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Life Chez Dee Episode #85: Colourful Thoughts

I love Springtime, it’s my favourite season. I love all the Spring flowers which emerge after the bleakness of winter. The crocus, little tete a tetes, and daffodils which poke their heads through the turf and into the light. So many of them offering a wonderful welcome as we arrive in St Anne’s (past the airport), or in Lytham we’re treated to the gorgeous display on the “daffodil bend” (as I like to call it), near the YMCA playing fields. Daffs are such a cheery, friendly flower, coming back to visit us year after year. Tulips trying to grow so gloriously tall, pretty primroses, bluebells in the woods, and blossom on the trees.

I love the weather in Spring … I’m a bit of a temperate girl at heart; I don’t like it when it’s too hot; and I don’t like it when it’s too cold; it has to be just right. Warm enough to go without a coat, not so hot that I’ll need to be looking for shade or slathering myself with sun cream; just nice enough to wander outdoors with maybe a thin cardi, and I’ll more often than not still be wearing a thin cardigan in Summer as I don’t really like feeling a breeze on my skin! Yes, yes, I know I’m picky … obviously I’d be Goldilocks if I were a nursery rhyme character; everything needing to be just right.

Leaves reappear on the trees, and the hedgerows are once again green … and it is that green which I think is my favourite; fresh, vibrant, new green; so different to the older, deeper green of Summer. All the new growth which nature produces, is now providing us with a multitude of colour.

I’d go as far as saying that I’m rather observant, but being in lockdown at the moment, and mainly staying at home, I think makes us even more appreciative of the simple things. We notice more, and marvel at how wonderful mother nature is. Going for out for our limited walks on the beach, in the woods, even through the town, I look around, notice, and pause to enjoy the range and vibrancy of the colours I see. Primary colours, bright colours, pale colours, pastels and shades, muted and dull, or fresh and vibrant. All manner of colour.

And then there’s the manmade … painted walls, neon signs, pictures of rainbows everywhere. Posters, window displays, chalk drawings on pavements and walls, colour splashed everywhere to thank our wonderful NHS. I’ve even seen pictures posted on social media of the real deal - beautiful rainbows filling the sky right above hospitals … giving hope to us all. Even Andrew Lloyd Weber kindly aired his colourful musical for us all to watch free of charge whilst we’re all on lockdown. What a treat that was; I thoroughly enjoyed singing along with Donny … and remembering pretty much all of the lyrics. I love this stage show, and it brought back wonderful memories of when I watched Philip Schofield in the starring role. Jason Donovan also starred in Joseph, although I never managed to see him perform, unlike my friend who saw it so often could have quite easily understudied for him. Judy Garland took us “Somewhere over the rainbow”; Donovan (not Jason) sang “Colours” to us; Cyndi Lauper gave us “True Colours”; and Dolly Parton owned another “Coat of Many Colours”.

What’s your favourite colour? Kids always ask this, and I don’t really have one. I suppose I wear a lot of blue, so maybe I should say blue. I love it when I see colour being worn … bright colours, clashing colours, brave colours. I do wish I was brave enough to wear some fabulously colourful clothes. “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple; with a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me” … oh how I love that poem by Jenny Joseph. I wore purple today, and yet I’m not old, although the boys may beg to differ, especially as I have a milestone birthday looming in the next few days; time for me to get some more purple into my wardrobe I think. God forbid I go down the beige route. Beige … such a neutral colour; bland, boring and nondescript, yet one which evokes such strong, negative, derogatory feelings.

Today our home schooled art lesson was all about the colours of the rainbow. We experimented with paints, mixing, dripping, wicking and printing with textures … it was a great lesson, and some masterpieces created, although I’m now drying out lots of rainbow coloured painted sheets, praying that the cats don’t decide to sit on them this afternoon!

Red and yellow, and pink, and green … that’s how the song goes, but I have no idea why. Why write a song about a rainbow, without putting in the true colours of the rainbow? And listening with your eyes; what’s that all about? Or does it have some deep and arty meaning about looking around, noticing, observing. Although I’m guilty of singing this song to all my children when they were little, I have at least taught them the true colours of the rainbow, giving them mnemonics to help them remember: Richard of York Gave Battle In Vain; or Rinse Out Your Granny’s Boots In Vinegar. Haha, I use both, but think I prefer the latter. Seven colours of the rainbow; colour all around us, and yet light is white!

Our colour perception changes as we get older too, maybe because the lens yellows a little, but older people tend to be drawn to soft warm shades, pink and peach. It is well known that Monet’s paintings changed as he grew older. Suffering with cataracts, his perception of colours changed, hence why more yellow tones were used, instead of the familiar whites, greens and blues.

Sadly, not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to experience all this colour. Many people, can’t see, or see with difficulty, or some just don’t see colour in the same way. How different an experience this is for those who are colour blind. It isn’t that they see different colours, but more that they are unable to distinguish between different colours, in that they all look the same.

I know lots of people who are colour blind, in fact I once worked with a guy, a conveyancer, who asked me to label all his coloured pencils with the colour names, so that he could colour plans correctly. Interestingly, this firm of solicitors had their offices on John Dalton Street, Manchester, John Dalton being the first person to produce a scientific paper on colour blindness.

My dad is colour blind in the extreme. Someone who cannot tell the difference between the white and the pink ball on a snooker table I’d say was a pretty extreme case … I remember when I lived at home, mum not wanting to watch the snooker on TV, and sending dad up to the bedroom to watch the match on the black and white TV, listening to the match commentary, I suppose it made no odds being colourless given that he couldn’t see the true colours anyway.

There are so many tales, I could probably write a book, or at the very least provide plenty of material for a sitcom. I think the funniest was him telling me about wanting to titivate up the car that he had years ago, and old Morris I think, which had cream wheels. Thinking that they could do with a touch up he took out the paint from the garage and set to work … and he didn’t stop there … the number plate was given a touch up too; but the paint which he used wasn’t cream, but rather pink!

So many times did Dad say “That’s nice, what colour is it?” Worryingly, the elderly neighbour he did some decorating for left him to decide on colours for the paint and the wallpaper!! Thankfully, mum stepped in!!

Colour blindness, or colour vision deficiency, affects many men, about 1 in 10 I think. Women can also be affected, although a lot less, and I’m not aware of any. Apparently it’s genetic, and it’s common for it to skip a generation. Clearly this is why both William and Edward (unfortunately for them) also inherited this gene. We first discovered their inability to see colour in the same way when they were eating some Smarties. They’d emptied the tube, and weren’t able to tell the difference between the purple, pink or blue ones, nor were they able to distinguish the colours of loom bands when they kindly made bracelets for me … there would always be a base colour, with the odd random colour thrown into the mix. Edward’s colourblindness was more severe than William’s, yet less so than my Dad’s. He would mix pink, blue and purple as often as he’d mix orange and yellow, or green and brown. I have drawings of a stable scene with Mary wearing purple, and a horse coloured in beautifully with green crayon.

Being bright and obviously distinctive, they didn’t really have a problem with bright colours, but any colours which were more washed out; shades of colours; hues; were impossible for them to distinguish. I remember how frustrating it was for them when they were at the Science Museum, trying to do the experiment to read the numbers hidden in the coloured dots, and neither of them were able to do this, watching Oliver with amazement as he reeled off the answers.

I have to say that other than the odd colour mishap for them, they weren’t bothered by their affliction whatsoever, but I know that at some point in their life, this would affect them in some way. William would never be able to be a pilot; and Edward would never be able to fulfil his dream of being a copper. He talked about wanting to go into the police so often, and all the time I worried that him being colour blind would prevent this being his career.

There is no treatment or cure for colour blindness, and sometimes can be rather a nuisance, for my Dad more than it is for William. They live and cope with this very well, I suppose not knowing any different, and of course, give us so many more funny tales to tell.

Following my so often used theme of leaving you with a verse or a song, I thought I’d leave you with a palette of colours, all of which appear on a technicolour dreamcoat, belonging to a chap I mentioned earlier called Joseph.

It was red and yellow and green and brown And scarlet and black and ochre and peach And ruby and olive and violet and fawn And lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve And cream and crimson and silver and rose And azure and lemon and russet and grey And purple and white and pink and orange And red and yellow and green and brown and blue

by Elizabeth Dee

[Originally written for and published by Lytham St Annes News; republished by Elizabeth Dee on Life Chez Dee on 18th January 2021]

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