Grown-ups shouldn’t be beige

BeigePhil: My next door neighbours son has curtains printed with pictures of planets and stars. Great big ones in virulent colours. Walking by the house at night, if the light is on you can see this fabric solar system.

If you look at any of the curtains in the same street owned by adults, you won’t see any bold designs. Watch one of the property programmes that infest television (why are there so many?) and the first thing bellowed at prospective sellers is to paint the walls a “neutral” tone so the potential buyers can project their own ideas onto this blank canvas. Anyone who dares to indulge in colour is ridiculed back into line PDQ.

Sadly, as Candice has found, buyers arrive at the house completely lacking in any imagination. Bedrooms must contain a bed for example, or the person looking around is incapable of working out that the room upstairs is a bedroom. Put a desk in there and they will think it’s an office and wonder why there aren’t as many bedrooms as advertised but an office that isn’t. Therefore when they see the regulation beige walls, they don’t think “Oh, I could paint that a nice lilac colour” they thing “Oh, beige. Lovely.”

I hate sodding beige and not just ‘cos I live in a town painted in it.

It’s the same with clothes. Look at a station platform full of commuters and you’ll see a sea of black. Lots and lots of black coats. On the rare occasion you see someone who has dared to buck the trend and chose a colour, or heaven forfend a pattern and colour, for their coat, I want to run up and hug them. Obviously I don’t because I’m British and don’t want to be arrested.

When employed in an office, I wear a white shirt and black trousers. It’s easy as you don’t have to work out which clothes to wear in the morning. I do put on a tie though and I have a massive collection. Most are bright. Tasteful, not cartoons, but bright. Nice enough to wear to a proper meeting with important people but definitely not beige or grey. I used to have a reputation for them. It was the nearest I got to being “wild and wacky”.

As a child, my favorite T-shirt featured a big picture of two space ships fighting. It was some sort of horrid polyester material but I loved the big, colourful picture.

What’s all this got to do with writing?

Simple. When we are children our imaginations are allowed to run free. We haven’t learned not to be creative. As we age, all this spark is drained from us. The solar system curtains become nice plain ones to fit the decor. Our clothes monotone. We aspire to be beige.  I wish I’d never stopped writing stories – I know I wrote some and illustraited them when I was young. As you get older it becomes harder to re-learn the skill. When you get back in the grove, as we have recently re-plotting The Book, it’s wonderful.


Filed under Phil, Writing

3 responses to “Grown-ups shouldn’t be beige

  1. It’s sad that as we grow up we lose the fearlessness that is so natural in children. When I wrote stories as a child, I didn’t give two hoots about who read them, I wrote them purely for my own pleasure. They came from a place where no one was judging and realistic was not in my vocabulary yet. I was not afraid of what impression my stories would make on the readers. Those were the best ones, a product of unfettered imagination. As adults we are so hung up on writing the correct way, so afraid of saying the wrong thing, that creativity is suffocated. Great post.

  2. Andy in Germany

    Agreed. Working in theatre I would frequently be amazed at how people were not taught to be creative, in fact, how schools teach us not to be creative, but to fit in, toe the line. One of the great things about my work was seeing what happened when people were allowed to be creative and what they did. It takes a while though to unlearn habits of self-preservation and fitting in.
    I wear light brown a lot at work: in Germany it is the colour of a carpenters overalls because it doean’t show the sawdust…

  3. I long for the good old sixties – my chosen attire at college was purple loons, lime green shirt with a paisley kneckerchief. Sadly, no photographs exist of me from that time. Working in London ad agencies only the account handlers (see Mad Men) wore suits whilst us creatives wore t-shirts, jeans and Kickers. Unfortunately, unless you buy your clothes at the retro shops men’s clothes are just boring with no room for self- expression except in the tie area. According to Space 1999 we should all be wearing velcro jump-suits but like the flying car this has not come to pass.

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