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The first column I ever wrote was for a magazine called Options, "the most exciting new magazine of the Eighties", now relegated to the great Tit-Bits repository in the sky. The date was 1983 and the piece was titled, courtesy of a sub-editor from the Ken Dodd Academy of Punitive Puns, "Hair Today . . ."

Every time I enter a hair salon, be it Damien of Dalston or Sassoon of Sloane, I get the same feeling. It's not exactly sinking — like 3.30pm at school, when you know the dentist will see you at 4 — nor elated like the sight of a loved one wearing suede elbow-patches at Euston; but with its mixture of fear, hope and blind faith, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the feeling you get just before your waters break.

In the 37 years since mine last broke (which happened, incidentally, in a cheese shop in Hampstead) nothing has changed that feeling in me, or my bulbous follicles. My relationship with hairdressers has been, and continues to be, a litany of split endings.

The truth is, even a great hairdresser is at a disadvantage. They can only cut your hair to be perfect in a week's time. Immediately post-haircut, you're more likely to look as though your head has been sharpened, your neck elongated and Michael Gove has just engaged you in a long conversation.

Sometimes, on tour, I pop into a strange salon and get a terrific cut. Perhaps the first time an "artist" sees your face they recognise the proportions truly. Next time, you schmooze, "Just do what you did last time! My hair was incredible, even after hot stone therapy and an hour in the hamam."

This time, though, the genius looks only at their last great work, not at you. And two hours later you're in the toilet at Starbucks, £120 poorer, pulling futilely at individual hairs to stretch them across your tears and vowing never to lay eyes on that genius again.

I've recently let my hair go grey. It was a process rather than a transformation. It meant allowing years of highlights, lowlights and serial pigment abuse to fade into the palette of a catalogue from The White Company. No more checkered roots, no more leaving the salon with a dense magenta fez and one orange eyebrow. My friends haven't noticed, my nostalgic daughter preferred it before, and me — I rather like it.

Most of my peers remain loyal to bleach and ammonia, and resigned to spending two hours a month, in twisted tinfoil, looking like an electrified lemur. Joan Collins is perennially dark macchiato, Lesley Joseph keeps her feathers brunette while Elaine Paige, Felicity Kendal and Joanna Lumley remain as platinum, tobacco and honey-hued as a Calvin Klein throw on a Bactrian camel.

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