Thursday, 22 February 2018


Now…I am a fairly cynical person most of the time. Having been bullied for years both as a child and adolescent, I have an attuned sense of what’s going on around me and in later life I worked for just over 3 years as a police officer. These two factors, plus training in Krav Maga mean that I was usually in a state of alertness for most of the day. This used to annoy the shit out of a friend of mine in the UK who pointed out that I was unable to relax over a beer as my eyes were constantly checking the room for possible danger and/ or seeing other people as a potential threat (no doubt exacerbated by alcohol).

I have for years tried to avoid being a slave to technology in public, because that can lead to unpredictability and horrid stuff. I worked as a postman for 4 years and zoned out in the job a lot, mainly because it was dull, and I would listen to music on a pair of headphones. However I would double up on other senses in order to try to compensate for my lack of ears while pushing my mail wagon around.

I’m also a keen cyclist and have cycled in both central London and Rome. Both these cities are fairly intense and stressful for bicycle enthusiasts and my senses were attuned at all times to what was going on. I learned in London to “ride assertively AND defensively” and would be hyper aware as I navigated through Elephant & Castle or via Cristoforo Columbo (the former is a dog’s arse of urban design, the latter a notorious link road from Rome to EUR that has a LOT of motor accidents on it). By being constantly aware of what was going on, and more importantly what MIGHT happen, I never had an accident, although I witnessed several.

The way I lived my life on a daily basis was in a heightened state, but the problem was that this became anxiety or even paranoia due to my inability to relax. 

Recently I heard about a wonderful yet simplistic thing called the Cooper Colour Code.
This code goes white, yellow, orange, red and dictates the state of mental awareness that we should be in on a daily basis at all times.

To break it down…

White means no awareness of anything other than what you are either looking at or thinking about. You should only be in White when you are asleep.
Yellow is a state of awareness of what’s around you at all times.You are focussing on everything yet this ISN’T paranoia. It merely allows you to process the world you are passing through as things happen rather than…
Orange, which is that something MIGHT happen in a second or two, and you need to prep yourself because you might move to…
Red, which basically means the something negative is now happening.

Too many people are in White mode when they are NOT asleep. 

We’ve all seen it. The woman on the underground with headphones in, texting and her bag to the rear. Blind, deaf and dumb. The two guys talking while walking and paying no regard to the people around or ahead them. 

I looked at what the colour code was and it basically said that Yellow is the state we should all be in all the time while awake, and (and here’s the beautiful bit) if you remain in Yellow, you will only usually have to rise to Orange and rarely to Red.

To explain…

You are conscious of your surroundings. You are behind the safety line as the train pulls in to the Metro station at Circus Maximus in Rome. You get on and check who is either side of that empty seat. You sit, and because you want to read your book you put your bag either on your lap or between your feet. You have the book at an angle so that you can use your peripheral vision and all’s well.


Someone moves and stands next to you BUT they are a little close and there’s no reason for it as the carriage is not full. Because you are in Yellow mode you spot this quickly and reposition yourself slightly to create more personal space. You have just reacted in Orange mode. However the person moves into your personal space again so you simply get up and move. You’ve avoided going into Red mode by being alert AND reacting to a POTENTIAL problem before it could happen.

The good thing about this, is that it tapped into my existing behaviour, but cut out the stress and paranoid delusions that went with it. I cycle in a constant state of Yellow yet no longer believe anyone in a car is a potential arsehole. Similarly I use public transport in a more relaxed frame of mind because I know where my stuff is, I’ve padlocked my zips together on my backpack, my wallet & phone are in a zippable inside pocket, and my bag is carried to the front like a kangaroo’s joey, when in crowded places.

Various armies apparently use this code, with some adding Black to the list, meaning that something lethal has just happened. But that’s a little too dramatic…

By using this code I feel a little more prepared each day and have noticed that I’m less inclined to forget things or not know what I have on me when I come to lock up my bike. I know where the pump is, because I Yellowed its existence earlier by noting that I might need to change a puncture. I remember where my waterproof jacket and trousers are because I had Yellowed them into my backpack before setting off.

I know this works because 2 weeks ago I was cycling to the Decathlon sports shop nearby in Rome, and a car was coming out of an exit road on an intercept path. I guessed he might not have seen me so Yellow became Orange and I slowed down. Sure enough, the cunt was texting on his phone and had I not seen him and allowed for it, he would have hit me.

My torrent of verbal abuse probably wasn’t understood as it was in English.

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