Requiem for Colour

Desperate to escape the bleak winter months, the English have adopted a notional date of March the first as the start of spring. Astronomers argue for the vernal equinox, around the twentieth of March. But spring in the Costwolds didn’t happen until a Thursday in the middle of April, the day when green finally tipped the balance. I drove into work through a dun coloured landscape and drove back with an escort of mint green, deep-pile carpet lining the country lanes. The grass rose into pea soup hedgerows then the brown lattice work of trees still bare except for pinched-face buds. Over the next two weeks these unwound into a canopy of chartreuse lace, accompanied by sprouting fields and set off by dark evergreens. If you looked closely there were bluebells too. They are not blue, but neither are they lavender or lilac or violet. They are plain purple, the one you get in the Crayola eight-pack.

Rapeseed happened next. Nothing changes the landscape of the Cotswolds more drastically or quickly than the en masse bloom of this flower. It is the colour of Ronald McDonald’s pants or the cheap mustard you get in a plastic packet with your corndog at the beach; it is not a colour that should occur in nature and yet it does. Lacking the good taste daffodils demonstrate by sprouting up in modest clumps, rapeseed appears in swathes that render the hills a crude patchwork of yellow and green. Its dominance is as unnatural as its colour, motivated by government subsidies to grow it for biodiesel production, and it drives half the population crazy with its hay fever provoking scent. Despite all this, I love it. I love everything about this brash landscape of unrepentant lime greens and artificial food colouring yellows, which is why I am already starting to feel anxious about its imminent demise. Just this morning I noticed white May blossom and peachy cones of horse chestnut blooms sneaking onto the perimeter, silently upstaging their raucous counterparts with their understated elegance. The Cotswolds by Gauguin is slipping into the diffused light of The Cotswolds by Monet, and I cannot watch. Tomorrow I leave for three nights in Cornwall to seek solace by the sea.

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