Monday, 15 April 2013

Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs

I have the most terrible habit of saving things "for best".

I do it with almost everything: clothes, shoes, bags, accessories in general. The nicer and more expensive something is, the more I am inclined to hide it away reverently and just look at it from time to time, rather than use it and risk ruining it.

It stems from my strict protestant upbringing: we rarely had anything new, everything was hand-me-down, except shoes and underwear and I was once bought my own set of new pyjamas when I was about nine. It was a dark blue shorts and t-shirt set with stars on the shorts and a little owl sewn on the t-shirt and I loved it.

My parents never had anything new, either, despite having plenty of money (the whole thing was entirely cultural). Sometimes my mother would order my father a new shirt or some socks from a catalogue called James Meade when his others had literally fallen to rags, (they were then cut up and hemmed to be used for cleaning windows), but that was it.

It's a perfectly honourable way to live one's life and a perfectly responsible way to bring up children. Accumulating loads and loads of shit you don't need, or showering your children with endless new things, is terrible and the general sense that what you've got is fine has left me well-equipped to deal with the financially perilous life of a freelance writer.

I don't want or need that much stuff, which is good because there is no pay day blow-out for me, there is no sense that I work hard so why shouldn't I drop this amount of money on that gewgaw that I like so much just because it is pretty - because although I work hard, I earn practically nothing. So anything that I really, really want that I cannot afford is bought for me by my husband for a birthday or Christmas present.

None of this stops me from coveting luxurious things like mad, like anyone, I'm just less likely to buy them.

If I am allowed to bulk-buy Dove deodorant, toothpaste and Timotei shampoo on my husband's Amex, I am happy. The toothpaste tube in my childhood home had to be absolutely squeezed down to the last tiny scraping before a new tube was purchased from Boots. But it does mean that when I do buy or get given something really special, I don't want to use it. I just want to look at it and marvel that it is mine! All mine!

Aside from the result that I never wear my nicest clothes - and wonder why I look a fright - recently, this attitude has also had the most terrible effect on my face.

My face has always been a bit of a problem. The main complaint being recurring, terrible spots that lingered well into my late 20s and were only finally cured by switching to a Pill called Yasmin and having a baby. Something to do with hormones, don't ask me details - I don't have a full understanding of it.

Anyway, since my spots finally disappeared, I haven't really given the skin on my face a second thought. Having spots is so awful, so all-consuming, painful, embarrassing - causing despair, rage, frustration and ultimately shame at being so shallow - that when you don't have them any more it is tempting to luxuriate in not washing one's face for days, leaving the house without a make-up bag and only having to own one ancient Rimmel concealer for covering up the occasional under-eye shadow.

So despite having a cupboard-full of incredibly expensive skin preparations purchased from newspaper office "beauty cupboard" sales (where big-name lotions and potions are sold off for, like £3) and sourced from goodie bags sent by various magazine features editors who felt sorry for me, I never used any of them. My face looked fine! Now I didn't have zits, my face could basically do no wrong. Why did I need to use an Elemis tri-enzyme facial resurfacing wash? Or an Estee Lauder night repair eye cream?

I slapped Aveeno moisturiser on my face any time after I had remembered to wash it with soap and occasionally scrubbed at my T-Zone with Freederm gel wash, unable to get out of the habit of using something spot-fighting.

For a long time it didn't matter. But in the last 12 months, something terrible has happened. My face has become baggy and blotchy. My nose, once my pride and joy, completely straight, unobtrusive and non-shaming, started to swell. It was sort of permanently red, with angry flares blooming from the corners of the nostrils in the direction of my mouth.

I looked like an ancient alcoholic, or as if I permanently had a bit of a cold. Make-up didn't really conceal it for long and, anyway, with a toddler and then being pregnant again, I really wasn't fucking arsed to mess about with foundation and concealer in the mornings.

What with my pregnancy facial oedema adding to this general car-crash, my face has recently been a cause of really quite a lot of distress for me - for the first time really since my spots disappeared about four years ago.

I had a couple of essential-oil and whale-music facials with therapists who didn't really say anything about the condition of my face and so I just carried on as normal, all the while these expensive products sat in my bathroom cabinet, untouched.

Then I went for a semi-medical facial at !QMS (sic), a very smart skincare place in Chelsea, on a freebie for work. The facialist nearly screamed when I told her that I used Freederm. And she gave me really quite a ticking off when I told her that I had given up washing my face at night because I was too tired.

Stop using that disgusting Freederm shit, she said (I'm paraphrasing). It's for teenagers! You are not a teenager you are nearly 33! And wash your face twice a day with something mild. Then she laid on me a skincare programme from !QMS that looked just too overwhelming and complicated for me to consider buying even one thing.

And I knew - I knew full well - that at home at had drawers and drawers full of beauty-hall grade facial unguents that I had put away, saving "for best".

I went home, threw out my Freederm and - more shaming - Clearasil and have been ploughing through probably about £1,000 worth of products. It's only been 4 days since my facial and already I can see some of the damage subsiding. What the fuck was I thinking?

The same principle often applies to food. So often you think let's just have museli and toast, or let's just have soup and cheese, when actually there's no reason not to have smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.

My husband and I have recently taken to having people round for brunch on the weekend, because we are too exhausted and ratty by 1pm on a Saturday or Sunday to consider having people round for either lunch or dinner.

Giles is dispatched to Panzer, which is a European (i.e. Jewish) deli/grocery place in St Johns Wood to get too much smoked salmon, some cream cheese and bagels. We lavish 90% of the salmon on our guests and then gorge on the 10% at breakfast the next day.

Some restaurants manage to get this very simple breakfast horribly wrong by cooking the salmon, so you have a kind of kedgeree, minus the rice, with the cooked eggs and the cooked salmon. Yuk. Absolutely not. What you must do is just cook your eggs and lay them alongside your premium-grade smoked salmon. Lemon juice and pepper on the salmon is essential.

I even read, somewhere, that salmon is terrific for one's skin - and the Lord knows you can't put that away in a cupboard for best. Well, not for long anyway.


  1. Hear you on the skin care. It is a faff. I like Jason's products as they are mild and no bad stuff like parabens etc. They do a huge range of products inc. nice body washes in pump containers, mouthwash, shampoo, sunscreen and more.

    Bagels, salmon and cream cheese are another treat. The bagel place in Cricklewood Broadway does good bagels.

  2. The bit you wrote about skin "Having spots is so awful, so all-consuming, painful, embarrassing - causing despair, rage, frustration and ultimately shame at being so shallow"- this literally sums up perfectly how I have been feeling, I developed terrible skin last year after coming OFF Yasmin. Seeing it written down and summed up so succinctly brought tears to my eyes, I'm off to see the doctor this afternoon and I'm not leaving until they help me. Thank you- I love your blog so much xxx

  3. God, I so hear you on this one- the saving things for best and the skin issues. This post has really summed up my feelings of the last 15 years. I get spots on my chin which have never really been fully controlled despite countless medications. Mine is also hormonal. It is only now at 30 and 5 months after the birth of my first baby that my skin is looking the clearest it ever's shallow but I can't stop peeking at myself in every reflective surface I pass, to marvel at my skin but probably more likely to check that they haven't all popped back up again to laugh at my foolishness for believing it will last!

    Thank you, as always for your refreshing honesty. Sarah. x

  4. Delighted to read that I wasn't the only person/parent in the 1980s with a reasonable houshold income who didn't squander it on new stuff all the time for anyone in the family.

    We lived then in a Cotswold market town with some pretty darned good charity shops, so I never lost my student habit for thrift shopping. My daughter is your age exactly and frequents the many excellent Oxford charity shops. And goes eBaytastic at times, both buying and selling (to fund the buying).

    So apart from a embarrassed phase in her early teens when she asked would I stop riffling through stuff in that charity shop with tht HUGE plate glass windows so "everyone can see you are in there!" she has adopted her mother's habits of buying new and good sparingly, and topping up with second hand for fun.

    And she Freecycles. Bloody brilliant, freecycling. It's how she and her husband can afford to live in a cute Victorian terrace-with-garden in horrendously expensive central Oxford. She even does dumpster-diving!

    No, we have NO shame. I taught her that one as well.

  5. A redhead who takes pride in her pretty nose? May I call you Anne Shirley?

    I came out of silent-lurkering for that commment... back to the shadows methinks, it's for the best.

  6. Since my teens I have been known to use every single beauty product on my skin and had the longest cleansing routine probably a reaction to my mothers beauty routine which was a wipe with a a flanner and a dab of Astral cream afterwards. But I was plagued by acne and the pricey stuff just seemed to work. Apart from a blip when the twins first arrived; when only a babywipe went near my face and only when I could remember to do it! But I really believe good lotion and potions work. I would be scared to stop now in case my face collaspes...

  7. I agree spots and bad congested skin is the worst thing, it really lowers your self esteem. I've been on and off so many different pills over the years and nothing worked so I eventually came off it and then my skin got even worse if possible. Then I tried lots of different anti-biotics which did absolutely nothing so have been back on the pill for another year. The one I have been on has done nothing so last week I switched to Yasmin. I hear this is the best one so I really hope it works!! I dream of waking up one day and having lovely skin again, it's been so many years, I can't remember what it is like! It's nice to hear I'm not alone!

  8. My spotty skin finally settled after I had my daughter at the age of 27. Crazily now, at the tender age of 35 I am encountering... 'The Menopause' *insert appropriate dramatic pause* and my skin is suddenly drying out!
    If it's not one end of the spectrum, it's the other!


    You're right though in relation to salmon. Fab for the skin... (and I've also been told it's great for 'The Big M'!).

  9. I'm 33 and still using Clearasil, due to a similar history with shitty skin - and I'll be damned if I risk using anything else in case it all comes back again! On the few occasions I try to switch my skin "sulks" and throws a few megazits out in protest, so well done that facialist for convincing you otherwise!

    As for the menu - I 'treat' myself to my formerly occasional pancakes, bacon, scrambled eggs and maples syrup with champagne wuhaaaay too often. And it's showing in my arse :(. Back to saving it for best!

  10. Yum, I'm an eggs benedict addict, but as I'm allergic to cooking I buy the fresh Hollandaise sauce from M&S...cheating I know, but I'd only fuck it up if I attempted any kind of saucery husbandry. This looks right up my street so will deffo try! Speaking of skin, I bought a Clarisonic a while back from QVC when it was on offer and it's beyond amazing. Using that then smothering some Liz Earle Superskin Concentrate oil on (have you heard of Liz Earle, it's really lovely stuff, and being somewhat of a beauty whore I've tried ridiculous amounts of skincare products..)is miraculous for the skin. Makes you keep going back to the mirror and marvelling at the before and after, speshally if you're a bit dehydrated. ANYWAY, there's a Clarisonic set on QVC today on special offer in case you're interested, but offer price is only for one day so ends at midnight tonight. Amex it, then tell Giles there was an offer on toothpaste ;) Love the Bad Cook, btw, it's making me chortle A LOT. And even making me think I may dust off a saucepan!

  11. And how did you react to the ticking off? If you were given another freebie, would you go again to !QMS?? I wouldn't. I always seem to get told off by people. And I'm 38 for god sake!! Last, I got told off by the dentist (not flossing), the hairdresser (cutting my own fringe), and my mother (not publishable!) and I wanted to shout at them all. V. glad to find out here that I'm not the only one. Thank you! :)