The shop is full of bird cages.
A new pub is opening and the owner wants them wired up.
The cages are boot-sale dirty with traces of their long gone feathery occupants.
One still seems to have half a bird attached to the perch.
Mum and I don’t make a move to touch them.
“They need a clean,” Mum says.
“I can do that later,” says our client.
On closer inspection, the bird is not stuffed but silk.
“Well it really should be done before we start work,” Mum says.
Normally we’d already be fiddling about with the potential lumiere. We can cope with normal dirt and nicotine but seeds and birdshit is another matter.
“I just need a rough idea,” our pub man says. “They’re not that dirty.”
“Yes, but it’s not just ordinary dirt it’s birds’ dirt.”
He looks confused.
“Avian flu,” Mum says with authority.
The thought makes me step back a little.
I feel itchy. I wonder if I’ve already got it.
“What do you want me to do then?” he asks tartly. “Take them away and clean them?”
He hadn’t banked on us getting all health and safety. It doesn’t last long.
“No it’s okay,” Mum says.
As ever, we’re too nice to put him through the hassle even if it means becoming the source of an epidemic in South London.
He says he wants the cages wrapped.
“Like Christo,” Mum says later. “You know, the one who wrapped half of Australia up in plastic.”
Mum suggests hanging CD’s in them to reflect the light.
So here’s the brief: a boot-sale birdcage with a light bulb hanging in the middle, surrounded by dangling CD’s on fishing wire wrapped up in a net curtain.
A few days later she sets to work scrubbing them.
As usual when someone brings in something battered and in need of repair, the other customers all want to buy it.
“How much is the birdcage with the CD’s?” they ask, one after another.
It spurs on the cyclical conversation of getting into design lighting.
Mum suggests doing a whole range of unusual, one off pieces.
“That’s great if you’re prepared to work for long hours at risk of getting no money,” I say, which reminds me I’m still writing.
“How are book Sales going?” customers will ask, fingering the pages of the copy I’ve placed strategically on the shop counter.
“Slowly,” I say.
They examine my picture on the front cover, then return the book to the pile and smile.
“Well, Good Luck with it.”
I wouldn’t need luck if they bought it.
Inevitably, after not buying my book, they ask how much the birdcage is.