On balance, it’s probably a good thing that I’m shortly leaving the country, as I seem to have inadvertently acquired a new haircut and associated colour hue that has the unfortunate potential to be mistaken for a Donald Trump tribute. Sad but true.
So, how did this series of unfortunate events come about? Well, basically I’m in count down to departure mode. Lot of things to do. Saying farewells, picking up foreign currency (USD if you are interested), and yes, to get my hair done before going. My new public will want blue-eyed blond English rose stereotype . I can do the being prickly bit on my own, but whilst I can no longer be absolutely sure what my natural hair colour is anymore, I know it won’t pass the muster as blonde without outside assistance. I wanted to smarten up a bit before heading off. I decided against my usual hairdresser as to be honest, much as I like her (it’s not your everyday hairdresser that says as you sit down in her chair ‘so what’s your take on how the WHO are dealing with the Ebola crisis?’ for example), she’s a bit out of my price range now I’m without an income as such, and also it would be a faff to go into town. I thought I’d try somewhere more local, and quite a bit cheaper. So I did. It’s only hair, it’ll grow back. What’s the worst that could happen?
Well, I really like my new hairdresser too. We had a great old chat about world politics so big tick for that box. But, I made some assumptions that she’d understand what I meant as I described what I wanted and this was a miscalculation on my part. I have trained up my old hairdresser over some 6 years to know what I want and what suits me. What happened this week, is that I emerged from the dye fest with a perfectly respectable colour and cut, but it just seems alien to me. Too short and too yellow. It rather accentuates my slightly bloated face post-virus, and contrasts alarmingly with my blotchy complexion which was a consequence of the blast of cold air as I walked to the salon. SNOW! I would go so far as to say it isn’t really age-appropriate. Maybe I should have embraced my grey? As I traipsed down to get some passport photos taken for visa purposes, I consoled myself with the fact that I’ll only have to brazen it out in the UK for a couple of days longer. Once I get to Cambodia people won’t know what I normally look like and so perhaps, if I’m very lucky they’ll just assume the coiffure I am sporting is quite de rigueur in Sheffield. I wasn’t over keen on having it immortalised it in my visa photos though to be quite honest. I contemplated uploading one of the passport shots in the interests of transparency, but decided against it.
I never thought I’d find any common ground with Trump, but unwittingly I have. What’s worse, is that as a vegetarian it is against my principles to appear to be sporting a dead animal on my head even if it is hamster road kill. However, I can hardly go around with a placard explaining all of this, although i did consider doing some fliers to handout instead. I can’t bring myself to include a photo of Trump in this blog, but here is a photo of a woman who similarly appears to be sporting a hamster on her head. This is strikingly similar to the look I am currently sporting, though in my case the hamster appears to be deceased, hers is looking positively feisty:
Complicating matters still further. Cheetah Buddy had done the most awesome and wonderful thing. Arranged a leaving do for me! Yay. Whilst daunted at the prospect of having to behave in a socially appropriate way for a whole evening this was nevertheless splendid. As an adult I’ve never had a party for me before, and a Smiley Paces populated party was always going to be especially fabulous since, as has already been established elsewhere, it is a pre-requisite of Smiley Paces club membership that you are inherently awesome as well as being able to smile whilst running. Even so, I wasn’t overly enamoured about appearing to even these fine folk without warning them in advance of my unfortunate makeover. Upshot was, I had a bit of chat with Cheetah buddy, and she agreed to take every party attendee to one side as they arrived and explain the situation to avoid too much gratuitous laughing and pointing and pointing in relation to my hair at least. She couldn’t promise to prevent any other laughing and pointing in relation to the rest of my future plans or personal and/or physical attributes. I think that’s fair enough, I have to take some personal responsibility for my life choices after all. This seemed to work pretty well, so that was good. Only a little bit of this to be honest:
So I made my way through the dark of Sheffield to the party house clutching a bottle of prosecco – to open on arrival, I wasn’t swigging it en route. To be honest, I wouldn’t rule that out per se, but I’m too chicken to open fizzy bottles, it’s a task I like to delegate as much as possible… On arrival, as well as there being a person skilled in the art of opening bottles of prosecco without having a panic attack, there was the most fantastic spread of food imaginable. The kitchen table veritably groaned under the weight of home-made quiches, creative salads as well as freshly baked bread and upmarket cheeses. I see such buffet layouts as a personal challenge to be honest, and anyway, given that Cheetah buddy had gone to so much trouble it would be rude not to have a fair old go at it just to show appreciation. The attention to detail was staggering though, I mean I know she says she likes to put on a spread, but that illuminated Cambodia-themed ice sculpture was quite something to behold. Just a shame it melted before everyone got a chance to appreciate it.
As well as fine dining options. There was fine company to come. Cheetah buddy had done a very fine job of rallying fellow Smileys to attend, many of whom were still giddy with excitement from their adventures at the Dirty Double in the Lakes the week before. I hadn’t been able to go because I was ill (gutted) but my farewell do now offered a brilliant cover story for researching what had really gone on during the communication black out in the snow at Patterdale Youth Hostel last weekend. Excellent! Amendments and clarifications to my original account followed.
I was a bit nervous, never having been in this situation before of being the focus of a celebration – though on reflection the enthusiasm for which your peer group celebrate your departure could be open to more than one interpretation. They did genuinely seem to be really ecstatic that I’m going a very long way away imminently…
how very delightful. I wasn’t altogether sure about party etiquette. Who should answer the door when it isn’t my house for example, but the hostess is still busy in the kitchen? Really, I have no idea. In the end, I decided to just throw myself into the situation by downing a prosecco early on, and then talking about myself at great length and much too quickly with an increasing intensity of social inappropriateness. I consider this to be a great public service, because if I am actually quite irritating when you have to interact with me in person, it will make what would otherwise be the agony of being apart from me for the next 4 months a positively delightful interruption in normal service for all in attendance. Also, as I’m sure has previously been established elsewhere, because I’ll endeavour to keep this blog going in my absence, those who are interested can monitor my news and my whereabouts without ever having to engage in any meaningful interaction with me at all. More than one friend expressed to me that my previous travel blog Careering Off was a positive boon in that respect. They felt no need to speak to me ever again. Isn’t that kind? Always happy to be of service, and lovely to get such feedback obviously. People were keen to comment how they couldn’t think of a better person to be going a long way away. It’s amazing how enthusiastically people will wish you on your way if you give them the opportunity to do so. I didn’t take that many photos to be honest, but this snap really captures the amazing party atmosphere of perpetual ecstasy that flowed throughout. It was awesome!
So, it was all in all a very jolly evening. Conversation flowed, loads of travelers tales were swopped and running adventures clarified. I also sourced a varied range of top tips in relation to my marathon training preparations. One of the most reassuring was to take it slowly, factoring in that you can still build up from after Christmas. I do feel like I’m back at square one with running having been thwarted by illness I’ve not run in three weeks, and only started decent length walking last week. However, the consensus is that it’s not too late, and maybe building up slowly in the gym whilst I acclimatise could ultimately be an effective technique.
I had less encouraging feedback whilst out the other week. I was walking but bumped into an impressive Smiley sprinting trio (with dog) who kindly stopped for a quick chit-chat. I was doing my usual thing of pumping these more experienced runners for advice, and said that I thought one benefit of my being overseas is that I probably will inevitably lose some weight just because it’s so hot and unfamiliar diet and all that. I do need to, and I think carrying less of me around on my runs can only be a boon to my marathon performance. The assembled Smiley trio nodded supportively, but then one ventured kindly and somewhat tentatively ‘that’s true of course… but you do realise you will actually have to do some training as well?’ Oh crap, the truth hurts sometimes, it really does! I wonder when the sensation of having Munchausen’s and having made the thing will wear off and the reality of what I’m going to have to undertake will finally kick in? There is still a part of me that thinks now I’ve told everyone I’m off, and even had a leaving do for goodness sake, I could probably hide out in my flat doing fictitious blog posts for the next few months and no-one would be any the wiser. I’d lose weight because I’d be too scared of being spotted to leave the flat in search of food. It’s been done before. Though it ended badly for that poor yachtsman so maybe not. Anyway, I want to experience Cambodia even if I am scared, and I definitely want to give the London marathon my best shot too, so Plan ‘A’ it is. I’ll do it. What the hell…
Just go to Cambodia. and Just run when I get there. How hard can it be?
I’m not really expecting to pull of quite this silhouette in profile on my return, but you have to aim high don’t you, to achieve your full potential…
So conversation covered anything and everything. Though progeny of Cheetah buddy attempted to mock overheard conversations apparently not understanding why discussing the relative merits of technical toe socks; taper techniques and anti-chafing underwear were appropriate, engaging and fun topics to talk about at this quality social gathering. It’s not his fault, he is but young. It seems unimaginable now, but there was a time I didn’t really like olives. I know! Unbelievable. He’ll become a convert in time.
All too soon, carriages arrived and the great and the good departed. I made a point of hugging pretty much everyone both on arrival and departure. It’s good to bank hugs in this way when the opportunity arises. Eventually it was just Cheetah buddy and I doing a debrief in the kitchen. Perfect finish to a perfect party.
So thanks Smiley kindred one and all for the fabulous send off. I felt genuinely blessed. It’s a bit weird really, because the nature of Smiley Paces is that you can easily go for several months without actually seeing one particular member and yet you still stay connected through the Smiley network somehow. My time away will pass quickly, and I’ll still stalk them from afar. However, it was really lovely to feel a push of goodwill and support wishing me well (or at least away). It gave me a sense of having back up. Also, I expect this sense of collective responsibility to upholding the honour of the club (reference Smiletastic 2016) whilst stressful at times, will also be motivational. If I’m struggling with my training I’m going to try to harness all that Smiley force for good, hoik on my shoes and get on out there.
Go Smilies, you are fab.
Thanks Cheetah Buddy for my most excellent farewell bash.
Now, bring it on! Cambodia Calling. Make it so….