From the time I could register it, I knew 21 Briarvale Avenue as home. I still recall something about almost everybody who lived in the street and once spent a happy night visualizing each house and its occupants, to get me to relax enough to sleep.
Our next door neighbors were Mrs. Guymer on one side and the Milners on the other and when the Milners moved out, the Stowells moved in.
Christine Stowell had pretty hands and read Woman’s Own. Rob Stowell worked for ICI which meant in those far off days, that he was a young man on the rise.
I remember Christine giving my mother a tube of a cream ICI was trying out before it was marketed. It was called Savlon. And then there was the plastic washing up bowl.
The one we had was elderly enamel but Christine and my mother discussed plastic as a coming thing and my mother’s next sink tidy was made of it. To people tired of scraping sounds and rust stains, longing for a bit of inexpensive colour, plastic washing up bowls, pedal bins and storage receptacles were a wonderful breakthrough, designed to last forever. I thank heaven for plastic every time I close the aged Addis boxes in which I keep biscuits, or snap the locks on the tops of the more recent soup cartons to go in the deep freeze.
But I mourn the passing of bone and natural resins, bog oak and minor gemstones, all of which are now superseded by lumps of plastic in jewellery. There is of course some remarkably beautiful costume jewellery (Lanvin comes to mind) as expensive as anything real, but then you are talking about label, not content. The purchase price of decorative plastic is based on – if you can get away with it, do. This year’s record is held by a grey plastic hairclip in Alexandre of Paris for an asking price of £96.00 – not a error. I checked. Truly a fool and his money …
The science of plastics has affected packaging without reducing it, indeed probably increasing the amount of it and certainly its duration, so that older alloys have been phased out, up to and including cellophane that no longer burns: it shrivels.
While I wonder what role plastic plays in the development of long-lasting cosmetics and toiletries, offered to us for our convenience if not our health. No, I am not going into a rant about plastic surgery though I do think approaching your one and only body as if it were a kitchen extension and hoping you can do it for less is a questionable philosophy but in the pressure to be “perfect” (whatever that may mean), we have forgotten that skin (and hair and nails) are made of cells and they need to breathe.
I was horrified when a beautician told me she had noticed “sort of black lines” on the lips of a regular client who was using 24 hour lip colour. There is mascara designed to stay on through thick, thin, rut and chlorine (my eyes hate it), “permanent makeup” which is a form of cosmetic tattoo and now the “increased security” (if you are a “strong woman” – which presumably allows you to sweat in the first place) of 36 to 48 hour deodorants. Well, I am a strong woman and I wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole.
Do consumers ever stop to think that “less bother” might mean “less health” ?
Abandoning cleansing and washing, refusing to accept that wearing off and reapplication is to abuse your body’s biggest organ, the skin, about which a dedicated research dermatologist remarked, we know remarkably little.
When you look up plastic in the dictionary, it has all sorts of more positive meanings than the war many of us have declared on the ubiquitous shopping bag.
Plastic surgery can be a heart lifting experience. Plastic shapes, plastic movement – these are compliments. In physics and biology, plastic qualities are positives.
Taken out of context, plastic becomes a comment on the fake, the artificial, KatiePricedom.
The problem is never the substance. It’s how it’s used and how it’s seen.
In a healthy way it is part and parcel, one of a variety of options. It only becomes a problem when it is seen as an end in itself, to the detriment of variety.
Which probably explains why the plastic is in the garden catching cherished rain and my washing up bowl is chipped enamel.