Month: August 2015

My journey to red (ish) hair

So yesterday I declared that I am past hating my hair. It’s finally getting to a stage where I think we’ve turned a metaphorical corner, and I no longer cringe in the mirror and want to pull it out of my head.

Progress.

It’s been slow going but colouring it has definitely helped.

I first pondered going red a couple of months back, in an effort to get through the god awful in between stage of dull-boring-bobbed-notgrowingfastenough hair (which is entirely my own fault as I decided to cut it all off last October). I thought it would be fairly easy. I’ve been there before. OK, so I can’t get as red as I’d like (because I’m not willing to too lazy to bleach it; the upkeep sounds too much hassle) but by using an uber-bright Schwarzkopf dye I can at least get some semblance of red colour, albeit dark.

Me, around 4 years ago

Red

As of last summer I’d been dying my hair very dark brown for a while, but the roots were fading fairly quickly whereas the ends were saturated with colour and looked black. As I wanted my hair very dark, it seemed to make sense to proceed to a black dye. I’ve been stung by this before, about 13 years where I had to grow it out (ugh) so I only ever used semi-permanent. Because, by default, it’s not permanent, right?

Hmm.

I stripped it using a Colour B4 application (which I have used successfully on previous occasions).

Colour B4

But the semi permanent seems to have worked quite literally. But only the roots were truly stripped. The other half…wasn’t. The ends seemed to have retained their darkness, although this wasn’t apparent at first. Only when I put the red colour on did the roots go dark red and the ends black. The red wasn’t bleaching out the remnants of the black.

I had reverse ombre hair.

Blaming myself for not applying a “second coat” of stripper as I had first intended, I gave my poor barnet a break for a couple of weeks (during which time I shampooed religiously with clarifying shampoo to remove any build up) before stripping it again. Twice. If you’ve ever used a colour stripper then you’ll be familiar with the time consuming, laborious and stinky process. If you haven’t – it’s a very time consuming, laborious and stinky process. It took me a whole afternoon of application, sitting with my head wrapped in a carrier bag to retain heat, rinsing, boosting, rinsing, drying and then doing the whole bloody thing again.

I’ve had more interesting Saturdays.

The good news was that this time I was 100% sure all the black was gone. I had pictorial evidence. Look! Brown! (with a hint of ginger!)

Stripped hair

Next step was to try red again.

Schwarzkopf XXL red hair dye

Schwarzkopf hair dye

Well blow me if the previously black section of my hair didn’t go dark again! Admittedly it was dark red this time, very dark red. But I was still two tone.

I sought assistance and advice from the husband – a man who has no hesitation in laughing at me when I’ve cocked up.

And he said it looked OK!

Kooky.

Almost deliberate.

And so I stuck with it.

I’ve coloured it a few more times since then and each time the ends are getting slightly redder (or I’m kidding myself). Obviously, as it’s growing, I have more “naked” hair coming through which picks up the red. So I’m not going to redye it black (toys out of the pram reaction number one) or cut it all off again (toys out out of the pram reaction number two).

I’ve come up with three conclusions following this experience. You may think that one of them would be to go to a hairdresser in future. It’s not (I still can’t get over my fear of the hairdresser).

No, my three conclusions are:

  • Don’t use black dye – even semi permanent. EVER
  • If you’re not sure whether something has worked, it’s probably best to make absolutely sure before continuing with the next course of action
  • I have far more patience and sense of humour with my hair than I ever thought possible

I can categorically guarantee that I have only taken this in good humour because it was at my own hands and not particularly expensive. If this had happened via the hands of a hairdresser and cost me oodles of pounds (which of course, technically, it wouldn’t because they’re professionals), I’d have been apoplectic with rage. Even the fact that when I wear it up in a messy bun (because it’s now long enough to do that, hurrah!) I look like I’m wearing a fake clip on because of the colour difference is just about ok.

Here’s where I am right now. It looks different in different lights, sometimes very red, sometimes not (and absolutely nothing like the box!)

Me dark red hair

It might not be quite a crowning glory. But I no longer want to walk round with my head in an opaque bucket to hide it away. So that will do for now.

Hair’s some advice to my future self

I’m finally getting to a stage where I no longer hate my hair.

So, in a bid to dissuade myself from ever suffering such trauma again, I’m immortalising my experiences, so next time I pick up the scissors I can revisit the raw drama and step away from the snip…

Scissors

“Dear me,

Don’t cut your hair above shoulder length again. Hell, don’t even go to shoulder length! It’s a rotten pain to grow through an inbetweeny length, it looks dweeby, it ages you (more and more important as time goes on, you need all the help you can get!) and you’ll regret it.

Remember Nice, where it was too short to wear in a ponytail and did that horrible flicky thing.Me in Nice 2

Look at this photo, when you’re finally starting to like it again, and remember the pain it took to get here.

Me

Watch this video, and all the pretty things you can do with long hair, and step away from the scissors.

And for God’s sake DO NOT cut a bloody fringe. Nothing good can come of that!

You’re very welcome.

Love from you, 2015″

Sexism? It’s alive and well in British politics…

Just when I think I can get on with posting frivolous things like what I’ve been buying and wearing, along comes another public matter that I just have to have my say on! Damn being so opinionated!

There are two things that have caught my eye (pardon the pun, in relation to the first one).

Sexism

MP Alison McGovern has released a letter that she received, presumably from a member of the public, following an appearance on Channel 4 news earlier this year, which criticises her for displaying cleavage.

You can read it in full here.

To summarise, the letter accuses her of using her feminine form to attract attention to herself as a Labour Party spokesperson, suggests that it’s a “strategy”, and mentions that her “prominent cleavage” distracted male viewers from hearing what she was saying.

Say what?

Firstly, she wasn’t dressed in any way inappropriately, or courting attention. She was wearing a more than respectable top, under a blazer, all in very sombre colours. Quite fitting of a politician, some would say dull.

Newsflash – women have boobs. 2nd newsflash – we don’t live in a Middle Eastern country where we have to hide our flesh.

Secondly, as an educated woman and member of the shadow cabinet who one would assume is in the role due to her own merits (and I don’t mean tits), suggesting that she would use a strategy is really very insulting to both her and the person who appointed her.

Thirdly, who are these male viewers who become deaf when any hint of a woman’s curve is on show? You’d hope that they’re watching the news for an insight into the world. It’s Channel 4, not bloody Babestation. Last time I heard, your ears don’t become full of cotton wool because you can visualise what’s under a woman’s top.

Gah!

Issue 2 is the news that Labour Leader candidate Jeremy Corbyn would support the idea of female only train transport if women thought it was of benefit.

How about you jolly well sod off, and instead implement tougher laws and punishments for the dirty dogs who think it’s ok to make women feel vulnerable on trains?

Here’s the deal – both of these cases clearly intimate that men can’t control themselves. Alison McGovern, in not wearing a Victorian blouse up to the neck, has invited all of these poor defenceless men to sit and leer over her, and in doing so the poor souls have missed out on all the important intellectual stuff she was talking about.

Such a shame for them.

Jeremy Corbyn, rather than punishing men, realises that they’re weak and can’t help themselves when in a public place with women they don’t know and so he is protecting them from themselves by segregating the genders.

My heart bleeds for their torturous existence.

How about, instead of the fault lying with women, we look at the situation for what it really is. Because, for the most part, men are pretty OK. They don’t generally go around perving and blaming other people. I know a lot of men who are respectful and non pervy. You know, normal men. And those men are probably pretty pissed off that they’re being lumped into a big ol’ sleazy can’t-control-themselves category. And rightly so!

For all the progress we’ve made with women’s rights, we seem to be going backwards. Did Emeline Pankhurst burn her bra for nothing?

I suppose she was just trying to show off her bangers.

Top tips for buying restaurant and hotel voucher deals

It’s no secret that I love a bargain. I don’t see why anyone would be averse to saving money on something when the discount is there for the taking. The advent of sites such as Groupon and Wowcher and nCrowd means we’re now overwhelmed with opportunities to experience places at much cheapness. I like cheapness.

Voucher site logos

My husband used to get really cringey about vouchers; often going to the toilet at the point of me handing one over, ha! Then I explained it to him in real terms (saving money in one place = more money to spend on beer) and he was very much converted (although the voucher transaction is still very much my domain).

I love a good voucher deal! It’s a great opportunity to try somewhere new or different, or even revisit somewhere you’ve been before at a much reduced price. We’ve had good ones, bad ones, and indifferent ones.

Here are my top tips:

Research the venue
I can’t stress this highly enough. I’ve seen some deals that look great then you Google them and the good folk of Tripadvisor tell you to avoid at all costs. Have a look at a cross section of reviews – I read somewhere that you should generally ignore the top and bottom 10% as they won’t be truly indicative, but you can generally get a feel for whether a place is a gem or a doghole. Remember, some establishments are resorting to special offers on voucher sites just to be able to make some money, because they can’t get people through the doors by other means. If there’s an overwhelming consensus that a hotel is dirty or the food is cold, step away.

Check the validity
If you can only use it for lunch Monday to Friday, or a Sunday to Thursday overnight stay then it might not be right for you. Make sure the timescales fit with your own. If it’s a hotel then it’s a good idea to call and check availability before you buy your voucher and get your hopes up. If it’s a popular one then all weekend rooms may have been booked (plus sometimes there are only a handful of rooms / tables allocated to voucher deals while others are for full paying customers).

Check for menu restrictions
If it’s a set menu then beware, there’s a chance the choices will be low end to make it worthwhile for the venue. We once stayed at a gorgeous hotel which included a 3 course meal but the main menu options were things like pasta or sausage and mash! (which weren’t even on the standard menu). Don’t automatically expect the full menu. Also beware of surcharges for choices like steak or seafood if those are the items you would usually go for.

Book sooner rather than later
Most voucher companies will not refund you if you can’t find a date or time to suit you, so don’t leave it until the last minute to book the deal and then discover they can’t accommodate you. In most cases you only have a 7 day money back window.

Remember to bring your voucher!
Some places will accept a code from your phone or a QR code via an app, but do check the small print and if it says bring a printed voucher with you, then do it. Don’t risk having to pay for a meal or hotel room in full because you forgot the piece of paper.

Leave feedback
Remember that, in most cases, these vouchers are being sold as a loss leader to gain new patrons, in the hope that you will return in future. For that to be the case you would expect exactly the same treatment as a full paying customer. If not then they’re not doing their job properly. I had that experience at Purnell’s Bistro when all of the people dining with vouchers were in one side room, while the rest of the restaurant remained empty. We were also in and out – including being seated, ordering and eating 2 courses – within an hour. There was a definite feeling of being rushed. I left a review on TripAdvisor expressing my disappointment.

Follow those tips and there’s no reason why you can’t behaving a great time and saving money!

Happy vouchering!

Wild Boar Hotel, Tarporley – a review

I’ve mentioned before how I like getting away; even just a one night stay away from home can feel like a lovely break from the hustle and bustle of normal life.

I’m also a big fan of bargains, so it goes without saying that voucher sites like Groupon, nCrowd and Wowcher are my friend.

I bought a voucher from nCrowd back in January for this hotel, at the bargain price of £89 for an overnight stay, 3 course evening meal and breakfast. It was valid until end of August so we decided to wait until summer and combine our stay with some outdoors activity and culture.

The outside of the hotel is very impressive, in mock tudor style with pretty gardens and outdoor seating.

Wild Boar Tarporley exterior

Wild Boar hotel

Wild Boar hotel 3

Inside, the lounge and bar areas are nicely decorated with a cosy homely feel in a traditional style which matches the exterior.

Wild Boar interior 4

Wild Boar hotel interior 2

Wild Boar hotel interior

I’ve read reviews that drinks are expensive, but being a city girl they seemed just usual to us! We got to the hotel about 5pm, after we’d been to Beeston Castle, and we sat outside in the sunshine just chilling and enjoying the views.

Most of the hotel bedrooms are on the rear of the building, overlooking maize fields – this was the view from our window.

View from bedroom window Wild Boar Hotel Tarporley

Dinner was a mix between restaurant offerings and very good pub grub – all really well cooked and presented. My rabbit terrine starter was something different to what I’d usually have, I really enjoyed it.

Rabbit terrine

Husband had smoked salmon. For main course I went with chicken and smoked bacon pie which was served with chips – it was creamy and meaty and delish, and for dessert I had a strawberry yummy-ness! No other food photos, I was too busy enjoying it!

So much good food and fresh air (ok, and wine) took it’s toll and I was in bed (and asleep) by about 10.30pm.

Breakfast was served between 8am and 10am and consisted of the usual breakfast fare – English buffet, cereal, croissants, fresh fruit and yoghurts. I’m not a massive English breakfast fan, although I do normally have a few bits, but I was feeling virtuous (!!) and so only had some cereal and two croissants with jam (which were some of the nicest butteriest croissants I’ve ever had!) and a nice cup of tea.

Some of the TripAdvisor reviews complain that the hotel is rundown and needs attention. There’s honestly no pleasing some people! In places the woodwork and paintwork could probably do with a bit of TLC but on the whole it was a lovely lovely place, and so nice to get away from the city and soak up the countryside.

It’s a deal I would look out for again, and would definitely book another stay.

A trip to Cheshire – Beeston Castle

This weekend we travelled up the M6 to the greenery of Cheshire, staying overnight on a voucher deal (more on that tomorrow). We were about a mile and a half from Beeston Castle, which is run by English Heritage, so we planned to drop the car off at the hotel and walk to the castle, have a mooch around and take some pictures.

Entrance to Beeston Castle

Entrance to Beeston Castle 2

When I checked the website last week, I was thrilled to find that there was an event on at the castle – Clash of the Knights. This involved a tournament of 4 teams clashing on the battlefield in a re-enactment of medieval Britain. A historical camp was set up and there were demonstrations of clothing and weapons, plus music and areas for children to battle against each other (although the weapons weren’t real, obvs!)

Clash of the Knights

Clash of the Knights

We took a picnic.

Picnic at the castle

Picnic - strawberries and cream

And cheered on the knights.

Clash of the Knights

Clashof the Knights 4

Clash of the Knights

Clash of the Knights

Clash of the Knights

(did you know that shields, contrary to popular belief – and Hollywood representations – were made of wood? Metal would be too heavy and dent easily, plus if someone hit a metal shield the knight holding it would get painful reverberations up their arm. Wood is lighter and more forgiving. Shields would be thrown away at the end of each battle and replaced for the next one).

Then we climbed up to the castle ruins.

Beeston Castle

At the bottom of the hill are the remnants of what would have been the ramparts. The views were stunning.

Beeston Castle

Beeston Castle

The castle ruins are up a rather steep hill, and an even steeper slope.

Beeston Castle 2

Beeston Castle

But again the views are fabulous – 360 degrees of countryside.

Beeston Castle

Beeston Castle

Beeston Castle

Beeston Castle

We had a fabulous afternoon of sunshine, fresh air and history. A perfect Saturday!

The Ashley Madison “cheaters website”

Regular readers will know by now that I love having my say on stuff that’s in the media and I don’t feel I can let this Ashley Madison hoo-hah pass without sticking my oar in.

Shame on anyone who is an active member of this website. You’re despicable.

Ashley Madison logo

I’m not naïve. I know affairs happen. People grow apart. People change and sometimes become different people than when they first got together with their partner. People fall out of love. It’s life. It’s a sad part of life, but it’s life none the less. And yes, sometimes a person in a relationship – be that long term or married – will meet another person who knocks them off their feet, with whom the chemistry is unmistakable and sometimes they will act upon that emotion. You would hope that, in those cases, they have the good morals to finish their existing relationship; either prior to anything happening with the new person or immediately after things start to develop.

I also know that isn’t always the case. Like I said, I’m not naïve.

But to actively go looking for it? To sign yourself up to a website that will match you with someone – willingly cheating? Well that’s a whole different ball game. That really is wanting to have your cake and eat it. That’s putting yourself out there as someone who’s morals are so poor that they’re actively chasing a lying, conniving and secretive set of circumstances which can potentially really hurt a lot of people. That’s saying that you’re so open to having an affair that you don’t even want to leave it to chance that it might happen. You want a guaranteed “bit on the side”.

I’m sure there are excuses. “My husband works long hours” or “my wife cares more about the kids than me”. The good old “my partner doesn’t understand me and we haven’t had sex in years”. Yadda yadda. I call bullshit. Or, is the point of this website that you don’t need to make excuses? Everyone knows the score so you don’t have to pretend? There’s no reason to try and explain away your cheating because that’s why everyone’s a member?

Why do people cheat? If it is because there’s something missing in their marriage or long term relationship then get out. If not for yourself, to improve your own life, then for the other person. Because if they find out you’re cheating things will get a whole lot worse. Cheating with someone who you like more than your partner isn’t going to make your “real” life any better.

Your relationship should, ultimately, make you happy. People have tough times of course, but if the bad outweighs the good then it should be au revoir. Better to be alone than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

A friend of mine (“Hi Cookie!”) posted this article on Facebook today. And it’s true. Even in long term relationships it’s true. I’ve been married for 7 years next month and some days I still miss my husband when we’re both at work. I look forward to getting home to him at night. His texts make me smile. And I’m not being a smug married here. I’m just saying I couldn’t be with him if he didn’t make me feel that way. It would be empty. And you certainly don’t fill emptiness by creating a secret life in which you’re content for a while and then have to return to miserable reality.

Even worse – if there isn’t anything missing in your relationship and you just want something extra, well then you stink. Seriously. Have a fucking word with yourself. And I sincerely hope that your partner sees your name on the list and takes you to the cleaners. Because you deserve it.

The decline of the Los Angeles rock scene

My musical heritage is very different to my husband’s. He grew up in the days of Motley Crue, Skid Row and Bon Jovi – where the songs were big and the hair even bigger. These bands cut their teeth in the bars of West Hollywood, playing early gigs and drinking until they were carried out.

Sunset Blvd

We first went to LA for a whistle stop 3 days as part of a bigger West Coast trip. I didn’t understand the appeal, as I didn’t have the history that he had. But seeing his face as he walked into The Rainbow was a picture, and one I was happy to be part of.

Rainbow bar and grill outside

Rainbow bar and grill inside

We’ve been 3 more times since then. Apart from Birmingham, LA is the place in the world I’ve spent most time. The second and third time my love grew. I was more into rock music by then, and loved the history of the venues, even though I wasn’t around for the music at the time.

Whisky a Go Go

Seeing live bands play stages that had been graced by The Doors with Jim Morrison in the 60s. Sitting in the booth in The Rainbow which features in the November Rain video. Watching Motley Crue play on Sunset Boulevard when they closed the road for the festival – with the full roller coaster drum kit set up. All very special times. Chilling by the hotel pool in the day.

Mondrian Los Angeles pool

Seeing Lionel Richie in the hotel foyer and overlooking the exclusive Virgin Atlantic party from our bedroom. Watching Vince Neill of Motley Crue getting progressively more drunk on champagne in the hotel bar. Even seeing The Saturdays being interviewed by the pool. I’m not into celebrity, but there’s still something exciting about seeing these people sharing your airspace.

By the fourth time it was clear that things were starting to decline.

The rock scene is disappearing. There’s a big rise in R&B and hip hop acts playing WeHo venues. And that brings a different type of crowd – one who perhaps is less tolerant of the rockers with their long hair and tight trousers. Venues have closed. Not just the House of Blues – that’s just the latest one. The Roxy, Red Rock Bar and Cat Club all closed within about a year of each other. Cat Club became an Irish bar. That goes way against the history of the Strip.

Boutiques and restaurants and plazas are popping up.

Sunset Plaza

There’s a lot of money in the area; Ferraris and Lamborghinis are common place out side restaurants. And because the Strip is such a small part of WeHo, and indeed WeHo itself isn’t that big, space is at a prime. Developers see big opportunities for big bucks. Rock tourism (and rock locals) aren’t the big bucks spenders. Which is why places like the House of Blues are being torn down and replaced with condos and hotels.

Sunset Strip Music Festival – which started off honouring rockers such as Ozzy Osbourne and Motley Crue – now hosts electronic dance DJs.

The only places that left on the Strip now are the Roxy, the Whisky, the Viper Room and the Rainbow. Sure there are a few other bars in the area as well, but in a town that used to be renowned for partying, most venues are fairly quiet in the week. I think, as much as it pains me to say it, it’s only a matter of time before the remaining places start to close too.

It’s a long way to go and a lot of money to spend to get a watered down version of what it once was – especially when you’ve done all the tourist places and seen the other parts of LA you want to see.

Time for a new music mecca!

Nashville

We’re already looking towards “Music City”.

Nashville, Tennessee – yee-hah!

Flashback Friday – Sunset Strip Music Festival 2011

Four years ago, right now, we were in Los Angeles. More specifically in West Hollywood. Sunset Boulevard (The Strip) had been closed down for a street festival that was being headlined by Motley Crue. Husband smiled so much I thought his face might fall off.

We’d been to LA twice before – the previous year was in June. We’d seen the festival advertised and said we’d definitely go in 2011, not knowing who was playing. When it was announced that it would be Motley Crue it was amazing – they’re my husband’s favourite EVER band. Knowing that we would see them on The Strip where it all began for them 30 years previously was amazing.

We went to the honouree event at the House of Blues (which you can read about here) but the gig was what was going to be really special.

The day was scorching hot with blue skies and wall to wall sun. As are most days in Los Angeles (lucky swines!)

Sunset Strip music festival view

The street had been closed form the night before while the organisers set everything up, and it soon got really busy.

Sunset Strip music festival view 2

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This was the year that Tommy Lee’s drum kit was set up on a rollercoaster loop the loop. We never for one minute imagined they’d build that set up outside. Oh but they did!

Tommy Lee rollercoaster Sunset Strip Music Festival

As darkness fell we bagged ourselves a good viewing spot ready to enjoy a once in a lifetime show.

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And it really was amazing! The sound, the pyro, the stage show, everything!

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Tommy played “Home Sweet Home” on a mirrored piano.

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See his drumkit at the bottom of the loop the loop?

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It went up and over, with him still playing!

Motley Crue Sunset Strip Music Festival

The atmosphere was electric.

Motley Crue Sunset Strip Music Festival

Afterwards we went into the legendary Rainbow Bar and ate pizza in one of the booths.

Inside the Rainbow Sunset Strip Music Festival

Bumped into a few famous faces – yes that’s Ron Jeremy!

Me with Ron Jeremy

What a trip that was. Unfortunately the LA rock scene is dying…my post tomorrow explains more…