DOING IT STANDING UP

Looking at a photograph, part of the coverage of the recent death of the Baroness  Thatcher showing the lady seated at her dressing-table, I reflected that I had never used one.   My own mother, as I recall, though attentive to her make-up and appearance, never sat down at one either.   In fact I have no recollection of my mother putting on make-up at all so presumably she did so in some private place.

My only criticism of the photograph of Margaret Thatcher is that it is a portrait of the lady in full public attire, where normally such an illustration would be in an intimate and delightful dishabille – a private moment which, though obviously contrived, pretends to be stolen.

I often regard with mild envy other women’s charming tables at which presumably they sit, with little drawers and shelves for their make-up, boxes for their jewellery, bottles of perfumes, glass dishes, flowers, all the delights of feminine frippery.    One imagines the lady of the house, attired perhaps in a silk and lace peignoir spending a leisurely private half hour getting ready for whatever her day promises.   (I can hear hollow laughter, but we can dream surely?)

Yet I know, even if I got one, I won’t sit at it.

When I was very young, I worked for a man in charge of a factory employing about 500 people.   I would lay out my clothes, jewellery, shoes etc the night before, and I could exit from bed to car in about 10 minutes.   The boss found it most productive if we could have an hour or so together sorting out his day before anyone else arrived.    I’d always been a morning person so it wasn’t hard for me to accommodate him in this way, and it had the added advantage that since I started work an hour or more ahead of the official time, going off to the hairdressers or for a long lunch was never a problem.    When occasionally I encountered the resentment of other women over this, I would wonder irritably where they were when the boss and I would slip into the empty car park in the grey light of dawn (in our separate cars.)    We’d have our session, both of us glaring so hard if anyone interrupted that people only did so in dire emergency.    Then he would put on his hard hat and  protective coat and retreat into the plant, and he’d say to me, ‘You go and put  your face on now.’    I’d take my  bag of tricks to the empty ladies’ loo (and get decidedly disgruntled if anyone came in before I was finished).    There I’d stand over  a sink and use the mirror above.   I suppose I developed  the habit of standing…

Now a desk, a proper desk, with a notice board and shelves above, and drawers and a waste paper bucket, that is for my exclusive use – well, now you’re talking.  I’ve always had one of those, and I can’t imagine being without it.

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