For Fine, Lifeless Hair

Whenever I’m in the bath (for we don’t have a working shower) I often consider which of the plethora of shampoos I would like to use today to wash my hair. When I lived on my own there was, of course, no choice. I would buy shampoo, invariably Tesco’s own brand, and the rest is history.

But living in a house with shared resources the decision becomes much more difficult. For starters, the addition of women means at least a quadrupling of the choice – because, for some reason, women seem to need lots of different shampoos. One for frizzy hair, one for dyed hair, one for dry hair, a mild one for irritated scalps, one for dandruff, and then repeat for bottles of conditioner.

Then my brothers like to wash their hair with the Lynx shower gel, so there are at least two of those around the bath. And there is always another one for my sister, a more child-friendly one even though she’s 13. Add in the liquid soap that we’ve currently got, and the bubble bath, and you can see how it can easily become confusing.

It makes me wonder – are any of these products actually what they say they are? Is there a difference between me using a shampoo “for greasy hair” and another “for frequent use”? I mean, how frequent is frequent? I thought most people would wash their hair frequently anyway. Have you ever seen a shampoo say “for infrequent use” on it? If not, why not? I want to see the shampoo that is so deadly to your hair that it can only be used every month. And surely all hair gets greasy, otherwise why would you wash it? So isn’t every shampoo for greasy hair?

Then we turn to the other claims they right on the bottle. As a man, I wonder why would I ever want to “add volume” – or some other marketing speak – to my hair? I hate my hair, as I have discussed on a previous occasion, and any shampoo that promises to make it look more full of life, thicker and glossier is one that I should avoid at all costs. Yes, I know I’m using “women’s” shampoo… but that’s just the thing – they are only women’s because the branding tells you to believe that.

In truth, it’s all academic. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed any difference no matter what shampoo I use. The only factor in the equation is the smell. Some smell nice, some smell not so nice. And that, to me, is basically all the difference. Maybe on a technical level the cheapest shampoos contain more “agua” – to you and me we might call it that novel and exciting substance water –  and so you have to use more of it to get a good lather.

No. What this whole world is about is just about the same story you can apply to any aspect of modern, commercial life. It is the ultimate triumph of style over substance, of branding and image over reality. Beauty and hygiene are highly susceptible to the evils of capitalism for the simple reason that they probably figure in the minds of every person on Earth. And so we can plug away at those little fears and insecurities to sell you a bottle of miracle wonder that will transform you into one of the Beautiful People – gorgeous and successful – we see on the adverts and billboards.

Anyway, that’s quite enough moaning for one day. It’s supposed to be the season of goodwill to all men (and women)… unless they work for a beauty products manufacturer, of course. They can go stick their false science up their arses.

Music To My Ears

At the moment, the house is peaceful. My family, apart from one of my brothers but including the dog, have gone away to their static caravan in Wales for a few days.

It’s always good to get a break from them. They are too noisy and argue too much even at the best of times. Plus, the nice weather yesterday would have meant that there’d be a lot of grumpiness here. We tend to get like that if we overheat. But I’ve managed to avoid all that, which is excellent.

The other bonus is that without my family being here, I can spend a bit more time than I normally could practicing on the guitar and keyboard, because there are fewer people to annoy. When my brother goes out, I also get a chance to do some singing, something I don’t do enough of any more. Ever since I left for university four years ago, I’ve not been able to sing as much, making me feel like I’ve regressed a lot.

Generally, this is true of all my music playing. I first started playing guitar in 2001, but I feel like my standard of playing hasn’t changed over the last six years. I don’t seem to be adding songs to my repetoire any more, and no matter how hard I try I will never be able to play an electric guitar solo of any quality. Mistake after mistake. Maybe my brain is not cut out to play the guitar.

The only bright light is my keyboard/piano playing, which is so much better than it has ever been, and the more I practice the more it continues to improve. But that is far more frustrating because I still don’t think I play it properly, and if I had the money the first thing I’d do is get me some piano lessons.

The main reason for this post though is an observation I’ve made recently about the decline in my musical creativity. I can ad lib on the keyboard through major pentatonics and it sounds good. But it sounds the same all the time. There are only a limited number of chords. The same is true of my guitar playing. I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall. There seems to be no clear way ahead for me to keep improving.

But it gets worse. Between the ages of 16 and 18 I was a prolific song writer. The lyrics were nothing special, but there were a few tunes that I thought were really fantastic. I still have them all, and still have several recordings so I won’t forget them. But I really don’t know what’s happened to my musical creativity. All of a sudden I wrote my “last” song in 2003 (weirdly enough, I’ve just checked and it was exactly five years ago today), and since then I’ve written only two songs. During my creative spell, I notched up at least 40 different songs. About half were crap, but such is the creativity process. Trial and error.

I just don’t know what happened to me from that point onwards. I seemed to lose the ability to write lyrics, and my brain seemed to think “Why bother?”. Which is a good question. It’s not as if they were ever going to make me a career.

The sad explanation for me is that I was obviously inspired during that period of my life to be musical. I must have been living a life which filled me with ideas and determination to use my talents to make something good. But now I feel like I’ve lost all that. I feel like I just can’t be bothered making music any more. Even though I enjoy it. I still improvise, but I never say to myself “Note that down!” or “Write some words to it!”

It’s just all gone. Can I really have lost a talent? Or do I just need shake myself up?

Nah. Again, I get stuck in the usual question of “What’s the point?”. It may be fun, but half (if not more) of the fun of music making is in the performance. And they never will be performed. Maybe if there was an outlet I might feel the inspiration again. Perhaps my younger creativity days were full of a naivety that I could do something with the music and so pushed on regardless. Now… the jaded cynicism of age must have kicked in.

Sigh. Apathy rules, OK?