Shades of grey

Blessed is [s]he who expects nothing, for [s]he shall never be disappointed. I grew up with this refrain and in the years that have passed since I first heard it touted as the ‘ninth beatitude’ ( for those who missed that class, there are only eight), I’ve often wondered at its veracity. I’ve been coming to Malta now on a semi-regular basis for a couple of years and I’ve come to expect colour – the boats, the buses, the sun, the carnival, the cakes, the clothes, the faces – lots and lots of colour. And, until now, I’ve never been disappointed. When I got here late last week it was like stepping into a black-and-white movie. Or perhaps a B&W movie with occasional flashes of colour.Remember the Shane Meadows’ 2004 movie Dead Man’s Shoes where in the B&W flashbacks, the shoes were in colour? Well, a little like that.

I’m not quite sure if it’s the weather – it’s cold and windy and wet with occasional bouts of sun. Or the time of year – most people are wearing winter clothes in dark muted shades with the occasional splash of colour in a scarf that gives the impression of trying valiantly to hang on to some semblance of joy.

I’m in a workshop  on modern diplomacy – participants have come from all over the world: Nigeria, Jamaica, Bahamas, Fiji, Malawi, Mexico, South Africa, Iraq, Dominica, and Palestine. And they are in colour. The presenters – all EU based – are in various shades of grey. On Day 1 – I thought it was just coincidence. On Day 2 – I began to wonder. But on Day 3 – with each new presenter, the trend continues. And it’s given me pause for thought.  By shrouding ourselves in shades of grey are we subconsciously mirroring how we feel about what’s going on in our world ? Are we straddling the fine line between the black of mourning and  the white of hope? Are we taking refuge in non-committal blandness? Or am I so far behind in the fashion stakes that I’ve failed to realise that grey is in?

5 Responses

  1. Surely, the way that anybody who is anybody – male, at least – wears the international uniform (dark) grey suit to indicate that he is either unwilling or incapable of thinking differently from anyone else. And when he then, say, exercises his veto in the Security Council it seems all the more shocking when he is not only different but selfish and possibly stupid and unkind all at once. National dress should be worn by diplomats.

    1. Not quite sure I’m getting that point Bernard. Slow day in Murphyville. I remember being at a friend’s mother’s funeral years ago. She asked that all her friends were bright colours and no black. It looks so unusual because traditional funeral attire in western Europe is black. Likewise, when a woman dressed in a simple skirt, shirt, and bright pashmina wrap took the podium at a world bank conference, no-one quite knew what to think – where was the suit? When I was part of a delegation to the Gov. of Malta, an American colleague pulled me aside and told me I was not appropriately dressed (i.e. no jacket) – it was 30 degrees outside – Celsius. Turns out, what I was wearing was perfectly suitable. Penny drops: okay – the disconnect between what the outfit promises and what the man wearing it delivers???

      Mary Murphy

  2. Yes, but it’s more like the Russian proverb ‘Bark or don’t bark, but wag your tail’. Uniformity is safe – you can’t tell which of a pack is not barking, but you can see the motionless tail.

  3. In Hawaii and most of the South Pacific Islands the attire for funerals is bright colors and patterned clothes, it is a celebration, you go to celebrate the persons life so you wear your fun clothes and you better be ready to stay for the day.

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