Cosmetic Changes

Breaking news! L’Oréal is to stop manufacturing lipstick. I was speaking with L’Oréal’s head of product development, Ms Cherry Glossie (her real name), the other day when she let the news slip. I’d had a Zoom meeting with her to see where production of Cecily cosmetics was at. I’d always thought it would be fun to have a Cecily cosmetic line, so I’d sent Cherry samples of various cosmetics I had developed just before the pandemic. Amongst other items there was a blusher called ‘A Red Awakening’, a facial compact named ‘Powder to the People’ and an antiperspirant called ‘Pit Stop’. Unfortunately Cherry dispelled any aspirations I might have to be a makeup magnate. She’s not one to beat about the bush Cherry; she told me that as Cecily was already 100% made up, she saw no point in her making her make up. I was so deeply disappointed that I could feel the colour draining from my face. Fortunately I had several hundred kilograms of blusher near at hand.

It was then that Cherry delivered her lipstick bombshell. Due to mask-wearing women don’t see the point in donning lipstick. Consequently lipstick sales have dropped faster than my ageing breasts. Cherry hypothesised that women were letting themselves go in other ways behind their masks, and we could expect an epidemic of tartar encrusted teeth and moustaches when the masks finally come off.

Not being a quitter I then contacted Estee Lauder and their product development director, Mx Beau Tockser (Zie real name). Beau told me to forget oral cosmetics, instead I should concentrate on the eyes – that’s where zir focus is. Beau wanted eye makeup that said, ‘I’m happy’, I’m sad’ and ‘I love you’. I told Beau I have a dark eye shadow called ‘20 Winks’ that says, ‘I’m tired’, but zim wasn’t interested, telling me to go back to the drawing board. I was so angry that I could feel the blood rushing to my face. Fortunately I had several hundred kilograms of facial powder near at hand.

With my cosmetic empire crumbling I offered my make-up samples to a local mortician and crematorium. I reasoned the dead can’t be as fussy as Cherry or Beau, but they are. The mortician I spoke to, Finn Ishing (from Funerals R Us), said they prefer to use the deceased’s own make-up. Failing that they use makeup products from quality manufacturers such as L’Oréal and Estee Lauder. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, he then offered to incinerate my surplus samples for free. What with the agitation this provoked, and my proximity to some sort of furnace I started to sweat like a politician who’s been asked to hand over their tax returns. Fortunately I had several hundred kilograms of antiperspirant near at hand.

Utterly defeated I’ve now changed tack. I have several different surgical masks, each with a different facial expression that I’ve drawn by hand myself. I then choose the mask that matches my mood. That way I can easily convey, ‘I’m happy’, I’m sad’ or ‘I love you’. If I don’t want to be bothered I’ve got one with a couple of teeth missing and a hairy upper lip – it works a treat.

Peachy lipstick Card

Much love to you all



I have a new phone, I call it Roger. I find it endlessly diverting whenever I go to use my phone to say, I’ll ‘Roger that’. Roger goes everywhere with me, a habit I developed with my previous phone. This eventually brought about that phone’s demise when it slipped off a hand basin and fell into the loo. No amount of dried rice was going to bring Dory back; ‘Over and out’ you could say. This won’t happen with Roger – he’s waterproof.

I purchased Roger from a store where the salespeople looked as if going outside was something weird people do and were young enough to think a landline was a geo-political thing. I’m so technologically challenged that two salespeople were assigned to me; they tagged in and out at regular intervals. I didn’t mind, I found them so similar and their talk so incomprehensible that they were interchangeable. I called them ‘Thing One’ and ‘Thing Two’; not to their faces of course. I’d like to have, but the chance of interrupting their torrent of tech talk to say anything was zero. Thing One spoke eloquently of the advantages (or was it virtues?) of each phone until I was so bamboozled that I chose Roger because I liked his colour. Thing Two then banged on and on about security, especially the need to upgrade my passwords. It appears the 123456789 that I regularly use has been cracked by hackers. ‘But I can barely remember that!’ I protested. ‘How can I be expected to remember, fjr843jrAD55HJUb4’? ‘Furthermore’, I remonstrated, ‘I’ll have to pass on the security changes to all the people I share my passwords and accounts with’. At last there was silence; they were speechless. Apparently, I was doing it all wrong, and unless I wanted to see my details, my contacts’ details and all my money disappear off to Eastern Europe I needed to get serious about security.

A biometric method of accessing your phone is the most secure, more so than a PIN or pattern. I tried facial recognition, which should be super-secure as no-one’s face looks like the recorded one on my phone, including my own face if Roger’s success at recognising me is anything to go by. His success rate is lowest first thing in the morning. I know I can look a little rough first thing, but all the other Rogers that I have woken up to (never you mind how many) recognised me the next morning. While they might have considered it they didn’t have the brutality to deny knowing me before slipping back into sleep mode.

I have passwords for Africa, which is a good thing because I’ve been contacted by an uncle I never knew I had who lives there and who is after some of them. Passwords are the bane of my life. Rather than unlocking worlds they bar me from entering everything from Adobe to Zoom – I hate them! I have scraps of paper with every possible variation of my first pet’s name, mother’s maiden name and favourite sport written on it. These scraps of paper have been heavily over-inked with additional numbers and special characters until they look like they were written by someone experimenting with cryptology and LSD. I have no idea which websites these relate to. Passwords, I hate them!

Then I discovered a password manager, and the sun shone and lambs came out to play. Now I need only remember one password, but it must be a good one! The conundrum is to develop a password that is impossible to guess yet easy to remember. I was advised to think of a memorable sentence that only I knew, then take the first letter of each word to form an apparent random collection of letters. To be topical and positive I tried the sentence, ‘Cecily Loves Information Technology’, which while memorable does not strike the tone I was looking for. I had more luck with my second choice, however due to security reasons I am unable to tell you what it is. You see I am learning.

However I do like to share, so if you’d like we can meet up for coffee and I’ll tell you then. That’s what I told my Uncle in Africa, but I haven’t heard back from him yet.

How Good A Friend Are You?

A friend is someone who will stick with you through thick and thin. Although shouldn’t that be thin and thick? As thin was first (and long ago) while the thick is seemingly here to stay. Our good friends are vitally important to us, and we hope that we are a good friend in return. But are we?

If a good friend has ever failed to tell you about a relationship break up, difficulty at work or that she’d vomited in a public rubbish bin after Friday drinks it may be that you’re not at the top of your friendship game. I’ve devised a short quiz to answer the question, ‘How good a friend am I?’ Not only will it give you a rating to impress what friends you do have left and help flesh out a deficient CV, but it will also point out any areas that you should focus on to improve your friendship skills. If you’ve already reached uber-friend status then you can jump straight to question 6.

Take the quiz.  Score it yourself, or better still get that good friend who you haven’t seen since the 2005 Christmas party incident to score it for you.

  1. How do you react when you see a friend having a romantic dinner with your ex in a restaurant?
    1. Give them some time to register your presence prior to going over, saying hello cordially then withdrawing to another restaurant = 2 points
    2. Ignore them the entire time while talking loudly about how good your life is and laughing uproariously at your table = 1 point
    3. Spend the evening alternatively staring intimidatingly at them and trolling their social media pages = 0 points
  2. What do you do when a friend asks for the recipe after your dinner party?
    1. You are thrilled at the compliment and send a detailed recipe annotated with hints on how to complete each step. At their next birthday you give them a copy of the recipe book with a personalised note to your friend from the author = 2 points
    2. Act thrilled at the compliment and promise to send the recipe. Which you dutifully do, after being reminded five times = 1 point
    3. As for b, but you miss out two key ingredients and double the cooking time = 0 points
  3. What do you do when a friend buys the same dress as you to wear to a function that you are both due to attend?
    1. Purchase a different dress and say nothing to your friend other than complimenting her at the function on how lovely she looks = 2 points
    2. Say nothing to your friend but immediately go on a crash keto diet to lose a couple of kilos so that you look better in it than she does = 1 point
    3. Buy another dress to wear to the event, and post images on social media of you wearing the doppelganger dress doing household chores (what, this old thing?) = 0 points
  4. What do you say when a friend has suddenly gained some weight?
    1. Say nothing but invite her on gentle activities so that she can get exercising again and/or talk about any issues = 2 points
    2. Say nothing but invite her on strenuous activities that she will struggle to complete = 1 point
    3. Tell her that a few extra kilos wouldn’t look better on anyone else but her, then offer to take her shopping for kaftans = 0 points
  5. A friend and you have been struggling to lose a few kilos that seem to have taken up residence around your middles. Then you bump into her and discover she has suddenly lost a lot of weight, what is your reaction?
    1. Say nothing but invite her out to see if everything is well with her = 2 points
    2. Avoid situations where you could be photographed beside her = 1 point
    3. Hope that her illness is serious = 0 point
  6. You are confident that you have good friends, and in turn are a good friend; you see a quiz in a trashy publication purporting to assess how good a friend you are. What is your reaction?
    1. Not take it seriously but read it for amusement with a healthy scepticism = 100 points
    2. Take the quiz after glancing at the scoring guide to see how you should answer the questions to achieve a high score = 1 point
    3. b. above plus you tell everyone you know your own inflated score and advise them they are lucky to know you = 0 points

0                            Friends are those people you see others wanting to be with. Weird eh?
1 – 6                       Welcome to the human race.
100                        Well done! This score reveals nothing about your rating as a friend but does speak well of your common sense.                
110                        Congratulations! You are either an uber-friend or a cheat. Consequently people either love you or hate you.

Lockdown DIY

In 1970 David Crosby sang, ‘Almost cut my hair’. Of course he didn’t – he let it fall out instead. Thereby allowing a symbol of rebellion set the scene for a symptom of ageing. Crosby’s refrain was political, he was endorsing his opposition to the establishment. So was I a sell-out 50 years on when I took the pinking shears, more about this choice later, to my crowning glory? No, as it wasn’t a rejection of counterculture that led to my lock lopping so much as an act of desperation and boredom.

Desperation because under lockdown rules in New Zealand you are unable to go to the hairdressers. In Australia, a land where coiffure is clearly valued more highly – witness Dame Edna and Norman Gunston – hairdressing is an essential service; the equal of other services such as policing and fulfilling your role as an ER medic. I was bored as I’d spent four entire weeks living with myself – no mean feat and sadly something no man has ever chosen to do.

This combination of desperation and boredom set the scene for cutting my own hair. It was the day and time of my scheduled appointment when armed with my kiwi can-do attitude and thoughts of, ‘how hard can it be?’, I set myself down in front of the mirror. I’d washed my hair and had a towel wrapped around my shoulders – it was just like the real thing. To heighten the experience I had a friend with me on Skype asking questions about the weather, how my day had been so far, how much I wanted off today and had I thought about a change in look? It was so realistic that I began to think about getting a mullet, but I bottled out and settled on a fringe trim. However my scissors, blunted through being used as screwdrivers to tighten pot handles, were useless. The pot handles, unlike my trousers, required tightening after all the lockdown cooking I was doing. Hence the pinking shears, which make poor screwdrivers. I also thought the sawtooth pattern would create a new look for me. I was right, it was a new look, but for humankind not just me.

Fortunately, and I may be the only person saying this, the New Zealand lockdown has been extended for another week. This will give time for my hair to grow out. Unfortunately I’ll now miss a scheduled appointment with my dermatologist, and won’t have a nasty mole removed. However I’ve still got that can-do kiwi attitude, I mean, how hard can it be?

You’re Dreaming!

“All men dream; but not equally”. So said T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) in his ‘7 Pillars of Wisdom’. Hardly surprising, after all we are all different, certainly we aren’t all equal, and of course, we aren’t all men. And if you thought there was a single understanding of the word dream, well you’re hallucinating.

We all daydream. I imagine like me a common daydream of yours is a life of espionage: safeguarding good, eradicating evil and bedding Daniel Craig. All completed secretly while carrying on the day job as a librarian. No? How about imaging yourself as Cleopatra, bathing in donkeys’ milk while preparing to seduce Mark Antony. No? It must be just me. Of course I’m being silly, my wildest dreams don’t extend beyond discovering the bathroom scales are over-reporting or learning ice cream is slimming.

We day-dream because the brain feels a need to generate its own stimulation. Essentially the brain is entertaining us because we’re bored; it’s transporting us to a more interesting place. Taking us away from a tedious repetitive task, removing us from the Chairperson’s report, or muting your beloved’s explanation of how a router works.

Like daydreams, sexual fantasies occur when we’re wide awake, although Stanley Kubrick had his with his eyes wide shut. Personally I found the movie a battle to keep mine open, and so nodded off for the entire second half and missed the climax – story of my life.

The brain is the largest erogenous zone in the body, so it’s not surprising that it needs a little stroking. While both genders may fantasise, the fantasies often differ. For example, hers is possibly a road trip, and picking up a hitchhiker who turns out to be Brad Pitt. While his might involve the entire female Brazillian beach volleyball team in a hot tub, helping them with the task of sand removal.

While we may all dream at night, we can’t agree on why we do so. Freud saw dreams as “the royal road” to our hidden desires and emotions. The analysis of a person’s dreams, so the argument goes, will give great insight into that person. Freud has fallen out of favour with other psychologists. I guess that can happen when you tell your female colleagues they are envious of their father’s penis, and your male colleagues they have sexual feelings towards their mother.

Today some scientists believe that dreams are aiding memory consolidation, or are an extension of daytime consciousness – perhaps helping us to work through difficult problems. Others say there is no direct function, rather it is a consequence of other biological processes. I personally believe we have dreams to warn us against – just in case you were considering it – going to work naked.

Yet another type of dream is that of Martin Luther King Jr., who in 1963 had a dream of a more inclusive America. While today in the USA “The Dreamers” refer to undocumented migrants who arrived in the USA as children. Here dream is being used as a synonym for hope.

The corollary of dreams of hope are nightmares of despair. A quick browse of any news media will confirm the many instances of misery in the world. Like me I’m sure you’d like to do something for those whose wildest dreams are securing safety and the basic necessities of life. I’m not certain what the answer is exactly, but I am sure it’s to be found in building bridges, not walls. A previous Republican President recognised this when he said, “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall”. Let’s not build any more. We may not all dream equally, but let’s share a dream of a bit more equality.

No News Is Bad News

I like to keep abreast of current affairs. I find important issues such as elections, changing macroeconomic conditions and the name of Kate and Will’s latest to be extremely compelling.
In addition to keeping a watchful eye on these weighty issues I am also drawn to the weird happenings in the world. For instance this week I learnt of a 0.5km fun run in the Texan town of Boerne. That decimal point is not a typo, we’re talking 500m. I could do that – it’s a fraction of the distance I run every day looking for my keys, phone and wallet. The run starts at one bar and ends at another. One hundred and fifty metres into the run there’s a doughnut stand, which is beside a smoking area. It would be fair to say the emphasis is more on fun than run.
You could say the organisers of the Boerne fun run are “taking the piss”, but not as much as IKEA, as this next piece of news will reveal. IKEA recently placed a magazine advert for baby bassinets that doubled as a pregnancy test. Anyone who thought they might be pregnant was encouraged to pee on the ad that was splashed across the magazine’s pages. If they were pregnant the positive test revealed a previously hidden special discount price. If there are couples out there reading this and trying to get pregnant – not at the same time obviously – please note this only works for women.
Some people may discount weird items news as being improbable or inconsequential. Whereas I, having lived with myself these past few decades, find them entirely believable. Furthermore, I find they have value in allowing me to view the weird events in my own life less severely. For example, I read of a job interview that went awry when the applicant fainted and only regained consciousness in an ambulance. Which made me feel better about the time I went to the toilet while nervously waiting for a job interview. When I tried to leave the stall I found I was locked in. With my phone in my car, and my cries for help going unnoticed I resolved to commando crawl under the door. However I was concerned my clothes would get dirty so I stripped to my underwear then squeezed through the gap. While lying horizontal and scantily clad on the toilet floor someone came in; I was relieved – in every sense – when they didn’t hang around. However I did get the opportunity to explain myself fully to them when I saw them on the interview panel. You see it works, you’re already feeling better about your own worst interview.
It is incorrect that News is an acronym for either Notable Events, Weather and Sport, or for North, East, West and South. Rather the clue is in the name; news is to do with new information. Other explanations are fake (news).
Fake news, unlike real news, is intended to deceive. It is not news. Nor is it new – the term was used as early as 1894 in a cartoon by Frederick Opper. We owe a lot to President Donald Trump for the work he has done in the area of fake news. We are especially indebted to his broadening of the term to include accurate news that he doesn’t like.
Real news has power, and the people who vilify the fourth estate, or worse still harm those within it, realize this. News has the power to increase the engagement of ordinary people in society. Initially through increasing their ability to hold a conversation. Secondly, it facilitates the shaping the people’s opinions and beliefs. Then ultimately, news allows people to go out and shape their world. Clearly dangerous stuff.
So I’m going out to buy a quality newspaper with accurate reporting, reasoned editorials and a few job vacancies with interviews by Skype – not in an office block with a dodgy toilet door.

Birth Order

I was conceived in a wine bar in Queenstown, New Zealand. How about you? A few days later I was born on a drawing board, with only the neighbour’s dog in attendance. I was already 30-something – it’s enough to make your eyes water.
Mine was an unusual beginning, but then I’m what is referred to as a brain child. I am an original, something that has been invented. Whereas you, Dear Reader, although possibly conceived on a bed of rose petals in Paris, are merely unique. If I seem overly competitive I’m sorry, but I am a first-born child.
You may justifiably retort that I’m just a cartoon character, a mere doodle on a page. However you and I have much in common. I too have feelings – I can feel flat, grey and drawn. And at our respective conceptions both of us were just a rubber away from non-existence. So I too have insecurities about my position in the world. Being Celia’s first born I can easily be supplanted by a pesky second brain child, and end up as yellowing sketches desperately clinging to the fridge.
Many believe that birth order, whether you are the first born, second born, etc., has a big effect on your personality and behaviour. Eldest children, so the theory goes, got lots of parental attention; consequently they tend to be high achievers and leaders, but can be controlling and bossy. Barack Obama is a first born, so too are both Bill and Hillary Clinton. The trend in monarchy is even more exaggerated, with virtually every King being a first-born male – spooky! Also twenty one of the twenty-four US astronauts who have been to the moon are first born. Which leaves middle born children wondering, if we can send twenty-one first born to the moon, why not all of them?
Of course, a middle child doesn’t have nasty thoughts like that. According to birth order theory middle children tend to be mediators, compromising, diplomatic, conflict avoiding, loyal and unspoilt. However, before you middle children climb out of your boxes you are also thought of as shy and having low self-esteem. To witness the qualities of diplomacy, conflict avoidance and shyness in a middle child you need look no further than Donald Trump.
Finally, and this is their constant experience, finally we come to the last-born child. A group that until they left home weren’t aware that clothes came from shops. You have had to fit into an established order, consequently you’re charming, a people person, precocious, creative and innovative. Older siblings are expressing this when they endearingly tell you you’re manipulative, blaming of others, prone to showing off and disorganised.
Is any of this true? Funnily enough each birth order group believes the stereotypes to be correct in two out of three cases; only being incorrect in assessments of themselves. One thing we appear to have in common is self-serving bias.
Despite these conflicts most families feel bound together, united by something greater than personal rivalries. Wouldn’t it be nice if the people of the world too saw themselves as one big family, and started to get along despite their differences? I think we’d all celebrate the birth of that world order.


With regard to committing social faux pas the world can be divided into two groups: those who admit to regularly transgressing social norms, and those who lie. For apparently we all embarrass ourselves four times a day on average. Just thinking about myself, I’d consider only four embarrassing moments within a 24 hour period a stellar day. One worthy of celebrating by jumping up and down on the spot and shouting with glee! Oops….

Common embarrassments are tripping over in public, getting food stuck on our face and forgetting someone’s name when introducing them. I consider these to be mere trifles, as I’ve done worse – much worse. Once in a clothes shop a sock of mine got caught inside one of the many pairs of trousers I had been trying on. The trousers were then returned to the clothes rack before I noticed the sock was missing. Soon there were three shop assistants, as well as myself, searching through the many clothes racks to find my lost aging holey sock. However this incident is insignificant when compared to what once happened at the end of a hike in the New Zealand wilderness. I simply had to answer the call of nature, and did so in a remote clearing at the bottom of a small terrace. Only the terrace turned out to be an embankment for a railway. This railway carries a tourist train that twice a day trundles slowly though this area, thereby allowing visitors to see spectacular and unparalleled views of what New Zealand has to offer. On this sunny day in the height of summer the train was packed with tourists in the open carriages, all aiming cameras with gigantic lenses at the virgin scenery (and me). This most certainly colored my cheeks.

It seems to me that embarrassment serves two valuable purposes. Firstly it entertains friends, giving them much hilarity. Secondly it provides material for speech writers at birthdays, weddings and funerals. My funeral may run for days as my blunders, gaffes and indiscretions are recounted; although ironically my funeral may be the one social engagement where I maintain a calm composure.

Psychologists believe the purpose of going bright red is to clearly communicate that we are aware of our mistake. This colourful admission of guilt results in the beetroot-faced being more likely to be forgiven, trusted and liked than those who maintain a perpetual calm. Consequently people showing embarrassment are more likely to be found attractive. So why am I still single? I believe the frequency and scale of my embarrassments has rendered my attractiveness so great that I am viewed as unattainable; sad, but perhaps true.

So the next time you fail to live up to some social standard and you feel the colour rising in your cheeks, take heart in the possibility that a future beau may note your discomfort, and judge you to be both trustworthy and attractive. Who knows, perhaps there’s a tourist somewhere who’s wondering how to contact that woman with her pants down and her colour up.