22 November 2013

19 November 2013

A Bag Thought

Another simple thought, this time on bags. The space inside any bag I have ever possessed ends up being apportioned as above. 'Dross', helpfully defined by the OED as: 'rubbish, refuse, foreign matter mixed with anything', takes up the lion's share of the interior, whilst the 'useful stuff' is compacted into a quite narrow layer at the base of the bag.Somewhere at the bottom of that may be found house keys. It's positively geological. Attempts to be more organised, ie: the acquisition of bags with pockets, sections, divisions, seem just to result in each and every compartment developing a similar stratification. Which explains why I have, on occasional ill-lit nights, been forced to empty out the entire contents of the current bag on my doorstep in order to gain access to bath and bed. 

(There is more, much more and much better material, on handbags (or 'purses', as they are known in the States), in Nora Ephron's very funny essay, 'I Hate My Purse', from her book, 'I Feel Bad About My Neck' (Doubleday, 2007).)

5 November 2013

No Win, No Fee

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1 November 2013

A Quick Thought

Another experiment in infographics here, otherwise known as a graph, and jolly dull it looks, too. Obviously I need to work harder at my presentation. It plots the number of times any pair of my shoes (a total of 12 pairs) have been worn over the past two years (x axis), against the heel height of the corresponding shoes (y axis). The result is a parabolic curve- more precisely, a quadratic Bezier curve- clearly demonstrating that the higher the heel, the less often I wear the shoe. (Doh!) I spend most of my life sitting at a drawing board; the real question here is why I ever buy any shoe with a heel over 2 cm.

Note: The data represented here was meticulously collated by myself over a two-year period from 28 09.2011 to 20.10.2013, and does not include the use of flip-flops or slippers.

27 October 2013

Slides or Heels?

An old illustration here from my application (circa 1985) to study for a doctorate at Oxford University. My thesis was to have been provisionally titled, 'From Playground to Pudenda: The Sexual Politics of Play Equipment from 1919 to the Present', but was rejected by the university admissions committee on the grounds that the theme had already been exhaustively covered by the likes of Desmond Morris, Naomi Wolf, et al. That was, regrettably, the end of my academic career.

23 October 2013

Clothes I Wear

Infographics are all the rage these days, and I feel they could really help in clarifying many of my sartorial conundrums. Inspired by the work of illustrator and graphic journalist Wendy MacNaughton, the above is my first attempt at information design. 
Note that 'sexy clothes' are on a different planet altogether.

14 October 2013

Autumnal Hair

As the year begins to fade, the falling leaves remind me of why I don't wear black so much these days. We should all have a personal gardener.

9 October 2013


Aargh! Special forces have targeted this much photographed Tom Ford dress with the aim both of neutralising dubious taste in evening wear and countering asymmetric proliferation in couture design. 
(With apologies to both Tom Ford and Roy Lichtenstein)

30 September 2013

Thicker, Longer, Fuller

'Thicker, longer, fuller', characteristics promised by so many ads for both mascara and male potency. I have rather less experience of the latter, but was persuaded to go in for mascara after an imaginative sales assistant at a cosmetics stand complimented me on my 'lovely small eyes' (there being little else to compliment, presumably). Increase the size of those eyes, and there would be a corresponding increase in their loveliness; a little mascara seemed the easiest way to go. But wait! It's true that brushing mascara onto the lashes is marginally easier than the poke-in-the-eye that is the eyeliner pencil, but a heavily blackened set of lashes performs like velcro. Only last week, a woman was admitted to hospital here in the U.K. with her eyes glued shut after years of repeated, heavy application of the cosmetic. It was feared that her sight might be lost; fortunately, prompt surgery saved the situation. Dr. Ashok Patelski, a lash and tear duct consultant at the Royal Eyeball Hospital in Marylebone, London, was quoted as saying, "This is the first time we've seen such a severe case of mascara damage, although there have been an increasing number of problems with false eyelashes and laceration of the cornea from the over-enthusiastic use of eyeliner pencils. Women should be more aware of the risks that can result from using cosmetic products close to the eye."  
 A bad case of 'eyes wide shut', and a cautionary tale for us all. 

15 September 2013

Getting a Pattern

My apologies for this: above is the original version of yesterday's drawing.. 

On the beach: after a period of lying flat on my back on my towel, I sat up to squint at the view for a bit. My companion said, 'You've got a waffle pattern on your back', and indeed I did, a nice clear imprint of the raised waffle weave on the towel. This happens in other contexts, of course, often with less decorative effects. At home, I frequently wake up in the morning with various bedding creases pressed abstractly into my face, a literal crumpling of the skin that lasts until coffee-time at the very least. Perhaps people who sleep on silk don't suffer from this 'problem'; I won't know until I switch from my easy-iron polyester/cotton mix at some point in the future. 
(As ever, there are commercial possibilities here; the Nike or Chanel or MacDonalds logo could be printed into the very flesh of our beings in a transient but intimate branding.) 

13 September 2013

Anglo-Saxon Skin

Now that summer has melted in the face of an onslaught of autumnal rain and gloom, I just wanted to remind myself of the gentle glow I acquired whilst on holiday- a mild blush that was pleasing to my eye despite its comparative pallor. Apparently my French mother was warned (quite justifiably) against marrying my English father, on the grounds that her children would be white.

4 September 2013

Heels, Again

Post-holiday, I am feeling very reluctant to return to the world of vanities. In particular, having spent the summer wearing flats- sandals, ballet slippers, walking shoes, flip-flops- I am especially unhappy at the prospect of squeezing my feet into anything with an incline and a very pointy toe. In fact, I won't, but others will, and I am filled with a grudging admiration for women prepared to teeter through their lives in discomfort for the sake of fashion. It does seem that women wear fantastically high shoes in much the same spirit that hardy adventurers climb mountains- because they're there.
(In the above picture, a brief and rather unscientific survey of designer shoe heels, the heights are given in inches, a very British unit of measurement.  For those of you in the metric world,1 inch = 2.54 cm.) 

9 August 2013

Summer Break

Someone else's work on show here, my excuse being that I'm on holiday. These photos, taken as part of a project called 'Aspects of Seat Assignment', are by the artist Nina Katchadourian. They appeared in a newspaper magazine a couple of weeks ago, in a section which usually features reportage or rather pretentious 'art' photography. This display, not to be mistaken for Ms Katchadourian's passport shots, are in fact her 'Lavatory Self-Portraits In The Flemish Style', written up in the Guardian Weekend (20 July 2013) as follows: 'On a flight from San Francisco to Auckland, she put a paper toilet seat cover on her head and took a picture in the mirror. Well, who wouldn't? The image, she realised, evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture. So she experimented: a neck pillow and napkins serve as a medieval wimple; and an eye mask, napkins and paper cup echo Vermeer's Girl With A Pearl Earring. Katchadourian... insists she didn't hold up the queue for the toilet, making her forays mostly while other passengers were asleep.' 
Do I believe that last bit? Well, it's something to bear in mind next time I'm in that queue. I am prepared to forgive all, however, as the results are so very accurate and funny.

1 August 2013

Snail Therapy

From the Guardian, Thursday July 18, 2013:  'A beauty salon in Tokyo is offering facial treatments in which snails provide slime to treat the skin. According to a beautician, snail slime removes dry skin, makes the face supple and moisturizes. The centre currently only houses enough snails for one facial per day, as the creatures' slime runs out quickly.'

I could help them there. I feel very optimistic that my small, dark, damp backyard could keep several salons in organically harvested, free range snails (for a modest fee). And when the facial is done and dusted, the snails, lightly fricasseed and accompanied by a white wine sauce, would make an economical and delicious supper dish.

26 July 2013


I heard the word 'pulchronomics' for the first time recently. It's not to be found in my Oxford English Dictionary, but Collins (online) provides this as a definition (pending 'investigation') -

Pulchronomics: The study of the economics of physical attractiveness.

I took this at first to mean that pulchronomics investigates the financial aspects of the cosmetics industry, but it's not quite that. It's more about how much you might personally profit from being good-looking. The word was, I believe, coined by the economist Daniel Hamermesh, who has published a book on the subject, 'Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful' (Princeton University Press), no doubt in a well-justified exercise in diversification. I read up about it in a rather shorter article by Abigail Tucker, in the Smithsonian Magazine (November 2012), 'How Much is Being Attractive Worth?' She writes, 'Beautiful People are indeed happier, a new study says, but not always for the same reasons. For handsome men, the extra kicks are more likely to come from economic benefits, like increased wages, while women are more apt to find joy just looking in the mirror. "Women feel that beauty is inherently important," says Daniel Hamermesh, a University of Texas at Austin labor economist and the study's lead author. "They just feel bad if they're ugly." '(That explains my problems, then.) He backs this up with a lot of statistics and 'facts' derived from comparing the incomes of great-looking men and women versus unfortunates (though how and by whom these value judgements are made, I have no idea, not actually having read the book). For instance, below-average looking men earn 17% less than hunks, while similar females earn 12% less than babes. Appparently attractive people are more likely to be hired in a recession (or any time, I would have thought). And so on.

Amongst the delicious nuggets that Ms Tucker offers in her article is the figure of $845 million as the sum spent by Americans on facelifts in 2010 alone. It comes as a relief, therefore, that British women only spend around £600 per year on cosmetics. (Really? Surely that's just the cost of my annual supply of toothpaste?) Eventually, she writes, Mr. Hamermesh comes to the conclusion, both obvious and rather unhelpful, that there isn't much we can do to improve our looks. 'There are even studies suggesting that for every dollar spent on cosmetic products, only 4 cents returns as salary, making lipstick a truly abysmal investment.' That's my retirement portfolio down the drain, more's the pity.

21 July 2013


We have sun at last. London parks are liberally scattered with wood nymphs, disporting themselves on the lawns in the hope of turning their pale ash or oak flesh to that luscious mahogany shade so favoured by tan fans. The reasons for this are several: mahogany is a tropical hardwood famed for its rich reddish colour (which develops over time, especially when oiled), for its fine, even grain (free of dimples and pockets, otherwise known as cellulite), and for its toughness and durability. In addition, the tree's broad girth can accommodate wide proportions, making it ideal for the English figure.

14 July 2013

A Fly in the Ointment

I know I quite recently wrote about how easy it is to dislike lipgloss. However, I have a few squeezes of the stuff left in a little tube I bought a while ago, and I do find it very difficult to throw out anything I have paid good money for, despite a high level of dislike. So, on a recent outing wearing Bobbi Brown Lip Tint (a lipgloss by any other name), I was reminded that gloss also has all the qualities of a good flypaper. It's unbearably sticky. The slightest breeze can encourage hair, random fluff, small passing insects, etc., onto your glistening lips, where they will stick fast as a cold caller until decisive and physical removal. Possibly useful as part of a jungle survival kit, though.

7 July 2013

The Swimsuit Issue

In a blatant attempt to increase my readership, I have decided to model this post on that venerable piece of journalism, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, which annually livens up a dull month by featuring quantities of attractive young females wearing not very much. Some killjoys might object that this 'promotes the harmful and dehumanising concept that women are a product for male consumption' (Feminist Media Roundup: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Lisa Bennett, Communications Director, National Organisation for Women, Feb 22, 2002). Nothing could be further from the truth!
I call it artistic. Clad in my new polka-dotted one-piece (a recent purchase in the summer sales), the closely fitting garment moulding itself to my every curve, I'm actually a dead ringer for the fabulous artwork of British artist Bridget Riley, famous for her trompe l'oeil Op Art paintings of the 60's. Luscious, eye-catching, and culturally referenced, all in one swimsuit. 

2 July 2013

I Must Increase My Bust

Some years back, we used to get these as party favours, or in the Christmas stocking. Well, a slightly different version: a cartoon face printed on card, with a length of thin chain fixed between eyes and upper lip in place of a drawn nose. In theory, you could shake the card and the squiggle of chain would become a different and interesting 'nose' every time; in practice, the result was often not a viable nose at all (a cautionary reminder for cosmetic surgeons). I offer the above as an interesting variation, with a few shakes shown below to demonstrate the infinite variety of the human form.

A. Natural 'C' cup

B. Natural 'A' cup

C. Bazooka
D. Fifties nose cone
E. Fifties droop

24 June 2013

101 Piece Nail Kit

Appearing in the 'nostalgia' category: I cannot remember why I cut this out from the January 20, '87 Examiner, although there is another irresistible advert on the reverse, offering 'capless stretch wigs that feel light and cool as your own hair' for $9.95 each. I find it hard to believe I was anticipating eventually being in the market for either Glamour Nails or a natural look, 100% modacrylic hairpiece, any style. Of course, there is still hope that I will one day be mature enough to become embarrassed by my 'short, scraggly, cracked nails', that worry about 'breaking, splitting, and slow growth' will emerge uppermost in my consciousness, and that I will finally send off for 40 deluxe, natural-contour nails I can finally be proud of. And when that day arrives, I can only hope that the Old Village Shop is still in business . 

18 June 2013


I'm flagging up mud because the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts is shortly to take place at Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset. Those who have attended in previous years know that, despite its name, the festival is really all about the therapeutic benefits of all-over mud. It's also one of the few weeks in the calendar when wet weather comes into its own. Worthy Farm is a working dairy farm for most of the year, and the input of the output of the cows makes the local soil an especially rich source of nutrients, possibly including minerals and vitamins such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and A, B, and E, etc. Smearing oneself liberally with this mud, intentionally or as a by-product of other activities, may provide a variety of surprising and/or beneficial effects, such as cleansing, exfoliating, smoothing, softening and even toning the epidermis, refining and nourishing skin texture, obscuring if not improving the complexion, removing toxins from the body, and even relieving joint and muscle pain.
Other well-known venues for mud include Cartagena in Spain, Zorritos in Peru, and Calistoya in California, but none are so much fun as Glastonbury. Earplugs and rubber boots are recommended, though not essential..

16 June 2013

A Good Nose

A quick note further to a recent previous post on noses. This photo- not mine, as I missed that particular party, but by Getty images (as used in the Times Magazine, 15.06.13)- perfectly demonstrates the contrast between the 'cute' nose, as demonstrated on the right by Ms Emma Watson, and the significant nose of Ms Sofia Coppola on the left. Ms Coppola, of course, has a lot more going on for her than what's visible in the above shot, but her nose is what makes her face. It's not a button! It has authority and character. It's as interesting as the rest of her.

11 June 2013


I could do with a little exposure, in every sense of the word. Not that I'll be suffering from any excess of UV rays this summer, if the weather remains as grisly as it has been today. Forgive me if I repost this picture (first shown last June), to remind us all how delicious a really deep tan can be..

7 June 2013

Nose Job

The nose comes in for little praise. A 'nose job' is one of the most common procedures in cosmetic surgery, and do we want them bigger? We do not. Oscar Wilde said, 'There is nothing so difficult to marry as a large nose'- a characteristically outrageous line, especially given the size and individuality of his own proboscis.  Of course, it's okay for a man to have a big nose, as it enhances and is even indicative of his masculinity, the size of the one protuberance being suggestive of the other. But on women, small, cute and kink-free seems to be desirable.
 It's a risky business, though. Not only does the nose do an invaluable job of allowing us to breathe, smell and taste, it's often the most distinctive feature of the face. A cariacature often starts with the nose and goes on from there. So you might find you miss it when it's gone. And as the rest of your face (and everything else) ages, creases and shrivels, your nose stays remarkably buoyant and wrinkle-free.
It's also mildly interesting that, given its facial prominence, the nose features in so many English phrases:
                'as plain as the nose on your face'
                'pay through the nose'
                'keep one's nose to the grindstone'
                'turn up your nose at'
                'win by a nose'
                'thumb one's nose at'
                'keep your nose clean'
                'get up someone's nose'
                'put a person's nose out of joint'
                'lead by the nose'
                'stick your nose into someone's business'  
                'look no further than one's nose'
and, finally: 'cut off your nose to spite your face'. So easily done..

3 June 2013

Sheep May Safely Graze

Tweed: A rough-surfaced woollen cloth, usually of mixed flecked colours, originally produced in Scotland. (O.E.D.)

I think of tweed as the official material of the U.K., if there is such a thing. Purists might consider it more properly Scottish or Irish, but it has been worn by enough English princes, dukes, academics and fictional detectives to make it a national treasure.  Expressive, in fact, of elements of the British character ('Tweedy: characteristic of the country gentry, heartily informal'- from my O.E.D. again.). It's not difficult to see why; I'm looking at the 'why' out of my window as I write. It's raining, it's chilly, the sky is one, long, miserable stretch of grey cloud. A little bit of nice, cosy, weather-resistant tweed just fills the bill, so beautifully reflective of the heaths and hills of rural Britain that sheep would look right at home on my shoulders.

30 May 2013

Dot to Dot 2

For those of you too lazy to join the dots yourself. A rather tentative, imprecise line is preferable to the mechanical version above. As ageing progresses, virtually any dot can be joined to any other dot to form a fine overall grid; no amount of heavy makeup will help at this point. Desmond Morris concludes his very brief thoughts on wrinkles and the female thus: 'A more perfect medical solution remains to be found.'

27 May 2013

Dot to Dot

Wrinkle: A slight crease or depression in the skin such as is produced by age. (As ever, a definition from my Oxford English Dictionary.) 

'The female forehead that becomes lined... is a telltale sign that its owner is no longer young. It also suggests an over-anxious personality. (!) "Old and nervous" is not what an image-conscious female wishes to transmit, and so she has to take some kind of action to repair the damage, or at least to conceal it.  Heavy make-up can help, but it can only go so far.' A quote from Desmond Morris's book 'The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body', which does what it says on the tin, from a zoological point of view (although I wonder to which other species he might recommend the use of heavy make-up). For those of you not yet fortunate enough to have developed these 'telltale' signs of experience and maturity, I have provided (above) a join-the-dot version of the progress of the wrinkle. Just print out and put pencil to paper to create your own exciting vision of the future.

22 May 2013

Identity Crisis (mild)

My son came home over the Easter break and brought along a female friend. They took bargain flights and carried little in the way of luggage. We went out somewhere together one evening; my son's friend was, as ever, carefully groomed. As we walked, she turned to me and confessed that she had forgotten to pack her makeup bag, and had raided my cosmetics in order to 'do' her face. My son turned and studied her for a moment. 'Of course!' he said, 'I thought you looked like my mother.' 

16 May 2013

Summer Legs

As summer approaches in the northern hemisphere- well, I can stop right there. No need to angst about the state of my legs, because summer has not happened here in the UK for the past several years. The odd warm day, perhaps. A little sunshine to fool me into looking out my sunglasses. But do I wash & mothball my sweaters until October? No I do not. Can I idle for weeks wearing nothing but shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops? Hah!
 Despite the dismally unseasonable weather, the odd little article on 'preparing for the sun' has started to creep into the Sunday papers. Which reminds me that I am a true Anglo Saxon; my legs are sausages,100% pork both in content and proportion, and no amount of 'preparation' will bring on the sun. 

I'm afraid that the above is a classic case of a picture that does not really work. I drew it this way and that way, I tried a variety of different sausages (including inauthentic continental varieties), and still could not get it to come right. It has appeared only because nothing else is to hand.

10 May 2013

Am I Watching My Weight or is My Weight Watching Me?

Fat fat fat- it's everywhere at the moment. It's a moral issue, or a feminist issue, or a cultural issue. Or it's about aesthetics or health or fashion or the consumer society, or self-esteem or self-loathing or self-pity or self-control. Take your pick. Actually, my pick today is a New York Times article by Dimitia Smith, 'Demonizing Fat in the War on Weight' (May 1, 2004), which I came across on Google. I rate the interesting little details in this article over weighty argument. Thin wasn't always the chic size to be. Apparently Louis XIV padded his body to look more imposing, living as he did in an age when plumpness was associated with affluence, aristocracy, and good health. Conversely, 'The People Against the Fat' was a rallying cry of the French Revolution, which led to the the guillotine becoming a rather drastic method of weight loss. 
Another nice morsel: "The first popular modern dieting book, 'Letter on Corpulence Addressed to the Public', written by William Banting, an undertaker, appeared in 1863. Banting wrote that when he was fat he was regarded as a useless parasite. He went on a diet and lost 35 pounds. 'I can honestly assert that I feel restored in health, bodily and mentally', he wrote." Plus ca change. He could have been writing today.

2 May 2013

Hair 1

Afros. Not something about which I have any personal knowledge, although I suspect they can be pretty high-maintenance. 

1 May 2013

A Bag is a Machine for Living In

Oh, wait, did I get that wrong? Of course, it should have read, 'A house is a machine for living in', a quote from the Swiss architect Le Corbusier ('Vers Une Architecture', 1923). But he probably didn't live out of his handbag, the way some of us do. My current bag is big enough to house everything but the toaster, and it does. Le Corbusier apparently also wrote, 'The home handbag should be the treasure chest of living' (not sure where that one comes from), which also suits- look, look, here's the earring I lost last year! But where oh where are my car keys?

29 April 2013

The First Blisters of Summer

I have apparently turned soft and tender over the winter months. Last Friday, the weather was so nice that I ditched socks & shoes for the first time this year, and donned a pair of sandals to walk downtown. Big mistake. Blisters began to bud before I'd made it to the end of the road and were in full, painful bloom by the time I hobbled home again. Perhaps feet hardened by years of four inch heels deal better with the winter-to-summer transition.

24 April 2013

Darwin's Shoulder Bag

Yesterday I witnessed a young man, walking a few paces in front of me, allow his shoulder bag to slip from his shoulder and crash to the pavement. This vision prompted a few idle thoughts. First, that young men (and older) now carry bags; just a few years ago, a bag was considered too effeminate an accessory for the male of the species. Only briefcases or other work-related reticules were acceptable.  Men now have stuff to carry around, too, and are not afraid to admit it, in the form of a sometimes rather trendy bag.  
Secondly, that over the decades (or perhaps centuries) women have evolved techniques of hanging onto their bags, be they shoulder bags, handbags, satchels, clutches or totes, despite their inferior upper body strength, and despite these methods sometimes involving actual body malfunction (along the lines of tennis elbow or repetitive strain disorder). 
Thirdly, evolution seems again to have missed a trick. I'm sure that some sort of bag-friendly anatomical element would have given added value to homo sapiens.

22 April 2013

Trophy Handbag

Perhaps the recent funeral of Margaret Thatcher had something to do with the above. The catalogue from which I borrowed these handbags couldn't rise to much in the way of fancy names- no 'Kelly' or 'Birkin' here. Instead, these come under such headings as 'Useful' or 'Capacious', with the odd 'Dainty' and 'Smart' thrown in. Those were the days.

17 April 2013

English Teeth

English teeth (from my Oxford English Dictionary): a set of hard bony enamel-coated structures in the jaws of vertebrates of English nationality, notable only for their very stained and irregular condition.

I have classic English teeth, ruined early by inadequate brushing, regular sweet-eating and pre-fluoride tap water, and dating from an era when orthodontics were considered an unnecessary extravagance. I fear I am beyond braces for the middle-aged, and comfort myself with the notion that the current popularity of vampires and zombies render my jaws positively trendy.

Braces for the Middle-Aged

Braces: not for the faint-hearted. That is to say, not for me.

9 April 2013

The First Fifty Wrinkles.

Idling through a cosmetics department the other day, I passed a group of salesgirls all sporting t-shirts with a logo that read something like, 'Wouldn't you like less wrinkles?'. I paused just long enough to snarl, 'Fewer! Wouldn't you like fewer wrinkles?' at one unfortunate before stamping on a free sample of her product and moving on. 
What have we got against wrinkles? A well-wrinkled face is as individual as a fingerprint.

 My first fifty wrinkles:

1-3. Love, problems of.
4. Finals at university.
5-8. Post-university return to living with parents.
9. Income, problems with and consequent job interviews.
10. Love, more problems of.
11. Search for a room of one's own.
12-16. Work, problems of.
17. Death of first cat.
18. Broken leg suffered in fall from chair, and subsequent recovery.
19. First wedding.
20-21. Birth of offspring one and two.
22. Love, more problems of, again.
23. Income, more problems with (entry into property market).
24. Ongoing inability to bake successful cakes.
25-35. Children-related concerns (health, toileting, schooling, social/academic/sporting/musical abilities thereof, adolescence, drugs and sex, driving lessons, exams and entry into higher education, etc etc).
36. Sudden death of mother.
37. Divorce.
38-42. Income, ongoing problems (consequence of 37.).
43. Mild mugging while on holiday, consequent loss and replacement of credit cards, passport, etc.
44. Cancer scare.
45. Aged father, problems with.
46. Unexpected falling-out with best friend.
47. Second cat dies.
48. Aged father, arranging for care of.
49. Minor kitchen fire.
50. Lodgers.

8 April 2013

Ice Age Women

I think I mentioned that I was planning to see an exhibition currently on show at the British Museum, 'Ice Age art: arrival of the modern mind'. I went round the (very wonderful) show this morning, making drawings in my sketchbook (some above), and uttering little groans at the fact that my drawings were so much less skilled than the items on display, mostly carved or engraved from/on bone or stone, using rather more primitive tools than my shop-bought pencil and smooth cartridge pad. There were in particular many delightful little figurines of women, most of them generously proportioned by today's standards, despite dating from a period when I would have expected over-eating to be a rare if not impossible achievement. Several were pregnant, and very large buttocks, hips, thighs and breasts were the norm. Perhaps something to dangle in front of the editors at Vogue et al.

2 April 2013

Spring Lip Gloss Shades for Plumper, Fuller Looking Lips.

I can't bring myself to feel charitable towards lip gloss.  I loathe the slug-like appearance they bring to any mouth, the slippery feel of one jellied lip against the other, the fly-paper attraction for any passing hair or crumb. Sorry. Just another personal foible. Two days of sunshine, and I'm already out in the garden scattering slug pellets.

18 March 2013

Beauty Spot

'Beauty spot', according to my OED: a small natural or artificial mark such as a mole on the face, considered to enhance another feature. 

6 March 2013

I Needed a New Passport Photo

Late last year I came across a wonderful cartoon by BEK (Brian Eric Kaplan) in The New Yorker. So much better than my stuff. I thought I would post it here, and then decided against doing that- random copyright laws & the consequences thereof might bankrupt me. I'm going to describe it instead: a man and a woman are seated in armchairs on either side of a living room; each wears glasses and holds some sort of periodical. The man is saying to the woman, 'Of course you don't look anything like your reflection in the mirror.'
 And how right he is- we all, of course, look much, much better than what we see in the mirror. All's well on that score in this household. The mirror in front of which I spend the most time is a subtle thing, and lies to my advantage. It's lit with 40 watt bulbs that tactfully point elsewhere. 
No, it turns out the real test for me is the passport photo, which, as everyone knows, provides the real, factual. unvarnished truth about one's appearance. Today I was obliged to get a new set of ID photos. Before leaving home, I worked in front of that mirror. I primped and creamed, tweaked and powdered and coloured. And then I took myself over to the nearest photo booth, sat myself down, arranged myself in orderly fashion, and pressed the 'Take Photo' button. A ghastly portrait appeared on the screen before, a  whey-faced witch, lined and irritable. I was appalled. I tried again, and then again. I put on more lipstick; I raised my eyebrows and feigned superiority; I sucked in my cheeks; I allowed the ghost of a smile (forbidden by the passport office) to play upon my lips. Each version was worse, and then worse. I came away with something (after all, I need a passport), but I emerged weeping into the street. This is what I came away with, so you'll know me if you pass me in that street:
(That man in BEK's cartoon is telling me, 'Of course you don't look anything like your passport photo'.)

4 March 2013

Cut To Fit

The journalist Mimi Spencer wrote on 'the politics of thin' in the Times Magazine  a few weeks back ('The Body Politic', The Times Magazine, 26.01.13). Many words, and the gist of them was that she had recently made an effort to lose some weight and was feeling very smug about her newly slim figure: 'I have written for years on the subject of body shape: how true beauty comes from within, how we oughtn't to be in thrall to the airbrushed dollies in the perfume ads, how fashion is fallacy.. and I remain appalled by the exceptionally thin body ideal that has come to personify our age. And still? And still, I want to be slim.' Well, she's with the majority of us there (although she also looks a dish in her 'before' photos). She quotes Karl Lagerfeld, that fashion totalitarian, as saying, 'No one wants to see round women'. On the other hand, there's an exhibition of Ice Age Art currently showing at the British Museum here in London that seems to be larded (sorry) with little carvings of dumpling-like female figures, all apparently size 16 and above by today's standards. These might have been intended as a warning to the local women, of course, along the lines of sticking repellent images of fatties on the fridge door, but I'm guessing, in a totally uninformed way, that this was the shape to which women aspired in those good old days, 10 - 40 thousand years ago. So, no worries- another few thousand years, and we'll all be worrying about how to put on weight..