Bryony's 11 going on 17 and the first parents' evening at her new school is tomorrow. "Are you going?" she asked. Before I got a chance to reply she'd added: "My friends'll be there." "Oh good." I said. It is only from classmates that you can ever really get an accurate idea of how your child is doing at school. The teachers may tell you what targets they may or not have met and will be either glowing in praise or rage depending upon whether Bryony was brave enough to risk not being cool by actually answering some questions in the last class or regarded as the ring-leader in some chaos-creating wheeze from which they're still regretting the phasing out of caning respectively.
My getting a more realistic assessment of her progress was not what my daughter had in mind. "They sell stuff in the shops for those grey bits," she announced looking at my hair. "And you'll need to do something about those bits," she went on, meaning my eyebrows which have rather become like weeds in a January hedgerow. I hadn't appreciated just how peppered my mane had become, though, and a quick glance in the mirror revealed that the ravages of time had taken its toll on the old brown locks too. I'd only noticed the bits near the temples which I remember reading in some women's magazine some years ago was regarded as pretty acceptable.
"I'll see what I can do." I promised, thinking that I might be able to get away with a few flicks of a dark brown felt-tip and some judicious pruning. "OK," she said, "see you at 4:30, and please don't be embarrassing, Dad."
She was clearly quite worried about the first impression I was going to make on her friends and I imagined some kind of rating panel they conducted afterwards which would determine who would continue to be friends with whom thereafter. It was quite a relief not to have to worry about what she thought the teachers might say, at any rate, but whilst I could handle whatever they might dish out in the allotted five minutes I have to admit that I was now extremely nervous about being voted number one Uncool Dad, Nerd, Oldie or Weirdo by the 7A girls.
The only shop open on Sunday was Tescos but I managed to locate something that appeared to be what I wanted. Easy to apply said the box. Get rid of grey in less than 5 minutes. The illustrations appeared to show some hunk in a shower painting his hair and it looked simple enough so I bought one.
Later in the day I took a good long look at those strands that were causing all the trouble and began to think that they weren't that bad after all. I mean, it's not as if all my students were pointing and giggling at me or whatever and there are some pretty blunt colleagues in the staff room with considerable more aged locks than mine who'd be bound to want to zap me with a few choice remarks if it was that obvious. I started to have second thoughts. "No," I thought, " I did promise. Let's get on with it." So off I went to the bathroom and got out the bottle. "Ah, two bottles . . . and a leaflet . . . better read it."
I don't recall ever reading quite so many warnings and dos and don'ts in one small leaflet. Enough to put anyone off but I pressed on. "My God, gloves!" I said and then had to go and get a clock to time how long the stuff had to stay on for, duly observing the dire warning about not trying to guess five minutes and going too dark. I do take issue with the Easy to apply label and they might have included something about needing to redecorate the bathroom afterwards and not to be too taken aback at the apparent change of skin colour that also takes place during the exceedingly messy process. However, the job got done, although I did panic after about three minutes, worrying that I'd turn into a liquorice allsort if I didn't start rinsing soon.
I'm now checking the colour every few minutes in a mirror as I write this. It does seem to have worked but just how dark is it compared to before? Will it be obvious? I think I'll have to go and pretend to borrow a tin opener or something from next door and try and judge their expression. The things Dads do for daughters. She sure had better give me a nudge and say "That's OK, now, thanks," or something similar when I get there and I shall have to try very very hard not to tell her friends the story! Well not until I've been voted at least a little bit cool first.