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Geoffrey Hope TerryThis is an article by Geoffrey Hope-Terry which was published in the National Press in 2010.

Geoffrey is a 60 year old retired accountant who has taken up freelance writing in his spare time. He lives in Cheshire with his wife. He has known that he was colour blind since being diagnosed at the age of 10 and has found it to be a cause of some difficulty throughout his career, often finding himself the butt of jokes from people who don’t appreciate the difficulties.

Chances are, you know someone who, like me, is colour blind, but you may not appreciate the daily difficulties we face. This is what happened yesterday.

Although the dawn woke me up, the wonderful hues of a splendid sunrise were lost on me. It just looked light but uninteresting. Never mind, I sprang out of bed, put on the clothes my wife had chosen for me, and went downstairs for a cup of tea and some cereal. I like skimmed milk in a hot drink, but semi-skimmed on my bran so I took the 2 bottles from the fridge and poured. Annoyingly, I got them the wrong way around (again). Why hasn’t someone found a way of distinguishing the bottles, say, by using different coloured tops?

My condition is red-green colour deficiency, or deuteranopia, which affects about 8% of the male population, but hardly any women. However, it’s passed down through the female line, which seems very unfair. It’s the common form of colour blindness and because red and green are 2 of the 3 primary colours, it distorts the way I see virtually all shades.

Yesterday I needed to buy the ingredients for our evening meal. I normally shop locally; not because it’s near; nor because the produce is fresh; and it certainly isn’t cheap. The lady at the till knows me well – and that’s the attraction. After an hour hunting round for everything on my list I went to pay. She patiently returned all the unripe tomatoes that I spent ages choosing, replacing them with good ones, politely asked if I meant to buy a pink grapefruit (a pink grapefruit; whatever next?) and exchanged my green olives for black ones, which she knows I prefer.

Driving home I was quite happy, until I remembered it was refuse-collection day. Since the introduction of re-cycling, the simple task of putting the bins out has become a nightmare for anyone who’s colour-blind. Let me see if I got it right. The normal household waste is collected fortnightly, and goes in a green wheelie bin. Recycling, which everyone calls “green waste” goes in a brown wheelie bin, for collection on the alternate weeks, together with 2 boxes; a red one for glass and a green one for plastic. Great; except I can’t tell them apart. Newspapers and magazines are the only things to go in a bag – whoopee for that. So, the “green” waste goes in a brown bin, which just looks dark to me, whilst the normal waste, which clearly isn’t “green,” goes in the green bin, which looks the same as the brown bin. OK? At least both boxes go out on the same day, although the plastic and glass are all mixed up. Now then, which week were we in? I looked at the chart the Council sent us . . . . It’s colour-coded. Aaaargh! Luckily, my wife put me straight.

I shouldn’t complain, though. Some people have achromatopsia, one effect of which is an inability to see any colour. Basically their world is black and white, or perhaps more accurately, grey and grey. This is called monochromatism and it’s very rare. It probably affects less than 2,000 people in the whole UK, so you should feel quite honoured if you know one, and very special if you are one.

After lunch I decided I would cut the hedges, but the trimmer needed petrol. We have a lot of garden equipment, some of which take unleaded fuel, whilst others run on 2-stroke. I keep supplies of both ready in the shed, one in a green can and the other in a red one. I didn’t buy them because I’m a masochist; it’s just that those were the only options available. “They’re different colours so you can tell them apart,” said the cheery storeman. I just growled.

Eventually it was time to prepare the meal, which was a new pasta recipe. I got the ingredients out, and read the first instruction:

“Fry the meat until it’s brown.”

Oh no!!!! I gave up and had a glass of wine instead. I think it was red.