Muriel’s Musings: Beauty in Adversity

  • Posted on: 22/05/2020

“If you are sad add more lipstick and attack.”

Coco Chanel

Back from the Royal Wedding

“Good morning Mrs Wylie. I have brought your hot water and lemon and The Glasgow Herald for your perusal.”


“Of course Mrs Wylie even the sports pages, but I was careful jist to go round the pictures of Princess Margaret, I knew you’d not appreciate it if she were scorched.”

“Very considerate I must say Mrs T, you will have to be careful not to clean the windows with any souvenir pages. I couldn’t bear the thought of Her Majesty in malt vinegar.”

“It’s nice to have yous home. Did yous enjoy they weddin’?”

“Yes, thank you. It was a lovely occasion, although very warm in that London.”

“Mr Wylie and I watched a little on television before he went to the new Lady Provost’s lunch. Fluffed her lines a little. Does’nae bode well and you ken what they say.”

“No Mrs T, what do they say?”

“Marry in May an’ rue the day.”

“Have you any evidence for that?”

“Aye Mr Travers.”

The Archbishop Was, However, Impressed 

“Oh yes of course, but I am sure all will be well for the royal couple. The music was lovely and my decorative touches were appreciated even by the Archbishop, who said he had to admit he was a little nervous on hearing about my appointment because of all the fuss about my non traditional soups in the chancel, not to mention the introduction of the ‘Malteser’ into the tray bake.”

“Aye that was pretty revolutionary all right. The lentil and pea and ham brigade nearly had a stroke.”

“Well I am all for tradition Mrs T but to survive one has to move forward. The Archbishop said I might be contacted over the next Lambeth Conference as this tended to be very ecumenical in soup matters.”

“Talking of which I am making French Onion for lunch as Mr Wylie says he will be back.”

“Where is he?”

“Says he’s gone to see a man about a dog.”

“I hope you two were not doing the horses again?”

“As if we would? Will I run yer perfumed bath an’ then I expect you want to write your article for The Glasgow Lady.”

“Actually, I did that in the hotel – no I am going to write another of my leaflets for the future.

“That dream still bothering you?”

“You could say that.”

“Ok. I’ll warm yer cushion and gi’e the old Royal a wee dicht.”

Leaflet No 4: Beauty in Adversity, 60 Years Hence

If your head is full of mince, pour a sherry and pay attention

Ladies if you are reading this then I know the nation is in peril and you will have been bombarded with advice and your heads will be (as my woman what does but not a lot would say) full of mince. Perhaps you are taking refuge in the underground or in the close of your tenement building or a room in your own home and are full of fear. Now as one who has lived through two unpleasantnesses and a Labour Government, might I suggest you find yourselves a quiet corner, pour yourselves a wee amontillado and pay attention for I am here to help.

The Danger of Slacks

The temptation during times of crisis is to let oneself go. You might return from a lunch party or even a day at the office, happily switch on the television, B.B.C. of course, and The Prime Minister makes a speech of doom and gloom about the state of the nation. Before you know it, you have slipped out of your hyacinth blue boucle dress and jacket with a stunning brooch in the lapel and a pall of dilapidation descends. This might be triggered by old slacks and the twin set you wear to divide the polyanthas or worse the housecoat and slippers. The following day you might decide that there is no point in wearing make-up, after all as they say beauty is only skin deep and the best make-up you can wear is your smile. Well try telling that to your husband after three days in a bunker if it should come to that.

Glamour in Times of Difficulty

Frankly I believe that it does not matter if one is facing the Committee of the Scottish Women’s Institute on a charge of using too much sodium bicarbonate in the scones or the end of the world, one owes it to oneself to look one’s best for those who have to look at you.

This was certainly the attitude I adopted when I was interrogated by the Gestapo after Winnie (she of the bicycle and the Wool Shop in Auchterarder), myself and Dynamite Di blew up that bridge.

It is I suppose a question of degree. If say you and your husband were to be in some sort of lockdown for several weeks, would you make the most tremendous effort and never let him see you without make-up as many wives have done before you The problem is in a confined space it is difficult to conceal the weapons of glamour and artifice. It may be a tremendous shock for him to realise for the first time that the woman he knows and loves is created each day with pins, creams, face packs and even the odd hair piece.

The modern woman of 60 years hence might say sooner or later he will see through your subterfuge, so what is the point? Self-respect and good manners is the point, ladies, even if you are in the future.

Compromise Is The British Way

Of course, if you are confined in a small space for a length of time, without access to the counters of Daly’s department store or the hairdresser one must expect to compromise. After all that is the British way – we are nation of compromisers or we would not have folk music.

Make sure you have a supply of makeup basics. Now I am not suggesting panic buying or hoarding, but the occasional purchase of an extra Ponds Cold Cream, lipstick or cologne which you put in a special “Beauty for Emergencies” boxI  is the perfect solution. I suggest a small vanity case would be the best thing to use.

This should contain a small soft Dorothy bag, perhaps made from the leg of one his old pairs of corduroy trousers to show you care. You can use the turn ups to put a draw string through. Into this place the basics, so that you can hide it comfortably under your pillow when sleeping. On waking you can quickly run a comb through your perm or demi wave, apply some lipstick and rouge (we don’t want to look like a corpse now do we) and then after a quick dab of perfume and popping a Parma Violet into the mouth, attract his attention. Any man worth his salt will say, “My darling every morning I see the face of an Angel. How do you manage to look so perfect without make-up?”

Subterfuge at Bedtime

Now I hear you ask, suppose I am the sort of lady who has hair which requires taming with use of rollers and enough pins to occupy The Saracen Foundry for a month. I understand perfectly from where you are coming. The answer is simple do as you usually do but cover the whole lot with one of those magnificently flattering boudoir caps in nylon-net or taffeta. Better still use a chiffon scarf tied in a jaunty manner.

Having prepared your hair, this also gives you a workable canvas to prepare the face for sleep, but a word of caution- it is worth spending the extra money on a good moisturiser that sinks into the skin on application. There is nothing more dispiriting for a man to lift his gaze from the National Geographic to find his lady wife looking like the bottom of an unheated chip pan. Think about it ladies, if the worst should happen and your home shelter receives a direct hit overnight would you forgive yourself knowing that your husband’s last memory of you was as something which could have deep fried apple fritters?

Somethings Should Never Be Exposed

Now most men do not even have the intelligence of a jackdaw, but even they realise that ladies make use of extra help and that mysterious things go on behind closed doors, but you would be wise not to spoil the illusion. If at all possible, try and find a quiet corner for your Fullers Earth Face pack, de-fuzzing the chin (Mother Nature can be very cruel)  and applying half a fresh lemon to your nails and elbows. Distract him by using the other half of the lemon for his Gin and Dubonnet.

Under no circumstances should you allow him to witness the application or removal of full party makeup or he may require the help of a trained medical specialist or what my woman what does calls a Trickcycalist. They find eyelash tongs particularly disturbing. Of course in an emergency situation there may be little cause for party make up, but one never knows, even on ill-fated Arctic expeditions there have been parties and theatricals. It’s all about keeping moral up.

Asking The Right Questions

Don’t ask questions or invite compliments which might backfire. For example, ‘Do I look all right this evening darling?’ That immediately sews doubt in his mind. Think of a jackdaw trying to get half a coconut off a branch! He is quite happy until he realises there is a small branch leading off which makes him question his approach. You must eliminate the offshoot. A more positive approach would be ‘Do you like this new eyeshadow? It’s the same one that Audrey Hepburn wears.’ Ergo, there is nothing wrong about it and you are simply marvellous.

If when you are reading this, you find yourself closeted for days on end with your husband, do not keep fretting about your make-up and touching up your lipstick all the time or dusting your face with a swansdown puff and powder  à la Lady Pentland-Firth.

This only draws attention to the fact that you are not all you seem to be and we want to preserve that illusion, ladies. As Walter Bagehot, an eminent Victorian from the reign of Queen Victoria who was head of all things Victorian, said “we must not let daylight into magic.”

Jasper is Full of Flattery 

“Yoohoo, I am home. Is lunch ready?”

“Jasper show me the winnings.”

“What winnings my love? And has anyone ever said you look like a Vogue cover – what is the colour of that new lipstick?”

“It’s the same one I was wearing yesterday Jasper.”

“Darling you make every day seem new. What are you doing?”

“I am writing beauty advice for the future.”

“Darling if any one can do it, it’s you. By the way have you seen that jackdaw outside. It’s trying to get a coconut off a branch. I am sure I wouldn’t know where to begin if I were a jackdaw.”

“No, I don’t imagine you would.”

Mrs T has Lunch Ready

“Lunch is ready”

“Coming Mrs T.” (in unison)

“By the way Dahling, do you really think the nation will be in trouble 60 years hence and will ladies still wear make-up then anyway?”

“On both counts Jasper I am certain. Now tell me exactly how much did you win and how this will help me in Dalys where I’ve seen a rather nice hat and gloves?”

Muriel Wylie

May 1960