Nepal: Goodbye pink Chanel lipstick and other tales



Last week we published a piece about Nepal. Sheilagh Matheson, a recent traveller to the mountain nation, recalls an episode close to every woman’s heart…

Somewhere in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, a young girl may be enhancing her natural beauty by smoothing Western cosmetics on to perfect skin.

Or maybe an older woman is experimenting with an eyeshadow and lipstick to see if they will transform her.

If so, it means a stranger has found my lost makeup bag and is making use good of the contents. Somewhere on a trekking and sightseeing holiday, my trusty friend was left behind, mislaid, forgotten and my only comfort is that someone else might be enjoying them. It’s true that we don’t know what we’ve got ’til it’s gone. I felt quite bereft when I realised I had lost all my makeup, even though I know they are little pots of hope and palettes of delusion. But hope and delusion are useful tools in my psychological armoury. 

What is particularly annoying about my loss is that I hardly wear makeup in hot places anyway, and I needn’t have taken it with me at all.It’s four weeks since the bag disappeared and I’m still waking up at night remembering the random collection it contained.

Goodbye, pink Chanel lipstick, a gift from my physiotherapists’s wife when they called round one afternoon with their new baby. It wasn’t a shade I would have chosen but it’s good to try different colours now and again. The lipstick container felt luxurious because I just had to touch the bottom to open it. No twisting or pulling. It was my one and only Chanel product and it was the height of sophistication.

Farewell to my Lancome mascara. I was given it after asking a colleague at work with ludicrously long eyelashes what she used. I hoped applying the same mascara might make my eyelashes look as long as hers. It didn’t. But as I said, hope kicked in.

A friend persuaded me to buy a small black palette of colours at Heathrow, en route to Morocco, about twelve years ago. It travelled the world with me and it still had years more use ahead. So handy, with four eye shadows, two lipsticks, a blusher, a tiny mascara that dried up years ago and useful little brushes. I even bought a roll of black gaffer tape to repair it when the hinges broke. I’m gutted when I think how carefully I rationed its use, and now it’s gone.

And what about my new, dark green eyeshadow? A few months ago, I had a bee in my bonnet about wearing green to enhance the bottom-of-the-pond greeny-brown colour of my eyes. I flitted between cosmetic counters, vaguely searching for the right shade. I finally found it, cheap as chips at about £2.99, but I can’t remember the make or shop. Boots or John Lewis?

Now I have to replace some of the lost cosmetics. Despite the name-dropping above, I don’t believe in spending a small fortune buying them ever since working in a Coty factory and discovering that many companies use the same product, but package it differently to fit their brand and whack up the price. I headed for Superdrug. But somehow, nothing seemed right.

I realised that each cosmetic in my bag had its own story, prompting a memory, and that’s what I miss most. The reminders of the people who gave me them, the occasions, tiny links to foreign countries where I took them, popped up for a nanosecond whenever I used them. Maybe that’s why I can hardly be bothered to use the replacements. They don’t have any stories or attachments.

Perhaps in two or three years’ time, I’ll find myself staring in the mirror as I try not to smudge the concealer and for a fleeting second I’ll think “Aah, I bought this after I lost all my makeup in Nepal,” so my concealer will have a story too. And then I’ll probably lose the whole lot and have to start bonding with their replacements all over again.