Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hair today.

I've been thinking lots lately about when and if I should go grey. At what stage should I give into those silver threads sprouting near my crown and along the part?  What keeps me, and others, vainly dyeing, or augmenting, our hair?

Studied an older woman as she jaywalked in front of our car pushing her old vinyl shopping jeep, if that's what you call them.  She wore a plain brown knit top, a grey skirt, flesh-coloured stockings and sensible black shoes. But her standout feature was freshly coiffed lividly dyed sparse dark chocolate hair.  It was combed back around her forehead and ears; short on her neck. Her face, as she peered around at the traffic, was weathered, lined, some would say haggard, but the hair could hold its own stand up gig

Used to dye my hair a gingery colour in my mid-forties.  Stopped that after my daughter told me I looked like the alcoholic woman in that film Requiem for a Dream.  Hers was an orange dye job gone horribly frizzily wrong.  My daughter was going for a cheap laugh, and she got it, but I think I made a hairdresser's appointment the next day.  Reverted to something akin to my natural colour.

Interestingly, there are quite a few women teaching at my school who have the potential for grey hair, but none has dared to achieve it.  Perhaps it's something about not wanting to give the teenagers any more ammo than they already have by virtue of their lack of manners, audacity and strength in numbers.

Many years ago, a male teaching colleague who used to drive to and from school with me, begged a favour.  On the way home, would I mind going with him into the supermarket to buy a packet of hair dye?  He didn't want to suffer embarrassment at the check-out, having the assistant smirking at his dark little secret.  So I stole with him up the hair aisle, and interpreting his surreptitious sign language, grabbed the box of whatever it was and paid for it, while he stared off, pretending he wasn't with me.  Apparently, he started dyeing his hair when he'd turned snow white in his mid-thirties whilst teaching in Africa.  "I didn't want to stand out," he said, as I hung onto the steering wheel, trying not to laugh.  As if his dyed hair would have camouflaged him amongst the natives.

A couple of years ago, I was in the pub with my old man and his work mates, checking out the seriously springy brown curls of one of his crew.  "Do you dye your hair?" I asked him. (Yeah, I'm nosey.)  I judged him to be middle aged, if the profusion of eye-brow, nose and ear hair was any indication.  You know how it gets at a certain age.  I suppose it could just have been a natural accompaniment to the mop of curls.  "Yes," he conceded, having another sip of his pot.  "Same," I said.  (Well, I have these conversations with women all the time.  Why discriminate?  I was interested.)  It was only after he left that the assembled group let out a collective guffaw.  They'd been working with Jack for years.  He'd been wax bald since his early twenties and had one day turned up to work in a curly wig.  From that day forward, he didn't mention it and neither did anyone else, well, not to him.  He even had a series of similar wigs that he wore sequentially to simulate hair growth.  Evidently I was the first one to call it, but I didn't get it quite right.

My cousin's middle aged bloke had a generous seventies Robert Redford-esque ash blond mane.  He was sitting with me and my old man (bald, number one) out on the patio.  We'd had a couple of drinks in the sunshine and had arrived at that level of relaxed intimacy that naturally led to me getting personal and complimenting Gerry on his excellent hair, given his age.  He modestly accepted the praise; turned his head just so, possibly to catch the afternoon sun's rays through the trees.  Much later, my cousin told me that he was wearing a wig.  Apparently, when he undresses, the hair comes off too, leaving a scant fringe of hair around the neck, which during the day is deftly blended with the wig.

So in the butcher's this morning, I'm standing behind three oldies, studying their hair.  The gent on the right looks like an aged ballroom dance instructor.  A thick black youthful wig adorns his old head. His shirt is white with fine black stripes, open at the collar, under a black cardigan. He's wearing matching slacks and black pointy toed slip-on shoes.  He paid for his meat from a massive roll of cash that he pulled out of his pocket on his missus's order.  She has an almost ubiquitous - for a Saturday morning - brown-orange bad home dye by the looks, all fluffed out to disguise the alopecia. The woman next to her is one shade lighter, but it's the same look.  Must have been a sale on in Chemist Warehouse.

And there's me standing behind, wondering at what stage I transmogrify into that parody of my former self or whether I'm already there.  Actually, think I'm overdue for a root boost.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sleepless in Rutherglen.

Have done some big bike rides over the last three days.  Glorious days of exercise, food and wine, followed by hellish nights, I might add.  Had another night of horror last night.

It's not down to the old man's 'adventure dreams' either.  Although they keep me busy.  He shouts, cycles his legs, scraping me occasionally with his lethal toenails, and rants in what could pass as the devil's voice in an episode of Supernatural.  Or it's doof, doof, doofdoofdoof fists into the middle of my back where I'm suddenly some nemesis he's taking a swing at.  (Well, that's his excuse.) The other night, like a magician doing the table-cloth trick, he whisked off the bed clothes and flung them into the air.  But it's not that.  His antics are mildly diverting.

I usually sleep well for four or so hours, then groan as I check the beacon digital clock and see 2.20. Try not to think of it. Think of something else. Sing American Pie in my head, then 999 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, then, fuck it, I'm wide awake.

Thus I lie there for at least the next two hours before drifting into a light sleep, invariably to be awoken again by the night-time adventurer beside me. I shake him, punch his arm, slap him, beg him to wake up and swap to a different dream, but to no avail. He seems to be able to nod off and take up where he left off, after an ad break.  But I'm back to listening to my heart-beat and feeling for lumps.

Basically, my insomnia's down to alcohol abuse, and don't we all put it away when we come up here to
Rutherglen a couple of times a year for a bit of cycling. And wine.

Did a bit of reckoning this morning, after another wakeful night. It's just too easy to imbibe here, without even thinking about it.  But think about it I did.

We'd cycled about ten k yesterday before having a tasting at Cofields. Generous, delicious sparklings. Who can resist? And their sparkling shiraz is excellent.  (The enormous tastes could have been down to a new cellar manager. Unfortunately, she'll probably learn.)  The marsanne viognier hit the spot, so we decided to take a glass each out on the lawns.  By my addition I was up to about 350 ml of 14 percent proof.

Roll down the road to Pfeiffers and about another 100 ml in obligatory tasting. Started with an evaporative reisling. That's how it felt. Don't know the correct terminology.  Steely? But from my perspective it just disappeared in the mouth. No need to swallow or spit. Evaporative. But not like metho.  The chardonnay was delicious so bought a bottle to have down on the bridge.  Sister, Reggie, supplied the picnic.  All good fare that I won't bore you with. Suffice to say, it hit the spot, and I had to laugh when she produced a vintage sixties table cloth to complete the idyllic picture.  Another couple of bevies and I was up to about 650 or so ml, but not feeling it, unless really enjoying the gum trees, Murray tributary and bird song with my lunch was a sign.

Continued the pedal for a few flat k along to Campbell's. Didn't even bother with a tasting. We were on a chardonnay roll, so took a bottle onto the lawns to watch what was left of the sunshine setting over the vines.  Ker-ching. Another 200 ml or so.  Time to head back to Wine Village, our very comfortable lodgings in Rutherglen, for an apres cycle glass or two. According to my rain-man reckoning I was up to about 1.15 litres by now.  Further glass of Campbell's chardonnay up at Poachers Paradise, a more than worthy accompaniment to my special Seafood Laksa with Hokkein Noodles and Coconut Milk. Despite a 29k cycle, and notwithstanding the fact that I hit the Diet Coke and coffee at that stage, clearly I'd put away about 1.3 litres of 14 proof delicious wine ON MY OWN!

In conclusion, I'm my own worst enemy suffering self inflicted sleeplessness and feeling like shit in the small hours. Or perhaps it was the country seafood laksa??

(BTW, have cycled 45k today and feel awesome because FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER in Rutherglen, I haven't touched a drop.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Picture Framer.

I'm thinking of my exhortations to my Year 8 Writing Class to begin at the interesting bit, then backfill, but I'm not sure whether there is an interesting bit in this musing.  It was for me, but perhaps you had to be there.  I'll try.

My cousin's been staying with me, on and off, for the past three months, using our place as her Australian base.  She wanted to buy us - my old man and me - a parting gift.  Thus, she offered to have one of my son's drawings framed.  Seemed like a good idea, and something I'd been meaning to do but never got around to.  Thus the plan for the first weekday of my vacation was to locate a picture framers close by.

My son sketched this picture on black cartridge paper with what looks like white chalk. There's some charcoal shading too.  It's quite big, about a metre by god knows what; maybe sixty centimetres.  It's from a life drawing class he took when he was about nineteen.  We were all overwhelmed by the beauty of this portrait of a woman, breasts hanging, eyes closed.  I didn't think my big goofy boy, who at that stage spent lots of time stomping around the house making animal noises, had it in him.  Prior to that year, he'd done maths and science subjects, thinking he'd be an architect, or some-such.  Now he was a budding artist.  The other thing about this portrait is it's done several years under his bed, unprotected, amongst indescribable, unmentionable filth that's shocked even him.  I rescued it last year after he'd finally finished his Communication Design degree and cleaned up his room, thinking to start fresh.  By that stage the picture was crumpled, and a bit torn around the edges, but still, well, a work of art; an almost careless yet very accomplished study.

Which is how we ended up at a local framers.  It's in Sydney Road, only a block or two down from the Coburg shops, in that no man's land stretch that's not yet fashionable.  (Give it time, now that Brunswick's the new Fitzroy, it won't be long 'til Bohemia creeps further north.)  The shop didn't look like much from the outside.  Thought it might have been closed, but it wasn't.

"What can I do for you ladies?"  This dark-haired stocky, smiling guy was rubbing his hands together as we approached.  Told him the story and he cast an oh-oh sort of eye over the crumpled picture.  "Hmm," he said, frowning, "I'm going to have to glue it and I can't guarantee that it won't get creases and I'm worried about smudging it." Spreading his hands over the picture like a Reiki healer, he mimed how he was going to have to press to get the wrinkles out.  Didn't seem to be a problem from my perspective, but I rang my son for his advice.  They had a bit of craftsman to craftsman talk and decided the whole gluing procedure wouldn't be a problem.  Seemed a bit ridiculous to worry about a couple of creases from my perspective.  Whatever the framer did was going to liberate Ms Tits from down the side of my wardrobe and would have to be an improvement.

"So, have youse got a particular frame in mind?"  Good teeth and a very accommodating attitude, I thought.  I had no idea.  "Did youse want a mount?" Interesting.  Cousin Butterfly, however, knew what he meant.

Our framer was a bit of a know-it-all but savvy enough to make Butterfly think he agreed with all her  suggestions for frame and mount.

"Do you want ordinary glass or matte?" he asked.
"Oh, I think ordinary," said Butterfly, on what pretext, I don't know, but she sounded like she had some artistic reason for her choice.
"Glad you said that!" he chimed.  "That's the best.  The matte can make it a bit dull."  I'm quite sure if she'd said matte, he would have agreed and had a stock reply - the ordinary can make it a bit bright?

I didn't really get it so asked what he meant.  He waved to a display over my shoulder.  I swung around. "See those pictures there? They don't even look like there's any glass on them, whereas with your ordinary glass, see how it brings out the colours?"  I looked at the frames he indicated.  He had a point.  I wandered in a bit closer to study the matte finished photos.  They were a framed series of four photo portraits of what I thought were four pretty young girls.  Initially, I thought they were sisters given the variations in age, hair styles and clothes.  These were black and white head and shoulder shots of back-combed made up early sixties debs, by the looks.  Special party frocks, ribbons and strappy dresses.  Clear, beautiful faces.  In the centre of the frame was a small square inset plaque, inscribed with Greek capital lettering.

"Who're the women?" I asked, mildly interested and my usual nosey self.  Thought it'd be some old relic from a customer who hadn't returned to collect it.
"It's my mother."  I was still studying the pretty faces.
"Wow. Pretty woman."
"She passed away in 1971. When I was two.  Her and my little sister.  And that's me sitting on dad's knee."  Instantly, I had tears welling up.  "It's a passport photo.  You didn't have to have a separate photo for a child back then.  It was just before we went back to Greece.  After my mum passed away."  In the black and white photo, his father has short, rocker-style hair. He's wearing a checkered sports jacket and an open necked shirt.  He has a hollow eyed look; a blank, empty serious stare for the camera.  His wide-eyed similarly serious two year old son is perched on his left knee,  The pretty young woman above had died in childbirth.

I don't know the framer's name, but I'm calling him Dimitri now.  Dimitri was far from maudlin, although his eyes shone with empathy at my reaction.  However, it seemed life improved on the return to Greece.  His dad, unable to make a match with one of her older sisters, courted and married the fifteen year old girl next door who'd been looking after little Dimitri while his father worked.

"People can't believe how young my mum is," Dimitri laughed.  "She's only thirteen years older than me.  I  call her my mum.  She is my mum.  She never made me feel that I wasn't her own.  I didn't find out until I was sixteen that she was my step-mum.  How would I know?  I couldn't remember."

"Where's your dad now?" Dimitri was trying a couple of different frames against the picture.
"He's here, working." Almost on cue, a small grey haired man shuffled across the back of the workroom behind the shop.
"Doesn't mind you talking about him?"
"Nah. Doesn't listen. He's got selective hearing."

There was something wonderful about being in this family business  where Dimitri, his brothers and his dad work together.  I'm wondering what else I can have framed for the sake of a bit more chat.

Meanwhile, I could see that Butterfly and I were doing a bit of a dueling writers thing, wondering who'd get dibs on the story.  If I was a better writer perhaps I could eke it out into a sixties Captain Corelli's Mandolin.  Sadly, I'm not.

The frame will set Butterfly back 175 bucks.  But the experience was a bit priceless.