79: Travel Turbulence for Tresses

This is how my hair looks immediately after styling. This look will last less than 10 minutes.

The life on the road looks so glamorous until you consider: How shall I pack my hairdresser.

You can’t pack your hairdresser, or her incredible wisdoms regarding your mane, so for the time that you are away from home, you are away from all that props up your personal appearance.

Before we left for Europe, my daughter-in-law, a fantastic professional make-up artist whose recent work appeared on Ryan Seacrest’s website, schooled me in the magic of make-up for the middle-aged. I swear, I did not force my son to marry her just for my benefit, but that would have been a smart move, had it been necessary. She is the reason I can walk the streets of Switzerland without terrifying the locals with my withering visage.

Sometimes a hat is the only answer to hairscare.

But I drift: I can be schooled in make-up, I can pack a box of MAC products that will see me through the year, but my hairdresser is not quite so portable. Last summer, all she could do as she gave my mop a last reshaping was advise pulling it back into a ponytail when it reached that inevitable point of unpresentable-in-public. I reached that point about six weeks after that. It’s been a serious year of ponytail-itis.

How bad can it get? When I showed up in a Sydney, Australia hair salon in 2000, the stylists were so horrified that they all stopped what they were doing to gather around. They quoted something like $400 to repair the damage, but I am morally opposed to spending that much money on my mane, so I passed, spending the rest of our time overseas in a state of shame.

This is how my hair normally looks 10 minutes after styling.

In Spain, I took a recommendation from a friend and had a hairstylist come to my home. The result was an orangey-Ringo-Starrish crown from which I am still in emotional recovery. I would post a photo, but mercifully there are none.

And so this time around, I swore off hairdressers until we get back to Canada. I’m getting by with microscopic self-trims plus Rusk haircare products recommended to me by a friend who is a theatre/film wardrobe pro (I only point this out to show that it takes more than the fashion-hobbyist to keep me presentable).

It seems extreme, but I am not alone. I know a Victoria-based editor who only gets her haircut when she’s visiting family in Italy, another woman in Victoria who only gets her hair trimmed in Vancouver and the list goes on. My own hairdresser says I am not her only overseas client who eschews salons until she hits Victoria.

A good hairdresser is hard to find, but a great hairdresser is worth the wait.

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94: Swelterland.

What you see below is a weather forecast for our little town of Biel from March 27 to 30.

Two days ago it was supposed to  be 13 C. It was 22 C.

Yesterday was supposed to be 15 C. I don’t know what the high was, but at around 2 p.m. it was already 20 C.

Last spring, the reported highs were hitting the high 20s, but our town’s temperature tower was showing 36 C and upward.

What does this tell us but that Biel does not have its own weather station and is drawing reports from somewhere else. I would like to know where that somewhere else is exactly, because I like the weather there better than here, wherever “there” is.

Sweltering swan. How do they always look so graceful? In unrelated news: Last night we watched some competitive kayakers race swans down our town's canal. It turns out swans are very swift. They're not above cheating, either. When they were about to be overtaken, they just flapped their wings and motored out of there.

This is not to complain, but only to say a little more accuracy in reporting would be nice. Last year, we landed here on April 1 to discover the locals were already swimming in Lac Biel. Lac Biel is a not a shallow swimming hole. It has a surface area of 39 square kilometres, and is the basin for the Jura Mountains to a range of 8,300 square kilometres. This is nowhere near as big as Lake Winnipeg (surface area 24,500 square kilometres and cachment area of almost one million square kilometres), but neither is it a pond. It is huge, and so for it to be warm enough for a dip suggests a sustained high temperature through March on par with Canada’s prairie summers, which is to say: Frying Pan Hot.

I was prepared for a cool Swiss spring, not a sizzling summer in April, so I had to ditch my clothes and buy a whole new wardrobe, which really wasn’t such a bad thing, although it did make Dave groan, a lot.

The variability in temperatures isn’t really that big a surprise in Switzerland’s varied topography. Similarly, Vancouver Island has so many ‘micro-climates’ that in some parts of Victoria, tropical gardens flourish while in other pockets, gardens grow at a glacial pace.

The oddity in this that the Swiss don’t seem to realize it is warm outside. While I attract stares when strolling around in a tank-top, capris and sandals, those around me are in leather jackets, their necks swathed in scarves and heads covered in hats. It is as though they believe the temperature forecast more than their own body’s internal temperature sensors.

Today’s forecast is for 14 C according to one weather website and 20 C on another. I’m dressing for 30 C.

 

Tue
27
after-
noon
Tue
27
night
Wed
28
morn-
ing
Wed
28
after-
noon
Wed
28
night
Thu
29
morn-
ing
Thu
29
after-
noon
Thu
29
night
Fri
30
morn-
ing
Metric
Imperial
Wind (km/h)
15
15
10
5
5
5
5
10
15
Summary
clear clear clear clear clear clear clear clear clear
Rain (mm)
Snow (cm)
Max. Temp
(C)
13 9 14 15 12 14 14 9 10
Min. Temp
(C)
11 7 11 13 11 12 12 5 8
Wind Chill
(C)
9 5 10 13 11 12 11 2 6
Freezing
Level (m)
2650 2850 2750 2750 2600 2400 2500 2050 1750
Sunrise
6:16 6:15 6:13
Sunset
18:52 18:54 18:55

Culture Chasms in the Change Room

Swiss fitting room - this convenient viewing deck faces onto a bank of mirrors, adding to the viewing pleasure (or horror) of people standing outside.

Just when I think Switzerland has nothing left to surprise me with, someone tries to break into my fitting room.

The store clerk did rap on the change room door first, then quickly rattled the door lever a la Jurassic-Park-velociraptor style, then shoved her hand through the makeshift drape of t-shirts I had over the rectangular hole in the door that the store architect designed to make women nervous. This is in the same tradition that pre-2010 McDonalds architects designed uncomfortable seating to make people hurry out of the restaurant. Somewhere, there is a Cruel School of Architecture, I am sure of it.

The t-shirts hanging from the door still belonged to the store, although I was considering adopting them, but first they were serving as a makeshift curtain because I have a thing about disrobing in front of an audience.

The clerk prattled in Italian while peering inside the coffin-sized fitting room, then tried German.  I opened the door to see she was one of those model-lish retail clerks who could walk down the aisles in her underwear. It would not bother her a bit for with her cinched waist, it would be a catwalk audition, and so she might not understand that women who long ago lost “definition” in their armpits are a little more shy about fitting-room break-ins. She tested out a few other languages on me before explaining in English that

  • The viewing panel into the mirrored change room must always be kept open because
  • the sales staff protected the store from theft
  • by watching the customers inside the “cabines.”

And there you have it. One more reason why Canada looks better every week.

Bratislava bathroom: What the heck is that?

Watching customers undress is the sort of the thing that makes headlines in North America where despite the public’s horror at such a thing, fitting room surveillance is not necessarily illegal. A recreation centre in Calgary has surveillance cameras in their mens and boys change rooms, a fact that they unblushingly defended when a patron went to the media about it.

Retail theft is rampant, so store owners say they are just protecting their business, but it is still discomfiting to think of the minimum-wage  perv leering just outside the fitting room possibly with the iPhone camera at the ready to entertain his or her friends with later.

I put the tops back on the rack and left. Good-bye H & M clothing store. I am sorry to leave behind your lovely fashions and sweet sales, but there are some things I’d just as soon not share with you.

Note: Yes, I have complained about European changeroom culture before.

Second Note: I am positive I saw a video camera in a Bratislava restaurant’s bathroom. Ugh.

Okay, maybe this isn't a camera, but it sure looks like it could be one. Commencing bladder-freeze sequence.