I’m offline for a couple of weeks after this post – I’m working on something magnificent and it requires my full concentration. I’m sure that you can all survive a fortnight without my ridiculous posts on nipples, orifices and social distancing problems, but as a parting shot to see you through, here I am on video, cutting my own hair with (completely inappropriate) paper scissors.
Some will have seen this on IGTV but I am well aware that many of you don’t use Instagram or Facebook (sensible probably – they are the biggest time-suckers!) and so I’ve uploaded the whole thing to Youtube and embedded it below.
See you all later, alligator: if you need me urgently then ring my Mum! But don’t knock for me, I’m not allowed out. Hohoho…
Remember the absolute mortification when a friend called for you but your Mum wouldn’t let you out because tea was nearly ready? And you’d hear your Mum say
“No, Sean/Lee/Nat/Jamie, she can’t come out now, her tea’s nearly on the table.”
“Oh OK,” they’d answer, “can she come out after?”
“Maybe,” your Mum would say, “depends.”
“What time’ll she be finished?”
“Not sure yet, Sean/Lee/Nat/Jamie, maybe you go and play and if she’s finished she’ll come and find you.”
“How will she know where I am though?” Sean/Lee/Nat/Jamie would say.
From your position at the top of the stairs you’d just about be able to see their bike lying on its side in the front garden, the wheels still spinning. And you’d be thinking bloody hell Sean/Lee/Nat/Jamie, you’re pushing your luck with all of these questions! Back away from the door and save yourself!
To be fair, my Mum was a very patient Mum. Maybe because she was a teacher. She could deal with a whole barrage of pointless questions and she always managed to keep her voice steady and kind. I’d lose the plot if people kept knocking on my door now. Not least because the dog goes crackers anytime anyone approaches and then someone else has to shout at the dog to stop him from barking and someone else always has to say “he’s only guarding!”: it’s a right old performance. So if I had been a mother in the eighties, with no Great Uncle iPad and only three telly channels, then I’m sure I’d have been a very short-tempered and highly-stressed sort of mother. I’d have been leaning on that doorframe with a Benson & Hedges dangling from my lower lip. Smudged eyeliner, hair wrapped in a handkerchief, glass of 3pm sherry in my hand.
“I said she’d be out after tea, didn’t I? NOW PISS OFF YOU LITTLE GITS!”
On that note, here I am massacring my own hair. It was actually looking rather nice before I chopped it – let this be a lesson to you!
Here’s a post that will please your purse (Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers!): three brilliant skincare products that form a very good, albeit very basic skincare routine, and the whole thing comes in at less than twenty pounds.
I did film this for IGTV (link here if you want to watch) but here’s the gist of the routine: an effective-yet-gentle cleansing balm, a hydrating serum and a soothing moisturiser that won’t leave a greasy residue. If you’re taking things back to basics then you don’t need much more than this.
(Although a sunscreen is absolutely essential if you’re going to be outside. Can’t stress that enough. I did write about my three favourites recently – here – but I’m trying to test more budget-friendly options as and when I get a chance to.)
If you’re new to skincare routines and haven’t a clue where to begin, what with all of the acids and the peptides and the antioxidants and the emollients and the pre-cleanses and post-peels and the prescription-strengths and the over-the-counter-strengths then I always try to pare things back to this: cleanse properly, moisturise properly and you’re off to a good start.
To be fair, my actual routine isn’t that much more complicated:
AM: Cleanse, Antioxidant Serum, Moisturise/Sunscreen
PM: Cleanse, Retinol Serum, Moisturise or Cleanse, Hydrating Serum, Moisturise
(You can read about my current skincare routine here)
You can see that I’ve just swapped the hydrating serum about a bit, because that’s my “treat” step of my routine and if I want to protect (under the sunscreen) then I use an antioxidant and if I want to prevent (as in lines and wrinkles and loss of tone) then I use my retinol. If I was worried about breakouts then my treatment serum would be a BHA (though the retinol works amazingly well for this too, I find) and if I was feeling dull and lacklustre and generally a bit meh in the skin department then I’d probably plump for a glycolic acid serum or toner.
I realise I’ve just massively complicated what was supposed to be a very basic post, but maybe it will suddenly all make sense! Cleanse properly – to remove dirt and sunscreen and so on – then use a serum to treat whatever concern you have and finish off by sealing it all in with a moisturiser.
Which is the premise of this very cheap and simple routine. So we have the Ordinary Squalane Cleanser which I’ve reviewed before here and you can get online for £5.50 here*. It’s just beautiful. Silky and soft but with enough gutsy hold to survive a few minutes of facial massage. Rinses off absolutely clean with no residue yet is supremely hydrating and excellent for absolutely all skin types.
Next, the Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid (find it online here* for £5.99); hyaluronic helps the skin to hold onto moisture and really gets it looking plump and fresh. There are loads of good, cheap options out there but I like the Inkey List one a lot and it’s so budget-friendly.
Finally, short and sweet, the Calming Moisturiser from Simple, which is £7.99 here*. I love the packaging! It looks like a travel-sized moisturiser but is, in fact, the same volume – 50ml – as most high-end moisturisers on the market. Those huge pots from Clinique? Same amount of stuff inside. I find this bottle very travel-friendly (when travelling was still a thing) and I like that I don’t have to stick my nails into a pot.
And there you go: three steps, basic, quality skincare, all for less than twenty quid. I do very much enjoy finding brilliant budget buys, so please do keep your own recommendations coming. Especially for good, non-chalky sunscreens at affordable prices…
After twelve weeks of complete isolation I decided to go to the post office to do some urgent returns. (I actually had to send back some clothes I had ordered and never unboxed. Because who needs clothes in a lockdown? Not I, apparently. Apart from a few special occasions, I’ve almost worn the same two outfits on rotation; the first a dress that looks like a sack, the second a pair of shorts that have taken on the actual shape of my arse, so that when I remove them they stand up proud upon the rug, and an old t-shirt that has holes in the armpits. For chillier moments, both outfits have been worn beneath the world’s ugliest cardigan.)
So I went to the post office, which is buried deep within a village shop so tiny, and so crammed full with shelves and carousels and whatnot, that it’s almost impossible to walk through it without touching anything. Which doesn’t bode well for social distancing compliance. And I have to admit I was concerned about my visit, having heard tales of people completely ignoring all distancing guidelines now that we’re allowed to fire up the BBQ and – er – play golf; what would I be confronted with? In my mind, the world had gone rogue whilst I was locked inside – it would be a Mad Max scenario, with modified sand buggies revving around the country lanes, rams’ horns stuck to the bumpers and post-apocalyptic flesh-eating zombies hanging out of the open windows.
It was fine though. At the start, at least. There was a “queueing system” outside of the shop door, so I casually merged myself into it, trying desperately to look like someone who had been outside of their house before. For some reason my legs didn’t quite work properly – they felt like cotton reels threaded onto pieces of elastic, which I think was nerves, but nevertheless made me look like a newly-born Pinocchio.
Unfortunately, abiding by the two metres rule meant that I had to position myself almost in the middle of the road, for there was no place to stand to the left or right of the queue that was prominent or obvious enough to signal my presence to queue newcomers. Queuecomers. And that’s important, isn’t it? In a country where we are borderline obsessed with queue etiquette, it’s essential that everybody – everybody – knows that you are, in fact, in said queue. This is usually conveyed with a nod and a smile and a small, pointless, forwards or backwards movement, just a very slight one, to draw attention to your presence.
In this case, there was nobody in line after me – yet! – but still, I had to stand my ground. There’s an art to queuing, after all, and one of the finest skills is ensuring that everyone who joins the queue after you knows exactly where you rank. But here was my first testing quandary/moral dilemma: to stand in the road, or risk weakening my queue presence by tucking myself into the nook-in-the-wall where the drainpipe runs down? To lose queue-face, or to be flattened by a DPD van?
The choice is yours!
In the end I opted for a bit of a compromise, darting in and out of the road like a demented badger. It was confusing for the drivers. I had more than one beep. A few motorists tried to wave me across, which meant I had to do the universal sign language for “NO! I’M NOT CROSSING!”
One mimed exchange was so painful that I just gave in and crossed the road, only to almost be hit by a fast-moving bike when I did an about to turn and crossed back again, such was my haste not to lose my earned place in the queue.
I lived to tell the tale, thankfully: it was inside the shop that everything went to pieces. I just didn’t have any experience in this social distancing thing – quite literally no experience at all. I hadn’t built up any etiquette, I hadn’t seen social distancing techniques in action: it was all entirely foreign to me. A new language. And so I entered the shop almost apologetically, creeping in an exaggerated, comedy burglar knee-lift knee-lift toe-point hop! kind of way. Bear in mind I was wearing a silk kerchief as a face mask and eyeshadow on only one eye and that I hadn’t properly arranged my nipples beneath my top so that one was about four inches higher than the other: I was quite the picture.
(Does anyone else now have to arrange their nipples to ensure levelness? It’s a right faff! If I just juggle them into position, you can guarantee that one nip will be far higher than the other, looking like a peanut has been stowed away for safe keeping. Gone are the days when they both just fell into place, like delicately-balanced teardrops.)
So in I went, my tote containing the parcels slung over my back like a swag bag, trying to greet the shopkeeper and post office man with just the joy in my eyes. Difficult to do. And then I got to the counter and it was as though a giant stopper had been removed from my brain, because the talking started. It started and I just couldn’t stop.
“I have some parcel returns! How are you? This is weird isn’t it? What happens to the protective screen once you don’t need it anymore, it would make great secondary glazing hahaha! So how many people a day come in do you think, I just need proof of postage for that one, thankfully they pay for the returns otherwise I’d be bankrupt because I pretty much do all my shopping online now, I expect most people do, which is good in some ways but not great in others. Alexa Chung was in here the other day wasn’t she? Did you serve her or do you know who she is, what is she doing here, everyone says you’re the man to ask because you know all the gossip!”
Honestly. The phrase verbal diarrhoea doesn’t even cover it. It was dysentery. Thank God for the protective screens, that’s all I can say. Even with the perspex barrier in place the shop volunteers (yes, they volunteer to serve morons like me, the mind boggles) were ducking beneath the counter, such was the ferocity of my stream of absolute crap.
“Please pop the parcel on the scales,” said the post office volunteer, which put an end to my impromptu monologue. There was a moment of awkward silence as he printed out the labels and busied himself with sticking them to the jiffy bag but then, scandal, a second customer entered the shop! Ignoring the queueing system and the one-in-one-out rule! They just marched straight up to the counter beside me and plonked down a loaf of bread.
How could I have been prepared for such a flouting of the guidelines? I’d prepared myself so well. Tied a silken scarf around my face like a luxury goods version of Butch Cassidy, queued outside on the road, to my absolute peril, and now – just as casual as you like – I was faced with a potential super-spreader. What’s the protocol for that then?
My parcel-returning finished, I was presented with the challenge of exiting the shop without going closer to the perpetrator than the prescribed two metres. Seeing as though the entire shop is around four metres square, I saw that it was impossible. It was like one of those Mensa puzzles they give to particularly bright children at primary school (just me? Oh lol! Sorry!) where you have to move the pieces about to get the square to the exit. Or something.
Anyway, the woman with the bread wasn’t bothered about distancing herself whatsoever and had started a conversation about deer hounds, so I was forced to plan my escape around her. But then the worst thing of all happened: she decided to use the post office counter! WHERE I WAS ALREADY STANDING!
“Excuse me,” she smiled. “If you’ve finished, I’ll just slide on over.”
Well this was a conundrum. The sliding over part sounded vaguely terrifying, but the bigger problem was where to put my body. I couldn’t very well disappear myself and there was no clear path past the super-sliding spreader – even without social distancing the passing of the two ships would have been tight.
She began her slide. What to do? Crash backwards through the bank of freshly baked goods? Send the Bakewells scattering, the sausage rolls tumbling from their pastry pyramid? Or should I Klinsmann-dive sideways over the tower of eggs and the boxes of potatoes? Neither option was favourable – it was the sort of evasive action you’d take if you were about to be steamrollered by an out of control lorry. Overkill, it could be labelled.
I settled, instead, for panic. I manically sidestepped one way and then the other, waving my hands in the air, looking for all the world like a crab on amphetamines. A bandit crab, complete with face mask, absolutely off its shellfishy tits, dancing to a song only it could hear.
The slider-spreader pressed herself closer to the counter, possibly out of sheer terror and I managed to side-crab my way past the baked goods and out towards the door. Another customer was about to enter, again flagrant disregard for the rules, but backed out with a look of surprise and horror as they saw the human bandit-crab side-lunging towards the exit. One eyeshadow’d, wonky-nipped, neckerchief slipping to reveal a mean, anxious mouth: small children wept, a border terrier whimpered, a man parking his bicycle stealthily hooked his leg back over the saddle and pedalled away to safety.
Haven’t been in to the shops again, obviously. You? How’s your lockdown going?
I’ve been dithering over whether or not to post a life update this month; it seems almost flippant to talk about mundane, everyday events when such momentous things are happening in the wider world.
I don’t know whether anyone really needs to hear about how my three year-old is now “dry at night” but still quite enjoys doing a leisurely poo on the lawn. Or how my nearly-five-year-old told me the story of Peter Pan and said that there was a crocodile who swallowed Captain Hook’s “cock”.
On one hand, I know that the goings-on in my little sphere are completely irrelevant and insignificant, but on the other hand those tiny events are my entire world. Don’t get me wrong; I’m totally and utterly aware of what’s happening outside – I’m absorbed in it, completely, to the point where I often can’t sleep. The brutal murder of George Floyd, the rallies and protests, the anger and fear and passion, the chaos of a global pandemic, the outrage and the lies and the constant streams of stats that make no sense, it all flies around my head constantly, as I’m sure it does for most of you reading.
So yes. Huge world events and teeny home ones. But I have written this update every month for five years now and have never missed the correct day. Granted, I always leave it until the last minute and so never have enough time to write everything I want to say, but I’m honestly happy if I manage to jot down a few pertinent observations. My daughter building a slug home, for example, and crying when the slug ran away. (Ran! Haha. Sprinted. Honestly, the poor slug must have thought he’d entered some kind of nightmarish torture garden with both kids looming over him and dangling bits of cabbage and trying to get him to climb into the toadstool house.)
Or the snail she named “Fragile”. Or the little note she wrote me after the slug had left home saying
“Sad slug gon. Angelica.”
Oh, sidenote: I don’t want to be one of those madly annoying mums who show off about their kids, but I am clueless as to what my daughter should be able to do at almost-five. I was just taken aback that she suddenly started writing stuff, with no help, considering the fact that we have done a grand total of TWO HOURS homeschooling in the whole lockdown period. Do small kids just learn…telepathically? Because I have willed her to learn something, anything, so maybe that worked…
Or does it count that you spell things out to them when you read? Because I’ve done that a bit, but honestly not much. I’m so confused as to how she’s suddenly had this leap in knowledge when the most she’s allowed me to “teach” her is that a) not all men with beards are called Mr Twit b) pavements in America are called “sidewalks” and c) you can’t go around corners on a wordsearch.
Things I’ve taught my three year-old, who is a completely different kettle of fish to his sister and quite literally will not listen to instructions: a) don’t drink water from the end of a hose pipe b) don’t drink water from the dog’s bowl and c) don’t drink water from the shower drain. Oh wait! d) don’t drink water from the bit of drainpipe that’s been left next to the back door.
You’d think he’d been raised by alleycats! He loves toiletting al fresco, eats with his face in the bowl and loves nothing more than a curl up and a head stroke.
On that note, I’ve done enough historical data entry for this month – I have the hormonal headache to end all hormonal headaches and so must to bed. As someone in the tudor times would have said. Possibly before doing a dump in a porcelain bowl, throwing it out of the window and then clambering onto a mite-infested mattress. Until next time…