Colourful Language



My blue hoodie is the thickest, grubbiest, cosiest garment this side of Sheffield.  It’s thready at the cuffs and shapeless to the knees, and definitely something to be inhabited rather than worn.

I love words.  I borrowed some of these from Gormenghast (inmate Fuscia inhabits her dresses) which I was reading when I first spent a night at the-bloke-who-later-became-hubby’s place.  I noticed the hoodie hanging from a hook on his door, decided it’d look nice on me and have cheerfully inhabited it ever since.

As hubby and I got better acquainted, I discovered the semantics of climbing.  Hubby had a rack of nuts and friends and hexes; he talked of jamming his hand into cracks; of redpointing and soloing, lay-backing and smearing, traversing, rocking over and topping out.  It was like being back in year eleven Spanish lessons;  I understood the occasional word and sniggered whenever it sounded rude.  I also loved it that every climb has a name.  My favourite names are Dream of White Horses, The Enchanted Broccoli Garden, Jitterbug and The Sloth.

Anyone who has looked at shades of beige on a paint-chart can tell you that colours also have names more intruiging that what they describe.  Furthermore, when I went for my ‘Colours Done’ there were lots of words for classifying colours – and not one of them was ‘Wavelength’ (the electromagnetic spectrum being far more comprehensible).



‘The word I’ve chosen for you is ‘Soft,” says colour consultant Adele.

‘Soft?’  I look doubtful.

‘Yes.  You suit soft colours rather than bright ones.  I’m going to take soft colours with a warm undertone and compare them to ones with a cool undertone.  Like this -‘

She starts to drape me with coloured cloths.  One is peach;  I shudder.

‘It doesn’t matter whether or not you like peach.  I’m looking to see whether peach likes you.’

As I consider this wild colour-personification, she adds

‘I want to see if it makes your eyes ping out.’

It doesn’t, but I think her descriptions are super.

Once Adele has decided that ‘cool‘ colours like me best, she tries to separate deep colours from pale.  I turn out to be ‘deeper‘ than she thought.  Unlike our poor friend Lucy, who is not only superficial but also ‘difficult‘ – she is between two seasons: ‘on the cusp.’

A person’s ‘Season‘ is arrived at from the warmth, depth and softness of the colours that suit them.  I can’t relate the ‘Seasons‘ to British seasons at all, but then I am an unimaginative scientist.  Here is Katherine, a ‘Snow White Winter,’ with the colours that suit her best:


and Becky, a ‘Sweet-Pea Summer‘ (regular readers will be relieved to know that Becky’s full spectrum includes the red of her dress – although sadly she threw it away).


I am almost a sweet-pea summer myself, but somewhat ‘on the deep side of mid.’  Pink-Floyd would have a field day.  While I am thinking about this, Adele chooses the ‘neutrals‘ that I should use for my everyday basics to ‘hang my colours off.’

We discuss lipstick.  In the interests of trying something new, I let Adele paint my lips.

‘There,’ she says when she has finished.  ‘Now you look beautiful.

I open my mouth and she says, ‘No!  Sometimes we need to accept a compliment and just say ‘thankyou.’ ‘

Great!  So she’s painted another colour over the top of my normal lip colour, announced that in doing this she has made me beautful and I’m supposed to feel complimented?

Becky rolls her eyes.  ‘She means, you look even more beautiful with make-up on because it contrasts with your blue eyes and makes them stand out.’

Back to semantics.  What does ‘beautiful’ mean again?

Pleases the senses or the mind aesthetically (Google).

Wearing lipstick does not please my mind.  I’m uncomfortable taking a drink, smiling, kissing anyone or rubbing my mouth.  I’m a wipe-my-mouth=with-the-back-of-my-hand-very-frequently sort of person. Perhaps it’s because I drool a lot.

I can’t be that pleasing aesthetically, because I look so grumpy in lipstick.  Make-up is not for me.  If i was a man that’d be OK.

Adele has been thinking about men, too.  She says

‘Would your husband not like it if you wore make-up?’


Would it make a better story if I smashed the mirror over someone’s head and made a sanctimonious speech about feminism?  Because I don’t want to;  I’m having a nice time.  Much as I hate to admit it, the feminine ritual of getting together, gossipping, talking about our appearances and so on is lovely.  And even better, the men aren’t hunting mammoth:  they’re looking after our kids.

So I wrinkle my nose and say lightly that my husband’s opinion has nothing to do with it.  These Sheffield climbers are progressive, feminist types, doncha know.  But I don’t think any less of Adele, because it turns out she’s unearthing magic.

There are definitely some colours that make me look and feel stronger, and “make my eyes ‘ping’ out”.  One of the blues in particular is very striking and I have marked it off on a little card in my sample-book.  I need a scrub-top that colour for work.  And to combine it with my darkest neutral to give me more authority.

As I get ready to go, I pull my favourite hoodie over my head.  I chose it deliberately this morning, as though daring any representatives of the beauty industry to comment on the big, smelly dog-blanket of a thing that I love to inhabit.

I am almost disappointed when nobody says a word.

Until Adele notices and shouts out in triumph:

‘Look!  You’re already wearing that blue!’




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