White is the colour that shouts. White is Real Madrid, looking down on the rest of the football world in their royal purity. White is cricket: serenity at a distance and a hand-to-hand struggle when you’re in the middle of it all.
White is a bold statement in brides, in business-shirts, in sheets and in terror. It’s the colour above all that catches the eye: the one colour they tell you not to wear when you go walking in the bush in Africa.
Watch an animal flee from you: an antelope in the Luangwa Valley or a bunny in England. As they turn away they flash white: a fluffy tail, or a caudal patch, the white that shines out from beneath the lifted tail. The flash of white — white in motion – shouts fear, danger, flee, don’t think, don’t stop, act.
White glares and blares and hollers. But nature loves a good paradox, and so for some, white is the colour of concealment.
My eye was caught by the unmissable flashing of white, and I turned my head to see a little egret land in the dike 20 feet away. To me looking down he stood out like a light-house. He stabbed his stiletto-bill into the dark water and threw his head back: a slim silver fish caught crossways, flicked, turned and swallowed. Headfirst and whole.
From his position in the water, looking up, the fish couldn’t see him at all. He was a brightness against the brightness of the sky: a white threat from a white world the fish had no wish ever to enter. But enter he did: and it was the last event of his life.
In China white is the colour for funerals.