Friday, February 03, 2006


Word Count: 28,277

In view of my rather good progress on the book this week, I just treated myself to a Product Splashout in Boots. If you don't live in the UK, then Boots is the ultimate drugstore: where we always ended up on a Saturday afternoon as teenagers, and where I still go now for miracle cures.

It's not as glossy as, say, Liberty's beauty hall - or as cheap as Superdrug. But it has a dazzling array of Special Offers and apparent bargains, plus a product range that takes in uber-brands and cheap-as-chips stuff. It also has... The Advantage Card, a loyalty card. I collected so many points on this pernicious bit of plastic that the assistants would do a double-card when the total appeared on their checkout screen. This is why I have to ration myself.

I am a sucker for those features in magazines about what's in people's fridges, so if you aren't, skip this bit. But I thought it was fun to report that today I bought:

  • Elvive Cashmere Touch shampoo and conditioner (offer: two for price of one). Despite my Product Cravings, I am quite a cynic about advertising, but this stuff has transformed my frazzled hair. LOVE it.
  • Schwartzkopf grey hair cover-er upper: yep, I admit it, I have a cluster of white on the right hand side of my crown and though I dye it, the little blighters seem to come back faster each time. This thing looks like a shoe polish applicator tube, with 'hair ink' to cover up your old-lady bits in between dyes. If it works, I may never dye again. No offer.
  • Nutrisse Hair Colour, Auburn: and while I was in the aisle, stocked up on a couple of boxes of this. I have been every natural shade in my time, but this is pretty close to the colour I was born with, albeit with a hint of red that I like in winter. This one has natural fruit oils, apparently (offer: two for price of one).
  • Valentine's Card: looked at lots of nice ones, but all had nauseating messages inside. This one is jolly, unsentimental but BIG. Men like that in a card, I think. No offer, but I did buy some Lindt truffles to go with it. Yum.
  • Naked Body Care shower gel in Starflower: I wanted some classier shower gel than my usual 99p, 100 per cent chemical paint stripper stuff and I snuck a quick sniff in the store and it smells good. Offer: 1/3rd off.
  • Aphrodite or Girly Perfection or similar named razor: why do they keep redesigning razor blades for women, making them pink and giving them naff names? I have half a drawerful of stupid refills that I can no longer buy the main thingy (?) for. So I have bought swizzy new one in the hopes they won't discontinue it for a while. Offer: £2.99 'introductory' price.
  • Allergy Eye Drops: romantic gift for boyfriend as the cat is affecting his peepers. No offer. That's how much I care!
  • Naked Guest Candle: this is not a candle to hypnotise your guests into getting their kit off. Hmmm. There's an idea for a book. Despite my disappointment, I couldn't resist this as it's a candle named after Marian Keyes. How strange and yet marvellous is that? It will apparently ensure sales of ten million books if you burn it while writing. Plus it smells heavenly. Bargain, 1/3rd off. (Kate slopes off wistfully to wonder if she will ever have a candle named after her. Hmmm. Doubt it somehow)

I was on a roll by now, so when I got a skincare voucher for a fiver, I then carried all my bags around to find a nice skin cream, with a fiver off.

Have spent the last half hour trying to squeeze all these goodies into under basin cupboard. I'd be fascinated to see what the comparable male list would be like. I suspect many of them wouldn't have a clue what they'd got offers on: this is not sexist, just an observation. Special Offers seem to be to be a woman thing, that females have an instinctive response to (see also puppies and kittens) and males can't quite see what the fuss is about.

Incidentally, in case you think I am posting this in the hope of freebies, um, can't see it somehow. Fings ain't wot they used to be with customer care. I have just ended up with burn scars on my hands from a dodgy carton of soup and they have sent me £15.

Lovely Link of the Day:

I have also enjoyed some excellent Blog Nosing today and discovered a new (to me) agent blog, Pub Rants, which I like a lot. I was especially interested in her post about the chick lit backlash in the US, something I had to respond to (you can find my comments at about response number 68 but in case you can't face scrolling down, I've copied them here) because I've seen it here too. What strikes me from the other comments is the way so many people have fallen into the trap of dismissing the so-called genre without reading a variety of titles. Ah well. Losing battle, I guess. Back to my contrived, cliched, derivative manuscript...

"This sounds like the same backlash we've had over here in the UK. When I was
trying to get my first novel published back in 2002, I was told that many
editors had stopped acquiring: there were also endless sneery features in UK
newspapers criticising cut-and-paste Bridget-clones.

However, 'chick lit' (a label that now embraces all the mum lit, hen lit, menopause lit sub-genres AND, in Britain at least, is randomly assigned to almost any novel by a woman under 40, about a woman under 40, which is being published by a mainstream commercial imprint) is still alive and well. The acquisitions race that made the market crazy for a few years has calmed down, but editors are still buying, and readers too. My agent persevered, and Book 3 is coming out in three months.

What is happening is that the core idea or the setting or character DOES need generally need to be very distinctive or to have a Unique Selling Point: Book Group Lit is a recent example, and I am sure commercial women novelists (and the 'lad lit'
guys like Mike Gayle) will continue to innovate and find new contemporary
stories to tell.

'Chick lit' written as a cynical money-grabbing exercise, slavishly following so-called 'rules' (e.g. lots of shoe-shopping and Cosmopolitan drinking) deserves to fail. But stories that inject the circumstances of ordinary women's lives with added humour or wit or wisdom, will always have a place. So no need to organise the wake just yet, I'd say..."


Blogger Mel said...

Hi Kate, love your blog - discovered it a few weeks ago. I'm doing the OU creative writing course that you're tutoring for but next Feb. More importantly - what is this Schwarzkopf (sp?!) grey cover-upper product you mention?? I have a deep-rooted need for it and have never seen anything like this and can't find it on - from one woman with annoying grey bits to another - help!

9:53 am  
Blogger Kate said...

Hi Mel,
I found it in Boots but they've only just got it, and in the larger branches. It's looks a bit like a small torch except at the 'bulb' end there's a comb-type attachment that dispenses a small amount of temporary colour. I've now tried it once and it seems pretty effective, though I guess it only lasts a couple of washes. Handy when you can't be bothered with the whole messy towels and and old t-shirts routine...

And the course looks like being a lot of fun, but next year will be ever better as there are always the odd bugs to iron out in the first year.

Kate x

10:00 am  

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