Search For Sophistication Disguised As A Hair Cut

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The other morning, I decided it was time to get my hair cut. Not only did my hair feel limp and unhealthy, after a certain point I realised this makes you feel gloomy too. A messy lop of hair following you around, like a sad, wild cat limping about the dustbins.

You can understand why I felt I needed to take action.

I went to a cute salon just off the Spanish Steps, where a bouncy, Bulgarian woman removed my coat and scarf with a flick of her wrist, and had me bound to a chair, forcing me to stare rigidly into the mirror at my sleepy face and dark hair that I’d bundled up quickly in a ponytail.

“I went to a cute salon just off the Spanish Steps, where a bouncy, Bulgarian woman removed my coat and scarf with a flick of her wrist…had me bound to a chair, forcing me to stare rigidly into the mirror at my sleepy face…”

My first dilemma: are you meant to dress up fabulously for a trip to the hairdressers?

Technically you are being pampered, and want to look and feel twice as fabulous after – it seems rude allowing someone to diligently touch, cut and buff your hair, without even making the effort to wash it and make it look a little bit nice? I would, at the least, suggest minimal eye-make-up and lip gloss so when staring in said mirror you don’t feel hideous.

During the vigorous shampoo massage, the whole world will sit patiently by your feet, letting you enjoy the humming water wash warmly past your ears. He/She will then quiz you about your head.

 “During the vigorous shampoo massage, the whole world will sit patiently by your feet while you enjoy the humming water wash warmly past your ears…”

It is a thrilling moment, where a complete stranger knows your hair so utterly and immediately. Before you even start to talk, the hairdresser has, at James Bond speed and precision, already mustered what you want. Whilst your hand bats around your scalp, motioning in gibberish what you think you want, and describing how you saw someone’s hair somewhere that you think you like – the hairdresser will humour you, nodding and pointing at the right moment. You are inextricably united by a common thought: you KNOW she already knows what you SHOULD have, and you know she knows.

“You are inextricably united by a common thought: you KNOW she already knows what you SHOULD have, and you know she knows”

The extraordinary magic of a hairdresser is that they kindly interpret your hair-womble-blabbing for pure conviction of what you want: after you’ve finished a couple of sentences about ‘trim’ and ‘bouncability’, you will be shut up by them promptly yielding what look like torture devices.

Is it me, or, when said-hairdresser brings out a shiny pair of angular ‘scissors’, a thought darts into your head:

“They look like normal, kitchen scissors?”

“Oh these?” She/He replies – “These are not scissors.”

“Oh? My mistake, I thought-”

“These are Taylors Eye Witness Moulded Handle Hairdressing Cockade Scissors.”

Silence:

“So – still scissors, would you say?”

You ask about the comb that is thrusted through the scalp: (you thought you had one similar, but it does something altogether so different from that half-snapped stick at home, that it must be from a different ‘comb’ family altogether.)

Should you question where it is from:

“Ah, this isn’t actually a comb.”

“No?”

“They are utensils made from high-end heat-resistant materials with handcrafted, rounded teeth. There are, of course, ionic properties within it, and it is clearly rigid, made from 100% natural rubber with an ergonomical rounded comb spine.”

“So, before it’s combing days, it was a small, recycled car?”

She didn’t like my joke.

I only asked because I wanted to understand how some of this luxury can be brought to my bed-side table, without spending away my next trip home to see my family.

As the episode drew on, I kept my head buried in a magazine, worried I’d annoy her with questions and ignorant comments.

Every glance the lady and I exchanged, hummed with the sentiment:

“I know you better than you know yourself. So just shut up will you and stop moving your head?”

Then there is the moment when, even though you’ve been asked nicely to lower your forehead, revealing the delicate hairline, you want to peek at what is going on. Just to check. In case. You know. It is your head. Then comes a ferocious yank where the lady has had it up to here with you. The yank makes you feel three-foot small, and a child. Eyes lowered, you are forced again to stare at falling waves of dark hair tumbling to the floor in slow motion, reaching a silent and doomed end on the sticky, beige floor.

You are almost there: but you can’t go until several buckets of products are poured on your crown, narrowly missing your face and burning your eyes. I paid what felt like a small fortune. However, when I got out into the sunlight, which glanced off my curls and shine, I got several head turns in the street AND a compliment from the Italian mamma.

So, I felt as smug as if I’d just won Head of the Year 2014.

“When I got out into the sunlight, which glanced off my curls and shine, I got several head turns in the street…”

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The Stroll

The Stroll

Back To School, Catch Up Avec Les Filles & Nano-Romances

Back to Rome means back to Language School. I must admit, it is an indulgent, less-productive-than-it-sounds way to spend the morning. I head to Piazza Firenze after dropping off the kids at school, Teresa, and her brother Fran-I-Don’t-Need-Anyone-To-Take-Me-Esco.

I am really enjoying my course. I should probably write these in Italian! (Show off) but seriously, I’m getting good. The other day, someone American asked me for directions, attempting a whiny Italian – at least I look Italian, and that’s a start if ever I saw one ! (We ended up chatting about Ilinois, his hometown, but that is by-the-by.)

Our teacher today was someone new. A bulging chest wig, complete with a magnificent gold, chain necklace, that I wonder if he wore it especially, or if he had a Medallion Shining Conference to attend after the lesson. He perched dangerously on our desks, bellowing out the Uses of the Subjunctive, causing us to lean a notch back. He spat too, and I decided it was a terrible mistake to sit near the front. He was like all senses rolled into one pastry of ear-hair and ‘shimmying’ trousers . My friends Selina and Anne-Sophie performed fantastic imitations of him after – I think they deserve their own show.

“…our teacher today was someone new. A bulging chest wig, complete with a magnificent gold, chain necklace, that I wonder if he wore it especially, or if he had a Medallion Shining Conference to attend to after…”

Again, Rome was showing off weather-wise, bearing its clear, blue eyes from morning till five-thirty ish. Anne-Sophie, Selina and I decided to get a welcome-back cappuccino in a bar in Piazza Navona. I know – a tourist haven for the weary, sock-sandeled and beige flocks of nomadic, old people. Normally, I never go there as an unassuming cappuccino turns immediately into a small fortune, that you may prefer to spend on a small pony or gold-threaded slippers, or indeed a night in one of the lavish surrounding hotels with Ryan Gosling doing DIY in Dolce undies.

“…never go there as an unassuming cappuccino turns immediately into a small fortune, that you may prefer to spend on a small pony or gold-threaded slippers, or…a night in one of the lavish, surrounding hotels with Ryan Gosling doing DIY in Dolce undies”

 Anyway, there we were catching up about Christmas, which seems like a long way away already. The two of them went back to France (one Montpellier and the other, Tour.) Like me, they were happy to be back (and I didn’t mention my drippy homesick episode, nor the weeping in the shower.) However, much as Granny Question Time and Poking-Nose-About-(non-existent)Boyfriend Q&A’s are delightful, it is hard not to miss the wobbly cobbles whilst navigating night’s-out in heels, or the freshest croissants known to man, (you can still smell the doughy baker’s fingertips, or the baker’s doughy fingertips) or the omniscient looming, stunning architecture. I find the whole, ancient city inspiring and breathtaking, and that is at the worst of times.

Both friends have had the odd ‘nano-romance’ since living here. I asked what that was, and they shrugged in a way only French women can do with bags of sass and nonchalance.

“Eet ees, mmm, a leettle of this, a leettle of that,”. I nodded and wanted more gossip – but they said that perhaps this was more a conversation for cocktails and not ‘middle-of-the-day moosh moosh.’

I left it at ‘moosh-moosh’. I need to know them better to pry.

We didn’t stay too long out and about, but we have a night out planned for ASAP. They were full of fluttering pecks on my cheek before dashing off on their separate ways: one to prepare lunch for the children and the other to a hair appointment.

I left to walk the dog – my own and only source of ‘nano-romance’ at the moment.

“Both friends have had the odd ‘nano-romance’ since living here… the dog – my own and only source of ‘nano-romance’ at the moment”

Roman Insults, Yoga & A Revelation

I returned to Rome yesterday. Italy is looking as lovely as ever, I think it missed me. The terracotta palazzos beamed in the bright blue, afternoon sky and the market near my apartment was bursting with life, as if the rickety, stalls opulent with colour, had been set up as a home-coming especially for me.

“Buongiorno signorina!”

Giovanni, a small man of about sixty who owns a fruit stall I’d been going to at least twice a week, waved cheerily at me. His head and hand poked out of an enormous row of bobbing pineapples – it took me a second to register him amongst the spiky, nobbly faces.

“…terracotta palazzos beamed in the bright blue, afternoon sky and the market near my apartment was bursting with life, as if the rickety, stalls opulent with colour, had been set up as a home-coming especially for me”

I was looking forward to seeing the family. I hoped they’d missed me. Felt my absence at least a little. The boy showed his welcome, warmly as usual, by grunting at me – we’ve moved on from the silent treatment I see.

I’m not going to lie, the first few hours in the house yesterday felt terribly quiet, and I was unbelievably homesick. The really nostalgic kind. The kind where you wonder what it’s all for, why you forced yourself to leave roaring log fires, mugs of Yorkshire tea, smiles made of homemade trifle and hugs, that know and love you, Cumberland sausage and scenic English villages where men tip their hats at you. (Well, the last bit is a slight exaggeration, but you get the gist.) Then I told myself to get a grip, grow up and get on with it. I was in Rome, for God’s sake! There were definitely worse places I could be. (A drizzly, night bus in Peckham, or Scunthorpe.)

Anyway, back in the apartment I am. To the familiar mahogany smell and the sun creeping through the linen curtains. Elena (the glamourous mother of the children) came back from her Milan trip earlier today. She burst through the door in a sleek trouser suit and puckered lips then collapsed dramatically on the sofa. She is the epitome of yummy-mummy, but extremely busy and important. Which makes her – well – brilliant.

We have a nice relationship – not quite sisters, but we have an enormous, I like to think, sophisticated respect for each other. She gave me a tight hug. Unfortunately, rather than brimming with designer freebies, Chanel blazers trailing behind her, or questions about my family and post-Christmas glee, she looked me severely UP AND DOWN.

“Mi sembri….You look,” she leaned in and touched my shoulder, “I forget my Eeenglish! You look… beeeeg.”

I nearly dropped the plates I was holding.

“I want to say, healthy and…beeeegger.” I’m not sure if she was aware I’d heard her the first time. And equally offended the second time.

“Oh no, I understand!” I said. My ‘Eeeenglishness’ covering up the embarrassing moment kicking in.  I was worried she would say it again.

“Christmas,” I waved my hand, “you know what it can get like.” I wanted to cry.

Moments later, two yoga mats were slapped on the floor in the living room, the chairs and table scrambled away. Oh God. All sound, light and children barricaded from the room. Silence. Then the familiar singing of a million, dancing dolphins in togas, that I’d heard every so often murmuring through the doors whilst reading to Teresa.

Yoga.

It isn’t that bad! I hear you throw your hands up.

It is an intense kind Elena had picked up from some kind of American Boot Camp for fat kids. Something Jennifer Aniston does twelve times a day, in a heated-pressure sauna, in between her roasted, stick-insect salad with cinnamon.

“…moments later, two yoga mats were slapped on the floor in the living room, the chairs and table scrambled away..Yoga…an intense kind…Jennifer Aniston does twelve times a day…in between her roasted, stick-insect salad with cinnamon..strictly no talking or whimpering”

I tried to concentrate. Strictly no talking or whimpering. I admired Elena’s vigilance to my health needs, ushering me into a rigorous regime after looking at post-Christmas-me for a mere ten seconds.

Did I really look that dreadful?

I’d like to say I didn’t feel like friendly, warthog Pumba being forced to align with nimble, lithe Simba during a gazelle-hunt, but I can’t. The breathing started slow, where of course all you can do is listen embarrassingly to the heaving of your own chest.

The trick is ignoring it, like with a lot of sports. Just get on with it or you will have cheeks and thighs like the discarded slabs of dough not even good enough to make pizza with. That is absolutely what Tracy Anderson and co. are thinking as she breezes “Keep going! You really can, and you really must!”

The thing with yoga is to just move swiftly, don’t think too much, isolate your limbs and ultimately feel a “union with the divine.” It is, when done correctly, the quest for ‘permanent peace’, as opposed to permanent pizza (my mind was elsewhere). Don’t get me wrong, I often practise yoga, and even, horrifically, around men with teeny-tiny speedos, otherwise known as ‘ladybird handkerchiefs’. I found myself lucky that I had, as a trainer for want of a better word, a long, limbed, Latino mamma, looping her legs up and all over the place.

The more I followed the steps, the more I relaxed into each movement. At the end, Elena and I flopped on the sofa with Pellegrino at hand.

“Mi sento molto piu’ libera – grazie per avermi incoraggiato di farlo!”

“I think I feel more liberated – thanks for making me do this!” I told her.

“You are welcome! It is nice to have you back.”

I thought she’d never say it.

“You know, I really think you need to find other ways to feel more…liberated…mmm?” She winked at me, in between gulps of fizzy water. Then smiling cunningly, a slight sheen on her honey-coloured forehead she raised her eyebrows. “Sai cosa voglio dire, tesoro? Do you know what I mean, honey?”

“I know what you mean – please, say no more.” I sighed.

She didn’t. She just winked again.

Enough comments for one day.

” ‘You know, I really think you need to find other ways to feel more…liberated… mmm?’ She winked.”

Why I Feel Like Make-Up Sometimes Helps: An Interview Moment –

The tube is packed and gross, sweaty armpits and angry frowns lean against unmentionable parts of your body. You leave the tube with a fluster and flurry. Caked in stress and dirt from other people’s mornings.

You cannot find your Oyster card. You are thrown against the barrier whilst people show off who can.

You find it, hurrah! A familiar purple tube taps your finger. You leave the station and the sunlight bathes your face. You add a dab of Pink Raspberry and for a moment you feel slightly better about parading into an unfamiliar office with venomous suits offering you water and sharpening their fangs.

 

Flying Back To Italy Today!

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It’s been a long and lovely holiday at home in London, but the time has come to head back to Italy to continue work. (I use the term work loosely of course, as working for the Italian family is proving to be a wonderful experience.)

I should mention, I don’t know how long yet I will be doing it for – as long as Italy will have me! There is certainly a whole wave of things I’ve yet to do and people I’ve yet to meet, dates yet to have. (I’ve been rather shy and slow in that department! I know, grow up!)

What with children, ice cream errands and pesto dilemmas on the one hand, I feel there is so much glamorous sunlit ground I’m still yet to cover on the other hand.

Bobbi Brown Beauty

Bobbi Brown Beauty

Bobbi Brown Lipgloss + When To Wear It?

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This was a treat before I came to Rome actually. Rather than splashing out on lots of new clothes – I decided to buy a new lip gloss. (Call me lavish). The Bobbi Brown pink raspberry kind.

You know what I love about lip gloss? Or indeed any lip product? It is because you can apply it anywhere and it gives you an instant pick-me-up, or whatever it is you want without hobbling on high heels or sporting an expensive item of clothing that hugs in places I shouldn’t.

Some situations I recommend wearing this:

  • An interview moment

The tube is packed and gross, sweaty armpits and angry frowns leaning against unmentionable parts of your body. You leave the tube with a fluster and flurry. Caked in stress and dirt from other people’s morning. You can’t find your Oyster card. You are thrown against the barrier whilst people show off who can. You find it, hurrah! A familiar purple tube taps your finger. You leave the station and the sunlight bathes your face. You add a dab of Pink Raspberry and for a moment you feel slightly better about parading into an unfamiliar office with venomous suits offering you water and sharpening their fangs.

 

  • An airport moment

It’s the most early in the morning it has ever been. You are swimming with sleep, and carrying seven suitcases. Your passport is hiding in one of them. You haven’t had breakfast, you are alone and late. Lady loudspeaker in the airport is catapolting instructions and indications. The airport is chaotic – are you in the right one? Double check ticket, ticket says ‘yes you are.’ Gate is not up, thank the Lord. Cafe’ sign next to screen with gates. You order a coffee and offload luggage. You sit and think and remember how excited you are about where you are going. You enjoy coffee, attractive waiter is staring at you even though you feel like an orc. Finish coffee, get a bit of Bobbi out, apply and leave for flight.

 

Find out more here!

“Peacock Vow”

On another note, here is a bit of history.

Notebooks out! I love this kind of stuff.

During the brutal Medieval era, many knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of Christmas, to “re-affirm their commitment to chivalry” – now that is more like it! This involves placing said knight’s hands on a live, or indeed roasted peacock, to start the ‘re-committing process’. How exciting. Can you imagine? Let me help: A flapping, unhappy, multi-coloured bird (or still, dead and sprinkled with Rosemary and Nigella dust) surrounded by a hundred eager men in bumping, clinking armour, vying to get a handful.

“Can you imagine?… A flapping, unhappy, multi-coloured bird (or still, dead and sprinkled with Rosemary and Nigella dust) surrounded by… men in bumping, clinking armour, vying to get a handful”

On the other hand, if the bird is at the heart of a steaming feast, I’m not sure I’d be too pleased if all the men of my court were touching my dinner with slimy hands, dirty and sticky from hair gel and Halford’s Autoglym ultra deep shine polish. Peacock’s were used because they represented the majesty of kings during the Middle Ages. You can see why: resplendent plumage, glorious nobility, delicious red meat with a glass of your favorite Merlot – what’s not to like? My question is – what would we use today? What would represent ‘nobility’ or ‘pride’ – a horse? Prince’s Charles’ Duchy biscuits? Cath Kidston? Our way of doing things is uniform and, let’s be honest, pretty dull.

“I’m not sure I’d be too pleased if all the men of my court were touching my dinner with slimy hands, dirty and sticky from hair gel and Halford’s Autoglym ultra deep shine polish”

Let me get this straight: our forefathers, who were busy castrating dragons, skinning orcs, seducing maidens from hair adverts, scrubbing armour, were in those days, probably, causing ripples over society and upholding vigilant codes of conduct? This does shed a rather dismal light over OUR New Year’s resolutions. How times have changed, and I only mention because having looked over my friend’s resolutions during a catch up before heading back to Italy, I think we need a breath of inspiration.

My friend’s list: Said in best, Northern English accent and poker face:

  1. Get in shape
  2. Get organised
  3. Stop eatin’ sugar
  4. Stop drinkin’
  5. Call mi’ mum more

Enough said. I think nowadays we should bring back a little graciousness, chill out on the whole self-perfection mantra and know that being flawless at all times isn’t all that necessary, or all that exciting.