I’m supposed to be telling you all about my new book and starting to ramp up expectation, so that when it goes live the pre-orders start flooding in. And I will, I promise, but you know how it is, sometimes life places little temptations in the way and before I know it the cheerful promotional copy that I’m composing in my head gets derailed by something so mind numbingly stupid that selling books will have to wait. In this case the offending distraction was on a brightly lit gentlemen’s grooming shelf in Tesco’s.
‘Quantum Dry, what the f*** is quantum dry supposed to be?’
I quickly realised that I’d uttered this out loud. As I get older, I’m getting good at recognising the signs; chuckling from strangers, children whisked away by worried looking parents and a few swirling dust motes in the space that up until five seconds ago contained Alison. I usually find her a few isles away where she’ll carefully check the area for warning signs, like looming security guards or grannies improvising a noose from a budget range clothes line, before acknowledging my existence.
But my point stands, what in heavens name is Quantum Dry and why would I want to flavour my armpits with it? It sounds suspiciously like the marketing department intern trawled the internet until they found a sexy sounding word that conveyed just the right amount of sciencey mystique to convince men that they want to smell like the minimum amount of any physical entity. For that is what quantum actually means.
What’s wrong with smelling like Old Spice or Brut 33? Okay I don’t understand that last one, but it was incredibly popular back when I wasn’t. As a hormonal teen in head to toe denim trying to mask the aroma of adolescence in an era of enforced participation in muddy sports, cycling to school and a weekly bath on Sunday evening, a splash of Brut 33 at least mellowed the heady aroma, although by Thursday I probably needed something stronger, like bleach.
It’s the same with paint. Well not the fragrance, although most paint smells better than Brut 33, but the names they dream up. I recently had cause to purchase some yellow paint. I described it as mustardy yellow.
‘Do you mean Yellow Ochre?’ said young Wayne, who looked like he was doing work experience but was wearing a duty manager badge, possibly by mistake.
‘Aren’t they black and white whales?’
There followed a pause while both of us did some mental shuffling. Wayne gave in first.
‘It’s darkish yellow, a kind of mustard colour, would you like to look at a paint chart?’
I looked. ‘Oh, ochre, I though you meant…never mind... yes that’ll be fine thank you.’
At least ochre is a natural pigment that is, surprise surprise, mustardy yellow so I suppose I shouldn’t complain. But some of the colours they dream up don’t bear resemblance to any spectrum I’m familiar with. Take these examples from Farrow & Ball: Savage Ground, Mole's Breath, and Peignoir. A Peignoir is a light dressing gown or negligee, so I’m imaging whatever colour it starts out as, it turns watery grey and has the texture of much laundered tissue paper. Presumably Mole’s Breath is the colour of half-digested worm and Savage Ground could be anywhere in the range between flaming lava and an artic ice sheet, but is actually dull pink.
I don’t want to single out Farrow & Ball, so I looked up Dulux and struggled to get beyond ‘Old-school goes modern’ on their website. Anyone who dreams up such meaningless nonsense probably has an equally pretentious palette I thought, and lo I wasn’t wrong: Knight’s Armour, Lucky Penny and, oh dear, Tunnel Vison.
‘Darling, I was just wondering if we should spruce the place up, maybe a lick of paint and whatnot. I know, what’s your favourite sensory ailment for the feature wall, I can’t decide between Burst Eardrum or Tunnel Vision?
‘Oh sweetie, they’re both sooo 2018’s. What about something trendy like Fluffy Buffalo Anus or Bonsai Cardiac Popsicle?’
On I trawled. Crown Paints seem to think I want an online immersive experience rather than to buy a tin of magnolia emulsion. I couldn’t find a chart or list of their colours, but I do now know that monochrome is timeless, and that pink is ‘in’, so it wasn’t a wasted encounter.
It’s all rather soul destroying really. What one needs in these times of Monochrome Quantum Mole Anus flavour paint is a distraction. A handy and irreverent tale of, oh I don’t know, maybe two people who sold up, moved into a motorhome and ended up working on a Scottish island. Something witty, poignant and informative, perhaps in a handy paperback edition or electronic format for ease of storage.
Did I mention that I have a book out soon? It’s called Still Following Rainbows and it is crammed full of nonsense like this, or as my imaginary publicist insists that I phrase it, wry observations. It does have lots about our time on the Island of Mull, working at a tourist site and living in our motorhome. There’s some stuff about living in the Midlands too, encounters with Bishops, travel writing, the perils of long-distance journeys, snippets of history and plenty of humour. There is also reflection, candid writing about difficult times and personal struggles. It’s just what you need for the summer and will be available on Amazon soon, so when you’ve finished painting the stairs a fetching shade of Molecular Tinnitus you can put the kettle on, reach for your copy of Still Following Rainbows and relax.