Astonishing Splashes Of Colour

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-10-30
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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"Caught in an over-vivid world because of her synaesthesia (feelings are experienced as colors), Kitty feels haunted by her "child that never was." As children all around become emblems of hope, longing, and grief, she begins to understand the reasons for her shaky sense of self. What family mystery makes her four brothers so vague about her mother's life, who died when she was three? Why does Dad splash paint on canvas rather than answer his daughter's questions? On the edges of her dreams, Kitty glimpses the kaleidoscope van that took her sister Dinah away - is it a link to her indistinct childhood?"--BOOK JACKET.

Author Biography

First published by a small independent press in England, Clare Morrall defied all odds by shooting up the literary ladder and becoming a finalist for the Booker Prize, the most prestigious literary award in England Clare Morrall's lives in Birmingham, England, where she's raised two grown children and is a music teacher

Table of Contents

1. the flash of my skirt
2. the lost boys
3. a good silence
4. feeding the rhododendrons
5. outer circle
6. locks
7. a seriously happy world
8. neverland
9. on top of the world
10. that pinprick of time 302


Astonishing Splashes of Colour

Chapter One

The Flash of My Skirt

At 3:15 every weekday afternoon, I become anonymous in a crowd of parents and child-minders congregating outside the school gates. To me, waiting for children to come out of school is a quintessential act of motherhood. I see the mums -- and the occasional dads -- as yellow people. Yellow as the sun, a daffodil, the submarine. But why do we teach children to paint the sun yellow? It's a deception. The sun is white-hot, brilliant, impossible to see with the naked eye, so why do we confuse brightness with yellow?

The people outside the school gates are yellow because of their optimism. There's a picture in my mind of morning in a kitchen, the sun shining past yellow gingham curtains on to a wooden table, where the children sit and eat breakfast. Their arms are firm and round, their hair still tangled from sleep. They eat Coco Pops, drink milk and ask for chocolate biscuits in their lunchboxes. It's the morning of their lives, and their mums are reliving that morning with them.

After six weeks of waiting, I'm beginning to recognize individuals, to separate them from the all-embracing yellow mass. They smile with recognition when I arrive now and nearly include me in their conversations. I don't say anything, but I like to listen.

A few days ago, I was later than usual and only managed to reach the school gates as the children were already coming out. I dashed in, nearly fell over someone's pushchair, and collided with another girl. I've seen her before: an au pair, who picks up a boy and a girl.

"Sorry," I said, several times, to everyone.

The girl straightened up and smiled. "Is all right," she said.

I smiled back.

"I am Hélène," she said awkwardly. "What is your name?"

"Kitty," I said eventually, because I couldn't think of a suitable alternative.

Now when we meet, we speak to each other.

" 'ello, Kitty," she says.

"Hello, Hélène," I say.

"Is a lovely day."

"Yes, it's very warm."

"I forgot to put washing out."

"Oh dear."

Our conversations are distinctly limited -- short sentences with one subject, one verb. Nothing sensational, nothing important. I like the pointlessness of it all. The feeling that you are skimming the surface only, whizzing along on water skis, not thinking about what might happen if you take a wrong turning away from the boat. I like this simple belief, the sense of going on indefinitely, without ever falling off.

"Where do you come from?" I ask Hélène one day. I'm no good with accents.


"Oh," I say, "France." I have only been to France once, when I was sixteen, on a school trip. I was sick both ways on the ferry, once on some steps, so everybody who came down afterwards slipped on it. I felt responsible, but there was nothing I could do to stop people using the stairs.

Another mother is standing close to us with a toddler in a pushchair. The boy is wearing a yellow and black striped hat with a pompom on it, and his little fat cheeks are a brilliant red. He is holding a packet of Wotsits and trying to cram them into his mouth as quickly as possible. His head bobs up and down, so that he looks like a bumble bee about to take off.

"Jeremy, darling," says his mother, "finish eating one before starting on the next." He contemplates her instructions for five seconds and then continues to stuff them in at the same rate as before.

She turns to Hélène. "What part of France?"

Hélène looks pleased to be asked. "Brittany."

James would know it. He used to go to France every summer. Holidays with his parents.

One of Hélène's children comes out of school, wearing an unzipped red anorak and a rucksack on his back in the shape of a very green alligator. The alligator's scaly feet reach round him from the back and its grinning row of teeth open and shut from behind as he walks.

" 'ello, Toby," says Hélène.

"Have we got Smarties today?" he demands in a clear, firm tone. He talks to Hélène with a slight arrogance.

Hélène produces a packet of chocolate buttons.

"But I don't like them. I only like Smarties."

"Good," she says and puts the buttons back in her bag.

He hesitates. "OK then," he says with a sigh, wandering off to chat to his friends with the buttons in his pocket. His straight blond hair flops over his eyes. If he were mine, I'd have taken him to a barber ages ago.

Hélène turns to me. "We walk home together? You know my way?"

"No. I live in the opposite direction to you."

"Then you come with me to park for a little while? Children play on swings?"

She is obviously lonely. It must be so hard to come to Birmingham from the French countryside. How does she understand the accent, or find out the bus fares and have the right change ready?

"I have to get back," I say. "My husband will be expecting me."

She smiles and pretends not to mind. I watch her walk miserably away with her two children and wish I could help her, although I know I can't. She chose the wrong person. The yellow is changing. I can feel it becoming overripe -- the sharp smell of dying daffodils, the sting and taste of vomit.

When I walk home, I remember being met from school by my brothers, twenty-five years ago. It was never my father -- too busy, too many socks to wash, too many shirts to iron. I never knew which brother it would be. Adrian, Jake and Martin, the twins, or Paul. I was always so pleased to see them. Paul, the youngest, was ten years older than me, and it made me feel special to be met by a teenage brother, a nearly-man. None of them looked alike, but my memory produces a composite brother ...

Astonishing Splashes of Colour. Copyright © by Clare Morrall. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall
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