Thursday, 28 March 2013


An excerpt from The Colourist    
I had to stand on tiptoe to see the paintings properly; all misty scenes of mighty mountains and forests, precipitous slopes and jagged cliffs, but populated by only one or two human figures, tiny in the landscape. They were the lonely travellers, hermits sitting in their pavilions enclosed and subsumed by the mountain walls, small and bold and very far away. The brush strokes were fine sweeps of black, admirable in their self-assuredness and they carried extraordinary energy in their colour. I could see the explosive burst of black ink as it sprang form the artist’s pen across white paper, as sure in its stroke as a skier headlong down slope. Each one was a whiplash curve that seduced with endless possibilities – where would it end? And would you want to follow it?
No other colour could do this. Only purple, dark and sinuous, could convey a hint of the same sensuality of not knowing, of being led and controlled.

I travelled on the underground to the hospital to be checked over after suffering a spell of fainting. I was disturbed by the sour green smell of the hospital waiting room, but reassured by the controlled chaos of doctors and nurses, their hurried footsteps charting collision courses that never quite happened. The doctor gave me iron tablets and told me to eat plenty of green vegetables. 'At any other time, I'd prescribe red meat, too,' he said and asked if I had any cravings. I smiled and said no, although privately I had a desire for dark reddish purple, the colour and texture of an aubergine, and wondered in more fantastical moments if that was what the child looked like; gently curved, featureless, smooth.

 I heard voices, then Anna, in the slightly dictatorial tones of a small practical girl: 'Mummy is not well today because of purple.' And she closed the door.
'Anna? Who was that, darling?'
'A man. He came to take you away. I told him no.' Anna appeared in the doorway, looking pleased.
‘Oh Anna. That was the man I was going to see the film with. What did you say about purple?'
'I told him you weren't very well because of it,' she replied, matter-of-factly.
'I see.' The offending colour had been purple, the hard-bitten kind, but that seemed beside the point, it was just the wrong colour on the wrong day and it had given me a headache. Sometimes colours are simply too strident; they shout too loud, and like anyone trying to have a quiet day, they can rattle the delicate bars of one's equilibrium. Purple often causes me angst; it's a curious shade, an impostor, a fly-by-night, too theatrical to be taken seriously. It's moody and bruised, and makes me feel that way, too.
‘Shall I get him back?’ she asked, concern written across her face, eyebrows high, biting her lip.
‘I’ll look out of the window, see if he’s still there,’ I told her half-heartedly. He wasn’t and I thought; I’m relieved. Perhaps I wasn’t ready. Perhaps purple was, this time, my friend.

Monday, 4 March 2013

The duck’s tale – a memoir

(I recommend reading this in your best Robert de Niro voice.)

Man, but I get so tired these days. It’s all I can do to get my breath back during the day, have a little nap, read the headlines before he’s back home from school and it begins all over again. I don’t how these younger ones do it – ‘You were born old, mate,’ says that Monkey they call Unkey, although he tells me his real name is Kev. “Don’t want to disappoint the little fella though, do we, mate? If he wants to call me Unkey, then Unkey I am.”

I’ve long forgotten my real name. And I wish he’d stop calling me mate. As the oldest one here, I’ve got a position to maintain. Without respect, it all goes to pot. ‘You should write you memoirs, dear, ‘ says that lah-di-dah bear from the other bedroom, but I don’t know about that. Memoirs? Load of self-important hoo-haa if you ask me. Who’d be interested in the story of my life?

You see, we’ve grown up together, me and the little guy. Yes, hard as it is to believe, I was just a little guy myself when I arrived here. Granted, I didn’t talk as much rubbish as he did in those early days, and I’ve always been very careful about my…well, my toilet habits, but we’ve been though a lot together. I’ve been lost and found, I’ve been sicked on, more times that I care to remember frankly, but you get used to it in the end. I mean, that Unkey guy, he’s never been sicked on, but then he’s never been near enough – get what I mean?

And that time I got my head stuck between the cross wires of a fence – yeah, I still remember how that hurt – man, I had a headache for weeks. He’d stuffed me in there then couldn’t get me out again. And the time the car reversed over me…this wing’s never been the same since. I tell you, it’s lucky I love the little guy so much because without the love, well, you wonder whether you’d put up with any of it.

There are perks, though, of course there are perks. I’ve travelled, I’ve met some movers and shakers. That raggy sheep that come here once? Remember her? Well, you’ll never believe who she belonged to. I’m a discreet guy, so I’m not gonna start naming names, but seriously, she was rock n roll royalty. And even she got left down the back of the sofa until the next day, so you see, these things can happen to the best of us, you gotta remember that.

Well, will you look at that. See what I’ve done there? I’ve gone and given you my memoirs after all, haven’t I? And you know what? It makes me feel kinda young again – which is as well, cos I’ve just heard the front door slam like the little guy’s angry with it, he’s pounding up those stairs like he’s a bull. Deep breath and brace yourself, man. Five more hours to bedtime.