A Boulevardier’s personal grooming

Wk 7 Stats
1) Didn’t weigh myself this week as heading to Portugal for a few days, and want to save the depression for my return!
2) 3.4 – Too high and probably due to 2 days alcohol consumption. Dose reduced for 2 days to compensate.

A Boulevardier’s personal grooming
Whilst not wanting to cause any unnecessary blushing, I felt the need to share one of the challenges of a displaced Boulevardier, which is also common to many wise, ahem, older gents (although from a call today with a lovely lady she confirmed that women do not escape altogether). How should one groom all follicles which appear…?
Many men seem to lose manes from atop their heads, and sprout hair from other less attractive places. I am fortunate in that I still have a full head of my own hair, despite its greying appearance (refer back to earlier chapters for a hair history)! BUT over the last few years I have noticed, odd nose, ear, and the worst of all back hairs! The back is not a blanket or rug, but a few on the shoulders (which I can just about live with or tug out as I inch my fingers across) and growth in the side panels below the rib cage on either side. I have tried and tried to ignore but every time I catch a glimpse in the mirror I realise they have to go!
The nose and ear are easily taken care of with a pain free Remington Steele trimmer, but not the back.
A few years ago I noticed a few, and decided to have a good home waxing and invited two female friends to assist. I wondered why they smiled with such malevolent glee, as I thought it was a horrid thing to do, and I stumbled over my words whilst asking! Until in the act, they took a side each, patted strips across my back and yanked them off at the same time! The pain was sudden, severe and acute. As I tried to jump up, they found this inner strength and pushed me down and repeated the procedure for what felt like 6 hours! They were at least kind in dousing me in aloe once finished. This would not be repeated.
A year or so later, I was at a spa in Palm Springs for a wonderful few days, and between the wraps and massages I decided to have a wax. It was less painful (slightly) than the painful sadists who call themselves grinning friends, but only just and again the aloe was the only relief, and needed to be reapplied every few hours.
One of the sadists, on a later occasion suggested I try veet, having of course mentioned the pain she put me through on a number of occasions. She kindly veeted me, which was significantly less painful and the hair seemed to melt away, although as I contorted in the shower trying to remove the excess cream from my back I strained my back.
A year later, having ignored growth, and seen removal of such as a painful and dangerous experience, and I was ready to grit my teeth, breathe deeply and be brave, in the pursuit of beauty.
Should a Boulevardier wax you might ask? Well a Boulevardier should always be clean shaven, unless of course, he is working a designer stubble or sculpted facial hair look. But a good Boulevardier wants to ensure that whilst the top might not be coming off, that he feels clean and well shaven beneath in the areas he would like to be… I am not fan of the infamous ‘back, sack and crack’, having received the pain of the back, can only imagine the intensified endurance of the other more sensitive areas. I would need a tub of valium, gas, air and a good bottle of sherry to consider such.
I had a brief try myself, but in fear of injury, I could not veet myself. Veeting the back is absolutely a two man or women job. Not that I am suggesting two women would need to veet each others backs, but always prefer to be inclusive rather than exclusive.
Who to ask? Presumably couples can ask each other, as long as one is not too smooth, and thereby having an unfair advantage.
Should I throw a veeting party?
In the end as a good old friend was visiting at the weekend and before heading into Crouch End for supper at the famous Banners, a Caribbean/burger joint, I asked (casually) if he minded veeting me post supper. He is a good sport, and also never afraid of the dirty tasks. He agreed.
So after a wonderful supper of grilled tiger prawns with wasabi mayonnaise, followed by ackee and saltfish washed down with a good merlot, we got down to business so to speak.
I stripped to the waist, and he used the supplied spatula to apply the cream to the predefined areas. The cream was cold as I gasped each time it hit my back.
‘Is it cold’ he asked.
‘Yes!’ I replied.
‘Good’ he said.
What is it with people and wanting to cause pain when I am lying exposed!
We had two applications and now I am ready for the beach in Portugal. Although by looking at the weather forecast I expect sou’westers are more the order of the day.
In any case, your Boulevardier is feeling slightly less displaced, and off for a few lovely sherries to celebrate!


Plus 1 syndrome

Wk 6 Stats

1)      STS

2)      No INR test this week, as I am down to testing once every 10 days! Hurrah! Arms are looking less like a drug addicts as weeks go by.

Plus 1 syndrome

How has it happened? I am currently quite bothered that I don’t have an automatic plus 1, when one is required. No surprise that I am currently quite displaced as a Boulevardier.

In years gone by I felt I almost had to interview people to attend functions with me, that is to say who is the most appropriate friend to attend this function with me! Does that sound arrogant? It isn’t meant to…

Why are these and other occasions a thing of the past and why does it bother me almost all of a sudden?

I have regularly attended a lot of music concerts, and used to get as many tickets as the booking system allowed, knowing there would be absolutely no problem in finding at least that many people, within my circles who wanted to go. I recall receiving grumbles from a couple of friends ‘Why don’t I seem to be getting invited to concerts at the moment?’ or ‘Why have I fallen off the concert invite list?’

More recently I find myself having to hunt for people to come to concerts with me, and I only ever buy two tickets now! This led recently to a desperate Facebook request to see if there was anyone who wanted to come and watch the Scissor Sisters. I had already exhausted my list of usual suspects. I received one reply! One! From over 800 friends on Facebook, and it was from someone who I last saw about 25 years ago and didn’t like that much in the first place. I had to message and say that I had found someone!

If I already had that automatic plus 1 who felt obliged to come would it be such a drama?

Am I caught between having my peer group friends, who are more settled, and not so adventurous, and not wanting to go to concerts unless it’s one of their favourite artists, and my younger friends who are not yet as fiscally affluent to witter cash away on concerts?

Weddings generally cause the same anxiety. Happily the last few weddings have had sufficient close friends there to dispel any need to have an escort. In fact bringing someone random could have created a need to make sure they were OK constantly when having a laugh with close friends.

Of course the grass is always greener, and I am sure there are many who wear their constant plus 1 as a chain around their necks, and would welcome the chance to go independent.  Or those who should have the automatic plus 1, but due to a ‘responsible’ or rather totally consuming job can not attend, or are beset with childcare issues…

I have always survived with a fierce sense of independence, and focussed on making sure my hair and outfit spoke volumes and didn’t say or shout ‘This person is on his own’.

This doesn’t seem enough at the moment. Is the loneliness of middle age taking me by the throat and trying to strangle me?

Is it time for this displaced boulevardier to accept the onset and associated comforts of middle age, and hang up his man about town hat?

Pensive, melancholic, sentimental consideration required, accompanied by several large stiff sherries.


A night with Mari Wilson

Wk 5 Stats

1)      STS

2)      2 (wishing it was a bit higher)

A night with Mari Wilson

Crouch End is such a wonderful place to live. It’s absolutely North London but with a beauteous community feel. People remember you, and not just your immediate neighbours, which in some parts of London is a feat in itself.

Within a minutes’ walk from my flat is a brilliant coffee shop/cafe called The Haberdashery where this spirit is not only embraced it is celebrated. They continuously and tirelessly have events on showcasing and celebrating all kinds of arts and community projects.

I saw an advert in their window ‘One Night Only – Mari Wilson in Concert’. Now I was aware that Mari was a local, and followed her on Twitter. Just What I Always Wanted was one of my favourite tracks of the 1980s. So that was an easy decision and I was booked to go with two friends. The evening cost £35 which included a two course dinner, glass of bubbly and the concert. Bargain.

It was one of those occasions which you could really look forward too. A starlet performing in a local, cosy venue. In all there must be no more than 15 tables.

I tweeted Mari to say I was looking forward to it, and she tweeted back ‘I think it will be great fun!’

Saturday 9th March soon came around, and despite some teasing sunshine and a rise in the temperature to something that resembled spring this had been short lived. So what to wear? I wanted to look cool but not as if I had tried too hard, so settled on a pair of grey skinny Republic jeans, with my polka dot creepers, black shiny Zoo York baseball jacket and cool t with a tattooed 50’s singer stencilled on it, think Imelda May. It may have been cold but I was ready with a spring outfit, and even if I got cold this would only be for a few yards!

I met my two friends for a quick sherry in The Queens, and quickly switched to wine as their sherry is only served in half measures!

Side note – Why does everyone always look at you strangely when you order a sherry in a pub?

We arrived for a start time of 7.30pm and the atmosphere was already abuzz, and took our table which was delightfully positioned with a full view of the stage area. The stage area had been constructed at the front of the cafe with fairy lights, a red curtain, and room enough for a keyboard and a mike and stool.


Sitting next to me was a glamorous middle aged lady looking too cool for school. She was on her own and after we had smiled at each other twice, I engaged her in conversation, and learned that she was an old friend of Mari’s who had been living in LA for 22 years, ran her own business and travelling home to visit family and friends after trying to make sense of suddenly losing her husband last year. She was awaiting the arrival of her daughter. I carried on talking to her until her daughter arrived, initially I thought to make sure she was not alone, but had the fringe benefit of chatting away to a wonderfully entertaining beautiful inspirational woman.

The main course arrived which was a delicious salmon which we washed down with Rioja. (Should have been white with salmon but we were all feeling rather red!)

Then, Mari and her keyboard player were introduced and came to the front. Mari was instantly chatty, relaxed, and joked at how close she was to the audience and that she might sit on one of their knees! Everyone roared with laughter and it was clear we were part of a very special moment. Her star quality was infectious and mesmerising.

Mari told us that she would sing from her back catalogue, her current covers album, and tracks from Dusty the Musical (which she had starred in). And did she deliver! WOW! What a voice, and all songs sung with divine tone and emotion.

There was a break halfway, and everyone clapped, cheered and whistled enthusiastically. I went to the back to use the bathroom, and Mari appeared. I smiled and said the first set was amazing. She thanked me graciously and said she recognised me from Twitter. Now she is not a megastar with millions of followers but to remember a random stranger from Twitter was special!

The second half mirrored the first, and the singing ended with a rousing encore mashup of Cry Me A River and Just What I Always Wanted (Glad it was both as my friend Steve had called for Cry Me a River, and lady on the table behind said ‘NO! Just What I Always Wanted’ – I had suggested ‘Both’ before it turned nastyJ )

Amazing but it got better as Mari spoke to the punters on several of the tables, and then got a glass of bubbly and sat at our table chatting and laughing, sharing where she was going musically, sharing Crouch End stories and our love of the Haberdashery, and photographic evidence to prove thus. I stopped short of inviting her back to my flat with the boys for a port! Another time perhaps…

Here’s the YouTube link to a short video of the evening! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlOfobyzsbw

Superstar gracious lady, you have a new super fan J   She may be the Soul Queen of Neasden but now also the Queen of Cool Crouch End.


Reflections – Ambition and Passion

Wk 4 Stats

1)      STS – Thats fine. I am in my zone.

2)      2.9 – A return to the safe zone

Reflections – Ambition and Passion

How many of us end up where we thought we would be at our age and stage of life? Did you have a plan when you were at school or before even? Do you find yourself questioning the decisions made, or currently making?

I do.

When I was 8 I decided that I wanted to be a doctor! No idea where that came from. Growing up in a small village in rural Hertfordshire, all of the male role models around me were either farmers or worked in the construction industry. I can’t remember why I wanted to train as a medic but I can remember being quite determined about it. This stayed with me until I was about 13, with a gradually decreasing desire to practice medicine. Hating the sight of blood and gore finished off that idea completely.

I then wanted to be an accountant, until I did some work experience in a charted accountant’s office, and found it too repetitive. So at 15 I had no idea what I wanted to do.

My passions were English and Drama. I loved writing stories, reading books and writing essays. My love of drama started at junior school, and I remember writing a play called ‘The Black Cow’. I can’t remember much of the detail, other than it was a pirate ship and putting on a production, of sorts, in the assembly hall, with a selection of chairs framing the ship.

At senior school I both starred in and directed plays, which were watched by a fairly sizeable audience.

My role call would read as follows:

Chorus – Zarifa 1979

Soldier – Tinderbox 1980

Unknown role – Shirts – 1982

Owl – Owl and the Pussycat – 1983

Joseph – Greatest Show on Earth – 1984

Bookseller, Boxer, and Down and Out – Bugsy Malone – 1985

Francis Nurse – The Crucible – 1986

Mr Folair, Mr Snobb – Nicholas Nickleby – 1986

Sir (The Dresser), Bottom (Mid Summer Nights Dream), The Cardinal (Duchess of Malfi) – as part of a production called Puppets containing scenes from various plays where manipulation prevailed – 1987

I also wrote and produced a number of short pieces for morning assembly and in particular remember a take on ‘Mind Your Language’ with the characters based on teachers, and a comedy version of Fame!

Ha! I almost need an entry in Wikipedia.

I directed and produced a school drama group in 1987, in a production called Foul Play at Sunny Bay.

Then nothing…

What have I creatively written since 1987… Nothing!

Writing plays, acting in plays, directing, where did it all go?

In September 1987 I made a decision that I did not want to stay on further at school or in education and I wanted to work. I was 17. I don’t blame my parents but I do wish they had forced me to stay on and at least finish my A-levels. No one in my family had stayed on at school, so I guess they didn’t know how or why to persuade me to stay.

I fell into Insurance after going for a few jobs, and am really proud of my corporate commercial success now being a senior manager in a medium sized company.

The cost? Any work or involvement in the arts.

This is changing now!


I look at friends who have made it work… The girl who absolutely wanted to be an actress, went to drama school, and was until the age of 30 when she retrained and now runs her own successful consultancy. Another who at school was a credible artist, and is still today, with moral and ethics unwavered despite many commercial opportunities. Both happy!

I have always felt flattered over the years when random people asked me if I worked in the media. ‘Are you in music?’, ‘Are you an actor?’ are rebounding echoes. But now it’s simply not enough to look the part, I want to find a way to BE the part, and without compromising the lifestyle I have built for myself.

Does time run out? Do you lose your creative edge with age?

David Bowie, Annie Proulx and some of their contemporaries, by example would have us think not. I have seen studios and exhibitions of retired or older people, and quite often the work reflects the safe, tiring environment they are in rather that the vibrant, new, innovative, rebellious, anarchistic of the young. How many say ‘I am going to write that book/paint that picture/write poetry when I retire’! Why wait if the passion is driving you forward to do it! Suppress the art inside you at your own cost. Or someone like Morrissey, so innovative and creative in The Smiths and early solo with lyrics overflowing with brilliance and style compared to the middle aged dross he writes today…

I have so many ideas, and writing this blog is helping me to sharpen the discipline of writing something every week, for pleasure, and not for a corporate deadline. But also writing creatively within boundaries, i.e. certain number of words and new post each week. And being on the constant look out for inspiration, and making a quick note if when I hear or see something I want to write about.

After watching Wicked in December 2011 I had a great idea for a novel, and scoped out 18 chapters, and started writing the first one over the Christmas holidays. Then true to form stopped and haven’t picked it up since. That is changing as I have a great friend on board and we are going to write it jointly. She wants us to write a sit com together after finishing the book. I feel as if we have a moral contract with each other to complete these projects.

I also started writing about one aspect of my life experiences, and again scoped it out and getting down to writing it. Another friend has agreed to edit it for me. I might ask her to give me a timetable.

I have 4 new ideas for TV shows, but have no experience in pushing these forward or developing them further YET. I will find someone who knows producers that I can pitch to.

I feel really enthused and inspired to get on with all my creative projects, but will soon be working fulltime again. I need to find a way to continue my path, and realise my passions and dreams and true ambitions before I reach the tired retired stage (Unless of course I turn out to be a Bowie)!

At school we have careers advice from age 15! Ha! I finally realised what I want to be when I grow up at 43 years old! Does anyone else feel the same? Please do let me know in the comments.

I have travelled emotionally whilst writing this, and felt pensively melancholy charting the clear English/drama passions from teenage years, and wondering how I slipped into such a commercial, corporate, business career. And then picked up again towards the end when I realised that I can still do it! Sad, regretful, insecure, unfulfilled, hopeful, excited and enthusiastic.

Perhaps I should rename this piece – Emotional Rollercoaster in 1000(ish) words!



Operation Grey or memoirs of my hair!


Week 3!

Wk 2 Stats

1)      +1/2 a pound no suprise on a birthday week!

2)      1.7 (a drop to below the safe zone, which is entirely my fault as I forgot to take the drugs one day! I have increased the dose for a few days, and hope for a better reading next week)

Operation grey

Hair, or in fact MY hair has always been so important to me since being a young teenager…

I resonate with Lady Gaga’s lyrics:

I‘ve had enough 

This is my prayer 

That I’ll die livin’ just as free as my hair 


Or Tracy Turnblad’s proclamation

Oh, oh, oh look at my hair

What do can compare with mine today?

As a boy my hair was cut by my cousin, and then by the lady across the road who had worked in a salon! This came to an end when I asked for a wedge, and was not impressed with the results, and finally when she highlighted my hair (80’s style), and I looked like I had leopard spots rather than streaks of gold (like George Michael).

My response was to go to a salon in Hemel Hempstead called Hair Male, which at the time felt incredibly sophisticated! I had the most amazing wedge! Were wedges even cool outside of Hemel?

And what did I do about the highlights, well, I hit the sun-in, to try and give an all over blonde look! The results were multi coloured ranging from mid brown, via every shade of ginger to dirty blonde! BUT I had my flick at the front and I loved it!

Trying to keep it in place was a problem, and Mum was not too happy about me using her Sunsilk hairspray. She started buying me Cossack Hairspray which was for ‘men’! Was there really a difference? It smelt different, but did that really matter…

At least I never went to the lengths of Elnett which was the smelliest, ‘fragrant’ hairspray of them all… I had a school friend Tracey, who could have in part been responsible for several holes in the ozone layer due to her consumption of Elnett! Her entire do moved as one! The urban myth was that she used a can a day, which has never been confirmed, but I suspect only slightly exaggerated.

I spent hours with the hairdryer and Cossack trying to perfect my flick, ready for Tiffanys under 18s night in Dunstable, so it seems rather ironic that the next move was messed up PUNK!

I (1984) had started listening to The Smiths, and Everything but the Girl, and wanted to emulate this more spiky/alternative/ look. It had taken a while to make it to Hertfordshire mainstream! I had 2 really good friends at school called Heather. Heather B had dyed her hair black and spiky and was following a kind of gothic style, and I really wanted to as well. Heather A, was the hairstylist in the making, and the first person to dye my hair black! We went on an exchange trip to Germany and I went with brown, slightly spiky hair and came back with black very spiky hair. My parents nearly collapsed when I got off the coach! But I always wanted it blacker and higher! It got to the point where my Mum suggested that I might not want to speak to her if we bumped into each other in the village where I grew up. This wasn’t helped by another friends Mum who was the original rebel known as Lady Tina, who constantly told me my hair looked ‘wonderful’ and that I should ‘dye it blacker’ and ‘spike it higher’. I used normal household soap which I would lather up in my hands, apply to the hair, and then vigorously dry, followed by several layers of lacquer, each hairdryered to ensure position of hair.  I also used to style a fantastic DA at the back.

This all changed when Heather A had started Hair College, and decided that my hair should be shorter and proceeded to cut it! This was without my consent, but I was moving into more of a soul boy style, so it suited better. I then grew ‘curtains’ and had a sophisticated slick back style.

In 1990 Heather A cut my hair into a bowl, which was becoming trendy out of I think the Manchester scene, and I remember the laughs and guffaws, in fact a number of friends upset Heather by taking the piss! They weren’t laughing the next year when everyone wanted this cut.

The 90’s kind of passed by and I had a very short cut. I remember a 4 on top and a 2 at the sides. BUT I still used to put product on and spray it. It was more conservative, but then again my life was more conservative in the 90’s. There were occasions however, when I slipped back to the trusty black dye.

The shorter spikes started to make another appearance in the early naughties, and I started to dye it black again intermittently, and flirted with highlights in 2006.

In 2009 I realised my 30’s were slipping away and I wanted something dramatic! I bleached the top white, with a few dark brown strands and the sides and back brown. I had a kind of mane which started on the top and carried down the middle of the back, and this was all white! It looked fabulous, but I was worried it would fall out as the condition was so bad, needed daily treatments, and I therefore knew this was a onetime affair.

2010 I was 40, and hit the blue black bottle hard. In the immortal words of Amy, it was ‘Back to Black’!  My hair was now as high as it was in the 80’s (tempered down for work), and blacker than ever. I also decided to start wearing guyliner at the weekends again too. It was incredibly liberating.

This lasted through to 2012 when I cut the back shorter and wore the top flatter in a more 50’s throwback quiff, with short back and sides, and tempered the colour to a dark brown.

I had always dreaded going grey, and the re-growth was getting greyer and greyer. However, I have to be thankful as going bald for me would be so much worse. My hair has always been an integral part of my image, and my very essence, raison d’être, so to be 43 and still have a full head of hair I am grateful.

3 weeks ago I decided not to re-dye when I had it cut, and see what it looks like natural. It’s been over 3 ½ years since I have seen my hair natural and I already know its more grey than brown, but going to stick with it for a while and see what happens. The style is still quiffy with short back and sides (which would be shorter but for working in the boring financial services industry, where a certain boring, samey look is expected).

Those of you, who know me, might say that I can be hair obsessive, but I think its more hair enthusiastic J