Monday, 9 January 2017

Reflections on mirrors


There is one kind mirror in my house.
It's in the bathroom
and I got it out of a skip when I was 19
and furnishing digs in Bristol with a mattress on the floor 
and bookshelves made from planks and house bricks.


That means I have been looking in it for 43 years.
I think that might be why it is kind.
I have retained a vestigial memory of how I looked then
and it reflects that image just faintly.
It may help that it is not well lit
and I do not peer too closely.


Here I am in its first bathroom with a Bizzy Lizzy
and a reluctance even then to commit my face to close scrutiny.

A strange thing has just happened.
I looked up 'vestigial memory,' to see if it was a thing,
and came immediately upon the work of an artist
who was at college with me when I took up skip surfing.
Even more strangely he is referencing Anna Freud
who I also met aged 19 and wrote about here in 2010.

The cruellest mirrors are in department store changing rooms.
You are mercilessly exposed to every possible angle
and lit from above.
Nobody should ever be lit from above.

The cruellest one of all was in the basement of Miss Selfridge.
(I was not there willingly.)
Dazed and confused by the shattering music, the flashing lights,
sudden pools of darkness and milling shoppers,
I veered clumsily between racks of clothes
looking for the exit.
A similarly disorientated woman made her way towards me.
There was an impasse. She wasn't going to step aside.
Wretched woman I thought, as I smacked into a mirrored pillar.


30 comments:

  1. Brilliant! (I did need a laugh. Thank you Lucille.)

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    1. It was quite ludicrous. I was just glad that no one seemed to have noticed!

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  2. One of the things I like best about aging, and I don't like many, is that I just don't see my reflection very well any more, all the little lines just seem to disappear.

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    1. I made the mistake of turning one of those shaving mirrors round once and got the magnifying side. Horrors!

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  3. Wonderful! Funny you should mention Anna Freud in this as Sigmund wrote about an uncanny experience with an unpleasant older gentleman walking from another train car towards him -- perhaps you know this anecdote? -- of course, the unpleasant man turns out to be his own reflection in the window of the train car.... All part of his discussion, if I remember correctly (and it's a while since I've read this) of the unheimlich, translated as the uncanny. And surely a "vestigial memory" is uncanny enough. . . .

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    1. No I didn't know that one! Thank you Frances for tying that up so neatly.

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  4. Oh the wretchedness of those changing room mirrors. Love your painting, and that big sunny window seat. And I love that you still have your rescued mirror. CJ xx

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    1. It was a dormer window in a terribly cold bathroom but it did get some lovely sun light.

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  5. I hope you still wear red shoes.

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    1. I do. I have a particular weakness for them. Two pairs of red boots and one pair of red shoes at present. Those were Olof Daughter's clogs. I still wear clogs too. I wish I hadn't given that jumper away. It was a bold purchase by my mother. I hated it at first because it was going to make me look different and then I decided it was just the right side of eccentric at art college.

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  6. Oh that did make me laugh Lucille! I hope you weren't hurt. I wonder if cctv caught the moment...

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  7. How grand that you've still got that mirror. I can see why you first took it home and why it remains. Thanks also for sharing the painting. Oh, I also love red shoes. xo

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    1. I think it may have been the centre mirror for a dressing table.

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  8. Gosh, yes. I look 50ish in my bathroom mirror - lit dimly from a small window at the side. I look 90 in my daughter's bathroom mirror - lit brightly from a large window right beside the mirror. Most discouraging. I have a sneaking feeling that hers is more accurate. (I am 66.)

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    1. It's the same problem with other people's scales.

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    2. Hmm. I never step on other people's scales. Mine are bad enough.

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  9. Soft lighting works miracles ... the softer the better , in my case.

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    1. Candle light supplies quite sufficient wattage.

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  10. I think I might need to increase the amount of time that I spend looking in a mirror to prevent age-related dress accidents - different earrings? jumper inside out? blue tights/black dress? Or all of the above.

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    1. I notice that the young use their phones as mirrors now.

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  11. I have a choice of bright or dim light in our bathroom.
    Dim light for my late bath is very kind.

    Changing room mirrors make me lose interest in new clothes. Who needs them?!
    Our old mirror from Swiss days is beginning to flake off its silver lining. Yours looks as if it is still going strong.

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    1. I think distressed antique silvered mirrors with only partially reflecting powers are the best sort. I seek them out in museums.

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  12. That must have been a nasty moment. I like your painting, I went to art college too but I seem to have very little of my portfolio left to prove that statement.

    I like your mirror too, it suits you.

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    1. I've kept almost nothing from those days either. Truth to tell I wasn't very talented. Figurative work was despised and I didn't have the confidence to forge my own path. Perhaps your college was more supportive?

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  13. Even a decade ago, the reflection in the mirror was still someone I recognised, but it's increasingly 'who is that strange older woman looking back at me?'. A kind mirror is a good friend, and I do recognise the description of the mattress on the floor and the bookshelves made of planks and bricks. Similar era obviously. Watch out for that crazy lady in Selfridges though...

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    1. I have noticed an acceleration in the changes in this last year. I seldom shop in shops anymore so the danger of meeting myself is limited to window reflections and the very rare occasions when I am on the wrong side of a camera.

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  14. Old mirrors (of which I have more than a few) are the kindest, and the silvering is beautiful too. But oddly, the bathroom cabinet, plain, modern, dull, takes about half a stone off me, so I'm rather fond of that one too!
    Changing room mirrors are the worst - I can still remember the shock-horror of seeing my rear view for the first time, and realising that I had a 'short waist' from behind too!

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  15. you are so right!!

    when we moved into our old house there were two long mirrors stuck on the wall side by side... there were like those joke mirrors... one make you look fatter, the other taller... only by a little, but I tell you you didn't want to look at yourself in the fat mirror as we call it. Needless to say neither lasted too long!

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  16. Shelves made of bricks and cheap wood! Spider plants! Big cushions! Shepherds Bush, 1980.

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