Personal maintenance is something close to this Spinster’s heart as you may have gathered. I am a slave to the close magnifying mirror in my bathroom; the view facilitated by a perfectly positioned Velux window. No wonder one is a tad paranoid as every pore, (hysterical) laughter line and imperfection is there writ large for all to see! Except as the specialist (beautician) who one consults periodically is wont to observe ‘no-one else gets the same view’! Thanks emphasise my singledom why don’t you lady! Is that was passes for empathy in your establishment? And still I return for her particular attention; one is eligible for a (permanent) discount as a regular customer!
If only I could stop myself stroking my chin sub consciously like some James Bond Style Blowfeld with a fluffy white pussy – even in traffic I catch myself at it! So the morning of the Salon found me in the Secret Garden of Beauty (Barry – ask for the lovely Aldene Thomas for wonderful personal service). The procedure for the appointment was eyebrows; shaping and tinting to be precise. Well that’s where it started, and then I asked her to check the chin area.
One thing led to another and before drawing breathe I found myself subject to threading. Well ladies I didn’t realise something could genuinely bring tears to my eyes! Lordy it was painful (OK I’ve never had a bikini wax – and no I NEVER intend to subject myself to one either); some irony for someone who experiences ‘complex chronic pain’ on a daily basis! Hmm unexpectedly I have an appointment with the Pain Consultant this week perhaps I should raise the issue with him; as a boy he’d probably adopt a bemused little boy lost look as a way of avoiding answering!
When the procedure had finally reached its conclusion and I emerged into the waiting room twinkly eyed stunned into a mute state as the next client commented that she’d been waiting for ages! Or was that the podiatrist? No it was both! Keeping on top of ones appearance is practically a full-time job and that’s before you factor in the legion of ‘disabled person’ related appointments one is subjected to! Heaven know I have no idea how I manage to hold down a job; freelance work is the only viable option with it’s inbuilt flexibility – would this be the work-life balance I wonder? Me time translates into subjecting my already damaged body to further dissection all in the pursuit of a degree of perfection to somehow level out the less than level playing field I find myself occupying. But as Granny used to say ‘mustn’t grumble’!
This morning was the funeral of my friend’s mother, a simple fitting affair at the new Crematorium in Barry. A small family focussed gathering made all the more intimate as the numbers were small in a space that dwarfed us. The women universally engaged in busying themselves talking to everyone both distracting and distressing themselves. The men posturing as they sought to mask their sorrow. A unexpected arrival of a black sheep nephew who had not be anticipated resulted a ripple of anxiety. My friend behaved with perfect dignity and diplomacy although I know her instinct was to behave quite differently. Her husband drew himself to his full 6 foot as he glared in the nephews direction hissing under his breath that the b**tard would not be welcome back at the house afterwards. The best and the worst of close families managed to overcome their differences saying ‘she was his nan too and he has a right to be here’. I had picked up our friend from swimming and the obvious observation was made that Little (friend is under 5 foot) and Large (I am 5 foot 10 ½) had arrived. On such occasions jibes like this break the tension; the swimming crowd support each other with more opportunities to see each other dressed at funerals than any other! Normally there would have been more passengers in my car but Vera was on holiday and the others working. Last week when delivering a card to my friend from the swimming ladies we had discussed the last day of her mother’s life. As sometimes happens the frail patient had rallied with her voice being stronger, for weeks she had only been able to whisper, and her conversation more animated. She had insisted that my friend do her hair and tidy her chin! She was always a well turned out lady. Hence my friend and I had discussed at some length how her mother should be dressed for her funeral; although no-one would see her this decision mattered and could not be taken lightly. It is a matter of respect both for the departed and those who remain behind that, in this case, her mother’s dignity was maintained. Handing over a full set of clothes (including underwear and tights) to a male funeral director was somehow uncomfortable no matter how necessary. To know her mother was perfectly groomed with all excess facial hair removed comforted my friend especially as it was one of the last acts of love and affection she had been able to carry out. It is the details that matter when caring for someone, whether personally or professionally, and it is too often these tasks that institutional care fails on. A little more time required than available to staff already under paid and over worked. As someone likely to find myself in such a position the prospect fills me with horror. The guest on Desert Island Discs this week was Baroness Jane Campbell, a people’s peer with a degenerative condition. She spoke of how she managed to maintain her privacy (in her head) when she requires paid assistance with every daily task; she always has so this is her coping strategy. Married twice she is one feisty lady who has challenged a society that never expected her to live beyond her first year. An amazing achievement but I can’t help wondering if perversely it’s easier to cope with dealing with this position from the outset; you’ve never know life to be any different so frustrating as it might be you are more accepting. When something is gradually eroded, taken incrementally away from you and you feel the loss very acutely it is harder. At least that’s the way it is for me; but as my Granny said ‘mustn’t grumble’! Or do I mean in the words of Sinead O Connor (paraphrased as a result of a poor memory), ‘give me the grace to accept the things I cannot change’. By my bed I have a piece of calligraphy entitled ‘The Nuns Prayer’ whilst it encapsulates the same sentiments with the amusing addition of asking for the strength to resist the temptation (as one grows older) of commenting on everything that irks one!