I’d like to think that my vanity – all in its various bits – is less to do with conceit or what the OED calls “excessive pride” and more to do with a suitable degree of amour propre.
Of course I would. I do begin many thoughts and sentences with the word “I” but I comfort myself that I am at least putting myself on the line, using myself as an example, rather than making value judgments about everybody else . And I can’t stand simpering self deprecation – “Oh, this old thing” (the most expensive thing in the wardrobe), “just something I knocked up” (four hours over a hot stove, now you know how rich we are as well as how labour intensive the efforts).
My vanity is currently dented by a frankly unsatisfactory haircut.
Please promise that if anyone picks up scissors in a hairdressers and starts talking about how talented he or she is given that they have OCD – you will leave the premises smartly. I didn’t – and here we are. It has been tidied up but significant improvement will take time.
Last week I had an appointment at Moorfields Eye Hospital on Valentine’s Day. I was greeted by the receptionist for the clinic with an awed “But you used to be on the telly !”.
I said it was a long time ago. (And me without a shred of eye makeup.) She and her colleague thought it was wonderful. And then I had hardly sat down before the couple opposite commenced urgent consultation until the wife got up and came over. “Are you “ she asked most politely” Anna Raeburn ?” I stood up to answer her, she thought I hadn’t heard and repeated the question, while I was simultaneously summoned by a Nigerian nurse called Toby. “Guilty as charged” I said smiling and excused myself. When we’d done those tests, I went back via where they were sitting to say thank you.
In the last clinic before the injection, young eye surgeons check that the preceding injection worked, was comfortable, there were no problems and I drew to the attention of the doctor I was with to the eye they don’t inject having an itch at 4.00 am. I promised I never touched it but that when I got up a couple of hours later, it was caked. She asked me how I cleaned it – I said warm water and clean cotton wool, carefully. She had a look at it
and excused herself to consult with a colleague. When she came back within the promised few minutes, she said they would not be doing the injection, antibiotic drops were prescribed, 4 times a day both eyes for 14 days and then another appointment. Apparently eye infections travel easily from one eye to the other.
The pharmacy was downstairs – Moorfields has lots of volunteers to direct you -and there were maybe a dozen people waiting. Having handed over my prescription and been given a ticket, I watched the man probably younger than me but in that age group, at the end of the row in front of me. He was reading. After several minutes, I put my lips close to his ear. “The moral superiority of reading in an eye hospital is not lost on me” I said. He replied at once without missing a beat ” I can’t read. Just tell me the book’s right way up.”
And we commenced quiet comfortable joshing for the next several minutes. He said he was an undertaker and when summoned to collect his prescription, he remarked that there were people dying to meet him … a line I suggested he had used before. Grinning, he said in farewell ”Same time next week ?” “Sure” I said. “Bring a book.” All very good natured, and very good for Valentine’s Day.
Books sent to radio stations used to be piled up and if you’d a fancy for something and its time was past, you put your name in the front so you could claim it. Which is how I came by a Women’s Institute calendar of feasts
and learned that Valentine’s used to be more generally to do with “Knock and Run” secret gifts – “anyone might benefit, not just lovers.” I did.