No ill wind

It's an ill wind, they say that blows nobody any good -- but the sad events which occasioned our apartment block to form a Tenants' Association have, to my mind, blown nothing butm good.

We have come to know each other. Of course, we have always been friendly and polite as we have met one another coming and going upon our lawful occasions.

"Good morning," we say, (or good afternoon, or good evening) and then proceed to undo the adjective by such remarks as "Are we everm going to have a summer?" or "How much worse can this weather get?" or "Why does one ever live in England?" (knowing full well that with a world to choose from, one would not live anywhere else.)

But now all that is changed. We are real people, and we discover that our neighbors next door, and the ones below us, and the ones below them, are real people too. We find that the weather is the least of the things we are interested in. Our common interest in keeping rents to a reaosonable level has opened up other common interests, such as pets, politics, plants, and a host of other excitements.

It's a funny thing, but while I have always fancied myself as an animal lover , I have never liked cats. Carved wooden cats, oh yes. Sleek china cats, certainly. Beautifully painted stone cats, by all means. But those furry things with very sharp teeth and sharper claws and a propensity for climbing up curtains or jumping onto tables and absconding with the piece of fish you were about to cook for yourself -- frankly, I could do without them. I have even, in my less steady moments, told myself that I am allergic to them. I have, in fact , placed them in the same category as spiders and income tax forms, and stuffed them into the sort of hinterland of consciousness.

But our Tenants' Association, which has metaphorically opened our hearts, and literally opened our back doors to each other, has bestowed this added bounty -- the realization that cats are real people too.

My neighbor below has two of these creatures -- a large marmalade object called Thebes, and a slim tabby called Archibald. I have been aware of their existence, but have never encouraged intimacy. Nor, for that matter, have they. We inhabit different apartments, and that has amounted to different worlds. But since the two-legged population have, through our Tenants' Association, become a fraternity -- so the four-legged variety seem untuitively to have felt that a brave new world, embracing all the tiny little private worlds, is expanding to their jeweled gaze. We are all discovering one another, whether we boast two legs or four. And we like what we are discovering.

And so Thebes and Archibald seem suddenly to have become aware of me.m They sit at the bottom of the fire escape, tails twitching with adventure. And when they hear the key turn in the lock of my back door, and the bolt slide back, and the door open, there is a rush of cats up the fire escape and into my kitchen.

And the wonderful thing is that it is not food they are after; not at all.It's me.m They rub their noses against my hand, stretch up their chins to be tickled, and finally keel over like sinking ships, exposing furry tummies and lanquid legs.

How an anybody be allergic to such flattery? So I have relinquished my allergy.

Oh, blessed landlords, that caused us to form a Tenants' Association!

And by the way, we won our case at the Rent Tribunal and are busy living happily ever after.

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