The Parable of the Cat Folder

I haven’t been writing much lately because I’ve been on holiday, and I had some work to do at home because I’m trading rooms with my younger brother (since mine is larger and Im not here much anyway). So  I’ve spent the last two days overturning the room I grew up in and wading through floods of used ticket stubs to museums and castles across Europe, Geography projects and Greek translations for school, toy horses, postcards, cheap jewellery, loose beads, and mysterious USB cables without device.

I’ m not usually this organised, but I threw out every single useless item with a feeling that can only be described as grim satisfaction.

Until in a dusty corner of the room I came across a big A3 size folder. On the cover a kitsch cat peeks out of a steel bucket, wearing a blue hat over its ears. I remember this folder well because I used it to store the products of my favourite teenage hobby, which was drawing- usually portraits of animals or people or scenes from novels.

I gave up on drawing when I was 17 because it was too frustrating, too time-consuming and most of all not the most socially acceptable activity for teenagers, as it involves a lot of time sitting at your desk alone. Plus, if no one else but my mom likes them, then surely the drawings can’t have been any good anyway, right? Small loss.

Some of these paintings were done in pastel, my favourite medium as it’s like having a cross between paint and colour pencils. The texture is very soft but the colours are bright and rich and a lot of detail can be achieved by layering them. The problem is that the final paintings are fragile as the pigmentation of the crayons isn’t entirely fixed to the page, which means you have to be careful handling them or the colour will come off on your hands like dust.

So imagine my horror on discovering that 17-year old me has been so careless as to store these paintings I’d worked hard on in a flimsy cat folder, stuck together back to front without anything to separate them. The white back of every picture is stained in the colours of the picture below it and have lost some of the brightness I remember.

But most of all, I was surprised to find that none of them were actually as bad as I thought they were at the time. My favourite is a portrait of a snow leopard, resting its fluffy head between its paws. I think some of the colour has worn off because of my poor handling of it, and it looks more gray than white now. But its eyes are still bright green and its fur looks almost realistic.


It’s not great, but I wonder why I thought it was bad. Actually, god help me, I rather like it- worn colours or not. I have decided not to touch up the colours but to leave it exactly as is- to serve as a reminder of the cat folder. Let’s hope my next project doesn’t end up there.

The painting now sits in a fresh white frame on the wall in my new room and I’m typing happily away at my tidy desk. Maybe sometimes physically moving all your things is the only way to get a fresh look at things- even if only to the next room. You might hit on something you’ll love all over again. Double points if it’s an old hobby.

Triple if it’s something you might’ve been good at but have been stupid about.


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