I had one of those very lucky, hearty ’70s childhoods. The middle of three children, we were styled in Clothkits clothes, rode Chopper bikes, ate homemade lasagne and played with puppy shit; flicking it at each other using sticks whenever my mother’s formidable, but very skinny, back was turned. I went to a very smart school that had a red blazer and matching beret. I went to ballet, tap, jazz, modern, gymnastics and John Travolta classes (yes, they actually existed). My poor mother must have been bombing around the lanes of Warwickshire for most of the sodding day making sure I made one session or another. Fortunately she had her Neil Diamond 8-track cassette and a packet of Benson to keep her company.
In fact the only blight on my otherwise idyllic ‘Seasons in the Sun’ childhood was eczema. Or actually more specifically, eczema and psoriasis. I was covered in both, from head to foot. I had patches on my knees, my elbows and around my ears. My earlobes used to bleed, my feet used to bleed, my elbows used to bleed. I had patches on my forearms, above my eyebrows, on the side of my neck, on my shins. I was slathered on a nightly basis in betnovate and dermovate, I had special baths with lanolin, and then without. I was on dairy and then off dairy. It used to get better in the sun or when I swam in the sea. But mostly it was always there: itching.
But the psoriasis was worse. It covered my head, entirely. It itched and bled and flaked all over the place. My shoulders were covered in flakes, all my jumpers were flaked and every time I did a handstand, a headstand or handspring a giant cloud of ‘snow’ would fall out of my hair and cover the dark, polished village hall floor. It was mortifying. I remember trying to blow the scabs away, or flick them around with my hands. A lot of the time I would move around the gym class, pretending the large white patches of dust had nothing to do with me at all. Eventually the psoriasis became so thick on my scalp, like an advanced form of cradle cap, that my new hair could not grow through. So as I lost hair, or pulled it out, nothing grew back in its place. I was slowly but surely going bald.
And then a miracle happened. I was 10 years old, I had lost two thirds of my hair and my mother decided enough was enough. She popped on the Neil Diamond, stocked up on the Bensons and drove me nearly two and half hours to London to the famous Philip Kingsley salon.
Even 35 years ago the Philip Kingsley Salon on Green Street was not your average cut and blow-dry place. It was hip and glamorous and at the forefront of trichology; it was rumoured that Joan Collins went there. I remember being introduced to a young man called Glenn, and another chap called Hugh.
Hugh took one look at my hair, flicking it around my scalp with his handy pencil, and diagnosed a severe case of pityriasis amiantacea (a very bad, voracious form of psoriasis that covers the head and suffocates the scalp). The treatment? Two hours of combing and having the scabs lifted off my scalp, followed by a thick tar shampoo. I don’t recall what was worse, the painful process of having a comb dug into my scalp or the awful stench of tarmac.
But I do remember the results. My head felt so light, my hair was so soft and I had no idea that if you raised your eyebrows the rest of your scalp would move at the same time. The itching had gone and so too had the flakes. It was amazing!
I was a Philip Kingsley convert. So more or less every Wednesday for the next two years, my mother would drive me to London to have my scalp treated. It was hard work and boring but eventually it worked. The itching stopped and the flakes disappeared. The relief was extraordinary.
However, suddenly, in the last couple of months I have felt an itch and my scalp is flaky and sore and bleeding – AGAIN. Thirty-five years later, the psoriasis is back. I don’t know why? Or how? Or for what sodding reason it has decided to rear its traumatic, hideous head after all these years, but it has.
So I immediately rang Philip Kingsley. Could they repeat the miracle they performed all those decades ago?
I walk into the very same building, and take a seat.
“Glenn will see you now,” says the woman on reception.
“What? Glenn? Glenn? The Glenn?” Surely not, after all this time.
“Yes,” she nods. “The Glenn. Glenn Lyons . He’s been here for over thirty years." I wonder if he remembers me?