Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Orange hair

I dyed my hair blonde orange Monday night.

I turned to my policemate and held out the two boxes: bleach and dye. "See," I explained. "It takes TWO steps, and that's how you don't go orange."

She stared.

I started.

I used to be blonde. I think it's one of those fun, sassy, light, playful shades, with a bit of mischief and a hint of a wink.

I also used to be tan. Oh England...

I marched out into the livingroom after box one and two. Shoulders back, head up, like a cadet going into battle.


My policemate blinked. Smiled tentatively.

"It's... you're... well, brave for trying!"

Tuesday morning, after desperate communication with two very amused bosses, I sent the following to my company:

"I've superglued a tabby cat to my head.

That, or I tried to dye my hair blonde, myself, at home, last night.

Both probably would produce the same result.

Lacking the desire to join the Federation of Trolls (google them, if you don't know what they are. American pop culture!), and nervous about confusing drivers (is that a red light? yellow light?), I'm working from home this morning so a professional can fix my mistake.

Will be reachable by phone, email, and dye fumes.

In as soon as possible.

-humbled and not a hairstylist, Danae "

The responses back were fantastic, ranging from the supportive ('At least it's not receding!') to the amused ('this made us chuckle so hard') to the fashionable ('match it with orange shoes, it will be fine!'). My hair even inspired creativity ('I wanted to decorate your desk with all these orange post-it notes... I forgot.').

"Oh Danae..." My colleague giggled when I walked in several hours later, with all traces of orange bleached aggressively from my hair. "Only you would do this."

Of course. Because I'm impulsive and impatient and like to try things, everything, all things. Add in a dash of independence and a healthy dose of optimism, and there's a recipe for the love child of Cher and Carrot Top. Right there. On my head.

I giggled back.

"On the bright side, I can't feel my scalp anymore."

"That's the bright side?"

"And all the fumes have made me extra creative."

My colleague laughed and I laughed and then I sat down and got to work.

Just another day in my London life...

Sunday, 25 March 2012


I'm superstitious about graffiti.

If I look at it too long, something will happen. Thugs will happen. They'll jump from the corners wielding cans of spray paint and angry faces, and then they'll art deco me.

Or something.

It's not a rational unease. But it's a real one. So real that I often avert my eyes when passing by graffiti, turning my gaze away lest the streetthugs and gangsters saunter forward, like a small child playing hide and seek. If I don't see them, they don't see me.

I'm a bit like that with the life, sometimes. With the good things.

If I look at them too long, they will -


They'll disappear. Go away. Poof.

The other day I was sitting across from a client, tucked in one of those dark and masculine restaurants with wood and leather and faux fires burning on flat screen TVs. We were waiting for a journalist, making the easy small talk of professional life.

"So what about you? Do you think you'll be in London for the rest of your life? That this is it, this is where you'll stay?" He leaned forward, smiling slightly.

I paused. Hesitated. Reluctant in a single sweep to commit myself to this, this idea of London.

"For now." I conceded. "I've really started to love it here."

Sometimes the realisation that I am so happy, so very happy, astounds me. It startles me. I hold the thought in my mind like fingers to a rosary, gently touching each realisation, each pleasing little tidbit, with papery quiet and a certain reverence.

Bit by bit, I'm becoming comfortable with looking.

After dinner with friends, I found myself walking across Waterloo Bridge. The city was thrumming with an early spring evening. Along the Thames, buildings glowed in oranges, blues, purples.

I stopped for a moment there. My elbows on the railing, the smell of roasted almonds from the street vendor mixing with the faint laughter of tourists on the boat below. With a small sigh of concession, I looked.

Guess you can say I've started to notice the graffiti.


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Boat Races

"...the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished sprits." Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

'Boat race?' I messaged several friends on Thursday. 'The weather will be nice.' A lie, of course. The weather is rarely nice in London. 'And there will be many tall men.'

'You could watch rugby instead,' came the responding email. Where we would be inside. Dry. Drinking a pint. And enjoying the almost irrationally tight-shirted nature of rugby players.

'Tough choice... Both? Boat race adventure?' I encouraged. Even though it meant an early morning. Even though it meant standing outside in the cold. Because it would be worth it. There's something quiet and beautiful about boat races, about rowers. Something solemn in the way they push out in the early hours of the morning, blades hitting the water as the glint of the sun and the day perch on the horizon.

It's one of my favourite parts of running: going along the river, watching the rowers with their wellies set themselves up with all the formality of an age-old institution. I like seeing the teams working together, lifting and shifting with practised efficiency. I like seeing the single rowers by themselves, moving along, isolated bodies bobbing on the water.

I like races.

So I found myself standing along the Thames post 20-mile run, shivering, wet, with my hands tucked inside my running vest.  Supporters lined the waterway. Dozens were on the Hammersmith Bridge, their little bodies and big umbrellas, shouting as the rowers went past.

My phone buzzed. 'Going to be 10 minutes late!' one friend texted. 'So close now, hope you're not too cold!' another messaged.

I wedged myself between a mom and her husband. She turned to me, her bright blue eyes glinting. "It's his birthday. My son's birthday today. He's rowing in - Tom! TOM! Is that him? The red and black? There are so many red and black boats... Anyways, it's his birthday today. He's 20-years-old. I'm so proud of him."

"I think they're a bit insane, these rowers."

The woman smiled and looked back at the water.  "Which one are you waiting for?"

"I don't know the number."

"What colour?"

"Pink and green." I pointed to the boathouse behind me, the one I have some faint allegiance to, owing to my recent couple stints as a cox.

"Well there's a pink one!" She motioned out at the river as a boat of pale pink rowers rushed past. They were lacking the green. I nodded, smiled, and let out a little cheer for good measure.

By the time my friends arrived, most of the boats had already gone. One brought me a jacket. The other brought an umbrella.

Together we stood in the soggy rain, hands clasped around cups of coffee and a pack of semi-damp crisps/chips. The boats went past, one after another after another, around 300 in all.

"Did we win?" My friend asked, grinning.

"Watching fit men do sport in the early hours of the morning? Of course we won..."

And then we went inside for a pint.