Monday 13 November 2023

A Hunger For Colour

As if any were needed, heavy hints that Christmas is on the way are everywhere. Need any lights, perhaps? I know a place where you can get them by the yard. I expect you do, too. No-one need go short of lights this winter, although the actual energy cost of dressing up your house like a fairground attraction may give many pause for thought this year. It's quite hard, now, to remember the austere days when a few paper chains, some strategically-placed Christmas cards, and a string of lights on a tree in a bucket were what counted as "decorating" the house for Christmas. That is, the inside of the house; nobody used to decorate the outside of the house. Leaving the living-room curtains open at night to show off the lights on your tree was about as extroverted as it got. Christmas was a private, domestic festival, not an opportunity for a public display of flashing, multi-coloured, competitive vulgarity.

Things have changed, of course. Christmas has pretty much thrown off most of its association with the Nativity, and is now the midwinter explosion of conspicuous consumption that had always been trying to erupt from beneath and overwhelm the more pious festivities. Understandably, there is a hunger for life, light, and colour in these northern latitudes as the weather worsens, sunshine steadily becomes a scarce commodity, and the drab tints of seasonal death and decay start to predominate. So I suppose you could regard those light-decked houses with their gardens full of illuminated gadgets as a public service to passers-by and stimulation-starved neighbours. TBH it's hard to see what actual benefit they bring to the occupants lurking inside who are paying for it all.

Personally, I've always enjoyed the shortening days: walking home from school at 4:00 pm in the dark had more drama than the exact same walk in the summer months, boosted by the thrills of Bonfire Night just past (Hallowe'en? Nah, not back then...) and with the excitements of the Christmas break lying ahead. Later, there was also the promise of assorted teenage kicks under cover of darkness to anticipate. But I waxed lyrical about all this in the 2012 post Whatever Happened to Donkey Jackets?, and won't repeat my seasonal and sartorial nostalgias yet again.

Even the smallest hints of colour will attract the eye in the darkening months. There has been major disruption by road works in this part of town, as our water mains are gradually being replaced. I suppose we should be grateful, really: you are spoiling us, Southern Water! (Even though I'm convinced the taste of our water has changed, and not for the better). But the bright primary colours and bold shapes of the associated infrastructural kit and appliances have been adding some mood-lifting festive notes to the scene, at least for those of us looking for things to point a camera at.

But, should you be really hungry for more colour, the more garish and saturated the better, then I can accommodate you. Look no further... A little layering, some tweaks on the sliders (actually, quite a lot of both) and voilĂ ! Hmm, I wonder if I've just made this year's Christmas cards? Maybe even a double A-side this time? [1] These should brighten up anyone's mantelpiece!

1. This may be a baffling reference to younger readers. Back when 7-inch 45 rpm vinyl "singles" were the basic currency of pop, a release would have an A side – labelled as such, and the side intended to be played on the radio – and a B side, usually some forgettable filler, especially in the days before track-packed albums became the norm for pop and rock acts. A "double A-side" was when a record was released with both sides being considered equally poptastic, and the expectation that both would be featured on the radio. The Beatles, naturally, were standouts in this regard, starting in 1965 with We Can Work It Out / Day Tripper. Heady days... When this old hat was new.

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