Category: General


I’m porting over to my new domain –

Followers should still receive updates though WordPress Reader as I’ve migrated you all over! (Check me out with the technical wizardry).

I’ll be leaving this site up for a little while, but there will be no new posts here. Please pop on over to the new site to check out new posts on fiction, writing and film making.




Stop judging me and cut my damn hair!

A little rant about why I hate going to the hairdresser

Four months after my last trip to a hairdresser, I still find myself replaying the memory whenever I wash my hair. It evokes an uncomfortable combination of embarrassment and anger.

I regard going to the hairdresser in much the same way as people view going to the dentist. I don’t like it, I feel judged and talked down to, and I put off going as long as possible.

My last haircut was particularly traumatic. The last couple of times I’ve had a professional cut it has been while I was on holiday on a cruise ship. My logic? By going to the cruise ship salon I don’t have to eliminate any of my local salons from possible future use, I won’t ever have to see the stylist again, and usually they are a bit less harsh because they know you’re on holiday and just want to have a nice time.


The stylist I got in November ticked every box for why I hate going to the hairdresser.

  • He refused to cut my hair the way I asked for it to be cut. “Oh no, you mustn’t cut that much off! It’s better long, don’t you think?”
  • He questioned and criticised me about my hair care regime. “What products do you use? How long have you used that for? It’s terrible for your hair, absolutely awful, you must never use that again. Use this instead.”
  • The first thing he did was try to pressure sell me a keratin treatment costing over £100, “you need keratin, it will fix your hair”, when all I wanted was a cut and dry.
  • He continued to pressure sell me products throughout whilst simultaneously managing to guilt trip me for not taking the keratin treatment. “I know, you should use this mask, it will help. Not as good as keratin, but it will help”. I ended up agreeing to buy the £40 mask just to get him to leave me alone.

Now it probably doesn’t help that I always feel vulnerable when I have to take my glasses off. Having to engage in conversation with the hairdresser without being able to see their expression or make eye contact makes me feel like I have no control in the conversation. But, nevertheless, getting my hair cut shouldn’t have to result in me, months later, still replaying the traumatic event when I wash my hair with the “terrible” products I was forbidden to use, and thinking about how I could have better handled the situation.

You might be wondering why I didn’t complain about the service I received. Had this been different from my usual experience of going to the hairdresser I might have, but it was pretty much the norm. In my experience, this is just what going to the hairdresser is.

I understand this judgmental approach from a dentist. No one likes being given a catalogue of their teeth defects and told they should floss more, but you do only have one set of teeth, so you can appreciate the judgmental advice is for your own good.

Hair is not the same. The only physiological purpose of hair is to keep my head warm, a job that can be achieved with that commonly available prosthetic, the hat! My hair does not need expensive products and there is no reason I must spend hours tending to and caring for it. It’s just hair!

One thing I always know when I enter a salon is that “hair” is going to be infinitely more important to the stylist than it is to me. I understand this, but I don’t think the stylists do. Hence the assumptions they make. One, that I care, want to care, and/or should care, about my hair being the best hair it can be. And two, if they explain what I am doing wrong I will want to change my behaviour. I don’t. I won’t. But you might succeed in making me anxious about it. Thanks!

How many people start flossing just because the dentist told them to?

Telling my what I must do and what my hair needs just makes me feel uncomfortable, judged and embarrassed. Why can’t you just cut my damn hair?

I really wanted to take on a reading challenge this year, to try to add diversity to what I read. I looked at several I found online but none of them quite hit the points I wanted to challenge myself on. So, I decided to compile one of my own.

I’m challenging myself to read 18 books in 2017, from my list of 24 challenge criteria. I’m not necessarily trying to read something for everything on the list because I’d like to give myself some flexibility and a chance to actually succeed. You could try to do all 24!


In January I read:

“The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins – which I counted as “a popular best seller”. This was outside my normal reading habit as I tend to go for genre fiction and avoid mainstream books, perhaps because I don’t want to feel like I’m reading the same thing as everyone else.

“Marked” by Sue Tingey – I won this book in a competition I didn’t even enter! It was weird. I got a message on Twitter, completely unexpectedly saying “you’ve won a free copy of a book”. It was “a book I knew nothing about.” Anyway, they sent it and this year I finally got round to reading it.

In February I am reading:

“The Dark Half of the Year” by North Bristol Writers – I could count this as “a book by someone I know”, but I’m going to use it for “an anthology of short stories” instead. I may or may not skip over my own story.

“The Works of John Keats” – My lovely partner bought me an 1899 edition of the Works of John Keats for Valentines Day. I’m planning to work my way through this over a couple of months while also reading other things. I don’t want to risk carrying it around in my bag at my day job.


If you’d like to try this challenge, why not post a comment with a link to your blog and let others know what you’re reading.

Is it Okay to Stop Reading a Book?

I am currently caught in a reading dilemma.

The book I’m reading isn’t very good. Or at least isn’t holding my attention.

Is it okay to stop reading a book? Logic says “of course!” and yet it feels wrong.

Book with glasses against the backdrop of a library

Image courtesy of pannawat

When I am enjoying a book I make time to read and rocket through the chapters to the end all too fast, but when the book I’m reading isn’t engaging me I tend to choose other things to do. I might have that book on the go for over a month, and not spend much time reading. So by forcing myself to keep going I read less over all and then I resent that. I want to read lots of books and this book is getting in the way!

Reading is supposed to be an enjoyable pass time; there must be something seriously wrong if I find myself procrastinating from it, right?

So why do I feel so reluctant to give up on a book?

There’s a part of me that wants to give the author the benefit of the doubt. The eternal optimist that believes that the next chapter is when it will start to get good.

Then of course there is the fear of missing out. What if the next chapter is where it starts to get good and I don’t give it that chance and I miss out?

If something doesn’t hook me within a chapter or two, I can put it back on the shelf on the basis that I’ll tackle it again at another time. Maybe I’m just not in the mood for that genre. I can justify that.

But, if I persevere and get a decent way into the book, by the time I begin to suspect that the author is never going to deliver what I want from the book, I’m already committed. I’ve already spent some number of minutes/hours reading. If I give in now that was wasted time and I also have to admit that I was duped or made a bad call, and no one likes to admit they were wrong.

There’s also a nagging fear that if I don’t finish it, it will sit there, unfinished, forever, constantly reminding me of my failure to read it. If I put it back on the shelf at this point I’m not going to want to try again. I’ve already come to the conclusion that it’s not for me. And if I won’t want to read it in the future, it’s now or never!

This is particularly a problem with printed books rather than digital. I struggle to part with books (okay, things in general, I confess) at the best of times. At least if I finish it I can part ways with it amicably as I donate it to a charity shop or drop it off at a book share, but how can I let it go if I haven’t read it? I chose it and bought it; I don’t want to get rid of it before I have had my money’s worth.

By this point I understand I sound like a crazy person.

Is it just me who feels this way?

… No seriously, is it? Leave a comment below and let me know how you feel about giving up on a book.

What do you do if you start a book and it doesn’t grab you? Do you persevere and struggle through to the end? At what point do you decide enough is enough and walk away?

Do you ever regret not finishing a book?

Over on The Great Escape I explore more about the implications of readers quitting on books in my article Fiction Industry News – Amazon and Pay-Per-Page

This is a post about the futility of trying to make capital and physical punishment humane. I read an update on the case of Raif Badawi and (notwithstanding the complete injustice of his case as a whole*), I found myself thinking, this is insane. This is like…

The Land of the Headless

In the novel, Land of the Headless by Adam Roberts, society demands beheading as a punishment for certain crimes, but cannot reconcile this with its moral attitude to murder and death. Therefore they invent technology which allows them to carry out the prescribed punishment of beheading without it being a death sentence. Suffice to say the idea is seriously messed up and makes for a hard time suspending disbelief as a reader.

When I first came across this book, I found the concept completely unbelievable. Would a society really go so far to preserve the letter of religious law? Surely they would recognise that although “beheading” is the prescribed punishment, the implication is that the punishment is death by beheading. And if they did recognise that, surely they would simply change the punishment to something more appropriate in a society that had progressed beyond that which created the law in the first place.


Flogging the Humane WayStop the Lashes - Free Raif Badawi

In the news yesterday it was announced that, despite international protest, Saudi Arabia’s supreme court has ruled to uphold the sentence of 10 years imprisonment and 1000 lashes for blogger Raif Badawi. But, while the sentence has been upheld, at present the next batch of 50 lashes has still not been administered.

Several times now his lashes have been postponed on medical grounds. It seems the judicial system in Saudi Arabia is barbaric enough to sentence him to flogging, but civilised enough to make sure that said flogging doesn’t endanger his life, or cause permanent damage.

It seems likely that the prescription of 1000 lashes was originally meant to be the method by which the convict should die, because no one could survive such a torture. So surely Raif Badawi’s sentence should be interpreted as a death sentence. Instead, by advances in modern medicine, communication and so on, the Saudi’s are attempting to implement the prescribed punishment in a humane way.

They can’t justify lashing a man to death, so they find a way to interpret the law which allows them to stick to the details without carrying out the distasteful spirit of the law.

It’s frighteningly close to Roberts’ imagined concept of humane beheading.

It begs the question, as Robert’s book did, how far would religious fundamentalists go to preserve the letter of religious law while making it morally acceptable? If the technology existed to allow victims of beheading to continue living, would Islamic nations adopt it?

Meanwhile in the Beacon of Civilisation

Across the other side of the world, the US state of Texas last week executed a 67-year-old man convicted of multiple murders. Lester Bower had spent 30 years on death row while the sentence was postponed time and again. He was executed by lethal injection which is usually considered the acceptably humane method in the US.

What makes any one method of killing someone better than any other? What does it matter to the person to be executed whether they are unconscious or conscious, suffer for thirty seconds, or a minute, or an hour? Why would it matter whether they are physically and mentally well before they are strapped down? They’re going to be dead by the end of it anyway.

It’s total bullshit designed to make something that is not okay acceptable. None of it makes execution more humane, it simply makes society feel better about itself after it has done the deed.

Many US states are abolishing the death penalty as they slowly come to the conclusion that no matter how humane they try to make the method and circumstances, it will never be humane to end a human life.

Of course, it is far easier to change constitutional, secular law than it is law founded in religion.

Morals vs Morals

It’s clear that in the modern age, we (the societal we, that is) struggle to reconcile moral outrage with moral responsibility. Within any socio-economic context there are crimes which our moral sensibilities tell us need punishment. We cannot let someone get away with something that offends our sense of right and wrong. But our moral sensibilities also make it impossible to look past the reality of the punishments we deal out. Within any population, those two opposites may be represented by different groups of people, or by a shared personal, internal conflict.

We try to reconcile the two by focusing on the details in the hope that by making the details humane we somehow transform the punishment as a whole into something acceptable.

But really, what kind of messed up crap is that?

If a nation cannot find the conviction to abolish archaic, barbaric punishments, let them go back to public hangings and the stock, where convicted criminals were pelted with rotten vegetables by a baying crowd. At least that was honest, and better that than a land with headless people walking around.

* There has been much debate on the subject of Raif Badawi’s supposed crimes. He has been sentenced for blogging and encouraging free debate about religion, a right and freedom we in the west have enjoyed for a long time. I particularly wanted to highlight the insane and futile notion of trying to make inhumane punishments humane with this blog post, but if you’d like to find out more about Raif’s case, and how you can support the campaign for his release check out the link below:

Support the campaign to free Raif Badawi at Amnesty International


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