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Laura Craik on the bittersweet treat of people-watching again, lasting hair colour and the clothing quarantine conundrum

I went on a train. After being in one postcode for so long, hurtling past lambs and trees and fields and cows and pylons felt wild, and not a little discombobulating. People more spiritual than me like to opine that when you travel, it can take a while for your soul to catch up.

I was pondering this romantic notion, lost in reverie, as we pulled into Newcastle. And I can conclusively tell you that when two women get on and start talking loudly and in great detail about their star signs, menstrual cramps and toxic work cultures, your soul catches up pretty fast. And then it withers a little.

On the one hand, it was kind of cute and endearing that Lisa and Rania (not their real names) had only just met, yet had formed such an instant bond that they were prepared to spill all of the tea. On the other, it was kind of... loud. Did people always talk in capital letters, or is it a consequence of lockdown? Maybe they lived alone.

“Did people always talk in capital letters, or is it a consequence of lockdown? Maybe they were on coke”

Maybe they were on coke. Maybe they were in a scripted reality TV show. ‘Take your mask off so I can SEE you!’ said Lisa as soon as they’d sat down at a table they hadn’t booked, for they were Entitled Table People. ‘OMG you’re so PRETTY!’ ‘No, YOU are!’ replied Rania. ‘What’s your star sign? OMG my birthday is TWO DAYS AFTER YOURS! THAT’S WHY WE’RE SO ALIKE!’

From astrology, they moved seamlessly on to accommodation. ‘I want a house that I don’t have to pay for,’ said Lisa. ‘I want to WIN a house.’ Next up was travel (‘you honestly have the perfect life. I hope you know that’), boyfriends (‘you need to bail’) and parenthood (‘I do WANT a baby, but I’m terrified of childbirth so I’ve decided I’ll HAVE to use a surrogate’). At that point, I started looking for my headphones, only to find them wedged inside the ears of my youngest child.

People-watching is lovely. London’s pavements are alive again and it’s a joy to observe. People-listening? That’s going to take more getting used to.

The hear and now: it’s going to take some time to readjust

Roll of the dye

While everyone makes a beeline for the hairdresser, I’m sitting out the stampede, partly because my efforts went into finding a table in a beer garden but mainly because the last colourist I saw was David Inman at George Northwood.

He’s the ‘anti-colour colourist’ whose lo-fi technique lasts for up to six months — just as well, since my last visit was in October. By painting on subtle, random daubs of colour, his results are natural and never look grown-out. Kirsty Young, Julia Restoin-Roitfeld and Skye Gyngell are fans, but good luck getting an appointment.

Dress to kill

Browns’ new four-storey flagship (39 Brook Street, W1) is epic and in common with other luxury retailers, is taking safety measures seriously, quarantining products for 72 hours between customers trying them on. Does anyone else find this insane? Responsible as it is that Browns, Selfridges, Harrods, Matches et al are taking such steps, think of the lost sales.

As someone who blithely eats takeaways cooked by chefs who may or may not have rubbed their noses, handed to staff who may or may not have washed their hands, and delivered by drivers who all chat together outside, the prospect of catching Covid-19 from a dress is the least of my fears. I’m certainly no scientist, but wouldn’t you be as likely to catch it from a bus seat, a coffee-cup lid or a curry?


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Every rooftop, terrace and beer garden is booked solid, which is excellent news for everyone bar the impulsive. And, um, the disorganised.