The latest Tegen hairband has arrived. I now have two hand-finished French-made bands from this Brighton-based company. This is what the new one looks like. It's a light tortoiseshell design, which Tegen call 'White Tokio'. The more traditional band I bought a few days before was called 'Dark Tokio'. (I rather like these names)
Thursday, 25 March 2021
Sunday, 21 March 2021
Not a miss-spelling of Tokyo, as you will see.
Here's a question: what are the key accessories that give me my typical 'look'?
Obviously my glasses, for one thing. I've settled on oval metal lenses, the colour variable (formerly gold, but currently a raspberry-silver), and devoid of fancy decoration.
Rings? One small silver ring on each hand.
Necklaces? Most usually that flexible silver rope that looks like a slow-worm.
And on my head, a hairband. Since other people tend to look at our faces and hair most of all, a hairband will get noticed - as much as glasses do, I'd say.
So there you have the key elements in my 'look'. And it's been this way for a long time. How long? I've worn glasses since the mid-1980s. The little ring on my left hand dates from 1994. The slow-worm necklace from 2008. The other ring from 2009.
When did I start wearing a hairband? It seems forever. But no. I have ample photographic evidence to draw upon, and purchasing records, and these show that I began to wear a hairband in the middle of April 2011. That's very nearly ten years ago, of course, and ten years is a long time. My Money Diary spreadsheet for 2011 tells me that I bought a series of very inexpensive hairbands from Superdrug, Accessorize and Boots on and after 16th April 2011.
I wonder what made me try hairbands out? I was fifty-nine then. I looked quite a bit younger than I do now, but still no spring chicken, and I must have been aware of the standard advice to avoid hairbands because they can look little-girlish, and embarrassingly inappropriate on an older woman. Well, I did exercise restraint! I wanted to make a safely adult choice. I bought bands coloured black and brown, rather than pink or yellow or lime green, and they were plain plastic bands, not ones embellished with bows, glitter, or iridescent butterflies and ponies. Nor did I buy thick bands covered in brightly-coloured fabric, which I could have considered, if I'd had the right complexion or ethnicity. But I judged that an unflamboyant paleface pushing fifty from Northern Europe had best go for something muted. Here's a picture of myself taken at home on 17th April 2011, the earliest picture I can find of myself with a hairband.
Not all my friends liked me in a hairband, even a sober black one, and by August 2017 I'd let myself be persuaded that it was time to do without. It was a sacrifice that I was in all honesty not keen to make, because not only did I think hairbands suited me, I liked the feel of them on my head. It was rather comforting. (I know, like a kid's comfort blanket) And although I went bandless inside my own home, it seemed improper not to wear one on social occasions. But I was told that I'd look better, and more adult, without a hairband - although by then I was in my mid-sixties, and I couldn't believe anyone would be fooled into thinking me young, if I were sporting a hairband. And no, it didn't matter if my hair was now completely at the mercy of the wind: I was told that a wind-blown look could be sophisticated, even sexy (even though I didn't give a monkey's about looking sexy).
No ultimatum was ever presented to me, but a convenient moment did come to Renounce The Hairband. I handed it over. And binned the rest. My friends were pleased, congratulated me on the decision, and thought me mature. I wouldn't regret it. Summer was coming. I could enjoy a whole new look. (And I'd no longer need to hide the fact that I was wearing a hairband from my hair stylist, who disapproved of them)
Well, I tried to live without my hairband. But after a few months, I gave up. After all, all around me women of all ages were propping sunglasses up on their heads, using them just like hairbands. Hah! And women were using scrunchies and hairclips and various other hair accessories. Hah! So why did I have to do without? I began to feel just a little controlled. Anyway, I missed my old look, which I saw every time I examined my photo collection - something I did, for one reason or another, on a daily basis.
The outcome was inevitable. It's always best to be honest, and do what your heart tells you to do. I went ahead, bought a new band, and put it on. My friends noticed straight away. Yes, I said, making no attempt to justify or explain the repurchase of the bands thrown away. Why should I? It was my look, after all. The truly adult thing was to assert my own personal style without apology. But I made one concession. I now wore a brown plastic band that you might vaguely call 'tortoiseshell'. It was agreed that this was better than black. The subject was dropped. Both sides had won!
I did make one or two attempts, unprompted, to discard wearing a hairband thereafter. And I couldn't wear one for a while after gashing my scalp in November 2019. But I returned to them. I would usually wear that fake-tortoiseshell brown plastic hairband that satisfied my friends, mainly because it didn't seem so plain and uninteresting as a black band. I wanted a change from black. I was starting to move beyond mere function. I wanted beauty too.
Then in August 2020, I had a sudden hankering for the genuine article, meaning a hand-finished tortoiseshell hairband in a better material, with a superior appearance. You may remember that I published a post on a hairband that I bought online from Crisco. This is what their medium-width (15mm) tortoiseshell hairband looked like. I was very pleased with it.
But having experienced a luxury hairband, it was unsatisfying to be without one. In the months that followed I looked on Etsy and in other online places, to see what I could buy. But at first I didn't see anything to compare with the Crisco band.
Incidentally, I wasn't trying to buy a duplicate. I wanted a wider band, which would have more surface area, and (I reckoned) would be more secure on my head, and yet without exerting unwanted pressure. Finally, I found what I wanted three days ago. The chosen online retailer was Tegen Accessories, who just happened to trade from Brighton, not a million miles away from me. They had a whole collection of bands that caught my attention. But my first purchase would have to be another tortoiseshell band, like the Crisco one. Tegen called their version 'Dark Tokio'. It was a full 20mm wide. Too wide? I didn't want it to be over-prominent. Well, I decided to be daring, order one, and take a chance.
It arrived next day. It was most prettily packaged. Inside the delivery box was green tissue paper, and inside that was a yellow cotton bag with pink drawstrings. Inside that was a truly beautiful object, according to Tegen handmade in France.
And guess what? Within a day I'd ordered another hairband from Tegen, this time in 'White Tokio', which will be a lighter-coloured band for bright sunny days in the summer ahead. So I'll have a choice between two beautiful hairbands - depending on the occasion, my clothes, and my whim of the moment.
These two bands weren't cheap to buy. I've spent £55-odd on them. But then this is my first expenditure for 2021 on 'clothes, shoes and accessories'. With nearly a quarter of the year already gone! In that light, it doesn't seem so much. And it's so nice to buy something new.
So roll on the first social occasion, now that the Lockdown is gradually lifting!
Sunday, 14 March 2021
Do you sense a pivotal moment in the treatment of women by men? I do. I think that something has started. The death of Sarah Everard might have been only the newest of a very long line of violent female deaths at the hands of men. The different thing, this time, is that the accused person is not only a man, but a serving policeman. One who should have been a guardian. His guilt isn't yet established by due process. But meanwhile, all women feel massively let down. Indeed, who is left to absolutely rely on, where safety in public is concerned? Who can now be unquestionably trusted?
It used to be that the police never took seriously the daily annoyances, threats and dangers that oppressed women. Things men didn't encounter. Then it seemed that police attitudes were changing a little, that old-school notions - for instance, that the things a husband might do in the home were his right, and that his wife had to comply without complaint - were on their way out, as senior officers retired or died, and younger people with newer ideas took their place. Special police teams were formed in all forces to deal sympathetically and non-judgementally with female victims of attack. That, and several other initiatives, seemed to be a reassurance to women that if the worst happened, and they were still alive, then the police would comfort them, and bring the perpetrator to justice. But now?
The thing that women want is not so much effective retribution after a serious crime has been committed. It's simple freedom from feeling threatened by men.
No woman wants to feel tense when men are around.
No woman wants to deal with a man on an unequal basis.
All women want to take it for granted that there will be politeness and honesty in their contacts with men, and no physical pressure whatsoever.
It's all about behaviour. The physical disparities between male and female bodies will never go away. It will always be the case that most men will be able to force their will on women, because most women aren't strong enough to fight them off. As a rule, any man so minded can terrorise a woman into submission. Millennia of male dominance are on his side: and for a very, very, very long time women have been conditioned to give in. This puts many women at a serious psychological disadvantage, so that a persistent man - especially a powerful man - will usually get his way. And this applies to trivial domestic matters as much as to rape.
It's time for change.
Is this truly my business? Speaking as an unattractive sixty-eight year old biddy whom no man is likely to notice? Surely it's primarily the concern of pretty young women?
Well, I'd say it's the business of all women, young or old.
There are plenty of middle-aged women, trapped in marriages they can't get out of, and having to put up with the casual cruelties of bored husbands or partners. There are plenty of elderly women stuck indoors with tyrannical, demanding retired husbands who refuse to let them leave the house, and although physical violence may not be in the mix of daily oppressions, meanness and spite and hectoring can inflict harm just the same. (This is one reason why I would never risk a relationship now: at best, I'd end up being an unpaid nurse; but just as likely I'd fall victim to a kind of emotional blackmail that would enslave me. I want to remain a free spirit, and not become a captive bird)
As for the unwelcome attentions of strangers, I admit that women like me are much more likely to be attacked for the presumed contents of their bags, than because they stimulated uncontrolled animal desire in some psychopath. But you can't wholly discount the possibility of a Yorkshire Ripper-style mauling, someone coming up behind with a claw hammer in his hand.
It's unlikely; and even after the latest outrage now in the news, I still feel it's unlikely.
But even so, I am unwilling to walk the streets after dark, not without a good reason. Not in any of the quiet Sussex towns nearby, such as Lewes or Burgess Hill. Most certainly not in Brighton. I used to socialise quite a lot in Brighton, some years ago. I well remember the worry I always endured between saying goodbye to friends and reaching the sanctuary of my car. There were a lot of creepy characters about in Brighton after sunset. And at nights all cats are grey. The daytime signs of unappealing old age wouldn't save me. I'd be just another woman walking home, to a man who had been drinking and fancied some sex. Or worse, wanting to be brutal with somebody frightened to death by them, and unable to run away.
I'd be an easy victim. I'm sure I'd freeze if attacked. I really don't think I'd fight back, as much as I'd like to kid myself that, although old, I still had the height and the heft - and the determination - to hurt my attacker, survive, and give a lucid account to the police. It wouldn't happen. And the last part - taking my account to the police - might be a bit less likely now.
And yet it's vital that women do speak up about all crimes against them. Otherwise the old excuse - that not many violent attacks are reported, so the problem is small - will persist and prevent progress. So, yes, I would go to the police and tell them what had just happened, but without feeling it would get me anywhere.
But it's the small things that chiefly need addressing, not only the crimes. At some point young boys realise that a girl is physically weaker and can be pushed about. That has to be pounced on and corrected before the boy gets used to his power and can justify his subsequent bad behaviour on such grounds as 'it's obviously the natural order of things' or 'it's traditional in our society' or 'my friends think it's cool to be in total control'. No wonder a woman with children, dependent on a man with attitude, finds herself particularly vulnerable. How can she run away?
I don't hate men. I have known some gentle, caring men, my father included, who would be revolted at seeing another man abuse a woman. But then, a lot of the abuse is hidden from public view and they'd never be embarrassed by witnessing it.
And it does seem to me that men are reluctant to intervene unless absolutely forced to. Not so much from cowardice as from psychological conditioning. The wolf pack needs to hunt together, and it's forbidden to challenge the head wolf. Hence the misbehaving boss who always gets away with it. Because none of the other men will call him out, even if they are deeply troubled.
It takes a brave woman to do that instead.
Tuesday, 9 March 2021
The Census takes a snapshot of the nation on Census Day, 21st March 2021, and its questions have to be answered as a matter of law - there's no choice about complying. But since the information gathered will be used to plan the future need for all kinds of public services in all parts of the country, it's difficult to see why any reasonable person wouldn't want to give the ONS (Office for National Statistics) the information it requests. I suppose there will be the usual cranks who suspect a dark motive behind the Census. I'm not one of them.
Households will already have been sent a flyer warning them about the Census - I got one the other day. And today I got the follow-up letter that contains the access code that passports me into the online question-and-answer procedure. For it's geared up to be an online affair. You can request a paper Census form if you like, but the ONS envisage that most people will complete the Census for their household via the Internet, using a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone.
This is a first-time for doing it online. There's another innovation: you can submit answers before the 21st March if you think you can, amending them if necessary if anything changes.
I have accordingly completed the Census for my address - and I did it today, the 9th March, on my phone. If I want to change anything between today and the 21st, I simply revisit the Census pages at www.census.gov.uk, feed in my access code, and make the alteration. But I don't think there is any likelihood of that.
This post is about my experience, including what the Census covered.
So, phone in hand, and the letter with my access code close by, I set to. The ONS said it 'should take around 10 minutes per person to fill in', but some of the questions needed a little thought. There were expandable help boxes, though, and I didn't have any real problem.
These were the opening screen views.
'Adventurous' only in the sense that I wasn't indoors!
I had a nice steak to cook, and, in the month or so since the electric grill on my kitchen cooker had failed, various experiments had convinced me that this steak deserved to be scorched rapidly in a proper grill, and not cooked by other means.
I'd tried frying steaks, but although the pinkness within was preserved, the appearance wasn't the same as properly-grilled meat. I knew it wouldn't work, but I tried roasting a steak in the oven. But it merely produced roast beef, as the meat was evenly well-cooked throughout. Perfectly fine if you liked a unexciting well-done steak. But otherwise a travesty. I wanted my steak to be juicy, and both look and taste as if intense, nearby, searing heat had been directed onto it.
So it would have to be the gas grill out in the caravan. And that meant setting the caravan up beforehand. It would have to come out of its winter break six weeks early!
So I plugged it into the household mains - as it was going to be a chilly evening, I wanted warmth from the electric heater - and turned the tap on the propane gas cylinder so that I could use the cooker. It was nice to see the interior lit up with the lamps I use: