Sticky as kitsch



Those who know me really well wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I would break into Hell to steal the black off the devil rather than go without six tonnes of it painted in wings on my eyelids at any given time, even when weather like this melts it over my face. The reason being that eye make-up is for me the point at which all of my life and loves converge: from the 1920s to Mods to Boy George to the spectre of Glamour that haunts the white nights of all fatalists and sentimental junkies.


I have so far resisted making any typical malicious Shitsville comments while the guest of me old, old and obviously painted aunties, who are potty as ducks. From noon to three they sit in a row (like Russian dolls) on a tiny couch in the parlour, lit only by the glinting off a lot of Chinky crap and the collected vertebrae of incendiary Marxist mice. The blinds are down; the tea is eternal; they attempt to feed me dry fruitcake and those biscuits with clocks on them while stretching their minds to the utmost limits summoning from memory the unique habits of their old dogs Chi-Chi, Pick and Henry.

The richness of the dust in the room can give you the impression that you are walking on thick, lustrous carpets, where in fact there are only floorboards. Meantime the fronds of mould in the bathroom are so abundant, a real estate agent might try to pass off the shower as a terrarium with a water feature that trickles through misty knolls and fields of glistening mushrooms; it’s hard to know whether the windows are amber-tinted or the glass has simply been economically begrimed by the movement of Time. But because of this somewhat lax attitude towards godliness, my aunts’ house has a truly endearing as well as physically sticky quality; the air itself is as dark blue and as kitsch and beautiful as the Uncanny.  (The beer-bottle light and the sparkling dust also means you don’t have to Irish up your coffee with as much as usual before you start to feel like you’re under it.)


I have spent a couple of days now digging through the dust of the centuries to look for Faberge eggs and my great-great-great aunt Alexandra Shitsville’s wedding ring:  it has a black-and-white setting famous for looking like chicken-shit, but apparently your fingers could be crushed under the weight of the diamonds, so it will be worthy of my consideration when I find it.

Big Biba, slathered with carnage

But it will take me a while to find anything at all (even the light switch) in the tiger shadows of six-foot potted palms & the fragrant dregs of the last bunch of roses Aunt Olga ever received (in 1933). I could be here for weeks.

I happen to know that when it’s warm, lamé stinks like the cages at the zoo and ivory bangles emit the scent of semen, and so for kicks (in the downtimes, i.e. between sherry after supper and my whisky nightcap) Aunt Tatiana and I both moon around in long, backless dresses smelling like sexual pre-history and trailing gold flecks through the rooms. It occurs to me now that what was once probably a tasteful bourgeois parlour slathered with carnage and the spoils of the Empire looks a lot like the interior of the big Biba store back in 1973 & this I really don’t mind at all. 

Biba boutique, 1960s

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