The Kindest Cut of All

It had to be done! There was no two ways about it. No more procrastinating, no more dithering, no more asking 'What would you do?' It HAD to come of and the sooner the better.

I'm talking about my hair of course. My long, long, (down to my bum long) thick, heavy hair. I mean really, at fifty plus, four feet eleven inches tall (tall?) and well, erm a very round apple shape, I was begining to resemble Cousin It of Addams Family fame. Worse, Cousin It having a bad hair day.


I couldn't do a darn thing with it. Up-does which look like an after thought are not my forte. You know the things I mean; those swirly, tendrily, casually-twisted-into-a-knot styles which some women can do without the aid of a mirror and look all ready for the Red Carpet and gangs of eager photographers.

No, my 'signature' look was a low pony tail, or, with the aid of a friendly niece, a long plait with wispy bits sticking out because of the layers I'd had cut in last year in a vain attempt at tidiness. The only other styles open to me which I could do myself were two long plaits like a German fräulein from the thirties, or two pig tails….if I wanted to look like Baby Jane, with my cat Dave providing the rats.

Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson

And hair, especially long hair gets everywhere. In the sink when I'm washing up, coating the walls of the shower cubicle, blocking the drains and in Dave's food. But he might like that…it's a nice bit of fibre for him when the rats prove elusive. And I was forever hoovering up balls of hair which had mysteriously appeared adhered to the carpet and which, in turn clogged up the nozzle.

No, I was pretty fed up, so, after weeks (nay, months) of dithering, I finally decided it had to go.

Like many women I do not like visiting a salon. I feel so self conscious and awkward surrounded by all those trendy young things with their designer hair, alarming make-up and multiple piercings. And the mirrors make me look older and more saggy and baggy than ever. Not a great boost to my already low self esteem.

And even with the bit of slap I apply in an attempt to look a bit decent, I still end up looking awful. Mascara begins to run after the hair washing ritual and with the ghastly black plastic cape around my (by now sagging) shoulders, I want to die with horror. It's even worse if you're having 'foils' to highlight your hair. You end up resembling a packed lunch.

And you can't hold a conversation. With all the blow dryers wooshing and hissing, the constant chatter and the water dribbling into your ears, it's impossible to get beyond the 'Are-you-going-away-this-year-doing-anything-nice-this-week-end' stage; not to mention the overpowering stench of chemicals, so I opted for a mobile hairdresser. And it was heavenly.

I washed my hair before the hairdresser arrived so no straining backwards over a basin with my feet dangling a foot off the ground. And we could TALK in comfort and without shouting at each other or nodding and grinning inanely. And she did a fantastic job. My hair was put into a last pony tail and cut off ready to send to a children's charity which provides wigs to young people who've lost their hair through illness or after having chemotherapy.

My hair is now in a short bob. I look and feel so much better. A little bit like the sheep who hid away and avoided being shorn for six years. And I look younger and much less baggy and saggy. My cut off pony tail was plaited and sent off to Little Princesses Charity and I certainly felt better knowing my hair may be put to good use.

So…happy days and happy new hair-do. Now I'll save a fortune in shampoo and conditioner and the vacuum cleaner may last a few more years. It's all good, folks.




Unfinished Sympathy & My Descent Into Bi-Polar Madness.

Always Something There to Remind Me

In 2007 at the age of 51, I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder. I wasn’t at all surprised at the diagnosis, and it answered many questions.

For years I had suffered from lengthy bouts of depression where I just couldn’t be bothered with life. Everything was too much of a struggle and sleep and isolation were the only answers. Interspersed with the bouts of depression, I had times when I felt well again. They would come on quite suddenly and it was such a relief after the nightmare of blackness. I always likened it to the feeling of relief when painkillers kick in and the pain goes away after a terrible headache or period pain.

In 1991, I suffered what I now know to have been a ‘Hypomanic’ episode. At the time I was working at a well known psychiatric hospital in York. I worked hours and hours of overtime without any difficulty or any adverse effect to my health (so I thought) I was giggly to the point of hysteria, I played stupid practical jokes, and often wandered away from my area of work to chat or play silly, childish games. I’m surprised I didn’t get the sack.

I also decided that I was going to write a best selling thriller. It was in the days when only the very well off could afford computers; so each night I would sit with my notebook and pen, cans of lager always at hand, and write my masterpiece. And….the only music which would go nicely with this convoluted mess was a song which was in the charts at the time and which I had bought….

Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack.

One evening, feeling particularly ‘high’ and very creative, I started playing this particular record (it was vinyl in those days) and played it non stop from about seven in the evening until about three am the following morning. At the time, I just liked it a lot and didn’t realise that this was a classic sign of Hypomania.

But I was in Heaven. The words flowed, the images were sharp, the beer tasted good and I was ‘cooking’. This was going to be the new best seller. It would be made into a film or a TV drama at least. And make no mistake, I was convinced it was good writing and a gritty, nail bighting story. ‘Sigh’

It wasn’t, of course, and I very soon crashed into a deep and terrifying depression. The worst one yet, made much worse, I now know because of the length and severity of the Hypomanic episode.

I suffered like this for another sixteen years until my GP decided it was time to see a psychiatrist, who told me what I expected to hear. Bi-Polar. As I said at the beginning of this piece, it answered many questions for me and my nearest and dearest. I wasn’t just an ‘odd bod’ or very eccentric, I had an illness which, with the aid of medication and some life style changes, can be controlled to a certain extent. But sadly, never fully cured.

But, every time I hear Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy, I am back in my lonely sitting room all those years ago with my ‘best seller’, my beer and my music.


Spirit of a Nation

I'm ashamed to admit that, when news of the devastating earthquake in Nepal broke, I didn't take a great deal of notice. Not that I didn't care, but I don't watch TV nor do I buy newspapers. Anything that goes on in the world often passes me by. And only when I read about it on Facebook, Twitter or my weather forum; or a friend says 'Isn't it awful about…….' do I take any notice and make it my business to read the Headlines.

So I read all about the devastation in that most beautiful of countries. And I was shocked and saddened by what I saw. The poor people in a state of shock wondering what the hell had happened, while sitting amongst the ruins of what had once been their home. Ancient temples and monuments in ruins, and rescuers retrieving bodies from the rubble. Children, forlorn and weeping for their lost families while yet more aftershocks rocked the land and terrified them afresh. Poor, poor souls, I thought, and, exhorted to give generously, I did. And got on with my life.

Then today, I watched a Panorama documentary on BBC I player about the Nepal disaster and one man's lucky escape from Mt Everest.

Tom Martienssen, a BBC reporter was filming a party of British Army Ghurkas who were attempting the summit of Everest to mark two hundred years of service in the British Army. One of the men had just completed four tours of Afghanistan, but he considered climbing Everest much more daunting.

With them was a group of Sherpas, brave men who guided climbers up the mountain with little regard for their own safety, as long as the climbers were looked after. As Martienssen discovered later, the Sherpas had left homes and families to do this most dangerous and skilled of jobs.

Two of the Sherpas, Kumar and Tensing were filmed at Base Camp and smiling into the camera. Martienssen's voice over is chilling as he says that 'Within hours, they would be dead'. Poor souls.

As the party, with Martienssen, strike out for Camp One, a very dangerous climb over deep crevasses and ice, those left behind at Base Camp, including the Sherpas, have no idea that within hours, the area would be hit by a horrendous earthquake and the men at Camp One would be stranded.

The earthquake, which is felt on the mountain, is accompanied by terrifying avalanches which completely engulf Base Camp, killing eighteen, including Kumar and Tensing, and seriously injuring many more. And, when Tom and the others are rescued and brought down the mountain, they are confronted by rows of orange canvas tents covering the bodies of their friends and colleagues. A sight which, Tom says, haunts him for a long time afterwards.

Later, and on a mercy dash with army personel to deliver food and other essentials to out-lying villages, Martienssen is overwhelmed when, amidst such devastation and poverty, the locals offer to share their food with him. Others are busy re building roads so aid can get through to those in need. It looks like a skilled job, much like dry-stone walling in Yorkshire. Temporary school buildings are being put up for the local children and it's a race against time as the Monsoon season is imminent. But local Ghurkas have rolled up their sleeves and are working hard to have the building completed in time.

Most poignant of all is when Tom visits the widows and families of Kumar and Tensing. The devastated women weep as they talk about their lost loved ones, and wide eyed children look with delight at their photos on Tom's mobile phone. And even then, the families offer to share their food with the TV crew and also a place to sleep.

A nation of such spirited, generous and hard working people deserve to have their country whole again. But can it ever be the same? The temples, homes and monuments as they knew them have gone forever. There are people who have lost not just one but many members of their family. Children left without their parents and homeless.

My thoughts are with the people of Nepal. And if, by writing this, it brings their plight to others attention, then I feel I have done something for them.

To read more of Tom Mortienssen's story visit This Site