I remember as if it were yesterday.
In the evening, by the glow of a 40-watt, my beautiful mum, sitting at her dressing table (I remember that, too. 1950s Stag – we skipped it when we moved house and Sod’s Law it’s highly sought-after retro now).
There she’d sit, taking off her Max Factor pancake in stripy swipes with cotton wool drenched in oh-dee cologne, which smelt of oranges and lemons and the scrunchy little lavender bag she had in her nightie drawer.
I loved the fragrance of the oh-dee and I Ioved watching her slowly and methodically erasing every last trace of her glamorous Marilyn Monroe face until she became my rosy-posy, sweet-cheeked my mum again.
Afterwards she would tip a little puddle of Oil of Ulay into the palm of her hand and massage it into her cheeks and neck, just as her mum had always done.
The smell of the Ulay I couldn’t fathom, but it was lovely; kind of feminine. Slightly exotic, like it’s name.
I always anted to ask whereabouts in the world this place called Ulay was – on the road to Mandalay, maybe, or Zanzibar? These days its name is something uttered by a Spanish bullfighter. It’s more European, someone reckoned. Definitely less romantic.
It’s still got the same pinkness, though. The colour of sugared almonds and marshmallows, it looked so delicious I tasted it once. Which, like the time I ate lanolin expecting Cornish clotted cream, was a big disappointment.
Mum’s magic cleanser, I eventually discovered, was something called 4711 Eau de Cologne, the ‘miracle water’ invented in Germany in 1792. Ladies and gents used to dab it behind their ears.
I tried the 4711 once, too. Thankfully not orally. I’d hit my teens and desperate for something to dry up my greasy skin (spots sucked up sebum like nectar and grew to boils in the course of a Tudors and Stuarts lesson) it was to mum’s magic water I turned.
Shock: it stripped my skin to squeaky-pink, stung my eyes and tripped the inner grease geyser to maximum output.
Apart from the time I nicked her spit’n’scrub mascara, that was my one and only attempt to follow Mum’s Beauty Routine. I went my own way; ploughed my own forehead furrows, though it’s now revealed a third of women do the exact opposite and stick religiously to what mum taught them for the rest of their lives. Or rather, what they gleaned from pilfering her make-up drawer.
A Superdrug survey of 2,000 British women reveals one in three believe mum knows best and carry on copying her, just like they do when they’re making gravy and the Christmas dinner.
How vexed must be the beauty industry, which spends millions each year trying to persuade us each and every new jar contains the ultimate elixir, the age-defying, gravity-busting miracle, and that we must spend. Hah! Think of the extra frown-lines they’ll be getting!