The good oil

In Hair on January 30, 2013 at 8:52 pm


As a child in the 1960s I developed my ideal of womanhood from watching television.

My perfect woman was Lady Penelope from Thunderbirds. She had it all. A mansion, a chauffeur (who could pick safe locks with one of her hairpins – handy), adventures and a pink Rolls Royce. She also had great hair.


Another lady pin up was Alexandra Bastedo in a spy series called The Champions. She tended to go the up do, but I thought her unutterably glamorous. I also had a big crush on the dark-haired man in the series (centre, below), Stuart Damon, who I now realise looks rather like my husband. And dresses like him too…


Even in those pre -Female Eunuch days I never felt comfortable watching the Bond films, just as I always hated Benny Hill (and don’t even start me on the creepiness of Gigi…).  But I used to watch them for the Bond girls.


Ursula Andress in the bikini, of course, but my favourite was always Honor Blackman in her suede jodphurs as Pussy Galore (FFS…). She had seriously great hair. My favourite doll, Sindy (preferred her to Barbie) had similar hair.


But my all-time number one hair inspiration was always my mother’s can of Elnett hairspray. The chick in that drawing has the best hair of all time. I still aspire to it.


Which is all by way of saying that I was a little hasty when I dissed L’Oreal’s Extraordinary Oil, the other day. I’ve been using it for over a week now and I think it lives up to its name.

I think it was the John Frieda Full Repair range which cured my traumatised fright wig hair, but the Extraordinary Oil – combined with my precious Big Hair dryer – has taken it on to another level.

I apply it lavishly before every wash, but the real genius comes when you use it the next day on dry hair. It gives it the kind of body I’ve only achieved before the day after doing a massive hairdo for a party with rollers and setting lotion.

For a moment just now, my hair was so big and high I felt a little like the lady on the Elnett can…

PS I so love all your comments on this I had to add this picture of TRESSY. I had a Tressy too, but she broke very quickly and then the long hair extension was just weird. She was a novelty, Barbie was a freak – Sindy was the It Girl.


  1. I think we were separated at birth!

  2. Oh how I smiled at this!!
    How strange too that the only reason I watched The Champions was for Stuart Damon (cannot for the life of me remember anything from the series) whilst admiring Alexandra as she turned an immaculated styled blonde updo with the fetching backdrop of THAT large waterspray…and smiled a wry smile.

    I had a doll called “Tressy” which no-one seems to remember. I loved her “hair that grows” and still rue the day I put the manufacturer’s promise to the test and hacked off about 2 inches. Funny, it never grew back.

    Ah yes, Lady Penelope. Pure class.
    Now, I think I will purchase aforesaid Extraordinary Oil.

  3. Saw Honor Blackman this week in an old episode of New Tricks – she still looks terrific

    • An ‘older’ lady who still has ‘it’ The long bob was my stye of choice for years, do it up, leave it loose, loved it but now in my 70’s, silver hair just doesn’t work the same, so it has to be short. Can it ever be as good Maggie? Show us some casual styles for the silver oldies please…we need you !!

    • that’s good to know – she’s got the bones.

  4. Photo please Maggie so we can share your happiness😉. Loving your posts in my inbox again x

  5. I loved Sindy, her hair was so ‘stylable’!

  6. Not sure about Tressy, but I had a doll called Chrissie who had basically a high pony that you could style long or turn the flower shaped dial on her back to shorten, to wear in a bob.
    Personally as one with naturally big wavy hair (thankfully in my 20s in the 80s when it was fashionable) I am glad to see the end of poker straight dos, that never worked on me.

  7. Oh Gosh, Maggie – that talk of Sindy takes me back! Except I had Sindy’s younger sister, Patch. I think I related to the freckles and hair (I’m a redhead) and the heavily fringed bob (crikey, that was the hairstyle I had in the late 80’s maybe I, too was emulating the look of my childhood idol!)
    My blonde older sister had Sindy. We even had Paul, too! Not sure if he was the brother or the boyfriend?! I much preferred them all to Barbie – so much more normal!
    Must try this Extraordinary Oil you speak of. I purchased the Big Hair on your recommendation and Love it!
    Keep these wonderful posts coming – LOVING them! x

    • So glad to hear you love the Big Hair. I think it’s the best thing to happen to women since the Pill ha ha ha. I had Paul in the end, but I thought he was a dope/. I used to bring in my brother’s Action Men (see comment reply above…) because even at 8, I knew they were more attractive…

  8. Jo – the Chrissie doll!! Loved her. You have taken me right back to being a 7 year old girl again. And also Sindy. Much better than Barbie. Not being made anymore I think.

    Maggie – am going to try the oil.

  9. My brother attacked my Sindy doll with a nailbrush – completely ruined her hair! I was so upset (still haven’t gotten over it, 35 years later – sob…)

    Glad you hair is recovering Maggie!

  10. Such a treat to receive your witty observations in my inbox again. You do seem to have an amazing/scary way of penning thoughts that are going through my own head. Thirty odd years a hairdresser, “Elnett- lady” sitting on my work bench is still my inspiration. Keep up the good work, loving your posts.

  11. Ditto Gay’s comment. Lady P & Honor Blackman, too cool for words. I only watched ‘The Champions’ for Alexandra Bastedo, although I have to admit I was madly in love with Emma Peel aka Diana Rigg.

    As for Benny Hill. I worked for a chauffeur hire company in the 1970s that provided all the drivers for Thames Television and we used to collect him form his flat and drive him to and from the studio. A painfully shy man who would not even open the door if he did not recognise the driver sent to collect him. Completely at odds with his on screen persona, as is so often the case.

    Thanks for the memories, Maggie.

    • So so creepy and weird. Yucky to think of a shy man cooking up all that sleaze. And YES Diana Rigg/Emma Peel me too!x

      • I’m with you, I can only recall with embarrassment and horror – always a cringe from me when that oh so unattractive little man appeared on the screen in fast motion. Creepy! BX

  12. Could have cried when I saw Sindy again, she brought back so many memories of my English childhood ~ thanks Maggie! I remember Tressy too, from memory a bit weird in the way you pressed a button on her tummy to suck her hair back into her head. Although that would be convenient sometimes……

  13. I used to steer clear of any kind of expensive product, but since going from dark brunette to platinum blonde on a whim, I’ve found they’re a necessity. Kerastase shampoo+masque plus a hot hairdryer seems to have supernatural body-creating properties.

  14. Sitting here in Melbourne reading this I was immediately transported back to my childhood in London in the sixties! Such great hair memories….my very glamourous mum always had a can of Elnett on her dressing table along with a polyestyrene ‘head’ with her hairpiece! I would go to London with her regularly so that she could get her hairpiece re-styled/cut at the Carmen (of the hot rollers fame) studio. She and her sisters would always wear these fab hairpieces to the dinner/dances – fabulous!- confections of elaborate curls – they would create an instant ‘up do’ a la Alexandra Bastedo! Thanks so much for bringing back such wonderful memories of my lovely mum and her sisters!

    • I still have a set of Carmens for old time’s sake. My mum used to have those hairdos too. Must find one of the classic pics to put up, you will laugh with recognition x

  15. God, you make me laugh, Maggie!

    I addressed my beach fried, crispy barnet at the hairdresser’s yesterday – now it is a cool caramel sleekish do, with a bit of a 60s flip. Ever so slightly Pussy Galore, if you squint a bit…

    I even had some lopped off. Traumatic, but worth it.

    I would kill to have my hair blow dried every day. When I am filthy rich, that’s first on the list to organise.

    Here’s a tip: I ran out of conditioner the other day and resorted to Bio Oil mixed with water. Not bad! I usually go with Morrocan Oil, but am starting to find that a tad heavy.

    And, Elnett certainly struck a chord. It was Mum’s favourite for years. I always thought the lady was tres elegant, too.

    Thanks for writing your blog. It is always such a treat to find it in my Inbox.

    • Buy yourself a Babyliss Big Hair blow drier – it’s like having a pro blow every day. Really. Trust me. It is unbelievable. A hairdresser I know confided they have affected their blow dry business! Get one and tell me how you find it. x

      • I used the Vidal Sassoon Big Hair Styler – somehow thought that was the one you had – and found it so difficult to manoeuvre. Is the Babyliss one easy to use? I’ve been growing my hair because I’m over going to the hairdresser – never thought I’d ever say that – and I need something to give my hair a lift.

      • The Babyliss one is the simplest thing in the world to use. You press a button and the brush rotates as you pull it through your hair. The real genius is you press the button the other way and the brush rotates in the opposite direction, so when you change sides you just click it over. It is life changing. Literally ALL my friends have them and we marvel at how one electrical appliance has changed our lives.

      • I live in the bush with only solar power and have to confine my blowdrying to very sunny days (hence my often horrendous appearance): BUT am dying to try out this dryer. Thanks for the tip!

      • Let me know how you find it. I let my hair dry about 80% naturally then put some product in (I like John Frienda root boost) and set to with the Big Hair for the last dry off. It’s very quick, so you won’t use much power.

      • Apparently the BaByliss Big Hair Styler isn’t available in Australia – if anyone knows if it is, please point me in the right direction – so I bought the baByliss Ceramic Air Styler instead as it looks very similar. But without the backwards and forwards mechanism – which, I expect, is the vital bit! It reminds me of one I had in the late 70s/early 80s that I loved. Anyhoo, sadly it didn’t make my hair any bigger…… So, I’m off to the hairdresser tomorrow to get my hair thinned out and layered a bit – that always gives it a lot more life and a bit of style.

      • I think it’s marketed under a different name there – can anyone help? If not, get a relative or a friend to send you one! It’s all about the rotating brush… Sorry you had a disappointment x

  16. Sindy!! I LOVED her. I had her horse too, I haven’t thought of her in years. She did have great hair. Barbie’s was weird, always parted in strange places so you had to keep her in the same do she came in.
    I’m always wary of oil-type product in my hair – doesn’t it make blonde hair look dirty/ less blonde and lank?

    • I HAD THE HORSE TOO. Big deal birthday present, but it didn’t do much did it? I wanted all the accessories, but in the end it was the doll and my imagination that were the magical thing… x

      • SNAP! It was a HUGE present. I don’t recall the accessories although I’m pretty sure I had a saddle and brush. My Sindy had a fab one-piece riding top (scarlet red polyester with a black velvet tie) and jodphurs. There might have been a helmet. You’re right, the horse didn’t do much but that made it easier to project our own stories. Sindy & I had many gymkhanas, trail rides, beach gallops etc. Barbie watched wistfully from the cupboard with those scary vacant eyes…

      • I was slightly more into decorating Sindy’s apartment ready for Action Man’s visits…

  17. Loved this. I was also a huge fan of Lady Penelope (and the rest of the Thunderbirds). But Tressy! She was my absolute favourite, so much more stylish than Barbie even withe hole in the top of her head.

  18. Poor Barbie! Am I the only one who loves her? I have a cabinet of vintage girls and they look so pretty in their couture outfits. Even my footy fan fella thinks so.
    Thanks for the laughs Maggie. After reading the shiny news of the stars lining up for their BAFTAs and SAGs in their gorgeous gowns and marvellous hair and make up it was a comfort of sorts to know someone other than me was having a bad hair trauma. I’m letting the grey grow in so I look a fright and will do for a little while yet.
    Enjoyed your latest book.

  19. I loved Lady Penelope too! And I saw her in passing the other day in West End (in Brisbane) snapped my head around to view her & it bought such a big smile to my face! She has her hair up might I add! Very stylish!

  20. Dear Maggie,

    Could you please do some posts on being stylish at other ages, (preferably including photos) Needing some guidance and inspiration. Don’t want to be frumpy, too conservative or inappropriately ‘young’ in dress.

    Thank you,

  21. Oh this special hair oil sounds like the business. Definitely need all the help I can get in the hair body department and I will put it on my shopping list – thanks for the review.
    Yes, I had Sindy too – not Barbie (my mother didn’t like her!) but I did lust after Tressy as I wanted to see how her hair ‘grew’.

  22. Dear Maggie – dear Tressy – the sweetest and tiniest eyebrows I have ever seen! Will search for the Extraordinary oil, sounds perfect & thank you so much for the tip. Great to hear you have a big hair machine again (phew!) Still haven’t got mine yet – but can’t wait. BX

  23. Dear Maggie
    It’s sooo good to have you back in my life again. I was quite morose when the herald printed your goodbye last column in Sydney (was it last year?) I had always enjoyed your reflections and comments and always agreed with it all. I also read ALL your novels on one boating holiday! I even once said to my husband that I thought you and I would be great mates and we seem to have lived parallel lives….So good to see your ‘rules’ back in the Sunday herald.
    Anyway I nostalgically googled you recently and found your blog! Yay! Thrilled to be able to have a regular maggie dose and even chat ! Yay again!
    Im not sure what “trolling” you are referring to but sounds appalling and glad you rose above it all. Bastards……
    Keep it all coming. X

    • Thank you SO much for that lovely comment, Miranda. Can’t tell you how lovely it is to have real contact with readers via this format. It’s amazing how much we all have in common, all such different people, different continents. I love that. And I love the image of you reading my books on a boating holiday, which is EXACTLY the kind of situation I like to imagine them being read in!

      Please tell any friends you think might be interested about the blog. It’s getting the word out that’s the thing x

  24. Don’t forget Beautiful Chrissy whose hair, at the push of a button, emerged from her head like a giant red noodle. Remember her?
    Your blog on it (hair) has inspired me, at 51, now (probably) post menopausal and with rapidly thinning hair to go buy some product (I did get a script for something stronger from the GP that’s supposed to help with hair loss but decided against it). Went to the local supermarket instead and found the John Frieda range of volumising (“builds the hair form the inside out”) hair products ON SPECIAL have since shampooed and conditioned and am very happy with the results….. thanks John! Don’t care to know the secret ingredients and can hardly pronounce them anyway, but my hair is noticeably thicker and more fabulous!

    The babyliss dryer you recommend might be the next purchase.

    So thanks for your blog Maggie. Would love to see more pics of older gals and always enjoy your insights into what stylish women are wearing – no matter what their age.

    PS my husband just walked in and said “have you got beach hair – you didn’t use spray on salt did you?” ha ha ha

  25. Dear Maggie, could you remove my surname from previous post?



    • Where did I use your surname? Need a bit more info, a you are coming up here as dorin_s. Happy to help, if you can tell me what and where.

      • Hi Maggie, see post about Beautiful Chrissy/John Frieda. Would just like “Dorin” at top, not with my surname (Suciu) – sorry – a bit new to blogging! Thanks.

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