Tuesday, November 17, 2009

When was the last time you saw bice?

Back in the old days, back when hedgerows were fringed with the scent of Riley Elf and Jowett Javelin, small children would occasionally be awarded a paint set. In them days a paint set was a gaudy bit of tin tray holding a confectionary array of teeny-tiny tablets of watercolour paint, each one exotically-labelled. There would be Gamboge, an earthy orange fire that did the business for ginger toms and ice cream cones. Chinese White, always the colour of colouring-book paper, would be there, too. As would Silk Green and Primrose Yellow and Purple Madder. And Bice.

What was Bice about? It wasn't Olive Green, because that was over there next to the Raw Umber. Bice wasn't quite brown, nor green, nor yet yellow. It was that strange not-quite khaki that you only ever saw in paint boxes and the stairwells of government buildings that had been redecorated under the Utility Mark in the forties.

I haven't seen Bice since the early seventies. Nor yet Silk Green or Chinese White. Nor fiery, exotic Gamboge. They have gone the way of all things. We must enjoy our Vermillions and Burnt Siennas while we may, we shall not see their likes again.

11 comments:

KAZ said...

Oh I feel all nostalgic now.
Mine were always Reeves.
Ultramarine, Donkey Brown,but I don't remember Bice.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Donkey Brown! I knew I'd forgotten one!

Gaw said...

What terrific words for colours, about half of which are totally unfamiliar to me. Is there an iPhone app someone could write that would help popularise them again? Donkey brown, bice, reeves, raw umber, purple madder, silk green, primrose yellow, gamboge, vermillion, burnt siennas, ultramarine. Sorry just enjoyed typing them.

inkspot said...

Burnt sienna? She's a rotten actress to be sure but burning her seems extreme.

Lulu LaBonne said...

Alas I never knew bice - or gamboge.

My aunties used nigger brown two-ply for socks though!

Jimmy Bastard said...

When was the last time you saw a bice coloured car? I cannae recall ever seeing one!

Gadjo Dilo said...

Ah, Kevin, I was there too; I don't remember Bice or Gamboge but can add Yellow Ochre to your list. Also, I'm sure I remember Cardigan Pink, but have never seen or heard about this colour since those days - can anybody confirm that this was not a dream??

worm said...

always been partial to a bit of Cerulean myself

Kevin Musgrove said...

Gareth: I'm ashamed to say that I had a whale of a time doing the next post...

Inky: it's character-building

Lulu: I think I'm wearing them!

Jimmy: Austin A30s, I'm sure, came in Bice. And also in Duck Egg Blue.

Gadjo: I suspect somebody gave you a knitting pattern book instead of a paint set.

worm: nothing better, with a hint of Cadmium Lemon, for a winter sky

geraldgee said...

In the sixties posh interior decorators called it Thames Green.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Hello and welcome geraldee!

"Thames Green" sounds about right. (-: