Britta Benson – New colours

So what exactly are you meant to do, when you wish to spruce up your home a little – and let’s be frank here right from the start! All I intended to do was to paint a few walls, pick a new rug, perhaps a few scatter cushions, nothing major, just a cheap and cheerful touch of love, a splash of common courtesy for the space I live in. That, and only that had been my plan. It sounded simple enough, the work of an afternoon, at most a long weekend, which, coincidentally, was exactly the amount of time I had at my disposal, before… let’s not get sidetracked here. I was going to attack the ‘situation’, if you want to call it that, head on, buy some stuff, do the work and then, I’d be done, forgiven, refreshed. I’d simply paint over the unpleasant memories and replace the things with too much baggage attached, like for like, with the funny, invigorating smell of new.

I trusted my excellent taste to be readily available, the way it undoubtedly should be, only to discover that the ubiquitous fashion of the hour does not match my inner colour palette at all, comes not even close to my heart’s desires and needs.

Here’s the story of my pilgrimage so far. My trip to a well known Swedish budget furniture shop left me reeling. I had to hold on tight to the wonky, stubborn trolley. My heart burned and not because I had consumed one of their mysterious hot dogs with the fluorescent yellow, yet also slightly green mustard, the tinge of chemical warfare.

Twenty years ago, when I last put some tender loving care into the mid-terraced ex-council house of mine, I had gone into the blue and yellow shop for a few happy hours and come out with all my furniture needs entirely satisfied, a haul of bright and breezy, happy pieces of flat-packed almost solid MDF. The items matched my heart, my soul, my new adventure into married life, a supposedly sturdy existence full of self assured primary colours.

She said, our home would look like a children’s TV show, red and blue and yellow, big and bold.

‘Subtlety is for people who don’t know what they want’, I explained to her at the time.

I didn’t see the point of neutrals, of tentative almost, maybe colours, the half hazard guesses, where you could never truly tell: was it a pretend coy blush or a hint of the vaguest early summer pink rose? Who knew? I was determined I would not live in a house where everything was basically just an ever so slightly smudged or dirty white, a suggestion of beige, the gentle touch of rancid cream. I don’t tread carefully. In my experience, it’s a waste of time.

We lived in good, honest colours and I reckon that deep down, I hoped the walls, the curtains, even the bright duvet covers would transfer a bit of their concrete magic onto us. It worked well for a while. But I suppose, as the bedding faded more and more with every wash, so did we. Resilience has an expiry date. At first, of course, these changes went completely unnoticed, because everything fades at the same time and for as long as you don’t bring new items into your home, your heart, the old, muted colours seem perfectly fine or at least adequate.

I did, however, bring something new into the house. That’s when the problems started. That’s when the colours suddenly appeared limp and lifeless, drained of energy, not enough. How can a colour seem not enough? She sensed it straight away. The smell of new in a place that definitely shouldn’t have it. Mind you, Danielle’s perfume was quite strong. I should have never brought her here. She upset the precarious equilibrium and tipped the balance.

I’m trying to bring some life back into ‘us’, while my wife is away to have ‘a think’. I’m not sure why she had to go away to do that but I was not in a good position to object. I will make things right. Give her a nice surprise. I’m afraid, the Swedish furniture shop has gone all grey and neutral. It’s a desolate place now. The cheapest shopping trip of my life. I spent a total of £0. I’ll simply not bother with a rug or any soft furnishings. I’ll go bold and beautiful.

‘I’ll just paint the walls, that’ll do the trick’, I said to myself and went to the DIY shop. I remembered the aisles upon aisles with all the colours of the rainbow and then some, twenty years ago. I arrived with a smile and impatient hope. I looked around. Where had all the colours gone? All I could see were unattractive greys in various depressing shades of despair and sallow, anaemic neutrals. It can’t be right if you feel the need to give your walls an iron boost. Was there a supply problem?

‘Excuse me’, I asked a short, spotty teenager, sporting a bright orange apron. ‘Where are the wall colours?’ I had to say it twice, she didn’t seem to hear me very well.

‘Over there’, she replied eventually, pointing a chubby finger half mast to the right.

I looked. I’d just been over there, in the doom and gloom aisle.

‘But those are just greys’, I said.

The girl stared at me for a moment too long, before placing her hands on her hips and assuming some sort of Amazonian warrior battle stance. ‘Well, grey’s a colour, innit?’ And with that she left me standing.

Why is it so hard to bring colour into a place that used to be so bright? Twenty years ago, it appeared effortless. Now it is such a drag and hard work, when it shouldn’t be. I’ve got one more day to get this right. I’m not sure I want to. I’d rather go out, if I’m perfectly honest. Go somewhere nice, ready made, not in dire need of repair.

Published by Ian

Music maker and story teller.

10 thoughts on “Britta Benson – New colours

  1. Very enjoyable! Seem to be different levels at play and the search for colour after so many years says a lot. Still not entirely sure what the underlying situation is but I suppose we can draw our own conclusions.

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    1. Thanks, Colin. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece. As you rightfully suggest, I only hinted at an underlying situation, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusion. I love reading and writing stories that don’t explain everything. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy the short formats. I’m not sure whether the backstory here needs just a tad more detail. In the end I decided to leave it very loose.

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  2. I enjoyed this. It took a while for me to realise it’s a story about relationships, not re-decorating. The penny dropped when I read the line “Why is it so hard to bring colour into a place that used to be so bright?” Then I re-read it and found some clues, but I still don’t think I worked it out completely. Intriguing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really like the way you have used the process of re-vamping colour schemes and decoration to illustrate the relationship difficulties and issues facing this couple. A great use of subtle analogy. Great short read.

    Liked by 1 person

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