MOTHERING HEIGHTS

MAKEUP, HAIRSTYLES AND CLOTHES CAN EI­THER FORGE A BOND BE­TWEEN MUMS AND THEIR DAUGH­TERS OR DRIVE THEM APART. ON THE EVE OF MOTHER’S DAY, JAN PA­TIENCE PON­DERS THE DIF­FER­ENCES AND SIM­I­LAR­I­TIES BE­TWEEN GEN­ER­A­TIONS OF HER FAM­ILY PAST AND PRESENT

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Jan Pa­tience grew up with a glam mum but was never a girly girl. What lies ahead for her daugh­ter?

WHEN my mother swept out of a room in one of her ex­pertly or­ches­trated eye-catch­ing out­fits, the void was filled by a faint echo of her rau­cous laugh and a trace of Es­tee Lauder Youth Dew per­fume min­gled with El­nett hair­spray.

Flora Pa­tience (nee Edgar) was not some­one who blended into the back­ground and as a min­is­ter’s wife in a small Ayr­shire vil­lage that some­times worked against her. Flora was a straight-talk­ing mid­wife when she met my min­is­ter fa­ther Don­ald do­ing his rounds of parish­ioners on his bike in 1960.

Think glam­our puss Trixie in Call the Mid­wife rather than frumpy Bar­bara, who mar­ried Tom the vicar at the end of the last se­ries. She met and mar­ried my dad within a year of that first meet­ing and as was the norm then, left her job and threw her­self into the role of mother­hood and min­is­ter’s wife.

A con­stant in my mother’s life was an abil­ity to put on the style. Mum loved dresses, coats, skirts, jumpers, blouses, trousers, tights, hats, scarves, shoes, hand­bags, makeup, nail var­nish, jew­ellery … the brighter and shinier the bet­ter. Ca­nary yel­low, hot pink and elec­tric blue were par­tic­u­lar favourites, but Flora didn’t dis­crim­i­nate when it came to colour.

When my older brother, Charles, and I cleared her house af­ter she left this earthly room for good, it was with heavy hearts we opened two large built-in wardrobes which groaned with the weight of her as­sem­bled en­sem­bles.

A van-load of clothes and more packs of

tights than one women would ever need in a life­time was dis­patched to a char­ity shop in Ayr. Not Kil­marnock, which was lo­cal, be­cause I wor­ried peo­ple might recog­nise cer­tain out­fits. In the last year of her life, un­able to get to shops un­der her own steam, I’d re­ceive phone calls from her car­ers, whis­per­ing that she had asked them to or­der £150 tar­tan trousers from the House of Bruar and was that all right?

My mum not only wore many metaphor­i­cal hats (min­is­ter’s wife, mother, daugh­ter, sis­ter, nurse, teacher, va­ri­ety show pro­ducer, Women’s Guild pres­i­dent, Sun­day School su­per­in­ten­dent), she owned so many hats that at one point she con­sid­ered set­ting up a hat-hire busi­ness.

My ear­li­est mem­o­ries of her re­volve around clothes and ap­pear­ance. Get­ting ready to go out was a ma­jor op­er­a­tion, usu­ally pre­ceded by sev­eral fran­tic all-night dress­mak­ing ses­sions. The an­nual Tennis Club dance was the high­light of our vil­lage’s so­cial calendar and I’d sit and watch as Mum, in blue satin house­coat, got ready to face her pub­lic.

First came the caramel-coloured foun­da­tion over face and neck, fol­lowed by eye­shadow (or shy-adow as I called it), mas­cara and lick of lip­stick. All topped off with a squirt of Youth Dew. Nail var­nish – a per­fect match for any out­fit – had been ap­plied ear­lier.

Af­ter she swept off into the night with Dad in a newly-made long evening dress, I’d sit at her dress­ing ta­ble mir­ror and put on her lip­stick, rub­bing my top lip against my bot­tom like she did, mak­ing sure the colour was even.

Ev­ery six weeks, Mum went to the hair­dresser for “blonde tips” and I’d go too, sit­ting at her feet with a packet of Span­gles, drink­ing in gos­sip and watch­ing women have strange-smelling lo­tions ap­plied to their hair be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing un­der a large heated dome.

The only tantrum I ever had as a child was when Mum said I couldn’t go to the hair­dressers with her and her sis­ter, Una, dur­ing a fam­ily hol­i­day on Iona. As I watched them dis­ap­pear on the boat to Mull, I screamed: “But I al­ways go to the hair­dressers with Mum!”

Mum was al­ways fussy about my hair. I had match­ing hair rib­bons for ev­ery out­fit and each morn­ing my long hair was pushed, pulled and scraped into a per­fect pony­tail. Once, on a visit to Cri­eff Hy­dro when I was six, she put my hair in curlers and cov­ered it with a plas­tic bag be­fore dis­patch­ing me to the swim­ming pool.

Bored watch­ing Dad try to teach my brother how to swim, I bobbed off along the rim of the pool and climbed onto the deep­end steps. Los­ing my foot­ing, I tum­bled head­long into six feet of wa­ter and floun­dered for what seemed an eter­nity. Sud­denly, from the view­ing gallery, Mum spot­ted the plas­tic bag and curlers bob­bing on the sur­face of the wa­ter. She jumped in and pulled me out. That mauve Har­ris Tweed trouser suit was never the same but her ob­ses­sion with my hair ac­tu­ally saved my life!

IT wasn’t all bad. I was the only girl in Kil­maurs with a psy­che­delic pinafore which matched her mother’s. This Biba-comes-to-Ayr­shire fash­ion tri­umph was teamed with white wet-look coat and match­ing knee-length boots. I loved these boots …

As I moved into my teenage years, our fash­ion tastes di­verged, much to Flora’s ir­ri­ta­tion. The last-ever dress Mum made for me was when I was crowned Kil­maurs Gala Queen, 1976, when I was 12 years old.

It was a long flow­ing white lacy num­ber adapted from a bri­dal dress pat­tern.

By then, I’d per­suaded her to let me cut my hair into an easy-to-man­age bob so

It wasn’t all bad. I was the only girl in Kil­maurs with a psy­che­delic pinafore which matched her mother’s

there were no bows in my hair, thank­fully. The dress was teamed with a fusty-smelling red vel­vet cloak trimmed with fake er­mine, a card­board crown and chair-leg scep­tre sprayed gold. I couldn’t wait to get home and put on jeans and a T-shirt. Mum basked in the re­flected glory of hav­ing a daugh­ter who was a Queen for a day.

I wasn’t ex­actly a rebel teenager. I went to church on a Sun­day, stuck in at school and at­tended Guides ev­ery Thurs­day. But I was never a girly girl. Mum tried her best not to tut at the fash­ion faux-pas which fol­lowed; short punky hair, dun­ga­rees, huge col­lar­less shirts which once be­longed to my po­lice­man un­cle, old din­ner jack­ets bought in char­ity shops and clumpy desert boots.

Apart from school skirts and the odd peas­ant skirt (flow­ery and lacy; fash­ion­able in the late 1970s) I hated wear­ing any­thing which showed my legs. I tin­kered with makeup but only if it gave me a Toyah Wilcox smokey-eyed look. Lip­stick and nail var­nish were no-nos. I didn’t wear lip­stick un­til I was well into my twen­ties. I still can’t be both­ered with nail var­nish.

Oh, the bat­tles we had. “Why is it you want to wear things which make you look ugly?” she once asked as I went out to a party.

Now Mum is no longer here, I miss the dis­ap­proval (from her) and the eye-rolling (from me). It was our way of con­nect­ing and her way of say­ing “I love you”, even if I don’t re­mem­ber her ac­tu­ally ut­ter­ing these words.

I am now mother to a daugh­ter my­self, a beau­ti­ful 13-year-old with al­mond-shaped hazel eyes, long hair like spun gold and a quirky sense of style. Be­fore my very eyes, my daugh­ter Mia has grown from a wee girl who re­fused to wear skirts or dresses to a young woman who loves all sorts of clothes – even dresses. She watches YouTube videos about how to “do” hair, makeup and nail var­nish and is de­vel­op­ing a clear sense of what suits her. I con­sciously try my hard­est not to chas­tise or make her feel there’s some­thing wrong with that.

But go­ing shop­ping with Mia re­minds me of shop­ping with Mum. I stand there bored while she sifts through racks and racks of clothes for ages, un­de­cided about what to buy. I’m in and out of a clothes shop within 10 min­utes. And she’s a dab hand with the nail var­nish. Her granny would be proud.

Shap­ing a daugh­ter is a big re­spon­si­bil­ity. You’re their first fe­male role model and it

It doesn’t mat­ter what age you are, you al­ways seek your mother’s ap­proval

Flora’s sar­to­rial stan­dards failed to trans­fer to her young daugh­ter, who es­chewed tra­di­tional fem­i­nine dress codes. As with the gen­er­a­tion be­fore, Jan and her daugh­ter Mia, main pic­ture, possess dif­fer­ent tastes in clothes and makeup doesn’t mat­ter what age you are, you al­ways seek your mother’s ap­proval. Even when they are no longer alive, you hear their voice in your head telling you, “You look a right ticket!”

MY friend and for­mer col­league, makeup artist Terri Craig, re­minds me of Mum. Al­ways beau­ti­fully turned-out, she has a big warm per­son­al­ity and a noisy cackle for a laugh. When she wafts out of a room, all Jo Malone Black­berry and Bay per­fume and red lip­stick, she makes a big im­pres­sion.

As I have wit­nessed many times over, celebri­ties and un­knowns emerge from her makeup chair feel­ing they could take on the world. Much to my mum’s sur­prise, I asked Terri to do my hair and makeup at my wedding 16 years ago.

Mum was con­vinced I’d keep it all low-key and pitch up at the church in T-shirt and jeans so was de­lighted when Terri turned up to save the day. Flora even ap­proved of the long pur­ple vel­vet wedding dress I had spe­cially made. If not the fact I de­cided to re­move the er­mine trim at the neck at the last minute (a bit too Snow Queen for my lik­ing).

I ask Terri about the in­flu­ence of her mother, Mary. “I’ve spent my work­ing life in the beauty and fash­ion in­dus­try and that stems from spend­ing hours as a child watch­ing my mum,” Terri tells me. “She could pro­duce and cre­ate amaz­ing clothes, gar­den de­signs, in­te­ri­ors and I used to love watch­ing her do her hair and makeup for a night out with my dad.

“I was only get­ting to know her as a woman when she died at 57. I was in my early twen­ties and it left a huge void. Both my daugh­ters, now in their twen­ties, work with me at my school of makeup. That bond be­tween mother and daugh­ter lives on, as does the cre­ative gene.”

As I’ve of­ten said to Mia when we’re snug­gled on the sofa watch­ing Call the Mid­wife, times have changed so much since granny was a mid­wife in the same era. But be­ing a mother is es­sen­tially the same deal. You worry, you fret, you try your best and you hope for the best. Flora did all that for me and my brother (al­ways smartly turned out, as it hap­pens) and more.

I won­der what Mia will think of me when I shuf­fle off this mor­tal coil? Will she think I was a rub­bish mum for spend­ing too much time on the lap­top or not be­ing able to French braid her hair?

Only time will tell … But I do know one thing: there’s no way my daugh­ter is dye­ing her beau­ti­ful spun gold hair and these cropped tops need to get longer. She’ll catch her death of cold.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Jan Pa­tience com­pares tech­niques with her daugh­ter Mia, who has learned how to do makeup, hair and nail var­nish from YouTube

From top: Jan as Kil­maurs Gala Queen with her mother in 1976, wear­ing the last dress Flora ever made for her; Flora wear­ing blue, one of her three favourite colours along­side ca­nary yel­low and hot pink; and He­len Ge­orge as Trixie in Call the Mid­wife, a char­ac­ter whose take on glam­our evokes Flora’s in the eyes of her daugh­ter

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