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Wednesday 7 December 2016

David Diebold: 'I'd rather my daughter wears what she likes than change in a hedge'

David Diebold
David Diebold

IT'S a no-uniform day for our youngest teen, who's off on a last school trip for the day before her exams begin, and she's sneaking out the door, squeezing the latch shut so that no one will hear her go, which is when I pop out behind her in my morning dad-attire of tracksuit bottoms and T-shirt.

"Oh God," she says, rolling her eyes when she sees me. Clearly I'm about as uncool as a dad can be.

"Um," I say, gesturing with my finger to do a twirl, "let's be having you." She just glares from behind raccoon eyes, black make-up that would have been the envy of Siouxsie Sioux back in the day, back in my day as it happens; back when, dare I say it, I was no stranger to the old black eye make-up myself.

I was her age in the dying days of the Dublin tribes, when you knew who everyone was and what music they listened to by the clothes they wore. Punks, Mods, Skins, Rude Boys, the occasional stray Ted, Goths and New Romantics. Sales of hair spray must have soared in the suburbs of 1981.

I once spent two hours teasing my hair into spikes and hammering studs into the lapels of a navy surplus jacket. Now I stand in the doorway of my own house looking our daughter up and down, noting the carefully torn-out knees of her black jeans, the hair dyed red then black, the painted eyebrows and patent leather ox-blood boots; and I'm struggling not use the words 'in my day'.

"Can I go now?" she growls. It's a rhetorical question. The garden gate slams with a clang.

I suddenly remember trying to sneak out to a dance at the local CBS with black eyeliner on and an Adam Ant stripe painted across my nose. I'd talked my mother into letting me buy a pair of Doc Martins at Peggy's in the back of the Ilac Centre, but she'd been painfully indifferent to the vital importance of ten-hole boots over eight hole, meaning how high the things laced up.

I'd only enough money for eight-holes and it was humiliating to count out all the 10p pieces and still be short, but Peggy took mercy on me - 'Ah love, would yeh g'wan' - and I came home the proud owner of high tens, blisters the size of fifty pence pieces on each heel, toes of the boots marred by mates who, as tradition went, all stomped me with their ones to 'christen' them.

"What are you doing in there?" shouted my mother through the bathroom door. "Can I have a little privacy?" I shouted back, opening the door quickly, before she could come back with the threat of retaliatory violence, likely to involve some manner of kitchen implement, and ducking out before she could see my get-up, taking the stairs three at a time. "I'm off now. Bye!"

I slipped out of the house to where my home-bleached, skinny jeans and torn T-shirt were hidden in the hedge, changing behind a tree and rolling up my jeans to the top of my boots only when I reached the bottom of the road, mad, bad and dangerous to know, all of age fourteen-and-a-half.

It was the most exciting thing on earth to be on your way to a teenage dance with all your gear on and scowling against the wet plaster wall through ABC or Duran Duran, until The Clash came on, or Dexy's, The Undertones or Stiff Little Fingers, and we'd take possession of the floor and dance like nutters in our painful Docs, wiping hands across our sweaty faces and through our spiky hair to keep it standing up.

All I wanted for Christmas that year was a pair of thick, rubber-soled 'Brothel Creepers'. That would be it, I'd have arrived at the pinnacle of my look. An inspection of the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve revealed a likely suspect: black suede with leopard-spot uppers, I prayed. My world came crashing down when I opened the package next morning to find a pair of blue runners.

I asked for the shoes again for my birthday some weeks later. "I will never, ever buy you anything with the word 'brothel' in it," pledged my mother, so I saved up myself and added them to the hedge collection of hidden clothes.

In no time at all, which seemed a lifetime, the world changed, girlfriends came on the scene, friends parted ways and the music tribes all but disappeared. Those blue runners eventually came in useful.

Somewhere out in my old neighbourhood, a hedge still hides the tattered remnants of bleach-mottled jeans.

My daughter has reached the other side of the green now. I could call her back, tell her to take off the eye make-up and put on a proper pair of trousers - the sorts of things good parents should probably say.

Instead, I watch her go, my mouth tucked into an upturned crease, then I turn around and shuffle back in to the house to dust off my old Undertones album and listen as the first rousing chords of 'Teenage Kicks' come crashing in.

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