Two days before Charlie’s second birthday he paints blue glyphs on bright white card as he sits in his high chair. “More”, he says.
I cut paintings into pennants while he sleeps and thread with navy ribbon. Sprinkled with golden glitter and pocked with tiny stars, I festoon glyphs across fireplace.
Larger glittered stars twinkle down from cottage beams. A party for three. They are still there. I haven’t the heart to take them down.
The scent of colour is hard to describe. The pennant-blue is the powdery scent of Berol Colour Tubs thirty-odd years old at least. Twelve semi-solid paint tubs in a cardboard box. Once mine – too precious to use. The paints are richly pigmented and smooth. A rush of colour. Just add water.
I paint a rainbow for Charlie and one for his pal though our palette is limited. Stock currently unavailable as children paint themselves into a frenzy up and down the country at their kitchen tables.
He gets mixed-up between black and white. He can’t yet say silver. But in his word-palette is gold. And pink (snack) and orange – his favourites. Blue and green (said with relish) and purp’ and ‘ow and brown and grey.
Like Ellmer and his elephant-coloured berries, except for that one elephant in the herd that has always been blue, not grey. And Charlie knows it too.
The artist Yves Klein loved blue so much that he made an ultramarine that he trademarked International Klein Blue (IKB). He sold invisible works of art in exchange for gold leaf. Fluttering into the River Seine – Klein stands on the bank in a black and white photograph that we see in shades of gold – sparkling, crinkling sheets of leaf in the Paris wind. 1962.
Charlie has a deep fascination for Gra’s painting jumper (pain’ jump’) – an old navy sweatshirt slightly smeared with streaks and spots of acrylic in white, yellow and green. Nanna and Gra make a mini one for him and deliver it in tissue and red gift wrap. Now he can dress as his hero any day he chooses.
It’s way past the time you should have been in bed.
I continue to unpack and tentatively hang art work and other treasures on our walls.
A canvas dipped in beeswax, city maps, postcards from San Francisco (where the Gate is red and not at all Golden) of orange groves and pelicans, riso-printed pastel houses, oil-painted portraits, photographs of flowered damsels, Bruce Springsteen, crisp pink shells, William Morris woodblock wallpaper samples and barely-there embossed prints on heavy, handmade paper.
I had a pair of golden pumps and I had silver ones too.
I had a pair that smelled of bubble gum
When I was six – it’s true.
The museum continues in the new garden veg patch. Rob finds a golden coin encrusted with dirt. One Turkish lira from 2011. And a blue and white fragment from the neck of a vase, several floral shards, an intact saucer, an audio CD from The Sunday Times and a handmade nail from two hundred and twenty two years ago when Jeremiah Ditheridge built this house.
“Where do we live, Charlie?”
“Earth,” he says.
He owns three books published by the British Museum. There are three gold things in Colours: Early Learning at the Museum: a gold Mummy-mask, Egypt, 100 BC – AD 100; a gold helmet, Ur, Iraq, 2600 BC; and a gold coin, Rome, Italy, AD 125 – 128.
We travel in time and space without leaving our home, journeying to faraway lands and times in search of treasure and colour. Connection and culture on our grey settee.
In Shadow is the Queen of Colour, a chapter in Derek Jarman’s book Chroma (1994), he explains:
“The further colour recedes in time and space the stronger it glows. Golden memories. Not the gold of wedding rings in the High Street Ratners, but a philosophic gold which glows in the mind like the precious stones in Revelation. Emerald, Ruby, Jacinth, Chalcedony, Jasper. Colour, like these jewels, is precious. Even more precious, as unlike the sparklers, it cannot be possessed. Colour slips through the fingers and escapes. You can’t lock it in a jewel box as it vanishes in the dark.”