Just one shade of grey will do

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Having recently had another haircut (booked in with monotonous regularity by The Only One because he knows otherwise I’d rather look like an ageing hippy than a man of increasing years), I’m again more concerned about the other 49 shades of grey.

Patrick, my hairdresser, tells me I’ve nothing much to worry about but obviously at my age I do - in a Russian Roulette kind of way (every day increases the likelihood that tomorrow will be Going Grey Day). So far I’ve been lucky. Plenty of hair left and far less shades of grey than either of my considerably younger brothers.

But hair colouring probably isn’t what the ever so best selling “Fifty” books are about. Obviously I’ve a rough idea but I’m not one of the 4,312,446 people who had bought a copy of EL James’ mums-lit-and-titillation book by the start of the month (or the 2,760,623 who’d snapped up Fifty Shades of Freed or 3,035,864 purchasers of Fifty Shades Darker).

It’s not that I’m a literature snob (well, all right, I’m a bit of a literature snob who is currently re-reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and some of the best stories by that American master of gothic horror, HP Lovecraft).

It’s more that I’m sure there are better books to buy – though presumably not JK Rowling’s first “adult” novel Casual Vacancy which probably suckered in a few readers who misinterpreted just what “adult” meant before reading the less than enthusiastic reviews.

No, I’m actually quite pleased that more than 10 million people have stumped up cash for the three Fiftys and that some of them have actually made it through every page of each one.

All of a sudden at beauty competitions when the leggy lovelies are asked what their hobbies are, along with grooming horses, socialising with friends and looking after old people there’s reading. Obviously not many of them mean real reading any more than they mean they are studying real psychology at a real university. But who cares? A pretty face is allowed an exaggeration or two, so if they think that slipping a volume of EL James into their Asda trolley along with their Weightwatchers celery soup, less than no-calorie crackers and a copy of Hello! magazine constitutes the hobby of reading then so be it.

It was actually quite an eye opener looking down the Top 10 paperback and hardback charts because I’d hardly heard of any of them (though Jeffrey Archer with The Sins of the Father and Jackie Collins’ The Power Trip rang ominous bells). The non fiction list made even worse reading and has been known to cause The Manager to burst into a book shop rage at the prospect of ploughing through yet another star “autobiography” (clearly written by someone else), the latest Nigella Lawson or Gordon Ramsay cook book or illustrated volumes about pets, when what she really wants is a another weighty tome chronicling aristocratic life in the 18th or 19th centuries, or an illustrated history of every stately home currently trying to find yet more tax dodges to open even less frequently than they do already.