I am writing this from the mossy glow of our bedroom. We’ve just painted it a very adult colour. We had been calling it olive green, but I didn’t want that to become the defining shade in case I ever take to licking the walls when in need of a dry martini. I’m not ready for wall-licking yet. I want to save that for when I’ve had a breakdown in my forties. You’ve got to earn that sort of behaviour first before you can pull it off properly.
Have you noticed that paint colours seem to always comprise an attitude or emotion and a buzzword from nature? Exuberant Sunshine. Sassy Pebble. Indecisive Hawthorn.
We need to root our colours in the natural world rather than believe someone has created them for us in a paint factory. More than that, we want to seize nature for our own control. We are secular in our home improvements. We want to believe we’ve done it. I have never seen a Goddy White or an Allah Beige. Even the most pious amongst us wouldn’t want a deity taking the glory while we’re pushing a squeaky trolley round B&Q. “If you’re so great, why don’t you make these chuffing wheels go in the same direction?”, we’d huff as we slipped in some creosote.
In lieu of a concrete colour term that works for us, we’ve taken to calling it ‘peaceful’.
“It’s so peaceful. Isn’t it peaceful?”, “It really is. It’s so peaceful.”, “Sigh. Yes. Peaceful.”
Which I imagine is the kind of conversation that older couples have in their newly-purchased static caravan in Dorset. Before getting bored, rowing over a crossword, and ending up in A&E after a demi-tin of beans gets ‘accidentally’ launched across the kitchen cubicle, which is frankly asking for some sort of mental showdown. “I told you these cupboards wouldn’t stretch to full-size tin cans, Roger.” “IS THIS PEACEFUL ENOUGH FOR YOU, DEIRDRE? I’M BLEEDING.”
No such meltdown has occurred within these walls. It’s still so sickeningly peaceful. We’ve blu-tacked a tester strip of wallpaper to the chimney breast to see how we feel about it. It’s got birds on it. I wanted the retro motif of Sam Fox and Linda Lusardi holding their boobs with boxing gloves on, but Matt opted for what I believe are nightingales basking in the embers of a summer’s day. I’m too blissed out from all the green to argue.
I can tell I like the green because: a) I walk out into the park opposite every morning and loyally think the trees look a bit rubbish in comparison, and b) I haven’t wanted to put my pictures back up yet. I’m a bit fastidious with pictures. They are the first things I tackle when I move into a new place. Key goes in, kettle goes on, incense gets lit, pictures go up. They are the rules.
But it’s nice lying here with bare walls, sniffing the crisp newness of the paint. I don’t want to fill the expanse with old things yet. This room could be anything.
It reminds me of when I was about to leave for university. Mum had wanted to paint the room because I was passing it on to my little sister. I’d sniffily peeled off the years of painstaking collagery I’d hormonally applied to the walls. The TakeThat (first time around), the Bennetton, the arty semi-naked man with baby, the grungy dudes from bands, Bob Dylan, Cindy Crawford and her sexy mole. My ‘things’ had been packed up; removed. The room was white. Bright white. I slept on my futon in this bright white room with just a lamp and some books. So terribly adult. And – contra to my sulkiness and fear – so peaceful. I had no idea what would happen to me after I left this white room. I’m glad I didn’t.
Every newly painted room always feels a bit like that. Like you’ve created yourself a newness and are waiting to see what happens.
“Ah, man! It’s so freaking peaceful I could be a bit sick!”
“Yeah. So peaceful. Like suckling at mother nature’s pap itself.”
A long and peaceful pause.
“Shall we have a row, just to balance it out?”
“You’re not going to put all those rubbish pictures up again are you, Sadie?”