onward

I have a friend who often begins or signs off her emails thus – onward –

and it reminds me of one of the editors I used to work for who would say “Onward and upward “ , usually after a scrappy staff meeting, leaving me muttering quietly that I would settle for onward.  Certainly at the moment.

Friends are talking about holidays, others about a meal out – so it is grim to hear that the no show rate for booked tables in London is so high, with the industry staggering.  Spring makes you want something new, because new is all around you.

 I’m sure it is a very old impulse, layers of interpretation changing with the times.  

Come spring – a whole conversation right there – and I would be ripe for reinvention.  I’d go off, buy something and was very rarely pleased with it.  It took years to realise that it was me I wanted renewed, not new clothes. 

Don’t think I don’t like something new, I do, but whatever I bought only fixed that feeling of dissatisfaction for an increasingly short time.   I think my wariness of spring crystallised into learning something about myself.   You can change the packaging but not the item.

There are certain domestic tasks that make most of us feel better – cleaning the silver, all two teaspoons of it: changing the bed: a line of washing hung out in the breeze.  Some of us like to cook.  All of these are characterised by a beginning, a middle and an end – and the end is different from the beginning.  The silver shines, the bed beams, the washing smells fresh, the cooking appetising.

But you can only do that symbolically with yourself.  You can have a haircut or buy something new to wear and it may improve you but it won’t change you.  I went out to buy in spring  and came home knowing the magic hadn’t worked.   New things in the carrier bags,

AR same old same old.

In a funny kind of way this was simplified by lack of money.  I couldn’t afford to buy something I wasn’t going to wear (shades of my mother) so I pulled back.  I can’t remember the transition or whether I turned housewife holy for a year or two and cleaned the house from top to bottom instead of going out for a spring shop.   I do remember changing my eye makeup because it was breakthrough.

I don’t wear much makeup.  Over the years I have found things that suit me and discarded things that don’t.  I remember the first “professional” makeup I was given for the first press photograph – green eyeshadow

and orange lipstick – and thinking “Well that’s never going to happen again.”  If Elizabeth Taylor could learn about her makeup, I could too. 

Colour seduces me.  I couldn’t count the number of wrong buys in the right colour.  Blinded by the colour, I hardly ever got that wrong – but I couldn’t see shape or cut.   I learned.  One year, knowing my colouring had changed with age, I bought a pencil for the eyes named in a way that still makes me laugh and matched it with an eyeshadow from somewhere completely different so that even when my eye troubles precluded the modest couple of coats of mascara, I still looked halfway human.  Spring breakthrough.  Yippee !

A couple of years later my spring buy was a pair of modest earrings, relating from the period when costume jewellery was judged successful by its evocation of the real thing.  Shopping earrings.  Great. 

This year I bought the most beautifully envisaged and put together Guerlain lipstick, packaging heaven, lovely colour, wonderful idea.  But it doesn’t last five minutes.  It is always the luck of draw with any form of lipstick. It reminds me of all those wonderful moments when I looked at women putting on lipstick, my mother, movie stars, some elegant woman somewhere – and thought one day, one day … when I grow up … and it came in the last few years when I collected several lipsticks (including a reduced price Guerlain, two Nars and a breakout Chanel) which I have worn nearly to nothing, mask notwithstanding.    My mother would be proud of me.  I don’t think she went to the bin without lipstick and earrings. 

   

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