Judy is getting a haircut this morning - right now as I write - and I am worried.
She will return either elated and full of the joys of living, or seething with suppressed anger at the incompetence of hairdressers.
Either way, the first few seconds of her return are difficult for me. It is no good simply saying,"Gee, back already, hair looks good. How about lunch?"
I have to read the situation instantly - joy or seething anger - and respond appropriately. And then followup with intelligent comment. "She's done a really nice job hasn't she? Really like the way those straggly bits are tucked under. How did she do that?" Only to be met with cold fury aimed at the hairdresser and at me, for my lack of awareness.
I do have some sympathy for the Stoker. Judy tolerates a lot on the back of the tandem. Most women - and I suspect many men - would not put up with the constant exposure to the elements, the discomforts of a saddle and month after month of life in a tent.
But these are as they say, first world problems of our own making.
Perhaps in exchange for these hardships, Judy insists on just one thing - trying to look after her hair. But it's not easy on the road where the comfortable familiarity - even friendship - with a regular hairdresser is gone. So Judy does the next best thing. When we get to a likely town - usually a bigger one - she asks around for a good hairdresser. However, one person's good hairdresser is not necessarily Judy's good hairdresser.
In France, there was the woman who did the cut in about five minutes, much of it with a razor. The worst cut was Croatia - she came out with a pudding bowl. The worst colour was in Chinatown, Bangkok, where even with a phrase book in hand dark blonde came out as black.
The best cut - just for the record- was by a hairdresser who came in on her day off in Sausalito, north of Los Angeles.
Each of these haircuts (and don't forget the colouring) is indelibly imprinted on Judy's memory.
No wonder she set off with trepidation a couple of hours ago and I'm worrying.
(A short time later)
I have been rescued from a potential blunder by two New Yorkers. She is loud of mouth and sharp of lip. He is dark, laconic and might be an actor in a TV crime series. She is bemoaning the poor facilities in the campground laundry.
Judy arrives while I am being ear bashed by this pair. I can't get a word in, but it gives me time to assess Judy. I can see nothing obviously wrong with the cut - no straggly bits, no pudding bowl, neat, tidy, I think it might be ok. Don't know about the colour, that's the impossible bit for me to judge. Hello, is that a smile I see. Yes, it is. It definitely is.
Go on, I dare myself. Take a chance.
"Great haircut," I say.
Footnote: As Captain of the Beast of Burden I have to maintain a certain level of grooming myself, but I find it simpler than the Stoker. I bring my own personal hairdresser with me. We choose a calm, windless day when we have plenty of time and she makes a fine job of it. The only drawback are the blunt nail scissors which regularly jam and pull the hair out in tufts rather than cutting it. Painful, but a small price to pay.
I may ask my personal groomer if she would consider upgrading her skills to include hair colouring - more and more gray is creeping in and we both have standards to maintain.