Annagram: A whiter shade of pale

I looked at my bedroom wall, and wondered which colour to paint it. I am reliably informed that mustard is the ‘in’ colour for 2017.

This gem did not come from a clothes designer, but one of the many renovation shows on television.

I often wonder if the stunned expression on the recipients of 60 minute makeover is delight of dismay. It doesn’t pay to surprise people with trendy colours.

I did once paint Mum’s kitchen while she was away in a shade that could have been described as mustard; when I asked her whether she liked it, she became very thoughtful, and said that it reminded her of what was coming from the calf in the paddock’s backside. The calf had a dose of scours at the time, and she described the colour as ‘unhappy.’ So I took the criticism on board and repainted her kitchen cream.

Grey is another colour much in vogue with the television renovators. When the Man of the House and I bought our first home in Granville, an entrepreneur had bought up a swag of settlers’ cottages and painted them charcoal grey on the outside and white on the interior.

This gave a surprising uniformity to the street, which took on the air of military barracks.

Our home looked fresh and clean, but as a brother-in-law pointed out, we had plenty of fresh air coming in through the gaps in the weatherboards.

That did not deter a thriving colony of bedbugs, that made our lives a misery until we managed to persuade the entrepreneur to call in a pest exterminator.

Try as I might, when I see someone slapping on charcoal grey on the television, all I can think of is a howling winter wind coming in through the gaps in the walls while I administered calamine lotion to the family.

I have managed to overcome my own obsession with turquoise; while my gaze will still automatically flick to anything the shade of the ocean on a colour chart, I can now make myself pass over to other colours. The Moth once said that walking into our house made him feel seasick, and I sympathised; but not enough to give him his head with bargain basement tubs of paint that made him want to colour everything peachy pink. The turquoise years followed on the buttercup yellow phase, when he said he needed a pair of sunglasses to walk into our dining room.

From turquoise I weaned myself to blue, and then to mint green, and now I favour a very pale silvery white.

Red is a difficult colour to work with, as my brother in law found out when painting a feature wall in the living room of his new home.  He spent a happy hour or two slapping on a couple of coats. Then the family assembled for some television viewing. After half an hour, they began complaining of headaches. His wife said she felt as though the red wall was shouting at her. The children became fractious, and started arguing, and she said that was down to the wall, too. He told them not to be silly, they were imagining it. But by bedtime he was reaching for the Panadol .

He painted over that wall – with difficulty, because red is pretty much like black when it comes to covering it up – replacing the red with something suspiciously close to beige, and the family could once again sit in the room.

I learn from the renovation programs that red should be used as a highlight only, and then in moderation.

My brother in law used it on the seats of his dining chairs, re-upholstering them all in a claret red velveteen. Unfortunately taking the chairs apart to do this weakened their structure, and the family spent the next few years falling through them at regular intervals. Meal times were enlivened by a small person disappearing from view in a shower of peas and carrots. It reinforced my view that red was a dangerous sort of colour to have about the home.

I have to confess to having a purple bedroom. Purple, like red, can be a disaster. Known as a spiritual colour, it can also be overwhelming to the point of queasiness. The ‘purple’ is a very pale mauve, again from a bargain basement bin that the Moth picked up; but was a distinct improvement on what had been a teenager’s colour scheme. That had been one yellow wall, one blue and one orange. The Moth and I had tried to sleep beneath those colours, but felt that they were fighting with each other, giving us nightmares. So mauve didn’t seem a bad choice at the time.

Now I feel it’s time to paint the room again, in the whiter shade of pale that advancing years and a desire not to have my colour senses startled makes desirable.

Definitely not mustard.  


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