Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I have to get my hair done

and I'm afraid.

There are a million and ten little annoying things about living in a country where you really have no firm grasp of the language. It really makes it very difficult to do all the little things that one takes for granted everywhere else. You should have seen the agonies I went through a few weeks ago trying to ask for a box of wooden matches at the corner supermercato. It ends up making you realise just how much in life you don't really need and how long you can make do with not having things you used to think essential.

The language problem is compounded by the daily difficulties of an English upbringing, where you would rather die than call too much attention to yourself, clashing with the Italian national character. Trust me, they don't know what to do English diffidence in Italy.

Well, why don't you just look it up? I can hear you say.

Ah yes. Why not indeed.

Imagine trying to buy some obscure sewing notion in a sewing supply shop, for example. I mean, how do you even go about looking up iron-on pellon interfacing in a standard Collins Gem Italian/English dictionary? You go to the shop, you look forlornly around for a few minutes while the Italian shop ladies, already naturally suspicious and generally hostile, eye you malevolently. At last, you make a desperate grab for something you don't need just to avoid giving the impression that you are casing the joint and pay and flee with your jumbo coat zipper and packet of sequins, vowing to just pop over to Liverpool as soon as the price of Ryan Air flights go down in the autumn.

I got my hair done, quite wonderfully, by Libby the lady who does all the older ladies in Tattenhall. We discussed all sorts of things, including the terrors of being a grownup and trying to get your hair done by a trendy twenty-something who can't imagine why you wouldn't want to look like a teenager. (Yes, the time before Libby, I allowed someone trendy to do it, and she flattened me with some kind of flattening iron because all the teenage girls think that looking like a haystack caught in a downpour is the height of chic). Libby also knew exactly what I meant when I said I wanted to look like Diana Rigg in the Avengers, ("Well, who wouldn't?") and we had a jolly time talking about how mad the world was becoming.

I came to Italy a few weeks after that and have tried to make my Libbby/Diana Rigg hair do last, but it is hopeless now. I look very charmingly like an 18th century peasant girl in some bucolic Ford Madox Brown painting. Not at all like a sophisticated black cat-suited Diana Rigg. Nor, at this point, can I even manage anything like someone from a Jane Austen film by piling it up and pinning it in place. It all comes apart and hangs in little annoying drifts around my face.

So the time has come. I have to face it.

How do I say in Italian, "I want to look like Diana Rigg in the Avengers"? And how do I say "Dear God, please don't make me look Italian!" without giving offense?


Anonymous said...

How about a compromise?

Mulier Fortis said...

Heheheheh... well, according to Google Translate, you should try saying:

Voglio vedere come Diana Rigg in Avengers.
E Caro Dio, ti preghiamo di non farmi guardare Italiano!

Good luck!

DP said...

Doesn't Tuscany have a lot of English ex-pats and vacationers? Chiantishire and all that?

You might have fewer language issues with the hairdressers up there.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Or maybe bring a picture of Emma Peel.


Sand Mama said...

Hi Hilary, My brother Greg has introduced me to your blog, fantastic stuff.
Have had the same dilemma with my hair. Want to look like Rachael Ward in that bad movie with Jeff Bridges and I tend to end up with mid-80's lesbian nun mullet.
Cant imagine trying to get my hair cut in Dubai (I live there most of the time...)And there are no malicious italian hairdressers.
Good luck.
Silvia Aldredge

Anonymous said...

The Diana Rigg look is only useful if you can do that thing she used to do with her shoulders.

Niall Mor said...

That picture of Emma Peel you put up inspired me to look for clips of "The Avengers" on YouTube. I believe it was broadcast in Italy as "Agente Speciale." Try asking for that and see what results you get.

Andrew said...

A group of Slovak teenagers I was with had an "Oxford Pictorial Dictionary" for English, which had hundreds of pages of pictures ordered by task, like photography equipment or butcher shop things, which listed all sorts of oddities for each activity, like the 4 different types of knives butchers use.
A presumably similar Italian-English pictorial dictionary is here:

Perhaps it would be of some use in your dilemmas when looking for matches or sewing things.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Niall, that's not inspiration, that's what we call in the netnerd world "procrastination".

Say it with me...

pro - cras- tin- ation.

You'll get the hang of it.