take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Thursday, April 06, 2006


I strolled through the (blink and you'll miss it) bohemian quarter of our home town on Saturday afternoon, having sampled the new Italian restaurant for lunch and dispatched Big back home for the afternoon. I accept that his appetite for browsing is considerably smaller than mine and do not expect him to traipse sullenly around the shops with me, pretending to be interested in the seventeenth pair of shoes I try and then reject. I prefer instead to place him in a nearby "man crêche" ( i.e. a pub) or send him home to "influence" the results of football matches merely by his loyal presence and Jedi mind games. Clearly, judging by the sullen, traipsing males in evidence, many women do not share this attitude.

It was the heady aroma of patchouli which first aroused my (albeit high-maintenance) hippy genes and drew me into the colourful surroundings of one of those shops which sells hemp clothing, "smoking" equipment and more incense than you could shake a joss stick at. I knew exactly what I was looking for but it took me an entire circuit of the shop to locate it, only to find that it was just to the left of the door, as you enter - I had drifted to the right...

You see, I had been overcome with the urge to daub my hand with henna.

I had first come across this phenomenon at school, when I noted the intricate designs on the hands of those of my fellow pupils who came from families hailing from the Indian sub-continent. Later, I would be invited to "Mehndis": the Asian equivalent of a hen night - quite literally, a "henna night" - where women gather to adorn the bride-to-be with skin decorations, amongst other things.

During the late 90s, when exotic skin transfers were all the rage, I arrived at work with one on my hand which alarmed my manager and caused a colleague to ask "that" question which caused much more anxiety to me than was probably intended: "Are you trying to be a goth?"

After many years of trying to shrug off this label by strategic hair-streaking, I finally felt ready to join the ranks of the adornèd once again. So last night I set to work with the tube of henna paste, creating flowers, swirls and fronds which wove their way across the back of my hand, disappearing between my fingers. Whilst Kevin McCloud presented other people's Grand Designs on the television in the background, I was creating mine on my very own hand.

"Don't be alarmed by the black stuff, that will drop off," I explained to Big as he examined my handiwork suspiciously.

Once I'd finished my design, I placed my hand in a prominent position to dry so that the stain would take effect.

Barely minutes later, as we sat on the sofa, we began to indulge in what would have been described as "horseplay" if we had been cartoons on an eighties swimming pool poster. Inevitably, at one point, he grabbed my left hand. Inevitably, what had started out as a beautifully executed, original, intricate design ended up as a blob of black mush which smelt faintly of damp tea leaves.

The only solution at this point was to scrub it all off.

My design, ruined.

My hand, slightly orange.

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