Sunday, 27 May 2012

Me, Mum and my fringe

Went to the hairdresser's last week - not something I really enjoy.  Someone should invent a mirror so that the victim/customer  doesn't have to look at  themselves, but by wearing special glasses (or squinting or something like that) the hairdresser can see them.  But until James Dyson turns his attention to really useful inventions we coiffurephobes will have to continue to  suffer.

Anyway I march in and demand a trim, a tiny, weeny, no more than 1cm trim.  At this point I'm kneeling before hairdresser-woman, begging, my hands in prayer as if before St Mary Magdalen who it turns out is the patron saint of hairdressers - but perhaps I should have stuck to St Jude, he of lost causes.  She seems not to have heard me.  I am hustled to a basin and forced to have my hair washed - for the 2nd time in a morning - not good for those of us with sheep-like follicles.  Then I sit before the mirror of torture and wonder why I don't wear full slap - especially  foundation  which I believe it hides a multitude of sins and then begin fantasising about bringing one of those carnival masks next time.  All the time Sweeney Toddette wields the scissors, she obviously doesn't understand metric and cuts my hair. no - shears my hair (OK -slight exaggeration, but I am still traumatised - she cuts off two or three inches).  I am then straightened and the final insult, Edwina Scissorhands cuts my fringe too short.  - I've spent the last few days pulling it down - it doesn't work  and bounces back half way up my forehead.

This puts me in mind of my mum's hairdressing misadventures when I was a teenager. There is someone I wish to impress at youth club - a sophisticated older man (i.e. a 16-year old boy in too tight jeans with an extravagant mullet).  Mum catches a glimpse of me and suggests I wear a jumper - she did not share my opinion that a skimpy pink halter-neck top was both classy and suitable for an chilly September evening.   She then announces my fringe could do with a trim and sends me to get the nail scissors and the shaving mirror - the correct tool for the job isn't a priority in our family.  I sit on the kitchen stool and she starts cutting..
' Not too short,' I plead.
She does a few more snips.  I look in the mirror - my fringe is crooked - as I feared.
'Easily remedied,' she laughs gaily.  Few more snips and then in comes Dad who points out astutely that she might want to even it up. My forehead is beginning to feel a little chilly.
Mum stops 'Well, that's the best I can do - I can't understand why your hair just doesn't grow straight.'

 My fringe is like some awful graph (the up and downy sort - not a bar graph or a pie chart) .  It is about 5 cm above my eyebrows.  I look like a bad extra from Star trek.  I weep and decide that no tiny, inappropriate halter-neck can compete with my lack of fringe.  I try pushing it back with a hair-band, but then you get the full view of my inadequate eyebrow (see Me and dad's razor  for more information).  I decide to give youth club a miss and concentrate my thoughtwaves on persuading the fringe from hell to grow before I have to go to school the next day.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Me, the boyfriend and home-made wine

Boyfriend is a student without much money (partly because he spends it on hard-backed books and travelling to London so we can rendez-vous).  He intends to economise, rather than sacrifice all those Loebs, he decides to make his own booze.  His mother, coming from a famous family of brewers, makes a pretty good home-made beer so he feels he is on safe ground and starts to make wine.

I come down for the weekend and we set off to a party.  I suggest we pool our money to buy a bottle.  Looking very pleased with himself he says he has something better than a bottle and produces a demi-john of dark red liquid - as he has not got vampiric tendencies I presume it might be alcohol.  Yes, his new speciality - loganberry wine.  Loganberries chosen as they are the cheapest canned fruit available in the local Co-op and brought back to his room to have alcoholic magic wrought on them - sadly no pigeage is necessary - always fancied a bit of leaping around in a tank of grapes.  I am not convinced of the wisdom of his actions and,  it must be admitted,  somewhat ashamed to be seen with a bloke carrying a demi-john up the Turl.  When we arrive the party is in full swing, I hang back so as not to be associated with the flagon, it would not be good for my image - people will think I like folk music and country dancing next.

People go to the drinks table, eye up the home-made wine and ask who brought this - in a tone that says 'What completely sad git thought this was a good idea.'  I give Boyfriend a firm kick and hiss, 'Keep your mouth shut or else'.  He knows better than to disobey.

We watch as the bottles of beer go, then the dodgy vodka with a label in no language recognisable to man, woman or philologist, then the wine boxes are emptied.  We drink cheap cider and pomagne -  until finally the flagon sits alone and virtually untouched on the table.  Even in desperation no one wants to drink loganberry juice with a delicious yeasty-after taste; people warn each other off.   We leave - no reason to stay now the drink has gone.  Downstairs Boyfriend says, 'Won't be a minute' and races back upstairs.
He reappears with his beloved flagon hidden under his coat, ' We can drink this when we get back - waste not want not.'
Decide I don't like this Scrooge-like persona and tell him pretty damn quickly.  Home-made wine making stops fairly soon after.
More of  the Boyfriend at Me and philosophy  Me, boyfriend and how I finally crack maths

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Dad and the nail in his foot

Living in the countryside it is useful to be able to drive; especially as our village had a pub, a garage and a village shop which sold little that was in anyway edible.  Dad decides to teach Mum to drive.  Sister and I sit in the back seat of the car and listen to much arguing (actually I don't think Mum said much - think the terror of being behind the wheel gave her lock-jaw).  In my mind learning to drive always involves dire threats - so during my ill-fated attempts I wasn't surprised when my normally mild-mannered boyfriend took on  the attributes of Grendel's mother (no - he did not resemble Angelina Jolie - very bad representation of G's Mum IMHO).  Anyway,  Dad despairs that Mum will ever pass her test and Mum despairs of being in that circle of hell which has her taking driving lessons with Dad for eternity - she almost gives up.

Late one night Mum wakes me up and says Dad has to go to hospital as he has had an accident.  Dad was mooching around in the garage and managed to step on a nail with a large piece of wood attached (note - in our family cars were rarely kept in the garage - it was useful store for guinea pigs accoutrements, gardening tools and assorted dangerous bits of lumber).  Unfortunately the nail and plank were now attached to his foot - he is a squeamish man and couldn't face separating them and so couldn't drive himself to hospital which is about eight miles away.

Although sleepy I was quite excited about the thought of an ambulance appearing outside our house (yup- life in the countryside provided plenty of thrills).  Mum said that they certainly wouldn't be ringing for an ambulance - they didn't pay their taxes for people to waste NHS resources.
I was alarmed to hear her say,  'Don't worry about Dad, I'm going to drive him there.'
This was, in fact, extremely worrying:  firstly Mum couldn't see in the dark (I mean this literally - she has an eye condition that makes it hard to see in the  dark - even half-light), she had never driven in the dark before (true darkness - no streetlights) and Dad was pretty irascible at the best of times - how would his speared foot help?
They managed to get to hospital and when asked what the drive was like Mum said that Dad groaned and swore quite a lot, but she assumed that was the pain in his foot.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Great Gran, Nan and me

Great Gran and I were in almost perpetual competition for Nan's attention.
One day on a shopping trip to Broadstairs I distinctly heard her to say to Nan that they should leave me at the bus stop and collect me when they had finished shopping - I think I was about 6 at the time.  I like to think she was joking, but I suspect not as she wasn't known for a sense of humour.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Me and the lunch time excursions

Moving schools in the Sixth Form was not such a great idea.  Friendships had already formed and, apart from being invited to the lunchtime prayer group, the girls weren't very friendly. The top dogs at school were a group of girls called Ellen; (there were 3 Ellens and their satellites were also known as  'The Ellens' - think 'Heather' just not as  friendly).  The Ellens went for a team strip - long, straight hair with fringes, Wrangler jeans and lambswool v-neck jumpers in pastel shades - I could never fit in - I think I might have had the remains of the ill-fated perm, was a Levis girl and favoured my Dad's shirts (I refer you to    Nan and the party dress  and   Me and the perm).  On my first day the chief Ellen asked me if my father was a don (this is Oxford - so I am being asked if my Pater teaches at the University, not if he is a Corleone or if he was a Wimbledon FC supporter - before the days of schism).  I say no and she doesn't speak to me for the next two years.

In my English class there is another new girl - Annie.  She is very confident and I'm not sure if I like her - although I like her jeans.  But it turns out we have mutual acquaintances and become bosom buddies; complaining about the school and the Ellens (just who do they think they are?).  We are allowed out of school during lunchtime and spend a fair number of them cycling off to Annie's house (her parents are at work, rather than liberal-types who encourage truancy), eating all their food and washing it down with sips of whisky- not because we liked it, just because we could. We would then top the bottle up with cold 'milkless' tea.  Post-lunch history lessons are quite blurry and after a term we give up our lunch-time excursions and stayed in the Sixth Form common room - I think it might also having something to do with her Dad discovering his single-malt tasted a bit strange.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Me and librarian stereotypes

Can't decide if to laugh or be cross at lazy librarian stereotypes - so thought I'd have a little ramble on the subject.

Let's start with clothes.  I have rarely met a librarian in real life wearing a twin set; although I am very partial to cardigans  - the library where I work being either tropical or frigid so clothes that can easily (and decently) be removed are de rigueur.  The librarians of my acquaintance do not dress as one - just as well as several are men.  Although strangely, in recent years, when shopping I have been attracted to items of apparel for their very 'librarianishness' - my favourite black Gap pinafore being such an example - must try to control this instinct.

Now what about going 'shush' ?  Actually caught myself doing this yesterday  in an ironic sort of way - suspect the students just thought I was doing it in a tight-arsed-librarian sort of way.  It just seemed inappropriate to bellow 'Be quiet, this area is for silent work!' hence the need for 'shushing'.  Tool of the trade - nothing more, nothing less -generally doesn't give us a big thrill to do it.

So we are either completely sexless or hiding raging passions beneath our very modest twin sets - the repressed librarian suddenly turning into a sexy minx.  A certain person (who will remain nameless) told me how he finds librarians alluring, just a little bit scary and likes it when they look at him over the top of their specs  (um - good reason to investigate laser eye surgery?)   Have resolved never to waive his fines again - obviously needs to realise that what he takes for flattery just won't wash.  Do you hear  people saying these things about female accountants or lawyers or primary school teachers?

I suppose in past years,when generally only unmarried women worked and the single state was thought something to be pitied, we were an easy target - a profession mainly of women, the vestal virgins of books.  But I bet you even those horn-rimmed spectacle-wearing, twin set toting, pursed lips 'shushing' library gals of yesteryear won't quite as buttoned-up as people like to imagine - just think of all those books they had available to them - Valley of the Dolls, Peyton Place, endless romantic novels - life lessons between the covers.

So when you picture librarians as mousy, shy, repressed, unloved, sexless, short-sighted (actually that bit is true), loving cats more than people, wearing flat shoes at all times, having no social life, wearing boring clothes, loving books (some of the librarians I have known have actually rarely read a book), needing silence, only ever listening to classical music you can pat yourself on the back as some of these things are true, some of the time.

BUT ... the rest of the time the librarians of my acquaintance like rock music, play various musical instruments including concertinas, run, cycle, have relationships with living creatures other than cats, like fashion, don't always wear specs, laugh loudly in the library and have to be told to pipe down, adore Michael Fassbender/Ryan Gosling/Ryan Reynolds (theme going on here -could that just be anyone called Ryan?), like cake (see curated by a colleague - excellent - if slightly sick-making), get drunk and disgrace themselves (n.b. I'm not actually referring to myself- although a short while ago I found I was unable to walk in a straight line after two white wine spritzers - complete lightweight).

Have decided to stop saying rude things about accountants.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Mum and matching colours

Mum was a great one for matching accessories; handbags, earrings scarves had to match an outfit or 'tone'.  These accessories were usually in her favourite colours: caramel, beige, ecru, taupe - i.e. brown (I really hate brown - what's to like?).

Matching became a bit of an obsession when she started dressing us in similar outfits.  I vaguely remember us wearing matching kilts and capes - mine was green and Mum's navy blue. There is a nice picture of us holding hands in front of the Viking ship at Pegwell Bay - Mum, young, slim and dark in a pale dress with a sticky-out skirt, me, small, blonde and cute (yup - I was once - for about five minutes) in a matching frock.  Goodness how long it took to get a decent photo as I spent much of the time sulking, having a strop or whining.  Back to the photo - I suspect I might have been the infant equivalent of Paris Hilton's handbag dog.

When my sister was about two and I was eleven Mum began taking the matching to new heights (lows?).    She decided to save money by making our clothes.  I particularly remember the purple crocheted dress with matching white pom-poms.  Sister being a tiny, dark-headed moppet looked quite sweet in her purple outfit; I, being at that skinny, gangly, knees-too-big for-legs stage looked hideous.

One delightful outfit was an A-line dress (flattering to most shapes - especially those with no shape), large, puffy sleeves (not so good) and a ruffled clown-style collar - think big, think enormous. In a subtle colour this might have been just about bearable, but it wasn't subtle in anyway.  The fabric had a white background with large swirly patterns on it - might have been a super-sized paisley - in shades of yellow and orange (I really hate yellow and orange - almost as much as brown - makes me go all shivery thinking about it).  I've never seen anything quite like the fabric - suspect it was for making curtains or upholstery.  This example of haute couture or should I say basse couture (been revising French GCSE with daughter - vocabulary increasing by the day...).  Again nice on the moppet, but a garment of extreme embarrassment for me - there was no hope I would ever grow out of it as it was made to be grown into.  

  Fortunately Mum got fed up with this new hobby and I was able to have clothes like normal people.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Me and maypole dancing

I am in my last year at primary school and my  moment of glory is fast approaching.  Annually the school held a May Day festival (yes -  it was a bit like Larkrise to Candleford - this being rural Oxfordshire). The maypole is wheeled out in its milk churn and children from the top class (this being a three-class school) are drilled to dance around, to lovely tunes such as 'Black Nag'  weaving coloured ribbons into patterns.
 But best of all - the oldest girl in the school is always crowned Queen of the May and gets to wear a long dress - usually satin (I just love satin - so nice and slippery - and if not too tight will  hide a multitude of sins - not that this occurred to me aged 10) and on the head she wears a circlet of flowers (I am almost salivating as I write)   The May Queen also has a bouquet of flowers (sadly this would usually include May blossom;  looks nice - but for the uninitiated smells  remarkably like cat pee - to be avoided).  She would be accompanied - no rewrite that - she would be fawned upon by a couple of attendants (think BeyoncĂ© and the other two - see who actually cares what they are called?).  And that year the eldest girl in the school was ME.   There might have been a May King - some poor boy dragged kicking and screaming I expect - but frankly who would be looking at him anyway?  I have no memory of what they wore - and even less interest.
But - there is always a but - a few months before the May Day parade a new girl came to school; goodness why she had to - we were all leaving in a few months to go to secondary school - why couldn't she be home schooled until then?  Anyway my arch-rival appears on the scene and her birthday is September 6th (I remember the date to this very day.  Susie Newall  - where are you now?  Did it never cross your mind that without you I could have been a contender?) and mine is in December.

So Susie was May Queen with the lovely (satin - grrh!) dress, flowers, pictures in local newspaper and two sidekicks.  I had my chance to be the Kelly Rowland of May Day, but pride would not allow it so I told everyone I was born to dance and that the maypole was calling me.  The clothes for the dancers were not so good - I had a white shirt, a tangerine-orange skirt with matching hairband made by Mum (not my best colour, but at least she went some way to acknowledging my pain.)

As an aside - the delights of the internet - I'm innocently searching for May Queen and I keep getting this very hairy gentleman - yes, Brian May of Queen - not quite what I had in mind.