It’s freezing. In a bid to keep warm, I’ve abandoned what remained of fashion and glamour in my wardrobe and set aside any thought of wearing silky, skimpy clothes. High heels have become a thing of the past – it’s hard to totter through mud and gravel – even harder to cross the footbridge to the car when they get stuck in the gaps between the planks and my walking boots are so much more sensible – comfortable too, come to that. I can push open frozen gates without fear of falling over and if I get stuck in a snowdrift (as a teenager I once did – for hours and hours and my parents didn’t miss me – but that’s another story) I could walk my way home or to the nearest point of help.
The sad fact is, since moving to the countryside five years ago, I don’t have a beauty regime any more. I’m not sure I even have the phone number of the beautician I frequented when I first moved here. I don’t have my hair cut that often and make-up is strictly for meetings and those times when I want to impress, or scare, people into believing I’m a serious-thinking woman (v useful in Oxford, where every second woman I meet is a lipstick-sporting serious thinker). I used to don make-up in the mornings, no matter what – even when my days consisted of changing my babies’ nappies I’d be wearing foundation, mascara and blusher, carefully applied. Not to scare them into submission, you understand, just force of habit and to prove I was still a person in my own right (I think). I’m not sure they recognise me these days.
Still, for now and for the foreseeable future – well at least until the snow has gone and I’m no longer on call to do school pick-ups at the fall of a snowflake, assuming the schools are open to children for the remainder of this week – I’m sticking to Salomon walking boots, long socks, walking trousers, vest, long-sleeved tee-shirt and a fleece and layers and layers of hand and face creams.
It may be the price they have to pay for living in a beautiful gothic house in the middle of windswept fields, overlooking a river, but with no-one to see me but the children, James and the dog, I’m not sure I care for my own appearance so much and they haven’t mentioned they’re disappointed. There are less draughty places to set my desk up than the mullion windows overlooking the river steps, but there would be little point in living and working in this place if I couldn’t see outside and watch the wildlife (mink and kingfisher yesterday, red kite this morning – funnily enough all considered vermin at one time or another) or see the dog walkers, runners, ramblers and twitchers wandering (speeding, in the runners’ case) past. They largely fall into two categories, those who know the place and stomp (dash) by oblivious to its charms, and those who are coming across it for the first time. I enjoy seeing the regulars – they tend to take their constitutional at the same time daily and there’s something comforting in vicarious dog-walking, to me if not to my dog. There is also something appealing about watching the reaction of the newbies – provided they don’t stand on the far bank too long with their camera shutters and mouths open.
On reflection, perhaps I should be wearing make-up, but I’m not abandoning the warm layers – at least not until we get some warm weather and the bluebells return. Then I’ll also dig out that beautician’s number and see if my family recognise me – see if I recognise myself, come to that.