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.

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