There are lanes at the back of our houses. Years ago, they would have been used by residents as a short cut to shops, schools and bus stops. Then gangs of youths started to claim them for anti social behaviour, and a stop was put to this practice. Everybody suffered, as the residents felt they had no choice but to have the lanes closed down. Nowadays, they are the main living area for the feral cats that live here.
We moved into this area four years ago. We loved it immediately. The quirkiness of the houses, the mixture in age groups, the private back gardens, and yes, the back lanes. And for me, the fact that there were cats around. I knew my husband would not let us get a cat but I figured he wouldn't be able to object to me befriending the ones already in existence! And I also knew that they were feral and that I could probably help them. I have always loved animals. I would rescue cats and dogs from an early age and take them home. My poor mother was scourged with me begging her to let them stay. I spent my pocket money on buying them treats and looking after them. My father loved them as much as I did so there were never any objections from him!
Back to my story...... We were assured by neighbours that there had been no anti social behaviour in the lanes for years. And indeed, up until recently this seemed to be true. As nobody uses the lanes,and we have a gate that opens out on to it, we decided to make an old fashioned swing for my son. The gnarled old tree with strong branches growing across the walls seemed to be inviting us to do it. First, we spent a couple of days cleaning the lane of debris and grime. It seems that people were using it as a dumping ground. I can't recall everything we had to get rid of but old electrical goods, dirty blankets, old toys made up some of the rubbish. It was a dirty job but we cleaned it all up and put up the swing.
My little son was thrilled. Going into the lane is like a big adventure for him. There are some old bricks out there discarded from a building project, so we built them up to make seats. We also put a few lanterns in the trees to make it more exciting. Indeed, I was enjoying it as much as my son and we spent many happy days there in the summer. We left enough space so that if any of the residents did want to walk down the lane or share the swing, there would not be a problem. We were not intending to take it over as we had heard there were problems in the area, in the past between neighbours about this.
Sadly, last Saturday, we discovered that somebody has vandalised our little den. The swing has been burnt, along with my sons plastic animals and the wee lanterns are smashed. There is no evidence of people drinking out there as there are no cans or bottles left behind. There are really high gates at all the lane exits, so it would have been difficult for anyone to climb over. We are not sure how long ago this happened because we haven't been in the lane since September.
Two of our feral kittens disappeared a little while ago and I am just hoping that the two incidences are not connected.. ... I have a horrible feeling that they are but I hope that I am wrong.
Last night I spoke to a fine gentleman who does lots of work rescuing and neutering feral cats. He spent all day yesterday, from early morning until late at night, ferrying cats to and from places. He is not working at the moment and is using his time to help these unfortunate animals. He does as much as he can with the limited resources that he has. He was upset when he spoke to me as, after a long day trying to do good work, he came out to find his car had been vandalised.
I couldn't help but go to bed feeling sad last night. There is so much indifference and cruelty towards other humans and to the animals in the world. There are people out there trying to help in big and small ways so it's disheartening to know that there are others who act in mindless and violent ways, usurping their efforts.
I feel sad about stuff like this but I try to maintain a positive attitude. I prefer to think that there are more of us than them and that kindness and compassion and intelligence will win out in the end....
(ps) Excuse the formatting. For some reason, I can't get the paragraphs to align!
(PPs) If you are looking for something to do on Saturday 3rd December check out http://www.catsaid.org/ and give your support. Also check out http://feralcatsireland.org/Feral_Cats/Feral_cat_crisis.html for more information on how you can help the plight of feral cats.