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.

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