'1. Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a colour. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession; suppose I shredded my napkin as we spoke. It began slowly. An appreciation, an affinity. Then, one day, it became more serious. Then (looking into an empty teacup, its bottom stained with thin brown excrement coiled into the shape of a sea horse) it became somehow personal.'
The colour in question of course, is blue. And this is the first in a list of numbered paragraphs (240 in total) written by Maggie Nelson between the years 2003 and 2006, and compiled for publication as Bluets in 2009. Originally intended as an in-depth study of the colour that had become her obsession, the result – a fragmentary, illuminating collection of facts, figures (by which I mean: Yves Klein, Joni Mitchell, Goethe, Andy Warhol et al), philosophy and autobiography – is much more raw. Two central threads - an intensely painful break up, and the care of a close friend who has recently become paralysed - “permeate the book, so that it began to be about the relationship between pleasure and pain, and not just about beauty” (Nelson, in an interview).
Nelson's brilliance lies in her candour and the specificity of her language. Her work is complicated, enthralling, unapologetically esoteric at times and often ambivalent (praise be for a little ambivalence these days!). While its format might seem to invite a dipping in-and-out, for a first read at least, we recommend a full immersion.
So captivated by Jorge Jácome's lilac-hued short, it took a while to recognise that this was not, in fact, a documentary. On an island rendered almost uninhabitable by a plague of hydrangeas, two young soldiers are the last remaining locals. Befriended by the film's narrator, they become his guide and the subjects of the first and last sections of this three-part tale.
Spinning fiction from fact (the imported hydrangeas of Portugal's Azores islands were once considered a pest before being rebranded as their national flower and primary touristic draw – this capitalistic tenacity the subject of the film's midsection), Jácome presents an apocalyptic fantasy from within which he ruminates on – albeit briefly - the relationship between humans and their environments, economic migration, national identity, and cultural loss.
Exquisitely shot, and set to a Terry Riley score, it is with the soldiers that the film is at its most ravishing. Guardians of both the land, and the memories of those who have left, theirs is a surreal, nostalgic, ecstatic coming-of-age story nestled within a sci-fi.
It's not just the name that makes Violet, a bakery and café on Hackney's Wilton Way, worthy of inclusion within Loquet's theme this month. Nor is it the sea trout pink awning, bright yellow curtain upstairs, or rows of pastel-iced fairy cakes in the glass-fronted counter as you walk in the door. Read this from their website:
'Spring brings elderflowers, gooseberries, rhubarb and Alphonso mango icings; in the summer we use Kentish cherries and strawberries, raspberries and blackberries from Suffolk and Dorset blueberries. In the autumn we puree figs, Fragola grapes from Italy, and local apples and quinces. Winter is the time for oranges, lemons, clementines, and grapefruit. We can’t live without coconut, so we always offer it.'
Doesn't that just glow with colour?
Truth is, it's not only sight that reveals colour: it's the smell, the taste, the conversation you're having with a friend between sips of tea. It's the feeling of being under the awning, directly below a heater, with the rain pouring down less than a metre away and a mound of bread-and-butter pudding on your plate. It's the first trip out with a newborn baby on your own. Or the wedding cake layer saved for your one year anniversary.
Speaking of weddings: owner of Violet, Claire Ptak, created the cake for Harry and Meghan's last year and fearing that this might mean we could never get a table again, while the cafe sometimes feels a little busier, it's still the same place we've known and loved for nearly 10 years. Our regular slice (!) of colour.
Violet, 47 Wilton Way, E8 3ED. Open Monday to Friday, 8-6, Saturday and Sunday, 9.30-6.