COLUMN: May 11, 2017

A menacing black cat
THE wind whipped leaves up the street, rustling the branches above, and troubling the tops of the wheely bins. Even so, the sky was clear, and there was enough light from the half-moon to pick out the black cat which crossed my path.

It mewed, out of fear or defiance? It scarcely mattered. I was too busy trying to remember if it’s good luck or bad luck if a black cat crosses your path. “It depends on if you trip over it”, I imagined.

And then I started to wonder about where superstitions came from. Was there a Superstitions Board – presumably staffed by Old Wives – deciding on which colour of socks you are not allowed to wear on Maundy Thursday, and how far away from a theatre you are safe to say “Macbeth”, even though there is a regularly-staged play called “Macbeth”, during which various characters have to say the name “Macbeth”.

Before I reached the door of my flat I had forgotten all about the black cat and its potential impact on my life. I was too busy wondering about whether cherry-pickers counted as ladders or not, with regard to walking under them.

I entered, dropped my bag in the living room, put the kettle on, and went into the bathroom. You don’t have to know why – this is still a free country. That was when I noticed a number of leaves on the floor.

“Hmm,” I thought, “I don’t remember seeing them before I left to work, when I mopped the bathroom floor.” I am slapdash when it comes to tidying, but even I would notice foliage on my bathroom floor when mopping it. “They must have been attached to my shoes,” I thought.

Except… they were in a part of the bathroom upon which I had not yet stood. Nevertheless, that was still the most likely explanation.

My flat, you see, dear reader, is up four flights of stairs, so the likelihood that a freak gust had blown them up the stairs, through the tiny gap under the door to my flat, and then through the tiny gap under my bathroom door into my bathroom was slim.

Ah, you might say, then perhaps you had your bathroom window open, and they came in through there. And I would like your thinking, if it were not for the fact that the only window in my bathroom is a skylight roughly 12 feet above me, which does not open, even if I did have a stepladder.

The leaves must have come in on my shoes, and perhaps have been propelled down the bathroom by the draught caused by, I don’t know, my dynamism. I convinced myself of this.

And then I found one in the bath. And one in the sink. And two on top of the bathroom mirror cabinet. If you added up all the air-displacing activity I have engaged in during my life, it would not blow a leaf from the floor to the top of my bathroom mirror.

They must have come from above. But I did not have any holes in my ceiling. I know this because part of my ceiling once collapsed on me and when I went back to examine it more of my ceiling collapsed on me, and so I am forever vigilant.

Was there a hole in my skylight? I looked as closely as I could given that it is 12 feet up and I do not have a stepladder, but there was nothing apparent.

And even so, these leaves were big. They were not tea leaf-sized, they were “could cover Adam and Eve’s modesty”-sized.

I think it was Sherlock Holmes who said, “If one eliminates the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Or possibly Jessica Fletcher, I don’t know, I can’t be bothered Googling.

So the only explanation that physics allows is that a burglar somehow broke into my home, and was so annoyed by how few possessions of any value I own, that he (or she) dashed back outdoors, picked some big leaves from a nearby tree, came back, scattered them in my bathroom in places that would confuse me, then made his (or her) exit after having first locked the door behind him (or her) in case another opportunist intruder with cleaning materials was passing by. “That will teach him for being rubbish at having things,” he (or she) will have thought.

Or maybe it was that black cat. That would be just my luck.

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