Neighbours

The girl who lived across the street from us had a dozen cats in her tiny flat. They lounged on the windows, chased each other and sometimes they fell. Four storeys, straight into a busy street. Amazingly enough, none was ever killed.

She also played the violin. I liked hearing her from the open window, and that's how we started to talk together, and eventually to swap music. We said we'd play duets at some point. We never came around to.

Before we left to live in Wales, she gave all her cats away and became a nun in Marseilles. She gave us her address on a piece of paper that was lost in the move. I wonder what became of her.

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A while ago, I met my next-door neighbour in the stairs. He was smoking something, which dropped from his hands right in front of me. I picked it up and handed it back to him. He looked uneasy, and laughed.

'Yeah, uh, it's not exactly a cigarette,' he said.

I don't know why he had to be so embarrassed about that. The smell gave him away months ago.

**********

Three guys live together in a flat on the corner of the street. They have a Guy Fawkes mask pasted on their window pane so that everybody can see. Obviously, they have political consciousness. They're activists, and they care.

Their particular brand of activism consists in putting the speakers of their CD player on the window sill, and blasting very loud indie music out into the street. Alternatively, they all sit together on the window (it's not a large window, and it looks very crowded), and they call out to the passers-by. Or they play the guitar and sing, very loud, the same two choruses they can play.

It's fine by me, although working from my home I'd sometimes like to be able to listen to my own music and not the one they decided I should listen to, thank you very much. But it makes me wonder: does blaring out your identity for everyone to hear (because that's really what music is about, isn't it) achieve anything at all, or is it just an elaborate scheme to avoid getting into the dangerous stuff, like breaking into nuclear plants like the folks at Greenpeace have done on a regular basis for years, or robbing food from the supermarkets to distribute to the poor like Spanish folks do in high-unemployment areas?

Unfortunately, I understand that as a rhetorical question.

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