A year after I started living with the Williamses they moved from their council house to a tower block on a council estate in east London. Their new flat was on the twentieth floor. It was a two-bedroomed flat. My cage was in the living room. One good thing was that there was a great view out of the big windows over London. These windows led out to a balcony. We were on a corner so our balcony only had one neighbour. I used to go out on the balcony and run around it or maybe just sit there. I didn’t get out much in those days, in fact not at all given that we were twenty floors up. No one takes a hamster for a walk.
I was happy enough with my cage, the living room, the balcony, and occasional visits to other rooms in the flat. To a hamster it looked like a big place. I spent a lot of my time keeping fit, building on the work I had done at the house. I couldn’t do stair work anymore so I did some extra wheel work and ran around the living room whenever I got the chance. I was getting into great shape. A lot of the work in the living room was speed work. The wheel work was mainly for strength and stamina. Chelsea looked after me really well. I was pampered and had everything laid on.
“Is you my little baby, is you, is you my little baby Harry?” she would say as she stroked the top of my head.
“Who’s a pretty little hamster, who’s the most beautiful hamster in the whole big wide world?” Stuff like that. I could have gone soft with all this pampering but I didn’t. Chelsea was the only member of the family who bothered with me. That was ok.
One day Chelsea brought in a new cage. Bigger, better, a real deluxe model, though it was second hand. I could smell the other hamster. No amount of scrubbing could get rid of that. There was a better water delivery system, more space and a better food tray. And best of all, there was a mirror. Now I could really keep track of just what a magnificent specimen I was turning into. There are very few hamsters who can look in the mirror and say “perfect.” I guess I was lucky to be one of those hamsters.
At first I thought there weren’t any other animals around. I’d see the odd mouse but that was about it. Tower blocks didn’t seem to be a great place for animals. I don’t think the council allowed them. Later I found out that there were in fact loads of other pets around. A few hamsters. Cats were popular too. There were some pit bulls. There was a python on floor 18 and a tarantula on floor 15. And of course there were actually loads of mice around. I hated mice. Who didn’t? It was the way they got everywhere, wheedling their way in. And nothing you can do to stop them.
It was a summer evening. I’d had a session on the wheel and then done some sprints around the living room. I’d gone back to my cage to pose in front of the mirror for a while. Then I’d gone out onto the balcony for a bit of R and R. Chelsea had made me a little sitting area on the balcony. It was nice and comfy. You could see through the balcony into next door’s balcony. I was having a nosey in that direction when I saw some brown fur. A cat was lying on the balcony. It was licking its right front paw. Then it stopped and just sat and looked out at the view over London. I’d thought next door was empty. Someone must have moved in. I don’t know nothin’ about cat breeds so all I can say is that it was a brown cat. Medium size and medium hair length with quite a bushy tail. I felt a bit curious. But cats and hamsters can get on ok. We both sat there for a while.
Then the cat spoke. “Great view.” And that’s how I came to meet Cheese, or as I came to call him later on, Big Cheese.