Y is for YELLOW
As I continue my daily walk around my estate, keeping my eyes and ears open to the natural sounds and sights that surround me, spring is making its entrance, demanding attention – Hey look at me! ready for a street carnival. – flaunting its costume.
Yellow forsythia, dandelions, buttercups, celandine, and yellow irises by the river at the bottom of my road. Pansies and winter aconite burst from garden beds.
And then, I notice the yellow grit bin, a coronavirus notice on the yellow gate to the children’s play area, yellow chalk message on a fence – Stay Safe, Stay at Home, the yellow hose pipe on my front lawn. When I get home, I gather together all the yellow things I can find and make a collage, or mini-art installation – if I want to be pretentious – pretentious moi? Lockdown Yellow.
And I think – what a wonderful colour yellow is – until I open my bag of potatoes.
Instead of new potatoes I ordered from the supermarket, I received a subsitiute, called Nemo. What a fright, when I open the bag and lay them all out to view. Every potato bears a face – with grinning yellow eyes and mouth – like primitive masks for some awful ancient ritual.
It makes me think about the meaning of the colour. Opinion polls since 1880 show that yellow is one of the least popular colours. On the one hand it’s bright and cheerful, sunny, glowing and optimistic but on the other hand it can represent darker things. For instance, there’s Jaundice and the Yellow Fever, the expression ‘yellow-bellied’ for cowardice, the portrayal of Judas Iscariot in a yellow cape or tunic, in paintings in the Middle Ages. And this century, the yellow Star of David which Jews were forced to wear during the period of their persecution by the Nazis; and more recently, the appropriation of the yellow safety vests for the gilet-jaunes movement in France.
I prefer to think of Van Gogh’s sunflowers, of canaries and life-boat crews’ jackets and boots; and bumblebees, egg yolks and Colman’s mustard. And the ever-so useful, ubiquitous post-it note: a writer’s life-line to counter forgetfulness and the fuzzy brain brought on by isolation.