The Hairdo That Fashion Forgot - The Perm

There are a small number of memories from my childhood that I've pushed back into the darkest corners of my brain, only to re-emerge once in a while when I've had a few drinks and feel the need to let them out, almost like a kind of therapy. One such memory is a hairdo I had in the late eighties. I'm sure others of a similar age will know exactly what I'm talking about - it is, of course, the horror that was THE PERM.

Looking back, I'm not sure exactly whose style I was trying to emulate in my quest for a halo of curls. I was a fan of Neighbours at the time, so it may have been Kylie. Unfortunately for me, I ended up looking more like Craig McLachlan.

It all started with me incessantly banging on about wanting a perm. Finally, during the six-week summer holidays, my mam gave in and bought a home perm kit. I can't remember much about the home perming process, other than it stunk, and I'm also at a loss as to why I allowed my mam to attempt to perm my hair, since I was still scarred from the half-page-boy-half-bowl-cut I'd been forcibly given a few years earlier. Anyway, what I can remember is that, after waiting the allotted time and removing those awful plastic rollers, my hair was....err...straight. Poker straight, in fact. Just as it had been before.

You know how there are certain things you wish you could go back in time and tell your younger self? Life lessons, mistakes to avoid, that sort of thing? Well, I wish I could go back, grab my eleven year old self by the shoulders and shout 'FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST LEAVE YOUR HAIR AS IT IS NOW!' because things were about to get a whole lot worse. (And curly.)

My mam had a hairdresser who came to the house. I begged for another go at perming my hair, so my mam arranged an appointment with the hairdresser a couple of week later. This is where my memories become a little more clear. I remember sitting down on the dining chair ready to be permed, looking at my mam's hair, then looking at the hairdresser's, and feeling that perhaps this wasn't going to be the cutting edge experience of fashion hairdressing I was hoping for. Still, as the (stinky) setting lotion was applied, I was thinking positive. When my mam had tried to perm my hair, nothing had happened at all, so there couldn't be much chance of me ending up with tight, afro like curls.  I'd have loose, scrunchy waves like that girl off Grange Hill! I'd finally be fashionable! (Harsh, I know, but I was never ahead of the fashion pack as a kid).

When it was time for the rollers to come out, I held my breath with trepidation. The first sign that I wasn't going to have loose, flowing waves came when I realised my previously half-way-down-my-arm-length hair now appeared to be almost up to my ears, and I hadn't had it cut.

As the last roller came out, I was almost terrified to touch my hair. When I did, it felt like I had a sponge on my head. I ran through to my bedroom to check in the mirror, with the hairdresser calling weakly after me 'Don't brush it!'

Of course, the first thing I did - after almost screaming out loud once I saw my reflection and realised that I did, in fact, more or less have an afro - was brush it. Surely that would loosen the curls? Give me the wavy look I so craved? After attempting to rake a brush through it my head resembled a microphone. I can't remember if I cried. I think, somewhere in my eleven year old brain, I realised a very important lesson had been learnt.

What I wanted

What I got
It took almost two years to grow out that perm. Two years of painful regret. The curls, admittedly, did drop quite a bit in the last couple of weeks of the summer hols, which I was relieved about. I had plenty of other reasons to be bullied at school without a ridiculous comedy hairdo being added to the mix.

All photographic evidence of The Perm has since been destroyed (I hope it has, anyway), but the mental scars still remain. In fact, just the other night I woke up in a cold sweat remembering it.

I'm thinking of setting up a support group for other '80s perm victims. Thoughts?

Lady Emblem Elixir by MontBlanc

You know you've spritzed on something distinctive when people actually ask you what fragrance you're wearing because it smells so good - this has happened to me since I started wearing Lady Emblem Elixir. It's such sweet, yet light scent, with an unusual mix of notes - rose, honey and spices, orange blossom and vanilla to name a few. There are so many ingredients to this fragrance that it'd take an age to list them all - but what it results in is a beautifully unusual scent.

One thing I noticed immediately about Lady Emblem Elixir is that it smells as good at the end of the day as it did when I sprayed it on in the morning - no need to keep topping up with this!

Then there's the bottle - how pretty is this?

It's a gorgeous addition to my dressing table. Inspired by the Montblanc diamond, this rose gold beauty is just stunning. It fits perfectly with the scent - unusual, but beautiful and distinctive.

I'd not tried any MontBlanc fragrances before so was really interested to try this - I wasn't sure what I'd think, as I had it in my head that the fragrances would be stuffy and old fashioned. I couldn't have been more wrong! Perfect for a summer evening.

Lady Emblem Elixir by Mont Blanc priced at £54 for 50ml EDP.

*Thanks to Kenneth Green Associates who provided me this fragrance for review.

Cracking True Crime Podcasts

Latest obsession…..

True Crime Podcasts. I’m in my car for a couple of hours every day – usually stuck in traffic on the motorway -  so anything that makes the time pass a bit more quickly is a good thing. Lately, I’ve been listening to true crime podcasts. I’ve discovered, with podcasts, that the presenter makes ALL the difference. While you’re listening, you’re transported into their world, their thoughts - so how they convey them to the listener is crucial in keeping interest. I’ve listened to some corkers (and some duds). Here are my picks of the best…

I was a little late to the party on this one – Serial was first broadcast in 2014 and to date is the most downloaded podcast series of all time. In it, presenter Sarah Koenig examines the cases of Hae Min Lee, a high school student murdered in 1999. Her ex boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was charged with her murder and remains in prison today (there’s movement in this case at the moment, but I won’t spoil it for anyone yet to listen). Sarah talks to various people connected to the case, including Adnan himself.

While the case itself is certainly intriguing, I also found it frustrating – at one point Sarah makes a comment that Adnan doesn’t seem capable of murder, because he has ’giant brown eyes, like a cow’. This was obviously intended as a flippant comment, but I think it highlights the way Sarah treats Adnan throughout the podcast – she speaks to him many times, yet I don’t hear her asking him any truly uncomfortable questions, or pushing him on his constant ‘I don’t remember’ responses, when asked what happened during those January days in 1999. I think she treads very lightly with him – less so with others involved in the case, like Jay, a key witness for the prosecution. A bit biased? I think so, but absolutely worth listening to. There are dozens of websites, Reddit threads, newer podcasts and even books on the subject of this case, so there’s plenty more to dig into once you finish listening to Serial and feel like your life no longer has meaning (ok that’s probably just me).

Note, though  - if you listen to Season 2, don’t expect it to be anywhere near as interesting as the first. It’s a completely different subject – the story of US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, a former Taliban prisoner. Personally, I found it so boring I turned off after 2 episodes.

David Ridgen presents this Canadian podcast series which delves into the case of missing 29 year old Sheryl Sheppard. Just days before she disappeared, on January 2nd, 1998, Sheryl’s boyfriend Michael Lavoie proposed to her live on TV during a New Year’s party – you can see the actual video of this on the podcast’s website. Her disappearance has never been explained, although there is plenty of suspicion. Michael is and has always been the main suspect for police investigating this case. David talks to Sheyl’s mother, various friends, family and people who knew both her and Michael at that time and have differing opinions on what happened. We learn a lot about Sheryl as a person, which, for me, made this podcast come to life just that bit more.  David has a kind, sympathetic manner and this also comes across – he’s very easy to listen to (and seems particularly enamoured with dogs, who he meets several of over the course of this podcast) as is one of the detectives on the case who sounds EXACTLY like George Clooney (really, he does – you need to listen!).

These are short, concise, individual podcasts detailing unsolved murders in the US presented by Heidi Galore, a crime analyst and former police officer. Heidi speaks calmly and slowly, which has the effect of making these podcasts easy to listen to, and chilling, all at once. We don’t learn a huge amount about these cases, but I really like Heidi’s presenting style – it’s her that drew me in. The first episode tells the story of Sister Cathy Cesnik (if you’ve watched Netflix’s The Keepers, you’ll know her story), then the following episodes cover different cases, including several unsolved murders which took place along the Colonial Parkway. There’s not a great deal of detail in these – as I said, they are short, concise podcasts – I suppose you could call them the sort of easy listening of true crime, if there can be such a thing!

Beth Andes was 23 years old when she was brutally murdered in her apartment in Ohio in December, 1978. Her boyfriend Bob was arrested and went to trial for her murder. He was acquitted. He was then acquitted a second time in a civil case brought by Beth’s family. There is so much about this case that is baffling, from what happened from the moment Beth’s body was discovered to the statements and behaviour of various people connected to the case. It’s a sad and intriguing story, presented by Amber Hunt of the Cincinnati Enquirer. I think this has been my favourite of all the true crime podcasts I’ve listened to so far. Amber has a chatty yet professional style which I think suits the subject perfectly. She asks all the questions I would have, had I been in her position. I don’t think I’m spoiling it for anyone yet to listen by saying Beth’s murder remains unresolved, however, given the commitment to the case Amber and producer Amanda Rossman have given – and continue to give, by all accounts – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it is solved some time soon. Oh, and one extra thing  - chapter 6, just over ten minutes in: CREEPIEST THING EVER. I’m serious. I was tootling along a busy road in the sunshine, in my bright coral Fiat 500 when I listened to this, and it was so chilling I immediately locked the car doors. You have been warned!!

North East Charity Shop Gems

You know it - I LOVE a chazza shop fashion bargain. It's undoubtedly become harder to find decent picks in the last few years, mind you - you're more likely to find a sea of Primark cast-offs that you couldn't pay me to wear in most of the charity shops around here - but there are a few gems. So here are my pick of the best places in the North East to pop some tags.....

St Oswald's Boutique, Hazelwood Avenue, Jesmond. 

Clue's in the name with this one: boutique. A super cheap bargain bucket this ain't - St Oswald's clearly send their best donations here - but it essentially is still a charity shop so prices aren't unreasonable, either. This is the place to come if you're looking for higher end high street brands - think Hobbs, Boden and Mint Velvet. Goods are neatly arranged by size and colour and the shop definitely has a more upscale feel.

Recent finds: Hobbs black patent courts - £6.50, Boden striped trousers - £8, Fat Face hoodie - £6.

Scope, Fore Street, Hexham.

Hexham has a number of charity shops but this is my favourite. Neatly arranged with a good selection of brands, I've also found a decent amount of brand new Boden stuff here on occasions - rumour has it that they donate past-season stock to Scope stores every once in a while so there are definitely bargains to be found. I've seen a lot of M&S, Phase Eight and Warehouse here,too.

Recent finds: Boden dress - £10, Phase Eight dress - £6.50, Carvela heels - £4.

St Oswald's, High Street, Gosforth. 

On my most recent visit to this branch of St O's everything in store was half price, meaning there were some real mega bargains to be found. This store has a shopper-friendly layout with goods set out by size and type, and there's always something in the window to draw me in. French Connection, Reiss and Paul Smith were all on the rails on my most recent trip here. Although this isn't a boutique store, like the Jesmond one, it does offer higher end brands without the prices to match.

Recent finds: Reiss dress - £5, Autograph @ M&S blazer - £4, Paul Smith sweater - £5.