A Groovy Kind Of Night

In her new small-town home in the swing­ing Six­ties, a style faux pas was dou­bly painful for Lon­don girl Tessa…

My Weekly - - Contents - By Joanne Dun­can

A teen tale to make you smile

Tessa would never have gone to the tennis club dance with Alexandra in the first place if Aunt Con­nie hadn’t popped round to Nan’s the pre­vi­ous week and per­suaded Mum it was a good idea.

“It’ll give her the chance to get to know some other teenagers be­fore school starts again,” she’d said. “The club has an ex­cel­lent so­cial side – our Alexandra’s built up quite a lit­tle cir­cle of friends. And Reg can col­lect them in the Sun­beam af­ter­wards.”

Tag­ging along with a slightly older, rather pa­tro­n­is­ing cousin didn’t sound like much fun to Tessa, but the de­ci­sion ap­peared to have been taken out of her hands. On Satur­day morn­ing, she found her­self ac­com­pa­ny­ing Mum to Pol­litt’s, Mar­ket Beesing’s one and only depart­ment store. Nan, with whom they now lived since mov­ing from Lon­don, swore by Pol­litt’s.

An an­cient sales as­sis­tant, dressed en­tirely in black, di­rected them to what she called the “beeoo­tique”.

Tessa knew no self-re­spect­ing teenager should be seen clothes shop­ping in pub­lic with her mother – on the other hand, five shillings’ pocket money a week didn’t go far and at least no­body here re­ally knew her yet, other than her re­la­tions. Be­sides, she had a feel­ing that Pol­litt’s wouldn’t ex­actly be top of the list as a place for Mar­ket Beesing’s in-crowd to hang out. Al­ways as­sum­ing it had an in-crowd.

Most of the items in the “beeoo­tique” looked as though they’d been on the racks since 1956 rather than 1966 but, af­ter a lot of rum­mag­ing, she un­earthed a yel­low cot­ton mini-dress with white pip­ing.

“Can I buy some make-up?” she asked. Af­ter all, she was four­teen now and knew pre­cisely what she wanted – an in­cred­i­bly pale, beige-pink lip­stick, the kind Twiggy al­ways wore, and some mas­cara. Per­haps even an eye­liner.

“Save your money,” said Mum. “A lit­tle bird told me Nan might have a sur­prise for you later.”

Tessa’s heart sank. Im­pos­si­ble to hurt Nan’s feel­ings, yet she just knew her grand­mother wouldn’t have had a clue what to get. Though at least Mum’s hint meant she was pre­pared for the mo­ment, at seven o’clock that evening, when a pow­der com­pact and lip­stick in match­ing shiny cases were pressed into her hands.

“Come on then,” twin­kled Nan. “Time for your first les­son.”

And she and Mum watched, smil­ing en­cour­ag­ingly, while Tessa dusted her nose with pow­der and care­fully ap­plied the lip­stick, blot­ting twice with a tis­sue af­ter­wards in ac­cor­dance with their in­struc­tions.

“Thanks, Nan,” said Tessa. “It’s lovely. Mum, can I have a quick word with you about – um – some­thing?

“I can’t wear this,” she whis­pered in the kitchen. “It’s too pink.”

“If it was any less pink,” said Mum, “you wouldn’t be able to see it.”

“But that’s the whole point. Lips are sup­posed to be nude. This might as well be bright red, it’s so un­fash­ion­able. Can I take some of your cleans­ing cream to get it off with once I’m out­side?”

“Of course not, you silly thing. That’ll be Alexandra now,” Mum added as the door­bell rang. “Don’t keep her wait­ing. Try to look happy, for good­ness’ sake.”

“My two beau­ti­ful grand­daugh­ters,” Nan was say­ing when they emerged into the hall­way, and her eyes couldn’t have shone any more if she’d been wav­ing them off to a ball.

“No­body else will be wear­ing lip­stick that colour,” said Alexandra as soon as they left the house.

“Nan gave it to me,” said Tessa, tak­ing out her new com­pact and check­ing anx­iously in the mirror.

“Did she give you the pow­der com­pact as well? My mother’s got one just like it.”

And, hav­ing de­liv­ered her killer blow, Alexandra walked the rest of the way in si­lence while Tessa trot­ted be­hind, sur­rep­ti­tiously rub­bing at her lips with a hanky.

“Lips are SUP­POSED to be NUDE. This might as well be BRIGHT RED”

A t the tennis club, a small group of girls had al­ready con­gre­gated in the Ladies – pre­sum­ably this was the “lit­tle cir­cle of friends” that Aunt Con­nie had men­tioned.

“Why are you wear­ing that lip­stick?” asked one of them. A glance in the mirror told Tessa her ef­forts had been in vain.

“My nan bought it for her,” said

Alexandra in a bored voice. “I wouldn’t let my grandma buy make-up for me,” said some­body else, and there was a gen­eral cho­rus of as­sent. “Mind you, I wish she’d kept her old clothes. That’s what ev­ery­body’s wear­ing in Lon­don – vin­tage frocks and big hats.”

“Yeah,” said the first girl. “There’s a bou­tique called Granny Takes A Trip where they sell noth­ing else.” And she shot a con­spir­a­to­rial smile at Alexandra who frowned and shook her head.

They trooped out onto the dance floor. Tessa tried her best to for­get about the lip­stick and en­joy her­self but it was no use. Although the disc jockey played two of her favourites – Pain­tItBlack by the Stones and Sha-La-La-La-Lee by the Small Faces – she felt ter­ri­bly self­con­scious. A cou­ple of boys nearby kept grin­ning at her and nudg­ing each other which put her off even more and, af­ter ten min­utes, she gave up.

“I think I’ll sit down for a bit,” she said, cup­ping her hands round her mouth and speak­ing into Alexandra’s ear so as to be heard above the mu­sic.

“If you’d rather go home, I could ring my dad and ask him to fetch you.”

“No, it’ll be fine.” Though touched by her cousin’s thought­ful­ness, Tessa couldn’t face ex­plain­ing to Mum and Nan why she was back so early. “I’ll have a Coke and maybe dance again later.”

“OK then.” Alexandra turned away and Tessa stole off to find some­where to sit, well away from the pub­lic gaze.

Need­less to say, she had no in­ten­tion what­so­ever of danc­ing again. Her sole aim was to get through the next cou­ple of hours and then for­get this evening had ever hap­pened. H i,” said a voice. “I’m Maureen. My sis­ter said I should come and talk to you.” A girl of about Tessa’s own age peered at her un­cer­tainly from be­neath a heavy fringe.

“That’s nice of her,” said Tessa, “but I’m all right, re­ally. Do have a seat if you like though.”

Maureen’s eyes widened. “Is that a Lon­don accent?”

“Well, yes – my dad was a Lon­doner and I grew up there. But my mum’s from round here.”

“Are you re­lated to Alexandra’s other cousin in Lon­don, then?” said Maureen who’d now set­tled her­self com­fort­ably.

Tessa blinked. “I didn’t even know she had an­other cousin.”

“Oh, yes,” said Maureen. “She’s about sev­en­teen, I think, and her par­ents own this mews house in Chelsea, only five min­utes from the King’s Road. Alex stayed with her over Easter and they vis­ited loads of fa­mous bou­tiques, ones where pop stars and mod­els go all the time. They saw Lulu, and one of the Moody Blues spoke to them…”

She stopped sud­denly and red­dened. “Ac­tu­ally, Alex only told my sis­ter this be­cause they’re best friends. She was sup­posed to keep it to her­self, only she never can re­sist brag­ging to me. You won’t let on, will you?

“Alex’s mother thinks this Cathy’s par­ents were there the whole time. She doesn’t know they were down in Kent, at their coun­try cot­tage, so the girls could pretty much do what they liked…”

“Did Alexandra buy any­thing at these bou­tiques?” asked Tessa. Surely her cousin wasn’t claim­ing to have passed off some­thing from Pol­litt’s spring sale as King’s Road fash­ions?

“A cou­ple of out­fits,” said Maureen, “but ap­par­ently this Cathy’s look­ing af­ter them ‘til next time she goes down there. So you don’t know Cathy at all, then?”

“She must be re­lated on my un­cle’s side,” said Tessa quickly, her fin­gers crossed be­hind her back. Un­cle Reg’s fam­ily all lived in Nuneaton. “Don’t worry. I won’t say any­thing.”

Alexandra had spent last Easter in Lon­don all right – in the dis­tinctly un-trendy sub­urb of Ac­ton where she’d re­luc­tantly shared Tessa’s bed­room be­tween ex­cur­sions to Madame Tus­saud’s and Hamp­ton Court.

“We might as well get a last bit of sight­see­ing in,” Aunt Con­nie had said, “be­fore you leave Lon­don for good.” “Fancy an­other dance?” said Maureen. “I dunno.” Tessa glanced around. “There were these two daft boys hang­ing around be­fore. They kept smirk­ing at me.”

“Oh, that’ll be my brother and his mate, Tony,” said Maureen. “Don’t worry about them, they’re just shy with girls.” A huge smile spread over her face. “By the way,” she added. “I do love your accent. It’s fab.” D id you have a good time, love?” Nan asked as Tessa looked into the liv­ing-room door to say good­night. “Yes, Nan. I had a smash­ing time.” The evening, she re­flected as she climbed the stairs, had turned out much bet­ter than ex­pected. She’d learned that

“It’s not MY FAULT you made up a LOAD OF TOSH to im­press your CRONIES”

she and Maureen would be at the same school, so she’d have at least one friend. And then there’d been the mut­tered ex­change with Alexandra while they were wait­ing for Un­cle Reg.

“I bet Maureen’s been blab­bing,” her cousin had be­gun crossly. “I knew this would hap­pen. Why couldn’t you go home early like I sug­gested?”

“It’s not my fault you made up a lot of old tosh to im­press your cronies,” said Tessa, stung for once into re­tal­i­at­ing. “I wouldn’t care but, if you’d told me you wanted to see the King’s Road, we could have eas­ily got the bus, like I used to nearly ev­ery Satur­day with my mates. OK, we never ac­tu­ally bought any­thing but we spot­ted the odd fa­mous face…”

“It’s dif­fer­ent for you,” Alexandra hissed. “You’ve prob­a­bly been hop­ping on and off buses since you were ten.”

“I wouldn’t say ten,” said Tessa mod­estly. “Eleven, maybe.”

“My mother doesn’t trust me as far as the end of our drive. Can you imag­ine the shame if she in­sisted on com­ing with us?”

Tessa tried to pic­ture Aunt Con­nie in a Chelsea bou­tique with its psy­che­delic dé­cor, weird mu­sic and a com­mu­nal chang­ing room crammed with leggy, fash­ion­able young women. The po­ten­tial for em­bar­rass­ment would be end­less.

“Thanks for not giv­ing me away, though,” Alexandra had whis­pered, only slightly grudg­ingly, as her fa­ther’s Sun­beam pulled up. “Next time there’s a dance, I’ll do your make-up.”

It was the near­est thing to a con­ver­sa­tion they’d ever had.

Now, be­fore set­ting to work with the cleans­ing cream and cot­ton wool balls Mum had left out for her, she stud­ied her re­flec­tion in the mirror and mused on the evening’s other im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tion.

The four of them – Maureen and her brother, his friend and her­self – had just fin­ished strut­ting their stuff, amid much gig­gling, to Sat­is­fac­tion.

“We didn’t up­set you ear­lier, did we?” Tony had asked over the in­tro­duc­tion to GroovyKindOfLove. “We were wor­ried when you dis­ap­peared – that’s why we sent Maureen to check if you were OK.”

“You?” ex­claimed Tessa. “Not her sis­ter? I thought you were laugh­ing at me.”

“No,” said Tony. “I wanted to ask you to dance, that’s all, but couldn’t get up the nerve – and then it was too late! Why should we be laugh­ing at you?”

“Be­cause of my lip­stick,” she said. “Be­cause it’s the wrong pink.” He stared at her, seem­ingly baf­fled. “But your lip­stick’s nice. It suits you.” So she’d de­cided to keep it. And not only be­cause of what he’d said – or be­cause it was a present from Nan.

Youn­ev­erknew, she thought. One day,beigelipsmight­goout­of­fash­ion.

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