The origins of the bowl are lost in the mists of time. Its first remembered appearance was as a shallow bowl a blackbird bathed in. Whenever it disappeared, it was replaced. One replacement was as a yellow, deep metallic bowl, the one thing left of Harvey’s after his death from an overdose in the flat most directly opposite where the bowl is situated, in the garden by the hedge and concrete clothes line post, where I put it in his memory. When it disappeared, I realised the disappearance wasn’t down to the ignorance of brutal gardeners but the covert action of a fellow resident. The bowl was become a bowl of contention. It was replaced by Diana, another downstairs tenant, whose cat drank from it. It continued to disappear. I found it once placed by the composter for me to find, possibly because I’d complained to the landlord about its continual disappearance, probably because I didn’t like the suspect, one of the two allies of the leaseholder, who complained about other, young residents and called in the police in order to be shot of them. I only ever complained about the complainers. It amused me.
When the lush grass, studded with wild flowers, was turfed out, more contention accrued to the bowl, which the cat drank from, because in the stead of grass, studded with wild flowers, was laid paving and gravel studded with pots for plants the leaseholder and his acolytes tended on a covert understanding with the landlord they should keep the garden tidy and free of animal life. The cat shat on the garden, a large brown litter tray. The cat drank from the bowl, which I replenished with water. The bowl disappeared, replaced by its present manifestation as a pyrex bowl.
The cat’s owner was sectioned. There’s something wrong with everybody housed here. I fed the cat, putting out food bowls and a water bowl next the outside back door to the garden, bowls contentious by virtue of their positioning. As I laid down the cat food, who should I spy out of the corner of my eye but the leaseholder glaring hatred at me for feeding the cat in his garden. “What the hell are you looking at!” I exclaimed rhetorically and surprisingly because I no longer speak to the leaseholder or his acolytes. Oh it’s a long story. The landlord phoned me about complaints I’d been feeding a cat. I phoned back: the complainers knew whose cat it was and why I was feeding it; they were being malicious. I was about to throw down titbits to the cat, “Kitten!” when the leaseholder we call the gardener stormed along the path by the line to interpose his person, his person already interposed: “The cat won’t come if you’re here,” I spoke, again, to whom I do not speak, putting the titbit down on the balcony edge for later casting. I received a letter from the landlord not to throw down food for the cat, it made a mess, but that I should put it in a bowl and take it down. I flung back, it had been agreed I should throw down food for the cat when it was there and for ground-feeding birds too. I kept my word; they should keep theirs. I could see myself putting a piece of fish skin from my plate into a bowl to take down to the cat. The idea was ridiculous. It occurred they were being misinformed I threw down cat food rather than food to the cat.
I found compost in the cat’s bowl and complained to the landlord. I was asked to phone the ‘customer’ adviser to discuss my concerns. No thanks, I emailed back, she knows about the compost in the cat bowl. She either does something about it or she doesn’t. The bowl was emptied of water. I refilled it. The landlord changed tack. I hadn’t taken in my recycling bin. I replied it hadn’t been emptied. Nor was it till the next week, a bin of contention now, but over time contention has crystallised around the bowl.