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What Katie did next: In which I picture life as an auld wan

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Brendan O'Carroll

Brendan O'Carroll

Brendan O'Carroll

I don’t trust mirrors. Never have. They don’t tell the truth.

How could they when they are simply reflecting an image that passes through a filter of delusion?

Visual information is received through the eyes and interpreted by the brain so what appears in the mirror is a perspective rather than a reality.

I know this because I stood in front of a full-length mirror (more than once) before I left the house wearing saffron-coloured fake tan and hotpants so tight they could have killed a man had the top button popped.

The photographic evidence of this fashion calamity told me the bare-arsed truth... and made me realise that we all broker tacit deals with the mirror.

Photographs give us the cold, hard truth. Most will admit that it was a photograph that revealed their weight gain, ageing spurt or inability to wear a jumpsuit.

Equally, we’ve all had those Dear God No moments when we see a photograph of ourselves mid-conversation or halfway through a deep belly laugh. You know the ones where your face has contorted, your lips have disappeared and one of your upper arms somehow looks wider than your face? Erase! Delete! Expunge!

That’s how I felt at the weekend when I saw a photograph of myself alongside my sister and two friends. The mirror told me a different story before I left the house. My make-up was well applied, my hair looked sleek and my outfit was a textural delight: silk, lace, Mongolian fur and crystal. A little Kate Moss, if I do say so myself.

So it was a double blow when I suggested a group shot (something one only does when they think they look absolutely ravishing ) and discovered that I was looking more like Kate Middleton. An older Kate Middleton, wearing too much make-up and having had too little sleep.

Thankfully there were two of us in it. While my sister and one of my pals looked like off-duty Victoria’s Secret models, my other pal and I looked like two auld ones that had spotted them in the restaurant and come over to ask if we could get an autograph and maybe a photograph to show our daughters?

What I like most about this trio of ladies is that they don’t take the softly-softly approach. When my pal and I squealed in horror, the other two didn’t tell us that we were being dramatic or that we looked “grand”.

On the contrary, they acknowledged that this wasn’t our finest moment and they tried to find a way to make it better.

“Okay, let’s use a different camera,” suggested my sister.  We somehow looked worse.

“A different angle?” suggested my friend.  Oh dear God this was serious…

“You know what this is?” said my fellow bedraggled friend. “A reality check.”

“When do you think we started looking rotten?” she continued.

“To be honest, I was good-looking as recently as yesterday,” I told her.

She gave me a nod of commiseration before saying: “Well, actually, it started back in November for me...”

We had aged almost overnight! Ageing takes place in spurts and we had been unfortunate enough to age into our thirties just before Christmas.

The panic rose up in my chest and tiny beads of sweat began to appear on my brow. At this point my sister had solicited the help of yet another waiter to take perhaps the thirtieth group shot of the night. He was dismissed as quickly as he was summoned. 

The whole restaurant was looking now. It felt like the time I gave a fellow diner the Heimlich manoeuvre. Maybe something similar could happen here? Perhaps I could stand on my chair and tinkle my glass with my fork. “Can I have your attention, please? HELLO! Is anyone in this restaurant a cosmetic doctor? We urgently need some Botox over here!”

The owner of the restaurant soon came over. “Can I offer you ladies…” but before he could even ask us if we’d like a round of free drinks I had thrust my iPhone into his hands. “Could you take a photo of us, please?” I attempted a smile but the manic energy only allowed a grimace.

There’s nothing like a group shot to shatter the veneer of civility – I was too busy erasing his efforts to thank him for the free drink. At least he had the sense to take five shots in quick succession. Only every one of them was shite.

Sensing that we were about to descend into hysteria, my sister suggested a complete overhaul. My pal was told to put some make-up on while I was told to take some off . “Your foundation has an SPF with silica so the flash is making your face look white,” my friend sagely noted.

Meanwhile, my sister enabled the Beauty Shot mode on her phone (yes, there is such a thing) and chose a black and white setting.

We stepped outside to the porch of the restaurant where the lighting was deemed better. There were no tables free so we positioned ourselves on the ground.

I pinched a vase of hydrangeas from a nearby table and suggested that the spread of petals would give our photographs the lush texture of a perfume ad. “Actually, I think we need to recreate a perfume ad. It’s the only way we can make this situation better!”

Everyone agreed and at last we were ready for our close-up. Our brief was Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss in the Burberry ad. Click-click-click! My sister, who had assumed the role of Annie Leibovitz, seemed satisfied with her work.

I saw one of the waiters peering out at us. He was mildly bemused earlier. He seemed genuinely concerned now.

Not because we were now on shot 317 – or because we were sitting on the ground – but because we were screeching with laughter at the inanity of it all, and I was threatening to wet my pants if my pal continued to make that ridiculous face.

Yes, we might have aged a little but at least we  still had the ability to act like children. The photos weren’t half bad either.


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