The manservant and I were on my roof terrace rubbing off our LixirSkin Rubber masks, arguing about who was feeding the Soho birds more dead skin, when Creepy Neighbour threw a GoW serum at us. Dangerous was carded after slathering Eye Contour Serum on his entire face and I was offered chocolate by a weirdo when picking up my short friend from nursery.
But Mr Shabir’s wow serum isn’t working for Creepy, probs because the manservant filled the bottle with tap water then left it on the shelf for Creepy to steal. “It’s not fair,” Creepy shouted. Nobody said it was fair, as Joan Crawford told to her daughter before locking her in the cellar. Children can be annoying.
“Tell me your secret,” Creepy begged, panda eye make-up dripping down her saggy chops. Creepy thinks I have a surgeon who upgrades my face. His work is so subtle she can’t see what’s been done. But my beauty secrets are in the VH boxes Creepy steals while my old secrets are written in waterproof ink in the pages of my diaries. “She has a portrait in the attic,” the manservant shouts, throwing the bottle back at Creepy. He manages to hit her but Creepy is a large target.
Secrets are best kept in the cellar with old shoes you will never walk in again but can’t bear to throw out. Of course as my PTSD therapist says, what goes in the basement doesn’t always stay in the basement. Like the boxes I left in Beijing that followed me home last week. Creepy Neighbour’s greedy paws manage to swipe my VH fixes when I’m having withdrawal symptoms from Spacemask addiction, but where was Creepy when the fifty boxes I don’t have space for were delivered?
Inspired by Sheng Qi, the exiled artist who chopped off his finger, I wanted to leave something behind so that I would always return to China. I buried one of my scarlet silk diaries under a cherry blossom tree in the Summer Palace. I’d have needed a bulldozer to make a hole big enough for the entire haul. So I wrapped the others in silver paper and hid them under a hot pipe in the cellar, secretly hoping my secrets would melt. Instead they followed me home. Maybe they have a future as well as a past?
The manservant opened a diary at random, reading aloud a rant about a fat bore with blocked pores. But these unedited outbursts of my thoughts are incomprehensible even to me. I can’t convert Fatty Bore Pore’s initials into a name. That’s the beauty of a short attention span. Your enemies are easily airbrushed. Sylvia Plath’s diaries read as if written for publication, but they were edited after her death by her husband Ted Hughes; who had doubled up as her editor and writing “ear” for most of her professional life. Frida Kahlo stored her secrets in her bathroom which was sealed by her husband Diego Rivera on her death; opened half a century later; its contents currently on display at the V&A.
Why did Diego exclude her bathroom when allowing the rest of their Blue House to become a museum? Perhaps he couldn’t bear anyone including himself to go into her private space and inspect her secrets? The cardboard box of Demerol, essential opiates for a lifetime of pain; the Ebony eyebrow pencil she used on her famous monobrow; the corsets painted with communist symbols that held her crushed spine together, and the big bottle of Shalimar are strangely moving. The glass cases of her Tehuana costumes didn’t interest me as much as the mutilated photographs found in her bathroom. Sometimes her own face is missing from the picture. Sometimes the faces of others are amputated from the frames like the gangrene cut out of her withered leg. Kahlo cut off the front of her shoe when her toes rotted with gangrene. I felt compelled to avert my eyes from this mutilated shoe; simultaneously moving closer, practically sniffing it.
You can almost smell her Everything’s Rosy nail varnish and matching lipstick. Red was her colour. The colour of life, blood, communism. Her scarlet prosthetic leg stretching out of a red leather boot, decorated with bows and dragons and bells, is the star of the show. As her surrealist friend Andre Breton said, “The art of Frida Kahlo is a ribbon around a bomb.” The secrets of Frida’s bathroom are exposed in a London museum, while mine remain sealed in boxes I don’t intend to open. There is nowhere to hide them in my bathroom, a VH shrine, full of my current addictions.
Harborist cleanser makes me do a naked happy dance: a product with a seductive smell that doesn’t give me an allergic reaction. This stuff could turn your grannie into your mum. If you could stand having two mothers. Few things make me happier than clean skin. Magnesium soap and Hayou shower minerals are first equal in my body washing kit so I use both.
I have enough of Mr Shabir’s supplements to open the Soho branch of VH except I want to keep them all for myself. VH Addiction is totally contagious. I’d start a support group but I don’t want to be cured. Even Dangerous, who rolls back time with Temple Spa’s Big Reveal every Sunday and never travels to a revolution without Silver Biotics tooth gel in his spy kit, has a VH habit.
Selfish Jean, who takes so long making my dresses I’ve shrunk a size before the next fitting, agrees with Maddie. “Dangerous isn’t real. You hired him at Central Casting.”
Carole Morin is the author Dead Glamorous and Spying on Strange Men