Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Composting

It’s finally spring, even here in the British Isles! And Judith (mummy) has arrived back to London for the Chelsea Garden Show. Except there is no Chelsea Garden Show and she already knew it. Says she: we need to keep to routine as much as possible even in shutdown. I didn’t push but since when is it routine to turn up for things that are not even happening? And turn up a week late at that?

I just looked at her for some sign that wasn’t likely to come. She’s always played her cards close to her vest and believes it her due not to be pressed. Why she'd chosen to sit out this plague-demic in the country would remain a mystery. It is, however, very clear as to why she’s made her way back—ME! Who else was going to colour her hair with all the shops closed?

She’d arrived wearing a hat and immediately floated up the staircase so as not to be seen by Father. They’ve been married longer than they’ve ever been apart but still she goes on with this pretense. I have a vision of them in their old age—sharing a bed with a curtain between them for modesty sake.

With her a captive audience for forty minutes, I took it upon myself to express how very, very unhappy I was that she and father had abandoned the compost I’d set up for them. Clearly she had failed to grasp just how critical such an undertaking was, and in typical Judith fashion she said it was really Daddy’s doing and I needed to discuss it with him. Hopeless, the pair of them, and as if our planet was just going to take care of itself?

All she wanted to talk about was Patrick this, and Patrick that, and I said, you know perfectly well that during this shutdown everyone has loads more time than they otherwise would have… take the Chelsea Garden Show, for example, and I explained all of this extra time is the only reason he stopped in—nothing to discuss! The flowers… well that’s just very Patrick.

It soon became readily apparent that it was I myself who was being held captive as she managed to find and broach every single thing I didn’t wish to discuss. Rather risky on her part, as I was only halfway through applying the boxed colour to her virgin roots. With the now obvious perfume-y/chemical smell very likely wafting downstairs, Daddy called up asking if we needed anything…tea…fire extinguisher… anything.

Judith remained unruffled and responded in the placid, collected voice befitting a woman of her upbringing, “Thank you darling we’re just getting settled…” But before she finished I'd heard the back door slap shut. Daddy had guessed her response and was now likely headlong into the garden, and having a chuckle at our expense. I'd finished up with “Beige Flirtation” and left Judith to marinate.

Tiptoeing into the backyard, I met Daddy just shy of the potting shed… at last he would answer for the reckless abandonment of the composting system I had so painstakingly researched and established! What had he to say for himself? He was a man who’d made his very career out of extracting composted matter (eventually becoming petroleum) from the ground. He was not likely to make a case against giving back— even if it was only a tiny bit of giving, and wouldn’t be given for fifty million years. STILL, he had to be in favour.

But in favour he was not, and a scowl settled into his forehead. “Bad bit of business, that,” was his only response. And I wondered how high his hopes could have been for what was literally a rotting biomass.

Who can resist?

“Bad… what exactly?? I persisted, “You can’t just do that.”

“Can’t I?” He countered. (Good God he really was serious!)

“Well no, you can’t .” I said, “you just…can’t.” He was quiet as he rummaged for just the right rusted spade.

“It was Nicholas actually, and…”

“Nicholas our gardener?”

“Yes, Nicholas our gardener,” he said, making it very clear he was going to drop the subject, but then added, “You needn’t get all broke up about it, our public liability insurance covered the lot of it.”

What could Nicholas have done? Surely he didn’t get into any sort of trouble taking my advice and actually peeing on the pile of mulch? Or having been confused with exposing himself? Men can be so careless at times.

Remembering Judith's hair was about to go nuclear, I raced back upstairs to declare her officially “done” and sent her into the bath to rinse out. There would be no rummaging around in mummy’s diary for clues  to any fatalities. Which left me with no choice but to text Patrick.

Perhaps…perhaps he’d have heard something from Father over some long trek to the literal center of the earth. He texted back, “Hello Beautiful. How are you?”

“Hi, so…they found him face down—his face covered in…well it seems he took in a lungful of mould spores…and nearly died.

“Died?? ” I asked, shocked out of my gourd.

“Right, and I’m afraid that wasn’t the whole of it, someone actually did die at the composting plant—the two were not determined to be connected but rather unfortunately somewhat earlier in the season…an arborist contracted some rare form of meningitis—papers went wild. This was also never connected to your parent’s yard but they did determine it was likely from some mulch or compost and well… poor Nicholas did nearly die.”

"I killed Nicholas?"

“Nearly darling, as I said only nearly. No hard feelings. They settled out of court, all very civilised, Nicholas was really a sport about it and he’s obviously retired a bit earlier and quite a bit better than he otherwise might have done.”

“Better…I…” was all I could get out. “Thank you Patrick, thank you so much.”

“Of course…are you all right??"

“Yes, thanks, thanks so much I…unfortunately I have to finish up something, I’m in the middle of a bit of science here.”

“Of course” Patrick said. “But I’ll see you a little bit later—your mother’s invited me round.”

“Yes, of course, see you later.”

I gulped down the water on my dressing table and stared at my own image—incredulous. What magic elixir might I concoct to to remove utter shock from my face? I think this calls for a bright coral lipstick and a tropical escape. Preferably one where I won’t have to think about saving the planet. Just wow.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Unmasked

I’m not sure what I expected when I came back to visit mummy and daddy but to be sure—Mummy and Daddy! That, however was not to be.

Other than referring to my mother as Judith for almost as long as I can remember, they’ve been pretty normal as parents go. And one could generally expect to find them home—Judith organising something or other, and Daddy reading or shuffling papers. As Judith never took breakfast they usually didn’t see one another until evening cocktails, but that ritual was truly sacrosanct. So when I arrived—on time and as promised, I in turn, expected to find them—drinks in hand and nibbling curry-spiced cashews and paper-thin slices of salmon on rye. What I found was most of the lights off and a half- melted bucket of ice at the bar.

I went up to my room to find mail that had been deposited over the course of the last several weeks, and half a dozen tulips placed into a vase—but no note. I must’ve slept for a good hour before I heard my father call from downstairs. No Judith. She’d decided to remain in the country in the interest of “essential” travel strictures. I never got a straight answer about how they got separated in the first place but how could she not bother to turn up when her only child had traveled halfway 'round the world to see her? Father gave me a look as though I was getting unnecessarily agitated so I just fumed inside and let it go.

Seriously though—who were these people? Quarantine-panicked and cowering like two pensioners who’d lost their house, their livelihood and their only child to a single incendiary. And who was this man sitting in front of me? I’d expected the reluctant RAF hero who took nothing too seriously and above all refused to give in, especially when those around him did. This was far too depressing after leaving a US that had likewise all but flown the white flag. Defeated as well, I went back upstairs, nicked a moisturising mask from my mother’s bathroom and fell asleep a second time.

Day Two: awoke to find father knocking about the kitchen only to soon learn we were out of milk, bread, eggs and, as he added 'soon enough…toilet roll'. On our way to Tesco we weren’t steps from our home when we were stopped by a policeman…yes we live in the same house, yes this is an essential trip but apparently we weren’t convincing enough—as we got a stern warning. Lovely. Two bagfuls later, we headed back—sharing a ham and pickle sandwich only to be met by a second officer. 'No it isn’t compulsory to wear a face mask,' she explained, 'but the mayor strongly urges you to do so'.

And with that, the father I used to know returned—and in full force I might add. 'Was this warning compulsory?'and, 'Does the mayor have any suggestions for eating while simultaneously wearing a mask'? Shocked, I rustled the paper wrapper of my half sandwich to underscore the fact that we were in fact eating, and to plead our case that we should be be spared the £30 fine. It worked, and the officer turned to look for her next scofflaw. Still ,I was quiet.

'You do realise that in London alone there were a hundred domestic violence arrests yesterday'? he said to me with pain in his voice. 'I hadn’t' I responded, and added, 'Clearly nobody’s having cured salmon on rye' and he stifled a smile. Seeking to change the subject fully, I began regaling him with the very positive effects of the global shutdown on the environment only to find myself once again at seven years of age, having been patted on the head and sent back to the nursery. 'No appreciable benefit', he corrected. 'The planet is still getting hotter, smog has decreased somewhat but no appreciable benefit. And I need not remind you of the year you lobbied me, and anyone who would listen to you, that we needed to buy property on the equator— just to survive the impending and unavoidable ice age'?

He wasn’t wrong. I had done, and thankfully they hadn’t listened. But it wasn’t ever likely my father was going to make any substantive change based on the opinions of a seven-year old climate scientist. For her part, Judith had asked him to 'buy something small… just to appease her' -- and to keep me from having night terrors. But he wasn’t having any part of it.

So dear reader, with the planet heading to either heat or ice, depending on when you tuned in and whom you follow, I think I should address the issue of the mask. Do choose something stylish, there’s no way of knowing how long this will last, and frankly do you want to be remembered as a sloppy bandit? Or join the millions of women who have decided just not to colour their hair or look presentable? Of course you don’t.

And while many of you have written about adding a coffee filter to boost the filtration aspect, I think it important to remember, no matter where you are on the mask spectrum— just like dressing for dinner—you are wearing the mask to make others feel comfortable. Touting how 'comfortable' you are in sweats or some lumpy dress while a savvy maitre d’ seats you in Siberia is nothing to be proud of. You are dressing to make others feel more comfortable around you. And the same holds true for a mask. Even if like me, you know your immune system will fight off nearly any virus… you wear the mask so that others feel comfortable around you. It really is the only thing befitting a well-bred gel.