Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Garnier UltraLift Firming Day Cream Scandal


I wake up with the strange sensation of not being able to fully open my eyes. In the dim morning light I look in the mirror, to discover that my wildest fears have come true. My new annual Christmas affliction is upon me: I have turned into a Black Puffle.

If you are not fully acquainted with Puffledom, let me refer you to my post of Monday, 26 December, 2011.


Can’t seem to get my eyes open this morning. Stagger to bathroom. Oh God! My eyes look like two puffball mushrooms with black dots in the middle. Splash with cold water. Pat dry. Argh. Still puffballs. Must lie down with legs in air. Oh no, that’s for swollen legs. Must stand up with eyes in the air. Yes, keep standing. Don’t bend over.

Argh. It’s the hunt meet at 11. Need to show my face, puffballs and all.  

Lily bursts into my room. She’s wearing her jodhpurs and is jiggling up and down with excitement.

‘Mummy! They’re all going hunting. It’s really unfair!’ She stops mid-jiggle and stares at me.

‘Mummy, you look like a Black Puffle from Club Penguin.’

‘Oh God. What’s a Black Puffle?’

‘It’s got massive white eyes with titchy little black dots in the middle. And it’s technically a black fluff ball but it comes in different colours, like red and blue and purple and pink. I don’t think they come in green, unfortunately, or yellow.’ 

I feel like going back to bed.

You see? Other people get Norovirus or winter flu and escape the Christmas festivities (and therefore photos) altogether. I look like a Black Puffle and am captured thus for posterity.

It all began five or six days ago, when I bought a little red pot of Garnier UltraLift Anti-Wrinkle Firming Day Cream. Despite the overpowering perfume, I dabbed a touch on the Grand Canyon eyelids and they turned instantly firm, smooth and chasm-free. More dabs on my cheeks and they took on the rosy, plumped-up glow of summer instead of the desiccated, grey, weather-beaten lifelessness of winter. 'Eureka!' I thought. There is a simple antidote to winter that does not involve flying half-way round the world.

Then yesterday I felt an odd roughness to my forehead, cheeks and neck. I seemed to have come up in a rash. Now, in addition to the Black Puffle eyes, I look as if  I'm recovering from chicken pox.

I look up the cream online. Ah! Pro-retinol derived from nature. As if it's something benign and nurturing! Rather than known to cause irritation, burning and peeling skin.

'It should come with a massive warning!' I squeal over breakfast, scabbed forehead in hands. 'It should be taken off the market!'

'Thalidomide's being used again,' Giles remarks, looking round from his bacon-frying.

Honestly! Big Pharma have no scruples. They don't care about the small man. Or the Puffle-eyed woman. I shall write to M Garnier first thing in the morning! 

Monday, 24 December 2012

All set for Christmas

This post comes to you from the frozen meals aisle at Tesco, where the world, his wife and I are queuing in the vague hope of reaching the tills before Christmas Day. Yes, I know. As Cass just said during our 20 minute chat about Christmases past and present, during which time I progressed from Jus-Roll to Linda McCartney, 'Are you mad?'

The thing is, everyone's been saying for weeks, 'All set for Christmas, then?' and I've been saying, 'oh yes,' since there's nothing I need to do for Christmas given that a) apart from Lily, there's only me and Dan, and Dan doesn't give presents, and b) I was waiting to see whether the world ended before I wasted my money. Now, at the eleventh hour, I am thinking, 'Argh,' given that a) the world hasn't ended and b) what about Sal and Giles and Phoebe and my godson Arthur, who we're spending Christmas with? 

Which is why I'm on a chicken liver mission. I have trawled the butchers of south-west London, but everywhere has sold out of chicken livers. Except, as it turns out, Tesco frozen section. If I make the till before nightfall, I shall make gallons of chicken liver pâté with lashings of brandy, and, tomorrow, the fact that I haven't bought any presents will be forgotten in our heavenly chicken liver pâté haze. 

The Tesco triumph comes hot on the heels of my Chelsea Garden Centre triumph. Lily insisted on our having a Christmas tree and in a fit of non-curmudgeonliness I capitulated. 

'Have you got anything cheap and nasty?' was my opening gambit. It wasn't quite what I meant to say. I think I meant something like 'cheap and cheerful,' or 'any seconds'. 

Without uttering a word, the garden centre man led me to the back of the yard to a sodden pile of  prone trees in their webbing sheaths. 

'That too big for yer?' He pointed to a monster 10 footer.

'Yes,' I choked. That would surely set us back at least 80 quid.

'This?' He started ripping the webbing off a handsome 7 footer. 'Don't even know what's wrong with this one,' he added, inspecting it for missing branches and other irregularities, of which there were none.

'Well, it looks perfect,' I said, 'but how much is it?' According to their scale of charges it should be at least 60 quid. 

'£20,' he said.


So that is how we came to have the best-ever Christmas tree this year. 

'Even though it still looks rather bare,' says Lily, looking over my shoulder as I type. 

Crushed again.  

Happy Christmas everyone.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Combating the brain fog?


I am determined to combat the brain fog. First, I step up the pace of my morning walk, march up soggy hill and down dale, do a few energising Tai Chi-ish stretches, and return to make a healthy breakfast. Ah it feels good to be alive!

I make a cup of Pukka Three Ginger tea 'to uplift and warm', then chop up an apple and a banana, add a handful of blueberries and sprinkle over walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and linseeds. Yes! Soon my brain will be firing on all cylinders.

I take the Onken Biopot natural set yogurt with brain-enhancing live cultures from the fridge, take a big spoonful and dollop it... in my Pukka tea.



Lily calls. Ah. My baby is coming home soon.

'Mum! Have you got my blue suitcase? We're packing this morning.'

Oh God. I race to the cupboard and find I have indeed got her blue suitcase. How could that happen? Why would I have taken it away, empty?

'Sorry, darling, you're going to have to pack everything in bin liners. I'll bring the case and you can transfer it on Sunday morning.'

'Bin liners?' she repeats.

'I'm afraid so. There's nothing else we can do.'


Hang on. Didn't she take my big black suitcase back to school this term? Since she was boarding she needed the bigger one. I race back to the cupboard. Yes! No black suitcase.

I call her back. 'Lily! You didn't take your blue suitcase. You took my big black suitcase!'

'I knew that,' she says without missing a beat.

'What? You knew...'

She laughs. 'That's what we say when we've been really dumb and find out the answer. I'm looking at it now!'

Honestly! Still, you see, excellent attitude. In future, when people say, 'You're an hour late for lunch,' or 'You've just put yogurt in your tea,' I'll just say, 'I knew that.'

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Mild to moderate marble loss

It's official. Well, unofficially. I am losing my marbles. It all started (well, the recent bout) on Saturday, when I drove down to the country a) to get my hair cut and b) to see Lily's nativity play. The reason for a) is that I found a nice hairdresser who doesn't cut holes in my hair and then spit vitriol at me when I return to see if they can remedy the mess they've made.

So, aware that Dolly has been stuck in the car for 3 hours and will have to endure another hour while I'm at the hairdresser's, I turn down a side road when I draw near Candlebury to take her for a quick walk. I am really excited about having my hair cut. But it seems I have chosen a No Through Road that is long and narrow with nowhere to pull over or turn round. As time ticks by, I keep driving in the wrong direction until, at last, the verge widens and looks unmuddy enough for me to pull in without getting stuck. I pull in and get stuck. The more I turn the wheels and reverse, the bigger groove they spin into the mud.

Giving up, with a lot of swearing disbelief (I mean, its not as if I haven't recently lived in the country and have never seen a soggy verge or its consequences before), I walk to the end of the road and knock on the door of the first house. A nice-looking young man in combats opens the door.

'Ooh, you look strong,' I say.

Ben is soon accompanying me back to the car with a spade and some sacks. He digs and we push and pull and thrust sacks and dog towels under the wheels, but to no avail. He then fetches his car and some rope, but his isn't a 4 wheel drive either, and he can't find his tow hitch. Meanwhile, I'm on to the nice hairdresser who is sounding slightly testy but says she'll try and slot me in. After an hour or so, along comes Ben's nice neighbour, Ken, in his Land Rover, and has me out in a jiffy. I give Ben and Ken the bottle of Malbec I'd bought for Cass and race to the hairdresser, who agrees to give me a wet cut without the blow dry because they're chockablock all afternoon. There's a slight Edward Scissorhandsy mania about her technique. Afterwards I find holes.

Meanwhile, during the past two weeks, friends from France have been emailing a group of London friends to arrange a lunch. They ask for restaurant suggestions. I suggest the Riverfront at the BFI Southbank. Brilliant suggestion, they say, is everyone up for that on 12th December at 1pm? Oh yes. I am really looking forward to it. So, today, at 12.30pm, I decide to take Dolly for a squelchy frozen walk. Then I come home and turn on the oven. At 1.13pm I go over to the fridge and glance at my diary. Argh! The lunch. I call the Riverfront and say I'm on my way. I arrive at 1.55pm, just as they're starting their main course. Not bad going, I suppose, for someone with depleted marbles. But honestly. Soon I won't be allowed out alone.

Is anyone else similarly afflicted?

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Take a letter, Ms Gray

No word from my darling daughter since the weekend. I find myself perusing her old emails from her early days at The Manor, two years ago. In those days, she occasionally thought of me. Sometimes she even missed me.

Look at this one!


Aww. And this one:

ME WANT TO SEE YOU ‘GAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Lily xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Awwww. My little bubba. I mean, I know it seems like she's about six years old, but that's just an affectation. I think.

Ah. The phone. 

'Hi,' says a perky voice. 'How are you and Dolly?' 

It's Lily! Who never rings me. I've conjured her up! 'Hello, darling! That's amazing telepathy! I was just looking at your old emails from the days when you actually missed me.'

'Really?' She sounds astonished. 'Did I?' she adds in a well-I-never-whatever-next kind of tone. 'Mu-um, I haven't got enough Christmas cards for my whole year, can you send me some more?'

I get a notepad and pen, ready to take down my instructions. 'How many do you need?'

'About 20?'

'You could always make them...' I suggest.

'Na, there's too many. I have actually made a really pretty card and I've stuck a picture of Dolly inside and... it might be for Cousin Claude... or it might be for you... or it might be for me! "Dear Lily, Have a lovely Christmas. Love from You Know Who." It can be done!'

Honestly. She's such a tease. I start scribbling. 1. 20 Christmas cards.

'We got fitted for our costumes for the Nativity yesterday but we haven't actually got our wings yet. Mu-um, can you bring my white strappy vest?'

2. White strappy vest. 

'We had our lighting rehearsal today and it's so glary in our eyes! I wish the angels could wear sunglasses.'

I laugh.

'I'm serious! It's seriously glary! Mu-um, can you bring my new party dress for the carol service?'

'It's a bit glittery and eveningy isn't it?' I venture. The entire bodice is a shimmering mass of sequins. We bought it for Lily's first ball, the day after she breaks up, in the village hall next to the school.

'No, it'll be fine. Esme's going to wear her party dress, and so is Mattie, and they really want to see mine.'

3. Party dress. 

Lily's conversation seems to have run out, so I tell her about my scintillating week so far, which consists of what I had for dinner today and what I just bought from Sainsbury's. 'Anything else you'd like to say to your Muma?' I ask.

'We-e-ell,' says Lily, 'I would like a new Ipod case, hint, hint.'

And that's it. We have fast-tracked into the kind of boss-secretary relationship that usually kicks in when offspring leave home for university. 

4. Ipod case.