While a neighbour was in hospital, I fed her cat. The leaseholder, in charge of the new garden, hated my doing this. Richmond Housing Partnership complained they’d received complaints I was feeding a cat. The complainants, I replied, knew whose cat it was and were being malicious. I asked how next would RHP attack me.
By a demand I remove my plants from balcony and stairwell sill or they’d be removed on 9 March. Since the plant on the sill couldn’t conceivably leap off to brain the passing leaseholder, the excuse given wasn’t the catch-all of health and safety, which I proved specious anyway, but that it made for cleaning difficulty. I replied the four plants on an upper sill weren’t being moved for cleaning difficulty. The leaseholder moved them outside his door to substantiate cleaning difficulty; but, I added, RHP’s own cleaner said mine didn’t make for difficulty whereas, I pointed out, the leaseholder was now in contravention of fire safety regulations. This was seized upon. My plant didn’t pose cleaning difficulty. It and all my plants breached the health and safety of fire regulations and that was why they had to be removed except, I pointed out, all my plants had been cleared by London Fire Brigade. They were stumped for an excuse.
They don’t need one. They said they treated everybody equally. I asked two other tenants if they’d received a general letter about removing plants. No, but one said he was told when he moved in not to have any plants outside. Fire regulations permitted him some, I pointed where. None, he underlined. The unadmitted policy of RHP is for people to have no plants outside their homes and I’m letting that cat of theirs out of the bag. We’re not entitled to so much as a mat outside except by their leave, doubtless why my Conservative councillor didn’t deign reply to me. I won’t be voting for her again.
Housed in 1982, I inherited a balcony box, adding others since. Why the policy’s unadmitted and plausible excuses given is easy enough to guess at. The bigger question is why prosecute that policy. Surely my herbal hanging garden of Eton St is a more eye-catching amenity than the eyesore below of a vast sterile gravel tray, with pots on it, made for the convenience of the leaseholder – and the cat.