Being ginger adds spice to life
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Being ginger adds spice to life

I have been reprimanded by a reader of ginger persuasion for failing to mention two significant days in the calendar for those of us who have grown up saddled with nicknames like "Ginger Nut", "Ginger Bonce", "Tomato Head", "Carrot Top", not to mention "Freckle Face". I plead guilty to allowing the recent "Cuddle a Ginger Day" and "World Redhead Day" slip by without a single bleat in support of gingers.

As a kid I hated my ginger hair because it meant you always got picked on by bullies just for looking different. I would have much preferred an anonymous mousy brown or black thatch. It was also hugely embarrassing when well-meaning aunties commented on my "cute ginger curls". Yet these days I see Thai teens dyeing their beautiful black hair in assorted shades of ginger and orange. Oh well.

A few years ago in Edinburgh they held a lively street protest against "gingerism", the perceived prejudice or discrimination against people with natural red, or more likely, ginger hair. One poster read " All Hail To The Red, Orange and Pale" and another offered "Keep Calm and Ginger On." Even ginger dogs got in on the act, wearing smart "Justice For Gingers" waistcoats.

It was appropriate that the demonstration should be held in Scotland which has the highest percentage of redheads in the world, featuring 13% of the population compared to 4% for the rest of Europe. In Thailand it used to be 0% until the latest trends in hair fashion.

Red hair can also include strawberry blonde, copper red, many shades of orange and the somewhat fanciful auburn. As novelist Mark Twain, himself a ginger man, once observed "When redheaded people are above a certain social grade their hair is auburn."

On the cards

Political correctness has changed a few things over the years. In 2009 the Tesco supermarket chain in Britain had to withdraw a Christmas card which featured a kid with a mop of red hair sitting on Santa's lap with the accompanying message: "Santa loves all kids. Even ginger ones." It was ruled discriminatory as it might upset us ginger nuts.

I received a similar redhead-themed card from an auntie when I was little. It didn't bother me at all because she had inserted a couple of pound notes with the card.

Whiter shade of pale

One problem ginger people face is that they nearly all have a light complexion and find it impossible to acquire a tan. Instead of turning pleasing shades of brown the most they can hope for is a blotchy red.

As a kid I actually succeeded in suffering from severe sunburn in Bournemouth of all places, quite a feat considering the British weather. That's why on sporadic visits to the seaside in Thailand I'm hidden away at the back of the beach in the shade of the coconut palms getting bitten by assorted creepy crawlies.

Hall of Fame

History doesn't look kindly on redheads and it has been particularly tough for women. In olden times those ladies with the fearful combination of red hair and green eyes were regarded as either a witch, werewolf or vampire. There have been many famous historical redheads including Cleopatra, Elizabeth 1 and Florence Nightingale. Apparently Elizabeth loved her natural red hair so much that she dyed the tails of her horses a similar colour.

There is no doubt that women with red hair create a certain mystique, but also suffer from the stereotype of being a bit "wild". Maybe it extends from the 1932 film Red-Headed Woman starring blonde actress Jean Harlow as "Red Lil" (what a ghastly name) wearing a red wig and apparently not much else.

Actress Lucille Ball, sometimes known as ''the Crazy Redhead'' helped stir things up when she commented "Once in his life every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead".

Holding back the years

One of the most distinctive redheaded entertainers in my time was Manchester-born Mick Hucknall, lead singer of the group Simply Red and possessor of long curly red locks If you are in a melancholy mood and want to get even more melancholy I can recommend Hucknall's video for Holding Back The Years which he wrote when he was just 17.

There was also the ginger lad in Harry Potter called Ron Weesly, remember him? He was played by Rupert Grint who of course is not a kid anymore, aged 34. The actor is a "proud ginger" and wouldn't swap his hair for any other colour.

Curiously in Australia redheads are often known as "Bluey". You will have to ask an Aussie the reason for that, although I think it has a lot to do with their deeply ironic sense of humour, like calling bald blokes "Curly".

Almost there

Imagine waking up every morning with painfully blistered feet, knowing you have to walk more than 30 km in swelteringly hot weather on noisy highways. That's what "Wild Wolf" James Valentine has experienced for the last 46 days on a 1,000-km charity walk from Pattaya to Phuket to raise funds for deprived kids. Despite suffering severe blisters the Pattaya Hash member has already clocked 1,000 km and is now in Phang-nga within sniffing distance of his destination. He plans to arrive in Phuket on Tuesday. A true test of mental strength.

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Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

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