Monthly Archives: February 2017

Hair care – in the barber’s chair

royston-barbers‘There’s something about a barber’s chair, and the way the gown disables the arms, putting phones and real life out of reach. The mirror somehow forces introspection, under the caring eye and reassuring touch of a man who has seen it all.’ 

As those fine folk at Time to Change launch their latest campaign to raise awareness about, and reduce the stigma associated with, mental ill health, it seems like a good time to talk about barber shops. In your corner is the campaign targeting those men and boys least likely to talk about mental health. Which is where barbers come in.

This time last year journalist Simon Usborne re-visited his old barber in south-east London 25 years after first being sat on a plank for a short back and sides. Simon discovered another side to his barber Paul’s business – the male mental health care he’s been administering right there in his chair for over five decades.

As Simon observes: ‘For more than half a century [Paul] has watched hairlines recede, fashions change and lines around eyes map the advance of age and changing fortunes. New jobs, bereavement, illness, depression and big decisions: all of life has been here, and so has Paul. “It’s a peaceful place, you know,” he says. “There’s no rush here and you can talk.”

Such is the relationship between cutter and customer that five barbers in North London have received “first aid” training in mental health, to help them reach vulnerable young black men in particular who, Simon Usborne writes, can be even less inclined to reveal their suffering.

At a time when issues around male mental ill-health are at last, slowly, coming out of the closet to be discussed if not face-to-face, then should-to-shoulder in Men’s Sheds, and now face-to-scalp, it’s a welcome development – retell, as opposed to retail, therapy.

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Regular readers of this blog will know that hair is, unlike my own, a recurring theme– I have laughed at the expense of slap-heads like me, grown silly moustaches each Movember, and reminisced about the time the Guardian newspaper published my letter about anti-dandruff shampoo for men with beards – Chin and Chest.

I was thinking about this the other day when I noticed that in Royston where I live, like the miracle fix for Elton John and Wayne Rooney’s follicly-challenged pates, barber shops have started sprouting up all over the north Hertfordshire market town. No less than five have joined Royston’s nine women’s hairdressers – all this for a population of just 16,000 heads, and not all of us needing haircuts. Will any of them, I wonder, be hair today but gone tomorrow?

Further information:

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Going head-to-head: Those fourteen Royston hair carers in alphabetical order: Anderson’s  /  Archer’s /  Carlo & Co / Gio’s / Head Quarters / Hendrick’s  / Jane Hair Stylist /   Lordsman / Manmade/ Nina’s Hair /  Royston Gents / Saks /  Studio 26 / The Hair Boutique

Time to change In Your Corner campaign http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/share-your-corner

In Paul the barber’s chair http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/barbers-are-receiving-first-aid-training-in-mental-health-so-could-they-offer-the-best-talking-cure-a6882216.html

Balding and blogging https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/balding-and-blogging 

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Pooing in public places

heath-poo-2There’s something puzzling up on the Heath near where I live. It’s an area much-used by dog-walkers and, for the most part, the dogs’ owners seem to be a responsible bunch when it comes to their (dog’s) poo. The Heath is well provided for with red bins which fill up quickly.

Recently a new red bin was installed near the woods at the back of the Heath. That too  was soon filled but, just as quickly, it was sealed up (with the filled bags inside for all I know – I guess we’ll find out for sure when the weather warms up…)

Why the sudden change of heart I wonder? We’ll probably find out it’s a case of the left hand not coordinating with the right; that the people who install red bins are not the same people who empty them, and no one thought to arrange for the new bin to be added to the round.

Whatever the reason, in my experience such unexplained silliness can be like a red rag (or should that be red bin?) to otherwise responsible dog owners. They don’t seem to realise they can use the ordinary rubbish bins for their poo bags and either leave them at the base of the bin or, worse still, hang them on bushes and trees to the disgust of most of us. Yes, If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to ‘hit the fan’ as it were on local social media, it’s bags of dog poo hanging in trees. Most people would prefer to see those responsible left hanging in the trees.

Once under attack, dog owners tend to come out snarling. I recently read one respondent asking ‘why don’t riders have to clear up their horses’ sh*t’? Well the main reason is diet madam; horse dung is relatively odourless, it doesn’t stick to your shoes (unless the horse in question overdid it on curry and beers the night before) and it’s good for making things grow (cue joke about putting manure on your rhubarb rather than custard…)

horse-diaperYou may not know that, in York at least, the horses have been known to wear nappies. To be more precise, the nappies that were piloted thirteen years ago – to capture the ‘emissions’ of the horses pulling tourists around in carriages – have now been adapted to look more like hammocks for… cats and dogs. And if the carriage drivers have any entrepreneurial acumen, they’ll sell off the manure as Yorkshire’s finest.

Leaving London – No man’s land #3

Reflections on masculinity, mental health and trying to make a difference 

In the wider world, Royston is a place for arrivals, departures and intervening connections. House prices reflect good transport links via international airports (two within 45 minutes), motorways (two within 15 minutes by car on a good day) and 10 minutes by train to Stevenage for rail links to the north and Scotland, and south to London.

royston-to-london-milestoneIronically, Royston is more connected to the rest of the world than the rest of Hertfordshire, and, in fact, the rest of North Hertfordshire. I know at least two 20-somethings in Letchworth who have never travelled the 12 miles to Royston (11 minutes by train). I think Royston and District (that’s the SG8 postcode) should be declared an independent republic. Most or the one million inhabitants of Hertfordshire have never been to Royston. Even work colleagues in the other corner of the county used to ask me whether I actually returned to Royston at the end of each day; for them it was another world (‘there be dragons…’ etc)

Unlike in the trading days of old, many more people have driven past Royston without stopping – it’s on the A10, the old London to Cambridge route before the M11 was built.  Even for us, our first visit from our home in North London to Royston was for house-hunting. I had sworn I’d never commute into London but my wife convinced me that it needn’t be difficult as I was working near Kings Cross station at the time and her family lived in Norfolk – making Royston a much more accessible place to live.

I could say that we finally decided to leave Hackney when we heard someone being shot dead on their doorstep after a late-night party bust-up. But that wouldn’t be true; we heard the fatal shooting but we’d already decided to move out.

In fact the final push for me was returning to London after a weekend in Norfolk. Our two-year-old daughter was fast asleep in the back of the car, my stress levels were rising with every mile we travelled, then crawled, towards the city. I could almost smell the air as we arrived home. Like many before us, we moved out of London for the fresher air, reduced congestion, and affordable property when our toddler needed her own bedroom.

clissold-park-cafe-2I have never regretted the move although I do miss the cakes in the Clissold Park cafe (since tarted up and, no doubt, now selling… tarts).

During 16 years studying, living and working in London, I never made the most of the opportunities on my doorstep. In our first week at university, our tutor warned us we’d put off discovering London until it was too late.         She was right.

It wasn’t even about money; I just kept putting off the sightseeing to a later date that never arrived. I got to know only very small parts of the city (Willesden Green, Finchley, Islington, and then Stoke Newington) feeling most connected in the final two years there when our daughter was born and we got to know other new parents.

While working in London, my professional and personal lives were kept quite separate; a practice that has helped me, apart from some notable lapses, to sustain a sort of work/life balance throughout my career. I say ‘sort of’ because my work has been less a career path more a lifelong cause – something I’d probably do whether or not I was paid. This was illustrated by my young daughter, at a time when I often worked from home. She asked me one Saturday morning “Are you working today Dad?“No” I said, trying to be helpful, “I’m doing what I did yesterday, but today I’m not getting paid to do it”. I think that confused rather than clarified the situation for her.

In London I lived at various addresses north of the river. For a couple of years my MP was Margaret Thatcher and her signed response to my complaint about the state of the roads for cyclists (I was one then) was a treasured possession for at least a week. I spent two years in Islington living with a journalist who, I later learned, was charging me 90% of the ‘shared’ rent to pay for her drug habit. I also learned she’d chosen me as a flatmate because she’d heard I’d travelled in South America and (wrongly) assumed I’d returned with, at the very least, a handful of coca leaves.

The move to Hackney was to move in with a Bart’s nurse who was to become my wife. We lived in a terraced road off Stoke Newington High Street for several years. It was wonderfully quiet but this didn’t stop thieves stealing the bonnet from a neighbour’s car across the street on a hot summer night when everyone had their windows open – that takes skill. All we had stolen were headlight surrounds, a car radio, and a Vauxhall bonnet badge from my wife’s Chevette (much sought after for spares…)

prince-of-wales-n16The pub around the corner was good for the odd drink after a busy week; a semi-regular two pints on Friday evenings almost made it our local. The real regulars would prop up the bar night after night. I assumed they were loneIy old men (one looked just like Lord Snooty from The Dandy kid’s comic) seeking solace in a pint at the Prince of Wales, or the POW as it was known. Then one evening, after a couple of years, I heard one of the regulars saying he was off home because his missus would have his tea on the table. Maybe I was right after all – lonely old men in loveless long-term marriages, more at home in the pub than at home. (The POW has since been tarted up and re-named ‘The Prince’ – Lord Snooty must be spinning in his grave.)

Compared to Hackney, Royston was a backwater. We’d landed in what seemed like a quaint and quiet corner of little Britain, not unlike TV’s Royston Vasey made famous by The League of Gentlemen. The crime scene was more The Bill* than The Sweeney – the town’s mayor was being exposed on national TV for wrongdoing associated with his estate agent business, and the Royston Crow newspaper’s crime reports were about parked cars being ‘keyed’ – annoying, but hardly life-threatening. Then there were the quirky couples – two local councillors Deborah Duck and Ted Drake and, sometime after we’d settled in, two married couples swapped partners. This was life in the slow lane – in the unhurried-and-interesting, not traffic-jam-crawling – sense. Life in Royston was to serve us well.

*Some TV trivia – an actor from The Bill bought our house in Hackney, and Sun Hill police station in the TV series was named after Sun Hill in Royston where creator Geoff Mcqueen lived.

To be continued….

For other blogs in the ‘No man’s land’ series click here https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/category/no-mans-land

Green and Grey Repurpose – standing desk

img_0006Did you know that standing up at work for an average 3 hours a day for a year is the equivalent calorie burn (approx 30,000 calories) of running ten marathons? I discovered this amazing statistic when I discovered a beautiful standing desk (the Eiger) at the Entrepreneurial Spark ‘Hatchery’ in Milton Keynes (where I also got excited about their reclaimed scaffold board tables).

I couldn’t afford the Eiger, so it got me thinking… could I make one by re-purposing a slatted wooden chair? I put a call-out for such a chair through our local Freegle group. I got offered three!

With a bit of head scratching (I haven’t got hair to pull out) I can up with a low-tech height-adjustable design which also folds flat for easy storage and/or transport. I’m pretty happy with the result – I use it now at my work – and some days I stand up all day.

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I’m a runner, but I don’t do marathons (standing is more my scene)

9 more health benefits from using a standing desk:

  1. When sitting down, your metabolic rate crashes to an absolute minimum. You only burn 1 calories a minute – that’s less than chewing gum!
  2. As soon as you sit, electrical activity in your legs shuts down and enzymes that help break down fat drop 90%
  3. Sitting 6+ hours a day makes you up to 40% likelier to die in 15 years than someone who sits less than 3 hours (even if you exercise)
  4. Worldwide studies have warned that a sedentary lifestyle could be causing as many deaths as smoking
  5. People with sitting jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease as those with standing jobs
  6. Regular exercise regimes do not negate the effects of a sedentary lifestyle – going to the gym two or three times a week isn’t enough
  7. Being sedentary slows down the circulatory system, blood, oxygen and vital nutrients
  8. In the UK, 30 million working days were lost in 2013 from musculoskeletal disorders
  9. Research published in The Lancet in 2016 on more than 1 million office workers found that sitting for at least 8 hours a day could increase the risk of premature death by up to 60%

Source: www.iwantastandingdesk.com  (click to learn more about the Eiger)

Interested in other re-purpose projects?  https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/category/green-grey-repurpose

Green and Grey Repurpose – MeTubes

tab-tube-2Question – what do a pencil, toothbrush, and phone charger have in common?               Answer – calcium tablets.

I’ve been prescribed calcium tablets for osteoporosis (well, against osteoporosis to be more precise). I’m meant to be taking 60 every month for five years. That’s a tube-a-week habit so I’m accumulating a goodly supply of empty plastic tubes with plastic plugs in the end.

Not wanting to waste the NHS’s investment in these tubes (and my health), I’ve set out to devise as many re-purposing ideas for them as I can. Here are the first three (I have some others in development using combinations of tubes – watch this space)

  • img_0020Brushguard – after hearing about potential health hazards on hotel bathroom sinks, I set to work producing a cover for the average toothbush. It works well in a washbag and can be secured upright to a smooth surface in the bathroom using the sucker on the end.
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  • Sharpenhold – big enough to store a couple of short pencils – the kind you find in Ikea, Screwfix and Wickes (see my blog on the value of short pencils – link below) You can also keep your shavings under control and your pencils sharp. Yes – real writing can come in small sustainable containers!
  • img_0016-2The leader – twist the plug to reduce or release the lead between your charging phone and the wall socket. No more tangles, no tripping over a trailing lead, no more people confusing your charger for theirs.

All tubes can be painted for identification, so you don’t try to brush your teeth with a pencil, for personalisation, and to coordinate with your bathroom, office, and phone-cover colour schemes.

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Your turn…

Share your own re-purposing ideas and let’s see if we can come up with “101 uses for an empty tablet tube” I’ll send you (within the UK) three tubes with plugs if you submit an idea with a brief explanation (and preferably a drawing or photo).

Also of interest?

https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/category/green-grey-repurpose/

https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/pencils-and-personalisation