GUEST BLOG – Jess writes about the Redhead Festival

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My take on Redhead Days is a little different to Davey’s… While I fully sympathise with the plight of the downtrodden gingers, wept for the guy in the Being Ginger Netflix documentary, and would argue strongly that the lack of ginger emojis is a mild form of racism… I myself never endured any ginger torment as a child.

Sure, there were what Dee would call my “terminally ill years” between the age of ten and 15, before braces and eyebrow tinting, but even through those awkward teenage times, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked, “Is that your natural hair colour?” I’d have enough money to hit up every ginger festival in every country every year.

I know this makes me (even more of) a minority, and I consider myself lucky for never having been made to feel embarrassed about my hair colour. (Except maybe for the time I dated a guy who turned out to be obsessed with Annie, and I only found out when he introduced me to his grandmother, who said, “Oh, she does look like Annie!” That was awkward.) My ginger pride stems from my upbringing, and the strong female gingers I had as role models – my beautiful mum, who I watched being constantly adored by my dad, and my fiery aunty, a total knockout loved by everyone. I don’t even know if you could call it “ginger pride”… Our hair colour, while acknowledged and celebrated, was just a small part of who we are. It was a non-issue, so I never had to overthink it, and I just kinda liked my hair colour. Even appreciated that it made me a little different.

So for me, Redhead Days seemed like a bit of fun. Something that would make a cool story… “Yeah, so I’m traveling through Europe for six months, and my first stop is a little town in the Netherlands for a three-day celebration of gingers.” Why not?!

But then I arrived in Breda, and my little ginger bubble burst. For the first time in my life, I actually felt self-conscious about my hair colour. While there was a strong sense of solidarity amongst the gingers, it was the non-ginger ginger enthusiasts that really made me uneasy. All of a sudden I was on display, and I didn’t like it one bit.

Standing in the town square, men with cameras would swarm and take photos of me like I was an animal in the zoo. One guy got so close I had to give him an “I can see you” eyebrow raise so that he’d back off.

Probably the most unsettling encounter was with a (non-ginger) guy from Vienna who claimed to be a journalist. He approached Dee & me in the park one afternoon looking for a story, with a bottle of coke and pack of cigarettes his only tools of trade. Within five minutes of awkwardly sleazy chitchat, he was convinced he and I were “the perfect pair” and suggested we be Facebook friends. Feeling a little flirty (in hindsight, foolish!) from the wine, I said that if he could find me at the pub crawl later that night, we could make that happen. He did find me. Twice. At two different pubs, among hundreds of gingers. In the dark of night in a foreign town, he seemed even more creepy than during the day, forcing me to make a French exit and go home to bed.

The official group photo was the last straw. Being herded into the photo location space, and then separated by a barrier from the non-gingers while the photographers snapped at us from the top of a cherry picker, just felt a little too much.

So while Redhead Days was an interesting experience, I was relieved when the weekend came to an end, and I could just throw my hair up in a ponytail and move on. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d washed and blow dried my hair three days in a row. Because hey, if I’m going to be photographed unknowingly, I want to be looking my best. 💁 (Blonde emoji used for lack of a ginger one.)

And here’s Jess’s blog: The End of August

My left foot

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GUEST BLOG by my mum.

David resisted being pigeon-holed from the get-go.

My local doctor told me I was pregnant and then another doctor at the pre-natal clinic said I wasn’t. I had to wait two weeks before test results settled the question.

On my due-date, I had dangerously high blood pressure and an x-ray was ordered. Based on this, I was told the baby wouldn’t arrive for two weeks. He came that evening.

“It’s a blond,” yelled the nurse in the delivery room. She was wrong, of course. He was as bald as an egg, but at a certain angle in a certain light, you could see traces of ginger fluff. I was shocked. His father was so dark that I never imagined my colouring would prevail.

There were two other shocks on arrival day. One was a strawberry-coloured birthmark, which doctors assured us would disappear. On his upper left arm, it was quite pretty on that milky white skin, so I wasn’t concerned. But his poor little left foot was another matter. Apparently it had been stuck in an awkward position in the womb and hadn’t developed properly. Pressed hard against the shin, it looked more like a chicken claw than a foot.

A paediatrician prescribed physiotherapy. Four times a day I had to stretch and mould the foot for ten minutes. “Do it immediately before a feed and he’ll have positive associations,” was the advice.

Yeah, right. David bellowed the house down when I followed this routine. But who wants their foot pulled when they’re hungry?

So I switched to doing it after the feed. I no longer felt like a torturer but settling him for sleep was much harder.

I persisted all the same and the little claw magically transformed into a normal foot—albeit one shoe size smaller than the other.

I can’t recall ever having been warned about this but years later I learned that David would have been condemned to a club foot without all that play-doh work I did.

A third birth flaw was not understood for 18 months.

Although David was a shockingly poor feeder—taking an hour or more to finish a bottle—doctors and clinic nurses dismissed my concerns. I was too anxious and the baby was picking up on that, they said.

The most useless thing you can do for an anxious person is to tell them to relax.

Not impressed, David’s father decided to make bigger teat holes, so we were practically pouring milk down the poor bub’s throat. But at least he got a decent feed each time.

Then guess what? My mother-in-law discovered the problem. David was born badly tongue-tied. After a little operation and an overnight stay in hospital, everything was sorted and his speech suddenly took off like a rocket (where it’s stayed ever since!).

No wonder I don’t trust doctors.