A Guide to Getting Your Hair Cut in the Countryside

I’ve never considered myself extravagant when it comes to pampering myself, but in Los Angeles a bi-monthly mani pedi was considered reserved, and no one batted an eyelid if the man sat next to you getting his cuticles trimmed was talking about spending the afternoon having his crack, back and sack waxed.

Sadly though when it comes to the hair on my head, I’m having what my brother calls “a bad hair lifetime”. I could hide it pretty well in America, under hats or by saying it was a beachy look but the British weather leaves me baring a striking resemblance to Albert Einstein or as my daughter says “a crazy lion”.

hair, countryside, albert einstein
My locks looked like a longer version of this pre haircut

In LA I had the luxury of incredible hair salons on almost every corner, and I was safe in the knowledge there was someone out there who could tame my mane.

But searching for a hairdresser in the countryside, when you’ve only got the recommendation from your 65-year-old mum, is a truly terrifying endeavour.

I trust my mum, she’s cute and trendy and has nice hair, but it’s white-blonde and short and I’m not ready to go down that route just yet. So when I asked her if the lady she uses does Balayage she looked at me blankly. “I can call her and ask,” she kindly offered. “What exactly is it again?”

For the record Balayage is just a painting technique for highlighting hair to give it a sun-kissed look, but I guess in the countryside blue rinses and a set are the most popular requests.

It turns out mum’s mobile hairdresser didn’t do Balayage but she’d “heard” about a salon that did. I got the number and gave them a call only for them to put the phone down on me.

robin james, hair, somerset
Robin James salon in Sherborne.

“I beg your pardon?” said the voice on the other end of the phone after I’d asked if their establishment did Balayage. Confused, I called back and the enraged receptionist warned me: “Don’t ever call back here again.”

I still don’t understand what she thought I was asking for, “can you give my balls a massage” is all I can come up with. Other suggestions are welcome.

My hair needed attention though and I was getting dangerously close to asking my mother-in-law, who once had a job washing hair in a salon 45 years ago, to give it a trim.

Many phone calls later, I finally found somewhere that did Balayage. I’ll admit it wasn’t that comforting when the lady put her hand over the mouthpiece to ask the stylists if they did it and then had to come back to me to ask me to spell the word, but I decided to go for it.

That was until, the talented guy snipping my husband’s hair in an actually quite trendy barbour shop, the next day, pulled a face and whistled: “You’re brave,” when I told him where I was going.

NOOOOO!!!!!! I almost asked him to just shave my head there and then. Fortunately with the bad news came some good. He gave me the name of a great salon 20 minutes away and when I googled ‘Robin James’ I was over-the-moon.

Hair, Robin James, Somerset, Sherborne
Yay for Robin James!

I did have to wade through the sea of ambling white haired wanderers in picturesque Sherborne to get to the salon’s front door, but once inside I felt like I’d been transported back to LA – so long as I didn’t look out the window that was.

Bean Shot Coffee, somerset, countryside
The best Bloody coffee I’ve ever had!

Ironically my young, tattooed and uber hip stylist talked me out of a ball massage, sorry Balayage, even though she could have made a lot more money from it! Unheard of.

To top it all off as I walked back to my car and dived into a doorway to make room for the approaching train of mobility scooters, I stumbled across the most amazing coffee shop. The sign in the window read ‘Bloody Good Coffee’ and it bloody well was. Thanks Robin James and Bean Shot Coffee for making what could have been a truly hair-raising day, amazing!

You Got Mail

I am well aware that this blog is supposed to be about finding cool and trendy things to do in the countryside so a post about post offices may just make anyone who is reading this switch off.

Village Post Office in England
The next village’s post office is positively buzzing!

But I can’t help it. I’m taking a rain check on my post about a fantastic holiday in Devon for one about mail or post or whatever you want to call it.

A country road in Somerset, England
Traffic getting there was a nightmare

When we moved back to England a very good friend suggested my daughter and hers, who had known each other since they were babies, became pen friends.

Obviously being three and four years old they weren’t going to conjure up handwritten masterpieces, but we figured scribbles and stickers would be greatly appreciated.

However, the contents of the packages was less problematic than the physical action of posting them.

I kid you not that my email (yes, I’m aware of the electronic irony) to said pen pal friend’s mum read:

“I’m glad she liked the card. H has written T another one, but the pace of village life means the post office comes to visit us just once a week in the Working Man’s Club,” I wrote.  “I wish I was joking! I haven’t plucked up the courage to go in there yet. I don’t know what I’m expecting to find, but I I keep getting visions of the last man standing from the night before, being left in charge of the first class stamps and the stamp sticker pad has gone missing. This means he takes it upon himself to lick the stamps and even worse my envelopes with his stale cider breath,” I continued.

“So instead I drive to the next village where there’s an actual PO that stays open all day – except for lunchtime of course, because with all that foot traffic they need a rest. It also sells pet food, imports the local old lady’s knitted goods and if you’re really lucky you’ll find a second hand hamster cage for sale.”

Crafts at the village post office
‘Craft services’ brought on a whole new meaning at the village post office

She responded by writing that she’d “audibly gasped”.

But my fascination with the place meant I insisted on my husband paying it a visit too, only he had to leave because he said it made him want to cry!

I, on the other hand, love it. I’ve even braved the Working Man’s Club post office too. I won’t lie, it was weird. There was a raffle and they were setting up tea and biscuits, but it beats standing in a half hour queue at the Hollywood Post Office where I was generally greeted with gritted teeth, a frown and a $45 price tag to send a letter home.

hollywood california post office
My old local post office in Hollywood, California

My only issue with going again is that I’ve just been told the Natwest Banking Van visits Martock on a Wednesday and I’m not sure I’ve got enough time to post a letter, have a free cuppa and get to the next village in time to pile into the back of a van to deposit my pennies!

The Ex-Files

From time to time, I get my city fix. I jump on the train (see the picture of my rural station below where if you look carefully you can see “the path to town” on the right!!!) and spend two wonderfully quiet hours headed to the big smoke for work or to meet friends. I enjoy the fact it doesn’t matter if I get on the tube going in the wrong direction because I don’t have to lug two kiddies off and on the train, with the awful fear of leaving one stood on the platform!! It’s a nightmare of mine, and a reality to a family member who did just that in Singapore!  But that’s another story. Knowing I don’t know many people in this vast city and I bump past no familiar faces is kind of refreshing. But all of that went out the window last week when I bumped into possibly one of the worst people I could have…my ex-boyfriend.

‘The path to town’ apparently!!!

I’m not talking about a recent ex, I’ve been married 9 years and with my husband for 11. 

I’m talking about the ex boyfriend I had in Los Angeles before getting together with my husband.

I’m talking about the ex boyfriend who, the last I heard was living in New York.

I’m also talking about the ex boyfriend who apparently still calls me ‘The Poison Dwarf’ – I barely break the 5ft barrier, so he’s not completely wrong.

So when I was tucking into my Bakewell Tart in a cafe in Green Park, London, a place I’d NEVER been before I practically spat my Americano across the packed place in horror when I saw him walk in. 

At first I thought “it can’t be” then I thought “it could be” and when he turned round I saw  “it f***** was”. I could have done the adult thing and said hello, even just put my head down and hoped he didn’t see me. But I took the very childish route instead. I threw the remains of my cake into my oversized handbag – and yes for those who follow me on Facebook, it was the one I carried a jar of mayonnaise containing my son’s poop to hospital in – and tried to flee. 

My newly nicknamed ‘poo purse’

I could feel I wasn’t being subtle. I was making more of a scene as I tried to squeeze through the birthing canal that this too small exit route had become. My bag was whacking angry city workers and because I had my head down, I’m sure I bore a strikingly resemblance to a rugby prop (or perhaps an angry dwarf?). It all began to happen in slow motion, he was getting closer to the front of the line and I had to pass that point to make my escape. I couldn’t physically turn around and if I got any lower I’d have been crawling on the floor. So why, in that moment, I decided the only thing to do was to fake taking a phone call, I have no idea. As I burst into the fresh – if not slightly smoggy – air I realised that if he hadn’t seen me already,  he’d certainly heard me now!!  

I continued that fake phone call for the next few minutes as I power walked out of the joint at such speed I probably looked like a shoplifter. The thing is I think I’d have preferred to explain myself to an officer of the law, than make small talk with my ex, who the last time I saw actually growled at me and said: “urghh. What’s she doing here?”.

It put me on edge for the rest of the afternoon and very almost put me off my lunchtime ‘Langan’s‘ fishcakes as I kept looking over my shoulder for fear of who else I might come across.

Serves me right for escaping the countryside for the day! 

 – Oh and Mr. Ex-boyfriend, if you ever read this I’m really sorry I didn’t stop and say hi – but then again, you’re probably not.

Bottomless Bucks Fizz to Bottomless Chips

Gone are the days of popping out for brunch, ordering a bottomless Bucks Fizz (Mimosas in America) and ending up, in the words of Micky Flanagan, “out out”. But that’s more to do with having kids than relocating. Although our local pub still closes after lunch and doesn’t reopen for dinner until 6pm, so I can’t imagine them pushing bottomless pints of Somerset cider!

So imagine my delight when during a trip to beautiful Dartmouth, I saw the words “bottomless” shining like a beacon on a blackboard outside a restaurant. I practically broke into a sprint, abandoning my kids, hubby and food loving friend (lets call him FLF) on the other side of the road. My disappointment when I noticed the words “Bucks Fizz” had been replaced with “chips” was glaringly obvious. 

Upstairs at Rockfish, downstairs was packed!

I stopped in my tracks, hands on hips and yelled rather inappropriately, I now realise; “Bloody chips! Bloody bottomless chips! We may as well be at McDonalds. What sort of a place sells itself on bottomless chips?”

“A bloody good one” a voice from behind me muttered as he walked out of the restaurant. 

Now it was my FLF’s turn to sprint, actually he’ll be the first to admit he doesn’t do that, but regardless I’ve never seen him move as fast.

I still wasn’t convinced – the initial disappointment still stingingly fresh – but since FLF had already bowled me over to get inside, and was busy tucking a napkin into his collar despite not having anywhere to sit, I figured I had little choice.

Anyway, turns out we had stumbled upon an AMAZING fish and chips restaurant Rockfish.

The spicy salt was amazing

Fantastic food, brilliant service and they didn’t discriminate against families like ours rocking up at their cool establishment with a pair of kids (and one FLF adult) chanting “fish and chips, fish and chips”.

They even had a designated area for the folk who dine around toy cars and crayons. 

My FLF didn’t manage to beat the restaurant’s record of 7 re-orders of their bottomless chips, although he insisted he could easily have done it if we hadn’t all be watching him, but we still left buzzing – it was just from fine food rather than endless glasses of bubbles!

Bus Snob

I’m not a snob. I’m far from it. I currently drive a 15-year-old Volvo that has ‘C U Next Tuesday’ scrawled into the back of it. It’s very subtle and if you glanced at it, you may even think it was a cool piece of graffiti. Anyway, I’m not a snob, but I don’t like the bus and that may sound snobby. I didn’t like going to school on it in England, it always had a whiff of wee and somehow no matter where I sat, my seat felt and smelled like the crusty carpet of a dodgy nightclub. So I avoided riding it in Hollywood. In fact my sister-in-law was the only person I knew who did, and her route was to Beverly Hills, so I always felt that didn’t count.

South Petherton Trading Post Railway Cafe

If I didn’t want to sit on a bus, I definitely didn’t want to eat on one. You can imagine my horror then when a mum at my daughter’s ballet class in the country suggested I take the kids to dine on an old disconnected railway carriage. My terror only escalated when she added “they’ve got an old bus you can eat on too.”

The bus! Photos don’t do the place justice

My face may have said it all as I had visions of sitting on a pee ridden backseat tucking into a grotty old sandwich brought in from the local petrol station. But on her insistence that the Trading Post was “lovely” I braved it.

I’m glad I did. The food, no joke, was the best I’d had in a VERY long time, their menu may have been tiny, but it was incredible! The bus was decked out with cute wooden tables and chairs and the train carriage had old seats and train tables converted too. Everything, with the exception of my two kids who hardly touched their lunch because they wanted to go and see the massive fat pig wallowing in mud outside, was outstanding.

 

There wasn’t a tramp in sight and even if there had been, I almost couldn’t have cared less…

“You Did What?”

I’ll never forget the reaction from the young saleswoman working in the local River Island when I told her I’d recently moved from Hollywood, California to Somerset, England.

It was peeing with rain outside and my 4-year-old was dancing out there like it was pouring M&M’s, her mouth open catching the drops and shrieking with delight as she got completely and utterly soaked. 

Letting go of Hollywood – although this actually looks more like England

After explaining that there actually wasn’t anything wrong with her, and that she just hadn’t really seen proper rain before, we got to chatting about how I’d just relocated my life after 15-years in sunny California to a small village in South Somerset. 

She was so shocked at what she’d just heard , she put my jeans in a bag and handed them over without taking a single penny from me.

When I pointed out she’d just given me a freebie she said: “I’m in a complete state of shock.  I can’t get my head round it. Why on earth would you make that move?”

It’s a question I’ve found myself facing on an almost daily basis, since my husband and our two children (lets call them H and H, if you knew their names you may think they’d have been better staying in Hollywood) made the transatlantic move to the countryside.

Sunny day on Malibu Beach

We left the lovely life (friends, family, jobs, house) we had built in the almost always sunny state and started fresh in a small village where the only people we knew were my parents!!

Lunches on Malibu pier, followed by a stroll down Santa Monica’s sandy beach had been replaced with wobbly walks over the pebbly Jurassic coastal line. (“Much more scenic than LA you know,” my parents reminded us every time I emptied a stone out of my infuriated daughters’ shoe).

Adapting to stoney beaches

Soon the novelty of having all the things I’d craved for so long; seasons, woody walks and cozy pubs began to wear off a little and I started seeking out the luxuries and activities I’d enjoyed in LA….surely somewhere HAD to have sushi?

I almost felt like I was having an affair, cheating on Somerset as I sat late at night while my husband snored next to me, checking my friend’s Facebook pages in Los Angeles and googling the likes of “Soulcycle, South Somerset” “Yeovil, Michelin star restaurant” and at one particularly desperate time “mum’s who like wine, Martock”.

But then I realized if I was going to make a success of my new life, I couldn’t continue sneaking around behind the countryside’s back I had to embrace it instead. 

It’s true there might not be a Barry’s Bootcamp on every or any street corner. I may have to drive or taxi (we are still working on Uber down in ‘these ere parts’) half an hour to get a decent tuna sashimi and a warm saki, but I’m making it my mission to eek out the best country living  has to offer.

Whether it’s fitness, food, family fun or flirting with the idea of a new, fancy over the top and way too expensive  hotel that serves the most amazing expresso martinis and has an incredible…..urghhh, I’m digressing. Basically, I’m determined to have a laugh exploring our new surroundings as I make the transition from Hollywood wife to living this country life!