On Colourblindness

These days every form I complete at work requires me to fill in a field stating whether I have a disability. I’m never too sure whether I should tick it off in the affirmative. 

You see, I’m colourblind. Not the tame red/green version; I’m the whole hog, the full enchilada, the whole nine yards, the full English breakfast, etc. 

“How is this a valid disability?”, you ask. Certainly it is and I have long been advocating for the legal recognition of the condition as such. I’m not talking about a tip of a hat and an encouraging smile, I want it all; tax breaks, special entrances, preferred parking; the whole hog, the full enchilada- you get my point. 

“Surely not”, you retort “you, for selfish personal gain, make a mockery of the observance of the needs of people with serious disabilities and the lengths we’ve gone to to protect those afflicted by them.”, despite the fact that I’ve long stopped listening to you and my mind is filled with images of me gracefully casting diminutive flies on diminutive waters. 

My daydreams are snapped back to reality with your question “How does colourblindness impact your life in the way that, say, having a wooden leg would?” I don’t know a lot about wooden legs but, as Spike Milligan reminded us, it’s far better to be a man with borer beetle in his wooden leg than a man with a tin leg in a thunderstorm. Be that as it may you ask a fair question. (Despite it being loaded with the unintententional prejudice of those with perfect chromatic perception.) Let me help you out in your quest for answers. 

Colourblindness is not the absence of colour in the afflicted man’s vision. I see colours. Or at least I think I do. I just see them differently to how you see them. “What“, is the standard reply to this “you look at something red and see it as, for instance, blue?”

“No, you chop, not like that at all” I reply while shaking my inner head, rubbing my imaginary eyes and sighing deeply and forlornly. Firstly, how the hell do I know what you see? 

Secondly, how the hell do you know what anyone else sees? You, friend, need to think a lot more deeply about sight, the visible spectrum, other ‘invisible’ spectrums and so forth.  It’s all just our perception of transmitted energy. How we perceive light waves. (We’ll leave the discourse on the partical nature of light for another day and will skirt around the obvious need to go into the questions raised by the formula e=mc2 regardless of how illuminating it may be to this discussion.)

I see blue just as you see blue. Maybe we even see the same thing. I think we do. I will look up and remark that the sky is wonderfully blue just as you will look up at the sky and remark that it is wonderfully blue. No problem, nothing amiss. 

The problem lies when you take, say, something purple and lay it on top of a larger section of something blue. Here’s where it all goes to shit. The purple disappears into the blue. It’s gone. It gets even more bizarre. 

Take something green and put it on something red. It also disappears. “No way, not true, not possible” you say. Yup, true. You may think that the colours are not even close and I have to agree that, when far enough apart, they aren’t. But bring them together and it all goes awry. I can see the same stuff you can and can pick out colours on demand. That is, as long as you don’t put them close enough to one another. 

So how does this make me disabled? I’ll tell you. Every bloody joker in the world thinks it’s a wonderful idea to take as many different (to you, that is) colours as possible and to group them together nicely for convenience. For shits and giggles. Right now there’s a guy going home from the crayon factory with a jolly spring in his step and a lunatic grin on his face. He, you see, packs the crayons into the box roughly in the order of the visible spectrum. (The rainbow, dumbass.)

Enter kids like me into the classroom, young and tender, easily hurt and emotionally sensitive. Then enter the teacher with a cheery “paint the clown’s balloons red, yellow and green”. Off he goes, Crayola 124 piece crayon set at hand, the picture of concentration, coloring for the validation of his friends and teacher, pouring his soul into those goddamn balloons. Imagine his shame when the bitch says “I said red, yellow and green not violet, mauve and purple” to guffaws from the class. Self confidence shattered. Our boy goes home that night and cries himself to sleep. Despite an artistic leaning the closest he gets to his masterpiece is drawing monochromatic tattoo designs for friends and family. (Sound like anyone you know?)

Violet? What the hell colour is violet? The same goes for indigo, lemon, khaki and turquoise. Chartreuse? What the fuck is chartreuse? I tried my hand at saltwater flyfishing for a spell. Until they started that ‘chartreuse’ bullshit. Watermelon? It’s yellow and pink you clowns. Or at least I think so. I’m entirely open to correction. 

I actually almost gave up saltwater flyfishing long before the colours became an issue. I lived in PE and being so far away from trout I bought a 9-weight to chase garrick, springer and grunter in the Swartkops estuary. I made my own poppers for garrick from off cuts of surfboard foam which I superglued to sturdy hooks. Surfboard foam is fantastic because it’s as light as polystyrene but takes solvents without melting. Anyhow, I would then take this, rub it with glue and dip it in a cup of assorted colour glitter (to save the confusion), stick on dolls eyes and head to the water. 

I was down there every weekend, casting my way towards quite severe tendinitis and what seems to have by now degenerated into arthritis. (Don’t laugh, I bumped into John Costello a few years ago and he’s almost debilitated by it. Name dropping done and I’ll move along.) 

I caught nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Not a hit, a bump or a nudge. The combined distance of my many casts would make the Apollo missions seem like a quick ride to the shops. 

One Saturday morning I woke up and described to my wife my recently hatched plan. She would drop me at Redhill, a few kilos up the river, and I would fish my way down to where she’d be sunbathing near the mouth. If I caught nothing by the time I got there I would sell the bloody rod and buy beer. 

I was just making my way under the bridge about 30m from my Rubicon when I spotted a swirl near one of the column bases. I hoiked that shooting head further than I’d ever done before and plopped the popper down smack on target. Two strips and it was fish on. 

Now there were two old Bergies (am I still allowed to say that?) under the bridge; all yellow oilskins, snuff, brandy fumes and woodsmoke. They had been pissing themselves at me waving my rod in the air but, to their credit, they upped lines as I fought my fish and ultimately landed it at their feet. My wife skipped over and we admired the fish and then I twisted free the hook and allowed it to swim off. As I walked away a gruff and confused voice called to me from behind my back: “maaaastah, ey maaastah – don’t your wife knows how to cook?”  

What has that got got to do with colourblindness? Quite a lot actually. If we were all a little bit more colourblind we’d be able to laugh at our cultural idiosyncrasies without any malice being intended or offense being taken. (See what I did there?)

Where was I? Oh yes, the complete and utter bastards who toy with the disabled by doing stupid shit with colours. 

Let’s take a closer look at fly tying. “I use predominantly olive with some green and a pinch of brown.” “IT’S ALL THE SAME COLOUR YOU ARSEHOLE!!!”, I am at pains to demurely point out. 

Same goes for tan and brown and dun. What the actual fuck is dun? Shakespeare wrote that “if snow were white her breasts are dun”, or something wildly inappropriate like that. Dun. I ask you with tears in my eyes. Crimson silk and red chenille. Really, dude, really? It’s red. Not crimson. Not blood red. Not amber. It’s red. And don’t even start with that mustard shit. 

Hotspots on a PTN? Had me fooled for years. I kept feeling the things and wondering how they kept one bit of it hot and wondering why trout would prefer their meals preheated. I left mine on rocks to warm up before use. Really now. How the hell am I supposed to see that wisp of red against a pheasant colored (dodged a bullet there trying to guess it’s colour) background?  A cruel and dastardly trick. 

Match the hatch? Not me. Unless by mistake. I focus on the size and the silhouette. And, while I am by my own admission and example a poor fisherman, I bet I catch more fish than half the able sighted guys reading this. Think about THAT. 

Oh, you think it looks like a cream spinner? Or maybe a off white spinner? Ivory even? It’s grey, you plonker. (Yes, American friends, I said ‘grey’ and not ‘gray’. It’s like how we say ‘herbs’ on account of it starting with a ‘h’.)

But the worst bastards to sully the face of this beautiful planet are those miserable clowns who label packets of dubbing and such. You see, they’re the worst type of person. A veritable puss dripping boil on the face of the industry. I call them “those dooses at Verniard”. They’re all found in the department that puts those little oval stickers that name the colour of the dubbing onto the little cellophane bags. 

What is so bad about them?“, you ask? I’ll enlighten you. Those bastards scour the earth to find the perfect oval sticker. It’s a science, I tell you. 

They start with careful analysis of the average time taken from application of the sticker through packaging, warehousing and shipment. They then calculate average stock holdings, forward open to purchase position and gross margin returns on inventory to estimate to three decimal points the number of hours the average package of super fine dubbing sits on the peg in the average tackle shop. 

From analysing credit card records they know who bought said dubbing and where they live. Finding average climatic data such as humidity, etc they know exactly what the materials employed in the stickers will be subjected to. 

By dialing into webcams (we all tie from utube these days) they view your activity and know, to the hour, how long it will take from date of purchase to first use of the product. This isn’t hard and has been made even easier with the advent of RFQ labeling and tracking. (Don’t believe me? Think I’ve made this up? Google some of these terms. Apologies can be made in private; I’ve no need to humiliate anybody.)

The final step is to find a label manufacturer who can produce a sticker that has a glue base that lasts exactly the duration of time from first application to after first use. 

How do I know all of this? It’s a simple matter of deductive reasoning. I’ve worked backward from the point where I open my dubbing box and EVERY DAMNED COLOUR LABEL IS LYING LOOSE IN THE BOTTOM OF IT AND I’M TYING GREEN NYMPHS WITH PURPLE DUBBING!!!!

And if that societal abuse isn’t reason enough for a simple compensation like jumping the queue at the bank or parking right in front of my favorite restaurant then I don’t know what is. 


2 responses to “On Colourblindness

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