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  • I don't blame her, I had touched her lipstick. She could see I had because my face was still a bit smeared with it. She was exhausted; she had been digging the garden, the car had stopped working, my father was away at sea, she had three children - and only one lipstick.

    My mother flogged herself to do what she considered best for us. She made our clothes, concocted tasty casseroles out of heart, tongue and horsemeat, upholstered the chairs, sewed the curtains, rationed the butter and swapped it for marge at the end of the month. She got vertigo from cleaning the cornicing with a toothbrush. We weren't poor because my father worked, but she stretched that money tighter than her girdle. She did all this so we could all go to private school, have music lessons, a big house and caravan holidays in France; a nice middle- class life. She felt that this was the right way to bring us up. When I was older she got a job so she could find the money for the little treats I really, really wanted: the mascara's, the platform shoes, the Levis flares. I used to tiptoe into her bedroom to admire my new this or that in front of the long mirror on her wardrobe, and I used to blow-dry my hair like Olivia Newton John at her three-way mirror on her dressing table. And I would look at the one single lipstick and think that I would never ever make it up to her for all she did for me. The lipstick was Almay - in a light green tube. It was coral. It was always worn right down. I suppose, once in a blue moon, she got a new one; probably her mother gave it to her for a birthday. Even though by then I thought lipstick was for old people (I wanted eyes like Twiggy) I also thought that I never ever wanted to live my life with only one lipstick. I wanted glamour.

    I spent twenty years writing advertising, often for beauty companies. Not a glamorous life at all, but full of glittering snapshots. I have created adverts for many cosmetics and had lippies in all colours of the rainbow. But the other day, as my daughter smeared her face experimentally with my make up I suddenly realised I am down to my last two or three lip glosses.

    Of course she didn't cane me, by the way - only boys got caned. But during the long walk back up the garden path into the house I really thought that she might.
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