Sunday, June 24, 2007

Purple Hair

It's one thing to be an exotically bohemian 'starving artist' surviving on tinned tomatoes and £1 jumbo bags of penne pasta from Sainsbury's. it's another to be too broke to afford to get your hair done.

Imagine my delight, then, when I received a lovely text from my hairdresser offering me a half-price deal 'for a special lady' - just in the nick of time. Not that I'm prepared to admit in print to any signs of premature ageing in my coiffure, but I can reveal the doubtless not particularly shocking news that my hair colour is not 100% natural. And you've got to keep your bob crisp, haven't you? Especially when it's your signature 'look'.

So I hot footed it over to Kensington Church Street, and skipped up the little secret grey staircase that leads to a magical wonderland of mirrored walls and swivelling chairs. One of the positive things about not having a proper day job is the fact that you can lounge around gettting your hair cut when other people are strapped to their desks, and the salon was deliciously quiet - just me, my Hair Guru, and lots of cups of Earl Grey tea.

The Hair Guru had found a new hair colour which he thought would be perfect for me - very dark brown with a rich red glow to it. The swatch looked great. Of course when he actually mixed it up in the little tub, it looked a highly suspicious shade of nuclear orange, but I didn't let that worry me, because it always does. I was a little bit anxious that my lazy habit of spraying dry shampoo into my hair when I can't be bothered to actually wash it might have detrimental effects if the dye reacted with the chemicals in the stuff, but the HG seemed to think this was highly unlikely. We chatted our way around a heady mix of topics from celebrity clients to Northern sensibilities while we waited for the dye to work its magic, and then the HG washed it off.

A tiny twinge of alarm hit me as I glanced at my reflection in the mirror beside the sinks - was my hair... purple...?

I decided to wait until it was dry before getting alarmed.

HG snipped away, sharpening up my bob, and then blow dried it until it was deliciously smooth and shining - and it really did look great. The colour was very dark, and there was a distinctly coppery glow about it, but I decided that my purple moment had been one of sheer unfounded paranoia. Paranoia at the hairdressers is a very common occurrence, as every girl knows, and it's important to give yourself time to get used to new hair before deciding whether or not it works on you - our initial reaction to something different to what we're used to is quite often one of shock and negativity.

Hair done, HG invited me to spend the afternoon hanging out with him, since he didn't have any other clients booked in, and we indulged in a sushi and red wine lunch at the newly opened Whole Foods store on Kensington High Street. The one-time Biba building has been transformed anew into a sort of high glamour supermarket, where a serve-yourself salad from the salad bar can cost you £12 if you're not careful. Upstairs in the food hall you can sit at the window and look down at the Kensington shoppers below while you snack on delicious and organic treats from the various food counters. From the looks of it, this is where the Ladies Who Lunch are all hanging out these days. HG and I agreed that although it was all very stylish, they had made one or two errors of judgement in the fixtures and fittings (with some of the overhead lights looking suspiciously like the sort you get in B&Q) and we missed the old Barkers. But finding two bottles of organic wine for £8 on offer downstairs won us over again.

Then it was back to HG's flat in Camden for a couple of games of pool and some rather excellent 70s tunes played extremely loud, while we road-tested the organic wine, and HG's flatmate wowed us with his note-perfect rendition of Jose Feliciano's Light My Fire. When I eventually got home to Beloved I was feeling extremely mellow. But not too mellow to resist asking him what he thought of my new hair colour?

Yes, it's nice.

Does it look... purple... to you at all?

Beloved immediately spotted an opportunity to wind me up, and said, with a broad grin...

Maybe... a bit...

and has been letting drop the odd remark here and there ever since:

"Your hair's looking a bit purple this morning"

"Maybe it's just this light..."

"Lots of my ex girlfriends used to have one hairdresser they trusted for the cut and another they trusted for the colour..."

Is beloved feeling slightly miffed that I spent the afternoon boozing and playing pool (very badly) with my hairdresser? Is this his way of getting his own back? Quite possibly.

I consulted with another friend independently, who said the colour was very dark, but she couldn't see any purple in it.

Would it bother me so much if my hair WAS purple? And if so, why?

Taste is a strange thing; it sometimes seems to be a kind of tightrope walk between conservatism and boldness. To be truly stylish, you have to take bold steps across the line from time to time, but you also have to know and regard long established style conventions at the same time. Every style choice comes with its own set of associations; a sharp little bob like mine has resonances of the 60s and Mary Quant, and also a hint of the 20s about it, although it's not pure Louise Brooks because I don't have a fringe (I can't do fringes, I look rubbish, as this picture of me in one of Honey's wigs demonstrates)

The bob was the HG's idea, and I'll be forever grateful to him for finding me my signature hairstyle, which I'll probably keep until the end of my days (I might have it completely white when I reach my dotage - I'm thinking that look could have a lot of gravitas going for it). And that's why I feel I need to trust him on the colour too.

But just a step too far over the line towards burgundy could bring all sorts of less welcome associations with it, of a particular kind of 80s retro that reminds me more of brassy northern birds in lurid lycra and plastic jewellery. Okay, I know I am, to some extent, a northern bird, and it's important to be true to your roots, but call me conservative, I like my hair colour to look natural these days. Even if it isn't actually my own natural colour, at least it can be someone else's...

I found resolution for my colour-anxiety yesterday when Beloved and I were walking on Hampstead Heath.

"What's that lovely tree over there with the really dark leaves," I asked Beloved, "They look amazing, almost black - or purple."

"That," said Beloved, who grew up in the countryside and knows his trees, "is a Copper Beech."

"The leaves are the same colour as my hair!" I realised, delighted.

So now I can rest easy in the knowledge that, even if my hair is, in some lights, slightly on the purple side, the colour is still completely natural.

It's the colour of a Copper Beech.



Friday, June 15, 2007

Jazz Accidents

Picture the scene... a bunch of glamorous dames in feathers, satin and corsets, all variously crouched, hunched and perched around a big round hardboard table, noshing away on chicken legs, rice and spaghetti.

The dames in question were Can Booty Can ( ), Miss Honey Mink and myself, and the location was backstage at Volupte's Friday Follies. It was the hour-long break between shows, and we were all tucking into our free dinner with gusto (one seldom sees food-related neuroses amongst the cabaret sorority, I can tell you) whilst swapping tales about the perils of performance.

Mademoiselle Fifi had filled us in on the dangers of working with flammable liquids and naked flames (she was still tasting paraffin after knocking back a mouthful of fire more quickly than intended in the early show) and I'd recounted in gory detail the full horrors of escapologist Jonathan Goodwin's "Nipple Ring of Doom" (see my blog of 28 April 07), after which one of the Can Booty Can dancers had stood up too quickly from our makeshift table and banged her head on the air con unit, and I had commented that myself and Honey Mink were relatively safe from misadventure, because you didn't hear of so many "Jazz Accidents".

I had to say it, didn't I?

Later that night, after our second set was over, Sir Fitzroy Callow hobbled towards me through the restaurant and told me that he'd just fallen down the backstage stairs. The intense pain in his ankle was as nothing compared to the deep humiliation he felt after the club owner, Miss Kuki LaBelle, stepped out of her office just at the moment he landed on his arse at the bottom of the stairs, and politely enquired what on earth he was doing down there.

So there you have it. A real-life jazz accident, as demonstrated by our very own one-man horn section, Sir Fitz.



Monday, June 04, 2007

Boredom exhaustion

Is there anything more energy-sapping than having to do something you find mind numbingly boring?

I am battling with a wave of sheer bone exhaustion right now. It's so extreme that I barely have the strength to lift my fingers to type. Has this been brought on by a great feat of physical endeavour? No. Well, not unless you count walking round the corner to Fresh and Wild to buy a chocolate brownie.

It's been brought on by the job I'm supposed to be doing right now, instead of writing this. I'm supposed to be writing an article about pulmonary disease for a fitness website. And when I've finished that, I've got to write one about the cardiovascular system.

I tell you what, my own cardiovascular system is struggling to keep pumping the blood around my body, such is the dead weight which has settled upon every fibre of my being at the prospect of wrestling with phrases such as "Pulmonologists are involved in both clinical and basic research of the respiratory system, ranging from the anatomy of the bronchial epithelium to the most effective treatment of pulmonary hypertension (a disease notoriously resistant to therapy)" in an attempt to render them remotely interesting or comprehensible to the breather on the street.

The chocolate brownie did help, but it disappeared alarmingly fast. I wonder if there is any scientific research into why doing things you don't want to is approximately ten times more tiring than doing things you do want to? According to my calculations, I could sing for five hours and feel ten times more energetic afterwards than I do now, albeit in need of a drink to rehydrate my vocal cords.

I suspect I have uncovered the dark secret behind the capitalist economy. People go to work to earn money to spend on things they want, but they find having to go to work so draining, that they have to spend a large amount of the money they earn on compensating for the pain of having to work for it in the first place: comfort chocolate brownies being a case in point. For the more well heeled, the same also goes for stress-relieving massage, and retail therapy. Whereas, if they didn't go to work, they would need to spend much less money on boosting their energies and improving their mood, because they wouldn't need cheering up in the first place, and the whole capitalist economy would collapse.

And we'd all be like Tom and Barbara in the Good Life, driving around on converted lawnmowers and living in wellies. Think how long our smart going-out clothes would last us when we got so little wear out of them.

But then, unfortunately, no one would be able to afford to pay the entrance price to come to Volupte either, so I would end up with no one to sing to...


maybe I'd better just resign myself to the status quo and buy myself another chocolate brownie instead.