COLUMN: December 14, 2017

It’s not easy seeing green

WHEN I tell people my favourite colour is green – for example, whenever I am interviewed by Smash Hits or Look In – they look at me askance.

“Green?” they say. “That is a very unlucky colour.” I usually ask them to explain, but they cannot. “I have green eyes,” I say, “and I am not… oh, yes, I see what you mean.”

Green is certainly discriminated against in the colour community. Some people say “red and green should never be seen”. Many more say “blue and green should never be seen”. But both camps clearly agree that green is a bad ‘un, associated with sickness and envy.

Even when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby invented The Incredible Hulk they must have had a conversation about his hue. “What colour, Jack, should we make our big angry monster? Shall we make him red, the colour traditionally associated with rage?”

“No, Stan, we will make him green, to symbolise his terrible curse.”

“Excelsior, Jack. Right, I’m off to be a film star while you die in virtual penury.”

Despite the slurs against its character, I remain a fan of green. It soothes me when I see it, unless I am camping and it means something has gone very wrong with my ground sheet.

And a few years ago I found my perfect green, a shade which somehow, for reasons I do not understand, made me feel at peace with everything. And, when you consider that I can become angry about onion soup and bollards and literally anything else, that is quite the thing.

It was a green bauble in a garden centre, hanging among other, more boring colours, and it stopped me dead. I cannot describe this green, apart from to say it was at once more blue and more gold than any other green I had ever seen, which should be impossible but somehow was not.

I had to buy it – it was only a couple of pounds – but you can’t buy things if you’ve left your stupid wallet on your stupid bedside cabinet and all your stupid change in your other stupid trousers. I went home to get cash, but by the time I got back to the garden centre, my green had gone.

I have spent much of the time since looking for “my green”, unable to describe it, but knowing I would recognise it if I saw it. I’ve looked at paintings, at colour charts, in books, everywhere. Google is a marvellous thing, but “that shade of green I like” is not a search term which has brought me much joy.

I have been Elmer Fudd in search of Bugs Bunny for years, driven to distraction at times.

And then, last week, as I was walking through a department store, I saw it. It was a bauble again – perhaps it is a colour that only works on spheres.

What’s more, there were loads of them, all packed in boxes with other, lesser colours. And I had my wallet this time.

But I was on the way to work, and if there’s one thing you can’t take into a newspaper office, for fear of distracting the younger reporters, it’s a box of shiny baubles.

I went back a few days later to claim my victory. And all the boxes had been sold. I actually gibbered. In public…

“Mum, can we get these?”

I looked. There was a boy, aged about eight or nine, holding the last box of my baubles. It must have been hidden behind other, rubbish baubles. My eye twitched. I looked at his mother, hoping that she would be a terrible misery guts.

“No, put them back,” she said. The boy tutted and did as he was told. I felt bad for him for a moment and then, after he left, pounced on my green.

Now they are sitting on my tree, and I feel guilty that that boy is going to have the same long quest to find that colour as I had.

So this is a message to that boy. If you are that boy, and this is several years later, and you Google in desperation “that shade of green I like”, you will probably have found this column online, and I will give you one of my baubles.

But if you’re not that boy, and you’re trying to con me, don’t even bother. I’m not as green as I’m cabbage-looking.


COLUMN: December 7, 2017

Film: Die Hard
Scrooge with an Uzi

A FEW years ago I wrote a column about the Christmas film Elf in which I explained in painstaking if compelling detail why I thought it wasn’t any good. That done, I gave it the inflammatory headline “Why You Are Wrong To Like The Film Elf”.

I knew what would happen. The sort of people who like the film Elf would rage at me that you can’t say it’s wrong to like a film, even if it is definitely a bad film. As Elf is.

And they did, and it is true. It’s entirely possible to like something that isn’t remotely good. Even Violet Kray loved her boys.

Because everything is a matter of opinion, apart from the things that aren’t. For instance, a recent poll by YouGov said that 50% of people in Britain believe that Die Hard is not a Christmas movie, and just a film that happens to be set at Christmas.

Half the people out there believe something that is demonstrably not true to be true. Obviously it is none of my readers, who are a sceptical and fiercely intelligent bunch, but their number contains your friends, your neighbours, maybe even members of your family.

For of course Die Hard is a Christmas movie, and I will explain why. I apologise to those of you who haven’t yet seen a film that is 30 years old next year, but you’ve had your chance.

Everything that happens in Die Hard happens because it is Christmas. John McClane (Bruce Willis) is visiting his estranged wife and family because it is Christmas. The company his wife is working for is having a Christmas party. The building in which the film takes place is deserted because it is Christmas Eve. The heist and hostages plan carried out by Evil Alan Rickman – the best sort of Alan Rickman – only works because the building is deserted.

The ending is rooted in Christmas. The secret gun McClane has hidden is attached to his back with Christmas wrapping tape, and the Swiss watch to which Evil Alan Rickman clings before his slow-motion fall is a Christmas present to McClane’s wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) from her sleazy colleague.

More than that, McClane’s own story in the film follows the classic Christmas movie tradition, a selfish man sacrifices himself for the good of others, and through that comes to realise that the most important thing in his life is his loved ones. He is basically Scrooge with an Uzi.

Yes, there are more violent deaths in Die Hard than in your average Christmas story – unless you’re counting the Slaughter of the Innocents – but it could not be a more explicitly Christmas film if Willis were replaced by Santa Claus and it were set in a stable. Even his wife’s name is Holly, for goodness’ sake!

There’s a case that you could heavily rewrite Die Hard to be set at another time of year, but that would entirely change the character of the film. Everything bad that happens in the film is made worse – as in life – by the fact it happens on Christmas Eve.

But you could rewrite Home Alone – the children’s version of Die Hard – to take place at another time of year, and nobody ever suggests that is not a Christmas film.

Even It’s A Wonderful Life – the Christmas film to end all Christmas films – could be set in June, with even less rewriting than Die Hard would need.

So Die Hard is clearly a Christmas film, and anybody who suggests otherwise is deluded, insane, or wantonly contrary. This is not a matter of opinion, it is plain fact.

And yet, 50% of the people out there, faced with overwhelming evidence, have told YouGov that black is white.

Apparently that is democracy these days. People make a decision, while paying no attention to the facts, and then the rest of us – who have done the reading – have to lump it no matter how demonstrably wrong it is, just because the tiny majority “feel” they are correct.

And there will be people now, reading this, who will say it’s just a matter of opinion, and if I could just get behind the idea that Die Hard is not a Christmas movie then we could make Die Hard not be a Christmas movie, even though Die Hard clearly is a Christmas movie.

They are wrong, no matter how they feel. Just like Elf lovers.