Neighbours! Well, there’s a subject! Some years ago I moved into a place called Newton le-Willows. A nice enough friendly place, I thought, but it was a black cat that caused the end of our neighbourhood harmony.
Okay, here’s how it started; My neighbour was a guy called Tony and he and his wife were going on holiday and he asked me to look after his cat. It needed to be fed once a day, in the morning, for a week. OK, not a big deal and it put me right where I wanted to be with my neighbour: him owing me a big favour so ‘no problem’ I told him.
I’m up and showered and all ready for work and so I nip into next door’s and sort out the cat food. Tony has shown me where it’s all kept, which bowl to use and so on. I sort it all out, set it down on the mat and who is there waiting and purring? Not one but two cats. I thought there was only supposed to be one so do I do two bowls? No, he specified the cat food and showed me the bowl (the one bowl) so OK it’s sharing time for the cats and I’m off to work.
I jump in my van and I’m off and as I drive away there are the cats giving me a little catty wave from the kitchen window. Happy days.
I mention sort of randomly as I’m off to work that there were two cats in next door’s house and my wife (now my former wife) says, ‘What!’ in a big sort of screamy, scary way and I’m thinking, ‘here we go, what have I done?’ The thing is there is only one cat living next door so I’m tasked to throw out the intruder cat and just to feed the main cat. So, in I goes and I don’t really know which is the proper cat and which is the cheeky intruder cat. Neither of them seemed to respond to the name ‘Blackie’ so sod it I thought. Cat food sorted -I’m off.
Once again as I drive off there are the two cats happily washing themselves in the kitchen window and as I passed by a revolutionary thought occurred to me. One of the cats was actually a black cat so it could be (sound of penny dropping) that he was Blackie and the other cat, the ginger cat was the cat interloper.
Feeling a little bit like Sherlock Holmes and armed with this new deduction about ‘Blackie’ I popped into next door and chucked out ‘Ginger’, sorted out the cat food and then left for work. Was I dreaming or did I really see the two cats once again at the kitchen window? Did Ginger have a sort of ‘you’ll have to do better than that’ look on his face? Surely not!
According to my (former) wife it was a major criminal offence to have a strange cat enter your neighbours’ house and scoff half the cat food, so once again I chucked out the ginger cat. I did think about locking the cat flap but feeling this could have repercussions in case Blackie wanted to exit the property I left it open. Driving off as usual I spied the two cats smiling happily from the kitchen window engaged in their morning feline ritual of washing themselves, only this time they seemed to have been joined by a third cat! Christ, I thought, hope the neighbours get back soon before a cat colony starts up in their house!
Our neighbours returned from their break in foreign climes. I wasn’t sure about mentioning the intruding cat but what the heck; I told them anyway and they said not to bother, ‘that cat comes in all the time anyway. We’re sure its owners don’t feed it properly.’
I was outside washing my van and had a chat with my neighbour Elaine, the lady who ran our neighbourhood watch group. I told her about the cat caper thinking it was a pretty funny story but she seemed rather shocked by it all. Well, humour wasn’t one of her strong points I thought as she marched off to see Stella, another neighbour from further up the avenue who I have to admit I wasn’t too fond off. As the afternoon wore on I noticed Stella storm past me and knock on next door’s and have something of a minor row with the occupants. She stormed off fuming and gave me a pretty black look when I offered a cheery “afternoon!”
Day 9, later.
Tony gave me something of a black look too and didn’t respond to my friendly wave. I did wonder if this was vaguely connected to the cat saga. No, surely not I thought. Later, Tony’s wife came round and told me through a veil of tears that Stella had knocked on their door and accused her and Tony of being ‘A pair of f**king catnappers!‘ It turned out that Stella owned the ginger cat and Tony’s wife wanted to know why I had even mentioned it to Stella. Well, I don’t even really know Stella I said, the only person I mentioned it to was Elaine. “What!’ fumed Tony’s wife. (Wish I could remember her name!) The next thing you know she storms across the road, bangs on the door and appears to be having it out with Elaine. I couldn’t hear what was said but there was a lot of finger pointing, some at my house, some at Blackie wandering innocently along the avenue, some at her house and some, in fact quite a lot now I think of it, at Stella’s house.
A chance encounter at Tesco’s with Elaine. I’m scooting through the store, not really looking where I’m going as shopping is not high on my list of favourite activities and as I scoot along I’m throwing bread and milk and all sorts of stuff in my trolley when who should I bump into but Elaine.
“It wasn’t my fu**ing fault you know!” she said.
“That’s OK,” I told her, “I never look where I’m going with a shopping trolley!”
“I meant about the cat!” Elaine gave me a mean look and was gone, never to speak to me again.
Good job I didn’t mention that the third cat I saw in next door’s was hers!
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