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a blog by Chris Barrow

Still batting

It’s been a hectic few days. Sunday I drove from Cornwall to Manchester and spent Monday morning discussing funeral arrangements and calling at my Mum’s home to feed the cat and take a first look at the “stuff” my Mum has left behind. Quite an experience – she lived alone as a widow for the last 8 years and was clearly a hoarder. First – just about every letter she has received in that time is still there, in it’s original envelope and with a note written on the outside as to what was happening. Piles and piles of envelopes, filling drawers, shelves, cupboards, work surfaces. In the lounge, the kitchen, the bedroom – everywhere one looked. The temptation is to throw the whole lot straight into a refuse sack – but there is the nagging doubt that there may be important documents destroyed in the process – so it looks as if next Saturday and Sunday will be devoted to a paper-chase. Secondly, Norma also hoarded clothes – every wardrobe and chest of drawers is brimming over with plastic carrier bags containing clothing for all seasons – most of it never worn. And, finally, the house is a museum of goods offered by TV retail channels. One of the her final passions in life was to watch QVC and The Shopping Channel – and then order the junk that they sell, no doubt to armies of bored old ladies. As I wandered from cluttered room to room, I found a varied collection of plastic electronic goods – a/c units, hair-dryers, food heaters, mini-fridges, portable TV’s and tape/CD/DVD players, hair-curling/straightening/colouring/de-colouring devices – and so on. The house is a gigantic junk yard of late 20th Century tat. And sat in the middle of this is my Mum’s 3-legged cat “Baby”. Her penultimate cat pegged out last summer – so we popped to the local “Animals in Distress” centre and, faced with a choice, she chose a 3-legged black cat called “Tripod” by the owners of the centre. How could she resist – a fully grown cat that was unlikely to escape? She decided that a more sensitive name was appropriate and so “Baby” was christened. There’s something quite fascinating about a 3-legged cat – a kind of contradiction – agility with clumsiness – that makes for curiosity on the part of the observer. One is constantly expecting the poor beast to fall, face first, into it’s food – but it frustratingly never does. A call back to the distress centre revealed that there was “no room at the inn” – and so “Baby” will have to wait a while before we find a kind-hearted organisation. Anybody want a tripodic cat? For some reason (probably my work schedule this week) I haven’t allowed myself to greive yet – I think that will come after the funeral – which is planned for 21st March. Now it’s time to start the process of reaching out to lost relatives – on which subject I may have more to say later. Work is filling my mind – a great workshop at the simply excellent Hilton Caledonian in Edinburgh yesterday – a long, dark drive to Gateshead last night and my second workshop of the week starts in a couple of hours. Oh – and you must remind me to tell you about Charlie Trotter’s restaurant.

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