Post-communist hair February 9, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Darlings, first things first. B. turns 30 today so you must go and wish her good tidings. Imagine ever being 29! I don’t even think I could read and write till I was in my 30s, and I certainly couldn’t blog. Many Happy Returns, B., and may the next 30 be as good as the first.
Just occasionally, Berlin reminds me of Russia. And, let’s face it, they ought to have the odd post-communist thing or two in common, after all. Sometimes Berlin or other bits of the former East Germany manage to even look like Russia. Decrepit bits of Potsdam look quite like decrepit bits of St. Petersburg. Grotty stucco and faded splendour. I haven’t been to Russia for an age now so I don’t know if they’ve started trying to sex up the fairly dreary modern blocks of flats. That does happen here. Just south of my street is a cluster of perfectly perpendicular blocks round an abandoned square with gnarled wire-fencing and overgrown grass. But the houses have had a lick of paint and a decent front door put on and probably a posh entry-phone thing installed and that lightens the mood considerably as you traipse past pissed at 4 in the morning hoping you won’t bump into any of your neighbours as you try to saunter noiselessly up the stairs and make yourself look sober even though you reek of booze and have fresh scratches on your face having just fallen into an annoyingly-positioned prickly bush.
But today it’s snowing. It’s boiling still – about +25, I’d guess – but snowing. My mother claims it only snows when it’s boiling. Or, rather, that if it’s very cold, it won’t snow. “It’s too cold for snow,” I’d hear her say wisely on a rare cold day in London. But that must be bollocks, surely, as I remember it snowing away happily in St. Petersburg when it was -28 and I don’t imagine Scott of the Antarctic had a moment of snowlessness as he and his chums sat awaiting their fate. Still, I’ll pardon her error as it’s never really cold in London. I don’t think it’s EVER been below -10. Though lest anyone think Londoners are lucky with their climate, it’s horrible in other ways. Damp and windy and often downright shit. The Russian, from a town where -40 is nothing unusual, found London in April unbearably freezing.
But today my mother is right. It’s boiling and snowing. And though the temperature is very unRussian, Berlin today reminded me of St. Petersburg. I trotted off on an errand – in t-shirt, shorts, hat, gloves and scarf – and as I turned the corner onto a mainish street and caught sight of random, living people for what seemed the first time in ages, I was instantly transported, mentally, straight to Nevskij Prospekt. People were wrapped up warm. Women were in fur coats. Men were in padded jackets and wore sensible, ear-warming caps. Determined expressions aided folk concentrating on making their way through the elements. “Cor,” I said out loud, much to the surprise of an orange German coming out of a suntan parlour, “this is just like St. Petersburg.”
But why should that be the case? I mean, as tropical as London is, it does occasionally have snow too, and no doubt folk brave the elements there in the same determined way. Luckily, I needed to cross the road just as this train of thought was taking off and crossing the road takes a good three hours in Germany as you wait – not a car in sight – for the man to go green and then almost get knocked over anyway as it is always one set of cars’ turn to go regardless and they only don’t have to kill you at their discretion. But it gave me ponder-time.
“It’s the hair!” I shouted, to the further bemusement of the orange German who was shadowing me for novelty value. (You don’t get that many foreigners in these here parts.)
Now the post-communist nations may have gone through rapid, upheavally change, but their hairstyles haven’t. Post-communist ladies over 50 still have rock-hard, colourful, bird’s-nest hair. Whereas every woman in the UK, unless she has had at least two novels published or a play put on at The Royal Court, wakes up on her 50th birthday – mark my words, B., and check in 20 years’ time – with hair EXACTLY like the queen’s. My mother’s got it. All my aunts have it. Mrs. Thatcher had it. All the women who haven’t written novels or had plays put on at The Royal Court in old people’s homes have it. It’s just the rules. Which actually works vaguely in post-communist countries’ favour, variety-wise. There you never know which type of bird’s nest you might be met with. It might be a jet-black, spiky thing that could take your eye out or a generous, plumy, bright-red affair. The colour need, naturally, bear no resemblance to anything usually found in the animal kingdom, unless on the more exotic and obscure birds of the Amazon.
Mind you, in spite of the post-communist hair and the determined snow-braving, I was once again struck by the Berlin totty. An agonisingly lovely boy-next-door type crossed my path. And that got me wondering if there was a girl-next-door phenomenon too. Or do your neighbours have to live in a stately home for that to work?
But no time to ponder that too.