A little observation

Shades of Grey

I did not think of grey as a colour

Until I saw it in the concrete –

Of one- and two-room apartment blocks:

Two hundred dominos standing on the horizon

Another two hundred straight ahead

Dull washing on a grey balcony

Ah … but there is one window box of colour

One bright soul telling the world

There are shades besides grey.

I did not think of grey as a colour

Until I saw the vista from Ceacescu’s Palace

‘The Champs Elysee of Bucharest,’ he called it

This desert of concrete in 40 degree heat

But there is coloured marble inside the palace

Shades besides grey

Meant only for the chosen to see.

An ashen face on TV – don’t they love me? –

And what of the bewildered faces-

There are no orphans in Romania!

I did not think of grey as a colour

Until I looked over the Berlin Wall

As if it were a zoo on the other side

But there are shades of red on that wall

Blood from those who took the risk

To see a world that was not grey.

I did not think of grey as a colour

Until I saw the granite blocks

Cut by people to build Peter’s city

Fifty tonnes hewn by hand

Fifty tonnes hauled on to a sled

To be drawn by fifty horses

Across sub-Arctic icefloes

To build Peter’s city.

I did not think of grey as a colour

Until I saw the old log monastery

Timber that had been blessed long ago

Now fresh aspen shingles shine again

And cruise boats pass slowly by

Drawn by the extraordinary colour

Of silvery grey.

I did not think of grey as a colour

Until I looked beyond Solovetsky’s holy domes

And saw the reflection of past souls

Of people who lived and co-existed

Until the inquisitors

Crept in and spread their grey mantle

And dulled eyes and expressions

To a shade of eternal grey

At the gulag.

I never thought of grey as a colour

Because it symbolises silence

Silence that emanates from empty prisons

Silence that follows the army of informers

The apparatus of enforcers

As they too must disappear

  Without a trace, into greyness.

Nature rules the landscape

And as concrete bunkers crumble

And apartment blocks get a coat of crazy paint

A new generation sees a rainbow

With no shades of grey.


Shades of grey (2)

I never thought of grey as a colour. Bright red was my favourite – red shoes, red scarf, red dress, red cardigan, red hat – a red, floppy, red hat, lots of red cardigans, several in mohair and a red jacket with yellow lining.

I wore lots of red but I never wished for a red car. I still wear a red angora beret and gloves in winter.  Red shoes are a good omen as the colour red close to the ground wards off evil – I recently bought a red pair of joggers for my travels. But I never thought of grey as a colour until I saw it had neutralised the brown in my mother’s hair.

I never liked green very much, it was too much like a dense jungle – impenetrable – but a light lime-green suited my complexion.  Light, sunlight yellow is cheerful in winter furnishings. I like the honey yellow of huon pine furniture. But I never thought of grey as a colour until I saw it in leaden clouds gathering an uneasy storm, the colour of battleships and concrete walls – shades of grey devoid of all colour – devoid of hope.

Orange would scream at me – it belonged with food – mandarins and oranges – and browns looked as if the palette had all gone wrong. I didn’t like blue either– too cold, icy; navy was the colour of the school uniform tunic and it never suited me at all, but navy looked good on my mother; but I never thought of shades of grey until I saw it my father’s eyebrows.

Black is a mysterious colour – it can be coal black or bordering on brown or green and then even the most neglected colours can be worn with it, even shades of grey. All colours drown to make black, so steel grey, silver grey are just on the edge – when shades of light begin to disappear. Then again the velvet black night sky seems scattered with diamonds – the light of stars. Grey has none of the mystery.

The white of White Rabbit, snow and iceberg roses; it is all colours combined. A prism breaks light into rainbow colours and makes them disappear again. But there is no grey in a rainbow.

I like berry colours especially raspberry; it is so rich and bright against a blackberry silk skirt. But I never thought that shades of grey would go with raspberry. My cousin pointed out such a sweater to me; I never thought of myself in shades of grey. There is a fine line between advice and actually being convinced. No shades of grey in what I see myself wearing!

 Tomorrow will do

 I’m late, I’m late, I’m late

For a very important date,

Said the White Rabbit

As he sped past the garden gate.

 For six hundred language groups

It is all too late.


I’ve not had a need for another language –

Why don’t you speak English!’

Who said,

Tomorrow can wait?

Tomorrow will do?

Tomorrow has come!

All is undone

Tomorrow has gone!

Will there be another morrow?

  New States –

Accept the loss of sovereignty.

Loss of democracy;

Adopt structural changes-

This is Globalisation.

 Ecological problems,

Diminishing resources,

Food shortages.

Old age,

Young sage

Climate change;

This is the new order.


Ethnographic losses,




This is our world.

 Let’s rework the slogans:

Tomorrow can wait!

Tomorrow will do!

Tomorrow is nigh!

Tomorrow has gone!

What will the new morrow bring?


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