Monday 20 January 2020

Probably the nicest encounter I've ever had at an airport

Travel planning with a map

It was 5pm at Sydney Airport and, having just checked in my bag for my flight back to the UK, I was aimlessly wandering around the departure lounge, steaming about the universe's most first-world problem ever experienced: Joe & The Juice didn't 'do' chai lattes.

Minutes earlier, I was staring in disbelief at the upsettingly aloof barista (are they called baristas if they primarily serve juice and apparently no chai lattes?) who had issued the blow. I had scouted out the most hipster cafe I could find in terminal 1, only to find that they had. no. chai.

What was I going to do on an excruciatingly long flight to Changi, and then an even longer flight to London? In total, the journey was going to take around 24 hours, not including the two-and-a-half hour transfer I was to undertake upon landing, bleary eyed and barely able to stand. I had no sleeping pills, my row in economy was packed full, and I had lost my eye mask somewhere in the murky depths of my rucksack. The chai latte was my only salvation; I longed for its creamy, hot, spiced milk (sorry, mum, if this sounds overly sexual) to slosh down my esophagus and lull me into a peaceful slumber. But the chai was nowhere to be found.

I ambled past a few more cafes, squinting at menus like an old dear at the chippy, before deciding that I probably wouldn't find what I was looking for, and instead resigned my gaze to the departure boards, where my gate had just been announced.

Being the unreasonably eager person I am (I once showed up to a job interview an hour early), I dashed to the gate, avoiding a gaggle of young children on the way and secretly hoping that they weren't sat behind me on the flight. The first one to arrive at the seating area, I plopped my hand luggage down, and was about to take a seat when a man approached me.

He was only a little taller than me, with greying hair and a smart outfit (not excessively smart, but an appropriate level for travel). I didn't notice much else about him - he seemed quite unassuming and generally non-offensive - but I remember that he reminded me a little of my dad.

"Do you know what the lounge is?" he asked.

I looked around me, confused. And then it clicked. He was lost. Maybe he hadn't been to an airport before and this was his first time flying. How exciting! "Yes," I said, confidently. "We're in it!"

"No, no," he shook his head. "The business class lounge."

Disappointed I couldn't help him, I shook my head apologetically. I thought that would be the end of a run-of-the-mill airport encounter, that he would head to the help desk for a non-moronic response to his query, but he continued.

"I've got a business class ticket," he explained. "I can take one person with me to the business class lounge, and I wanted to ask if you would like to come with me. There's no obligation to talk to me, and there's free food and drink and a comfortable place to relax."

I hesitated for a second. If this were a scenario in any other location, I would refuse. The phrase 'stranger danger' would come to mind, and I'd quickly make an excuse and run away. However, there was something about the safety and security of an airport, plus this slightly elderly man's kind appearance and gentle demeanor, that made me agree to go with him.

Sunset out of a plane window

He introduced himself and explained his actions: "I want others to be able to experience a slice of business class, so whenever I travel I ask someone to come with me to the business lounge. Sometimes, people get a bit worried when I ask them, and think I'm up to no good, but I'm just trying to be nice!"

I immediately warmed to him, thinking that I would like to do the same, if I could afford to travel business class. I asked where he was from. "Switzerland," he said. We rode up an escalator and arrived at the desk for Singapore Airlines' SilverKris Lounge.

"I've found someone!" He told the check-in lady, with genuine delight. She looked at my ticket and passport, before allowing me to enter the lounge with my new aquaintance.

"I've never been in a business class lounge before," I revealed. He smiled and told me that I'd enjoy it, as we walked straight into a well-appointed cafeteria area, with hot and cold food, desserts, cheese, and, to my excitement, a coffee machine complete with a chai latte option.

"Help yourself," he said. "Everything is free, so make sure you take advantage of it. I'll be sat just over there," he pointed to a booth in the corner of the lounge, "and as I said, there's no obligation to sit with me."

I thanked him profusely, taken aback by such a random act of kindness. Before sitting down, I immediately helped myself to a cup of chai, and a few small pastries. I looked over at his booth, and couldn't tell whether he was reading or working at a laptop, but I decided against sitting with him in case he was busy. I guess this was the Britishness in me; we generally don't want to talk to people if we can help it, which means that we think other people don't want to talk to us. He might have enjoyed a conversation with a wide-eyed first-time solo traveller, he might not. I'll never know.

He did, however, look for me when we were called to board, telling me that he might be able to get me through the boarding queue quicker. I told him that I wasn't sure it would work, as they seem to want to check your pass every five paces; however, he explained that, if you look like you know what you're doing, you can get away with anything. Sage advice, which I've since then found to be hilariously true (with the right privileges, of course). Sure enough, I bypassed the economy queue and we parted ways with a handshake; him, off to a comfortable business class seat, and me, off to my sardine tin row with a belly full of chai and a warm fuzzy feeling.

Chai latte with powdered pattern saying 'I love chai'


Tuesday 14 January 2020

Every colour I've ever dyed my hair

Jen Lou Meredith - Hair colour

I was 16 when I first thought about making a drastic change to my hair colour. Rihanna had just released Love The Way You Lie, and not only did I fall in love with the song, I also fell in love with her bright red pixie crop. I remember starting my lunchbreak at my Saturday job with a phonecall to my mum. "I want to die my hair red," I said. I expected (for some reason) her to tell me that I was old enough to make my own decisions, but instead she flat-out refused to let me do anything permanent to my hair.

I was fuming, but I dropped it. And I'm glad I did. To lift my almost-black hair to white-blonde in order to dye it red would have completely destroyed it (plex formulas like Olaplex, which allow you to lift your hair colour without causing as much damage, didn't exist at the time). I probably would've had to have cut all my hair off before long.

So I waited a year, saying to myself that, if I still wanted the same look in a year's time, I would go for it. Luckily, the urge faded, and my first interaction with hair colouring was a lot more subtle...

2012: Brown to blonde ombre

I started off with a brown-to-blonde ombre. I guess this was around the time that ombres started to become really trendy (and the trend has never really faded).

Suffolk-based hairstylist Jo Read did my ombre, and I really loved how it looked. It was subtle in comparison to the Rihanna-red look, but still 'different' enough to satisfy my need for change.

Curling my hair was my favourite way to style this look. I loved how the blonde caught the light in each curl.

However, with the rise in colourful hairstyles, it wasn't long before I was desperate for another transformation. I wanted pastel hair so badly after seeing it on some of my favourite influencers, such as Amy Valentine and In The Frow. I went back to Jo and had two pieces of my hair strand tested for pastel hair but, as we suspected, the strands felt like straw after being lifted so many levels. So I decided to work with what I had...

Jen Lou Meredith - Purple Hair
2015: Box-dyed purple hair
I used two boxes of Schwarzkopf's Live permanent dye in Cyber Purple to create this purple hair look.

Again, I absolutely loved how it looked. Even though my hair was already so dark and you could only really see the purple colouring in natural lighting, I felt like my hair looked fun and unique.

However, I became frustrated when I realised that a 'permanent dye' this was not. Most of the colour came out when I had a shower, and my pillowcases had to be thrown away because so much colour transferred from my hair to the fabric when I slept. I had to repeat the dyeing process every few weeks - and bearing in mind how long my hair is, this took around four hours each time (and my bathroom got covered in purple dye in the process).

Eventually, I got tired of dyeing my hair myself, and for a while it returned to a faded purplish-blueish-brown colour.

Jen Lou Meredith - Green hair
2015: green hair
For Halloween in 2015, I decided that I would have one more go with the box dyes and turn my hair green, again using Schwarzkopf's Live collection (I think I used Sea Mermaid). Unfortunately, the colour didn't really take (I remember the formula feeling different to the purple when I applied it) and my hair turned this grey-green colour.

Unfortunately, because I was studying, interning, and working at the weekends, I didn't have time to correct the colour - so my hair looked like this in my graduation photo 😑

I later found the time to dye my hair back to red with Schwarzkopf Live over Christmas in that year.

Jen Lou Meredith - Red Hair
2016: Professionally-dyed red hair
In 2016, I began working at Hair Magazine, where I would 'volunteer' as a bit of a guinea pig for hair colouring and treatments. It was my dream job.

For one article, I visited Andrew Jose in Fiztrovia, London - a beautiful salon with really friendly staff (and Andrew himself was so lovely). They gave me the 'Haircial' (a nourishing hair and scalp treatment), and corrected my bad home-dye job with a gorgeous, even red colour. I don't think my hair has looked shinier. I was complimented several times for my hair that day on the way home on the train.

I was obsessed with this colour. The dye didn't transfer, and the colour stayed vibrant for a good few months. I highly recommend Andrew Jose if you want a similar treatment or look - they're magicians!

2016: Blue hair extensions
Later in 2016, I worked on a piece for Hair Magazine about Vixen & Blush hair extensions. They kindly treated me to a complete hair overhaul, which involved lifting the red from my hair, replacing it with a brown-to-blue ombre, and adding vibrant blue hair extensions.

Although I love the look and how thick my hair felt with the extensions, this was the first and last time I would ever have extensions installed, as I wasn't keen on how they felt. This wasn't any fault of Vixen & Blush, I just didn't like how the extensions felt, just as I don't like having nail or eyelash extensions, however much I love how they look.

After six weeks, I removed the extensions and was left with brown-blue hair, which I liked until the colour faded.

Jen Lou Meredith - Denim hair
2016: Denim hair
In the winter of 2016, I worked on a really exciting feature about the trend for 'denim hair'.

L'Oréal were making a huge deal of this trend, and offered me a session at Percy & Reed with Ellenora Dean (who now runs her own salon, Fry + Dean), to create this beautiful, glossy, all-over denim tone. Out of all the colours I've dyed my hair, this was the one that I felt suited me most. I felt so strongly about this look that I came back to Ellenora again and again as a paying customer, even though I'd have to save up for months to be able to afford the treatment.

Jen Lou Meredith - Peacock Hair
2017: Peacock hair
In 2017, L'Oréal asked me to take part in a hair campaign for their new #ColourfulHair temporary hair dye. I took a trip to the brand's HQ in Hammersmith, where Ellenora created this stunning green and blue 'peacock hair' look.

Unfortunately, although the colour was beautiful, it only lasted for a few weeks due to the temporary nature of the dye. Having been in the salon chair for around six hours, it was a lot of work for such little time to enjoy the results.

Jen Lou Meredith - Black Hair
2018: Black hair
After the peacock-style colouring faded, I went back to Ellenora at Percy & Reed once more. This time, we did the denim colour, but with a lot more black dye so that I could leave it longer between appointments and my hair wouldn't turn as green.

With this colouring, my hair was virtually black. If I stood in natural lighting, you could see a slight navy-blue tinge.

I felt that this looked really natural in comparison to my previous colours, and it was easy to maintain, as the black dye stayed in my hair instead of washing out in the shower.

Jen Lou Meredith - Blue hair
2018: Denim hair (again)
In the autumn of 2018, I returned to Jo to try the denim look once more. The colours in the above photo are a little saturated to make them pop, however it was a much bluer tone than my previous blue-black shade.

This faded to brown-black after a month, then over time returned to brown. This was the last time that I had my hair dyed (as of January 2020).

Jen Lou Meredith - Brown Hair
2019: Natural hair
During my six-week trip down the east coast of Australia, my hair really lightened in colour, and any remnants of hair dye faded. I'm now left with my natural dark brown colour at my roots, with medium-brown tones throughout the mid sections and really light, almost-blonde shades at the ends.

I currently feel that this colour is too light for my liking, and I don't like the appearance of brassy orange tones coming through the brown (I have nothing against orange, ginger or red hair - I just don't think it suits me). Therefore, I'm planning to have my hair dyed professionally at some point this year. I'm going to go for an all-over dark brown, and I'm looking forward to feeling like my true, natural self again.

Would I ever go back to bold, bright colours? Probably not. Although it's so much fun being able to have colourful hair, it takes so much maintenance, which takes up time that I just don't have. I appreciate all the work that many talented stylists have done on my hair over the years, and I like taking the time to appreciate others' hair colours, but when it comes to my hair, I'm probably going to keep things as natural and low-maintenance as possible.
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