22 February 2002



WE are heading off on our big holiday tomorrow and Johnston is getting spruced up for the event. Hairdressing and Johnston have never gone hand in hand but he was reasonably happy when the girls were small and we had a hairdresser coming to the house. We just gave him a shout at the end of the proceedings, usually at teatime anyway and he would have a quick trim there and then.

As the girls got more sophisticated and wanted to have highlights, lowlights, perms and every other procedure available, that meant going to the salon. This was not a place where Johnston ever felt comfortable and so came quite a few years of me trying to make appointments at a time to suit him, then him forgetting all about it or if he remembered it was always in the middle of a very important task.

To be fair, I did agree that it was essential to have at least a wash and change of clothes rather than impose the warm aroma of cows on our local salon, but of course this all adds to the time and effort involved.

So over a number of years he has worn me down on the battle of home hairdressing and I am now chief stylist. This is not a new development in his family. We have a photograph of Johnstons great grandfather sitting in the field with a big white sheet round him keeping an eye on the harvester while he was "tidied up" by a travelling barber.

The girls had been on at Johnston to adopt a new trendier short hairstyle and he assured me that it would be dead easy, just set the electric trimmers at level 3 and go at it like shearing a sheep, but I have rarely been as nervous as when I made the first stroke across his lovely curls and saw them tumble to the kitchen floor. Mind you, the back was simple compared with the forehead, as for round the ears…my heart was racing and I found it hard to keep in the little gasps when more scalp appeared than I had expected. But now, I am an experienced home hairdresser, this is my second attempt and nothing could be just as bad as the first.

Everyone is now quite used to the new shorn Johnston (apart from his mum who hates it!) and he is very happy. He can now wear his woolly hat without worrying what his hair looks like when he takes it off, he is saving a fortune on hair gel and salon fees and the girls like their trendy dad. I however could do with a few tips on how to manage the ears, so if any other farmers wives have moved into the hair styling role, please let me know your secrets.

I was listening to our local farming programme this week to hear that 20% of children do not eat breakfast at all. The expert nutritionist stressed the terrible implications of leaving the house without a proper meal – lack of concentration in class, the temptation of eating high fat snacks at break time, low blood sugar – all very plausible, but our youngest daughter Helen, is just not a breakfast eater. I have tried everything from Pop tarts to pancakes, porridge to poached eggs in order to tempt her in the mornings, but the truth is, she is just not ready for food so early on in her day.

Traditionally on this farm, the men get up early and go out to the milking with nothing to eat and then come in to a good breakfast and bit of a sit down before facing the rest of the day and I think Helen must have inherited this pattern in her genes. If she could just go straight to school and have a breakfast at mid-morning she would be much happier.

Speaking of milking reminds that our "busy time" will soon be upon us. Calving, milking, 18-hour days and no time off for the next couple of months isnt a pleasant thought – but then we have a week in Florida, "theme park hopping" before it all starts. We are working on the theory that a change will be as good as a rest and a suntan makes you feel better no matter what you are doing – even feeding the calves.

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