Friday, June 17, 2005

R 'n' R

Finished work early today for some R 'n' R (rest 'n' relaxation) at the hands of an Urban Retreat therapist at the Aveda skin and hair centre in Holborn. I'll spare you the gruesome details of my facial -- needless to say it involved a lot of extractions -- but the oils, creams, head and shoulder massages, candles and New Age music left me blissed out and chilled. Afterwards, I hung around the Aveda cafe, sipping freshly-squeezed carrot, orange and parsley juice as I dreamily perused the pages of a Lonely Planet guide in anticipation of our proposed trip to Thailand this August.

It's rare that I treat myself in this way and make the time to look after my skin and body. It's not very English to pay attention to the details of grooming -- skin polish, nails, hair texture -- but I'm trying to develop the habit. Because it feels so damn good.

In India, we always made the time to oil our hair and skin. My grandfather used to oil his body every morning before his morning bath. His skin was like a baby's to the day he died. My grandmother used to oil and brush her hair on the veranda of her house -- which is how my grandfather first spotted her. Those of us who could afford it visited the beauty parlour (yes, they were called that) too for regular skin and henna hair treatments. When my friend was preparing to get married, one of the first instructions she got from her aunt and other women of the family was how to maintain the condition of her skin with herbs such as turmeric. (She was also given other most useful advice!) I felt very feminine in India.

I was met at the cafe and we stuffed ourselves with plates of scampi and chips and rock and chips under baskets of geraniums hanging from trees outside The Rock and Sole Plaice chippy on Endell Street. Then we strolled down in the evening heat to the South Bank to experience another kind of R 'n' R (rock 'n' rai) courtesy of Algerian-French rock firebrand Rachid Taha at the Royal Festival Hall, as part of Patti Smith's Meltdown.

Since the 80s, Rachid Taha has careened through post-punk, reggae, rock, hip hop and rai to produce, tonight, a molotov cocktail of militant, edgy, raw, dangerous, furious and declamatory sound. Music with attitude, much like The Clash. In fact, Taha recently recorded a tribute to Joe Strummer, Rock el Kasbah, in which he seamlessly mixed the familiar Clash riffs with North African influences, and lo and behold Mick Jones and Patti Smith both joined Taha on stage tonight and rocked out to an explosive rendition.

A wonderful finale to an exhilerating evening, marred only by the fact that so many photo opportunities were lost because I had forgotten to bring my camera.

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