Salon

Here’s a poem for those of us suffering bad hair days in lockdown and missing our mask-less trips to the local salon:-

 

Asymmetric is the new black, she purred
into the forest of mirrors, a rainbow
Janus, her two faces receding into infinity.
Kate was so blown away by herself, it hurt

in the forest of mirrors. A rainbow
beyond the rain-tumbled glass arched
a January sky, the crumbling walls and
For Sale boards of a deserted Main Street.

Beyond the rain-tumbled glass arched
a customer, bobble-hatted and doubled
against the wind like tumble weed rolling
towards a make-over with 15 percent off.

A customer, bobble-hatted and doubled
in need of a break-fix miracle-treat curl
please height-riser mega-sleek moisture
me rich airy-builder with no yellow matrix.

In need of a break-fix miracle-treat curl
Kate unholstered her scissors, quivered
her combs and twizzled her natural bristles.
On hearing of Sue’s new marble jacuzzi

Kate unholstered her scissors, quivered,
chopped, snipped and razored Sue’s golden
locks to the floor and with a chameleon smile
Asymmetric is the new black, she purred.

 

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Photo by the author

 

 

Northern Soul

Portrait of a Wicker Man

 

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Photo by the author

 

Note:- compared to the rest of the UK, the North of Scotland has a high level of social problems particularly affecting men.  Unemployment, alcoholism, drug abuse, depression and suicide are on the rise due to the decline of fishing, farming and the oil industries.  Men are feeling increasingly powerless as they lose their traditional roles.  So although it is a beautiful part of the world, the Highland region is a tough place to  survive.

I met the friendly guy in the photo while I was trying to photograph a window display in the tiny shopping precinct in Wick.  He offered to pose alongside the rather creepy mannequins.  He’d just bought cat food as he does voluntary work for a cat rescue charity.

A Fashion Blunder

The February air is zesty with unexpected sunshine and the northern wind softened to a breeze. Spurning my faithful duffle coat I reach for the cashmere coat with a fake fur collar that I haven’t worn since leaving London.  This coat has been on a long journey and in storage for two years.  Its chic appeal seems incongruous in this land of anoraks and woolly hats but why not be different today?  Should I wear the sheepskin gloves or the fluffy angora ones?  I go with the fluffy.  The dusky pink matches my suede boots.

The street is quiet, not even the builders around and no sign of my elderly neighbor who likes to feed the seagulls every morning.  A battered red pick-up truck rattles down the road towards the harbor trailing an aroma of fish.  I’m heading to the village shop for milk and bananas.  As my clumsy fingers place the house key in my coat pocket they dislodge a crumpled piece of yellow paper from the silk lining.  It flutters onto the waterlogged front lawn. The sulfur color reminds me of old moss, the sort that clings to old stone walls.

It’s not a discarded shopping list or a receipt for some long-forgotten object of desire but a couple of cinema tickets; Twenty One Grams.  It’s a poignant film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu about how people’s lives intersect and fragment due to a random event.  The story reveals the patterns concealed beneath the surface of everyday life.  The twenty one grams refers to the amount of weight which is mysteriously lost at the moment of death.

I went to see this film on my thirtieth birthday, the first of March, many years ago now.  We ate lunch in the roof top restaurant of an art gallery overlooking the Thames before going to the cinema.  After the film we drank cocktails in a trendy bar in Knightsbridge.  It was an enjoyable day in a faraway life. Tom and I were both in a good mood and we didn’t mind the cold wind, dodging the rain showers without an umbrella or searching for an elusive parking space.  I didn’t complain about the dirty pavements, the crowds or the traffic.  At that time I’d never heard of Caithness and living in Scotland was a romantic dream.  I was wearing this same grey coat with a leopard fur collar.  It felt like the wrong coat for a wet day.

Today I queue in the village shop while two incomers, a mother and teenage daughter stock up on junk food.  They are horsey types who have adopted a feral lifestyle.  The mother wears a red bandana and a dirty shredded t-shirt any eighties punk would be proud of.  Her bare feet are encased in flip flops.  Jagged green toenails protrude from a crust of mud.  Both women exude a smell reminiscent of rotting potatoes.  They spend more than twenty pounds on sweets and chocolate.  As they exit the shop Elaine reaches under the counter for the air freshener and sprays it around in a protective circle.

On my way home I wonder if I’m wearing the wrong coat.

 

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Photograph taken by the author