Monthly Archives: March 2011

Letting my hair down

“Why do you always wear your hair up?” Debs asked me.

I shrugged.  “It stays tidier that way.  Tends to be frizzy, y’see.”

“Mmm.  Why bother growing it if you never let it loose?”


“I think it would look good if you let it down.”

“Not sure, m’self”.

Prior to this, I’d kept my hair short.  It was the scene of endless teenage battles in front of the bathroom mirror, trying to get it to behave itself … and failing.  I lose count of the times I broke into tears of adolescent frustration at my hair’s refusal to let itself be styled straight or even to lose the dreaded frizz.  How I hated the frizz.

The irony of this is that I was a teenager in the 80s, when big hair was all the rage.  I could not understand why my peers permed their perfectly respectable, enviably straight hair in order to create a mass of curls.  I fought my own curls every inch of the way, keeping them short in an attempt to force them to co-operate.  Not that it ever worked.

The 80s hairstyles that I aspired to possess were both equally unattainable; the sleek bob and the towering gelled spiked ‘do.  The bob was the kind of style that would swish tauntingly at me from adverts for the latest miracle hair products and also gleam in the pages of teen magazines.  It was the spikes that I coveted the most, however.  One of my peers possessed sleek jet black hair, gelled into mighty spikes which stood proud of her head to a length of at least two inches.  I was in awe of her.  She appeared to be everything I was not; edgy, poised and even a little dangerous.  On reflection, even if I had been able to style my hair into that look, it never really would have matched my personality.  I am, and always have been, more of the vague, fluffy type.

Which brings me back to the conversation with my new friend Debs, in b22, Beck Hall, Swansea.

Swansea was my new home, having recently been freed from parental restraint to explore the life of student-dom.  Beck was the hall of residence I had come to inhabit; three Victorian terraced houses knocked through to provide accommodation for the usual rag-tag bunch of proto-adults drawn from all corners of the UK.  b22 was my mates’ room.   Nick and Kenny shared this large double room, which became a natural meeting place for our bunch of friends, due primarily to its size.  The rules of Beck Hall stipulated that more than 6 people in a study bedroom at any one time constituted a party – or was it 8? –  either way, it was not permitted.  I believe we must have averaged at least one illicit party every week or so.  Our debauched practice of sitting around, drinking tea and being very silly mercifully went unnoticed by the powers that be, I hate to imagine what dread penalty we would have incurred.

Anyway, back to the conversation.  Debs eventually did persuade me to let my hair down.  As I did so another friend, Nick or Kenny perhaps, immortalised this iconic moment in photographic form.

Little did I know that the literal act of unleashing my hair for the very first time would become a metaphor for my life; both before the act of release and from that point on.  As I look at the resultant photograph, I feel a great deal of joy, yet it is tinged with a little sadness.  The joy is brought about by fond memories of the person I was; how the events of that time and the friends I made were instrumental in shaping the person I went on to become.  The sadness is a result of knowing that the person letting her hair down in the photo has since been replaced by one necessarily more adult.  If only a little.

That pivotal point, captured in photographic form, illustrates graphically the changes that were happening to me at that time.  I was learning that I did not need to be so tightly wound, so proper, so under control in order to be accepted.  In fact, my friends appeared to welcome my more quirky side.   Rather than treating it as something to be ignored or controlled, at best, nor mocked and despised, at worst, they actively encouraged the more unique expressions of my nature.

My student days saw an explosion of my hair, like a frizzed super-nova.  This coincided with an expansion of the limits I had formerly accepted upon my personality.  My behaviour, like my hair, became free to be more uninhibited, free to be me, free to be free.

Out of necessity, my hair has become slightly tidier since that time and I have even found one miracle hair elixir that actually lives up to its claims.  No more frizz (relatively speaking!)  The requirement to play to the part of a professional adult prevents me from sporting the full Einstein look these days, but this is not a problem as the time for that has passed.  I do still get the chance to let my hair down, however , and seize every opportunity without hesitation.  I owe it to myself, after all. To real me, anyway.


Ooh, ‘ello!

Well, what a lovely surprise.

Having become very used to seeing infrequent blog updates over recent weeks and months, I had adjusted the frequency of my visits accordingly.  I had even developed the alternative habit of visiting FB  to see how people were doing.  In light of that , how glad I am to see a wonderfully long list of WibFolk with recent updates!  I now need to find the time to pay you each a visit and catch up on the news.

Welcome out of hibernation, my friends! 😉

New Scientist

The hunter stalks her prey through the long grass, head titled slightly in order to catch the characteristic sound of its call.  Zzzt-zzzt.  There!  Listen more carefully.  Zzzt-zzzt.  There it is again.  Over there!  The hunter draws silently closer to the source of the sound.  Slowly, slowly and pounce!  Her hand closes over – nothing, the creature has leaped away.  Drat!

Again, the hunter advances, approaching the location that her prey has been seen to land.  So well cam-ou-flaged, she thinks to herself, so hard to spot.  Reaching forth her hand, she sweeps it slowly back and forth along the tips of the grassy seed heads.  They tickle in a pleasant manner and send up a faint dusting of pollen, catching in her throat and making her sneeze.

There, again!  Her quarry has made the mistake of choosing that moment to move.  She is upon it like a flash, hand rapidly shut.  Gotcha!

Leaning back onto her haunches, the hunter opens her cupped hand to reveal the captive.  There, resting tentatively on her outstretched palm, is a buff coloured grasshopper.  Suddenly, realising that it is no longer confined, the creature leaps back into the grass.  It leaves nothing but a peculiar sensation on the skin of the hunter, from the slightest pressure of its departing feet.

Satisfied, the hunter gets to her own feet and ventures off in search of her next quarry – the ladybird.

.          .          .

I always knew just where to find them, these brightly coloured jewels of the invertebrate kingdom; they were guaranteed to be nestled amongst the sword shaped leaves of the acrid smelling bush by our front door.  This bush gave off the kind of smell that could almost be tasted, lingering unpleasantly in the back of the throat.  The fact that I associated this bush, and hence its smell, with its semi-permanent population of ladybirds, led me to conclude that the ladybirds themselves gave off the smell.  Ladybird smell.  It made perfect sense to me at the time, and I refused to believe my mother when she insisted that ladybirds did not smell of anything!

Smell or no smell, they were always easy to locate.  They would stand out like shiny porcelain beads against the dark green of the bush.  I felt no compunction to handle these particular insects, the thrill being derived not from the chase, but rather from study.

I remember one particular summer very clearly indeed; it would have been harder to avoid ladybirds that year than to find them.  The bush was absolutely covered.  The rotund seven-spot beetles became so commonplace as to almost be boring, although the little red two-spots still retained sufficient scarcity to interest me.  I derived the most joy at that time from the appearance of more exotic looking ladybirds; tiny and yellow with black spots, brown-black with orange spots and even the occasional larva.

.           .          .

Lar-va. The young professor rolls this new word around in her mind.  What ladybirds looked like before they became ladybirds.

Amazing.  This requires further investigation.