about no nothing’ feeling. I resolved to ask Charlotte about her story when I saw her next – because there was a story, I just knew it.
But I didn’t need to. ‘Do you think stress and sadness can cause physical illness?’ she said quietly after a while. And slowly, so slowly, it came out. Her father had died a few months ago. And she was in the dark dark place. The angry and sad and hurting place. One I know all too well. So I listened. And listened. And listened.
She said she didn’t talk about it. Just tried not to think. But that her body was shouting and screaming – in a million and one ways. I didn’t tell her what to do – how could I? But it seemed to me that she came to a fair few conclusions of her own during our hour together.
No big farewell. No demonstrative hugs. Just a quick shy look. But she touched me. And, who knows, maybe I touched her.