‘What happened when my mum took the kids for a haircut’

Are We There Yet?: Joanna Lumley’s 'New Avenger’s' do became a family tradition

Joanna Lumley, Gareth Hunt and Patrick MacNee in publicity photographs for The New Avengers. Photograph: Central Press/Getty Images

I had "Purdey hair" when I was nine, the age my two daughters are now. Some of you will know what I mean by Purdey hair but for younger readers she was a character in a hit 1970s TV show, The New Avengers.

These days Purdey would be called a “kickass” or “badass” woman. I’m pretty sure she was a feminist, though she might not have spent much time considering the patriarchy. Too busy beating up baddies.

Unusually in the context of the popular culture of the day, she was a strong, physically assertive female character who, while there was a fair bit of flirty banter, was not in a romantic relationship with either of the male leads. (John Steed and Mike Gambit. Swoon.)

She stood out for other reasons too. Purdey, played by the fabulous Joanna Lumley, was a martial arts expert who, according to her backstory, was ejected from the Royal Ballet for being too tall. As well as kicking the bejaysus out of villains, she was also charged with distracting them with her “feminine wiles”.


We were never told if her first name was Purdey or if she was actually Ms Purdey. Before Madonna and Beyoncé came along and made single monikers cool, she was a woman who only needed one name. What I mostly remember about Purdey are a lot of kung fu kicks and gun pointing. And of course that hair.

I had Purdey hair because my mother cut it herself. In my case, to achieve the Purdey hair look she put a cereal bowl on my head and cut around it – inexpertly, I don’t think she’ll mind me saying.

I know I am not alone in having this bowl haircut inflicted upon me as a 1970s child. But my mother’s Purdey inspiration may have been less widely shared.

I’ve been thinking about my Purdey bowl hair – a do I was delighted with at the time – because during the summer my daughters went for their annual barnet chop.

We always do it on holiday, when their thick long hair gets so tangled with sand and seaweed, no conditioner on the market can wrestle it into civility and there’s nothing for it but to march them off to the hairdressers.

They were supposed to get a neat, chin-length bob as per usual. I went off to get my annual pedicure and left my mum to oversee the hair cutting. You can maybe see where this is going.

By the time I came back with my vastly improved toenails, they had what can only be described as a 21st-century Purdey.

Apparently while I was having my feet seen to, both the hairdresser and, crucially, my mother had decided that the girls could carry off a proper short haircut.

So while no bowls were harmed in the making of the crop, I now have two little mini-Purdeys kung-fu kicking their way through the world.

On the upside, they now take far less time in the shower.

And the downside? There really isn’t one. Thanks, Purdey.


Moscow State Circus
The circus is in town but this isn't like the ones I went to when I was a kid. Gostinitsa is a new circus experience that unites the Moscow State Circus with the golden age of Hollywood. The breathless blurb promises "all the spectacle and nerve-tingling, edge-of-your-seat feats for the whole family".

Apparently the “artistes” featured in this show have spent their lives training for this world-beating, magnificent performance.

Run away and join the Moscow State Circus

All ages will enjoy the award-winning Clowns the Chervotkins Duo, will guide you through the Hotel of Curiosities. Other performances include acrobatics on Europe’s only double Russian swings, flying through the air with the greatest of ease and somersaulting impossibly from one fast-moving swing to the other.

The Alikhanov Troupe features three acrobats climbing and spinning to the very top of two 10m poles balanced on the single shoulder of one man. Throw in unicycling, foot juggling, trapeze, high wire and the Gostinitsa bellboys performing an incredible skipping act with a twist not to be missed.
Moscow State Circus, Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Runs until Sunday, September 16th, 8pm. 01-6129900, info@rhk.ie. Tickets €10/€40

Lions Versus Tigers
Drop in to the Dead Zoo's Discovery Zone and compare the skulls of two large carnivores. This Ultimate Predators experience will appeal to anybody who is drawn to the biggest and baddest of cats.

Ultimate Predators: Lions Versus Tigers, National Museum, Natural History
Saturday, September 8th, 11am, 01-6777444
No booking required. Free.

Family Day Out
One of the Irish Cancer Society's greatest achievements over the past five years has been Breast-Predict, the country's first collaborative cancer research centre. Public donations mean they've been able to invest €7.5 million into this centre, which funds the work of 50 breast cancer researchers across the country. On Sunday what they are calling a "breast cancer research celebratory event" is taking place in Dublin city centre.

There’ll be fun and games for all ages, information on breast cancer research and free barista coffee.

Irish Cancer Society Family Day Out, Bandstand, St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Sunday, September 9th, 1pm-5pm. cancer.ie/breast-predict