:: Article

Blue, Unpleasant Land

#GE2015fiction by Jonathan Gibbs.


 (Art: International Yves Klein Blue)


The fields are blue, the woods are blue, the hills are blue, the meadows and fens and floodplains are blue. Open your window and the chances are that what lies before you, as far as the eye can see, is blue. The grass is blue, the trees are blue, the lanes and motorway verges are blue, the hedges and edgelands blue, the greenbelt and brownfield blue. The view is blue. The flowers, all blue, the birds and flies and bees and frogs and foxes and deer and mice and shrews all blue. The well-tended parks are through-and-through blue, each blade painted by hand, and the prairies of barley and wheat, sprayed a lifeless chemical blue. It’s as if the map of England has been dyed, as if someone put something in the water, or put a new pair of jeans in to wash with the rest of the laundry. It’ll never come out, you think, as you hang it all out to dry in your garden, blue. You look at your hands, stained blue, rub your face with your wrist, blue. Only the sky remains grey. (What’s grey again? Oh, yes: other. God, it seems, remains independent.)

Oh, we painted the towns red, for sure, and the highlands burn with their own particular sunrise. But England, my England, is looking like a washout, like someone misclicked in PhotoShop and the undo button’s not working. The red on the map looks like a rash, the sign of something bad going on under the skin, not the flush of energy or even shame it might, it if had spread further.

Look at it! You could walk from near enough the furthest western tip of the country right across to the North Sea coast, and see nothing but blue, hear nothing but silent burn of blue, pick up nothing on your boots but blue clay. The old ways? Blue. The hidden paths? Blue. The countryside? Blue, blue, blue. Stuck in the city, I look out and wonder if I even feel like going for a walk in this blue unpleasant land. Like Derek Jarman said, in the pandemonium of image, I present you with the universal blue. Or, like Peter Fonda said, we blew it.


Jonathan Gibbs lives in London. His novel about contemporary art, Randall, or The Painted Grape, is published by Galley Beggar Press, and has been longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize. His short fiction has appeared in Lighthouse, Gorse and The South Circular, was shortlisted for the inaugural White Review Prize, and is anthologised in The Best British Short Stories 2014 and 2015, forthcoming. He tweets at https://twitter.com/Tiny_Camels.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, May 8th, 2015.