Dabbler Diary: Cake, Caffeine, Cats and Kites

Another day and another depressing article about the obesity epidemic that’s engulfing the nation. Apparently millions are catching this deadly disease every day while innocently sitting on the sofa eating cake. It’s heart breaking – literally. According to this report, shops ran out of the largest sizes of school uniforms as our ever-inflating youngsters prepared to return to school after a summer of slumber.

Now the issue of weight is close to my heart. I myself have suffered taunts and humiliation because of my weight, or lack of it to be more precise. As a boy I was always made painfully aware of the latest famine – the chants of “Cambodian” and “Ethiopian” (extraordinary that a country’s entire identity can be reduced to a waist line measurement) at school and at the local swimming baths still ring in my ears. Once someone shouted as I passed: “Look it’s Mahatma bloody Ghandi”. And I don’t even wear glasses. I jest now, but how it hurt. And before you ask, no amount of snacking made any difference.

Now us thinsters (although I have put on a few pounds, I stay loyal to my tribe) are an endangered species and are feeling a little smug as we watch our fellow citizens roll down the street. Who to blame for this plague of cellulite? Well, there’s The Fat Lobby of course and their high margin, highly processed slop that adorns the racks of the supermarkets. But they’re an easy target. No, I think we need to dig deeper. I blame the old masters – Botticelli, Velazquez and that mob. They’re the ones that started this ‘ok-to-wobble’ craze. But it could all have been so different


A visit to the hair dresser. Even when money is tight, I can always justify splashing out on a hair cut. I love the indulgence of it all – the massage chair I recline on while my hair is washed, the peppermint conditioner tenderly massaged into my scalp, the cups of freshly brewed coffee and the perfectly feigned interest shown in my last holiday and general well-being. It’s all about me, me, me, me and worth every penny.

But I’m not so sure about it now. Over the last few years I have become more follically challenged and the sums just don’t really add up. Before long I will be paying about a pound a hair to have it cut. I can also sense this becoming a bit of an issue with the lovely ladies in the salon. A definite look of panic is starting to creep over their faces when I walk in as they work out how to stretch my cut to a respectable forty minutes.

Being in the hair trade I thought I’d ask if they knew of any magical formula to get my hair growing again (and let’s face it they have an interest in keeping me hairy). Apparently German caffeine shampoo is all the rage and very effective in stimulating ones follicles. So, like many millions of mugs before me, I traipsed off to Boots and blew a load of dosh on something that hasn’t a cat in hell’s chance of working.

Being the cautious type, I thought I would check for any side effects on the internet as I know there are some hair loss products out there that have them (apparently Tony Blair started using one, went mad and that’s why we invaded Iraq). I didn’t find anything too troubling though – just lots of suspiciously complimentary comments about it making a real difference once they’d used it for several months. One poor teenage boy did ask (the whole world) whether it would stimulate the growth of more hair ‘down there’. Jeez, that’s one internet door I bet he wished he’d kept firmly shut (‘Oh my dear dear boy, do let me help you in your hour of need. Perhaps would you be so kind as to send me a photo of the area of concern…’).

Anyway two days into my caffeine shampoo regimen and you know what, my hair does feel a bit different, I’m sure it does…just that little bit more… luxuriant.


Looks like we will soon be able to beat the living daylights out of intruders. I wonder if the provisions in the new legislation will extend to cats? A neighbour’s keeps intruding into my garden and leaving a turd pile in the same place on my lawn at least twice week. I have tried everything B&Q has to offer but to no avail. He’s also an unfriendly fluffy turd machine. He just sits on the fence glaring at me. Tormenting me. Laughing at me. My patience is running thin.


A beautiful sunny Sunday in autumn. Time for a yomp. Since moving to west Cornwall I’ve been determined to head out as often as I can and enjoy the beautiful and varied landscape that surrounds me. I have well-worn ordnance survey map at home where I diligently mark all the paths I have walked and the hills I have ascended.

My favourite hike, and one I probably complete every six weeks or so, is from the pretty village of Ludgvan (about 2 miles inland from the south coast town of Penzance) to the top of Trencrom Hill, which overlooks St Ives Bay on the north coast, and back. In all it’s about eight miles and passes through fields and woodland, rarely meeting a road. The path is St Michael’s Way, one of the ancient pilgrim routes to the Santiago de Compstela in NW Spain. It was also used by traders and travellers wanting to avoid sailing through the treacherous waters around Land’s End.

The top of Trencom is a lovely place for a picnic. I have a favourite spot where I can look at the north Cornish coastline on my left, and the south coast on my right. I’m also able to survey the growing number of wind turbines being erected by local land owners out to make a quick buck. Now I know wind turbines provoke strong emotions and threats of very un-Dabbler like behaviour in some, so, since I quite like my front teeth, I will refrain from commenting on the visual merits or otherwise of them (‘Oh you sweet ballerinas, pirouetting on the blue horizon’) here. But from my vantage point on top of Trencom, I believe the biggest blights on the landscape are the electricity pylons – sharp, vicious shards of grey metal that not only “irrevocably and wholly transform the look and feel of the landscape”, but also kill countless innocent young kite flyers.

But we don’t really talk about electricity pylons. We’ve got used to them and their ugly presence is no longer an issue. In fact, it seems that some Dabblers have come to love them. Will the same be true of wind turbines in a few years time?

Dabbler Diary is brought to you by Glengoyne single malt whisky – the Dabbler’s choice.
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About Author Profile: Toby Ash

A former journalist, Toby now works a consultant in the private and humanitarian sectors. When not in deepest Cornwall or darkest London, he trots the globe taking stunning photos which you can see on his Instagram account - @toby_ash

7 thoughts on “Dabbler Diary: Cake, Caffeine, Cats and Kites

  1. Brit
    October 12, 2012 at 13:35

    Oh Toby, where does one start? My cup runneth over….

    As an occasional supporter of the Fat Lobby (thank God that sinister cabal gets exposed on The Dabbler at last (though you’ll be amazed when you see what the Nando’s diet has done for my physique)) – those skinny goddesses are an abomination, grotesque as wind farms.

    But I fully support your stance on cats. No civil person would allow their dog to wander into your garden and take a dump, so why is it permissable for cats to do so? You should be allowed to shoot moggies, and if necessary tie them up in one’s basement and torture them imaginatively.

    • tobyash@hotmail.com'
      October 15, 2012 at 09:38

      Glad the Nando’s diet has done the trick. Welcome to my tribe!

  2. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    October 12, 2012 at 14:30

    Follicly challenged Toby, barnet giving a bit of bother, look no further, salvation is here. The kraut ablution solution…. Speik Deo Dusch, a favourite of the NRW green party, no eco system is harmed during the application of this product, available in any dm (the krautish version of Boots) Will not halt the onset but mein gott! the napper ain’t half shiny. Smelling of this stuff and any grün party frau will be only too happy to kiss your bonce.

    Looking at, ogling? the renaissance ladies, I see that Nigella has successfully fought the flab, amazing.

    • tobyash@hotmail.com'
      October 15, 2012 at 09:41

      Thanks you Malty. I’ll make a point of avoiding the ‘kraut ablution solution’ at all costs in the future.

  3. Gaw
    October 14, 2012 at 09:15

    My views on cats wondering into our garden have changed since the great rat invasion of 2012. It’s the blasted grey squirrels that drive me to my catapult.

    • tobyash@hotmail.com'
      October 15, 2012 at 09:44

      Now if cats caught and destroyed slugs, I could deal with the turds.

  4. Worm
    October 14, 2012 at 11:54

    Despite them being called catapults it is a real shame that I’ve yet to see one for sale that a cat could be fired from

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