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WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE VALENTINE’S DAY?

I have many memories but two in particular stand out.

One time we had chosen to dine at a French restaurant that had a really good recommendation in the Good Food Guide. OH (other half), phoned up a good few weeks beforehand and booked the table. 

Going out for a meal in those days could never be spontaneous in the way it is now because we had to book a willing grandparent well in advance to babysit for our three young children.

The restaurant was about twelve miles away. We arrived in good time and began driving up and down the road looking for the restaurant but couldn’t find it.

We parked and walked up and down searching. Where was it? By now we were becoming anxious because we were already late for our table and concerned that it would be given away to another couple.

Finally, we found what looked like to be the correct numbered building in the street but there was no French restaurant there. It was a Chinese take away!  We couldn’t understand what had happened. Then it dawned on us that, since our old copy of The Good Food Guide had been published, the French restaurant must have changed hands. What was even more galling (and with hindsight amusing) was that the takeaway had taken our reservation for a table! Whoever reserves a Chinese take-away? It’s not as if the restaurant even had any tables!

But at the time we did not see the funny side at all.  Frustrated, annoyed and hungry we tried to find somewhere else to eat but every restaurant we found was full. It was Valentine’s Day after all. We drove all the way back home and ended up eating at a local Indian restaurant that was walking distance from our house. We were thankful to find they had tables. And, to their credit, they hadn’t – as so many restaurants do – bumped up prices for Valentine’s Day!

Another memorable occasion was a few years ago when we were on holiday in Cannes and going out for a Valentine’s dinner. I had put on an elegant black linen dress for the occasion.  How do I look? Fine was OH’s answer.  It is his usual reply.  How was the dinner? Fine. How’s my hair? Fine. How do I look? Fine.  I think the only time he would not answer fine would be if I asked him, how’s my driving?

There we were walking hand in hand along the Croisette in Cannes where all the beautiful people go to see and be seen.  It was a mild evening and everyone was out strolling before dinner. I felt wonderful. All was right with the world. Then someone behind me tapped me on the shoulder. I turned. It was a young woman walking with her friend. “Excuse me, she said in a loud Australian accent, “but I thought you might like know that you have your dress on inside out”.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

50 SHADES OF GREY

I can count on one hand the number of times I have ever had my nails done or had any kind of beauty treatment. No Botox for me.

I didn’t dye my hair for the first time until I was in my 50s and going grey.  And I only did that when people started offering me seats and opening doors for me!

I began by dyeing my hair myself – that is to say with the help of my daughter at the start.  Then I got up the courage to do it myself.  Eventually, I ventured into a hair salon and I have never looked back. Until now.

I was the kind of person who could not bear to have any grey whatsoever showing in my very short hair. At five foot one and a half inches tall I was always aware that people would look down on me (as in from a great height not I hope for any other reason!) and see the grey tips showing.  So I went regularly to the salon for a cut and to have the roots recoloured.

Those of you who think of me as blonde (or with yellow hair according to my daughter’s children) will imagine I have the whole of my head dyed.  Not at all.  Just the root regrowth to cover up the grey.

Now here I am four months later with hair so long that I can whisk it up into a pony tail – albeit a short one.  And with long grey streaks which, amazingly, I am beginning to quite like.

My hairdresser texted me a while back to say that I could now return if I wished. But I am in no hurry. Even if there were no virus to worry about I am now interested to see what hair colour is emerging.  I am curious to let the yellow grow out and see how I look with 50 shades of grey. When we finally emerge from lockdown will I look like Miss Haversham but without the wedding dress?

OH (other half) says it suits me.  But he would say I looked good even if I had a bag over my head!  It’s not that he doesn’t look at me but I think that after nearly fifty years of marriage (Covid permitting) he continues to see me as if I am still the woman he married – which is very touching. And, to be fair, he often compliments me on how I look even when he is not being asked for an opinion.

A few years ago we were on holiday in Cannes and going out for dinner. I had put on an elegant black linen sundress for the occasion.  How do I look? I asked him before we left.  Fine was his answer.  It is his usual answer.  How was the dinner? Fine. How’s my hair? Fine. How do I look? Fine.  I think the only time he would not answer fine would be if I asked him, how’s my driving?

There we were walking hand in hand along the Croisette in Cannes where all the beautiful people go to see and be seen.  It was a pleasant warm summer evening. Everyone was out strolling before dinner. I felt wonderful. All was right with the world. Then someone behind me tapped me on the shoulder. I turned. It was a young woman walking with her friend. “Excuse me, she said in loud Australian English, “but I think you might like know that you have your dress on inside out”.

So ladies, unless you are still on your honeymoon, take my advice and beware when your other half says you look fine.

Find a complete stranger and ask them instead.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems