It all started when my dear friend Nana came into work with the most glorious new head of hair. She answered my look of utter confusion (her hair had gone from short to long overnight) by telling me it was ‘just a weave’ – as though that were the most simple explanation in the world. Well, not to me, it wasn’t. Fortunately, Nana was quick to realise my complete afro-hair-styling ignorance (my continued gawping at her shiny new tresses saw to that) and, being of the thoroughly decent sort, she instantly set a date to begin my education on the subject.
That date was yesterday. And that’s how I found myself following Nana’s lead down Electric Avenue, Brixton, in the pursuit of lace wigs, ponytails, extensions and clip-ins. Our chum Lauren came too – this was an outing not to be missed.
The expedition started as all expeditions should: with food. To get in the spirit of the Brixton, we went to Bamboula for some authentic Caribbean cuisine. The service was preeetty darn relaaaaaaaxed and our meals didn’t arrive for an hour(!). Having said that, it was really no bother – put three gossiping girls together in a café and an hour whizzes by.
Nana opted for the ‘Hungry Man’ – jerk chicken (MASSES of it), rice’n’peas, plantain and salad. Lauren and I went for ‘Satisfaction’ – jerk chicken (again, more bird than I’d ever seen on a plate) with mango and avocado salad and rice’n’peas. As you can probably see from the photos, this so-called ‘rice’n’peas’ just isn’t what it says on the tin. I was expecting to see little green pops of Birds Eye’s finest in amongst my rice but instead I got some sort of black bean. According to Nana, this is perfectly correct. And peas or no peas, the rice was utterly scrumptious – as was the whole meal for that matter. And such quantities! If I hadn’t been fit to burst by the end, I’d most definitely have ordered some of the delicious Rum Bread Pudding that seemed to be a firm favourite with the other diners. Next time, next time.
And so, with our bellies nicely filled, we headed to the hair shops. Huge, huge hair shops, full of the most extraordinary products and potions, lengths of curly hair and straight hair, blue, pink and purple hair and strange things called ‘bumps’ (which even Nana didn’t really understand the purpose of).
The shopping side of things got off to a bit of a rocky start when the first product my eyes fell upon was the unappealing named ‘Henna’n’placenta’. Yup, that’s right: PLACENTA. Who in their right mind would want to smother their hair with afterbirth? Eugh! Yuk yuk yuk! Only Tom Cruise’s crazy placenta eating antics top this in the list of grim things to do with the birth by-products.
We finally managed to drag ourselves away from the ‘placenta collection’ (a morbid fascination held us there for some time), only to fall foul of a sales assistant with attitude. Reluctant is too mild a word for this tracksuited, gold-toothed disaffected youth. In fact, he was so displeased when we asked him to get down some hair pieces from a shelf above the counter that I thought we might not come out of the shop alive. Hurling himself up onto the counter with far more aggression than necessary, he growled through clenched teeth ‘I don’t wanna waste your time or my time’…. argh! Fortunately, Nana’s a feisty little thing with all her wits about her and immediately challenged his back-chat. And no one messes with Nana. So we got our hair pieces, said goodbye to gangsta boy (who was suitably chastened by this time, I might add) and moved onto the wig section.
The wonderful Sam was our assistant here. It was her own spectacular afro wig that inspired me to try something similar. After choosing the wig, Sam got to work on fitting me.
The first step in wig-fitting is to have a funny black sock pulled over your head to hold all your hair down. It’s a sensible idea in theory – the sock flattens your real hair and makes for easier wig-arranging. You just need to get the sock on. And there lies the rub. For someone with a head of gigantic proportions (me), and VAST quantities of hair (me, again), the whole thing can be a highly tricky business. Not to mention intensely unattractive and possibly disturbing viewing for unsuspecting onlookers.
Although Sam was clearly a pro at wig fitting, it was soon apparent that she needed some assistance. Together we tugged and pulled and yanked and stretched so much that I found myself making strange faces and odd squealing noises. But all to no avail. That funny little black sock just wouldn’t stay on. Every time we thought we’d got there and began to let go, it just shot right off my head, taking the wig with it.
The most mortifying moment came when Sam admitted that she’d NEVER been unable to get a wig on someone before. That was a roundabout way of saying that I’d got the biggest head she’d ever dealt with. After a moment of quiet despair at this thought, I landed on the idea that a longer wig would allow me to leave my hair out of the Cap of Doom (as I renamed the little black sock). The loose hair would be hidden under the fake locks anyway so no-one would know. This worked to an extent (see Alice in Wonderland style, below..) although even then, the very act of smiling for the camera triggered an ‘up and off’ migration of the wig.
So I had to leave the hair shops empty-handed, my big old head feeling somewhat saddened by the fact that wigs just don’t some in size XXXL. Oh, but I soon cheered up when Nana sent me the amusing photos of the adventure. And I did learn a lot. I’ll now know exactly whats going on next time she comes into work with a new ‘do.