On sun and parachuting

There are a few fixed rituals in Betty’s year. NaNoWriMo is one; others have come and gone, like hot air ballooning every Easter (for something like five or six years, Betty forgets), or strawberry picking in the summer, or abseiling at youth camps. The most enduring, Betty reflects, is quite possibly the annual pilgrimage to the Parachute Music Festival every Auckland Anniversary weekend.

This is a little odd, since Parachute is not really Betty’s thing; she was introduced by her hip friends back in the late 1990s, and reintroduced by her well-connected and keen sister a few years later. Betty’s sister, for reasons related to autism and other awesomeness, enjoys few things more than planning and timetabling, listens devotedly to the radio, and loves fast food. Readers will therefore appreciate the significance of an event that packs dozens of bands into dozens of short timeslots, in a massive tent city peppered with literally dozens of hot dog stands, coffee bars and gourmet pizza marquees. It is like heaven.

It will, Betty readily admits, be fun this year: Switchfoot are headlining on the Mainstage, as they did in 2008, and Betty is quite quivering to hear them; there are also other regular highlights, like the World Vision installation (you line up for hours, wear an earpiece, and undergo some kind of simulated third-world horror; last year it involved sitting in a makeshift clinic waiting to be told if you had contracted AIDS; it was harrowing and very moving), the gourmet pizza, and the midday roller disco or barndance in the Palladium.

By far the most significant part of Parachute, however, is the sun. Betty has an unholy horror of sunburn. Though she spent her childhood tanned to a deep shade of acorn or teak, she is now Baltic pine at the very most, and not at all fond of getting lupus-like flushes of red across her cheeks, or that permanent dark nose-stripe that develops after a day or so of unprotected sun exposure. One year, despite her best efforts, Betty left Parachute with a burned parting in her hair, and a strip of her scalp peeled off in one deliciously satisfying and yet totally unacceptable piece a few days later. There always seems to be a spot — the top of a foot, a corner of neck, a strip of hip, an entire ear — that ends up blackened and blistering.

However, Betty chooses to live in hope. Armed with a small array of sunscreens, a pair of dark glasses, sleeves, and a hat, Betty will once again attempt to avoid burning. The festival is just over two weeks away, so helpful suggestions and recommendations are most welcome.

Manicures and spatial awareness

Betty, who has the most rockin’ of clients, got a voucher from a client. It promised her a mini-manicure at Lucy and the Powder Room, the new swanky salon at the incredibly swish Department Store. Betty, therefore, tootled up to the Powder Room after her morning at the studio was done. It was a chillin’ time at the salon: the place was mostly populated by two beauty therapists, or, as they may have been, nail artistes:  they were pleasingly dressed in chic grey smocks, such as might be worn by, say, the supervising sisters at an alternate-reality 1960 unwed mothers’ home, and they had gold nurses’ watches pinned to their fronts.

Betty chose a polish in a kind of post-apocalyptic Williamsburg blue, or like a slightly iridescent dolphin; the artiste led her to a sweet little table for two and laid her hands, palm-reader-style (but, of course, palms down), on an expanse of white towel. “They’re very short,” said the artiste. She was referring to Betty’s nails, not her hands, which are in fact rather long; Betty will remind readers that a bored haematologist once caught sight of Betty’s hands and impulsively measured her wingspan, investigated her palate and proceeded to X-ray her in search of a Marfan’s index. This diagnosis did not eventuate. The artiste regretfully informed Betty that she would have to go for what she technically termed a “roundy shape”, the (apparently much cooler) “squary shape” being unavailable on such short nails. Betty readily acquiesced (she is a roundy, not a squary, anyway), and the artiste proceeded to file, buff, scrape, press, clip, again buff, clean and finally polish Betty’s nails.

One wonders why it was termed a mini-manicure, because it took about fifty minutes; Betty had a very pleasant time chatting to the artiste. At the end, the artiste advised Betty to be careful of her nails for the rest of the day, and not to wash in hard water.

So. A question. Why, when one’s nails are still soft, does one find that one bumps them into every little thing all the time? With a heightened sense of her nails, Betty still found it near-impossible to avoid denting them on the car key, or smacking them into the steering wheel, never mind the temptation to run them idly through her hair. It is a puzzling and yet intriguing somatic exercise, this polishing of the nails.

Three things about lipbalm

1. It gives the boy person friend the quivering feebles.

2. It is best procured from Crazy Rumors, who make delicious tea- and coffee-flavoured ones, and a bunch of other ones that smell like peppermints, bubblegums, icecreams, and citrus fruits. They are silky and nommy.  My very favourite was Plum Apricot Tea Balm from their Brew collection, which they seem to have discontinued, but all the ones I’ve had have been luscious: I am quite the loyal fan. They’re also vegan and cruelty-free, and contain no petroleum products, which I like in a lipbalm, really, sheesh.

3. I have run out.

O dear. I have backup lipbalm, of course; it is New Zealand made and it says Soothing Mint on the front, but it is not the same.