Popped into Boots today to buy some vitamins in a futile attempt to compensate for the Shah's life of excess. Now, you know those women you occasionally see in Department stores at the beauty counter, sitting awkwardly on a spindly-legged stool, being "made over" by a spindly-legged assistant? Don't know about you, but I always have a secret snigger at their fate - being painted up in front of the whole world and unkind individuals like yours truly.
Well, there am I, perusing the £3.75 Lip Glosses in the 17 section (17? I wish) when I am approached by a young lady who looks me up and down and, with a somewhat strident South African accent, asks me if I know about Benefits.
"Have you never heard of bag lady chic?" I reply indignantly. "And anyway, the Shah works extremely hard to keep me in £3.75 Lip Glosses and would not dream of drawing supplements from the State." The South African one laughs uncertainly and explains that Benefit is actually a superior brand of maquillage and would I like to spend '5 minutes' (oh yeah) perusing some of it? Without waiting for an answer, she grabs me firmly by the arm and leads me to - horror of horrors - a spindly-legged throne, indicating that I am expected to perch on top of it.
By now, ashamed of my gaffe, I feel honour-bound to hop on. There follows a lecture on the many and varied (and, according to the SA one, uniformly wonderful) products that Benefit has to offer. The skin balm is dabbed on with a little sponge and I am invited to inspect the effect in a worryingly large mirror. Have to admit that it is pretty good and am thus lulled into false sense of beauty. Next, comes a little pot of strident pink cream. Recoil in horror. SA laughs a special tinkly laugh and tells me that "this is what a very well known celebrity uses all the time for that dewy look". Am about to reply that if I wanted to look like a horse-faced midget, I probably would have done something about it by now, but bite lip. Cream is smeared, sorry - smudged - over chops and out comes that mirror again. Some florid old bint gazes back at me. Begin to feel urge to self-harm.
"Now how about a little lemonade?" shrieks SA. I croak my gratitude through desiccated lips. "Ha ha," she tinkles - "No - this is a type of eye shadow - it's really good for eyes that go a bit red. LIKE YOURS." I begin to wonder if someone who hates me very much is paying this woman. More smudging takes place. Out comes that mirror. It's a miracle! Florid bint is transformed! Into rubescent Panda. Am in despair. Fully expect battalion of friends to march past, with 'eyes right' any minute.
I begin to look at my watch and adopt "oh shit, is that the time, I've got to go" type body language. Am ignored. Finally, SA produces small palette with a flourish. "Do you do much with your eyebrows?" she trills. "Um, no, not really," I stammer. "I thought not," is the stern reply. After much painting, the famous mirror reappears one last time. Hold breath. Look in it. The Bastard love child of Danny La Rue and Bet Lynch leers back at me. "Oh great," I murmur, weakly, "that's really lovely," whilst looking around for pins to stick in my eyes.
Weakly accept half a dozen "recommended" products (average price £20 apiece) and place them in basket. Slide away, muttering about further shopping to do and cravenly secret them on shelves dotted around store. Keep two most favoured products. Go to till. Expected outlay of £6 for vitamins is suddenly transformed into expenditure of £61.
How do I explain this to the Shah?