Saturday, 10 March 2018
More happenings in our hood
It's been a while since I wrote about what has been happening in our neighbourhood lately. Generally speaking it is a quiet area around here, a cul-de-sac as they say in French. But as we are not in France I won't mention it.
We live near the countryside, so every so often one sees people walking their dogs down the lane and on to the fields beyond.
Our neighbour is an old man who lives alone. I saw him with a dog lately. He must have named him "Help" because all day yesterday he kept calling him, "Help ... Help ... Help ..." He eventually found his dog because he stopped calling it.
A few houses up the road a new couple have moved in about a month or so ago. They are elderly too. I have not seen the old man but his wife is frequently seen coming up the hill from town carrying a large shopping bag. Her head stooped down by the many years on her shoulders, she walks slowly past our house and on to hers a few yards further on. I noticed once that she was followed by a cat. I wondered if it was hers or some other neighbour's.
A few days later I saw her again walking towards her home with her shopping bag. This time she was followed by two cats, neither of which was the cat I saw her with before.
Yesterday I saw her again. This time she was followed by at least six cats. The one I saw her with the first time was there too. They were all following her and miawooing like cats do. I have never seen such a sight before. It was like the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin followed by rats out of town. Only this time it was an old lady followed by cats.
I stopped to have a word. She seemed oblivious of the cats and we talked about the weather and such like mundane things. I noticed that she smelled of fish. So I ventured to ask whether she kept cats as pets. She looked around her and said, "Oh no ... they follow me everyday from the fishmonger all the way to my house!"
"You like fish?" I asked rather stupidly.
"No ... I hate fish, and the smell of fish," she replied, "this is for Hector!"
"Your husband?" I asked.
"No ..." she said, "the man who lives with me is not my husband. We are not married. He is my lover and we live in sin, so to speak!"
I was embarrassed and mumbled something incoherent which even I could not understand.
"Anyway, his name is not Hector. It is Ivor ... Ivor Heavybottom!"
"Oh ..." I said wishing to end this conversation and not knowing how to.
"Hector is our penguin. We keep him in the bath. He is staying with us for a while," she informed me.
"Is he on holiday?" I asked stupidly once more. Why do I ask stupid questions when I have nothing to say?
"Oh no ..." she said, "he is from the zoo. Only his mother rejected him and the zoo keepers tried to get him adopted; but apparently penguins do not like to adopt other birds' chicks. So the people at the zoo tried a walrus. But the walrus rejected him too. So they asked us to look after him until they find another animal who might adopt him until he grows up. A crocodile perhaps!"
"I see ..." I said unconvincingly.
"They are very good at the zoo, you know," she continued, "they are studying ways of finding out whether fish are depressed. You can't tell if a fish is depressed because fish don't smile, you see. It is easy with a dog, when he is happy he wags his tail. But with a fish it's different. He wags his tail to keep afloat in the water. They have an animal psychiatrist and he says one way of finding out if fish are depressed is to check their mortality rate. But when you have a tankful of dead fish it is too late to cheer them up. Anyway ... I must go. I haven't got all day to waste talking to the likes of you! Otherwise I'll be depressed too. You are not a bundle of fun are you?"
And with that she shuffled on up the road followed by the cats.
A few days later I learnt from another neighbour that this old lady's first and only husband wanted to be a lion whisperer. He achieved his ambition just before he died trying to tame a deaf lion.
Oh ... one more thing. We have had a spate of doormat swappings in our street lately. No one knows how it started. Most houses have a doormat or rug by their front doors for visitors to wipe their feet on before entering the house. Some have personalised doormats with the words "Smith Residence" or such like. Others have plain rubber doormats, or multi-coloured ones or whatever. Every one, or almost every one, has a doormat by their front door.
Only lately, these doormats have swapped places. We get up in the morning and find that instead of our doormat we have the one from a few houses up the road, and they have another doormat which does not belong to them either; and every house has a doormat which belongs to their neighbours from further up the road, rather than the one living just next door.
The first morning this happened it was pandemonium out there. Everyone was out in the street, in various stages of undress some of them, doormat in hand trying to find who has their doormat and giving away the doormat left on their doorstep.
It baffled me why people should get out in the street with their night clothes on, just to get back their own doormat. You'd be surprised what some people wear in bed these days. It was quite a revelation I tell you. And I wondered why Mr Harrison from Number 14 came out of Number 17 house in his pyjamas with the young lady from Number 17 following him in her nightdress and describing what her doormat looked like.
I got to work late that day.
The following day it all happened again. Someone at night swapped all the doormats once more. And it happened a few days later on and again yesterday.
Now we keep our doormat indoors. Whenever people visit we let them right in and ask them to wipe their feet as they leave so as not to dirty the outdoors.