Colourblind by Britta Benson

Close up of an open eye with a a strip of rainbow colors across it
Image Source: Snappa

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, not even close to my 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 that wonky, stubborn trolley. My heart burned and not only because I had consumed one too many of their mysterious hot dogs with the fluorescent yellow, yet also slightly green mustard, the tinge of chemical warfare. Simply irresistible. I should have known better.

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. I suppose back then, I really, really meant it. 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, bright and beautiful.

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

I never saw 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? I was determined I would not live in a house where everything was basically just an ever so slightly smudged ivory or dirty white, as I call it, 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, the other one’s perfume was quite strong, a bit brash and to be honest, I’m not sure I liked it all that much. 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’, the old 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. They are just details. I’ll go bold and beautiful, big time.

‘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 hard greys in various depressing shades of coldest despair and, apparently to brighten things up, there were tubs of sallow, anaemic neutrals. It can’t be right if you feel the urgent need to give your walls an iron boost. Was there a supply chain 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, readymade, not in dire need of repair.

-BRITTA BENSON

Britta Benson is a happiness & poetry blogging, circus skills instructing & common butterfly following German, a writer, performer & linguist thriving in Scotland, her chosen habitat since the year 2000. Read more of Britta’s work at

Britta’s Blog – Letters from Scotland

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Terveen Gill says:

    Britta takes the reader through a winding journey, slowly revealing a story that has lost all color. “Resilience has an expiry date” – this is a dilemma taking over the world. It’s easy to physically salvage and rejuvenate a fading place but what about a fading relationship? At the cost of experimenting with something new, how many homes have been irreparably broken? Does love and commitment have an expiration date? So many questions…
    Congratulations Britta!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. brittabenson says:

      Thank you so much, Terveen. You always find the right words and you have been so supportive and encouraging. I’m immensely proud to be on MasticadoresIndia, in the company of great writers – my badge of honour! There’s a woman up here in Scotland with a very smug grin on her face, today.

      Liked by 1 person

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