Friday, 21 June 2013

Heaven is the first haircut in weeks

A handful of you may be aware that I had minor surgery at the end of April - just the removal of a few cysts from my scalp. It was all supposed to be over very quickly, better in a couple of weeks.


We pause here for a quick wallow in self-pity and snarling about stitches and wounds going infectious. Tell you what, let's just put a quick picture in:

That's me, the day before a major stage presentation, a week or so after I was supposed to be 100%. The bandage pinged off during the presentation.

I was not delighted.

Later the head bandage shrunk to a plaster and people kept asking whether I'd been in a fight. Nobody had accused me of looking hard for...actually, no, it's never happened. Until now. Oh, and of course you can't have a hair cut with all this going on.

Yesterday - finally - the plaster came off and I went to the barber. Almost flew. Frankly they could have cut my head off and got a good review.

Towel shave

But I do feel I must recommend all blokes have a hot towel shave every now and then, and if at all possible do it at The Valet in Addiscombe or one of its concessions at local hotels. I had the "Casino Royal" (yes I know the book and film have an 'e' on the end of 'Royale', it's a barber, you think they care?) which costs £45 but honestly, it's worth it.

You start off with a pre-coating of Proraso Eucalyptus undercoat. This refreshes and stimulates the skin, and then they put a hot towel over you. You then get a close shave (or three; the trick they use is to take a little hair off often, which is gentler and less prone to provoking a rash).

There's a clay mask for extra cleaning. There is cleanser. There is a total of five hot towels. Nobody, repeat nobody, is allowed to disturb you during this hour of completely indulgent time.

Then I switched to the other chair for my first haircut in months. I spent £29.50 on a decent re-style, after all that growth it needed it; I asked them to model it on Jose Mourinho, and when they'd picked themselves up off the floor they did their best (Lucky I didn't ask for George Clooney). It looks unusually good - for me anyway:

No doubt I'm biased by this being my first fully de-bandaged day since 30 April, and this being the first picture I've seen of me from that angle without a large visible cyst on the side of my head. But I feel genuinely refreshed, the attention to my wants from the guys at the salon was superb as always and I'd certainly recommend it.

(And yes, good of you to ask, I have indeed lost a little weight).

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Pop-up shop this weekend

Anyone who fancies looking at some of the socks I highlighted earlier this week (see this post) and who's in the Spitalfields area might want to know it and a few other menswear brands have a pop-up shop from Sunday until Tuesday at 52 Artillery Lane, E1.

As well as Richmond Socks there will be bow ties from Charles Olive, 'preppy; clothes from Coeur (a bit young for this blog's target market frankly), underwear from Hamilton and Hare and various luxury items from Monsieur London.

I'm hoping to pop in on the last day, Tuesday - when, with a bit of luck, they'll be reducing the stock rather than carting it all back. Dream on...

Friday, 14 June 2013

Father's Day: some drinks ideas

So it's Father's Day on Sunday. This I know because my daughter is going to have some friends for a sleepover. I will be up at 6am cooking breakfast I imagine, for several small females who refuse to eat my greasy food.

Which is as it should be...

If you managed to resist the socks I wrote about the other day and you already have slippers, you may be limited as to what to hint that your offspring ought to get you. My feeling is that a single malt would do nicely (and do drink it very sparingly - ignore the standard 'safe limits' in terms of units, I've recently had cause to find out they don't work if you have high blood pressure - less is always more).

If you want to drink small amounts then there are a number of ways of doing it. First go for something stonkingly expensive. Glenfiddich is a single malt that comes in a number of expressions; the 12 year old is probably the most popular, light, oaky, very pleasant with a drop of water. The 15 year old has a more depth and tastes a bit fruity; if your kids are adults and feeling flush, splashing out £50 on the 18 year old version (pictured) will make them very popular, you can tell them. Intensely sweet, the price tag means this one is really for the buff - do not under any circumstances drop hints for this one if you're planning to put ginger ale into it.

Tasting sets with small amounts of all three are also available, and these come from supermarkets which is helpful at this distance. Likewise another of my favourites, Penderyn (the Welsh one) has tasting samples available from a number of outlets, we're talking the signature 'Madeira' finish, another version in sherrywood and another which is oaked. The sherrywood is my personal favourite (this means the casks used to store it formerly contained sherry, imparting some of the flavour).

For a gift that gives for a little longer you could drop hints for a membership of Flaviar, if you're into your spirits. This sends boxes of five phials of expensive spirit for £24.99 a month, suitable for having friends round and tasting. They sent me a selection of Indian whiskies a few months back and very nice they were too; at the moment there's an offer for Japanese. 

They won't arrive in time for Father's Day, though. At this notice it may well be socks or nothing. I will be delighted with my Dennis and Gnasher tee-shirt and will pretend to be surprised.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Docusign Challenge: Some hiccups

Not quite a month ago I agreed to take part in the DocuSign challenge - the idea being that I would try to go three months without signing anything with a 'wet' signature.

I'm learning that this is really easy when you're dealing with a business signature and less so when you're doing something personal. For example, this very evening I will be speaking for a client at Claridge's; I was sent the contract by my agent and used DocuSign to sign it, sending it straight back without fiddling around printing it out. This has happened a couple of times.

It is a genuine time saver. However...

Personal stuff

As you know from the title of this blog, I am an old git (actually 48 which is significantly over 35) and as happens with middle aged men, the doctor is keeping an eye on a few things. I've had a minor infection following a minor operation on my scalp and no, when you're in a pharmacist they don't welcome people offering to sign for prescriptions with their phone. They hand you the biro and you sign, thanks.

Likewise the doc is keeping an eye on my blood pressure and had me carry a 24 hour monitor around for a day. This isn't inconvenient, it's an excellent precaution and gives you a perfect view of how high or low your pressure is over time BUT asking whether you can sign to borrow the equipment using your phone rather than just scribbling on their bit of paper does not go down well.

And no, I'm not going to risk my health for the DocuSign challenge!

So, one month in (almost) and we have a broad distinction emerging - at this stage it appears to be a lot better for business than for personal stuff, and people handing equipment out at my local hospital are still in the biro age. This means they don't record everything centrally immediately, nor do they have an automatic time stamp for when things are signed out, but that is (literally) their business.

I'll blog again on the subject next month...

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Sock it to me

I've resisted the predictable "Father's Day is coming" post this year, concerned at the avalanche of predictable gift samples. The old saw is that we're all doomed to receive endless amounts of socks because the kids can't think of anything else.

On the other hand, or on the other foot perhaps, I've just been looking around the Richmond Socks website and I have to say some of them look pretty good. I've tried a pair of the Casa Italia purple versions (pictured) and they are incredibly comfortable. The fine Egyptian cotton makes quite a difference and they look great - I'm a bit of a fan of coloured socks. At £17.50 they're not cheap for socks but then they're a bit of a luxury, and for Father's Day that would be most acceptable.

Many men opt for black socks as if it's all we can manage, and we go for ankle socks rather than calf length. This generally means an unsightly span of leg when you cross your legs in a suit so I'd recommend calf length. In terms of colour I'd try to tone in with a tie or shirt (or even pocket square); it makes it look as though some thought has gone into it. Which is because some thought has gone into it.

Expert advice

Simon Bullmore runs Richmond Socks and has offered LifeOver35 readers some advice on choosing socks - he made the same point I did about longer garments (which they wear in Europe anyway, only we Brits favour the scrunched-around-the-ankle look) but also the following thoughts:

"This seasons trends are for pastel and candy colours.  Pastels are perfect for social occasions - especially weddings.  We'd suggest candy greens and oranges as an easy way to add some summer colour to chinos and jeans.   If you're not up for bold colour then add interest to your socks with a pattern.  Herringbone patterned socks very popular at the moment.  A quick tip for choosing socks - never match your socks to your shoes.  It makes you look like you're wearing booties.  Matching your socks to your trousers looks much better, and has the added benefit of making your legs look longer.  If you have long legs compared to your body then go for a splash of contrasting colour in order to break up the line of your legs and feet."

"Quality textiles make all the difference when it comes to socks.  Your feet sweat a pint each day.  Man-made fibres aren't very good at wicking this excess moisture away.  Which is why your feet might get a bit more niffy when it's warm - bacteria love sloshing around in the stuff.  Smelly feet are for teenagers.  Which is why you should make sure that your socks are at least 70% cotton or bamboo in summer (some nylon is ok as it helps the sock stay in shape).  Cotton and bamboo are much better at naturally wicking away sweat."

"When it comes to style details make the difference.  Socks are a great place to start.  And Richmond Socks is here to help men find the perfect pair.  All of our socks feature hand finished details and the best quality materials.  We only sell socks made by reputable European producers so we know that workers and the environment are cared for during the manufacturing process.  We've scoured the world for what we think is the best collection of mens socks.  Some of the brands we sell are only available in the UK through our store.  The socks we sell reflect our passion for timeless style and quality materials.  We think it shows in every pair."

We'll forgive him the sales pitch at the end and just say thanks for the thoughts.

All of which said, I know I won't be getting socks for Father's Day this year. We visited the South Bank on Saturday and there was a Beano exhibition, and they had these Dennis and Gnasher tee-shirts in adult sizes.

Now that is stylish.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Orbitsound: unobtrusively making TV better

I had an issue with the sound on my TV. I admit the issue was mostly 'Guy is a fussy little sod' and it was perfectly comprehensible, but I do like a bit of bass when I'm listening to music or watching a movie. On the other hand my wife has this incomprehensible aversion to wires and speakers all over the room. I assume this is because she's a bit weird or something, looks perfectly OK to me, you should see my office.

Nonetheless we started investigating sound bars. I've been loaned a few in the past and they've been difficult to set up, needed the right connections, all that confusing stuff. The Orbitsound M12 (pictured) had none of this trouble. Inputs through optical (which we use) port, or a standard 3.5mm port like you'd use on an earphone (avoid if possible, you have to turn the TV volume up really high so don't get so much control), speaker cable options (again quite good but not quite what you'd get from optical) or Bluetooth.

Bluetooth is a great option because the predecessor, the T12, had a little iPhone stand on it. I now don't have to have my iPhone in the dock whilst listening to music, just pair it up and go. The sound is good - no, not quite the spread you'd get from separate speakers but a decent beefy sound nonetheless. It's particularly effective on music programmes and movies but improves most things.

Best of all is that this time around the subwoofer is smaller than on previous models so you can hide it away more easily; this is simplified and helped by the fact that, Hallelujah, it's connected wirelessly so just put it near a power socket and you eliminate the trailing wires.

By all means I'd prefer a full-fledged, five-speakers-around-the-room system but if I want my marriage to last that's not going to happen. This is a neat solution for just under £400 (so no, not cheap) with enough oomph to keep me happy.

P. S. Although we don't have a convenient shelf on which to try it out, the soundbar is apparently non-directional. So although you get sounds clearly coming from the left or the right, you can in theory put the soundbar on a shelf nowhere near the telly and it should still sound OK. That said, you're then back to having wires trailing around the room everywhere.