David Whitehouse is in the chair.


David Whitehouse is the wonderful author of Bed, and Mobile Library. Mobile Library was published in January 2015 and is now available with this lovely cover in paperback. It tells the story of Bobby and how one summer his love of books introduces him to a new ‘family’. It is funny, sentimental, and off beat. All the characters are so vibrant. It was one of my favourites of 2015.

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I’d harassed David Whitehouse on numerous occasions to come and have his haircut with me and it finally paid off.
Firstly I have to say that he has an amazing head of hair, which further reiterates my thoughts that writing is good for the follicles.
Secondly he is very lovely to talk to.
We talked loads about stuff. We chatted about London and our love of it, yet how we didn’t feel that we had to be at its epicentre. At how ridiculous house prices are, both of us having a rant about how people on ‘normal’ wages just won’t get on that ladder, hence both of us moving out a little…bye bye zone 2, hello zone 5 and Kent.

We talked about writing and the process writers go through, whether they’re plotters or free flowing writers and also where they write. I personally find this fascinating so is a question I always ask.

David told me he rents an office space to write in, which holds a desk and a chair and no distractions.

Apparently he’s a good cook and can whip up some great menus, after spending the morning being distracted by Homes Under The Hammer and Twitter, hence needing the office space.

It was great to hear that book 3 will be ready for 2017, the synopsis sounds amazing and I for one will be eager to read it. Good to hear that it is ‘with’ the amazing Francesca Main, who has, and I quote David, ‘superpowers’ where books are concerned. Also to hear of some other secret projects…..that vow of oath I took regarding keeping secrets stands here……..

We talked about recent book reads and were in absolute agreement that Anatomy Of A Soldier by Harry Parker is bloody amazing. David is interviewing him for a ‘Shortlist’ event on 10th March. My tickets are booked and I will be sitting FROW for this.

  

Now for the questions…..

Where are you going on holiday?

Chichester. I’m not completely sure why.

How many books would you take for a week away? Favourites or new  reads?

I’d take one for every two days, so for a week, three and a half. If I get through those, which I won’t because I’m slow, I’m onto borrowing other people’s, though I should probably just enjoy the holiday instead. I only ever read new stuff on holiday. In fact, I only ever read new stuff most of the time. If a book is a favourite, I’ve normally given it to someone else to force them to agree with me.

What shampoo do you use?

Radox, 2-in-1. The lazy man’s shampoo and body gel.

Are you doing anything nice at the weekend?

I’m seeing my oldest friend to jointly shake our fists at the passage of time.

What book are you reading at the moment?

I’m about to start Don Delillo’s ‘Zero K’, and am very much looking forward to it, though it sounds like a breakfast cereal.

If anyone alive or dead could tweet about your book, who would you like it to be?

JK Rowling is, as far as I can tell, wrong about nothing. So, JK Rowling, or Richard Pryor.

What’s the worse hair disaster you’ve had?

When I was 13 I asked my sister, who was 18, what would be a good, fashionable hairstyle for me to have. She told me to go to the hairdressers and ask for an “exploding mushroom”. So I did. And all the hairdresser’s laughed, once they’d gotten over the initial confusion. She’d made it up. It was a moment of inspired cruelty on her part, I feel.

Mobile library is published by Picador.

David Whitehouse is in the chair.

The lovely James Hannah.

I met James Hannah at his launch party for The A-Z of You and Me. I’d already been fortunate enough to read a proof copy of his beautiful debut. I know when I like a book, and within pages I knew that this would be on my favourites of the year. He writes with beauty, eloquence, and compassion. The A to Z of You and Me is the story of Ivo who we soon discover is dying, that’s not a spoiler by the way. Sheila is the nurse who cares for him. She gives him the idea of the A to Z whilst he lays in his hospital bed. For each letter he must come up with a body part and a story about it. This is where we discover Ivo’s back story and of Mia. It is tender, heartbreaking, and also funny.


I shook my literary pom poms for it from the first read and know others that share their love for it. Anne Cater and Leah Moyse I’m looking at you. We are the ‘super fan trio’.


Twitter is such a wonderful place for books. Talking about them, sharing the love, and interacting with authors. James is exactly the same on Twitter as he is in real life. I was thrilled when he asked if he could come for a haircut.

One thing life has taught me is that there are so so people you come across in your life, and then there are those that are truly lovely. James is one of those who is truly lovely.

We had a marvellous time whilst I cut his hair. We talked books, writing, life, and more books. We were both adamant of our love for beautiful writing in a book, of those exceptionally crafted sentences or paragraphs that make you stop and gaze off into the distance.

Now I can talk for England in certain situations, and am still concerned to this day that James could have missed his train home with my constant rabbiting. He has since assured me he didn’t.

I also saw James Hannah at a Waterstones Picadilly event with Jason Hewitt and Emma Hooper about Narratives of Memory. It was great to hear James talk more in depth about his writing process and why he wrote The A to Z of You and Me. This I attended with the ‘super fan trio’ (see above), and we were all in agreement that James should do more events.


James is also the discoverer of Toblorange, which took Twitter, and then the rest of social media by storm in January 2016.

 

 

Here is lovely James’s Q&A…

Where are you going on holiday?

I haven’t been on a week-long holiday since 2006, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to break that duck this year. If I can manage, I’d really like to spend three or four days in St Ives, Cornwall, where I once made my wife cry with laughter by the simple expedient of being shat on by a seagull. It thumped me so hard in the chest it made my voice jump mid-sentence.

My wife howled her way to a nearby chemist to procure some tissues, and by the time she’d got to the front of the queue she was so hysterical she couldn’t say anything. The woman behind the till thought she was having an episode.

Anyway, we like to go back to St Ives again and again, and my wife often wanders around looking hopefully at the sky.

How many books would you take for a week away? Favourites or new reads?

I’d take a couple, hopefully very different from each other. Holiday is absolutely my favourite place to read and write, because you have that whole sense of “maybe I could just do this and eat ice cream and chips forever”. It’s wonderful. And now I come to think of it, they’d tend to be books I’ve been meaning to get round to reading.

I have great memories of reading a copy of Great Expectations that belonged to the holiday cottage on the Warren, St Ives. I needed to finish it by the time we left, which is absolutely the best way to read it.

What shampoo do you use?

If you leave your hair long enough, it starts to clean itself doesn’t it? That’s what they told me when I was a teenager. And all shampoo’s the same, isn’t it? It’s all soap. So if I’m going out to a posh do I might scrub my head with a bar of Imperial Leather*.

please see note at end of post.

Are you doing anything nice at the weekend?

Most Saturday mornings I can be found jumping around on the bouncy castle with my two-year-old at the local soft play area. Most Saturday afternoons I can be found groaning on the sofa holding my back. Sundays is Antiques Roadshow.

What book are you reading at the moment?

You mean PUBLISHED book? *winky wink*

I have four on the go. I’m reading American Housewife by Helen Ellis (during the day — it’s sharp and very funny), A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale (audio, for washing up and ironing to — it’s immersive and brilliant), Get It Together by Zoe Williams (audio, for driving — which is very inspiring about how the NHS might be approached) and One Man Band, the third of four volumes (out of a projected two) of an Orson Welles biography by Simon Callow (for bedtime, after I’ve finished writing — the text is extremely tightly tracked, but the biography is marvellous).

If anyone alive or dead could tweet about your book, who would you like it to be?

OK… I’m going to say Nick Drake. He’d perhaps just link to it at Wenlock Books (http://www.wenlockbooks.co.uk/jameshannah) and have a laughing emoji and a sad emoji and then a guitar emoji. And then a thumbs-up emoji.

By a series of amazingly serendipitous events, Nick’s sister Gabrielle Drake [clanggg!] came along to my book launch, and I was able to press a copy into her hands. It was one of the major moments in my launch year for The A to Z of You and Me, and I’ll certainly settle for that.

What’s the worst hair disaster you’ve had?

Ah, it’s complicated. I’d bought some Hubba Bubba from Tooth Newagents on Landcross Drive, Northampton. That night, I hatched a plan: I cleaned my teeth properly, kissed my mum goodnight, hopped into bed, and surreptitiously popped a fresh Hubba Bubba in my mouth and began chewing away. Then I fell asleep. Sure, I mean, I could have choked to death, but what happened was in some ways worse.

The Hubba Bubba flupped out of the side of my mouth as I slept, and I spent the rest of the night rolling and mashing it between my pillow and head. When I sheepishly crept down the stairs for breakfast the next morning, my mum had to cut it out of my hair with the kitchen scissors. She then took the altogether too-drastic step of arranging with Tooth Newagents that I should never be sold bubble gum again, which meant I became notorious in the district.

To this day I still get that frisson of danger when I’m buying my weekly quarter of Hubba Bubba.

The A to Z of You and Me is published by Doubleday.

* James does NOT wash his hair with Imperial Leather!

 

And FINALLY, inspired by The A to Z of You and Me here is my own hairdressing related A to Z.

A: Anagen

The growth phase of hair.

B. Bob

Iconic cut. Think Louise Brooks and Vidal Sassoon

C. Cutting.

 

D. Dandruff

Best treated with a shampoo that contains Ketaconazole.

E. Edgy

A word ‘hairdresser’s’ use to make something cool ie ‘edgy’ bob, ‘edgy’ colour.

F. Fashion techniques….

Dip dye, balayage, ombré.

G. Green

The colour you don’t want your hair to be, unless it was requested (see F).

H. Happy hair

 

I. Ionic

The new technology for ceramic irons.

J. Jargon

Reverse graduation, invisible layering, asymmetrical, pre-pigmentation.

K. Keratin

The composition of hair.

L. Layers

…and no you can’t just have 1.

M. Magician

With my scissors and comb I sometimes am.

N. Nutrients

So important for healthy hair.

O. Over processed hair

This is not good, so be kind to your hair.

P. Pantene

Just no! At least lie and say you use something else.

Q. Quiet time

I honestly don’t mind if you don’t want to talk.

R. Recommending books.

 

S. Secrets

I get told them and I keep them.

T- Trichoptilosi

The other name for split ends

U. Umbrella

A must on a salon visit just in case….

V. Very lovely clients

…who then become very lovely friends.

W. White hair

Those that clients don’t often like. Not necessarily a sign of ageing, it’s hair that has lost its pigment.

X. X rated stories

…which I hear a lot.

Y. Yes I would love you to bring me a coffee!

 

Z. Zzzzzz

how I sometimes feel after standing for 8 hours plus without sitting down.

 

 

 

 

The lovely James Hannah.

Hairdressers and trust.


I’m not surprised that hairdressers are the fifth most trusted profession. I’ve been a hairdresser for 24 years and have lost count of the times I’ve heard ‘I trust you’ and ‘you’re the first person I’ve told’ and ‘I love coming to see you’.

The trust covers so many different things. Knowing that with my scissors and comb, or my bowl full of tint, I could potentially make or break someone. Knowing that I’ve changed someone’s life or restored their confidence because they’ve trusted what I do creatively. To get to the point in my career when I’m asked for a new haircut or colour change and to be told ‘just go ahead, I trust you’ is immensely satisfying.

I’ve a wonderful client who, when she first came to me, had recently lost her husband and was in the throes of grief. Trying to cope with a life that had been turned upside down, she felt she needed a new look. Sensing that a full-on change wasn’t actually what she wanted or needed, I made a subtle change and then, as her trust in me grew over subsequent visits, changed her hair little by little. With this, I could see her confidence grow, her self-realisation that she was an attractive woman and that it was OK for her to have hair that others noticed and commented on. I remember encouraging her that, yes, she should go and buy a leather pencil skirt like one she’d seen in a magazine and made suggestions as to where she could get one. I remember being told that that skirt was the best thing she’d bought in years and she felt confident and sexy in it. Seeing her five years later with a wonderful new man in her life and so happy, sporting amazing hair, and being thanked for helping her on a journey of transformation made us both cry.

It’s the most amazing feeling that her putting her trust in me helped her become a new person.

I’m also a keeper of secrets.

I believe the reason I’m told secrets is that I rarely know the person the secret needs to be kept from. Often an outpouring from a client is because they’ve no one else to tell and it’s safe in my chair. You take some weird self-oath as a hairdresser that you have to keep secrets. I’m sure the only person that knows more secrets than a hairdresser is the receptionist in the salon!!

I’ve been told by clients that they’re leaving their partners, about affairs, illnesses, about going to prison, about work problems. I’ve had people break down and cry in my chair because they can.

I’ve also become a vat of information that clients trust from me, from book recommendations to mascara.

It’s about learning what each individual client needs from me. I’ve a client who loves a particular TV programme which probably isn’t that cool to like, but trusted me enough to mention it in conversation, discovered I like it too, so now we have a ‘secret’ fan club.
It’s about understanding people and taking a genuine interest in a way that maybe only their partner or best friend does. Or maybe more so. It’s giving someone your undivided attention for an hour or two. It’s about listening and letting someone tell you whatever they want. It’s allowing someone into your life too. I always say hairdressing is about so much more than what I can do with my scissors and comb. Some of my dearest friends were first my clients, and I have days I jump with joy because I have 8-10 clients back to back whom I love to see and talk with.

Clients put the highest level of trust in you, such as someone flying from Geneva to Boston via London so they can have their hair done because they don’t trust anyone else.
It’s knowing a client trusts you enough to be told that they can’t have lilac hair because they’ll look like they’ve had a blue rinse and not look like an East End hipster.
It’s having to confirm your contact details every time a client comes in and ensure them you will alert them immediately should anything change.

It’s being told that you must never ever give up hairdressing or move out of the country.
It’s having someone who has not had had a haircut for two years because they couldn’t find you.

So it doesn’t surprise me at all that we, as hairdressers, are one of the most trusted professions because we’re artists and therapists and entertainers and magicians all rolled into one.

Hairdressers and trust.