Soft as Nails

8 Oct

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I’ve never really been able to grow my nails. The popularity of all the nail salons that have sprung up everywhere in recent years was beyond my understanding. When a substantial area in my hairdresser’s was turned over to this weird practice I gawped through the mirror as client after client offered their hands to this interloper.

I do remember painting my nails as a teenager, not entirely successfully it must be said. Then came the terrible Monday I forgot to take it off before going to school. First lesson of the day was chemistry (how mean is that?) The teacher took one look at me and made some comment about dipping my fingers in blood and produced tissues soaked in acetone with instructions to “get that muck off”. The laughter and humiliation was enough to ensure I didn’t forget again.

A working life in nursing began at 18 and only the shortest, scrubbed and unadorned finger nails were possible. I must have played around with varnish on my days off but I can’t imagine the stumpy ends of my fingers ever looked good. Besides, boys were supposed to prefer girls with clean, plain nails weren’t they? I’m sure I remember reading that in ‘Jackie’ at an impressionable age.

I was in my forties before I tried again. My trendy sister-in-law had been training in the whole dark art that is the manicure and offered to give me a false set before I went on holiday. I still remember the awe and delight of this unexpected pleasure, the thrill of waving my adorned hands about in ever-increasing dramatic gestures.

The practicalities for someone not used to dealing with extended fingers soon intervened, however. It wasn’t long before they were looking decidedly tatty and my attempts to ‘touch them up a bit’ only made matters worse. So with a return to work fast approaching I resigned myself to the tub of chemicals reluctantly purchased to remove the falsies.

Life on a sailing boat is more likely to decorate the body with cuts and bruises than lengthy fingernails while the casual life bumming around in a caravan never suggested nail varnish. So it’s only now we’re hobnobbing in places like the Emerates Palace and the Ritz Carlton that it occurred to me to try again and nervously book myself a manicure.

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It wasn’t as much fun as I’d expected. When the autoclaved pack of surgical instruments arrived it was positively alarming, in fact. With the rather scornful statement that I “don’t go for manicure in England” my cuticles were, somewhat painfully, put in order. Even choosing the colour of nail varnish was more intimidating than pleasurable with the vast array to pick from. Hell, I didn’t know what would suit me or go with what outfit or whatever criteria you are supposed to use when selecting. I plumped for a pale brownish-pink as the least scary.

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Then it came to paying. It turns out that three coats of nail varnish take longer to dry than you might expect. And taking a credit card out of a handbag, out of a purse and into a card reader is likely to undo the previous half hour’s work. I’ll be better prepared next time. Oh yes, I’m hooked.

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