Sixty years in a wig

The photograph is my favourite from my childhood. It dates from perhaps the spring or summer of 1963. It is taken beside the corrugated iron door of the shed that was used as a garage for cars on the home farm in Pibsbury, the yard being needed to be clear for agricultural vehicles.

Sixty years later, the garage still stands there, still has corrugated iron doors, and is still used each day. Seeing it each time I return to the farm creates a sense of continuity,

The photograph shows a small boy, two or three years old, dressed in a pullover and tartan trousers and wearing the most outlandish wig, giving him a hairstyle that would compete with that of Albert Einstein on a bad hair day.

The wig is hardly something one would expect to find on a small Somerset farm in the early-1960s. Rural Somerset was nothing if not conservative and there would not have been much demand for wigs, particularly wigs that did not conform with traditional ideas of style and elegance. Spiky, blond hair was not something that might have been encountered in the Langport era in 1963.

The photograph has been in circulation among members of our family for the past sixty years. For more than five decades, the boy pictured was told that the wig had belonged to an aunt who lived on the home farm.

In a county where the arrival of the hippies in the late 1960s had brought an awareness that life could be lived in many and diverse ways and that a blond wig was quite conventional when compared with the garb and hairstyles preferred by the new arrivals in our county. It seemed odd that my aunt, who worked for Clark’s Shoes would have identified with the hippies, but the photograph seemed proof of hidden radical inclinations.

Of course, 1963 was too early for the hippies to have been on the English scene, and who had suggested the wig had anything to do them? A boy had made an assumption on the basis of what he saw around him at the time he was asking questions.

One morning, a few years ago, I sat drinking tea with my aunt who was said to have been owner of the wig. ‘There is a photo of me, I wearing a spiky blond wig: was that yours?’

‘It was, it was part of the costume for the carnival club.’

More than fifty years of imagining her a secret radical had gone in a moment. The boy in the wig continues to live in the mind of the person he became.

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