The Seventh Sign

I shall not, today at least, be tackling the rather poorly reviewed, late 80s horror film which shares my title.  Nor shall I by providing any excessively generic predictions for those born under the star-sign of Libra, though what follows may cause the scales to fall from some eyes…

Back at the time the Seventh Sign was released, Oil of Ulay was still a brand: before it was renamed on a more global basis which new identity, in my mind, is always accompanied by the sound of castanets.  Back in those heady days where a, perhaps illusory, sense of place was still admitted by the mega brands that rule our lives, they used to advertise their products as holding back the “Seven Signs of Ageing”.  In those pre-internet days, it was never made clear what the signs were that their gloopy temporal dam was keeping from one’s face.  Perhaps one was expected to write off to Ulay HQ for details?

In the three (or more) decades that have passed since first seeing this advertising message, I have failed to use any of their products and so my face (and more besides) has been ravaged by many signs of ageing.  Melanin has largely fled the more visible out-croppings of my hair, which has itself moved to try and colonise new parts of my body: planting its follicular flags to support its extended claims to suzerainty.  My eyesight has followed the traditional path with presbyopia being added to the pre-existing roster of myopia and astigmatism. I also seem to take longer to heal, or perhaps it just feels longer…

All of these effects are considered entirely normal as one passes though middle age and have been well documented in more august journals than this.   A more unexpected consequence of the ageing process – and the one which I am proposing as the seventh sign of ageing – relates to my shoelaces.

The operation of my shoelaces in my childhood is lost to me, shrouded by the thickening mists of time.  However, for most of my adult life my shoelaces have, once tied, remained in that state.  Between 20 and 50, I only had cause to re-tie my laces on a mere handful (footful?) of occasions in total.  Since passing my half century, it is becoming an increasingly frequent occurrence.  It has now reached the stage where I cannot leave the flat without having to re-tie at least one shoelace: even for the shortest of foot-borne excursions.  Have I somehow lost the knack for tying laces?  Can I no longer muster the physical force necessary to keep my laces securely tied?  Should I accept my fate and just wear slip-ons for the remainder of my journey to the grave?

I refuse to accept this apparent diminishing of my vitality and capabilities!  I begin to imagine a conspiracy by “big shoe”.  Perhaps this commitment-phobia of my laces is not down to operator error but to changes in shoes and/or laces.  Does “big shoe” gain something from its consumers having to regularly bend down to re-tie?  Is it an attempt to boost the trip hazard to which we are exposing our more elderly citizens as part of a broad range of measures to defuse the pension time-bomb?  Is it an attempt to force us all into slip-ons or velcro fastenings, infantilising the populace and rendering us more pliable?  Now I have opened your eyes to the actions of a sinister cabal of cobblers and actuaries, we can resist.  The fight-back starts here!

Before we all become too carried away by the extraordinary brevity of today’s addition to the GofaDM canon, I’d like to mention another rather over-wrought advertising claim that came to my attention this morning.  Oil of Ulay may have claimed to be able to keep Chronos at bay using only some mid-priced moisturiser, but they have been seriously trumped by Apple.  The purveyor of hip (if expensive and far less intuitive than they claim) phones, tablets and computers has recently produced a new iteration of its somewhat popular iPad range.  In attempting to hawk this to the general public, Apple have strayed into territory usually reserved to the titular head of monotheistic religions.  In addition to claiming, somewhat implausibly, that their new product is “All Screen” – surely that would make it a screen, something we had for viewing slides way back in the 1970s? – they are also claiming it as “All Powerful”.  Even Almighty Zeus and Odin, the Allfather, did not claim to be omnipotent.  I can’t help feel that claiming to be all powerful is strongly heretical to all of the world’s main monotheisms: even if you can support an Apple Pencil (which does sound much nice to chew on then the typical Staedler example).  I’m also concerned that should I let such a device into my life, I shall have to increase the security on my Mead of Poetry and will always be worried that my tablet will wander off and ravage attractive young ladies using an improbable range of disguises.  Worse, this seems just the sort of claim that could encourage an historically rather laissez-faire deity to get busy with the thunderbolts. No, I shall be giving the new iPad a wide-berth and investing in some rubber-soled, lace-up(!) shoes: better safe then blasted to plasma by a vengeful god!

Unexpected compliments

This is the first (and probably last) in a new series of posts, which will occur after our author receives an unexpected compliment (please note, the word “unexpected” is entirely redundant in this sentence).

I don’t think I suffer from body dysmorphia to any serious extent.  My hair is a constant disappointment to me, largely down to its uncooperative nature and the fact that my crown is on somebody else’s head.  I’ve always felt my eyes let the side down as well: as I’ve often remarked over the years, if I’d had brown eyes I’d be ruling the world by now.  Without doubt, I could usefully be shorter given the rather compact design of much of the modern world, but for now I just have to fold myself up using some form of human origami.  However, on the whole I take my body as a given and work round its various foibles and features.  I’ve never really been tempted to have it altered surgically or to put a huge amount of effort into it, beyond basic maintenance and the continuing desire to make it do improbable or entertaining things.

The continuing issues with my right foot meant that yesterday I went to see a physio for both a second opinion and some ideas for a recovery strategy.  Pleasingly, my diagnosis was correct, I do have peroneal tendonitis (oddly, nothing to do with Evita).  The physio restored an amazing range of movement to my right foot and has given me a whole set of exercises to perform to slowly restore its normal function.  Most of these will look very odd to carry out in public, but luckily I have outlived most of my shame, so when I’m away on business later this week I shall be performing them in airports, hotels and wherever else I find myself.  Whilst this was all very positive, the pain is yet to subside to any great degree – but I have high hopes!

However, the most important occurrence during my session was the discovery that I have “perfect feet” (and that’s a direct quote).  I’ve never really paid them much attention myself: well, they’re so far away from the seat of my consciousness.  But, armed with a professional opinion, I have studied them anew and have to admit that they are rather fine.  It may be time for a new (pay-per-view) vlog starring my pedal extremities.  I am now sitting back and waiting for the offers of lucrative foot modelling contracts to roll in!

Barnet bravery

My hair – primarily that on my head, but more widely distributed examples should not become too complacent – has always been rather a disappointment to me.  It has been consistently obstreperous for as long as I can remember, rarely being content to follow the very reasonable dictates of its titular ruler.  I say ‘ruler’ as I recently discovered that one of the reasons for this bad behaviour is the rather eccentric location of my crown (it is still on my head, but only just).  For the last decade-and-a-half, it has further blotted its already ink-stained copy book by gradually losing its melanin – which I ascribe to outright carelessness on its part (though some might make reference to genetic factors or my antiquity).

I never really feel that I have found a satisfactory, or indeed consistent, style for my barnet.  I suppose this may not have been helped by my unwillingness to spend more than a handful of seconds in the daily attempt to form it into a less embarrassing shambles.  However, at the gym this morning I saw a choice of coiffure that didn’t so much take the stylistic biscuit as guzzle down the entire packet and then look for more.  The young lady in question had bleached her hair blonde – fair enough, we’ve all tried it – but had then added splodges of blue dye of a very particular hue.  As a result, her head gave the appearance of having been tupped by an extremely myopic ram or one perhaps one with a desire “to go where no ram has gone before”, but who had been handicapped in his amorous desires by a rather poor grasp of human anatomy.   Rest assured, I shall not be trying this ‘inattentive shepherd’ look any time soon.

Keep your hat on

I am a sometime wearer of the milliner’s art, and I would like to do so more often (as with the scarf, I feel it makes me look raffish) – but there are two issues which stand in the way of my intent.  Firstly, in recent years this country seems to have become a lot windier than I remember from my youth (though this may be down to my perception moving from that of a pedestrian to that of a cyclist) and in the strong wind it can be rather tricky to keep one’s hat in contact with one’s bonce.  The second reason is related, in that I tend to regularly travel by bike and this generates wind (even if mother nature is not supplying her own) and leads to the hat and cyclist parting company.

I have noticed that young people (or at least some among their number) seem able to retain their hats under what seem to me to be very challenging conditions.  They seem unaffected by strong winds which is all the more impressive given the positioning of the hat upon the head.  Modern youth seem able to perch a hat on only the rear 30-40% of the head – a position from which I would struggle to retain my headwear even with the wind at 0 (flat calm) on Mr Beaufort’s scale.   How do they do it?  Has a new head shape evolved since the 1980s?  Has the hat pin made a comeback?  If any young person should happen to stumble on this blog, please put an older codger out of his misery and divulge the secret.

While on the subject of the covering of my head, I thought I’d raise another cycle-generated wind issue that vexes me.  The issues relates to my hair, which frankly has always been a source of disappointment to me (indeed, I have often pondered disposing of it altogether and using a wig when necessary).  Each morning I spend a considerable amount of time styling my hair using some sort of goo to reach a rough approximation to its Platonic ideal – some days I can take as much as 5 seconds on this process (I know, my excessive vanity will be my downfall).  However, I have no idea why I do this as within 30 seconds of cycling all my efforts have been rendered as naught.  Purveyors of hair styling gunk advertise their wares suggesting that you can do anything – including bouncing up-and-down on your head (not something I have ever been tempted to try) – and nothing will shift your hairstyle.  I am loathe to believe that corporations would be economical with the truth so why, despite the supposed hold of my hair product, is its effect render null and void within 100 yards (or metres) of distance travelled on my velocipede?  I’ve tried gel, wax, fudge, mud and more – but none can retain its hold on my barnet.  Do I have defective hair (well, even more defective than I thought)?  Do I have some strange immunity to hair products?  Could I commercialise this new and rather unexpected super-power?  Or failing that, is there any way to control my hair so that it stays controlled?  Answers on a postcard to the usual address…

Amateur theology

Recent bus news highlights the common representation of the God of the world’s major monotheistic religions as having an excessive and prurient interest in the sexual antics of His children (for so we, mere humans, tend to be portrayed).  In polytheistic religions this seems to be less of an issue – perhaps because the gods have a practical outlet for their carnal needs (either with each other or with their worshippers – yes, I’m looking at you almighty Zeus) and have less need to obtain their “jollies” vicariously.

Actually, I am probably doing the one true God™ a disservice: I suspect He is as uninterested in the gland games of the human race as I am.  No, it seems more probable that this obsession in matters of erotic practice is down to the more vehement of his self-proclaimed followers.  It has always puzzled me why an entity who can list omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence on his CV should need a bunch of overly noisy, intolerant and, all too often, violent hangers-on to look after His interests here on earth.  I understand as a single deity there is a risk of being seen to micromanage one’s creation, but His attempts at delegation do appear to involve some rather puzzling, not to say, contradictory choices.  Perhaps He is hoping that this (apparent) use of competition will bring down costs and improve efficiency in His creation?  If so, was Adam Smith a prophet (and not just of profit) with his talk of the invisible hand of the market? (Now revealed as an allusion to the Almighty.)

Many deities also seem to have an unnatural interest in our hair and food.  Rules on millinery (or at least head coverings) and the cutting and styling or not of one’s barnet and facial fuzz seem common themes across a whole range of religions.  I suppose deities are generally supposed to live somewhere above us, so their main view of the human race will be of the tops of our heads, which probably isn’t our most edifying aspect, and could explain the strictures.

To the amateur theology student, all these rules, strictures and obsessions do tend to portray our Maker(s) as a sex-obsessed hairdresser on a rather faddy diet.  Surely, this can’t have been the intent?  Though it might give new, more spiritual meaning to the phrase “Anything for the weekend, sir?”.

Hair Today

Though after a trim, a little less than yesterday – but hopefully not gone tomorrow (though that would save me quite a lot of money in the long-term).

Yesterday, I noticed an advert for a product which suggested that we should learn to love our “dry, unpredictable hair” – I think probably with this product’s assistance.  I believe it wished to claim for itself the ability to fix either my hair’s dryness or its lack of predictability or both.  I’m no expert on haircare – as anyone who has sighted my barnet could testify – but I have always found that water can resolve the dryness issue, at least for a while.  So, I have decided to focus on the second implied claim.

Simple use of an internet search engine suggests that a typical head has more than 100,000 hairs.  Even with the significant computing power many of us carry around in this modern age, I think that predicting the behaviour of so many hairs is going to be a non-trivial exercise.  Just identifying the initial conditions is going to be a serious undertaking and should you go outside, and be exposed to chaotic weather conditions, then I fear any hope of an accurate prediction is no more than a pipe dream.   So far as I can see (rather further with the aid of my specs), the only folk who can predict their hair with any degree of confidence are the totally bald.  Perhaps I saw an ad for a very powerful depilatory?   Certainly, if you remove your hair and keep it in an air-tight box which is otherwise full of water, then its days of dryness and unpredictability would be well-and-truly over.

Hair products have many strange descriptions: mud, putty and glue to name but three substances you might think twice before applying to your locks (or would, before the marketing boffins took them in hand).  However, today I saw a product ‘description’ that took the biscuit, viz express blow-out creme.  Now, I like my grub as much as the next man and have been known to enjoy a blow-out from time-to-time, though prefer to take my time (an express meal is a sadly diminished experience).  I wasn’t sure if the creme was designed to be used after a hastily consumed banquet or in some way acts as a substitute for one.  However, since it was applied to my own coiffure this morning, I can discount the latter option – so I assume my hairdresser felt I was looking a little dyspeptic this morning and took pity on me.  I eagerly await the haircare industry’s answer to the hangover!

Growing uncertainty

Yesterday, I had my hair cut (I know, my life is almost too exciting!)- and more importantly dyed.  Whilst I can accept that my body is subject to the same processes of entropy and decay that are immanent throughout the universe, I see no reason why I should take this fact lying down (one of the rare exceptions to my preference for the most supine position feasible at any given moment).  I have no intention of growing old gracefully – though given my singular lack of grace in any of my other activities, this may be less a choice than an acceptance of extant reality.  However, I seem to have wandered off-topic (other hazelnut- and nougat-based chocolate is available).

It was five weeks since my locks had last been cut, but they had barely grown at all – in marked contrast to the previous trim when they had grown quite considerably over a mere lunar month.  Curiously, my grass (I feel the word ‘lawn’ would require a little too much artistic license – the HGV of artistic licenses, if you will) showed exactly the opposite growth behaviour.  Both my vine and beech hedge grew apace during the whole period – so much so that both needed some fairly serious trimming lest Fish Towers start to resemble the castle in Sleeping Beauty (and I have no desire to be awoken from my slumbers by the osculatory efforts of junior royalty).  In the case of the grass, I think its variation in growth rate can be explained by the drought followed by more recent plentiful precipitation – however, explaining my hair is more of a challenge…

My hair is normally washed in water from the mains, which as previously discussed has a calcium content on a par with cow’s milk.  However, in recent weeks it has been fairly regularly doused in rain-water as well as I have been about my business à pied or a-wheel.   Does softer water inhibit hair growth?  If so, should I start shaving using the water collected from my roof?

Then again, perhaps the water is a distraction and the rate of hair growth is driven by diet.  I tend to eat those fruits and vegetables that are in season in this country – supplemented with quite a lot of cheese, nuts, dried fruit and the occasional fish.  Over the period in question my diet will have shifted from a very heavy focus on asparagus and rhubarb, to a broader range of items from the plant kingdom including gooseberries, courgettes and aubergines. Perhaps asparagus or rhubarb promotes hair growth?  Given the vast sums spent by men on the products of the hair restoration industry, I think further experimentation is called for!  If a simple preparation of spring vegetables can restore a luxuriant head of hair to the follically-challenged then my fortune would be made.  I could then retire whilst enjoying the sort of luxury to which I have no objection to becoming accustomed.