Why do we say we are “feeling blue”? Why blue? When tall ships sailed the oceans, it was the custom to fly blue flags and paint a blue line along the hull when a ship returned to port having lost the captain on the voyage.

I was thinking about blue when I heard the designer Zandra Rhodes on TV refer to a painted wall in her garden as “Frida Kahlo blue”. Maybe, I thought, but to me that’s peacock blue.

There’s no conflict, really. Frida Kahlo & Diego Riviera’s house is now the Frida Kahlo Museum in a suburb of Mexico City, and it is called La Casa Azul (The Blue House). The cobalt-blue walls are much the same colour as peacock-blue breast feathers. Although to speak of a peacock’s colour as paint pigments is not especially correct. It isn’t about the pigments, but rather the shape of their feathers which reflect light at different wavelengths (“reflectance”). I don’t know if Frida had any peacocks, but the Museo Dolores Olmedo (she was the patron of Frida & Diego) still has peafowl in the gardens.

Someone who definitely had peafowl was the writer Flannery O’Connor; she of the Southern Gothic genre. When she fell ill with Lupis, a nasty little illness in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue, she returned to live with her mother at the family farm in Georgia. She ordered some Indian Peafowl – a male peacock, two peahens, and some pea-chicks. Her collection grew rapidly. She stopped counting after 40, and some accounts say she had as many as 100 birds. Her birds were not very popular. Her mother complained they ate the flowers; her uncle lamented the loss of all the figs,  and the farmhands said the birds ate the animal feed. Not that this much bothered Mary Flannery O’Connor, who carried on building the collection. She wanted to see one or two of them every time she left the house, but it turned out different: “Now every time I go out the door, four or five run into me—and give me only the faintest recognition.

There’s a sharp difference in the way folklore treats the peacock. In Asia, it’s all about the radiance of the tail – a galaxy of stars and planets on display. In the West, it’s more about pride and conceit. In the Arabic tradition, the story goes that it was a peacock that let Shaitan (Satan, aka Iblîs) enter into Paradise. Satan gave the gullible peacock a prayer to recite, which then corrupted the serpent, who corrupted Eve, etc. The whole lot of them got expelled for their trouble and as a little extra the peacock’s formerly golden feet were turned into ugly chicken-feet things. The Christians liked this theme immediately. As Saint Thomas (Aquinas) says: “When a peacock vaunts its tail and sees its feet, it immediately puts its tail. In a similar way, when some good people are carried away by pride, which I hope will not happen, may they take a look at their feet and be made humble.” It’s not true that a peacock hides his tail on seeing his feet, but there you have it so it must be true. In Jamaica, they have a saying: “Peacock hide him foot when him hear ’bout  him tail.”

The colour blue is a thing of beauty, and the peacock is a beautiful creature. I think that I should have some peacocks. It would be a fitting statement in my end-time. I’m not entirely sure however how they would cope with the icy winds sweeping over East Anglia when winter comes.

You get to wondering how many times you might see the leaves turn red and yellow, and whether there will be many more summers. Clive James has terminal leukaemia, and he wrote a poem Japanese Maple last year which said he wouldn’t be around to see the maple tree turning red this year.  Of course he’s still here (which is a very good thing) but a little embarrassed by it.

There was a blog in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) last Christmas which said that death from cancer is the best form of death. “You can say goodbye, reflect on your life, leave last messages, perhaps visit special places for a last time, listen to favourite pieces of music, read loved poems, and prepare, according to your beliefs, to meet your maker or enjoy eternal oblivion.

Or, keep peacocks in the garden. If that isn’t too gross an act of pride. Another weird sin.

My peacocks will have to be metaphorical for the time present. And so, I’m happy to tell you about an especially fine specimen that strutted around, let out a cry, and shook it’s tail in my life this week. On Tuesday I had my appointment in Addenbrooke’s for the vocal cord procedure. I had overcome nerves about the whole throat-cutting thing, and I just wanted to do it.

The plan was changed first thing (“we’re going to try it by injection first, and only cut if that doesn’t work”) and then amazingly changed again when I reached the operating theatre. The anaesthetist (may his name be blessed forever) said he had no objection to putting me under general anaesthetic. All the fuss and bother of August, gone in an instant.

That was only the beginning of joy. The first tremors of pleasure.

When I came around in the afternoon, I had my voice back. Well, 95% of it or so anyway. It was such a huge relief to be able to talk again.

I had not dared to hope for such a good result. Now, out of the blue, here was something to take me out of the blues.

I could talk about this pain or that operation that I need to do next, but right now I’m just watching the peacock do it’s thing. With a big grin on my face.