Lockdown life has given me more than enough time to tackle the big issue in my life, namely why is my face getting so wrinkly? Ok, I am nearly 55, so I have to accept the odd crease, but having spent hours, and I mean hours, studying the complexions of every woman in her fifties who posts on Instagram, I have come to the conclusion my crevices are pretty deep.
It was not until last year that I actually realised that I had any wrinkles at all. My eyesight got so bad that I could not apply mascara without wearing my glasses. Having poked my eye out too many times with the mascara wand I decided to invest in a large magnifying mirror. Big mistake, in one quick glance I had aged 30 years. In fact, the sight was so depressing that I keep the mirror draped with a face cloth when I am not using it.
Over recent weeks I have studied the scientific reasons for facial ageing in great detail. I am not talking about lightweight beauty blogs; I am talking serious heavyweight clinical research trials. Here is an excerpt of what I have been deciphering:
The unique molecular structure of collagen renders it largely resistant to nonspecific proteolytic attack. The matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a group of enzymes responsible for degradation of collagen.
Anyway, the long and short of all my research is that sun is the problem. My problem is that I actually feel better and look better with a suntan. Brown cellulite always looks better than white, and an espresso coloured wobble is better than a cappuccino wobble any day. As I have never been into the faff of spray tanning or self-oranging I have relied on UV radiation way too much. My research also identified the chemicals which can help to slow down the ageing process. The main once being retinol. Coincidentally just before lockdown I had a retinol acid face peel. When I went to the salon, I had to sign a disclaimer saying that if, after 3 days, my face looked like I had been in a house fire, I wouldn’t sue. I had the acid painted on and drove home stinging like hell. A few days later my face was meant to peel off, leaving a new younger face underneath. By then we were in lockdown, which was perfect timing. Unfortunately, my face didn’t peel, it didn’t even flake. I emailed the clinic to express my dissatisfaction and, after much toing and froing, they decided that my face hadn’t peeled off because I applied so many strong chemicals to it on a daily basis, that sadly there wasn’t a youthful one underneath.
I have got a new Super Beauty Regime now, and one which requires a spreadsheet to keep track of. Not only are there 3 chemicals to be applied at night, and 2 in the morning, I have to do an acid peel and exfoliate once a week. I can disappear into the bathroom to take my makeup off, and I have missed the whole of the 10 0’clock News before I reappear. Husband leant over to kiss me the other night, as I got into bed. Oh dear, that was a glycolic peel night. Two seconds later he said that kissing my cheek was like sucking on half a lemon, and his lips were killing him. I said he should feel sorry for me, my pillowcase had usually dissolved by the morning.
I just hope after lockdown, when I am back at work, I will have the energy to keep going with this comprehensive skincare regime, or maybe I will have more important and meaningful things to occupy my thoughts? Perhaps that’s a better idea…
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If Coronavirus had struck 30 years ago it would have found a very different world from the one today. I was in my mid 20s then, mobile phones were the size of bricks and computers were the size of packing cases. I remember getting my first mobile phone, a huge Motorola with a short rubber aerial, and I thought it was the coolest things since eyelash curlers. Admittedly it weighed about 2 kg, and needed its own backpack, but it was a MOBILE phone! I had a sales job, and I remember strutting around with my Filofax in one hand and giant Motorola in the other, wearing jackets with shoulder pads on steroids.
The problem is that I have not kept up with the expediential rate of technology advancement. I wish I still had a mobile phone with big buttons, a green screen and no battery life. Life was so much simpler then. I am an absolute technology Luddite. Even now I cannot locate Netflix on a Smart TV, I can barely post on Instagram, I am clueless on Snapchat, and I use about 10% of the functions of my MacBook. I do see the enormous benefits of tech but a big part of me loathes it. Every day it seems there is some new App which everyone assures me is really simple, but I manage to cock up.
I had my first Zoom meeting the other day, and was looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I appeared on screen labelled as ‘Ellen’, my daughter, as I was on her account. I had no idea how to change this, so I had to answer to the name of ‘Ellen’ for 45 minutes. I say 45 minutes, but it was actually quite a bit less than that. Our WIFI was buffering so much I kept on disappearing from view, which at least meant I could make a few coffees whilst waiting to re-enter the Zoom Room. I made a ‘Mrs Angry’ call to our broadband supplier afterwards who said we had 19 devices connected to our router and no wonder I was buffering. One hour later I was the proud, but poor, owner of a new Super Router and a fancy system which bounces WIFI around our house at lightning speed and could probably do Gatwick Airport as well.
When Son re-tunes the TV in 30 seconds, flicks between laptop screens at lightning speed and texts quicker than I can speak, I feel terribly old, without even looking in the mirror. We have a very nice washing machine and microwave, but I swear that I have never used more than 1 setting on either. I have washed everything on a ‘30 Minute Quick Wash’ for the past 5 years and heated food on ‘High’ to make it hot. What else do I need these techno-filled appliances to do? Unless the washing machine can do the ironing and the microwave can chop the veg and cook dinner, I am not going to have a nervous breakdown even looking at the instruction manuals. Uploading a blog is hard enough…
Over the past few years Britain has become obsessed with baking. However, this has come at a time when I thought my baking days were over. When the kids were young, I spent hours if not days, making novelty birthday cakes. In my cake career I made horses, dogs, footballs, dinosaurs, Telly Tubbies, lawnmowers (that year was a challenge) to name but a few. Whilst the end results were ok it took me a further two days to scrape the fondant icing off every kitchen surface and get the food colouring off my nails. In my kids’ school nipping into Tesco‘s and buying a cartoon cake was not an option. I would have been expelled from the Parents Association for doing that. One morning on the way to school my daughter reminded me that I should have baked a cake for the charity sale at break time. I ended up screeching into a Marks and Spencer’s petrol station, buying a Victoria sandwich, dashing home, messing the icing up a bit, grating some chocolate on it, and sprinting into the school hall with the words, ‘sorry this is a bit late, but it is very fresh.’ After that I took early gateau retirement.
That was until lockdown, when it seems that the world and his wife are making cakes. Insta is literally on fire with all those ovens set at 160°C. It is not just lumpy fruit cakes either, there are high gloss chocolate cakes, apricot roulades and coconut and lime sponges etc, etc. For the first few weeks of lockdown I reassured myself that there was as much chance of buying flour as seeing Victoria Beckham smile. Flour joined pasta and toilet rolls on the endangered species list.
This week I was sauntering down the baking aisle as I do most days, shopping for the old folk, when I noticed that right in front of me was a solitary bag of SELF RAISING FLOUR. I felt obliged to buy it, and since then I have joined the Baking Brigade. I have produced apple and cinnamon, coffee and walnut, and raspberry and white chocolate cakes so far this week, and it is only Friday. It’s one thing using baking as incarceration therapy, but someone has to consume the results, as well as licking the cake mix out of the bowl. I actually try not to eat them, instead I keep on ‘neatening up’ the corners with a cake slice. If it is not a large slice on a small plate, then surely it has 0 calories? The problem is that by lunchtime the 20 cm sponge has been ‘neatened’ to the size of a cupcake, and I am loosening my belt by one notch.
On Tuesday it was Zac, the Schnauzer’s birthday. Usually, on this special day, he gets a few extra dog treats and a pat on the head. This year, in a lockdown delirium, I made him a dog-friendly birthday cake, full of carrots and peanut butter, which he greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, that evening my son helped himself to a large slice of the canine patisserie when he had the Midnight Munchies. I didn’t realise this until the next morning, when he came down and said, ‘Mum that last cake you made wasn’t up to your usual standard.’ I was about to burst out laughing when I realised that he had grown two pointy ears and a small tail. Perhaps I am not the only one going Barking Mad?
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You cannot open a magazine these days without people exalting the value of exercise for people over 50. Before COVID Days I went to the gym twice a week and did Pilates but, since lockdown, my regime has gone to pot, as have any previously toned areas of my torso.
I have several female friends who rise early and bounce up and down with Joe Wicks online before breakfast. They swear that he really sets them up for the day and puts a smile on their faces. I do look at Joe Wicks first thing in the morning, he has a super Instagram page, but the thought of squinting at him on my laptop, whilst trying to keep up with his manic manoeuvres, just leaves me cold. The closest I have got to him was when I flicked through one of his cookery books in Sainsbury’s the other day. Likewise, my wonderful Pilates teacher is Zooming her classes, but there is no way I could adopt the required positions whilst looking at a 3cm digital version of her, without my glasses falling off.
This sorry state of affairs has led me to take up running again. I use ‘running’ in the loosest possible sense of the word. It is more like a brisk walk with exaggerated arm movements. I admit I have taken up running numerous times in the past, and still the only good thing about it is getting back home and collapsing on the kitchen floor. However, I know that a 5K run burns up the exact number of calories in a Double Decker, so at least I can demolish one of my daily bars of chocolate guilt-free.
Several years ago, I ran the New York Marathon by accident. I really wanted to go shopping in New York and I knew there was no way Husband would agree to this. I, therefore, stupidly agreed that I would run the Marathon with him, as long as I could have a shopping day there. I staggered round the course in a staggeringly slow 6 hours and 4 minutes but was too knackered to go shopping the next day. When I got home, I told one of my design clients, who was a keen rambler, how long it had taken me. She smugly pointed out that SHE could have walked it faster. I just smiled politely but made sure I chose particularly tasteless cushions to finish off her sitting room.
So, I am back to running 3 times a week and I loathe every second. For the first mile I mutter to myself ‘Why am I doing this? Why the Hell am I doing this??’ After the second mile I cheer up realising that I am over halfway. The third, and final, mile of my route involves running the length of Lingfield High Street and past supermarkets and takeaways where people might see me. For this stage I attempt a Bolt-style sprint which I try to keep up until I can turn into my road and collapse. Then comes the best bit of the run…It is over for another day.
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When the UK went into lockdown on 23rd March I decided that I really had to remain positive and make the most of this time to learn some new skills, and get on with all those household projects that I had always meant to do, but never got round to. I also suggested to the rest of my locked down family that they, likewise, should use this time profitably by learning to touch type or learn a new language. I created an extensive list of proficiencies to acquire including meditation, knitting and bread making as well as writing my blog, of course. I even went so far as to design a timetable of my daily activities:
As you can see, I had organised pretty much every hour of the day, and I knew that if I kept to this, I was going to come out of lockdown as a fitter, more well-rounded and infinitely calmer individual. I actually spent a lot of time putting all of the tasks in the correct Excel boxes and considering how much time each would take. I even laminated this timetable and stuck it on my office wall where it has remained to this day.
The big problem is that I have achieved Bugger all, apart from getting up and going to bed daily. The exercise class never happened, the house looks like a squat, breakfast has been a croissant at 12 noon (with my fifth coffee) and lunch, a Twix around 4 pm. I only bother to peel myself out of my PJs if I have some shopping to do for the Oldies. There is just so much to look at on Insta these days. Reading all the motivational memes, ‘liking’ the NHS and looking at pictures of stunning homemade cakes takes me at least 3 hours every day. I haven’t even listened to a Ted Talk, although I do now have the app on my phone. Likewise, the Headspace meditation app is installed, and enthusiastically reminds me every day that it has been a while since I checked in. Yes, it has been a while, i.e. since the distant day I paid £49.99 for a year’s subscription. I did actually try a Retinol face mask one night, but it burnt my face off within 5 minutes, and I spent the rest of the night whimpering under my duvet.
When everyone finally emerges from lockdown, toned, bilingual and wearing fabulously crocheted ponchos they have made, I will be wobbling out in my floral PJs with a bag full of chocolate bar wrappers and a handful of half written blogs. Failing that, I am going to have to do a ‘Crash Course on Everything’ over the next few weeks…
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Of course, the biggest stress when leaving the house in these COVID Days is observing the 2 Metre Rule. I had never before given much thought to exactly what 2 metres looks like in real terms, so I decided that the best way to estimate this was to picture it as George Clooney lying down. This image has, however, got me into trouble. This morning I was outside Boots Chemists and there was a long queue. I was so busy swerving around trying to give everyone a ‘George Clooney’ that I completely overshot the door to the chemists, and ended up trying to get into the adjacent (and closed) dry cleaners. As I knew I had a bit of an audience watching my blunder I had to mutter ‘Oh Crikey! I can’t believe they are shut,’ as I turned and back tracked to join the queue.
In fact, all social norms have been turned on their heads. Pre-lockdown, you shook hands in a meeting, and patted, hugged or kissed your mates. Now these salutations would be seen as just the worst and rudest thing you could possibly do. Treating your friends like lepers is actually PC these days. Whilst out on a jog (or rather a fast walk) yesterday I was stumped. On one pavement I had a lady with 2 children on tricycles and on the other I had 3 dog walkers with dogs. This left me no alternative but to run straight down the middle of the main road just to keep a ‘George Clooney’ on either side. I duly received nods of appreciation all round for my swift actions. Two months ago, this would have been seen as barking mad and downright rude. On the issue of barking, I was walking the dogs in the park the other day and as usual my waggy housemates bounded up to say ‘Hello’ to another dog. The owner started screaming ‘GET YOUR DOGS AWAY, GET THEM AWAY! CORONAVIRUS!’ Honestly, anyone would think I had set 2 Pit Bull Terriers on her pooch. The problem is my dogs don’t know the ‘George Clooney Rule’ and if they did, I suspect their fantasy bitch would be a lot shorter than 2 metres when lying down.
Of course, other things you must not do in public are cough or sneeze. Even a slight clearing of the throat will lead people to believe you have the ‘C’ Word. A sneeze is basically the new equivalent of letting out wind from your bottom half. You must try and conceal it at all times. I have found the only way to do this is to pull your jumper over your head at the critical moment. OK, it does mean that you are revealing a naked torso and a faded M&S bra to the world, but that is way less shocking than THE SNEEZE. If you are a guy, and reveal a faded M&S bra to the world, that is a different issue…
What really worries me is what is going to happen when we do finally go back to normal. Will we ever kiss, pat and hug again, or will we just bow at each other from a distance? Will we all be ‘Turning Japanese’ as the song goes?