Archive for February 2008
Naturally, I was delighted to discover that there was a hairdressers, Salon Birgit, attached to the Hotel Schlössle, my accomodation in Vaduz. However, I was somewhat less delighted to discover it would cost CHF86 for a simple cut and dry. This was roughly the same amount I´d paid for all the stripping, dying, cutting, washing and drying I´d had done at H.A.N.D. And I even had a head massage thrown in.
I resolved to get my hair cut more cheaply when I was in London. Walking to the station in New Malden one fine afternoon, I happened to chance upon Judys Hair. There was a notice in the window saying ladies’ haircuts cost £24*, and I was in there like a flash.
The only problem was, the hairdresser was no Beauty. She didn´t know what I wanted; I didn´t know what I wanted; and the result was a presentable trim, but not what I would call a haircut. Granted, there was no longer the possibility of an unwanted mullet sprouting forth from my skull, but that was the best that could be said about it.
I continued the walk down to the station, the customary post-haircut spring in my step strangely absent. Out of the corner of my eye I spyed Sam´s Barbershop. I learned something that day. Never trust a hairdresser who can´t apostrophise. How can someone incapable of constructing a correct sentence, or in this case, phrase, be trusted with the inifinitely more finicky task of creating a proper hairstyle? I couldn´t help thinking I should´ve rather gone to Sam´s, and shaved my head again. If his grammar is anything to go by, at least he would´ve made a decent job of it.
* Trying to convert between francs, euro and pounds (and with those pesky rands demanding to be taken account of also) was, and still is, beyond my elementary mathematics. On that particular trip to England, I later found out that the CHF/£ exchange rate at the time was something like 2.3/1. I had been innocently working on a 2/1 ratio (don´t you just love whole numbers!), so didn´t save as much on the haircut as I originally supposed.
Hair is very important to me. Which isn´t to say I don´t shave mine all off with some degree of frequency. But this means finding a good hairdresser is vital; my hair is perennially growing out, and needs to be skilfully coaxed towards the desired level of chic(k)ness.
Before I left Cape Town, I was fortunate enough to work for a company where everyone understood this hairy imperative. I don´t know if it was official policy, but in our corner of the office it was perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, to take an extra-long lunch break to get your hair cut, as long as we weren´t actually on deadline.
Witness my last haircut before I left. We´d just finished the nine o´clock meeting, when I casually mentioned I was thinking of dying my hair chocolate brown.
“Chocolate brown,” my editor enthused. “That will look fabulous. You must do it. Make an appointment for today!”
“Ja, well,” I hesitated, disingenuously. “I have a long list today, and we´re going to print next week. Perhaps the week after that?”
“Nonsense,” she countered. “Call your hairdresser right away. You can have an extra-long lunch.”
A few hours later, I waltzed into H.A.N.D in Green Point. Luckily Beauty, my favourite hairdresser in the whole world, had a free slot. The truth is, I´m not actually that picky when it comes to my hair. I´m not going to bring in some picture of this week´s latest celebrity haircut, and demand to look exactly like Katie Holmes or Posh Spice, or whoever. I mean, why would I want to look like Katie Holmes, or Posh Spice, or whoever? I just want to look like me. But it is beyond my limited linguistic skills to explain what “me” is hairstyle-wise, especially since I don´t really know myself. In true passive-aggressive style, I want my hairdresser to access my subconscious; analyse my bone stucture and hair type; and come up with the precise haircut I desire, without me having to actually tell her what it is.
Beauty can do all of these things, which is why I love and miss her. On this particular occasion she stripped my hair of its previous redness, applied a gorgeous chocolate-brown dye, and rounded off the effect with a haircut that was the frigging shiznic. Everyone in the office was so dazzled by my transformation they failed to comment on the fact that this time it had been an extra-extra-long lunch.
As I walked into the Astoria, I was hit by some truly sweet muthafuckin country acid house music. No matter that I didn´t know the actual song, I was hooked…
On paper it didn´t look like this was gonna be my best concert ever. I was there on my lonesome; familiar with just the first of the band´s six albums; and my only buzz was from lack of sleep. But bear in mind my previous concert excursions have generally involved two or more of the following:
a) American rappers;
b) the Belleville Velodrome;
c) the company of drunken adolescents;
d) a parking problem;
with only the lure of freebies to sweeten the experience (thanks Moral Squeeze!).
On this occasion I had spent my own money to see a band of my choice, and at a decent venue, nogal. If Irvine Welsh could dance to the boys from Brixton without chemical assistance then so could I. I promptly befriended some middle-aged men wearing cowboy hats; they hoisted me up onto a conveniently placed ledge; and I partied the night away from the best view in the house, at least until the belligerent security guy flashed his torch in my eyes and told me to get down.
I knew a few of the old favourites (“Woke up this Morning“; “Ain´t going to Goa”); and discovered some “new” ones (“Too sick to pray“; “Hello… I´m Johnny Cash”). The evening ended with a triple encore: the sublime “Holy Blood”, “The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness”, and “Sweet Joy”, which gives “If you were the only girl in the world” a 21st-century makeover.
And then the show was over, bar the after party. As I drifted out the theatre to the strains of “Sweet Home Alabama“, I contemplated whether to continue my night in Brixton. I wanted to, I really did. But I was by myself, had no idea as to the exact location of the venue, and was about to collapse due to lack of sleep, so I wimped out and caught the next train to Bedfordshire.
I haven´t really told you about the music yet, have I? I tend to agree with whoever it was that said “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”, if only because I am a) lazy, b) intimidated by my lack of musical knowledge, and c) all too aware that my measly words won´t measure up.
But what I love about Alabama 3 – apart from their gravelly vocals, their irony-laden personsonae, their intertextual lyrics, and the fact that they have all the right politics – is the way their songs seamlessly provide a musical education. Their mishmash of country, blues, and gospel over techno beats has got me hunting down influences, references and sequencers all over the Interweb. Oh, and my CD collection is sounding rather different than it did a year ago. Long live Presleytarianism!
I managed to get barely an hour´s sleep, only to be woken by Kate´s panicked voice: “Trinks, you´ve pressed snooze twice already. Your bus leaves in half an hour. You need to get up!”
I staggered out of bed. I really needed a shower. I also needed to finish packing. Admittedly, I had half-packed the day before, which, at the time, I thought was a supremely cunning plan. Alas, it turned out to be only 50 per cent of a cunning plan.
I stumbled round the room, randomly chucking items in my suitcase. One of these items was my new laptop. Somehow it didn´t occur to me that a) there are computers in the UK, and b) their plugs are different. As well as the laptop and attendant paraphenalia, I blithely packed my camera charger, my phone charger, and my iPod charger. Overall, I must have lugged at least 5kg of incompatible technological equipment across the sea for no good reason.
And this was before I even began on the clothes. I was at a loss without Moral Squeeze to restrain me, and packing, as you may have guessed, has never been my forte.
“Should I take the long black dress or the little black dress?” I asked Kate indecisively. She patiently advised the latter, while I stumbled around some more. “Where is my eyeliner? I simply cannot go to London without my eyeliner,” I declared. (Nevermind the fact I rarely use eyeliner, since I am unable to apply it without looking like some kind of racoon, despite having previously worked at a fashion and beauty magazine).
“Trinks, I think you are still drunk. And in the throws of an extended Bridget Jones moment!” said Kate, barely surpressing her laughter. “I don´t want to be Bridget!” I wailed, conveniently forgetting that some years ago I had attended a fancy-dress party (theme: the fictional character you most resemble) as none other than Ms Jones. Call it part of my mispent youth.
Back to the dilemma of the moment. “I don´t want to be Bridget!” I wailed. “I am a strong independent women. Without issues. And with sexy underwear. Not at all like Bridget!” I sounded pathetic, and strangely unconvincing, even to myself. But, despite histrionics, we were in fact (almost) ready to hit the road. I grabbed a bottle of chardonnay and my Silk Cuts and we made a dash the bus stop.
My day didn´t get better. Without Kate around to jolly me out of my hangover, I was stuck in travelling hell. In brief, my itinerary looked like this:
1. Bus from Vaduz to Sargans
2. Train from Sargans to Basel
3. Bus from Basel to EuroAirport*
4. Flight from EuroAirport to London Luton**
5. Bus from Luton to Victoria***
6. Train from Victoria to New Malden
7. Walk from New Malden station to Elm Road
8. Collapse into bed****
* The EuroAirport is cool. One airport, three countries. Believe it, because it´s true! I also ate some very expensive food there, which made me feel slightly more human (although still primarily alien).
** Note to self, and other travellers. It is a much more pleasant experience getting felt up by svelte Swiss security staff than their British counterparts.
*** There is a reason that flights to Luton are cheap. Because it isn´t even in the middle of nowhere. It´s like, far out on the edge of nowhere, when “somewhere” is on the opposing edge.
**** That would have been nice. But I had plans for the evening. Plans that had been booked and prepaid on the Interweb.
I live in Room 13 of House B (Hotel Schlössle), which means I have the good fortune of living in all-too-close proximity to “Club 14”, opened by the enterprising J&B.
Until the night of my birthday, my interactions with Club 14 management had largely consisted of me asking politely that they keep the noise down; J&B accusing me of being unfriendly for not joining in the parties; and me then pointing out that I was no longer a student, and had a class to teach in the morning.
Our conversations would always end amiably, with both parties smiling. But although I generally managed to fall asleep, the music never became any softer.
Cut to my birthday celebrations. At some point in the wee hours, Kate sensibly decided to call it a night. I say “sensibly”, because we both had to arise at some ungodly hour to catch the bus (me to Sargans, her to Feldkirch). Alas, all sense had deserted me…
For some reason I cannot recall, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to make my virgin Club 14 appearance. J&B were characteristically generous of spirit, and I ended up chilling with the regular Club 14 boys until such a late (or rather early) hour, that there seemed little point in sleeping at all. I was to regret this during my arduous travels “tomorrow”.
Kate and I eventually made it back to Hotel Schlössle just before ten, and we still had to primp ourselves for the party. I had told everyone that we´d be in the common room from eightish, so we were very unfashionably late…
But everyone was happy to see us, and I enjoyed chilling with new friends, and making some even newer ones, while improving my pidgin English. Eszter gave me some bangles, and Kate gave me a good luck charm from Naples. My funniest present was from DJ Daxxter – a princess tiara.
It was DJ Daxxter´s birthday on 7 October (he shares it with thom e. yorke), so as the bells chimed midnight (and they really do in Vaduz), there was another surprise for both of us…
Charles and Lufa and the Mona Lisa had baked us two birthday cakes. But first we had to search the common room to find them, with Sebastian accompanying our hunt on guitar, while singing “hotter / colder”. Eventually we located two gorgeous cakes (one chocolate-orange, and one a fruit tart), balanced on the window ledge.
Everyone wrote birthday greetings in my notebook, in an international array of languages: Deutsch, Čeština, Magyar, Italiano, Vlaams, الْعَرَبيّة, and last, but not least, English. A suitably fabulous occasion, and I was very glad I´d decided to stay in Vaduz for my birthday and party with my cosmopolitan new friends. But the evening wasn´t over yet…
My fabulous friend Bec is not from Liechtenstein. Nor is she a student here, having chosen more verdant pastures of knowledge. However, and it deserves another mention, she is fabulous. Read her blog, and you´ll think so too!
Look out for further mention of Bec when I finally get round to recalling my weekend of Oxonian debauchery – if indeed, I still maintain any recollection of it.