Keeping Up Appearances

Shutterstock / Drazen Zigic ©

Our granddaughter wants to win the painting competition, so it’s time for me and George to smarten up!

Look Granny! I’ve drawn a picture of you.” Four-year old Ellie holds up a large sheet torn from her art pad.

I survey her offering in full glorious colour.

The lines aren’t too defined but clearly in my granddaughter’s eyes I come over as a plumpish figure with yellow Wurzel Gummidge hair.

I am without eyebrows, my old green skirt’s too long and my black top looks like it’s seen better days.

“I’ve done a picture of Grandad too.” Ellie replaces my portrait with one of my husband George.

I survey the likeness. Tall and bald, Ellie has painted him wearing tatty grey shorts with one leg longer than the other teamed with big brown Wellington boots.

“I’m not very good at colouring in, but do you like your pictures Granny?”

“I love them,” I tell her, “But you may have forgotten something on my face? I don’t have any eyebrows in your picture.”

Ellie comes up close and stares hard at me.

“But you don’t really have much eyebrows, Granny, and Grandad doesn’t have any hair.”

My granddaughter makes this statement without a trace of surprise or apology.

Later when Ellie and I have finished making a batch of chocolate brownies together I study myself in the long bedroom mirror.

Our granddaughter’s pitched us fairly accurately without any intention of being unkind.

In real life I look a bit overweight and my eyebrows seem to have faded to the extent of being practically invisible.

My everyday clothes look as though I might have picked them up carelessly while rummaging through a jumble sale.

Next day I make a hair appointment.

On the way to the salon I stop off at the local shop for a loaf. I’m running a bit short of time but Marie the teenage sales assistant doesn’t notice I’m waiting.

“Apologies, I didn’t see you there,” she says when I thrust the bread in front of her.

I refrain from making a comment but as I drive to the salon, I can’t help wondering if letting myself go means I’m actually becoming invisible to people.

“Can you do something about my eyebrows while I’m here?” I ask Zoe while she’s blow drying my new style.

“I certainly can,” replies Zoe.

“In fact I think there’s a spare slot after your hair is finished.”

“I’m not much of an artist,” I laugh later on as Zoe demonstrates how to build up my eyebrows, “but you’re making it look easy.”

“Talking of artists,” says Zoe, “we’re running a colouring competition in the village for the young ones if you know a child who might like to have a go?

“There’s still a couple of days before the entries have to be in.”

I’m not very good at staying in the lines.” Ellie pulls a face when I tell her about the competition.

“Ah, but I know what to do. Let’s go and buy some new colours. Yours have got a bit messy, haven’t they?”

The idea appeals to Ellie so we set out immediately to choose a box of poster paints.

“I could paint you and Grandad again if you like,” Ellie suggests.

“Good idea, but how about we put on some different clothes – just to give you a change?” I suggest.

“Why would I want to be dressing up in a smart shirt and and tie and a pair of trousers in the middle of the afternoon?” George grumbles when he spots me laying out his clothes on our bed. “I’m perfectly happy as I am!”

“The reason is that I’m taking you out for supper this evening,” I explain. “We haven’t been out for ages. We deserve a treat and there’s a new Italian restaurant just opened in town.

“But before that Ellie wants to do a new painting of us for the local competition.”

The prospect of food is enough to lift George’s spirits.

Before long the pair of us are suited and booted and standing in front of our young Rembrandt.

“I’ll draw you both first and colour it in at home,” Ellie assures us.

The Italian restaurant lives up to expectations, the waiters greet us warmly as soon as we enter and the food is exquisite.

“We should do that more often,” says George, kissing me when we get home. “Mustn’t let ourselves become old stick-in-the-muds.”

A few days later Ellie is with us again. She arrives brandishing a giant lollipop and a certificate.

“I stayed in the lines, so I was second in the competition with my picture of you, Granny and Grandad,” she squeals excitedly. “Thank you for my new paints.”

“Thank you for painting us so cleverly,” I say as Ellie and I cuddle.

“We love our new pictures with my new hair and our smart clothes.”

I don’t add that I’m glad to see I’ve got eyebrows this time!

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