Embracing the wrinkles. Plus Savile’s cottage &’just one thing’ x13

Who’s that woman in the mirror?

I caught sight of myself in the mirror the other evening, except that it wasn’t me staring back. I was cleaning my teeth and there she was, my mother. She wasn’t actually in the bathroom with me – it’s been several decades since she supervised my toothbrush technique – but she was undeniably there in the reflection. Which is hardly surprising. I’ve been morphing into her for years.

I put my toothbrush down and, as the mouthwash did its stuff, I studied my face. Devoid of make-up and, with my hair scraped back while a layer of night cream started to soak in, I looked properly at that face – all of it – for the first time in years.

I see my face without really looking at it

I see my face all the time, of course, but I realised I avoid looking at it properly. If I wear make-up, I’ll occasionally check my eyes to wipe off smudged mascara, and my lips to reapply worn lipstick. But looking at my face as a whole? Dispassionately, curiously? That hardly happens at all.

So, what did I see, under the harsh, overhead lights of the bathroom? I saw a 54 year old woman, whose face shows evidence of worry and frowns, but also of smiles and laughter. I saw a face that has lived and loved – and that still lives and loves. I saw the trace of a tiny scar from childhood, evidence of licking an empty condensed milk tin. And I saw the freckles that have dotted my nose and cheeks since childhood.

I saw a mother and a wife looking back at me, a daughter and a sister, a friend, and a dodger of all but the most necessary housework. And I saw a woman who feels content to have reached the age of 54 with a healthy and fit body, with both parents well, and both daughters happy, a job she loves, and a prescription for HRT.

And I saw my mother, too

My lovely mum… and me. Taken on Cromarty last week. See what I mean?

And looking back at me in the mirror, I saw my mother’s face too. There’s just 19 years between us. That felt like an unbridgeable gap when I was a child and a teenager, but it’s now pretty well irrelevant. I saw Mum in the shape of my nose and chin, and in the roundness of my cheeks. Where her eyes are hazel, mine are greeny-grey, but their shape is similar – as are the lines (crows’ feet?) which, miraculously, all seem to turn from wrinkles into crinkles when we smile.

But while I make some efforts to hold those wrinkles in check with good skincare, I embrace them too. I can’t see them from the inside anyway.  Ageing is a privilege that’s denied to too many. My face, my wrinkles, my scars and my wobbly bits are the story of my life so far. And if my future is to look more like my Mum, I’ll gladly take that. After all, hers is a face I’ve loved all my life. Why stop now?

Erasing the memories

What to do with Jimmy Savile’s Glencoe house has been a problem since shortly after his death, with those horrific revelations of decades of sexual abuse. The new owners of the property will soon lodge plans with Highland Council to demolish the white-washed cottage and build a modern family home, which will also pay tribute to its former owner, mountaineer and pioneer of mountain rescue in Scotland, Dr Hamish MacInnes.

Good. The plans for the new eco-home, which will sit in the shadow of The Three Sisters and Aonach Eagach, won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the sooner the ghosts of that monster are erased from the landscape, the better. I look forward to seeing the cottage demolished and a new future emerging from the rubble early next year.

Just One Thing? Aye right…

Can I recommend the podcast ‘Just One Thing’ from Dr Michael Mosley? The doctor-turned-journalist is helpfully cutting through a myriad of conflicting advice to offer ‘Just One Thing’ that we can do every day to boost our health and wellbeing.

Brilliant! Except that he’s just launched series two, which adds up – so far – to ‘Just Thirteen Things’ every day. By the time I fit a cold shower, deep knee bends, a 15-minute walk, a bathe in nature, fermenting my own foods, learning a language, counting my blessings, and standing one leg, where’s the time to work and sleep?

This column is published by Highland News and Media in six of their newspapers across the north of Scotland. If you can, please support print media and the future of independent  journalism by buying a paper, and/or subscribing online. 

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